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Wednesday, 5 December 1973

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

(1)   Is the Postmaster-General able to confirm that the number of money orders issued and the number of articles registered has fallen markedly since the rates for those items were increased in the last Budget

(2)   Do the high rates applied to money orders and registered articles prevent many low-income earners from using those services.

(3)   Has the point of diminished return not been reached where less money is received by the Postmaster-General's Department, in particular from money orders and registered articles, even though charges have risen.

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

(1)   No. National statistics on these services are collated quarterly and those for the next period quarter ended December 1973, are not expected to be available until midFebruary. The numbers of money orders issued and registered articles (excluding parcels) posted have been falling in recent years although tariffs remained unchanged from 1 October 1971 until 1 October this year. It is likely that this downward trend will continue.

(2)   The charges made for money orders and registered items still do not cover the full costs of these services. No doubt most people, irrespective of income levels, compare the value of the service against the price. Alternative money transfer services are widely available including Postal Orders which are cheaper than money orders generally for sums up to $30. The rates for money orders of $30 or over have not been increased. In fact, the rates for most money orders of $40 or over have been reduced substantially.

(3)   It is too early to determine the actual effect of adjusted charges for these services.

Alleged Exclusion of Students

Senator Murphy - On 11 September 1973, Senator Gietzelt asked me the following question, without notice:

Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that a student has been excluded from the Menzies College at Macquarie University since June this year on the grounds of his homosexuality? Does the Minister know that this residential college is subsidised by public funds to the extent of 87.5 per cent and that the rules of the college insist that there shall be no discrimination against students? Is the Minister aware that the theologian in charge of the college will only permit the student to return to the University provided he subjugates his sex desires and undergoes psychiatric treatment. In view of the Australian Government's announced intention to take over the full financial responsibility of all tertiary education, will the Minister take steps to see that all institutions receiving Federal funds accept the fundamental principle that no student will be discriminated against as a result of his race, creed, politics or sexuality?

As I stated at the time, the Government has been engaged in preparing legislation to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which will do much to prevent the practice of discrimination on extraneous grounds. I undertook to have the honourable senator's question investigated further. I have sought the views of the Minister for Education and I now provide the following additional comments:

Disciplinary action against college residents is primarily the responsibility of college councils. Universities are concerned with the terms of affiliation and the terms of any lease of university land to the colleges. The Government, as a matter of policy, would not wish to interfere in the internal policies and administration of independent bodies such as residential college councils, except where there was some breach of federal law, for example on racial discrimination and other fundamental human rights.

Outbreak of Virus Influenza at Edward River Mission

Senator Cavanagh -On 18 October 1973, Senator Bonner asked the following question, without notice:

I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I preface it by referring to a question asked by my colleage, Senator Maunsell, yesterday relating to an outbreak of virus influenza at Edward River Mission in Queensland. Will the Minister inform the Senate who informed him of this outbreak of virus influenza at Edward River Mission, Queensland? Will he inform the Senate why the Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department in Queensland and the Royal Flying Doctor Service were not consulted? Is he aware that a Government doctor from Cairns visited the Edward River Mission and confirmed the sister's finding that there were, in fact, only two or three cases of 'flu?

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

Upon receipt of the report of the virus influenza outbreak at Edward River Mission, officers of my Department sought advice from the Australian Health Department. An officer of the Australian Health Department immediately contacted the Queensland Department of Health to offer any assistance which might be required but he was informed that the situation was under control, existing services were coping and that the outbreak was on the wane. He was also informed that the Queensland Department of Health would request the Royal Flying Doctor Service to arrange a special visit to Edward River to provide any further medical attention which may be required and furnish a report on the situation. The Royal Flying Doctor Service subsequently confirmed that the situation was under control even though the outbreak was not confined to only two or three cases as the Honourable Senator has suggested.

Roads: Central Australia

Senator Cavanagh - On 23 October 1973, Senator Jessop asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport the following question, without notice:

Is the Minister aware of a decision made by Pioneer Tourist Coaches Pty Ltd to discontinue the service from Adelaide to Alice Springs that has been operating 3 times a week? Does the Minister know that the reason the company gives for taking this action was that it cost 200 per cent more per mile to run coaches over the horror stretch north of Pimba to the Northern Territory border than on a sealed road? Does he also know that the company claims that this road is the worst in Australia? I think that is an understatement. In view of the fact that the cancellation of this public transport facility will force about 7,500 people each year to find alternative means of conveyance, and in the interests of many private vehicle owners and other transport companies that rely on this highway, will the Minister treat this road as an urgent priority in the context of the forthcoming Commonwealth aid roads program? In the meantime will the Minister consult with his colleague, the Minister for Supply, with the object of permitting road users to use the sealed highway running through the Woomera rocket range area?

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

Progress continues to be made on upgrading the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory. Contracts arranged recently will enable further sections between Alice Springs and Erldunda to be sealed within two years. When these projects are completed only about sixty miles to the border will remain unsealed.

The unsealed sections within South Australia are, of course, the responsibility of the State Government. I understand that upgrading of the section between Port Augusta and Pimba is in progress and is due for completion next year. I am not aware of any plans to upgrade the Highway north of Pimba but under current Commonwealth Aid Roads arrangements this section remains a matter to be determined by the State Government

The possible use of the road through the Woomera Range as a route between Port Augusta and Alice Springs was discussed recently at an Interdepartmental Committee meeting convened specifically for this purpose. Whilst it was agreed that it would not be feasible to incorporate the Woomera Range road as part of the Stuart Highway the meeting also agreed that it should be possible to establish an alignment across the Woomera Prohibited area which would not interfere to an unacceptable extent with the operations of the Range.

Subsequently the joint State/Commonwealth working group currently engaged in a special study of the main interstate road links with a view to producing an integrated plan for accelerated development of a National Highways system considered the practicability of selecting an alternative alignment for the Stuart Highway in the area. Their report will be used in framing recommendations to the Government for legislation to replace the current Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which expires in June 1974.

Revaluation: Overseas Travellers

Senator Cavanagh -On 25 October 1973, Senator Turnbull asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport the following question, without notice:

Has the Minister had a reply from the Minister for Transport as to why Australian nationals are not allowed to receive any benefit from revaluation in regard to overseas trips whilst other nationals do receive this benefit?

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

The basic reasons underlying the decision that international air fares purchased in Australia should not be altered following major changes in the international monetary situation in the past 12-18 months, including revaluation of the Australian dollar, are given in the following text of a reply appearing in Hansard of 23 October to Question No. 316 asked by Senator Withers relating to that subject:

Qantas, in common with other international carriers, incurs the majority of costs involved in operating services in its national currency. These costs have not been reduced by revaluation of the Australian dollar. Whilst revaluation of the Australian dollar has realised some savings in Qantas' expenditure overseas, there has been a substantial reduction in the company's revenue remittances on travel sold in other countries, including the United States, where currency changes have taken place in the past 12-18 months. The net effect of these exchange gains and losses on Qantas' operating account has led the company to the decision that it would not be economically feasible for adjustments to be made in international fares sold in Australia to take account of changes in the value of exchange rates between the revalued Australian dollar and other currencies, including the United States dollar. This decision is fully in accordance with the recommendations of the International Air Transport Association made to and approved by the governments concerned, including the Australian Government, following special meetings held by the Association to consider the world wide effect on international air fares of fluctuations in the currencies of a number of countries in the past 12-18 months. '

By way of further elaboration ofthe foregoing explanation it should be said that changes in the relative values of major currencies, including the devaluation of the United States dollar and the floating by the United Kingdom of the pound sterling which are two of Qantas' largest markets, has resulted in a decline of approximately $A 1 3m in the company's revenue from air travel sold in foreign countries.

The Government refutes totally the assertion that Qantas is defrauding the Australian travelling public by not reducing the prices of international air fares sold in Australia as a result of the revaluation of the Australian dollar. It is relevant to mention that Australians are among the few travellers and shippers in the world who are paying the same fares and rates as last year whereas fares and rates in some countries, of which the United States and the United Kingdom are prime examples, have increased by more than 10 per cent as a result of currency changes and general fare increases.

Additionally I make the following comments on those aspects of your statements in the Senate on 23 October which indicate there is some misunderstanding on your part about the matter

(a)   international air fares are established by the IATA in two basic currencies, sterling and the United States dollar, which have been chosen as a matter of convenience and because of their past stability within the international monetary system. Every airline in agreeing with the level of fares in these basic currencies has in mind the revenue it will receive in its own local currency. Fares negotiated by IATA are subject to approval of all ofthe Governments concerned.

(b)   This year fares sold in the United States for travel to Australia have increased by 10 per cent and United Kingdom pound sterling fares have increased 6 per cent with the further 4 per cent to be added in November to normal fares for travel originating in the United Kingdom. As a result of these increases an excursion fare purchased in the United States for travel to Australia which cost US$833 in January this year has increased to US$9 18.80 today. The cost of an excursion fare purchased in the United Kingdom for travel to Australia has risen from pounds sterling 326.65 to pounds sterling 359.35 since May 1973. These increases have not been applied to the same fares purchased in Australia.

(c)   It is completely incorrect to maintain that an Australian passport holder has to pay his fare in Australian dollars. The passenger's nationality has no bearing whatsoever on the currency they may use to purchase air travel. Furthermore Qantas cannot stop (and would have no desire to do so) passengers transferring funds to another country through their bank and purchasing rickets in that country if they so desire.

(d)   The question of international air fares and rates has been referred to the Prices Justification Tribunal who has exempted Qantas on the grounds that international air fares are subject to the approval of the Australian Government.

(e)   With reference to the comment that the food and wine on Singapore Airlines is better than that on Qantas services it is interesting to note that the food on Singapore Airlines flights out of Sydney and Perth is provided by Qantas and the food on Qantas flights out of Singapore is provided by Singapore Airlines. Qantas serve Australian wines as a matter of policy.

Postmaster-General's Department: Metric System of Weights and Measures

Senator Douglas McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) -On 20 November 1973, Senator Hannan asked the following question, without notice:

I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that his colleague the Postmaster-General in another place has set up a metric schedule for weights for postage, being 7 cents for 20 grams, and that above that weight the price increases in a number of steps? Is the Minister aware that in order to check whether the weight of a letter exceeds 20 grams, and hence needs extra postage, commercial houses and others are required to purchase a one gram weight? Is the Minister aware that weights of this size are unobtainable at any store except at scientific instrument dealers where the price is $38? Will the Minister investigate this matter, which is another example of the inflationary tendencies of the metric system, and do what he can to stop the practice that I have outlined?

The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:

In June 1972 the Government of the day announced that the metric system of weights and measures would be adopted for postal charging purposes late in 1 973.

It was realised that this would require customers to equip themselves with metric scales and weights and in announcing this the then Postmaster-General said that he was giving notice of the Post Office 's intentions to assist the scale industry to cope with the likely demand for new weights.

Subsequently, after this Government took office the timing of the move to metric measures and the weight step proposed were announced in a Press statement. Advertisements were also run in the national dailies drawing attention to the need for new sets of weights for beam balances, and suggesting the sizes of weights likely to be suitable. There are 14,000 beam balance scales in use at post offices to weigh mail, but none is equipped with a 1 gram weight. Although a 5 gram weight is included in many weight sets, the 10 gram is the smallest weight in common use.

Each firm must decide for itself the range of weights required for general use in its business, but many suppliers have 'postal sets' of beam balance weights suitable for weighing postal articles in metric weight steps up to 500 gram available for around $6-$7. Commercial houses are not required to purchase one gram weights as stated in the question.


Senator Murphy - On 22 November Senator Drake-Brockman addressed a question to me concerning the report of the working party which studied kangaroo conservation methods and harvesting programs. The Minister for the Environment and Conservation, Dr Cass has supplied the following information in answer to Senator Drake-Brockman 's question:

The working party was established on 9 March and given until the 31 May to prepare its report. The working party met formally on two occasions 29 March and 22 May.

Field inspections were not carried out. However it should be noted that the working party included officers of the Department of the Environment and Conservation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and each State and Territory wildlife authority. All these officers are intimately familiar or have been directly involved with kangaroo management and research in the various States and Australian Government Territories.

Any programs submitted by the States are examined by the Department of the Environment and Conservation which reports to the Minister for the Environment and Conservation who then decides whether these management programs meet the requirements set out in the working party's report.

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