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Tuesday, 27 November 1973

Senator McManus asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:

Have complaints been received by the Postmaster-General's Department that difficulty has been experienced by persons in having $20 notes cashed in official post offices in Victoria. If so, what is the reason and will action be taken to remedy the position.

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

I presume the honourable senator is referring to $20 postal orders. That being so, it is true that some customers have experienced difficulty in cashing these orders at official post offices. However, it has been possible usually to make alternative arrangements for the people concerned.

The reason for the difficulties stems from a directive, issued by the Federal Executive of the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists to its members, instructing them not to handle the $20 postal orders and associated accounting documents. As the members of this Union are fairly widely distributed throughout official post offices the Union's directive has resulted in some inconvenience to persons receiving such postal orders. Negotiations are continuing with the Federal Executive of the Union with a view to having the bans lifted.

Solar Energy Research in Australia (Question No. 534)

Senator Davidson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, upon notice:

(   1 ) Did Professor Watson-Munro claim that Australia has only a ten-year supply of oil left and warn that research into solar energy was necessary.

(2)   Can the Minister say if the information available to the Government supports Professor Watson-Munro 's view.

(3)   Has the Government any program of research into using solar energy; if so, are results available.

(4)   If the answer to (3) is in the negative, will the Government pursue research in the field of solar energy and advise the Senate of the progress made.

Senator Wriedt -The Minister for Minerals and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   A recent report of a committee established by the Australian Academy of Science under the chairmanship of Professor Watson-Munro on solar energy research in Australia mentions, among other things, that Australia's known oil reserves without imports are inadequate for even a decade. The report includes a number of recommendations on the way in which a solar energy research program might develop.

(2)   On more than one occasion I have drawn attention publicly to Australia's deficiency in crude oil. Allowing for projected expansion of consumption, we have only eight year's supply of indigenous crude.

(3)   and (4) The Government intends to promote the scientific development of energy sources including energy from the sun and the means by which this will be done are being considered.

The Japanese Minister for International Trade and Industry, Mr Nakasone, has agreed to conduct in Australia, by Japanese scientists, in conjunction with their Australian counterparts, a feasibility study into the whole question of solar energy, for its collection and utilisation.

Australian Honours and Awards

Senator Murphy - On 12 September, Senator Devitt asked a question without notice concerning the institution of an Australian system of awards. He wanted to know whether the Government intended to introduce such a system and if so, what form it would take. I undertook to find out whether any progress had been made towards having an Australian system to give recognition for meritorious service.

Australian Labor Party Policy is not to continue participating in the imperial honours system and to substitute our own system. I have been informed that while we have made some progress towards devising an Australian system of awards, no firm decision has yet been taken.

National Highways System: Defence Importance

Senator Cavanagh - On 10 October 1973, Senator Davidson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport the following question, without notice:

I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Transport to the reported statements of the President of the Australian Road Federation that a national highways system would be a tremendous defence value to Australia. Has the Minister seen the statement and can he tell me whether there has been any consultation between the Department of Transport and the Department of Defence in relation to a national highways plan? Can the Minister also say whether the Department has carried out research into the relation of a national road system to interstate transport costs and the servicing of remote areas and decentralised centres?

The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The President of the Australian Road Federation made certain statements regarding the defence importance of a national highways system during an address he delivered to the Australian Automobile Association Symposium held in Canberra on 9 October. However, these statements have not yet been published.

The Minister for Transport gave the opening address at the Symposium and spoke of the planned development of national highways which is currently being reported on by a Committee of Commonwealth and State officials. Research for this report has been carried out by a special Study Team, working in close liaison with the Department of Transport and the Bureau of Roads.

The Department of Defence, in common with other Departments with interests in the development of a national highways plan, is being consulted. Its views, and the views of other interested departments, will be taken into account in the compilation of the final report.

In reference to the second part of the honourable senator's question, research has also been carried out by the Study Team on the relationship of a national road system to a wide range of community needs.

The demand for private and commercial travel and transport, and the special needs of transporting primary products, were taken in account. The study included work on the impact of improved roads on railways, where these might compete, and the costs of interstate and interregional transport. Consideration was also given to the question of population distribution, and the effect of decentralisation policies.

Closure of Country Post Offices

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - On 7

November 1973, Senator Laucke asked me the following question, without notice:

In view of the widespread concern emanating from rural communities following announcements by the PostmasterGeneral's Department that a large number of country post offices probably will either be closed or downgraded, I ask: In the interests of decentralisation and of reasonable services being provided to country residents, will the Minister seek from the Postmaster-General an assurance that before final decisions are made respecting post offices involved, local government authorities be invited to make submissions to the Minister in support of the retention of these post offices with their current status?

In my answer, I undertook to refer the honourable senator's suggestion to the PostmasterGeneral, and I have now received the following information from him:

The Postal Service has incurred trading losses aggregating approximately $140m during the last 8 years, and it will be appreciated that this has had an effect on the charges postal users pay for the services they receive and also on the cost to the taxpayer generally.

In the light of each adverse trading results, the Department has for some years been examining many aspects of its postal operations, including ways of providing adequate post office services more economically. This has resulted in the closure of a number of very small non-official post offices which were being used very little by local residents except as mail distribution points, and the conversion of some of the smaller official post offices to the non-official method of operation without affecting the range or grade of services being provided.

This approach is being continued and there are still a number of post offices in these categories scheduled for future examination.

When consideration is being given to closing a non-official post office, it is current practice for the local District Postal Manager to visit the area and discuss the Department's plans with community representatives or attend a public meeting.

As there is no change in the range or grade of services provided when a small official post office is changed to non-official conditions, service to the community is not affected. However, before a firm decision is made on a change, the existing and potential development in the area is discussed with local governmental authorities and business organisations. Nevertheless, I would welcome submissions to my Department on any factors which would significantly improve the economic viability of an existing official post office without changing it to the non-official method of operation.

Blue Poles' Painting

Senator Murphy - On 8 November 1973, Sentator Laucke asked me a question without notice connected with the acquisition of the painting

Blue Poles', and whether a member of the Visual and Plastic Arts Board is associated commercially with Max Hutchinson New York Ltd, the agent in the transaction. The Prime Minister has now furnished me with the following information:

The body responsible for purchasing works of art for the National Gallery is the Acquisitions Committee of the National Gallery. The Visual Arts Board of the Australian Council for the Arts (formerly the Visual and Plastic Arts Board) has no pan in this process.

Repatriation: Special Compensation Allowance

Senator Murphy - On 8 November 1973 Senator Townley asked the following question, without notice:

Is the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation aware that there is considerable dissatisfaction amongst the exservicemen in the seriously disabled category- that is with 75 per cent to 100 per cent assessed disability- and in receipt of the special compensation allowance, who effectively received no increase in their repatriation pensions in the last Budget? Will the Minister reconsider the withdrawal of the $3 special compensation allowance which appears as unfair discrimination against these men and their families?

The following answer has been provided to the honourable senator's question:

It is true that some representations have been made to the Minister for Repatriation about the reduction of the rate of the special compensation allowance. However the Government's intention to eliminate this allowance has received the endorsement of many ex-servicemen. In fact, such a move was included in the last R.S.L. War Compensation Plan.

This allowance was introduced by the previous Government in 1969, possibly to avoid increasing the whole of the General Rate range, which itself provides that the more seriously incapacitated pensioners are paid a higher rate of compensation.

The inequitable nature of this allowance is demonstrated by comparing a pensioner with 70 per cent incapacity with one with 75 per cent incapacity. Prior to the first step in eliminating this allowance, the 70 per cent pensioner received $11.20 a week whereas the 75 per cent pensioner received $16.50, an extra $5.30 a week for only a 5 per cent greater incapacity.

Fourteen per cent of the General Rate pensioners received this extra benefit forfive years while the remaining 86 per cent received no increased payment for almost all of that time..

It is the Government's intention to provide adequate compensation for all in the General Rate scale and I am sure the honourable senator will agree that the move to rationalize this scale has been, and will continue to be, undertaken in the most equitable manner.

Prime Minister: Award Conferred By Chile

Senator Murphy - On 1 3 November, Senator Hannan asked a question relating to the Prime Minister's appointment to the Order of the Collar of St Agatha of Patemo.

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

I have nothing to add to my reply to Senator Gair (Hansard 6.3.73, page 192).

Institute of Aboriginal Studies

Senator Cavanagh - On 14 November 1973, Senator Jessop asked the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the following question, without notice:

(   1 ) Can the Minister inform the Senate of the reasons surrounding the resignation of Professor Strehlow from the Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

(2)   Is it a fact that, according to a Press statement attributed to him, this occurred as a result of his disagreement with the Federal Government's policies on Aboriginal affairs and that he did not see eye to eye with the Chairman.

(3)   Can the Minister say when he expects to be able to announce a replacement to this position.

The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(   1 ) Professor Strehlow tendered his resignation from the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies in a letter dated 10 April 1973.

(2)   I have not seen the text of the Press statement referred to by the Honourable Senator. Professor Strehlow 's letter of resignation referred to differences of opinion with the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies.

(3)   The vacancy left by Professor Strehlow 's resignation can be filled by election, in accordance with the Rules of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, at the next general meeting of members to be held in 1974.

Social Welfare: Inquiry

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -On 15

November, Senator Davidson asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security the following question, without notice:

My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. I refer to a newspaper report which states: 'The Federal Government has appointed yet another inquiry- this time into manpower available for social welfare work'. Does the Minister know whether the report is correct? Will he give some detail of the need for such an inquiry? Cannot the Department concerned undertake such an inquiry? Will he advise me how many people will be involved? Does he know the terms of reference of such an inquiry?

The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The Minister for Social Security has advised that a Working Party on Social Welfare Manpower has been established, the need for which arose from the evident shortage of social workers and other trained personnel in the social welfare field. This shortage was the subject of a special report released in June by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research in Melbourne. The Social Welfare Commission proposed a broadly based Working Party to include both departmental and other representation. Membership and terms of reference of the Working Party were contained in the Director-General's First Annual Report as follows:

Personnel- One representative from:

Department of Social Security, Department of Labour, Department of Education, Australian Universities Commission, Australian Commission on Advanced Education, Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Association of Social Workers, Australian Psychological Society, Sociological Association of Australia and New Zealand, Interim Committee of National Hospital and Health Services Commission, South Australian Department for Community Welfare, Australian Institute of Welfare Officers.

Terms of Reference-

1.   The Working Party will be a continuing body responsible to the Social Welfare Commission.

2.   The functions of the Working Party will be:

(a)   To devise methods of obtaining projective figures for welfare manpower needs in each State, and regional areas of each State, having regard to the needs of health and other serivces as well as primary welfare services.

(b)   To include in its consideration of welfare manpower needs, Social Workers, Psychologists, Sociologists and other professional disciplines involves in the area of Social Policy, as well as all job-oriented personnel, such as welfare officers, case aides, child care officers and voluntary workers.

(c)   To keep informed of all available educational opportunities for both professional, and other personnel as outlined in (b).

(d)   To make predictions regarding requirements for education to meet the welfare manpower needs of the future.

(e)   To make recommendations to the Social Welfare Commission concerning any policies which will facilitate the supply of adequate welfare manpower.

3.   The Working Party will be chaired by a member of the Social Welfare Commission and will be provided with research staff.

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