Estimates Hearing

Michael Pezzullo
Secretary
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Verbal opening statement to Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee

17 October 2016
E&OE

The Acting Commissioner and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to table a written opening statement, which goes into several matters in detail. Further to this, we would both like to, very briefly, highlight a few points.

Since we last appeared in May 2016, the Department marked its first anniversary on 1st July 2016—marking one year since the integration of the previous Immigration Department and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service. During our first year, we commissioned RAND Corporation to undertake an analysis of the effectiveness and efficiency of the integration process. This included analysing the Department’s two legacy entities for comparative purposes.

This report—released last month—found that integration has served as a catalyst for increasing operational effectiveness and efficiency, as well as achieving much-needed reform. Not only have we managed increasing trade and traveller volumes with tighter resources, we have been able to do so while effecting integration and building the professional capability of the new Department. This has only been possible as a result of the dedication, professionalism and diligence of our staff—both our long-serving officers from our legacy entities, as well as those new recruits who have joined since integration.

Let me now briefly touch on a number of other matters:

  • It has been well over two years since a successful people smuggling venture reached Australia, which speaks to the ongoing success and importance of Operation Sovereign Borders.  I wish to advise this committee that the threat however remains, and people smugglers are ready to recommence their trade at the first sign of a weakening of Australia’s resolve in this regard.

  • In response to the Senate referring an inquiry into ‘the serious allegations of abuse, self-harm and neglect of asylum seekers in relation to the Nauru RPC and any like allegations in relation to the Manus RPC’to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Reference Committee, the Department is finalising its submission and preparing for the hearing. We intend to take that opportunity to set the record straight in a number of areas where advocates continue to misrepresent the facts in a bid to garner support for a change in policy (including by way of a closure of regional processing centres).

  • The Child Protection Panel delivered its final report earlier this year. We have taken steps to address the Panel’s recommendations.
    • This morning, the Department published on its website our Child Safeguarding Framework (755KB PDF) which will guide the work of departmental staff and service providers who interact directly with children.

  • Additionally, we also published a new information site: Immigration detention in Australia. The webpages are designed to better inform the public and media discourse about the nature of Australian immigration detention, including our roles, services provided, and oversight and assurance mechanisms.

  • Finally, I am pleased to report that a new draft Enterprise Agreement has been developed and the Department will now be putting it to a ballot commencing 31st October 2016. It is regrettable that at the same time, we have been forced to take action in the Fair Work Commission against the determined effort on the part of the CPSU to engage in industrial guerrilla warfare, which threatened the safety and security of the Australian community, by way of deliberate compromises to our border. As a result, the Commission has directed that we attempt to conciliate our differences, with an eye to arbitration if that fails. The Committee should be in no doubt that the CPSU wants this outcome, as a result of which it is unlikely that we would be able to pay our staff any pay rises until well into 2017, or possibly beyond—unless staff vote for the offer that is now on the table.