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Notice given 22 December 2004

244  Senator O’Brien: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services—

(1) Which air operators receive payments under the Payment Scheme for Airservices Australia’s Enroute Charges program.

(2) What is the outcome of the client satisfaction survey undertaken in October 2004.

(3) Is this survey part of a wider review of the program; if so: (a) who is undertaking the review; (b) what is the purpose of the review; and (c) when will the review findings be announced.

251  Senator O’Brien: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services—With reference to the claim on page 111 of the department’s annual report for 2003-04 that a Regional Partnerships program grant funded some operating costs of the heritage railway from Beaudesert to Bethania in Queensland:

(1) Can the Minister confirm the accuracy of departmental evidence given to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee during the Budget estimates on 27 May 2004 ( Hansard p. 102) that that grant enabled Beaudesert Rail to ‘pay off its creditors—it had amassed an unsustainable bundle of creditors—and to provide it with some supplementary operating funds for the remainder of the financial year’.

(2) (a) On what dates were Regional Partnerships payments made to Beaudesert Rail; and (b) on each occasion, what was the amount of the payment.

(3) (a) How much of the $660 000 Regional Partnerships grant to Beaudesert Rail was directed to paying creditors; and (b) how much was directed to operating costs.

(4) Will the Minister provide detailed advice of creditors and monies owing at the time of the grant decision; if not, why not.

(5) When did the Minister and/or the department first become aware that Beaudesert Rail had ‘amassed an unsustainable bundle of creditors’.

(6) (a) On what date did the Commonwealth commence discussions with Beaudesert Rail on the provision of a loan to assist its operations; (b) on what date did the Commonwealth offer Beaudesert Rail a loan; (c) what was the amount of the loan offer and the proposed interest rate and term of repayment; (d) what role did the Minister and/or the department play in the consideration and negotiation of the loan proposal; and (e) what program was the proposed source of loan funds.

(7) (a) On what date: (a) was a Regional Partnerships funding application for the Beaudesert Rail project submitted; and (b) was advice sought from the local Area Consultative Committee.

(8) (a) When did the Minister approve the conversion of the loan to a grant under the Regional Partnerships program; (b) what was the financial position of Beaudesert Rail at this time; and (c) what due diligence preceded the decision to convert the loan to a grant.

(9) (a) Do the Regional Partnerships guidelines provide that the Government cannot fund retrospective costs in relation to a project; and (b) does the department define retrospective funding as funding to meet any expenditure, or commitment to expenditure, incurred prior to a Regional Partnerships funding agreement being signed by both parties.

(10) On what date was the funding agreement in relation to the Beaudesert Rail project signed.

(11) Does the funding of creditors under the Regional Partnerships program constitute retrospective funding; if so: (a) did the funding of the Beaudesert Rail project to pay creditors constitute a breach of the program rules; and (b) does the Minister accept responsibility for the breach.


 (12) On what date was: (a) the funding agreement for Beaudesert Rail signed by both parties; (b) a satisfactory independent audit of accounts in accordance with the Government’s requirements undertaken; and (c) the Government provided with evidence of an acquittal of expenditure against the approved budget for the project.

(13) Has Beaudesert Rail produced evidence of satisfactory performance and achievement of all project milestones.

(14) What outcomes can the Minister attribute to the allocation of $660 000 in Regional Partnerships grant money to the Beaudesert Rail project.

(15) Who determined that the allocation of Regional Partnerships funding to Beaudesert Rail should be featured in the department’s annual report.

254  Senator O’Brien: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services—

(1) Did the Minister authorise the publication of media statements carrying The Nationals’ party logo on the publicly-funded Sustainable Regions website,; if so, when; if not, who authorised the publication of these party-political media statements.

(2) (a) What guidelines apply to the publication of party-political material by the department; and (b) is the publication of party-political media statements on the Sustainable Regions website consistent with these guidelines.