Blogging Senate #Estimates (Feb 2014) (Part 8)

We’ve moved away from Operation Sovereign Borders. My last word on OSB. Stephen Conroy was very good on questioning the incursions into Indonesian waters. The key point: if boats weren’t being towed back, there would be no incursions and thus, an improved relationship with the Indonesian government.

The hearing has moved onto Outcome 3, “Lawful entry of people to Australia through border management services involving bona fide traveller facilitation; identity management; document verification; intelligence analysis; partnerships with international and domestic agencies; and border policy advice and program design”.

John Madigan is asking some questions about the average cost of detention, offshore, onshore and in the community. Martin Bowles has explained how this is extremely difficult given fixed and variable costs, such as infrastructure and service provision. However Madigan raises the valid point that these are issues and matters discussed in the community. The provision of official figures would go a long way to getting public discussion on these matters onto the same page, instead of talking past each other. The questions were taken on notice and I’d be surprised if a dollar figure was provided. This is a shame as Madigan makes a good point and does so in less than 10 minutes. The department should think about these types of benefits more in terms of what type of information is released and proactively generated.

Madigan’s other questions – in relation to a former Sri Lankan military G4S staff member and the nature of sovereignty in relation to offshore detention – were excellent. This shows one of the benefits of having independents in the Senate. Of course, it would be an improvement if they were voted in with strong primary votes, a la Nick Xenophon, however their presence in the Senate should be seen holistically.

In today’s hearing, Senator Madigan has done better than anyone else to date. It’s a shame he only stuck around for 3-4 questions. His views on many social issues are an anathema to mine yet he has shown the value in well thought out questions which are short, to the point and devoid of rhetoric.

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