Chapter 2 - Public hearings

Chapter 2Public hearings

2.1This chapter begins with a summary of the engagement of consulting services by government departments and agencies.

2.2It then lists the key topics discussed for each department and agency examined during the committee's hearings for Budget Estimates 2023–24.

2.3Page numbers of the Proof Hansard transcript for that day's hearing are indicated in brackets as a reference.

Government department and agency engagements of consulting services


2.4The engagement of consulting services by government departments and agencies was a focus of the committee throughout the 2023–24 Budget Estimates hearings. In particular, the committee was interested in the nature and number of contracts that departments and agencies currently hold with the accounting, audit, and consulting firm PwC.

2.5The interest in government consultancy contracts with PwC followed an announcement on 23 January 2023 by the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB). The TPB deregistered Mr Peter Collins, a former PwC tax partner, for two years for integrity breaches. The TPB found that Mr Collins, while a partner at PwC:

…was part of a confidential consultation by Treasury in a confidential consultation to improve tax laws. This included new rules to stop multinationals avoiding tax by shifting profits from Australia to tax and secrecy havens. Mr Collins made unauthorised disclosures of this confidential law reform information to partners and staff of PwC.[1]

2.6In chapter three of this report, the committee considers a privilege matter that arose in relation to PwC and the integrity of consultancy contracts.

2.7In addition, this committee notes that the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee is currently considering matters relating to PwC as part of its inquiry into the management and assurance of integrity by consulting services. That committee commenced its inquiry on 9 March 2023[2] and is due to table its final report on 30 November 2023.[3]

Department and agency responses

2.8As noted above, the majority of government agencies and departments called to appear before the committee were asked for information on the structure and number of contracts they had with consulting firms and any past or current engagements with PwC.

2.9On Thursday 25 May 2023, the committee called officers from the Department of Finance. In her opening statement, Ms Jenny Wilkinson PSM, Secretary, outlined four actions the Department of Finance had taken in response to the breach of confidentiality relating to PwC:

(a)Mr Jaggers, Deputy Secretary, Commercial Group, wrote to PwC, directing it to remove personnel directly involved in or who had knowledge of the confidentiality breach from all existing and future contracts under the management advisory services panel at least until the review by Dr Switkowski of PwC's governance, culture and accountability is complete and Finance is satisfied with the findings of that review.

(b)…the department developed a 'notification of significant event' clauses for inclusion in future Commonwealth contracts. On 19 May, Finance updated the Commonwealth Contracting Suite and ClauseBank to include template causes which will enable the Commonwealth to terminate a contract for material breach of contract if an adverse event occurs…

(c)On 24 May, Finance wrote to all 413 management advisory services panel suppliers seeking their agreement to vary the existing panel agreement to include the notification of significant event causes in that agreement.

(d)On 19 May, Finance published a procurement policy note on its website reminding officials that, when undertaking a procurement, they must consider the previous behaviour, including the ethical conduct of an organisation when undertaking value-for-money assessments (pp. 45–46).[4]

2.10On Monday, 22 May 2023, the committee called officers from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. Mr Hugh Cameron, Acting First Assistant Secretary, Corporate and Technology Division said:

We're very confident that the department has a robust framework in place to ensure that aspects of confidentiality are appropriately addressed and brought to the attention of contract managers and, indeed, contractors to the department so they're aware of their obligations when dealing with the Commonwealth's important information (p. 43).

2.11The committee also asked the following agencies about their engagements with consulting services and the value of contracts and whether any contracts with PwC were still ongoing:

APS Reform Office (Thursday, p. 38);

Australian Public Service Commission (Thursday, pp. 38–41);

Australian Naval Infrastructure Pty Ltd (Friday, pp. 22–24);

Digital Transformation Agency (Friday, pp. 33–34); and

Future Fund Management Agency (Friday, pp. 39–40).

Parliamentary departments—Monday 22 May 2023

Parliamentary Budget Office

2.12Topics discussed for the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) included:

the Parliamentary Budget Office Activity Report (p. 3); and

the Build Your Own Budget tool (p. 3).

Department of the Senate

2.13Topics discussed for the Department of the Senate included:

the number of estimates Questions on Notice outstanding from departments and agencies (p. 3);

the statistical trends for Order of Production of Documents in the Senate Chamber (pp. 3–4);

Senate Committee Office funding and staffing (p. 7); and

the legislative drafting capacity of the Procedure Office (pp. 10–12).

Department of Parliamentary Services

2.14Topics discussed for the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) included:

the implementation of Jenkins Review recommendations (pp. 12–15, 36);

disability training for DPS staff (pp. 15–18);

the staffing of the Parliamentary Library (p. 18–19);

sponsored special interest pass holders (pp. 24–27);

artwork acquisition by DPS art services (pp. 28–31); and

the DPS access and inclusion plan (pp. 31–36).

PM&C portfolio—Monday 22 May 2023

Outcome 1: Provide high quality advice and support to the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, Portfolio Ministers and Assistant Ministers including through coordination of government activities, policy development and program delivery.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

2.15Topics discussed for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) under Outcome 1 included:

PM&C's use of consulting services, including any services contracted with PwC (pp. 41–45, 66–67, 85–86);

the potential for United States government investment in Australian defence and energy sectors under the AUKUS partnership (45–49);

the potential for the Australian energy and minerals industry to seek assistance under the United States' Inflation Reduction Act 2022 (pp. 49–51);

representations made by the Japanese government to the Australian government regarding gas industry policy (pp. 52–53);

planning for the QUAD meeting and the cancellation of President Biden's visit to Australia (pp. 54–57);

Medicare (pp. 57–58);

future visits by the Prime Minister to foreign nations (pp. 58–63);

the Net Zero Taskforce and Net Zero Authority (pp.63–66, 81–83);

the application of the Ministerial Code of Conduct (pp. 67–72);

National Cabinet's reform agenda and engagement with local governments (pp. 72–77);

appointment of Ms Kathryn Campbell AO to an AUKUS-related role (pp. 77–79);

the National Strategy for the Care and Support Economy (pp. 80–81);

PM&C's efforts and future planning to reach net zero (pp. 83–84);

the handling and treatment of National Cabinet documents by PM&C (pp. 86–92);

Freedom of Information requests to PM&C (pp. 92–94);

the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) (pp. 94–98);

the travel and working arrangements of the PM&C Secretary, Professor Glyn Davis AC (pp. 100–102);

the tracking of Ministerial briefs (pp. 102–104);

the referral of policy to the Office of Impact Analysis (pp. 106–110); and

National Cabinet's review of the Infrastructure Investment Program (pp. 110–114).

PM&C portfolio continued—Tuesday 23 May 2023

Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General

2.16Topics for the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General included:

the potential appointment by the Governor-General of scrutineers for the Voice referendum (pp. 78, 87–90);

the appointment of General Sir Peter Cosgrove as administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth (pp. 78–80);

the use of Government House or Admiralty House for private functions (pp. 81–83);

the Governor-General's Australian Future Leaders program and his involvement with other community organisations (pp. 83–87); and

official international state visits by the Governor-General (pp. 90–91).

Australian National Audit Office

2.17Topics for the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) included:

the audit of Artbank (pp. 92–95);

the ANAO's 2023–24 workplan and which agencies and departments are included for auditing (pp. 95–96);

audit of the National Recovery and Resilience Agency and the National Emergency Management Agency and review of other disaster recovery funding arrangements (pp. 96–98); and

audit of Defence acquisition projects including the Attack Class Submarines and Hunter Class Frigates (pp. 96–104).

National Australia Day Council

2.18Topics for the National Australia Day Council included:

future funding arrangements and sponsorship for the National Australia Day Council (p. 105); and

financial support provided to the Australians of the Year (p. 106).

PM&C portfolio continued—Thursday 25 May 2023

Office for Women (PM&C)

2.19Topics discussed for the Office of Women included:

the scope, application and efficacy of the Gender Impact Assessment process (pp. 3–17);

the selection process for members of the Women's Economic Equality Taskforce (WEET) (pp. 17–19); and

potential WEET reporting on paid parental leave (pp.19–20).

Workplace Gender Equality Agency

2.20The committee discussed communication by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency to businesses and APS agencies regarding new reporting obligations (pp. 21–22).

APS Reform Office (PM&C)

2.21Topics discussed for the APS Reform Office included:

initiatives on the APS reform agenda, the APS Capability Reinvestment fund and the Independent Review of the APS 2019 (Thodey Review) (pp. 24–26);

the development of an in-house consulting service for the APS (pp. 26–27)

Australian Public Service Commission

2.22Topics discussed for the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) included:

the appointment of Dr Gordon de Brouwer to the role of APS Commissioner (pp. 23–24);

the review of the Maternity Leave (Commonwealth Employees) Act 1973(pp. 27–28);

efforts by the APSC to improve the capacity of agencies to complete gender impact assessments (p. 29);

implementation of the Respect@Work frameworks (pp. 30–31);

guidance issued by the APSC to public servants regarding the Voice referendum (pp. 31–35);

the selection and recruitment process for Band 3 Senior Executive Service officers (pp. 35–37);

contracts between the APSC and consulting firms (pp. 38–41); and

the progress of the APS-wide bargaining process (pp. 38–39).

Finance portfolio—Tuesday 23 May 2023

Department of Finance

Outcome 3: Support for parliamentarians and others as required by the Australian Government through the delivery of, and advice on, work expenses and allowances, entitlements and targeted programs.

2.23Topics discussed for the Department of Finance under Outcome 3 included:

resolution of technical issues with the Parliamentary Expenses Management System (PEMS) (pp. 5–7);

the Review of the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (pp. 8–10, 13–14);

resourcing and activity of the current Parliamentary Workplace Support Service (PWSS) and the development of the new statutory PWSS (pp. 10–11, 15–16);

resourcing of Members' and Senator's offices (pp. 11–13);

expenditure on leasing arrangements for the electorate offices of parliamentarians (pp. 16–17);

the procurement and user testing of the new PEMS platform (pp. 17–21);

the use of parliamentarians' expenses in relation to the Voice referendum (pp. 21–22, 25–26); and

information about the Voice referendum (pp. 22–24).

Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority

2.24Topics discussed for the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) included:

statutory review of the Parliamentary Business Resources Act 2017 and the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority Act 2017 (pp. 26–27);

the use of IPEA's legislative framework as a model for the new PWSS (pp. 27–29); and

user issues with PEMS and clarification of items that may be claimed as a parliamentarian's expenses (pp. 29–35).

Australian Electoral Commission

2.25Topics discussed for the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) included:

the Yes/No pamphlet and translation of information into languages other than English and its delivery (pp. 36–39);

the enrolment and participation of Indigenous Australians (pp. 40–42);

provisional voting in elections and referendums (pp. 42–43);

costings for the Voice referendum (pp. 43–44);

reporting obligations of organisations involved in the campaign for the Voice referendum (pp. 44–47);

possible dates for the Voice referendum (pp. 47–50);

the auditing of the Australian electoral roll and the AEC (pp. 52–53);

postal voting (pp. 53–54);

transparency measures the AEC use to ensure voter confidence in election processes and results (pp. 54–55);

pre-poll voting (pp. 55–56);

the AEC's registration and disclosure scheme (57–60, 67–68, 73–74);

the movement and transportation of election ballots (pp. 61–62);

the appointment of and number of scrutineers at polling booths (63–67);

the Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce (p. 69);

the Remote Voter Services scheme (p. 71);

the Election Readiness Framework (pp. 72–73);

formatting of the Yes/No pamphlet (p. 74); and

future redistributions of federal electorates (pp. 75–76).

Finance portfolio continued—Thursday 25 May 2023

Department of Finance

Outcome 1: Support sustainable Australia Government finances through providing high quality policy advice and operational support to the government and Commonwealth entities to maintain effective and efficient use of public resources.

Outcome 2: Support an efficient and high-performing public sector through providing leadership to Commonwealth entities in ongoing improvements to public sector governance, including through systems, frameworks, policy advice, service delivery, and managing, acquiring and divesting government investments.

2.26Topics discussed for the Department of Finance under Outcomes 1 and 2 included:

the Department of Finance's contracts, including with PwC and response to the release of information by the Tax Practitioners Board (pp. 45–46, 51–61, 74–76, 80–85);

the contingency reserve for decisions taken by government but not yet announced (pp. 46–47);

the Budget Process Operational Rules (pp. 47–50);

correspondence between the Department of Finance and PwC (pp. 50–52);

savings measures from external labour, advertising, travel and legal expenses (pp. 61–67);

procurement rules for Small and Medium Enterprises and Austender (pp. 67–69);

the NDIS Financial Sustainability Framework (pp. 69–74, 76–80);

the $61 billion in budget improvements (pp. 85–87);

the Brett Cattle class action settlement program (pp. 88–90);

budget measures for investment in health and aged care (pp. 90–95); and

the classification of budget measures and efficiency dividends in the Budget Papers (pp. 95–120).

Finance portfolio continued—Friday 26 May 2023

ASC Pty Ltd

2.27Topics discussed for ASC Pty Ltd included:

sustainment of the Collins class submarines (pp. 5–6);

impacts of the Defence Strategic Review affecting ASC (p. 6); and

capabilities and status of ASC Pty Ltd's current workforce and infrastructure (pp. 7–10).

Australian Naval Infrastructure Pty Ltd

2.28Topics discussed for Australian Naval Infrastructure Pty Ltd (ANI) included:

land swap arrangement between the federal and state governments for an ANI infrastructure site (pp. 11–12);

construction of infrastructure to support AUKUS submarines (pp. 12–15, 17–20);

the Hunter Class Frigate Program (pp. 15–17);

the additional security regulations regarding AUKUS submarine projects (pp. 20–22); and

contracts with PwC and other consulting firms (pp. 22–24).

Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation

2.29As noted in chapter 1, the committee released the Commonwealth Superannuation Corporation from the hearing without asking questions.

Digital Transformation Agency

2.30Topics discussed for the Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) included:

accessibility of the new Digital Identity system (pp. 25–28);

whole of government data and digital investments (pp. 28–30); and

rollout and security of the new Digital Identity system (30–37).

Future Fund Management Agency

2.31Topics discussed for the Future Fund Management Agency (FFMA) included:

communications regarding the Housing Australia Future Fund (HAFF) Bill 2023 (pp. 37–38);

tax advice the FFMA has received from PwC (pp. 39–41); and

the potential impacts on the HAFF if a recession was to occur (pp. 41–44).

Cross-portfolio on Indigenous Matters—Wednesday 24 May 2023

Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations

2.32Topics discussed for the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) included:

the accessibility of the registration processes and compliance status of indigenous corporations (pp. 4–12);

ORIC's involvement in the Voice referendum (pp. 7–8); and

funding for ORIC's staffing (p. 7).

National Indigenous Australians Agency

2.33Topics discussed for the National Indigenous Australian Agency (NIAA) included:

a breakdown of the $250 million funding package for Central Australia (pp.12–16, 19–20);

consultation with ORIC in the development of the funding package for Central Australia (pp. 17–18);

funding for First Nations hubs and organisations (pp. 21–21);

the replacement of the Community Development Program with the New Jobs Program Trial (pp. 22–23, 26–30);

the development of the Makarrata Commission (pp. 23–24);

women transitioning from prison into the community (pp. 41–42);

the location and concentration of funding from the NIAA to Western Australia (WA) (pp. 42–43);

mental health support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people during the Voice referendum (pp. 43–45, 51–53);

costings for the Voice referendum (pp. 44–48);

expansion of Purple House to Balgo, Western Australia (pp. 48–49);

youth detention and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) (pp. 49–50);

the provision of dental healthcare for Indigenous people (pp. 50–51);

the Yipirinya School (pp. 53–55);

funding and consultation for youth in Central Australia (pp. 55–59, 69–71);

funding of the Northern Territory Police (pp. 59–62);

inland water targets and the Committee on Aboriginal Water Interests (pp. 64–66);

disaster response and resilience arrangements in the Kimberley (pp. 66–69);

the anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart (pp. 71–74); and

the legislation that may come into effect following a Yes result from the Voice referendum (pp. 74–75).

Central Land Council

2.34Topics discussed for the Central Land Council (CLC) included:

the training and background checking of CLC directors (pp. 31–32, 38–40);

spending on the Voice Referendum (pp. 32–33);

the status of ongoing s.19 applications (pp. 34–35);

the CLC's involvement in an Indigenous leadership group on Central Australia (pp. 35–36);

matters that Mr Ned Hargraves raised regarding the CLC (pp. 36–37); and

disaster response and resilience arrangements (pp. 40–41).

Northern Land Council

2.35Topics discussed for the Norther Land Council (NLC) included:

the training and background checking of NLC directors (pp. 31–32, 38–40);

spending on the Voice Referendum (pp. 33–34);

the status of ongoing s.19 applications (p. 34);

grant for oil and gas exploration and production in the Beetaloo sub-basin (p. 35);

proposed changes by the NLC to native title and aboriginal land rights legislation (pp. 37–38);

unlawful land clearing (p. 38); and

disaster response and resilience arrangements (pp. 40–41).

Cross Portfolio Indigenous Matters

2.36Topics discussed for the combined cross-portfolio included:

interactions between a legislated Voice and the National Anti-Corruption Commission (pp. 76–78);

interactions between a legislated Voice and regional voices (p. 79);

improving Indigenous health services including cancer outcomes (pp. 79–83);

consultation and funding on a National Resting Place (p. 84);

budget measures for perpetrator health and children with harmful behaviours (pp. 84–86);

Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation

2.37Topics discussed for the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) included:

a breakdown of expenditure categories and accountability mechanisms (pp. 86–87); and

the progress of projects, including current funding status (pp. 87–89).

Aboriginal Hostels Ltd

2.38Topics discussed for Aboriginal Hostels Ltd included:

a breakdown of expenditure categories (pp. 89–90);

occupancy rates across hostels (pp. 90–91); and

maintenance of hostels (pp. 91–93).

Office of Township Leasing

2.39Topics discussed for the Office of Township Leasing included:

current and future budget allocations (pp. 94–95); and

the accountability and transparency mechanisms of the Office of Township Leasing (95–96).

Northern Territory Aboriginal Investment Corporation

2.40Topics discussed for the Northern Territory Aboriginal Investment Corporation (NTAIC) included:

a breakdown of expenditure categories (p. 97);

the training and background checking of NTAIC directors (p. 98); and

changes to the grant processes (pp. 98–100).

Indigenous Business Australia

2.41Topics discussed for Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) included:

progress on published targets in the corporate plan (pp. 100–101);

disaster relief packages (pp. 101–103); and

the Social Enterprise Grant scheme (p. 102).


[1]Tax Practitioners Board, Former PwC partner banned for integrity breach, Media release, 23 January 2023,

[2]Journals of the Senate, No. 36, 9 March 2023, pp. 1073–1074.

[3]Further information about the inquiry can be found on the committee's website.

[4]Ms Jenny Wilkinson PSM, Secretary, Department of Finance, Opening statement, 25 May 2023,