Portfolio specific issues
This chapter provides an overview of the matters raised during the
committee's budget estimates hearings for 2014–15. The discussion followed
outcome and agency structure. The page references beside each matter refer
to the proof committee transcript.
Department of the Environment
The committee began the first day of hearings with general questions to
the Department of the Environment. Dr Gordon de Brouwer, Secretary of the
Department of the Environment, noted that the number and description of
outcomes for the department had changed and that seven outcomes had been
consolidated into four (p. 5). The matters raised by the committee
the reduction in staffing levels through voluntary redundancies, carrying
out a capability assessment of staff and limiting recruitment to meet budgetary
and workload requirements (pp 6–18); and
the proposed restructure of the department (p. 18).
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.
Officers of the department were called in relation to Program 1.1:
Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Environment. Matters raised
Green Army operations and priority projects (pp 86–90 and 96–98);
the Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations
(GVESHO) program (p. 88 and 100–102);
the Whale and Dolphin Protection Plan (p. 89);
Coastal River Recovery Initiatives (p. 90);
marine debris (pp 92–93);
the National Landcare Program (pp 93–96); and
the Australian Government Reef Program (pp 99–100).
Officers of the department were called in relation to Program 1.2:
Environmental Information and Research. Matters raised included the National
Environmental Science Program (pp 70–73) and whale research (pp 73–78).
Officers of the department were called in relation to Program 1.3:
Carbon Pollution Reduction—Land Sector Initiatives. The discussion covered
natural resource management planning for climate change (p. 78).
Matters raised in relation to Program 1.4: Conservation of Australia's
Heritage and the Environment included:
the potential World Heritage listing of royal reserves (p. 18);
the Parramatta Female Factory site (pp 19–20);
the request to delist part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World
Heritage Area (pp 22–26 and 35–36);
Community Heritage and Icons Grants (p. 27); and
the Great Barrier Reef (pp 32–34).
Officers of the department were called in relation to Program 1.5:
Environmental Regulation. Matters raised included:
the proposed accreditation of state and territory environmental
approval processes (pp 41–50 and 56–62);
the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental
Management Authority (NOPSEMA) (pp 51–53); and
Abbot Point (pp 53–56).
In relation to Program 1.6: Management of Hazardous Wastes, Substances
and Pollutants, questions covered the Packaging Impacts Decision Regulation
Impact Statement (pp 65–69) and Tyre Stewardship Australia (pp 69–70).
Outcome 2: Reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions,
adapt to the impacts of climate change and contribute to the negotiation of an
effective global solution to climate change, through developing and
implementing a national response to climate change.
Officers of the department were called in relation to Program 2.1:
Reducing Australia's Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Matters raised included:
the Emissions Reduction Fund (pp 70–81);
Solar Towns (pp 81–82);
the Direct Action Plan (pp 82–86);
fugitive emissions (pp 86–88); and
the carbon tax (pp 88–90).
Matters raised in relation to Program 2.2: Adapting to Climate Change
included the Australian Community Climate and Earth-System Simulator (ACCESS)
(p. 98) and the Natural Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (p. 99).
Outcome 3: Advancement of Australia's strategic, scientific,
environmental and economic interests in the Antarctic by protecting,
administering and researching the region.
The committee called officers of the department from the Australian
Antarctic Division and canvassed matters including:
the replacement of the Aurora Australis icebreaker (p.
maintaining Australia's presence in the Antarctic (pp 33–35 and
the stability of the Antarctic ice sheets (pp 37–38).
Outcome 4: Improve the health of rivers and freshwater
ecosystems and water use efficiency through implementing water reforms, and
ensuring enhanced sustainability, efficiency and productivity in the management
and use of water resources.
Officers of the department were called in relation to Program 4.1: Water
Reform. Matters raised included:
the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program
(SRWUIP) (p. 40);
the National Performance Report (pp 45 and 47–48); and
the National Water Initiative (pp 48–50).
The committee called officers of the department in relation to Program
4.2: Commonwealth Environmental Water, together with officers from the
Commonwealth Environmental Water Office (CEWO). The matters raised are outlined
in paragraph 2.18 below.
Bureau of Meteorology
Officers from the Bureau of Meteorology provided information on the
installation of a new supercomputer (pp 20–23). Dr Rob Vertessy, Director of
Meteorology, outlined the anticipated benefits of the supercomputer, which
include pinpointing finer details in weather systems and providing more
up-to-date forecasts. Dr Vertessy stated:
...for the first time, we will be able to run the models in
on-demand mode. If a sudden severe weather event breaks out somewhere in the
country, we will be able to spin up the model to run a simulation just for that
event. In fact, we will be able to do that for four concurrent events at a time.
So, whether we have cyclones, floods, fire, thunderstorms or volcanic ash
events to the north happening, we will be able to set the model up to run a
specialised, on-demand forecast for our emergency services. That is going to be
an amazing step change.
Other matters raised included:
revenue-raising activities (pp 25–27);
El Nino (p. 29);
web services and proposed smartphone apps (pp 26 and 31); and
the bureau's use of volunteers, since 1908, to monitor rainfall,
storms and river heights (p. 29).
Clean Energy Regulator
The committee called officers from the Clean Energy Regulator and
questioned them on changes to the regulator's role and functions following the
implementation of the Emissions Reduction Fund (pp 92–96).
Climate Change Authority
In light of the proposal to abolish the Climate Change Authority in
2014–15, the committee questioned officers on matters including:
the transfer of the authority's staff and functions to other
agencies (pp 36–38); and
the completion of emissions reduction projects currently being
undertaken by the authority (pp 38–41).
Commonwealth Environmental Water
Officers from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office were
questioned on current water holdings (p. 56), water trading in the Gwydir and
Peel valleys (pp 56–59) and water plans (pp 59–60).
Director of National Parks
The Director of National Parks appeared before the committee and
reported on the need to achieve a balance in working with the states to
integrate tourism, conservation and opportunities for traditional owners. Ms Sally
Barnes, Director of National Parks, stated:
We will continue to work together under the National
Landscapes Program to link the best of the best, the best of nature, as a
marketable icon for Tourism Australia to promote overseas...Our joint management
strategy will look not only at tourism but at where there are other
opportunities for Aboriginal corporations and groups to provide services to us
to deliver on park.
Other matters canvassed with the Director of National Parks included:
the World Parks Congress (p. 13); and
the visit to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park by the Duke and
Duchess of Cambridge (p. 14).
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
The committee called officers from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park
Authority. Matters raised included:
five major initiatives for the authority (pp 103–104);
Traditional Use Marine Resource Agreements (p. 106); and
dredging at Abbot Point (pp 110–113).
Murray-Darling Basin Authority
The committee called officers of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and
examined matters including:
water buybacks for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (pp 61–62);
cost-sharing between the Commonwealth and states to maintain
river assets (pp 64–67);
the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Program for South Australia
(PIIP-SA) (p. 67); and
the Menindee Lakes project (pp 68–70).
National Water Commission
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Senator
the Hon Simon Birmingham, thanked staff of the National Water Commission for
their valuable work, in recognition of the fact that the commission will cease
operations in 2014–15. The committee questioned officers of the commission in
relation to the transfer of the commission's functions to other agencies (pp
43–53), the impacts of mining on groundwater (pp 53–54) and the review of the
Water Act (pp 54–55).
Office of the Supervising Scientist
The committee examined officers from the Office of the Supervising
Scientist on matters including:
the ongoing rehabilitation of Ranger Uranium Mine (pp 5–7);
investigations into a leach tank failure in December 2013 (pp
the failure and replacement of a ventilation shaft (p. 10).
Sydney Harbour Federation Trust
The committee examined officers of the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust on
matters including revenue from leased properties, guided tours and paid parking
(p. 15), and the proposed use of a trust site for an aged-care facility
Department of Communications
The committee began its examination of the Communications portfolio with
general questions to the Department of Communications. Matters raised included:
the restructure of the department (pp 3–8 and 13); and
the Deregulation Roadmap 2014 (pp 9–11 and 14).
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 of the department were called in relation to Program 1.1: Broadband
and Communications Infrastructure. Matters raised included:
NBN Co funding, corporate plan and broadband rollout (pp 41–55
the functions of the Telecommunications Universal Service Management
Agency (pp 55–56); and
the Mobile Black Spot Program (pp 75–79).
Matters raised in questioning under Program 1.2: Digital Economy and
Postal Services included:
e-Government (pp 70–72);
the reform of postal services (pp 76–78); and
the review of the spectrum policy and management framework (pp
Officers from the department were called in relation to Program 1.3:
Broadcasting and Digital Television. Matters raised included:
the Deregulation Roadmap 2014 (pp 15–17);
appointments to the ABC and SBS boards (pp 17–19);
the review of the spectrum policy and management framework (pp
the ABC and SBS efficiency study (pp 21–24 and 26–27).
Mr Ahmed Fahour, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, made an
opening statement on the proposed changes to Australia Post's business, at the
conclusion of which the committee questioned officers on matters including:
mail delivery options (pp 82–86);
profit, loss and superannuation liability (pp 87–96);
StarTrack (pp 96–97);
licensed post offices (pp 98–111); and
MyPost digital mailbox (pp 111–112).
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
The committee canvassed the following matters with the ABC:
legal action taken against the Chaser (pp 29–31 and
the ABC and SBS efficiency study (pp 36–39 and 58–61);
the cessation of the Australia Network (pp 41–45, 51–54 and 63);
reporting bias (pp 57–58 and 66–68).
Australian Communications and Media
Officers of ACMA were called and examined on matters including:
cyber safety programs for schools (pp 5–6);
the deregulation of reporting for telecommunications providers
(pp 8–10 and 13–16); and
the spectrum review (pp 16–18).
Officers of NBN Co were called and examined, following an opening
statement by Mr Bill Morrow, Chief Executive Officer. Matters raised included:
the Chief Executive Officer's previous employment (pp 81–96);
the progress of the National Broadband Network rollout (pp 96–99
the coverage and potential use of satellite services (pp 99–107);
equal access for retail service providers (pp 109–112); and
services to remote communities (pp 114–115).
Special Broadcasting Service
Officers from the Special Broadcasting Service were questioned on
the ABC and SBS efficiency study (pp 21–28 and 30);
Eurovison 2014 and the soccer World Cup 2014 (pp 28–29); and
the diversity of language programs (pp 19–20).
In response to a question on programming, Mr Michael Ebeid,
Managing Director, commented that SBS Radio broadcasts in 74 languages. When
asked whether any comparable broadcaster provides as many different language
programs, Mr Ebeid stated:
We understand that the next closest organisation that does
many languages would be the Vatican. The Vatican has 32 languages. Our former
chairman used to often use the line that we do double the number of languages
that the voice of God does.
Service Management Agency
Officers from the Telecommunications Universal Service Management Agency
were called and examined on matters including:
the National Relay Service (p. 31);
the transfer of TUSMA's operations to the Department of
Communications (pp 32–35 and 39–40); and
the migration of voice services to the National Broadband Network
(pp 35 and 37–39).
Senator John Williams
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page