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Notice given 18 August 2003

Senator Nettle: To ask the Ministers listed below (Question Nos 1797-1798)—With reference to the Regional Solutions Programme:

(1) Can a breakdown be provided of funding in Western Australia for the years 2001 to 2003, including: (a) local government areas receiving funding; (b) the amount received by each local government area; and (c) brief project descriptions.

(2) Can a breakdown be provided of funding in Western Australia for the years 2001 to 2003, including: (a) electorates receiving funding; (b) the amount received by each electorate; and (c) brief project descriptions,

1797 Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services

1798 Minister representing the Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government

1799  Senator Nettle: To ask the Minister for Health and Ageing—With reference to the 2nd Tier Default Benefit:

(1) (a) Has the Government had discussions with private health insurance companies about a potential rise in premiums following the removal of the benefit; if so, what was the nature of these discussions; and (b) has the Government had any guarantee from the insurance companies that health insurance premiums will not rise.

(2) Given that a consequence of the removal of the benefit will be that most private hospitals and private day surgery facilities must negotiate with the private health insurance companies over rebates: What assurances can the Government provide that the large insurance companies will not use their greater negotiating power to force the small private hospitals and private day surgery facilities to accept rebates that are less than satisfactory.

(3) Does the Government expect that, as contracts run out for many facilities already under contract with private health insurers, many more facilities will be looking to 2nd tier default benefits instead of unsatisfactory arrangements with insurers.

(4) (a) What does the Government forecast the effect of the removal of the benefit will be on private health facilities that cannot negotiate suitable rebates with health insurance companies; and (b) given that the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Private Hospitals Association have grave fears that hundreds of facilities throughout Australia will have to close: what policies are in place to protect these small businesses.

(5) (a) How many private hospitals and day surgery facilities does the Government predict will be eligible for the new ‘rural and regional default benefit’; (b) what is the level the Government has assumed for its modelling of costs; and (c) if few facilities are eligible for the benefit, what does the Government believe will be the effect on rural and regional health.

(6) If there is a reduction for customers of private health insurance of choice of private health facilities that are available to them due to a breakdown in negotiations between companies and facilities, will the public health system be prepared and able to cope with the influx from clients who are no longer prepared to buy private health insurance.

(7) If the number of those holding private health insurance is reduced as a consequence of the removal of the benefit, is the Government prepared to put the 30 per cent rebate that would normally be paid to the health insurance companies into the public health system.

1800  Senator Nettle: To ask the Minister for Defence—With reference to the proposed naval munitions storage facility that is part of the ‘Twofold Bay Navy Ammunitioning Facility’: 

(1) Will nuclear weapons be stored at the facility.

(2) Will United States navy vessels visit the area as a consequence of the facility.

(3) Will the munition storage facility be available to all allies as a storage facility, including for the storage of nuclear weapons.

(4) Does the status of munitions storage facilities vary depending on what is stored.

1801  Senator Nettle: To ask the Minister for Defence—With reference to the death in 1989 of Seaman Jason Solomon who was found to have ‘died by misadventure’:

(1) Has there ever been a  Royal Australian Navy board-of-inquiry held into the death of Seaman Jason Solomon.

(2) Has there ever been a judicial inquiry into the death of Seaman Jason Solomon.

(3) (a) What evidence exists to substantiate that Seaman Jason Solomon’s death was accidental; and (b) can this evidence be corroborated and verified.

1802  Senator Nettle: To ask the Minister for Defence—With reference to the Australian Navy’s involvement in coastal surveillance:

(1) How much has it cost the Australian people to have the Navy patrol our coastline for the detection and apprehension of refugees and illegal immigrants from July 2001 to date.

(2) How many people has the Navy caught entering our waters illegally during the period 2001 to date.

1803  Senator Hutchins: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—

(1) (a) Were official Australia Post uniforms provided to non-Australia Post employees in the course of the recent 2003 Communications Electrical Plumbing Union New South Wales (Postal and Telecommunications Branch) election for the purposes of election photographs for the ‘Build a Better Union Team’; (b) were any inquiries conducted into the inappropriate provision of those uniforms; (c) what was the outcome of those inquiries; (d) what disciplinary action was taken with respect to any employees who provided the uniforms to non-Australia Post employees; (e) what access to the Australian postal system is afforded to the wearer of an official Australia Post uniform; (f) is the provision of official Australia Post uniforms to individuals who are not employees of Australia Post a threat to the security of our postal systems and, ultimately, the Australian community; and (g) have official Australia Post uniforms been provided to individuals who are not employees of Australia Post on any other occasions.

(2) (a) Did Australia Post sponsor a three-day Retail Managers’ conference at the Menzies Hotel, Sydney on 16 to 18 June 2003; (b) were members of the Australia Post management, who were candidates in the 2003 Communications Electrical Plumbing Union New South Wales (Postal and Telecommunications Branch) election, permitted to canvass retail members of the union at the conference; (c) was any disciplinary action taken by Australia Post with respect to the candidates who canvassed participants at the conference; (d) what was the nature of the disciplinary action taken; (e) did a senior Australia Post retail manager who attended the conference threaten the future employment of a retail member if that member did not vote or campaign for the ‘Build a Better Union Team’; (f) was any disciplinary action taken by Australia Post with respect to the senior retail manager; (g) what was the nature of the disciplinary action taken; and (h) is it the practice for Australia Post managers to use their position to threaten the ongoing employment of employees for exercising their democratic right to vote in their union election free from external influence.

(3) Was an officer at the Sydney West Letters Facility threatened in relation to his future tenure as a liaison officer and his ongoing employment with Australia Post if he failed to campaign on behalf of the ‘Build a Better Union Team’; if so: (a) were these threats referred to the Security and Investigation Division of Australia Post; (b) did the Security and Investigation Division of Australia Post investigate the threats; if not, why not; and (c) will the Minister direct the Security and Investigation Division to fully investigate the threats.

(4) (a) Were Australia Post vehicles and associated resources used by any staff at the Regents Park Australia Post Business Centre for the distribution of election material for the ‘Build a Better Union Team’ during the 2003 Communications Electrical Plumbing Union New South Wales (Postal and Telecommunications Branch) election; (b) did any such material distributed using Australia Post vehicles and associated resources contain defamatory material; (c) was any disciplinary action taken with respect to Australia Post employees who provided access to Australia Post vehicles; (d) what was the nature of the action taken; and (e) could details be provided of any regulations directed at preventing the misuse of Australia Post vehicles and associated resources.

(5) (a) Did any members of the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union New South Wales (Postal and Telecommunications Branch) receive telephone calls on behalf of the ‘Build a Better Union Team’ during the 2003 Communications Electrical Plumbing Union New South Wales (Postal and Telecommunications Branch) election in the period 5 June to 22 June 2003; (b) did any members of the Communications Electrical Plumbing Union New South Wales (Postal and Telecommunications Branch) receive text messages on behalf of the ‘Build a Better Union Team’ during the 2003 Communications Electrical Plumbing Union New South Wales (Postal and Telecommunications Branch) election in the period 5 June to 11 June 2003; (c) did any such text messages originate from the numbers 61429687062 or 61427135121; (d) do any of the members who received these telephone calls and messages have ‘private’ or ‘silent’ telephone numbers with Telstra; (e) is it the practice of Telstra to provide privately listed numbers to any persons, organisations or businesses; if so, on what basis; and (f) what organisations or businesses have access to ‘private’ or ‘silent’ telephone numbers.