AFP apologises to Hakeem al-Araibi
Pauline Hanson has made an appearance at the estimates committee grilling the AFP. She wants to know about pill testing. Hanson asks the police commissioner whether pill testing is encouraging the drug trade in Australia.
The commissioner says he doesn’t believe organised criminal syndicates would be influenced by whether pill testing exists or doesn’t.
“It’s a global business,” the commissioner says, of the drug trade. Pill testing isn’t relevant.
The Greens have just spent a good 10 minutes or so asking about their climate emergency hot air balloon which they wanted to launch over Parliament House last week.
Senate president Scott Ryan has explained that when approval was sought, he learned that it was up to Casa to control the airspace above parliament, and a request was then made by DPS to have the access denied.
Larissa Waters asked about a balloon that was seen above parliament this morning and why it had been allowed when its climate emergency protest balloon had not been.
Ryan says that regardless of the cause, the presiding officers did not believe that any balloon should be allowed access to the airspace above Parliament House.
He said it was a matter for Casa to police the current exclusion zone and added that they wanted to make the no-fly zone permanent.
In rural and regional affairs estimates, Labor is probing how Moyne shire council was declared eligible for $1m of drought assistance funding when the council said it wasn’t in drought.
Diana Hallam, the infrastructure department executive director of regional development and local government, explains that Moyne shire qualified because between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2019 more than 60% of the shire had received 14 consecutive months of a one-in-20-year rainfall deficiency, and 17% of the workforce was engaged in agriculture, fisheries or forestry.
But after the shire said it didn’t need the funding, the department conducted an audit and discovered a small stuff-up. Either the data from the Bureau of Meteorology or the selection of it the department used ran until the end of May 2019 not June. Hallam said this did not affect the result – Moyne shire and the other 12 councils all qualified when the numbers were rerun over the correct 24-month period.
No decision has yet been made by the government about what will happen to the $1m, which Moyne will not receive.
Hallam: “We assess rainfall on a quarterly basis. With the conclusion of the 1 July to 30 September quarter we will assess eligibility again, and there will be another opportunity regarding whether new shires become eligible.”
Labor pushes for climate emergency motion to pass house
Senate president Scott Ryan is refusing to answer questions about a hack on Parliament House that the country’s intelligence agencies have said was carried out by a foreign government.
Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick asked a series of questions about the data breach that took place in February and which targeted Australia’s political parties.
Ryan said he would not comment on whether a foreign government had been identified, nor any details of the data breach.
“I don’t think it is appropriate for public consumption,” Ryan said. “I don’t think these matters are appropriately canvassed in a public forum.”
Ryan said he had received a report on the data breach, but he did not think the report was “appropriate” for publication.”I am not convinced that publishing the report I have received, even in a redacted form would be helpful.”
He said he would be receiving a further briefing and consulting with Speaker of the House, Tony Smith, before updating the Senate on what took place. It was reported by Reuters earlier this year that China was responsible for the cyber attack.
Prime minister Scott Morrison told parliament that a “sophisticated state actor” was responsible for the “malicious activity.”
In environment estimates, Katy Gallagher is asking about the department’s failure to publish freedom of information documents on its public disclosure log for more than 10 months, a breach of FOI law.
The department is saying an increase in FOI requests and “IT matters” have caused the issue.
“We made a decision last year to change our disclosure log process so that documents were made immediately available,” Margaret Tregurtha, from the department’s general counsel branch, says.
“It’s apparent that in doing that we encountered some difficulties with the website.
“We’re now in a situation where we’re making every effort to catch that up.”
Katy Gallagher is asking why, if it’s a relatively simple process to upload documents to the website, has the delay in disclosures occurred.
The department says that once the backlog of disclosures arose it became difficult to find time to catch up because they were prioritising the processing of FOI applications. Officials don’t have information available to tell Labor the average processing for FOI applications it receives.
The department says its intention is to publish the documents that should have been uploaded to the disclosure log since January. The department tells the committee that there are about 120 document packs that need to be published and there could be thousands of documents within those document packages.
Katy Gallagher asks why advice was not sent to the ,inister’s office if the department was in breach of the law.
“If I was the minister I would want to know if my department was breaking the law,” she says.
Matt Cahill, the deputy secretary of the strategy and operations group, says the department is working to bring itself in line with the act.
“We will bring ourselves up to standard in the next week,” he says.
Still with the AFP at estimates, the police commissioner has been asked by Green senator Nick McKim about the leaking of a home affairs briefing document that included advice from Asio.
Quotes from this document, which was about the medevac regime, ended up in the front page of the Australian.
The commissioner, Reece Kershaw, confirmed the AFP “declined to escalate” even though it was an unlawful disclosure.
McKim wonders why.
The commissioner says about 200 people had access to drafts of the document, but the final version went to 11 email addresses.
He says there is a “priority system” when it comes to launching leak investigations, which includes costs and the likely success of being able to produce a brief of evidence. McKim is less than convinced.
The Parliamentary Budget Office is being asked about a thought bubble from DPM Michael McCormack to move the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters to regional Victoria.
Labor senator Kimberley Kitching requested the PBO cost the proposal.
Parliamentary Budget officer Jenny Wilkinson said the PBO was not able to calculate the fiscal impact of the idea, given it would require industry-specific expertise that it did not have.
“We were not in a position to make a judgment.”