Chapter 2

Portfolio-specific issues

This chapter provides an overview of some of the key matters raised during the committee’s hearings on the additional estimates 2020-21. The discussion follows the outcome and agency structure.

Agriculture, Water and the Environment portfolio

Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

The committee commenced its examination of the Agriculture, Water and the Environment portfolio on 22 March 2021 with general questions of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE). The Chair, Senator the Hon David Fawcett, acknowledged and thanked Mr Dean Knudson, Deputy Secretary of the Major Environment Reforms Group, on behalf of the committee for his service and participation in estimates over the years noting that this was Mr Knudson’s last appearance at estimates in this role. In his opening statement, the Secretary, Mr Andrew Metcalfe, noted that one year had passed since the restructuring of the department and reflected on the efforts of departmental employees throughout what has been a challenging year:
Our national parks workforce across the country are working closely with traditional owners to provide stewardship over our precious environmental and cultural assets within our six Commonwealth national parks. Our Canberra–based workforce has been, in partnership with others, delivering action through the time of crisis such as the range of initiatives needed to support recovery from the Black Summer bushfires to long–term transformation, as has been seen in the development of the nation's first national plastics plan... And of course, we can't forget our most southern–based and remote workforces on Macquarie Island and in our bases in Antarctica, supported by our Hobart–based workforce, who are delivering world–leading science, which will help us ensure our programs, policies and investments are based on the most robust and relevant scientific evidence.1
The following matters were discussed throughout general questions:
A letter from the Prime Minister to the Environment Minister setting out priorities for the portfolio (pp. 6–8, 32–34 and 54);
Increased DAWE staffing and their employment status in relation to the
$36.6 million for congestion busting of environmental approvals assessments (pp. 6–7 and 59);
Updates on the establishment of the Resilient Landscapes Hub under the National Environmental Science Program (pp. 9–10);
Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) – Final Report’s recommendations in relation to Regional Forest Agreements and the EPBC Amendment (Regional Forest Agreements) Bill 2020 (pp. 9–10 and 69–70); and
Funding in relation to the bushfire recovery (pp. 11, 13–22 and 25–29).

Outcome 1: Conserve, protect and sustainably manage Australia’s biodiversity, ecosystems, environment and heritage through research, information management, supporting natural resource management, establishing and managing Commonwealth protected areas, and reducing and regulating the use of pollutants and hazardous substances, and coordination of climate change adaptation strategy and climate change science activities

In relation to Program 1.1: Sustainable management of natural resources and the environment (funding), the committee discussed matters including:
Recommendations in the Auditor-General's report on Referrals, Assessments and Approvals of Controlled Actions under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (p. 13);
Funding arrangements for the Indigenous Ranger Program (pp. 13–14);
Invasive species management for the protection of threatened species
(p. 20); and
The greater glider and Leadbeater’s possum conservation status and recovery plans (pp. 23–24).
In relation to Program 1.2: Environmental information and research, the National Environmental Science Program, including the first round investment in six research hubs and second round plans to invest in four new research hubs, including the application process (pp. 34–36 and 68–69) were discussed, as well as the State of the Environment reports (pp. 36–37).
On Program 1.4: Conservation of Australia’s heritage and environment (regulation), the following matters were discussed:
The review of the decisions to require recovery plans for threatened species (p. 39);
The 914 entities including plants, animals and ecological communities currently requiring recovery plans to be enforced, and the status and statutory responsibilities of the minister in relation to the 168 entities currently overdue (pp. 39–40);
The Christmas Island forest skink’s overdue recovery plan and species status change to extinct (pp. 41–42);
Status of the koala’s recovery plan and update on the koala census project (pp. 18 and 42–44);
The relationship between Indigenous totems, consultation and species protection (pp. 44–45); and
The environment minister’s decision-making in response to the culturally significant Djab Wurrung trees in Victoria (p. 45).
The committee discussed the following matters in relation to Program 1.5: Environmental regulation:
Government briefing and response to Professor Samuel’s independent review of the EPBC Act (pp. 55–58);
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Standards and Assurance) Bill 2021 (pp. 56–58 and 71–74);
Conflict-of-interest declarations for staff within the environmental approval division of DAWE (pp. 60–61);
Adani Federal Court challenge to the decision to not apply the water trigger to the North Galilee water scheme (p. 62);
Consultation with Indigenous communities regarding the North Queensland Galalar silica mine project and the prospects of additional cultural heritage assessments (pp. 62–63);
Updates on the Environment Restoration Fund (pp. 63–66);
Offsets under the EPBC Act, including the offset arrangements for the Western Sydney Airport (pp. 66–67 and 76–77); and
Update on the fast-tracking of 15 projects under the EPBC Act (pp. 74–75).
In relation to Program 1.6: Management of hazardous wastes, substances and pollutants, the committee discussed both the $1 billion waste and recycling investment under the Recycling Modernisation Fund (pp. 78–79), and the strengthening of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules under the National Plastics Plan (p. 80).

Outcome 2: Advance Australia’s strategic, scientific, environmental and economic interests in the Antarctic region by protecting, administering and researching the region

In relation to Program 2.1: Antarctica: science, policy and presence, the committee the following matters:
Update on the delayed construction of the Nuyina vessel and the cost of the project (pp. 46–47);
Status of the special sea trials reflected in the milestone plan (p. 47);
Modifications required to the Port of Hobart to accept the Nuyina vessel and compatibility between the ship and the Tasman Bridge (pp. 47–48);
Antarctic Division personnel training in emergency procedures, including fire training, provided by external third-party providers and the current tender process (pp. 48–49);
The Davis aerodrome project, including funding allocated, environmental assessments, consultants engaged and the tender process (pp. 49–52);
International response to the proposed Davis aerodrome project and territorial claims under the Antarctic Treaty System (pp. 52–53); and
The review of the Australian Antarctic Strategy (p. 53).

Threatened Species Scientific Committee

The committee called Professor Helene Marsh, Chair of the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), who tabled a detailed statement and provided a brief opening statement with three key messages:
Firstly, the expanded Threatened Species Scientific Committee is now fully functional, with 12 members, including five new members, participating enthusiastically and knowledgeably in all aspects of our work. It is very ably supported by an expert bureaucracy, including contractors, employed to support the delivery of the bushfire response package, which includes species assessments, which is what we're undertaking. Secondly, the TSSC are making very good progress with our 10-point bushfire response plan, which was developed in 2020. Lastly, we're working hard to ensure that efficient, flexible and fit-for-purpose conservation plans continue to be in place for all listed species and ecological communities to guide recovery and restoration in this time of rapid environmental change.2
The committee discussed the following matters:
Frequency of TSSC meetings (p. 29);
Threatened species under consideration for uplisting and the status of upcoming or adopted recovery plans (p. 29);
Process for making decisions on whether to apply conservation advice or implement a recovery plan (pp. 29–30);
The expected increase in numbers of species that are listed as threatened due to the 2019-20 bushfires (p. 30);
The expectation that the proportion of threatened species which have recovery plans will be lower in the future as the TSSC is recommending the use of a range of tools including conservation advices, multi-speed recovery plans, and regional recovery plans (p. 30);
The differences in action and enforceability between conservation advices and recovery plans (p. 30); and
Consistency between state and Commonwealth threatened species lists
(p. 31).

Bureau of Meteorology

In his opening statement the Chief Executive Officer and Director of Meteorology, Dr Andrew Johnson, spoke to the flood emergency in New South Wales which was occurring at the time. He explained that some locations had experienced double or triple their normal March rainfall—several locations surrounding Port Macquarie received between 700 and 900 millimetres of rain in three days—breaking multiple rainfall records. Dr Johnson assured the committee:
…that the bureau issued timely and accurate forecasts and warnings many days in advance of these events occurring. We continue to work closely with our emergency management partners to ensure the safety of the community. We've mobilised our full national capability during this event, including deploying embedded hydrology and meteorology staff in the New South Wales SES state operations centre and the Australian government's crisis coordination centre. We'll continue to keep the community directly informed.
The bureau has had an extensive media footprint. Since Thursday
[18 March 2021], we've done 18 national media crosses, 60 emergency broadcasts with the ABC, 158 tweets and made extensive use of the bureau's website and app. There were over two and a half million sessions on the bureau's app and over a million users with 3.4 sessions on the website. So there's deep coverage.3
Officers from the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) then answered questions on the following matters:
The automation of 24 regional stations across Australia under the BoM’s Observing System Strategy and staff redeployment and redundancies
(pp. 81–82);
Closure of the Cairns Airport meteorological office and service delivery from Brisbane (pp. 82–83);
The homogenisation process which is used when there is a change in observing practice if there is a discontinuity in the measurement, this process compares data between nearby weather stations for statistically robust estimates of the impact of changes in observing practices (pp. 83–84 and 87–88);
Explanation of the terminology: “one in 50-year event or a one in 100-year event” (p. 85);
Impact of global warming on the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events (p. 85);
Plausibility of the current emissions trajectory scenario leading to
3.4 degrees of planetary warming (pp. 85–86); and
Update on the La Niña weather event (p. 86).

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority

The committee called officers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and discussed the following topics:
Great Barrier Reef Tourism Industry Activation and Reef Protection grants funded out of the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund (pp. 89–90);
Update on the Reef 2050 plan (p. 90);
GBRMPA’s involvement with the World Heritage Committee (p. 91);
The Senate inquiry into the identification of leading practices in ensuring evidence-based regulation of farm practices that impact water quality outcomes in the Great Barrier Reef (pp. 91–92);
Update on Reef HQ and staffing (pp. 92–93); and
Great Barrier Reef Foundation advertising and fundraising (pp. 93–95).

Director of National Parks

The committee called officers from the Director of National Parks and examined the following matters:
Expenditure to date from the $216 million funding commitment to the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park (p. 96);
Consultation and consent processes with Indigenous groups in relation to sacred sites within the Kakadu National Park (pp. 96–98); and
Frequency of meetings held by the Kakadu board of management and works agreed to by the board within the last 6 months (p. 97).

Industry, Science, Energy and Resources portfolio

The committee commenced its examination of the energy outcomes and agencies of the Industry, Science, Energy and Resources portfolio following its examination of the Agriculture, Water and the Environment portfolio on
22 March.4 The committee also held a spillover hearing to re-examine Outcome 3: Support the affordable, reliable, secure and competitive operation of energy markets for the long term benefit of the Australian community through improving Australia’s energy supply, efficiency, quality, performance and productivity of the portfolio on
3 May 2021.

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources

The committee commenced its examination with general questions of the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) and discussed the timeline surrounding the withdrawal of Vales Point Power Station from the Underwriting New Generation Investments (UNGI) program
(pp. 101–102), as well as the impacts of the three-year notice of closure requirement for coal plants on coal companies (pp. 102–103).

Outcome 2: Reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, contribute to effective global action on climate change, and support technological innovation in clean and renewable energy, through developing and implementing a national response to climate change

The committee called officers in relation to Program 2.1: Reducing Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and Program 2.2: Developing clean energy technology which were discussed in concurrently. The following matters were covered:
Potential impacts of international carbon border adjustment mechanisms on the Australian economy (pp. 103–104);
Update on the development of the government’s Long-term Emissions Reduction Strategy (pp. 105–108);
Figures surrounding Australia’s achieved emissions reduction
(pp. 108–109);
Role of hydrogen in the government’s Technology Investment Roadmap (pp. 109–110);
Australia’s Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement (pp. 110–111);
DISER’s research into small modular nuclear reactors (pp. 111–113);
Timeline for the release of a national electric vehicle strategy and details of the government’s Future Fuels Strategy discussion paper (pp. 113–115); and
Contribution of land-use change to Australia’s ability to meet Kyoto Protocol targets (pp. 116–118).

Outcome 3: Support the affordable, reliable, secure and competitive operation of energy markets for the long term benefit of the Australian community through improving Australia’s energy supply, efficiency, quality, performance and productivity

In relation to Program 3.1: Supporting reliable, secure and affordable energy, the committee focused primarily on three matters:
Shine Energy’s application process for the Collinsville coal feasibility study grant and the Australian National Audit Office’s report on the award of funding (pp. 118–122, 123–124 and 125–128);
The role of renewables in Australia’s energy transition (pp. 122–123); and
Capacity of the proposed Kurri Kurri gas plant (pp. 124–125).
During the examination of Outcome 3, the committee decided to call officers back at a later date to continue its examination of Program 3.1. A spillover hearing was held on 3 May 2021 where the committee discussed the following matters:
The Four Corners program ‘Fired Up: What’s driving the Federal Government’s push for a gas-fired future’ and the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Ms Kerry Schott, Chair of the Energy Security Board (pp. 2–3);
Interactions with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) in relation to gas price modelling and the assumptions and findings in AEMO’s Integrated System Plan (ISP) report (pp. 3–11 and 13–16);
DISER’s contracts with Boston Consulting Group in relation to gas (pp. 5–6, 9 and 12–13);
Gas and battery price comparisons (pp. 8–9 and 11);
Update on the National Electricity Market (NEM) and investment in batteries (pp. 9–12);
The Energy Ministers' Meeting and the Energy National Cabinet Reform Committee (pp. 13–14 and 26);
Australian Energy Market Commission’s (AEMC) draft determination on household solar (pp. 14–16);
Update on bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and states on major ISP projects (p. 16);
Mr Andrew Liveris’ role as a special adviser to the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) Manufacturing Taskforce and clarification on the number of people employed in industries that use gas as feedstock (pp. 17 and 27);
DISER’s knowledge of Waratah Coal's proposed high-energy, low-emissions coal fired station in Alpha, Queensland (pp. 17–18 and 26);
Details on the closure of the Yallourn Power Station in Victoria (pp. 18–20);
Update on the Liquid Fuel Security Review (p. 22);
Details around the proposal to develop a gas-fired power station at Kurri Kurri, New South Wales (pp. 23–24);
Update on projects within the Underwriting New Generation Investments (UNGI) program (pp. 24–25);
Solar farms in the Northern Territory and grid stability (pp. 26–27); and
The Auditor-General's report on Shine Energy and the Collinsville feasibility study (pp. 27–32).

Australian Renewable Energy Agency

The committee called officers from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and discussed the following issues:
ARENA’s staffing numbers and expenditure on consultants (pp. 128–129);
Investment in green hydrogen by ARENA (p. 129);
Opportunities for renewable and low-emissions technologies in regards to Australian electricity exports (pp. 129–130); and
Types of technologies under consideration by ARENA (p. 130).

Clean Energy Finance Corporation

The committee called officers from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). Mr Ian Learmonth, Chief Executive Officer of the CEFC, tabled an opening statement which is available on the committee’s website.5 In his opening statement, Mr Learmonth noted the launch of the CEFC’s Environmental, Social, Governance policy as well as covering notable commitments and investments since last estimates, including:
$160 million to build the Neoen 300 MW Victorian Big Battery;
$125 million to assist help finance Transgrid Services for the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project; and
$80 million as a cornerstone investor to the Adamantem Capital Fund II.
The committee examined the impact of the delayed passage of the Grid Reliability Fund bill through parliament on the work of the CEFC
(pp. 130–131) and the CEFC’s plans to invest in the Marinus Link and Battery of the Nation projects (pp. 131–133).

Climate Change Authority

The committee called officers from the Climate Change Authority (CCA) and discussed CCA’s ability to consider climate targets and budgets (pp. 133–134), as well as its staffing numbers (p. 134).

Snowy Hydro Limited

Officers from Snowy Hydro Limited (Snowy Hydro) were examined in relation to the following matters:
Update on plans for proposed Kurri Kurri gas plant (pp. 134–135 and
Snowy Hydro’s procurement policy in regards to local and international suppliers (pp. 135–139); and
Use of Australian suppliers, manufacturing and labour in the construction of Snowy Hydro projects (p. 140).

Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications portfolio

The committee examined the communications and the arts outcomes and agencies of the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications portfolio across two days, including 23 and 26 March 2021.

Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

The committee commenced its examination of the Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications portfolio on 23 March 2021 by asking general questions of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications (DITRDC).
In his opening statement, Mr Simon Atkinson, Secretary of DITRDC, highlighted the efforts of the department to support the arts and creative industries in their recovery from the impacts of COVID-19:
Although the arts and creative sectors have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, parts of these sectors are reactivating, with the government's targeted support. Under batch 1 of the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand—RISE—Fund, 115 arts projects are being supported across all Australian states and territories and in regional and remote Australia, reaching an audience of over 11 million in more than 1,000 locations and generating thousands of jobs.
The Australian screen production industry is also thriving, with the government's location incentive attracting 22 large-budget international productions to film in Australia, which will inject over $1.66 billion into the economy. The government's $50 million Temporary Interruption Fund has also enabled 41 Australian film and television projects to secure financing and start filming.6
Other matters discussed by the committee included:
Correspondence between DITRDC, the ABC, and the Minister for Communications and the Arts regarding the Four Corners episode ‘Inside the Canberra Bubble’ (pp. 5–9);
Update on the Strengthening of Telecommunications Against Natural Disasters (STAND) program (pp. 9–10);
Expenditure from the Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand (RISE) fund (pp. 10, 43 and 45);
Impacts of the proposed reduction of the producer tax offset for Australian film productions (pp. 16–17);
Expenditure on independent research regarding Australia’s regional broadcasting industry (pp. 17–19);
Proposed changes to the licensing framework governing radiofrequency spectrum usage by television broadcasters (pp. 20–21); and
The reappointment of Mr Tony Nutt to the Australia Post board (pp. 21–22).

Outcome 5: Promote an innovative and competitive communications sector, through policy development, advice and program delivery, so all Australians can realise the full potential of digital technologies and communications services

In relation to Program 5.1: Digital technologies and communications services, the committee canvassed the following matters:
Breakdown of NBN Co Limited’s (NBN Co) cashflows and financial reporting (pp. 11–16 and 95–99);
Issue of jumbling over the National Relay Service for teletypewriter devices (pp. 99–100);
Costing of the NBN Co’s rollout plan (pp. 100–102);
Corporate bonuses awarded by NBN Co (pp. 10–11 and 102–105); and
Comparison of the NBN to legacy networks (pp. 105–106).

Outcome 6: Participation in, and access to, Australia’s arts and culture through developing and supporting cultural expression

In relation to Program 6.1: Arts and cultural development, the following matters were discussed:
Allocation and expenditure from the $250 million package announced for the arts industry (pp. 43–45 and 49–50);
Timelines surrounding proposed legislation regarding the producer tax offset mechanism and quotas for Australian content for subscription television services and Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) services (pp. 45–47); and
Bonuses and short-term incentives awarded to department and portfolio staff (pp. 47–48).

Australian Postal Corporation

The committee welcomed officers from the Australian Postal Corporation (Australia Post). Mr Rodney Boys, Acting Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Australia Post, in his opening statement provided an outline on Australia Post’s response to the increase in postal volume throughout COVID-19, noting that November and December 2020 had the highest parcel volume in the agency’s history:
To keep delivering for all Australians, we opened 60 new or re-purposed facilities, added 3,000 vehicles, put on additional dedicated planes, and recruited an extra 5,000 people…
November and December were the biggest months in our history. More than 86 million domestic parcels were delivered, an increase of almost 30 per cent, and at the same time we improved our service levels. We would not have been able to deliver these volumes without the [regulatory] changes that were made. We would not have met the needs of the community that created a surge in parcel volumes without the temporary regulatory relief that was provided or without the support of our dedicated posties, including the more than 2,000 who underwent training and transitioned to deliver parcels from vans.7
Other matters raised by the committee included:
Workers compensation claims received by Australia Post (pp. 24–26);
Circumstances surrounding the standing aside of former Australia Post CEO, Ms Christine Holgate (pp. 26–29 and 40–42);
Australia Post’s financial reporting, accounting and external auditing processes (pp. 29–30 and 34–35);
The Boston Consulting Group’s strategic review of Australia Post (pp. 30–34 and 40–41);
Australia Post’s CEO recruitment process (pp. 35, 37–38 and 39–40);
The ongoing regulatory relief provided to Australia Post in light of the increases in parcel volume (pp. 35–37),
Australia Post’s decision to cancel perishable food distribution services
(p. 38); and
The responsibility of Australia Post to licensees of community post offices (p. 39).

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Mr David Anderson, Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in his opening statement noted the commencement of court proceedings following Mr Christian Porter’s defamation claim against the ABC. Mr Anderson spoke to the ABC’s commitment to its role as an independent media organisation:
An important aspect of the ABC's role throughout its 90 years has been to hold publicly elected people and governments generally, state or federal, to account without fear or favour regardless of which political party is in power. Investigative and public interest journalism is what the ABC does and what the Australian community expects of its national broadcaster. A free and independent media, by its very nature, occasionally makes life uncomfortable and difficult for governments of all persuasions, but that is what sets countries like Australia apart from those that limit press freedom or curtail basic liberties. It is the strength of a healthy democracy which should be protected and nurtured.
…the ABC is already the most scrutinised and accountable media organisation in Australia. We welcome that scrutiny and accountability and hope other media organisations would welcome the same degree of oversight.8
Officers from the ABC answered questions on the following matters:
Correspondence between the ABC, the Minister for Communications and the Arts, and other parliamentarians regarding the Four Corners episode ‘Inside the Canberra Bubble’ (pp. 51–53 and 63–66);
Legal proceedings against the ABC by Mr Porter (pp. 54 and 56–57);
The ABC’s code of conduct regarding social media usage by ABC staff
(pp. 54–56);
Four Corners episode ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ (pp. 57–58 and 73);
Discussions around the ABC’s budget allocation (pp. 57–58);
The ABC’s compliance with its editorial standards and recent editorial decisions (pp. 58–60);
The ABC’s approach to defamation and litigation proceedings (pp. 60 and
The ABC’s engagement of freelance journalists (pp. 60–61);
The ABC’s use of WeChat and attendance at the Global Chinese Language Media Forum (pp. 61–62);
The ABC’s negotiations with Google and Facebook in relation to the media bargaining code (pp. 62–63);
Impact on the ABC of proposed changes to licensing framework governing radiofrequency spectrum usage by television broadcasters (pp. 66 and
Figures surrounding ABC Everyday and other ABC brands (pp. 66–67);
Impartiality policy and engagement with the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in relation to accusations of biased reporting (pp. 68, 70–72 and 74); and
Complaints received from viewers (p. 73).

Special Broadcasting Service Corporation

In his opening statement Mr James Taylor, Managing Director of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), spoke to SBS’s expansion of its enhanced language services and increase in locally commissioned content:
In February, we were pleased to launch a new service for Mandarin and Cantonese speaking Australians, SBS Chinese. This is a mobile first digital offering. SBS Chinese increases our investment in both Mandarin and Cantonese content, delivering more trusted and independent news and information in these languages. This development is an evolution of our multilingual offering, building on our existing SBS radio services paired with our multilingual login capability on SBS On Demand and a growing collection of subtitled content, including our locally produced programs.
With our biggest ever local commissioned content offering in 2021 for SBS, we continue to unearth stories otherwise untold and give a voice to communities often unheard. We were really thrilled to be able to get back to producing local content, much of it made around the regions of Australia. 9
Officers from SBS answered questions on the following matters:
Suspension of services from China Central Television and China Global Television Network (p. 75);
SBS Mandarin executive team (pp. 75–76);
SBS’s revenue from the advertising of gambling, adult products and alcohol, and SBS’s approach to responsible advertising (pp. 76–78);
National Indigenous Television’s slogan (pp. 78–79); and
Impact of proposed changes to licensing framework governing radiofrequency spectrum usage by television broadcasters on SBS (p. 79).

Australian Communications and Media Authority

The committee called officers from the ACMA and examined the following matters:
The impact of the media bargaining code on regional and independent news providers (pp. 79–81 and 94–95);
ACMA’s involvement in the proposed reallocation of radiofrequency spectrum for television broadcasters (pp. 81–82 and 87);
Update on the National Self-Exclusion Register (pp. 82–83);
Breaches of the Interactive Gambling Act by gambling affiliates (p. 83);
Efforts to block illegal gambling websites (pp. 84 and 92);
Industry codes of practice and standards in regards to impartial reporting (pp. 84–85);
ACMA response to complaints regarding the ABC program Fight for Planet A (pp. 85–87 and 92);
Allocation of the Regional and Small Publishers fund (p. 88);
The impact of the suspension of quotas for Australian content (pp. 88–90);
Discussions with Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) services regarding potential quotas for Australian content (pp. 90–91);
ACMA’s monitoring of NBN Co’s compliance with the requirement to deliver minimum internet speeds (pp. 91–92);
Research regarding the advertising of unhealthy food to children and the advertising of alcohol (pp. 92–93); and
Update on the anti-siphoning list (p. 93).

Screen Australia

Mr Graeme Mason, Chief Executive Officer of Screen Australia, spoke on the Australian film and television industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic in his opening statement:
While domestic production has returned, we are also seeing an influx of international production—though I would note that many of the projects supported by international investment have Australian talent at their core. The Australian screen industry is an ecosystem of local and foreign projects, and it is fantastic to have prominent Australians creating screen stories locally, benefiting the Australian economy, jobs and tourism.
While acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic has created unique circumstances, it is also great to see success on screens, which shows, once again, that Australians are hungry for Australian stories… The local film The Dry has taken over $20 million at the box office. Penguin Bloom has taken over $7 million. High Ground has taken almost $3 million. In addition to these great feature films, a range of Australian television content has seen success onscreen, with notable examples including Bump on Stan, Aftertaste on the ABC and Amazing Grace on the Nine Network—and, of course, Bluey continue to work her magic around the world, with viewers in the hundreds of millions.10
Other matters raised by the committee were:
Update on the Temporary Interruption Fund (p. 107);
Impact on suspension of quotas for Australian content for commercial television (p. 107);
Financial support for children’s television, documentary, and drama
(pp. 107–108);
The proposal to reduce the producer tax offset (pp. 108–109);
Loss of international productions to overseas (p. 109); and
Telling Indigenous stories in the Australian film and television industry
(p. 110).

Australia Council

Mr Adrian Collette, Chief Executive Officer of the Australia Council, provided the committee with an opening statement and spoke to the resilience of the arts industry in its recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the ongoing challenges:
While the virus has done its best to break the bonds between us, our artists and creative workers have responded with imagination and determination to keep their fellow Australians connected, entertained and inspired. I would like to place on record the Australia Council's acknowledgement and appreciation for the courage, commitment and resilience of our artists, creative workers and the organisations that supported them during this very challenging time. It's heartening to see more of our cultural venues opening again and their audiences returning. But we also know that there will continue to be some difficult times ahead for different areas of our cultural and creative sector, in particular for live music and smaller venues, which are much more significantly impacted by capacity limits.11
Officers from the Australia Council answered questions on the following matters:
Allocation of the Resilience fund (pp. 111 and 113);
Importance of JobKeeker program for the arts industry throughout the COVID-19 pandemic (pp. 112–113)
Funding of arts productions in regional and remote Australia (pp. 113–114); and
Breakdown of expenditure throughout COVID-19 (pp. 114–115).

Office of the eSafety Commissioner

The committee called officers from the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and examined the following matters:
The scope and design of the Adult Cyber Abuse Scheme (pp. 115–117 and 121–122);
Empowering parents to protect children online (pp. 118);
Coordination between the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and the National Classification Board in regards to classification regulation
(pp. 118–121);
Work of the eSafety Commissioner to address gendered online abuse
(pp. 122–123 and 124);
Addressing online radicalisation (pp. 123); and
The responsibilities of online service providers in regards to hate speech (pp. 124–126).

NBN Co Limited

On 26 March 2021, officers from NBN Co were examined by the committee.
Mr Stephen Rue, Chief Economic Officer of NBN Co, began with an opening statement which provided an update on the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout:
We now have more than eight million premises, or approximately
17 million Australians, connected to the NBN. This is a major milestone for the company…
Completing the volume rollout last year was an important moment in the history of NBN Co, but it's also an important moment for the future of the network. As our corporate plan makes clear, our work is not done. The network will continue to be upgraded and improved as the way Australians and businesses use high-speed broadband evolves. The network upgrades announced in last year's corporate plan are now well underway. Designs have been developed, and we have identified and allocated contracts to delivery partners to commence work on the first 200,000 premises in the fibre-to-the-node network, where the higher speed tiers will become available. More than 46 per cent of HFC customers are now able to access NBN Home Ultrafast, up from seven per cent in May last year, so we are on track to deliver NBN Home Ultrafast broadband to up to 75 per cent of premises on the fixed-line network by 2023.
The committee examined the following issues:
Update on access to Sky Muster on King Island, Tasmania (pp. 4–5);
NBN’s Connectivity Virtual Circuit (CVC) capacity pricing model and the feasibility of a flat access pricing model, as well as consultation with retail service providers regarding modelling (pp. 5–9 and 19–20);
NBN Co’s additional spending on the fibre network and residential revenue forecasts (pp. 8–9 and 17–18);
Average cost per user for the NBN network (pp. 10–11);
Details of the Business Fibre Initiative (pp. 11–12);
Executive bonuses, including media reporting of figures (pp. 12–15);
Update on NBN network and number of premises connected (pp. 15–17);
Difference in household take-up rates between fibre and copper in different community cohorts and mapping data (p. 17);
Governance model and procedures regarding subcontracting (pp. 20–23 and
Updates on NBN’s half-year revenue, revenue target, free cash flow, and debt-raising (pp. 23–24);
NBN Co’s response to flooding in New South Wales and Queensland
(pp. 28–29);
Number of attendances required to connect a residential premise by NBN technicians (pp. 32–33); and
Expenditure of COVID relief measures (pp. 33–35).
Senator the Hon David Fawcett

  • 1
    Mr Andrew Metcalfe, Secretary, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Proof Committee Hansard, 22 March 2021, p. 5.
  • 2
    Professor Helene Marsh, Chair, Threatened Species Scientific Committee, Proof Committee Hansard, 22 March 2021, p. 29.
  • 3
    Dr Andrew Johnson, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Meteorology, Bureau of Meteorology, Proof Committee Hansard, 22 March 2021, pp. 80–81.
  • 4
    Officers from the Clean Energy Regulator were called to attend the Additional Estimates 2020-21 hearing however, due to time constraints, the Chair, Senator the Hon David Fawcett, released the officers stating that questions would instead be put on notice.
  • 5
    Environment and Communications Legislation Committee website, 2020-2021 Additional Estimates, Industry, Science, Energy and Resources portfolio, Tabled documents:
  • 6
    Mr Simon Atkinson, Secretary, Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, Proof Committee Hansard, 23 March 2021, p. 4.
  • 7
    Mr Rodney Boys, Acting Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Australian Postal Corporation, Proof Committee Hansard, 23 March 2021, pp. 22–23.
  • 8
    Mr David Anderson, Managing Director, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Proof Committee Hansard, 23 March 2021, pp. 50–51.
  • 9
    Mr James Taylor, Managing Director, Special Broadcasting Service Corporation, Proof Committee Hansard, 23 March 2021, pp. 74–75.
  • 10
    Mr Graeme Mason, Chief Executive Officer, Screen Australia, Proof Committee Hansard, 23 March 2021, pp. 106–107.
  • 11
    Mr Adrian Collette, Chief Executive Officer, Australia Council, Proof Committee Hansard, 23 March 2021, p. 110.

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