This chapter provides an overview of some of the matters raised during
the committee's hearings on the Budget Estimates 2017–18. The discussion
follows the outcome and agency structure.
Environment and Energy Portfolio
Department of the Environment and
The committee opened the hearing with the Department of the Environment
and Energy. The Secretary, Dr Gordon de Brouwer, noted that the outcome and
program structure of the department had changed since the Additional Estimates
Other matters discussed included:
the department's input into the Government's response to the
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (pp. 5–10);
a proposed workshop with the Australian Committee for the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (ACIUCN) (pp. 6–7);
the department's promotion of the State of the Environment
Report to key stakeholder groups (pp. 10–15); and
the Government's renewable energy target (pp. 15–16).
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
The committee called officers in relation to Program 1.1: Sustainable
Management of Natural Resources and the Environment. Matters discussed by the
funding for the National Landcare Program (pp. 58–59);
feral cat eradication programs on Kangaroo Island and at the Newhaven
Wildlife Sanctuary (pp. 61–62);
the Tamar River dredging program (pp. 63–64);
the Threatened Species Commissioner's response to The
Conversation article 'Government needs to front up billions, not millions,
to save Australia's threatened species' (pp. 64–66);
funding for new Indigenous Protected Areas (pp. 66–68); and
wild dog control activities under the Western Australian Wild Dog
Action Plan (p. 69).
The committee called officers in relation to Program 1.2: Environmental
Information and Research. Matters canvassed included the department's progress
towards a common approach to environmental economic accounting and nationally
consistent reporting on Australia's environment (pp. 69–71).
Officers were called in relation to Program 1.4: Conservation of
Australia's Heritage and Environment. Matters discussed by the committee
the recovery plan and potential delisting of the white shark
under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
(EPBC Act) (pp. 71–76);
update on sites nominated for the World Heritage Tentative List
protection of the hooded plover in the Belfast Coastal Reserve in
Victoria (pp. 80–81, 89–91);
Japanese whaling activities under the New Scientific Whale
Research Program in the Antarctic Ocean (NEWREP-A) (pp. 85–86);
recovery plans for forest-dependent species (pp. 87–88); and
conditions for the export of platypuses to San Diego Zoo (pp.
The committee called officers in relation to Program 1.5: Environmental
Regulation. Matters canvassed included:
land clearing in the Great Barrier Reef catchment area (p. 89);
the New South Wales shark management plan (pp. 91–93);
variations to the conditions attached to the Abbot Point Coal
Terminal approval (pp. 94–100);
proposed amendment to section 487 of the EPBC Act (p. 95);
the Toondah Harbour Project in Queensland (pp. 101–102); and
marine farming operations in Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania (pp.
The committee called officers from the department in relation to
Program 1.6: Management of Hazardous Wastes, Substances and
Pollutants. Matters discussed included:
standard national approaches to container deposit schemes (p. 69
use of labour hire companies and related agreements by the
department (pp. 70–71);
investigations into the under-reporting of coal-fired power
station emissions under the National Pollutant Inventory in New South Wales
(pp. 72–74); and
the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life (pp.
Reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to the impacts of climate
change, contribute to the 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. Matters canvassed by the committee
funding levels under the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) (pp.
responses to the 2017 Review of Climate Change Policies – Discussion
Paper (pp. 80–81); and
the Government's emissions reduction targets (pp. 82–85).
The committee called officers in relation to Program 2.2: Adapting to
Climate Change. Matters discussed included funding for the National Climate
Change Adaption Research Facility (NCCARF) (pp. 85–87, 91–92) and Government
expenditure on climate change adaption programs (pp. 92–93).
The committee called officers in relation to Program 2.3: Renewable
Energy Technology Development. Matters examined included:
costs associated with large-scale battery storage technologies
the differences between pumped hydro and battery storage (pp.
staffing levels of the department's Clean Energy Innovation team
Advance Australia's strategic, scientific, environmental and economic interests
in the Antarctic region by protecting, administering and researching the
Officers from the department were called in relation to
Program 3.1: Antarctica: Science, Policy and Presence. Matters
illegal Japanese whaling in the Southern Ocean (pp. 7–8);
funding for the Antarctic Gateway Partnership and the Antarctic
Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (pp. 9–11);
review of the Australian Antarctic Science Strategic Plan 2011–12
to 2020–21 (pp. 11–12); and
the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report on a replacement
Antarctic icebreaking vessel (pp. 13–19).
Support the reliable, sustainable and secure operations of energy markets
through improving Australia's energy efficiency, performance and productivity
for the community
The committee called officers of the department in relation to
Program 4.1: Energy. Matters canvassed included:
funding for the development of onshore gas (pp. 102–103,
the proposed expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme (pp. 103–105);
the rising cost of electricity (pp. 109–110); and
the reliability of the electricity market (pp. 110–116).
Australian Renewable Energy Agency
The committee called officers from the Australian Renewable Energy
Agency (ARENA) and discussed the following matters:
the proposed expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme (pp. 19–21,
solar thermal projects in Australia (pp. 21–27);
wind farm power generation (p. 28); and
funding for the DeGrussa solar project (pp. 31–32).
Bureau of Meteorology
Officers were called from the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) and matters
the decommissioning and automation of weather stations (pp.
the performance of BOM forecasting and warning systems during
Tropical Cyclone Debbie (pp. 46–50).
On behalf of the committee the Chair acknowledged and thanked Dr Andrew
Johnson, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Meteorology, and his staff for
their work during Cyclone Debbie. The Chair stated:
I think it is safe to say that I speak on behalf of the
entire committee, Dr Johnson, when I formally acknowledge and thank your
staff for the amazing work that they did. Quite often we think about emergency
services and other organisations but not actually your staff, who are clearly
critically important throughout the process. So I hope you do not mind passing
on the committee's thanks.
Clean Energy Finance Corporation
The committee called officers from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation
(CEFC). Matters discussed included:
the relationship of the CEFC to the Northern Australia
Infrastructure Fund (pp. 55–56);
proposals for possible coal-fired power stations (pp. 52–53);
funding under the Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF) for
start-up projects (pp. 57–61); and
the proposed second power interconnector across the Bass Strait
Clean Energy Regulator
Officers of the Clean Energy Regulator were called and matters examined
the Government's progress towards achieving the renewable energy
target (pp. 63, 65–66);
funding for the ERF (pp. 66–67); and
large-scale renewable power generation projects in Western
Australia (pp. 67–68).
Climate Change Authority
The committee called officers from the Climate Change Authority (CCA)
and canvassed the following matters:
funding and staffing levels over the forward estimates (pp. 50–52
the release of the new issues paper, 'Action on the land:
reducing emissions, conserving natural capital and improving farm profitability'
review of the Carbon Farming Initiative legislation and the ERF
(pp. 53–54); and
the scope of the CCA's joint report, 'Towards the next generation:
delivering affordable, secure and lower emissions power' (pp. 55–58).
Director of National Parks
The committee called the Director of National Parks, Ms Sally Barnes,
and the following matters were discussed:
draft management plans for Australian Marine Parks (pp. 40–41);
management of the Kakadu Buffalo Farm (pp. 41–43);
the recovery plan for the Norfolk Island green parrot (pp.
measures to control yellow crazy ants on Christmas Island (p.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
The committee called officers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Authority. In his opening statement, Dr Russell Reichelt, Chairman, outlined
some of the challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef:
The Great Barrier Reef has been impacted on by two significant
environmental incidents this year: an unprecedented second consecutive year of
coral bleaching on a mass scale and Tropical Cyclone Debbie—the tenth severe
category cyclone to cross the Reef since 2005. The Great Barrier Reef Marine
Park Authority is focused on understanding and responding to the impacts of
Other matters canvassed by the committee included:
advice provided by the Reef 2050 Plan Independent Expert Panel (pp.
the crown-of-thorns starfish management control program (pp. 25,
content of the Reef 2050 Plan (pp. 26–28);
large-scale coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef (pp.
impacts of mining operations on the marine park (pp. 33–34);
permits issued under the Great Barrier Reef Marine Parks Shark
Control Program (pp. 36–38); and
Australia's participation in the International Coral Reef
Initiative (p. 39).
Office of the Supervising Scientist
The committee called the Office of the Supervising Scientist (OSS) and
the tailings deposition strategy for the Ranger Mine site (pp.
monitoring of the Ranger Mine after its closure (pp. 98–100);
the impact of the department's restructure on the OSS (p.100);
the design of the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism
(ADGSM) (pp. 100–101).
Snowy Hydro Limited
The committee called officers from Snowy Hydro Limited. In his opening
statement, Mr Paul Broad, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of
Snowy Hydro, outlined the proposed Snowy Hydro expansion project. Other matters
the cost and timeline for the feasibility study on the Snowy
Hydro expansion (pp. 40–41);
potential electricity storage capacity and cost of the project
(pp. 41–48); and
environmental approvals required for the expansion project (pp.
Communications and the Arts Portfolio
As noted in chapter one, the committee conducted its examination of the
Communications and the Arts Portfolio over three days: 24 and 25 May 2017 and
15 June 2017.
Department of Communications and the Arts
The committee commenced its examination of the Communications and the
Arts Portfolio on 24 May 2017 by calling officers from the Department of
Communications and the Arts. The following general matters were discussed:
delayed responses to questions on notice from the Additional
Estimates hearings (pp. 4–6);
anticipated release of the Productivity Commission's report into
the future direction of a universal service obligation (USO) in the
telecommunications market (pp. 6–13);
the department's use of labour hire companies (pp. 13–15);
funding under-represented sports on subscription television (pp.
restrictions on gambling advertising during the broadcast of live
sports events (pp. 17–21).
Outcome 1: 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
Officers were called in relation to Program 1.1: Digital Technologies
and Communications Services. Matters canvassed included:
the final report of the review of the Australian Communications
and Media Authority (ACMA) (pp. 41–46);
the audio transcription services working group (pp. 61–61,
the mobile black-spot program (pp. 63–72);
broadband performance monitoring and reporting program (pp.
the telecommunications competition framework (pp. 76–78).
Issues related to Program 1.1 were further examined by the committee at
the hearing held on 15 June 2017. Matters discussed included:
the department's procedures for processing questions on notice
the timing of the provision of National Broadband Network (NBN) Electorate
Briefs (pp. 3–9);
support for users of non-monitored medical alarms as the NBN is
rolled out (pp. 9–11); and
coverage and specifications of the mobile black-spot program (pp.
Outcome 2: Participation in, and access to, Australia's
arts and culture through developing and supporting cultural expression
The committee called officers in relation to Program 2.1: Arts and
Cultural Development and discussed the following matters:
funding of Creative Partnerships Australia for 2017–18 (pp.
local employment opportunities in the domestic film industry (pp.
impact of the Government's changes to VET Student Loans on the
National Institute of Dramatic Art and other elite arts training institutions
removal of arts occupations from the 457 visa program (p. 52)
funding for the Indigenous Languages and Arts program (pp.
funding cuts to the Australian Youth Orchestra (pp. 53–54).
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The committee called officers of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
(ABC). In her opening statement, Ms Michelle Guthrie, Managing Director,
updated the committee on the recently announced changes to the ABC's corporate
strategy and structure since the ABC's last appearance at estimates (pp.
109–110). The following matters were also discussed:
the ABC's iview audio description trial (pp. 110–111);
controversial comments made by ABC employees (pp. 111–112,
the ABC's policies on Indigenous employment (pp. 112–113,
the ABC's compliance with the Government's Competitive Neutrality
Policy (pp. 115–116 and 133);
redundancies resulting from the announced strategic restructure
of the organisation (pp. 121–123); and
the cessation of shortwave transmission services to the Northern
Territory and international audiences (pp. 123–125 and 132).
Australian Communications and Media Authority
The committee called officers of the Australian Communications and Media
Authority (ACMA) and discussed:
recommendations from the ACMA Review (pp. 14, 16–19);
the ACMA's preparation for the World Radiocommunication
Conference (WRC) (pp. 14–15);
social media and gambling advertisements restrictions (pp.
complaints to the Do Not Call Register (pp. 27–29); and
funding for the implementation of the recommendations of the
Spectrum Review (pp. 30–33).
Australia Council for the Arts
The committee called officers from the Australia Council for the Arts
final round for Catalyst and additional funding (pp.
capacity building and engagement campaigns (pp. 42–43); and
grant applications received from Western Australia (pp. 43–44).
Australian Postal Corporation
The committee called officers of Australia Post and invited Ms Christine
Corbett, Group Chief Customer Officer, to make an opening statement. In her
opening remarks, Ms Corbett updated the committee on Australia Post's recent
commercial performance and progress towards a new staff enterprise bargaining
agreement (EBA) (pp. 98–99).
Other matters discussed by the committee included:
EBA negotiations under the Government's workplace bargaining
policy (pp. 99–104, 108–109);
parcel delivery protocols (pp. 104–107); and
Australia Post's administration of the Licensed Post Office
National Broadband Network Co
On 25 May 2017, Mr Bill Morrow, Chief Executive Officer, made an opening
statement and provided the committee with an update on the progress of the
rollout of the NBN.
The committee also canvassed the following matters with NBN Co:
late responses to questions on notice from Additional Estimates
deployment of the Sky Muster II satellite (pp. 59–62, 64–65);
the company's compliance with the Government's Workplace
Bargaining Policy (pp. 110–112);
the Senate Privileges Committee report in relation to leaked NBN
documents (pp. 112–118); and
NBN Co policy on blocking social media comments (pp. 118–119).
Officers from NBN Co were called to appear before the committee at its
hearing on 15 June 2017. The following matters were discussed:
impact of non-existent premises on the NBN rollout (pp. 15–16 and
number of 'Service Class 0' addresses (pp. 16–20);
cost of the NBN to the taxpayer (pp. 20–21);
forecast take-up rates of the NBN in regional areas (pp. 20–22);
options for enhancing NBN's future satellite capacity (p. 22);
the USO and new development sites (p. 23); and
the number of missed NBN installation appointments (pp. 24–25).
National Film and Sound Archive
The committee called officers from the National Film and Sound Archive
(NSFA). Matters canvassed included the NSFA's budgetary position and the impact
of the efficiency dividend on the NSFA's capacity to deliver a range of events
and programs (pp. 39–41).
National Gallery of Australia
The committee called officers from the National Gallery of Australia
(NGA). Matters discussed included:
the impact of the Government's efficiency dividend (pp. 27–28);
plans to increase private-sector funding for the NGA (p. 28);
Stage 2 plans for the expansion of the NGA (pp. 28–29); and
the lending of artworks to state and overseas galleries (pp.
National Library of Australia
The committee welcomed Dr Marie-Louise Ayers, Director-General of the
National Library of Australia. Matters raised included:
the reduction of overseas serials in the collection (pp. 30–31);
funding for Trove and other digital infrastructure (pp. 31–32);
activities to commemorate the anniversary of the 1967 referendum
National Museum of Australia
The committee called officers from the National Museum of Australia and
additional funding and staffing levels (pp. 24–25);
the new Cultural and Corporate Shared Services Centre (pp.
Australian touring exhibitions (pp. 26–27).
National Portrait Gallery
The committee called officers from the National Portrait Gallery.
Matters canvassed included:
staffing and funding levels (pp. 22–23);
visitor numbers to the gallery (p. 23); and
re-consideration of the Bald Archys collection material with
reference to the gallery's Collection Development Policy (p. 23).
Office of the Children's eSafety
The committee called the Children's eSafety Commissioner. The
Commissioner, Ms Julie Inman-Grant, provided the committee with an update on
the recent activities of the office (p. 4). Other matters examined included:
budget and staffing numbers (pp. 3–4);
responsibility for cyberspace matters (pp. 6–8);
the number of complaints to the cyberbullying hotline (pp. 8–12);
education and outreach programs for children (pp. 12–13).
Old Parliament House
The committee called officers from Old Parliament House and discussed
the following matters:
the impact of the efficiency dividend on the Museum of Australian
Democracy (pp. 35–36);
reduction in the total number of free entry days each year (p.
engagement with school groups (pp.
The committee called officers from Screen Australia. In her opening
statement, Ms Fiona Cameron, Chief Operating Officer, provided a brief overview
of recent developments in film, television and online (pp. 35–36). Other
matters canvassed included:
the review into Australian and children's screen content (pp.
update on the Gender Matters initiative (pp. 36–37); and
funding for the games and digital arts industry (pp. 37–40).
Special Broadcasting Service
The committee called Mr Michael Ebeid, Managing Director and CEO of the
Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). In his opening statement, Mr Ebeid provided
the committee with an update on the additional funding SBS received in the
Federal Budget as well as its programing schedule (p. 79).
The following matters were also canvassed:
the impacts of the Government's proposed gambling advertising restrictions
on SBS's advertising revenue (pp. 80–81);
access to SBS's on-demand service platform (pp. 83–85);
SBS's policies and editorial independence (pp. 85–88); and
public comments by the Managing Director in relation to same-sex
marriage (pp. 90–94, 95–98).
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