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Wednesday, 8 May 1985
Page: 1574

Senator Walsh —On 28 February (Hansard, page 330) Senator Sir John Carrick asked the Minister representing the Minister for Communications the following question:

My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Communications, refers to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the Special Broadcasting Service, and public broadcasting generally. Did the Government announce in the Governor-General's Speech any intention at all to make any legislative or regulatory changes in these fields? Does the Government have any such intention and, if so, what is the nature of that intention?

The Minister for Communications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

On 27 February 1985 I announced that amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942 and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 (ABC Act) and associated legislation would be introduced as soon as possible to provide for the determination of service areas and related technical conditions for licensed broadcasters, the ABC and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS).

The introduction of the service area amendments will streamline and modernise existing legislation and enable it to cope with the demands for new and technologically advanced services.

While it is proposed to apply the service area concept to the SBS, no changes will be made to its operating provisions until the Government has made a decision on its future role.

The Committee of Review of the SBS reported to the Government on 31 December 1984. A number of recommendations contained in the Report would, if accepted, require changes in the present legislation. I will also be making a statement on this aspect when the Government has had an opportunity to consider the Report.

The Government intends to introduce amendments to the ABC Act during the Budget sittings which will invest the ABC with a greater degree of freedom in the exercise of its powers and functions under the legislation. Specifically, the amendments will empower the ABC to:

establish subsidiary companies to undertake business activities appropriate to the activities of the ABC in association with private companies;

provide for the forfeiture of office of ABC employees on certain grounds consistent with the provisions of the Public Service Act; and

enable the ABC to employ staff as unattached officers consistent with the Public Service Act.

Amendments will also repeal the Minister for Communications' power to prohibit broadcasts as this is a power which is considered to be incompatible with the freedom of a democratic society in time of peace. The position of the staff elected Director on the ABC Board will also be formalised in time for future elections.


Senator Grimes —On 19 March 1985 (Hansard, page 379), Senator Hearn asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Health, a question concerning hospital fees in respect of new born babies. The Minister for Health has provided the following information:

The general position is that benefits provided by registered health insurance funds are payable only for an eligible person who is an 'in-patient' at a hospital. This applies also to the Commonwealth bed day subsidy payable to private hospitals. The definition of 'in-patient' for the purposes of the Health Insurance Act excludes a newly born child whose mother also occupies a bed in the hospital except under the following circumstances:

(a) a newly born child who occupies a bed in an intensive care facility in a hospital, being a facility approved by the Minister for the purposes of this sub-section, for the purpose of the provision of special care shall be deemed to be an in-patient of the hospital; and

(b) where there are two or more newly born children of the same mother in a hospital and those children are not in-patients of the hospital by virtue of paragraph (a)-each such child in excess of one shall be deemed to be an in-patient of the hospital.

A newly born child is regarded as a child 10 days old or less. These arrangements are long standing and well understood by both hospitals and health insurance funds.


Senator Ryan —On 25 March 1985 (Hansard, page 702) Senator Reynolds asked me the following question without notice:

Is the Minister for Education aware of teacher and parent concern about the way in which Federal education funds are allocated in Queensland? Furthermore, is the Minister aware that State schools are being repainted with community employment program funds? Will the Minister discuss accountability procedures with her ministerial colleague, Ralph Willis, and ensure that the Queensland Government is not propping up its ailing economy by misdirecting Federal education and job creation funds?

In my reply, I undertook to seek further information from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Willis, who has provided the following response:

A number of schools on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, are receiving Community Employment Program (CEP) funding for internal and external painting and rust removal. The total cost is $211,479, of which the CEP is providing $139,576.

State Government departments and authorities are bona fide sponsors under the CEP and State government submissions, like all applications, are assessed against the CEP guidelines and considered by a broad-based CEP Consultative Committee on a comparative assessment basis having regard to agreed objectives and priorities.

The CEP Guidelines allow sponsors to seek funding for planned projects where the projects are brought forward by a period of more than 12 months.

The project was funded on the basis that it represented an acceleration of work previously planned by the State Government and that it provides worthwhile work experience for six disadvantaged job seekers from the CEP target group. As such, it meets the CEP guidelines for funding and in no way involves a misdirection of job creation funds.