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Notice given 20 March 2003

1308  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 5 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) Can a copy of the Cable Pressure Air System (CPAS) maintenance upgrade strategy be provided to the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee.

(2) When was this strategy developed.

(3) What was the date for the commencement of the implementation of this strategy.

(4) What is the role of National Network Solutions in the CPAS strategy.

(5) Can further detailed information be provided on the ‘grease-type’ material used on cables.

(6) When was this material first used on Telstra cables.

(7) What types of cables is this material used on.

(8) Where grease-type cable has been used to replace faulty lead or moisture barrier main cable, what process is used to bypass the lengths of grease-filled cable and retain air in the cable beyond that point to the end.

(9) Is this process carried out in all cases.

(10) Is it ever the case that the existing cable, beyond the replacement lengths of grease-filled cable, is not bypassed in this way.

(11) What percentage of all cables is this material used on.

(12) What percentage of cables are under air pressure.

(13) What percentage of all cables had the encapsulant sealant gel used on them.

(14) Are there any other methods of water-proofing cables used by Telstra; if so, can a detailed description of these methods be provided, and the percentage of cables used with each method.

1309  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 6 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing on 6 December 2002 into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) What is the cost to rent a gas bottle: (a) per week; (b) per month; and (c) per year.

(2) What is the cost to refill a gas bottle each time it is refilled.

(3) What is the current cost of the total contract within Network Design and Construction (NDC) for the rental and refilling of gas bottles.

(4) When did the contract with NDC increase from $19 million to $40 million; if these figures are not accurate, please detail the cost of the NDC contract, and any changes over the past 3 years.

(5) What was the total annual cost of rental and refilling of gas bottles, on a state-by-state basis, for each of the past 6 years.

(6) Can a list of companies which supply gas bottles to Telstra, on a state by state basis, be provided.

(7) How many gas bottles are being rented in each state, for each month, for each of the following years: (a) 2002; and (b) 2003 to date.

(8) How many gas bottle refills were needed in each state, for each month, for each of the following years: (a) 2002; and (b) 2003 to date.

1310  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 7 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) What is the proper method for permanently fixing lead cables.

(2) What is the proper method for permanently fixing lead to plastic cables.

(3) What is the proper method for permanently fixing moisture barrier cables.

(4) What is the proper method for permanently fixing optical fibre cables.

(5) What is the proper method for permanently fixing plastic cable joints now that the gel cannot be used.

(6) If use of plastic bags is not a widespread or standard company practice, what is the standard company practice now for the temporary restoration and protection of cables damaged by gel corrosion and moisture.

(7) On what date were staff instructed not to use plastic bags on cables.

(8) What is standard company practice material alternative now used instead of plastic bags.

(9) Prior to this instruction not to use plastic bags, what was the standard company practice for the temporary protection of cables damaged by moisture and gel corrosion.

(10) What is the standard company practice for the permanent repair of cable joints after problems with corrosion by the gel were discovered.

1311  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 9 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) Does the ‘minimum standard’ referred to include running cables on top of the ground or along fences.

(2) Can details be provided, using the Telstra database, of the number of current instances where temporary cabling is used in this manner; if details are not available, how does Telstra account for the fact that this practice has been reported as happening in submissions to the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee, and the temporary cabling remaining in place for several months, beyond what could be described as ‘temporary’ by common standards.

(3) What would Telstra’s definition of ‘temporary’ be in this situation.

(4) Under what Customer Network Improvements (CNI) category would these types of situations be classified (i.e. CNI categories of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5), or would they not be classified this way.

(5) How does the new strategic position of Telstra 2003 with regard to the introduction of Total Area Service Management (TASM) through 8 regional managers, compare with the previous district Telecom manager structure, including both the similarities and differences between these two systems.

(6) Will the eight new regional managers control the CNI program.

(7) How will the CNI program change under TASM.

(8) Following the introduction of TASM, will the current centralised, national CNI database still exist, or will there be separate CNI databases under each regional manager.

(9) When will this control be assumed by the eight regional managers.

(10) What is the timeline for the implementation of TASM.

1312  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 13 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) What checks does Telstra make to ensure all staff, contractors and their vehicles working on the cable network are correctly identified.

(2) Can details be provided of the additional security measures Telstra has put in place to protect the network since terrorist attacks in September 2001.

(3) What percentage of Telstra field staff have undergone Federal Police checks in each of the past 3 years.

(4) Can details be provided of the Telstra background checking process which is currently in place.

(5) Has the Telstra background checking process for staff been altered at all in the past year; if so, can details be provided

(6) What areas in Telstra are classed as ‘sensitive’ areas.

(7) What was the rationale for Telstra deciding that the whole of the network was not to be considered a ‘sensitive’ area.

(8) Which staff and/or departments in Telstra are subject to the background checking process.

(9) What is the penalty and/or internal process for Telstra staff and contractors not wearing a Telstra photographic identification (ID) card.

(10) How does Telstra convey the direction to staff and contractors about the wearing of ID cards.

(11) How many Telstra photographic ID cards have been issued to contractors and sub-contractors in the past year.

(12) How does Telstra define ‘regular need to visit network sites’ for the issuing of photographic Telstra ID cards to contractors [reference answer 13(5)].

(13) Why are only ‘selected field staff’ required to undergo these checks [reference answer 13(2)].

(14) Does Telstra supply a Telstra uniform to any contractors and sub-contractors; if not, how are they identified as Telstra contractors.

(15) Do contractors and sub-contractors have any identification on their work vehicles that identifies them as authorised contractors.

1313  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 14 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) Who accredits the Comet sub-contractors.

(2) Who does the security checks on Comet sub-contractors.

(3) What steps does Telstra take to ensure contractors and sub-contractors, are International Standards Organisation accredited; can details be provided of the process that takes place before these contractors and sub-contractors commence work for Telstra.

(4) How many contractors and sub-contractors undertook the theoretical and practical training and testing conducted by Telstra’s Contracts and Logistics Group in each of the past 3 years.

(5) Does Telstra sight the workers compensation arrangements of all contracting and sub-contracting companies.

(6) What steps does Telstra take to ensure that all worker entitlements are adequately guaranteed by contracting and sub-contracting companies.

1314  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 15 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) If there is not generally a significant difference in costs for installation and maintenance costs between Telstra Service employees and contractors, why is it that Telstra does not employ its own people to do this work.

(2) What is the total value of all contracts to contractors and sub-contractors in the field service and maintenance areas, for each of the past 6 years.

(3) How many full-time staff does Telstra have in each business unit.

(4) How many part-time staff does Telstra have in each business unit.

(5) How many casual staff does Telstra have in each business unit.

(6) How many contractors does Telstra have in each business unit.

(7) How many sub-contractors working for contractors does Telstra have in each business unit.

1315  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 16 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) Can details be provided of the categories of work which is outsourced to contractors, and the approximate amount of time at which Telstra benchmarks each task.

(2) How does Telstra ensure quality control over the network repair work done by: (a) contractors; and (b) sub-contractors.

(3) (a) How long after a job is completed is that work checked; and (b) what is the Telstra company practice for this.

(4) (a) Who in Telstra checks the work done by contractors on the network; and (b) can details of the process used for this checking be provided.

(5) (a) What percentage of contractor work is checked; and (b) can figures be provided for daily, weekly and monthly basis of the Telstra company practice for this process.

(6) (a) How is the quality control of contractor work reported on to Telstra management; and (b) what form does this reporting on quality control take.

1316  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 27 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) Can a definition for ‘in the past’ be provided.

(2) On how many days in the past 3 months has Telstra requested staff to work overtime and can these figures be provided on a Telstra area basis.

(3) Does Telstra ever offer field staff unlimited overtime.

(4) On how many occasions in the past 12 months, and in which areas, has Telstra offered field staff unlimited overtime.

(5) On how many occasions did Telstra move staff from one adjoining service area into another in the past 2 years.

(6) How many staff have been moved from one service area into another in the past 2 years.

(7) What was the travel and accommodation cost of moving staff in this way.

(8) Regarding the figure of $70 000 for interstate travel of technicians for the 2002-03 financial year, which Telstra service areas required interstate assistance.

(9) How much of the $70 000 spent was associated with the extreme rainfall conditions in the broader Sydney metropolitan area in early 2002.

(10) Can a state-by-state breakdown for this figure be provided, including the number of individual staff movements.

1317  Senator Mackay: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—With respect to question no. 30 taken on notice by Telstra during the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee hearing, on 6 December 2002, into the Australian Telecommunications Network:

(1) (a) Has Telstra ever undertaken any work, including for internal purposes, of the nature of prioritising telephone exchanges according to revenue derived from them, and allocating maintenance and repair priorities based on that prioritisation; and (b) what steps did Telstra take to ascertain its answer.

(2) Has Telstra ever done any work for internal purposes, of a similar nature to that described above; if so: (a) when was that work done; and (b) what was the exact description of that work.

(3) Can Telstra provide information of this type to the Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee; if not, why not.

(4) How does Telstra ascertain what exchanges need work done on them.

(5) How does Telstra prioritise work in exchanges.

1319  Senator O’Brien: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—For each of the following financial years: 1996-97, 1997-98, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03: (a) how many overseas trips did the minister responsible for primary industries and agriculture undertake; (b) what countries were visited on those trips; and (c) on how many of those trips was the Minister accompanied by a business delegation.

1320  Senator O’Brien: To ask the Minister for Finance and Administration—For each of the following financial years: 1996-97, 1997-98, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03: What has been the cost met by the department for overseas travel by the minister for responsible for primary industries and agriculture.

1321  Senator O’Brien: To ask the Minister for Finance and Administration—With reference to the answer to question on notice no. 913 (Senate Hansard, ):

(1) Has the department recovered the amount of $12 656 from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (AFF), for the flight costs of two AFF staff who accompanied the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on an overseas trip in June 2002.

(2) If so, when was the amount recovered.

(3) On what date did the department first seek to recover this amount.

1322  Senator O’Brien: To ask the Minister for Finance and Administration—With reference to the visit by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to Indonesia in March 2003:

(1) What total travel costs and other associated expenses, if any, were met by the department in respect of the Minister, his staff and family.

(2) What were these costs per expenditure item for: (a) the Minister; (b) the Minister’s staff and (c) the Minister’s family.

(3) What other costs in relation to the trip, if any, were met by the department.

1323  Senator O’Brien: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—With reference to the visit by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to Indonesia in March 2003:

(1) When did the Minister: (a) depart Australia; and (b) return to Australia.

(2) Who travelled with the Minister.

(3) Who met the cost of the participants’ travel and other expenses associated with the trip.

(4) If costs were met by the department, can an itemised list of costs be provided; if not, why not.

(5) When was the decision made to include the Minister in the delegation.

(6) Who did the Minister meet during his visit.

(7) At what time was each meeting held.

1330  Senator Brown: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Science—With reference to the answers to questions on notice nos 1065-1068 (Senate Hansard , 6 March 2003, p. 9306) in which the Minister stated that the Government ‘has not specified narrow fields of research that may be addressed through the priorities initiative’ and has given agencies ‘considerable flexibility’ to respond: Will the Minister confirm: (a) that energy efficiency and renewable energy are included within priority 4, including technologies that replace power generation; and (b) that biological sequestration such as in soil and old growth forests is included in priority 4.

Senator Brown: To ask the Ministers listed below (Question Nos 1334-1336)—

(1) Has Dr Robin Batterham communicated with the Government in any capacity regarding funding or allocation of money or benefits to the Rio Tinto Foundation for a Sustainable Minerals Industry; if so: (a) can details be provided including date, nature and content of the communication; and (b) can a copy of any written communications be provided.

(2) In the past 5 years, has Dr Batterham communicated with the Government in any capacity regarding carbon sequestration, clean coal or related energy matters; if so: (a) can details be provided including date, nature and content of the communication; and (b) can a copy of any written communications be provided.

(3) (a) What is Dr Batterham’s role on the Advisory Board of the Rio Tinto Foundation; (b) does he represent the Government as Chief Scientist or Rio Tinto as Chief Technologist.

(4) Has Dr Batterham reported to or advised the Government on any matters relating to the Rio Tinto Foundation; if so: (a) can details be provided including date, nature and content of the communication; and (b) can a copy of any written communications be provided.

1334 Minister representing the Prime Minister

1336 Minister representing the Minister for Science

1340  Senator Harris: To ask the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer—With reference to the recent decision in the Federal Court determining that Ms Julie Vincent was not liable to pay taxes to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and did not owe the tax debt attributed to her:

(1) Will the ATO contact Ms Vincent’s fellow investors who have made settlement offers to the ATO and inform them that they are not liable to pay the tax claimed by the ATO on their amended assessments.

(2) Can assurance be given that no other taxpayers will be financially disadvantaged as a result of ATO actions against them, particularly those who have made settlement offers to the ATO.

(3) Why did the settlement process require that taxpayers make an offer to the ATO on a document prepared by the ATO which could not be accepted if there were any deletions or additions.

(4) Has the ATO undertaken a review of the approximately 174 tax effective projects on which it has disallowed deductions, to determine the categories that would define projects in good, bad or alternative groups (eg structure, investor investment/deductions ratios, investor risk, profitability potential, export potential, certification and endorsement levels and employment opportunities); if so, will the ATO release the results of that review.

(5) Has the ATO undertaken a review of the project type and/or such ratings, against the decisions made by the Federal Court to date.

(6) How does the ATO explain the original letters sent to investors, with the prominent use of Budplan and Vincent case names, implying that these projects were typical and applied to all tax effective projects, given that rulings in the Federal Court to date paint a completely different picture and suggest that the average mum and dad investor has been misled by the ATO.

(7) Does the ATO intend to issue to all investors a letter of explanation and an opportunity to withdraw any settlement offer.

1341  Senator Harris: To ask the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer—

(1) Following Ms Julie Vincent’s win before the Full Bench of the Federal Court, does the Minister accept that the amended assessment sent to her was wrong.

(2) Does the Minister accept that Ms Vincent would have been required to pay tax for which she was not liable had she followed the settlement process provided by the ATO.

(3) Can a guarantee be given that not one of the approximately 45 000 people caught up in this campaign will be similarly disadvantaged.

(4) Does the Minister believe that the ‘one size fits all’ approach taken by the Commissioner of Taxation to the mass marketed tax effective investments campaign has resulted in gross unfairness to taxpayers who sought professional advice and told the truth when filling out their returns.

(5) What is the Minister prepared to do about the growing feeling that the Commissioner of Taxation has taken advantage of his powers by bullying and intimidating taxpayers into accepting offers that can seriously disadvantage them.

1342  Senator Harris: To ask the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer—With reference to mass marketed tax effective investment (MMTEI) schemes:

(1) Does the Minister believe that the Taxpayers’ Charter of Rights should be dissolved.

(2) Can the Minister confirm: (a) that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) had concerns about the charter in the early 90s or even earlier; and (b) that the ATO took no action.

(3) Does the Minister agree that if the taxpayer has to ‘get it right’ or face the repercussions then so, too, the ATO must also ‘get it right’ or also face the repercussions.

(4) (a) Is the Minister aware that the settlement process document provided by the ATO to taxpayers states that the Budplan and Vincent court wins for the ATO prove the ATO was right, however in a letter to Australians for Tax Justice, the ATO states that the result of the Federal Court win for Ms Vincent was confined to a small number of participants in the project; and (b) why is this the case.

(5) Does the Minister agree that the actions of the ATO in regard to the freedom of information (FOI) requests from MMTEI taxpayers, including originally attempting to charge five and six figure fees, were designed to avoid the ATO’s obligations under FOI law.

(6) Will the Minister admit that the failure on the ATO’s side to meet FOI requests by the deadline for settlement meant that MMTEI taxpayers were forced to decide on settlement without being fully informed.

(7) Does the Minister agree that the ATO failed to comply with directions from the AAT to provide documents to at least one appellant and sought repeated stays of hearing as the deadline for settlement approached.

(8) Why does the ATO operate on the basis that it does not have to apply the principles of natural justice (ie procedural fairness) when conducting an internal review of a taxation decision.

(9) Can the Minister confirm that the decision to disallow MMTEIs was taken at Casselden Place, Melbourne 5 months before the ATO had informed the public of its views by issuing Draft Ruling TR97/D17.

(10) Will the Minister confirm that the ATO issued at least seven Private Binding Rulings (PBR) concerning the following primary production MMTEIs between 3 December 1992 and 19 January 1998, as follows: (a) 1/ Main Camp Tea Tree Oil Project No. 1 (at least 2 PBRs were issued); (b) 2/ Main Camp Tea Tree oil Project No. 2; (c) 3/ Tumut River; (d) 4/ Orchard Project; (e) 5/ Golden Vintage 1996; (f) 6/ WA Paulownias; (g) and 7/ Plantations and Red Claw Partnerships.

(11) Does the Minister agree that all but one of these seven PBRs are unqualified as to Part IVA provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act, and that the financing arrangements (associated companies, non recourse loans, round robin of cheques) are specifically acknowledged in four of them.

(12) Does the Minister agree that the Commonwealth’s stated position (after the Sherman report) on the applicability of PBRs is that they should be available to ATO officers and taxation advisers for guidance, and ‘legally binding on the Commissioner for a taxpayer whose circumstances are comparable to those dealt with by the ruling’.

(13) Why is it that the ATO continues to resile from the applicability of these (and possible other) PBRs to many of the 174 disallowed MMTEIs.

1343  Senator Harris: To ask the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer—With reference to mass marketed tax effective investment (MMTEI) schemes:

(1) Can details be provided of how much the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has spent on the MMTEI campaign.

(2) Has the Treasurer allocated additional funds to the ATO to carry out this campaign; if so, can details of additional funds be provided.

(3) Can the Minister confirm that the ATO has spent over $100 million on the MMTEI investigations.

(4) (a) Has the Minister failed in her duty to the Parliament by not taking earlier action; and (b) why should Australian taxpayers pay for this level of inadequacy.

(5) Will the Minister make a commitment that she will not waste any more public money when it is clear that the ATO has been proven wrong in the eyes of the law.

(6) (a) Does the Minister accept the ruling of the Federal Court in the cases Vincent , Puzey and Cooke ; and (b) will the Minister put a plan in action if it becomes more obvious that the ATO cannot sustain arguments in the court.

(7) If a taxpayer has availed himself of the settlement process issued by the ATO and it is subsequently found that investors in the project have their deductions allowed by the court, as in the Vincent case, can the Minister confirm that the ATO will contact the acceptors and inform them that their deductions are allowed.

(8) Will the Minister inform the Senate what mischief there is in aggressive tax planning.

(9) Is aggressive planning illegal; if so, under what head of power.

(10) Is it possible for an ATO product ruling to allow a project manager to go out and mass market an aggressive tax planning strategy.

(11) Is tax minimisation illegal; if so, under what head of power.

(12) Is it true that, in May 1997, officers of the ATO met in Casselden Place, Melbourne to discuss the disallowance to the deductions in MMTEIs.

(13) Why was a further $2 billion in tax deductions recovered by the ATO and accepted as claims in the following 2 years before the market effectively knew that the ATO had agreed to disallow the deductions.

(14) Was the Treasurer made aware of the ATO’s intentions in this matter before action was taken; and, if so, what was his reaction.

(15) Given that the Treasurer re-appointed the Commissioner of Taxation for another 7 years, a full year before he was required to, and given that, in a press release, he stated that the re-appointment was because of his work on aggressive tax planning: is this just another way of securing 7 years for the Commissioner to promise the Treasurer hundreds of millions of dollars.