|[Extract of Estimates, Senate Foreign Affairs Defence & Trade Legislation Committee Hansard, 6 June 2002, pp. 518-562]
Senator FAULKNER-Could I ask the department for a brief overview of its involvement in countering people-smuggling.
Dr Raby-Our involvement in countering people-smuggling has been focused mainly on the international or foreign policy dimensions of the issue. It is very wide ranging. We also meet, and have met for some time, regularly with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Also, as I have explained on previous occasions, during the Tampa and post Tampa events we participated in the PM&C IDC and led the DFAT Tampa task force. Our involvement, though, obviously continues heavily on the foreign policy aspects.
We also led on the organisation of the very successful recent Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime.
Since Bali we have been active in trying to raise the issue of people-smuggling in other international fora, including in relevant UN bodies. There may be other aspects. The department has appointed an ambassador for people-smuggling issues who is heavily engaged in the post Bali conference follow-up.
Senator FAULKNER-Is the ambassador based in Canberra?
Dr Raby-Yes. He is part of my division.
Senator FAULKNER-As you rightly say, some of the issues in relation to the Tampa and post Tampa events have been covered in other fora, so I do not want to cover them again today. I was interested in your mentioning your involvement with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. Could you briefly outline what the nature of that has been and how that is organised on an ongoing basis?
Dr Raby-It is at a number of different levels, as you would probably imagine. There is a formal, regular meeting at the deputy secretary level. I should say that relations with Immigration go well beyond just people-smuggling. There are major issues of property overseas and overseas post management-DIMIA has a big number of officers posted in missions around the world. These formal meetings deal with a number of issues in addition to people-smuggling. Below that regular, formal contact there is ongoing contact at the officer or desk level on the whole range of issues. We would always consult with them and vice versa on the international dimensions of this issue.
Senator FAULKNER-Who would the desk officers be reporting to, though, on this issue? I do appreciate the point you make that you have broader involvement with Immigration. I am just focusing on countering people-smuggling.
Dr Raby-The desk officers on this issue report to me through my colleague Rod Smith, who is the head of the International Organisations Branch. We have a section in my division which deals with people-smuggling, illegal immigration and refugee matters.
Senator FAULKNER-Where are the inputs there coming from-from posts and so forth?
Dr Raby-Posts are the normal course of information.
Senator FAULKNER-Of course, you also have the activity in the posts themselves, haven't you?
Dr Raby-Yes, indeed.
Senator FAULKNER-I would like to explore in more detail the role the Jakarta post has in this. You can explain to me whether it is best to do this now or in one of the outputs. I will seek your guidance on that so we can perhaps save time.
Dr Raby-I would be guided by Dr Thomas on that.
Dr Thomas-We can do that now.
Senator FAULKNER-I would be interested, in the first instance, in understanding how countering people-smuggling activities is being coordinated in your Jakarta post.
Dr Raby-In the Jakarta post, the coordination is directly overseen by the ambassador, who is very heavily involved in all of this, it being a major priority for the government. There is a coordinating group within the post, which meets regularly and brings together all of the key agencies. Off the top of my head, we are looking at perhaps as many as eight different
agencies in Jakarta that have a direct interest in this issue. So that is the central coordinating mechanism in the post.
Senator FAULKNER-Are you able to say what those agencies are?
Dr Raby-Yes-DIMIA, AFP, Customs, Defence, DFAT. I think AusAID has involvement, and there may be other agencies as well.
Senator FAULKNER-Is it a DFAT officer that is chairing this coordinating group?
Dr Raby-It is the ambassador.
Senator FAULKNER-How often does that group meet?
Dr Raby-It meets very regularly and it can almost be in regular session when there is a major issue that needs to be addressed. It is a very effective group. It is ad hoc, in that sense, but it meets with a great frequency when the need is there.
Senator FAULKNER-What is the function of the coordinating group?
Dr Raby-To make sure that information is shared amongst all the agencies, that there is a consistent, coordinated strategy to respond to these issues and that all home departments are fully in the information loop.
Senator FAULKNER-What I do not understand-and you might explain it to me-is whether these activities are directed out of the coordinating group in Jakarta or from elsewhere.
Dr Raby-Like any post, or any group in a post, people respond to, react to and are directed by instructions from Canberra. Those instructions may come from different agencies, but they are discussed and consistency is maintained-which is one function of this group- by a meeting at the post.
Senator FAULKNER-It seems to me that if you have a range of different agencies working on this then it is a good idea that you have coordination in Jakarta. That sounds eminently sensible. I am interested in the inputs that go into the coordinating group and where they come from. You said it was Canberra. Can you be a little more specific than Canberra?
Canberra is a big place.
Dr Raby-Just from the relevant agencies. There are different dimensions to these issues-for example, if it were representations to the host government then it may well be on a particular issue and we would coordinate a position within Canberra. The principal line of communication would be from the department, possibly from me, to the post. Then that would be brought into that group and acted upon and discussed on that basis.
Senator FAULKNER-But are you coordinating the inputs or are they coming from a range of areas outside Jakarta-from what you described as Canberra? Are you coordinating inputs via the task force or whatever it might be-agencies in Australia-and going through you to the ambassador in Jakarta for discussion at the coordinating group?
Dr Raby-Yes, I was trying to explain that. Depending on what the issue is, it may be coordinated by us or it may be coordinated by DIMIA. It depends on the aspect of the operation and what is involved. There will be times when agencies will report directly and instruct their offices directly in a post. But, to the extent that those instructions require coordination in the post, the coordinating mechanism in the group will be called together and they will discuss the instructions.
[ FAD&T 521]
Senator FAULKNER-How formal are the discussions and meetings? Are notes and minutes taken and that sort of thing?
Dr Raby-I think I was also trying to convey a picture of a group that meets as needed. It can be quite regular if the need is there. But it is quite flexible and informal in the way it operates. It is not a formally constituted mechanism. It is something that happens in many posts on a range of different issues if there is a need to have a well-coordinated effort in the post.
Senator FAULKNER-But, as far as DFAT is concerned, you at least keep a record of what the inputs are from Canberra?
Dr Raby-Certainly, all of our cables are kept. We have a policy, essentially, that formal instructions are to be conveyed by cable.
Senator FAULKNER-So are you able to tell me which people in the post in Jakarta are working on countering people-smuggling?
Dr Raby-The specific individuals or the agencies?
Dr Raby-I could take that on notice. We can provide you with the information.
Senator FAULKNER-And what their roles are?
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Just on that point, can you tell us when the `children overboard' inquiry will receive responses to our questions on notice from quite some time back on a number of these issues?
Dr Raby-I cannot give you date, but the questions have been prepared and they are with the minister at present.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-How long ago was it that they landed in the minister's office?
Dr Raby-It was 30 May-that is what is on my copy. There was, if you recall, a big number of questions-
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-Related to many of these issues, too, which is why I am asking why they are taking so long. You are now saying to Senator Faulkner that there are further matters you want to take on notice.
Dr Thomas-This is a question relating to names of individual staff members in an embassy abroad. We have 500 staff abroad and we cannot recall them all off the tops of our heads.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-I appreciate that, but I am also querying when we can anticipate having before us the answers to our questions on notice from the `children overboard' inquiry and thus prevent us needing to ask some of these questions in this process.
I think it is a reasonable question.
ACTING CHAIR (Senator Ferguson)-They are with the minister.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-I got my answer.
ACTING CHAIR-These officers cannot give-
Dr Raby-This particular question was not asked at the inquiry.
Senator FAULKNER-No, I am aware of that. One of the problems in these situations is that answers sometimes beget further questions, as you all know. When senators accept that questions are placed on notice, it obviously means those answers have to be considered before further questions are asked, in the broad. Is anyone able to help with what the practice is in the Jakarta post when there is a visiting minister-what records are kept, what meetings are attended, all those sorts of things?
Dr Thomas-It is standard practice for any ministerial visit to any embassy abroad that any formal calls on host ministers or other bodies are always fully documented and records kept. Major conversations of significance are usually cabled to Canberra.
Senator FAULKNER-What about discussions held in-house in the post? I appreciate the point you made, Dr Thomas, and I probably understood that background. What happens about meetings or discussions that might be held between a minister and those in the post as opposed to someone from the host government or from outside the post?
Dr Thomas-That would vary on occasion. Post officials might make a note for file if they felt the need for it-if it was a complicated issue or something on which they thought a record should be kept. Generally speaking, post officials certainly brief and have significant discussions with visiting ministers and so forth and most of that would not be recorded in writing.
Senator FAULKNER-If I nominated a minister and a visit to Indonesia, to Jakarta, what detail would DFAT be able to provide me in relation to that ministerial visit? There are obviously two issues here. I am interested in understanding whether your approach is different if it is your own minister-in other words, Mr Downer, or whoever the foreign minister may be-as opposed to another minister.
Dr Thomas-I do not think so, not in my experience of posts. A ministerial visit is a ministerial visit and we have fairly standard procedures for organising and documenting those visits.
Senator FAULKNER-So what information is kept at the post in relation to a minister other than your minister? In this case I am interested in visits to the post by the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs. What sort of information would you be able to provide in relation to any such ministerial visit? You do not need to deal with it in the specific; you can deal with it in the broad if you like. What sort of material do you keep on file and what might be able to be made available and the like?
Dr Thomas-Generally speaking, the post would receive a copy of the brief that has been prepared in Canberra for the minister and the travelling party. The post would certainly have full copies of all records of conversation which have been documented and they would be sent back to Canberra. There might be some notes for file; there might not be, depending on whether there is a need to record things. That would be pretty much the sum of the documentation.
Senator FAULKNER-What about itineraries and things like that?
Dr Thomas-All of that is kept. Full copies of official programs and appointments and so forth are kept. If it is a ministerial level visit, usually the host government produces a booklet with the entire program in it, but we also produce our own.
Senator FAULKNER-In relation to a visiting minister, what sort of material would you be able to make available to a committee like this?
Dr Thomas-I would need to know what you are after in particular.
Senator FAULKNER-I am asking what you see as being reasonable to be provided.
Dr Thomas-Most of the records of conversation would be classified, because they would be information provided to us in confidence by host government ministers or authorities and so forth and generally that would not be for release. But, as always, we are able to provide details of things like programs, appointments and so forth.
Senator FAULKNER-I would be interested in programs, appointments and itineraries for the visits of the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs in June and August, if that is possible. There was certainly a visit in June and I understood, from evidence given by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, one in August. Would you be able to confirm that?
Dr Thomas-We would certainly have copies of the itinerary and the program. I suspect it is up to the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs as to what is released in terms of the detail.
Senator FAULKNER-We have just been through that, and that was the point of my questioning.
Dr Thomas-We hold copies of it, but it is not our information. They are not DFAT documents; they are DIMIA documents, if it is their minister.
Senator FAULKNER-Your copies are DFAT documents, are they not?
Dr Thomas-No, they are DIMIA documents. DFAT documents are documents we produce.
Senator FAULKNER-So notes for file, for example, from your officers about either meetings with your staff of the post or meetings outside the post are DFAT documents, are they not?
Senator FAULKNER-How do you make a judgment about what of that material, if any, can be provided?
Dr Thomas-If they are records of conversations with ministers, it would really be up to the relevant minister to decide what of that document might be released.
Senator FAULKNER-So these decisions are not made by your agency but made by the home minister's agency?
Dr Thomas-Yes, the agency of the minister who is the subject of the conversation.
Senator FAULKNER-I am trying to understand how you have approached this in the past.
Dr Thomas-A DFAT generated document would be a matter for discussion in DFAT and if it had ministerial content or significance it would be a matter for the ministers themselves.
Similarly, if it were a document relating to a minister from another portfolio, it would be that minister's decision what could be released on the public record.
Senator FAULKNER-That is one level, and then you have another level of whatever might be occurring within the post itself-records that might be taken by staff of the post.
Dr Thomas-What I am talking about generally is classified information. There is also some information that is not classified. We, like all agencies, are governed by the Freedom of Information Act. People can make requests for documents that we have produced or anyone else has produced and those requests are considered in line with FOI criteria.
Senator FAULKNER-I appreciate that. Are you aware of any requests for documentation made in relation to the visits of Mr Ruddock in June or August 2001?
Dr Raby-I am not aware, Senator. It may not have been August. I think the visit may have been early September.
Senator FAULKNER-I have not followed it through. I think there was a bit of uncertainty about precise dates.
Dr Raby-If that was the visit the three ministers-Reith, Downer and Ruddock- undertook, that was in early September.
Senator FAULKNER-So there was a separate ministerial visit by Mr Ruddock in June?
Mr Grigson-That is correct.
Senator FAULKNER-And then his next visit to Indonesia was with the other two ministers in early September?
Mr Grigson-Correct-6 to 7 September.
Senator FAULKNER-I was more interested in the normal approaches at the post to records of conversation and those sorts of things and how you dealt with those sorts of records and files. They are held at the post as opposed to being sent back to Canberra at some point. Is that right?
Dr Thomas-Everything is sent back to Canberra-records of conversation et cetera. As I said, many of them are cabled. But the post keeps a copy of everything it generates.
Senator FAULKNER-I know that, but what about a note for file, for example: would that stay on file in the post in Jakarta or would it eventually come back to Canberra?
Dr Thomas-It would depend. Sometimes it would just stay on the file in Jakarta for officers at the post there to refer to. If they thought there was some follow-up action or people in Canberra needed to know more detail, occasionally a note like that would be sent back.
Senator FAULKNER-So, again, there is no hard and fast guidance on this sort of thing?
Dr Thomas-It is a matter of judgment really for the ambassador or for other officers at the post who needs to know and who, if anyone, needs to take any follow-up action. If there is something to be done by Dr Raby's division, the note will certainly come back to Canberra so that it can be drawn to his attention and the necessary action can be taken. If it is just for action at the post, it will stay there.
Senator FAULKNER-I will look at the answer to the question on notice that I have asked and follow that up at a later stage. One issue that has received some public comment, if not notoriety, relates to an individual by the name of Enniss, who has had an association with the Australian Federal Police. This has had quite considerable media publicity. Are you aware of that, Dr Thomas?
Dr Thomas-I am aware of that.
Senator FAULKNER-It has also been canvassed at the estimates committees in other portfolios. Has Mr Enniss had any association with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade?
Mr Grigson-Not that I am aware of, but I would like to check for you.
Senator FAULKNER-Thank you. If you could establish that during the day, I might be able to follow through if there was any. But I think some certainty on that would be helpful.
How much do you see countering people-smuggling as a priority for your operations at the moment, particular in South-East Asia?
Dr Raby-It is one that has grown in importance over the last couple of years. I think it is fair to say that, for most posts in South-East Asia, it is of considerable importance. Obviously, that depends on where the posts are located with respect to the movements of people. But, as a general comment, it is one of substantial and growing importance for our work overseas.
Senator FAULKNER-Has the Minister for Foreign Affairs provided you with any instructions or directives that have focused more attention and departmental resources or activities on countering people-smuggling? As you said, it is a growing priority. It is not unique to your department, of course; it is true in a range of other departments and agencies.
Dr Raby-Dr Thomas may have a view on this.
Dr Thomas-There is no directive as such. But the minister established the office of Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues, and that has to be serviced by our department. That makes it clear that it is a priority for the government. In addition, the minister made a bid for and got some extra funds to fund our continuing operation on Nauru for part of the next financial year. Those signals make it very clear to us that this is a priority issue for us.
Senator FAULKNER-One thing that has occurred since the last round of budget estimates is that ASIS is operating under its new legislative framework. It is very early days, and I understand that, but in relation to the new legislative framework is there any early review of that at this stage or any assessment of how it is working?
Dr Thomas-Not to my knowledge.
Senator FAULKNER-I mean from a DFAT perspective. As I say, I do appreciate that it is very early days. I just wondered whether any assessment had been made at this point.
Senator FAULKNER-Do you know of any plans at a portfolio level to have a look at this in the future?
Dr Thomas-No, I am not aware of any at the moment.
Senator FAULKNER-Obviously there are other review mechanisms-I appreciate that-but I wondered whether there would be any portfolio review of that.
Dr Thomas-As a matter of course, every year we have a review of how DFAT relates to all parts of its portfolio. It will be looked at it in that context, of course, but there will be no special review.
Senator FAULKNER-We also have additional powers for the minister in relation to ASIS. That is fair to say, isn't it?
Dr Thomas-I think so. These are really matters you would need to address to ASIS itself.
Senator FAULKNER-With respect, I think they are matters that have a broader portfolio implication. I am asking this from a ministerial perspective. I am not keen to go into specific details in relation to ASIS; I am looking at it from a portfolio and ministerial perspective. I think they should properly be asked in the overview. Frankly, I do not intend asking them of ASIS at all. In fact, if you really want to know, I am deliberately not asking them of ASIS.
Dr Thomas-I am really not in a position to comment at all on intelligence matters or on ASIS's operations.
Senator FAULKNER-With respect, I do not think this is an intelligence matter. As I say, it has a broader portfolio implication. That is what I am speaking of. I am not going into operational matters in ASIS and do not intend to. It seems to me that issues such as review of the new legislative framework, the issue I have just raised with you about additional powers, are straightforward and, I would have thought, uncontroversial and not crossing over the line in any sense. I am not suggesting that you are suggesting that it is; I just want to be clear with you that this is the perspective from which I am asking. So no review has taken place from a portfolio perspective and none is planned. We can say that?
Dr Thomas-That is correct.
Senator FAULKNER-Specifically, in relation to the powers under the new legislation, is
it true that, in terms of the functions of ASIS, section, 6(1)(e) of the Intelligence Services Act
Can someone confirm that that is the case? That is the legislation.
Dr Thomas-That is what is says, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER-Are you aware that included in section 6(2) is this:
That is in the act too, is it not?
Senator FAULKNER-So there is no secret about any of this-this is an act of parliament-my question to the minister, not to the portfolio, is whether that part of the act, that is, the capacity for ministerial direction, has been utilised since it was enacted.
Senator Abetz-I do not know, but I will take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER-Can someone at the table help me? I appreciate that you do not know, Senator.
ACTING CHAIR-Has this already been enacted?
Senator FAULKNER-Yes. Is it not called the Intelligence Services Act? It is Act No. 152 of 2001. Think how painful the other 151 were.
ACTING CHAIR-I was not sure whether you were talking about a proposed act.
Senator FAULKNER-No. It is an act; it is not a bill. Can someone in the department help me with that, please? I want to know whether, under the new legislation, that power has been utilised.
Dr Thomas-I am unable to help you. I am sorry, we do not know. It is a question we would have to refer to ASIS.
Senator FAULKNER-Could you find out for me?
Senator Abetz-We can take that on notice. I do not profess to be a specialist in this area, but there may be some difficulties in providing a response to that. But we will take it on notice and deal with it as best we can.
Dr Thomas-ASIS reports directly to the minister and the sort of question you are asking is really a matter for the minister and ASIS. Departmentally, we really cannot comment on these matters.
Senator FAULKNER-I did suggest that my question was directed to the minister, with the incapacity of the current minister to answer the question. The minister who we have with us at the moment has pointed out to us that he is a minister in the DOFA portfolio.
Senator Abetz-Not Do Fa. I like that, Senator Faulkner.
Senator HOGG-You will all get it right one day.
Senator FAULKNER-Like Senator Hogg, I am consistent in the way I pronounce the acronym.
Senator Abetz-It is one of those occasions where I prefer your consistency as opposed to Senator Hogg's consistency.
Senator JACINTA COLLINS-That is rare.
Senator Abetz-Yes, it is rare.
Senator HOGG-Is this a new unity ticket that is emerging, Senator Abetz?
Senator Abetz-Yes, like the Senator Conroy-Senator McKiernan one I heard about the other day.
Senator FAULKNER-So I would like you to take that on notice. I would also like you to take on notice if there have been any instructions or directives to ASIS under the act in relation to people-smuggling.
Senator Abetz-We will take that on notice, with the same caveat that I expressed before.
Senator FAULKNER-When Dr Thomas makes the point that I might have a capacity to ask ASIS questions, I am not aware that ASIS will be coming before the committee. Is it planning to come before the committee? Can anyone assist me with that? It is coming before the committee.
ACTING CHAIR-ASIS is output 6. I am sorry; I was engaged in a discussion with my colleague.
Senator FAULKNER-There are witnesses. Because my questions are only broad ones I do not want to go to other matters.
Senator Abetz-All I am seeking to do is adopt a cautionary approach to this so that it is not seen that I am committing my fellow minister.
Senator FAULKNER-We are both adopting a cautionary approach.
Dr Thomas-I may be mistaken but I believe there is a different committee which looks at intelligence agencies. I think that committee would probably be the forum for such things rather than ours.
Senator FAULKNER-It is I think the Parliamentary Joint Committee on ASIS, DSD and ASIO. But not before this committee.
ACTING CHAIR-They are not due to come before this committee.
Senator FAULKNER-That is what I thought. Having now established that they are not due to come before the committee-I did not think I had misunderstood that-I would appreciate it if I could receive an answer to those two questions on notice. In other words, I think that the only way it can be dealt with by a member of this committee is to ask the questions of you, Senator Abetz, representing the minister- Senator Abetz-Yes.
Senator FAULKNER-and ask you to respond. I think you are clear on what I am asking: whether section 6 (1)(e) of the act has been utilised and specifically under the new legislation whether that part of the act has been utilised. Then I am keen to know whether there have been any directions issued in relation to countering people-smuggling activities and, if so, what they are.
Proceedings suspended from 12.50 p.m. to 2.00 p.m.
CHAIR-I shall shortly be welcoming back Senator Abetz, the minister representing the Ministers for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I welcome back officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We are presently considering output 1.1.4, the South Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.
Dr Thomas-Senator Faulkner asked this morning whether the department had had any former connections with a Mr Ennis. We are in a position to give an answer on that now. My colleague Mr Grigson can give an answer.
Mr Grigson-Further to the question you asked this morning, the only contact we can find is some consular assistance that we provided in 1999 following a consular case involving Mr Ennis that came up.
Senator FAULKNER-Consular assistance?
Mr Grigson-Yes. We have had no other contact with him.
1 Senator FAULKNER-Where was that?
Mr Grigson-That was in Indonesia.
Senator FAULKNER-Are you able to say what consular assistance you provided to Mr Ennis?
Mr Grigson-Certainly. We made some representations on his behalf. He was detained over a particular matter. I am somewhat restricted, by the Privacy Act, on the detail I can give you.
Senator FAULKNER-That is the only contact the department has had with Mr Ennis?
Mr Grigson-Indeed. That is the only contact.
Senator FAULKNER-Can you just give me the time frame-when that commenced and when that concluded.
Mr Grigson-He was detained in June 1999 and released, I believe, in December.
Senator FAULKNER-And since that time there has been no contact with Mr Ennis?
Mr Grigson-That is right.
CHAIR-Thank you, Senator Faulkner. [snip]
Senator FAULKNER-There are a couple of issues, Mr Chair, that we have held over to this subprogram. I was asking-I do not know if you heard, Dr Raby-a few minutes ago whether I could be told what, if any, the involvement of DFAT was in the preparations for the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering secretariat meeting that is occurring in Queensland next week might be.
Dr Raby-Before I take that, if you are agreeable I would like to give you an answer on a question you left us with from the morning session-
Senator FAULKNER-By all means, yes.
Dr Raby-concerning the group in the mission in Jakarta that coordinates on people- smuggling issues. We have been back to Jakarta. I was wrong when I said that there may have been up to eight agencies. The fact is there are four agencies. The portfolios represented on what is called the Inter-Agency Co-ordination Group on People Smuggling are DFAT, AFP, DIMIA and Defence. I think I might have mentioned this morning that Customs was also an agency, but I am advised by Jakarta that that is not the case. The individuals representing these agencies change over time and sometimes change from meeting to meeting, depending on availability of officers, so there is no particular individual in any fixed or permanent way representing the agencies. Their role is to represent their agency's views and to share information and assessments which may be available to those individual agencies.
Senator FAULKNER-Their role is what? Say that again.
Dr Raby-Their role is to represent their agency's views, and to share information and assessments which may be available to those individual agencies, meaning that different agencies may have particular information, or have an assessment of the situation on the ground through their normal work, and they bring that to the meeting and share that information and their own assessments.
Senator FAULKNER-But this is something that happens in the post, right?
Senator FAULKNER-That is helpful information, and thank you for providing it. I was interested in where it might report to and obviously what inputs it might have. I think you are saying to me that fundamentally the inputs are local, are you?
Senator FAULKNER-Which is fair enough, but I think that is a little different to what I might have understood from this morning.
Dr Raby-Maybe we should be clear on this. There would be two broad sets of inputs, if you like. They would be primarily dealing with local inputs, information they pick up in- country, whichever way they do it. Secondly, there would be discrete tasking from time to time of officers from their own agencies, from Canberra. I think there was a bit of confusion, perhaps, on my side this morning in responding to your question. I think we need to be clear, though. In a post there are those essentially two different sets of inputs of information-the in-country information and the tasking and exchange that happens in the normal course of events with Canberra.
Senator HOGG-Is there a formal agenda for the meeting or is it just an ad hoc arrangement each time?
Dr Raby-It is ad hoc, convened by the ambassador or the deputy head of mission, depending on whether the ambassador is in Jakarta or not.
Senator HOGG-So there is no record of the meeting kept?
Senator FAULKNER-What about the tasking? There would be a record available of the tasking, wouldn't there? This is not the in-country tasking; this is the tasking from Canberra.
Dr Raby-The way the tasking from Canberra operates, the group is not tasked as a whole. There is no tasking of this group. What would happen, for example, if we had some information on some activities of people smugglers, is that the follow-up request would come from, possibly, DFAT or DIMIA. We, maybe in Canberra, would consult with DIMIA, or DIMIA with us, but that would go directly to the post. In a post like Jakarta-indeed in most posts-cables are available to all officers in the post. That would just then be on the basis of the tasking. The coordinating agency, the coordinating group, would be convened and the tasking from Canberra would be discussed.
Senator FAULKNER-Yes, but in what form does the tasking come?
Senator FAULKNER-Just cable?
Dr Raby-In almost all cases, as I explained this morning, we have a clear directive in our department that all formal tasking of posts is by cable. There is always some leakage in that, in that there is some communication by email, but the formal tasking of a post is by a normal cable.
Senator FAULKNER-You would not be aware of what occurred at the Senate estimates committee with the AFP, but you may well be aware-or someone in your division may well be aware-of one of the objectives of the AFP, in part under its Law Enforcement Cooperation Program. Let me quote the objective directly from the Australian Federal Police's portfolio budget statements 2002-03, page 220: ... improving the ability to combat transnational crime threats to Australia by disrupting and dismantling such activities in source and transit countries ...
Are you or any of your officers aware of that objective?
Dr Raby-I wasn't aware of it as explicitly as that, in those exact words, but I am aware that that is an operational objective of the AFP.
Senator FAULKNER-You say you are not aware of it as explicitly as that, and that is fair enough; it is buried away in the portfolio budget statements. What is your awareness of that general policy imperative?
Dr Raby-The AFP are represented in a number of posts in this part of the world. They are active in post-wide coordinating committees such as the one I have been describing in Jakarta. The AFP were very active in the Bali regional conference. That conference had a very strong disruption aspect to it. The head of the AFP was present in Bali and a number of his colleagues were there too. It was a very useful opportunity for the police to exchange information and engage on disruption activities with respect to people-smuggling.
Senator FAULKNER-Are you able to say in the broad what your understanding of `disruption activities' is?
Dr Raby-No. I think that is best directed to the AFP. It is in their area of responsibility and it is also an operational matter, which I would not wish to be drawn on.
Senator FAULKNER-I think you are quite right not to go into AFP operational matters and I would not want you to do so; hence, I asked the question in the form I did and I thought it was fairly carefully worded. But let me ask it in another way because I do not think it is fair for me to ask you to go to matters that relate to AFP activities: what, if any, DFAT directives, guidance or other objectives are there in relation to disrupting and dismantling activities in the area of people-smuggling? Is this only, from your understanding, an AFP objective or is it more broadly something that your department has a role in?
Dr Raby-This morning's answers indicated what the role of the department is. For us, action against people-smuggling is an important priority, and I think Dr Thomas made that point this morning. We have appointed an Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues. The Bali conference had disruption activities as its central theme. Our good diplomatic offices are used to facilitate contacts between agencies or approaches to other governments at senior levels, so we are engaged in that way. There is also close coordination on these matters when there is a particular case and our DFAT offices will be present if there are court cases under way in the region on these matters-it is a fairly engaged exercise. There are particular agency responsibilities and, I guess, in this area ours is more of a facilitating or coordinating role.
Senator FAULKNER-If it is a fairly engaged exercise, what I am trying to understand is what these disrupting activities are and what it means more broadly. I do not want to ask you or expect you to talk to me about the AFP or anyone else's operational matters. I do not want to trample into that area and I think I made that quite clear this morning. But I do want to understand what that means as far as the department is concerned in terms of that broad directive. And as you described a moment ago the ministerial conference is fairly engaged in that exercise, so I think it is a reasonable question for me to ask you, given that this is a matter that DFAT is dealing with.
Dr Raby-Yes, but what I have just said was part of the answer-raising the critical profile of this issue, making representations to governments to encourage them to legislate to raise this as a priority amongst their police, working with local authorities, exchanging information and exchanging intelligence information. All those activities are part of this exercise to stop people-smuggling.
We have had a major publicity campaign running out of the embassy in Jakarta. We have placed articles in the vernacular press in Jakarta. We have even had T-shirts made up and distributed on the docks in Indonesia and places where people smugglers are active to encourage local Indonesian fishermen not to crew these boats. So it is a very wide range of activities ranging from high-level government representations. It runs the whole gamut through public affairs activities, through intelligence and information exchange and just about anything else that is necessary to advance that objective.
Senator FAULKNER-Yes. That is helpful. Let us take the issue of getting T-shirts made up. Was that a DFAT initiative or was it someone else's initiative?
Dr Raby-It was an issue that just came out of the coordinating group in the embassy in Jakarta.
Senator FAULKNER-Who paid for it?
Dr Raby-It would have come out of post funds, I would imagine. Mind you, getting a T- shirt made in Jakarta and printed is a relatively inexpensive exercise.
Senator FAULKNER-Yes, I know that and I am not saying it is an expensive exercise at all. I am wondering which agency is responsibility for it. I am trying to understand what disrupting these activities in-country means and I do not know a great deal about it. That is why I am asking you about it and I learn a little more about it each time I come to the table at an estimates committee. I have just learnt a moment ago that someone-and I am not saying it is a bad idea; it is probably a very good idea-is distributing T-shirts around the docks, getting locals to wear them and discouraging locals from crewing these vessels. I am not saying that is a bad idea. I am just wondering about these ideas, and you have told me where the idea generates from: it generates from the interagency coordination group. I then asked if DFAT was paying for it or was someone else paying for it-you tell me.
Dr Raby-I did. It came out of embassy funds.
Senator FAULKNER-What else has come out of embassy funds for disrupting?
Dr Raby-I can give you an indication if you want to or- Senator FAULKNER-Yes, I would really like to hear it.
Dr Raby-I could take that on notice, but advertisements we have taken in the vernacular press have been paid for out of embassy funds. There is extensive travel by the embassy all over the archipelago in Indonesia, collecting information, collecting intelligence, meeting
with local police in different areas and local governors, raising the profile of the issue and expressing concerns. Essentially the task has been to encourage governments in the region to treat this issue with the degree of seriousness with which we believe it should be treated.
Much of it has been advocacy and explaining why inability or unwillingness to crack down on people-smuggling may undermine broader security interests of countries and pointing out the links that exist between people smugglers and other transnational criminal activities.
Senator FAULKNER-I understand that, and it seems to me to be absolutely logical that the advocacy role lies within your department. That seems perfectly reasonable and proper, and I accept it. But I am interested also in the department's role beyond advocacy. Can you help me there?
Dr Raby-I am not sure. I have outlined public affairs, advocacy, representation to governments, information exchange, coordinating activities and overall facilitation using the good offices of the ambassador and other senior officials. I think that is pretty much the extent of the defined departmental role.
Senator FAULKNER-Would you describe the disrupting activities as an important or key element of the role of the interagency coordination group?
Dr Raby-Very much so.
Senator FAULKNER-Where does that guidance come from? Who establishes that priority for the interagency coordination group?
Dr Raby-The post is reflecting the priority that the portfolio as a whole has placed on this issue as, indeed, the government has placed on this issue.
Senator FAULKNER-I am sure it is. So you are saying that it is the government? Is that the answer to the question?
Senator FAULKNER-Can we nail it down a bit more. How does the interagency coordination group have relayed to it such a priority? It does not happen by osmosis, I assume. Somebody tells somebody that this is what we want you to do. Who tells them?
Dr Raby-It comes down to the interaction between the post and Canberra. It is quite clear to all officers in the department that people-smuggling and combating people-smuggling is a major government priority. It is a quite clear that it is a major national priority, and officers understand what government priorities are. I do not think at any time a direction has gone from Canberra: `Please establish a coordinating group.' But if you are the ambassador and you have a number of agencies in your embassy and there is a lot of activity going on, it would seem to be good management to bring the different agencies together around the table.
Senator FAULKNER-Has there been any consideration in DFAT-I know we are talking about probably less than a year but it may be longer, I do not know; let us just say for the sake of the argument within the last year-about what disrupting and dismantling activities might mean? Has there been any thought given to that in a broader sense? In other words, nailing it down: what is on and what is not on? What is encompassed within that priority objective?
Dr Raby-On the actions that are taken, that is the day-to-day operational responsibility of the relevant agencies.
Senator FAULKNER-So DFAT has not been involved in that at all? I am only talking about your role. I do not want to ask you about other agencies. I do not expect you to answer for them.
Dr Raby-We chair the interagency coordinating group, so the answer is: yes, we are involved. But what is brought to the table as far as initiatives, ideas and what is good to do and what is not good to do comes from individual agencies that have operational responsibilities.
Senator FAULKNER-So none of those ideas comes from DFAT?
Dr Raby-Not that I want to lay claim to any intellectual property for the department, no.
Senator FAULKNER-That may be wise. I do not know. It does not help me much, I have to say, Dr Raby. I am still grappling with how these decisions are arrived at and whether there is any guidance more broadly at the DFAT portfolio level about what is acceptable.
These ideas bubble up from agencies. They are talked about across agencies: DFAT, DIMIA, Defence and the Australian Federal Police. At least the interagency coordination group, in the first instance, is making some level of decision about how you might progress that activity.
That is right, isn't it?
Senator FAULKNER-Is guidance ever sought beyond the interagency coordination group from Canberra?
Dr Raby-I thought I had answered that; forgive me. A tasking from Canberra from different agencies to their officers in a post is an ongoing and regular event.
Dr Thomas-It has to be realised too that much tasking that comes from Canberra to overseas posts from other agencies, including DFAT, has gone all the way to ministerial level for a final seal of approval before those instructions are sent out, so they are quite often ministerial instructions from those home agencies.
Senator FAULKNER-Is that the norm in terms of the disrupting activities in country- in Indonesia? Is it the norm for ministerial level decisions on that sort of activity?
Dr Thomas-It is the norm for advice that comes out from the departments to have been cleared at ministerial level usually, yes.
Senator FAULKNER-So it is the norm?
Dr Thomas-Yes, I would think so. Most instructions, for example, that go to DFAT embassies abroad are based on policy decisions which have been taken by the Minister for Foreign Affairs or the Minister for Trade.
Senator FAULKNER-So there would not be activities carried out under the aegis of the interagency coordination group on people-smuggling that the Minister for Foreign Affairs would not approve of?
Dr Thomas-Clearly, it does not operate in a policy vacuum, but there would have to be some discretion at the local level for particular activities which may reinforce or help implement the stated policy contained in any instructing cable.
Senator FAULKNER-Are there ever legal issues in relation to what is acceptable in terms of disrupting activities or not?
Dr Thomas-I am sure there may well be, but they would be worked out before any instructing cable went out, following full consultation between Attorney-General's, our department, Immigration and others, as required.
Senator FAULKNER-Okay, you are sure there may be: have there been?
Dr Raby-I think you also need to distinguish between levels of decisions. When printing T-shirts or putting advertisements in the paper, posts use their initiative and discretion. Posts do that everywhere. The whole thing is not micromanaged from Canberra. Posts have a lot of discretion to act within a policy framework set by the minister. That framework is set out relatively clearly. I cannot recall any issues of a legally sensitive nature in this case, but anything that required higher level decision would go to the minister, if there were issues of that nature.
Senator FAULKNER-Is that framework that is set out clearly available to this committee? I am just asking if I can get a copy of it.
Dr Raby-I am just trying to think whether it is set out in any document.
Senator FAULKNER-You just said that it was set out clearly, so it must be available in a document. The issue is whether the document is available.
Dr Thomas-These things are evolving policy decisions which are fed out and directed to posts as they occur. There is no single policy document.
Senator FAULKNER-With respect, you are now pulling my leg. I was told this was set out clearly; now I am told it is an evolving document.
Dr Thomas-I am saying that the situation is not static. There was not a policy framework document decided on six months ago and that is it, in holy writ. There are a succession of ministerial decisions as events evolve. Those then provide the framework within which officers operate.
Senator FAULKNER-Whether or not it is holy writ, can I get a copy of it?
Dr Thomas-Most of this is in the form of individual submissions which have gone up to the minister-whoever's minister. It is in the nature of confidential advice to ministers, on which decisions are taken, and then instructions or what have you are given to embassies. I am not in a position to divulge that advice.
Senator FAULKNER-Its status appears to have changed dramatically in the last couple of minutes, with respect.
Dr Thomas-A number of those decisions would also reflect cabinet decisions or National Security Committee decisions, which again I am not really at liberty to divulge.
Senator FAULKNER-No, but what is available for the committee to look at?
Dr Thomas-What is available are the various public statements which have been made on this issue from time to time by our minister and other ministers-
Senator FAULKNER-I know they are available. I am well aware the public statements are available. Is there any documentation at the departmental level, in relation to this, that could be provided to the committee for the benefit of committee members? I got the distinct impression from Dr Raby's earlier evidence there was such material available. If there is not, someone should just say to me that it is not available.
Dr Raby-I did not wish to imply that it was publicly available. As Dr Thomas said-
Senator FAULKNER-It is available but it is not publicly available?
Dr Raby-It is in the form of advice to the minister, submissions, his response to the submissions-
Senator FAULKNER-There is nothing publicly available?
Dr Raby-Not that I am aware of.
Senator FAULKNER-Has the department ever sought, from any agency of the Commonwealth or outside the Commonwealth, any advices in relation to legal issues surrounding disruption or disruptive activities. Has advice been sought?
Dr Raby-I am not sure what the legal issues surrounding disruptive activities are that you are referring to.
Senator FAULKNER-I am not either. I am not referring to any specifically. I am asking whether the question of the legality of any of these disrupting activities in-country has caused the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to take legal advice about their nature.
Dr Raby-The answer, as far as I am aware, is no. Certainly, in my time, we have not had any need for or sought any external legal advice on that particular issue.
Senator FAULKNER-Have you sought legal advice, internal or external, in relation to the Commonwealth's role in people-smuggling activities in-country, more generally? In other words, I am not asking a question as defined as the one that you were able to give me a denial to a moment ago.
Dr Raby-The answer is no again. It is the same.
Senator FAULKNER-This would include advice from the Attorney-General's Department?
Dr Raby-With respect to the legal situation in country X, shall we say? Was your question with respect to Australia or another country?
Senator FAULKNER-I am interested in both. I have said this at a number of estimates committees and I will be quite frank with you. I am interested in examining, in as close detail as I can, what this disrupting activity means in-country in Indonesia, but I am also interested in a range of associated activities. I do not consider this department necessarily front and centre on these issues; I do understand the point you make about these operational matters being the responsibility of other agencies. Nevertheless, at a minimum, there is a coordination role for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I am very interested in what is happening in Canberra in relation to that. I am very interested in the interagency coordination group on people-smuggling operating out of your Jakarta post. I am very interested in what individuals are doing, be they DFAT officers or other officers, in your Jakarta post. I want to get to the bottom of what these disrupting activities are if I am able to.
Dr Raby-Rest assured, we are here to help you on that, but we are constrained by the scope of our departmental responsibilities in this area. To answer both of your questions: no, we have not been involved in seeking legal advice on this issue.
Senator FAULKNER-Internally or externally?
Dr Raby-For Indonesia, no. Within Australia, I presume you are talking about the action of people being smuggled into Australia and that is not our department's responsibility. Legal matters dealing with Australia are the responsibility of the Attorney-General's Department.
[ FAD&T 561]
Senator FAULKNER-I know that. But departments, as you know-and yours does this often-seek legal advice on a range of issues. That is standard operating procedure for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and every other government department. There is nothing unusual in that. All I am asking is: have you sought any legal advice in relation to people-smuggling activities?
Senator FAULKNER-Thank you. I want to understand a little more about the Refugees, Immigration And Transnational Crime Section in the department. Am I in the right output or division? I used to call them divisions, but we are not allowed to call them divisions anymore, are we?
Dr Thomas-We call them divisions.
Senator FAULKNER-You still do? You are nearly as old-fashioned as I am. That has been operating for quite a while, has it not? Does it have an acronym that we can use? It is the RIT, I suppose.
Dr Raby-It is called People-Smuggling, Refugees and Illegal Immigration. We call it the PRI section. That section has been around for some time. I have been running the division for about nine months. It was previously the Refugees, Immigration and Transnational Crime Section. With the increasing priority given to people-smuggling issues and increased activity in that area, we took the other transnational crime issues out of that section and moved them into one of the legal sections. That made more sense because there was a lot of crossover activity. We have allocated the resources more directly to people-smuggling, refugees and illegal immigration matters. But the section has been going for quite some time.
Senator FAULKNER-Is it effectively just a new name for your division?
Dr Raby-It is a new name, but more resources have been directed at this set of issues-a modest amount of additional resources-because we have taken the transnational crime activities out of that section now.
Senator FAULKNER-I read in the annual report that the RIT also assists in the development of strategies to combat people-smuggling and strengthen Australian cooperation with law enforcement and immigration agencies in first asylum and transit countries.
Dr Raby-That is correct.
Senator FAULKNER-I am trying to understand the departmental organisation and whether that objective or that role is what you have been talking about under another name.
Dr Raby-Yes, and that is the relevant section. The section head reports to Mr Smith, who is head of the International Organisations Branch, and he reports to me, as division head.
Senator FAULKNER-In terms of the Canberra operation, how does your coordination with DIMIA work?
Dr Raby-As I explained this morning, we have a regular deputy secretary level meeting which covers the whole range of issues, including overseas property issues and so on. At the desk level, if you like, it is on an ad hoc, as needs basis, usually over the telephone or occasionally getting together face to face. As I explained this morning, we are also the area that links the department to the PM&C high-level IDC on illegal immigration.
Senator FAULKNER-Was the establishment of the interagency coordination group on people-smuggling the ambassador's initiative?
Dr Raby-Yes. As I understand it, it was an initiative in the post.
Proceedings suspended from 3.30 p.m. to 3.48 p.m.
CHAIR-We are presently dealing with output 1.1.7, International organisations, legal and environment.
Senator Abetz-Before we commence, I understand there is a clarification to be made.
Dr Raby-There are two clarifications to two different answers I gave to Senator Faulkner just before the break. One correction regards the funding of the T-shirts and advertisements.
Originally, some funding was provided for both from the public affairs budget of the embassy, but when a bigger effort was made in terms of numbers of T-shirts required and a more extensive advertising campaign that was funded by DIMIA, not by the post.
The second one is a little bit more substantive. It is not really a correction as such; I just want to be clear on this. You asked about legal advice we had sought on internal or external aspects of people-smuggling. We work jointly with Attorney-General's on extradition matters.
There has been one case involving two individuals in my time with respect to extradition on charges of people-smuggling. We worked with Attorney-General's on the legal aspects of the extradition case. You may regard that as disruption of people-smuggling activities. I did not take extradition as implied in your question.
Senator FAULKNER-It was not implied, but thank you for providing that information- I appreciate it and I am sure the committee does, too. Have any concerns at all about the disruption element of our countering people-smuggling activities been raised with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade?
Dr Raby-Not that I am aware of.
Senator FAULKNER-Let me be clear on this: have any concerns been raised from outside the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with your department?
Dr Raby-Not that I am aware of.
Senator FAULKNER-Have any concerns been raised internally?