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Notice given 27 June 2003

1591  Senator Carr: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Science and Training—

(1) Can the Minister confirm that Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) research divisions are facing cuts of up to 15 per cent in their research budgets as a consequence of the Government refusing to adequately fund CSIRO’s Flagship projects.

(2) Can the Minister also confirm that, anticipating the significant redundancies that will inevitably follow major research budget cuts, divisional managers were instructed not to discuss redundancies with staff until the completion of the recent estimates hearings of the Employment, Workplace Relations and Education Legislation Committee.

(3) What decisions were made on the matter of staff redundancies at the CSIRO Executive Management Committee meeting held in late June 2003.

(4) (a) How many research positions will now be made redundant at CSIRO; and (b) how many research programs have been abandoned or reduced in size.

1593  Senator Bishop: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs—

(1) In each of the past 3 years, what sum has been spent by the Military Compensation and Rehabilitation Service (MCRS) on hire of counsel, including solicitors and barristers, for: (a) legal advice on compensation policy and specific claims, including at internal review; and (b) fees for representing MCRS at: (i) the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, (ii) the Federal Court, and (iii) the High Court.

(2) (a) How many counsel were hired in total; and (b) of those, how many were Queen’s Counsel.

(3) (a) Which legal firms are on the panel for MCRS; and (b) for the 2002-03 financial year, what sum of money had been paid to each firm as at 30 June 2003.

(4) What are the details, as sought in parts (1) to (3) of this question, for counsel hired for cases under the Veterans’ Entitlement Act 1986.

1594  Senator Harris: To ask the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer—

(1) Can details be provided of all individuals and their quantities of production units for all mass marketed tax-effective investments (MMTEIs).

(2) If an accountancy firm, rather than an individual, were to procure all production units for any MMTEI would they also have received a Part IVA determination, which remains withdrawn.

(3) Are firms that procured production units subject to the same exclusion as financial planners from the settlement offer.

1595  Senator Santoro: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—

(1) When did Australia Post sell the post office building and land at 1 Bowser Parade, Sandgate, in Queensland.

(2) To whom was this property sold.

(3) What was the sale price.

(4) Is any land adjoining this property currently owned by, or has it ever been owned by, Australia Post; if so, what is: (a)  the current ownership status of this adjoining land; and (b) the sale history of such land.

(5) Does Australia Post consider that the sale price paid represented value for money for the vendor.

(6) On what basis did Australia Post decide that this property should be sold at the time that it was sold.

(7) Did Australia Post ever receive any expressions of interest to purchase this property prior to making the decision to sell; if so, can details of where these expressions of interest came from and when they were made be provided.

(8) What was the improved land value of this property at the time of the sale.

(9) (a) What is the zoning of the property; and (b) are there any restrictions on the use of the property.

(10) (a) What valuations did Australia Post received for this property prior to its sale; and (b) what was the estimated value of the property provided in these valuations.

(11) Was the sale of the property put out to public tender; if so, how was it publicly tendered and advertised; if not: (a) why not; and (b) who made the decision not to have a public tender and on what basis.

(12) By what means was the property sold, for example, privately, by auction or by other means.

(13) Did Australia Post engage an agent or any other intermediary to conduct the sale of the property; if so, can the following details be provided: (a) the name, or company name, of the agent or intermediary; (b) the commission paid to them; and (c) the period over which they were engaged.

(14) Has any state or federal Member of Parliament or local councillor or member of their staff or any representatives of a political party ever made representations to Australia Post about the purchase of this property; if so, can the following details of any such representations be provided: (a) who made them; (b) what they were; (c) on whose behalf they were made; (d) when they were made; and (e) what response or action resulted from them.

1596  Senator Crossin: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Science and Training—

(1) In the proposed higher education changes, a regional loading of up to 30 per cent is proposed for universities: does this mean that the Northern Territory is to get 30 per cent.

(2) Is the Northern Territory already receiving a regional loading of approximately 17 per cent; if not: what is the current loading being paid to the Northern Territory University (NTU); if so, does this mean that that the NTU will actually receive only an additional 13 per cent.

(3) Is this regional loading to be paid based on the number of students enrolled full time; if so, is this full time and on campus; if not, what is this loading based upon.

(4) Does the loading apply to enrolled students undertaking distance education studies.

(5) What funding is allocated to universities to cover the costs of distance/external studies.

(6) Will there be a cap on the number of new Government-subsidised places available to private institutions.

(7) Can the Minister clarify what the link is between the workplace reforms which might make universities more efficient and the provision of better quality education.

(8) What is meant by productivity in the university context.

(9) Does the Government genuinely understand the role of modern day student unions in the provision of additional services and facilities from union fees, and the implications for such services and facilities if union membership is voluntary and fee collections fall dramatically.

(10) Will additional Government funding be given to provide such services, or will such a decline be allowed to happen as just another lessening of the quality of campus life.

(11) While not proposed until 2006, the Teaching and Learning package contains the proposition that student evaluation of courses and staff may be placed on Internet for public viewing: (a) can the Minister either confirm or deny this; and (b) if it is confirmed, can the Minister explain the perceived benefits to outcomes.

(12) (a) What is the proposed composition of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council; (b) how and when will it be established; and (c) how will it be funded.

(13) Is growth funding being provided for Indigenous employment in higher education.

(14) Can the Minister explain how universities are expected to cope with the rising costs associated with running courses (of which salaries are the major part) when there is no indexation of funding allowed for in the budget.

(15) Is it true that such rising costs will put ever increasing pressure on universities to keep on raising fees.

(16) How can the Minister claim (in ‘We can vault the Crossroads’ article, the Australian Higher Education Supplement, 4 June 2003) that such a non-indexed scheme can ‘develop in a way that is sustainable’ other than by ever increasing financial contributions from students.

(17) With reference to the comments made by Peter Karmel, in the Australian of 28 May 2003, that without cost escalation arrangements, in order to cover rising costs the universities will need to use all the additional Commonwealth contributions (if qualified to receive them) or increase HECS by 5 per cent per year, which they can do for only 6 years before reaching the maximum allowable 30 per cent increase: Does the Government agree with this.

(18) What does the Government propose to do to put in place such arrangements to meet rising costs.

(19) Given that it has been stated by Peter Karmel and others, that the real cost to students will not be the 28.6 per cent average of course costs claimed by the Government, but closer to 40 per cent, because the Government figures include many costs (such as research and other special purpose funding) which are not related to the costs of teaching undergraduate courses: Can the Minister either confirm or deny that government costs included those not directly related to teaching undergraduate courses, and therefore students will pay more than the average of 28.6 per cent.

(20) Can the Minister either confirm or deny that the Government appears to be relying on student contributions to redress the shortage of resources in higher education.

(21) Given that the Australian Vice Chancellors Committee has renewed a call for a review of Youth Allowance student support in order to assist students better financially and allow them to study more and work for some cash a bit less, does the Government intend doing such a review.

(22) Given that the reform package talks about diversity and flexibility and that the Teaching and Learning funding is to be subject to teaching performance indicators: Will these be a uniformly prescribed set of indicators; if so, how does this fit with diversity and flexibility; if not, then how will they be a fair measure of outcomes towards dividing up the extra funds.

(23) Given that the Federal Government book subsidy scheme ends next year, this having been introduced to soften the blow of the goods and service tax which will then apply in full, adding 8 per cent to the cost of text books: Will the Government act to prevent this additional impost on students.