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Thursday, 9 February 2006
Page: 203


Senator Chris Evans asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Ageing, upon notice, on 30 November 2005:

(1) (a)   Can a brief summary be provided of the Comgas Scheme; (b) when was it first announced; and (c) what are its objectives.

(2) (a)   What is the total amount of spending on the Comgas Scheme, disaggregated on the basis of financial years from the commencement of the scheme to date; and (b) can figures be divided according to the administered funds and departmental costs.

(3)   What communities have participated in the Comgas Scheme to date and for each community: (a) to which state or territory do these communities belong; (b) what were the starting and ending dates of the communities participation in the Comgas Scheme and; (c) what were the administered funds from the Comgas Scheme funding pool (separated into figures for funds allocated and funds spent).

(4) (a)   What communities have been selected for participation in the Comgas Scheme; (b) to which state or territory do these communities belong; (c) what were the approximate starting dates for participation in the scheme for each community; and (d) what were the administered funds that have been either spent and/or allocated from the Comgas Scheme funding pool for each community.

(5)   Has the department or another Commonwealth agency made any representations to the Queensland Government in relation to the participation of Cape York communities in the Comgas Scheme; if so: (a) what representation was made; and (b) when was this representation made.

(6)   Has Aurukun been selected for participation in the Comgas Scheme; if so: (a) when; (b) who nominated Aurukun (e.g. the Queensland Government, the Commonwealth Government, the community itself); (c) what where the grounds for Aurukun’s selection; and (d) can information be provided on the extent of petrol sniffing in Aurukun.

(7)   What is the anticipated starting date of Aurukun’s participation in the scheme.

(8)   Have any Comgas Scheme funds been allocated to Aurukun; if so, what is the amount.


Senator Santoro (Minister for Ageing) —The Minister for Health and Ageing has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)  

(a)   A brief summary is at Attachment A.

(b)   The Comgas Scheme was announced by the then Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister, the Hon John Herron, on 30 November 1998.

(c)   The objectives of the Comgas Scheme are to reduce supply of sniffable fuel, minimise harm from petrol sniffing and encourage communities to engage in alternative activities as deterrents to petrol sniffing and other substance misuse within remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

(2)  

(a)   Total expenditure for the financial years 1999/2000 through to 2004/05 was $3,031,328.11.

Financial Year

Expenditure

1998/99

The relevant files have been archived and ascertaining expenditure would require an unreasonable diversion of departmental resources

1999/00

$351,112.90

2000/01

$239,978.54

2001/02

$457,826.05

2002/03

$558,802.04

2003/04

$593,028.86

2004/05

$830,579.72

Total

$3,031,328.11

(b)   The figures are for administered funds only. The departmental costs were absorbed into the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) appropriation.

(3)  

(a)   and (b) Details of communities participating in the Comgas Scheme:

Community

(a) State/Territory

(b) Commencement date

1

Kaltukatjara (Docker River)

Northern Territory

December 1998

2

Walungurru (Kintore)

Northern Territory

December 1998

3

Mt. Liebig

Northern Territory

October 2003

4

Papunya

Northern Territory

May 2004

5

Apatula (Finke)

Northern Territory

April 2005

6

Hermannsburg

Northern Territory

April 2005

7

Areyonga

Northern Territory

 April 2005

8

Kardu Numuda (Daly River Area) (Port Keat)

Northern Territory

December 1998

9

Maningrida (Bawinanga)

Northern Territory

December 1998

10

Numbulwar

Northern Territory

December 1998

11

Milingimbi (Marthakal Homelands)

Northern Territory

January 1999

12

Galiwinku (Elcho Island)

Northern Territory

January 1999

13

Ramingining

Northern Territory

February 2001

14

Warruwi (Goulburn Is)

Northern Territory

February 2002

15

Minjalang (Croker Island)

Northern Territory

February 2002

16

Gapuwiyak

Northern Territory

 September 2003

17

Ngukurr (Roper River)

Northern Territory

 April 2005

18

Papulankutja (Blackstone)

Western Australia

December 1998

19

Cosmo Newbery

Western Australia

December 1998

20

Mantamaru (Jameson)

Western Australia

December 1998

21

Kiwirrkurra

Western Australia

December 1998

22

Tjirrkali (Tjukarli)

Western Australia

December 1998

23

Patjarr

Western Australia

December 1998

24

Wannan

Western Australia

December 1998

25

Warakurna

Western Australia

December 1998

26

Warburton

Western Australia

December 1998

27

Irruniytu (Wingellina)

Western Australia

December 1998

28

Tjukurla

Western Australia

December 1998

29

Wirrimanu (Balgo)

Western Australia

September 1999

30

Mulan (Lake Gregory)

Western Australia

September 2000

31

Kanpa

Western Australia

April 2004

32

Amata

South Australia

December 1998

33

Kaljiti (Fregon)

South Australia

December 1998

34

Indulkana (Iwantja)

South Australia

January 2000

35

Kanypi (also supply Murpatja)

South Australia

December 1998

36

Mimili

South Australia

December 1998

37

Pipalyatjara

South Australia

December 1998

38

Pukatja (Ernabella)

South Australia

December 1998

39

Maralinga (Oak Valley)

South Australia

May 2002

40

Watarru

South Australia

September 2001

41

Watinuma

South Australia

April 2005

42

Aurukun

Queensland

April 2004

The community of Yagga Yagga in Western Australia joined the Comgas Scheme in December 1998 and was removed from the scheme in April 2004. At that time the community did not have a fuel bowser and were not purchasing Avgas. No other communities have exited the scheme.

(c)   The level of expenditure to date for each community depended on the community’s level of petrol consumption and the length of time they have been registered with the scheme. Expenditure statistics for the scheme are not routinely captured by community. To give an indication, anticipated expenditure by community for 2005/06 is included below. This has been based on current consumption patterns.

Community

Anticipated Expenditure for 2005/06

1

Kaltukatjara (Docker River)

$10,296

2

Walungurru (Kintore)

$18,546

3

Mt. Liebig

$19,668

4

Papunya

$20,196

5

Apatula (Finke)

$20,000

6

Hermannsburg

$34,368

7

Areyonga

$9,900

8

Kardu Numuda (Daly River Area) (Port Keat)

$76,708

9

Maningrida (Bawinanga)

$90,958

10

Numbulwar

$4,300

11

Milingimbi (Marthakal Homelands)

$27,083

12

Galiwinku (Elcho Island)

$21,024

13

Ramingining

$70,956

14

Warruwi (Goulburn Is)

$35,916

15

Minjalang (Croker Island)

$3,504

16

Gapuwiyak

$16,206

17

Ngukurr (Roper River)

$130,699

18

Papulankutja (Blackstone)

$19,802

19

Cosmo Newbery

$7,556

20

Mantamaru (Jameson)

$19,442

21

Kiwirrkurra

$18,480

22

Tjirrkali (Tjukarli)

$7,740

23

Patjarr

0

24

Wannan

$35,822

25

Warakurna

$57,962

26

Warburton

$72,313

27

Irruniytu (Wingellina)

$14,582

28

Tjukurla

$18,004

29

Wirrimanu (Balgo)

$39,128

30

Mulan (Lake Gregory)

$29,200

31

Kanpa

0

32

Amata

$37,952

33

Kaljiti (Fregon)

$22,832

34

Indulkana (Iwantja)

$22,664

35

Kanypi (also supply Murpatja)

$19,276

36

Mimili

$41,385

37

Pipalyatjara

$26,781

38

Pukatja (Ernabella)

$61,982

39

Maralinga (Oak Valley)

$18,256

40

Watarru

$1,056

41

Watinuma

$19,430

42

Aurukun

$58,400

Total

$1,280,373

(4)   In addition to those listed above, the following communities have been registered for participation in the Comgas Scheme as at 30 September 2005.

(a) Communities

(b) State/Territory

(c) Approximate

starting date

(d) Anticipated

expenditure 2005/06

Tjuntjunjara

Western Australia

12 September 2005

$13,125

Yuendumu

Northern Territory

12 September 2005

$19,250

Willowra

Northern Territory

12 September 2005

$9,625

Nyirripi

Northern Territory

12 September 2005

$7,700

Ikuntji

Northern Territory

12 September 2005

$9,625

Peppimenarti

Northern Territory

12 September 2005

$63,875

Nganmarriyanga

Northern Territory

12 September 2005

$12,775

(5) (a)   and (b) In January 2004 the Department of Health and Ageing wrote to the Queensland Government in regard to having avgas, when not used for aviation, placed on the Queensland Fuel Subsidy Scheme. Avgas was the original non-sniffable fuel used as part of the overall strategy to combat petrol sniffing. The Queensland Government advised that the Queensland Fuel Subsidy applied only to motor spirit and diesel of the type ordinarily sold by a retailer (service station). As avgas was not a motor spirit or diesel, there was no entitlement to the subsidy. A new fuel, Opal, was developed specifically for the Comgas Scheme. Opal fuel became available in February 2005. Since November 2004 the Department of Health and Ageing has corresponded several times with both the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and the Queensland Office of State Revenue in order to encourage recognition of Opal fuel by the Queensland Fuel Subsidy Scheme. This culminated on 17 October 2005 with the Queensland Government announcing a 15 month trial of Opal fuel in discrete Queensland Aboriginal communities. The Department of Health and Ageing and the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (the Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination) met with representatives of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy on 18 October and again on 18 November 2005 to discuss the issue of petrol sniffing and the Comgas Scheme in general. At those meetings, officials discussed a number of sites in Queensland, including some in Cape York. Queensland officials were advised on 18 November 2005 that the community of Aurukun would soon receive its first supply of Opal.

(6)  

(a)   Aurukun was registered on the Comgas Scheme on 1 April 2004.

(b)   The Aurukun community applied to the Department of Health and Ageing for registration.

(c)   Aurukun was selected on the basis of their application which was supported by the Aurukun community.

(d)   Aurukun reported that by December 2003 there were up to 50 regular petrol sniffers within the community.

(7)   Aurukun received their first delivery of Opal fuel in mid November 2005.

(8)   For the 2005/06 financial year $58,400 has been allocated to Aurukun based upon the community’s estimated annual consumption of 120,000 litres of fuel.

Attachment A

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON COMGAS SCHEME AND OPAL FUEL

The Comgas Scheme was implemented by the Australian Government in 1998. The scheme is administered by the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH), Department of Health and Ageing.

Until February 2005, the scheme provided a subsidy of 37 cents per litre to offset the additional cost encountered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities that used aviation gasoline (avgas) as an alternative fuel. The additional cost was in the form of an excise loading charged on the supply of avgas used for non-aviation purposes.

Because avgas contained relatively low levels of aromatic hydrocarbons, (the substances that give petrol sniffers a ‘high’) it was used as a replacement fuel in communities where petrol sniffing is an issue.

BP Australia Pty Ltd, working in conjunction with OATSIH and the Australian Institute of Petroleum, developed a new fuel for the specific needs of the Comgas Scheme. This fuel is known generically as Opal. Both the formulation and the name are available to any other petroleum refiner that may seek to enter the market.

Opal fuel is refined and stored in bulk at BP’s Largs North terminal in South Australia. Distribution to communities of the first batch of Opal commenced in February 2005.

Opal is currently the fuel best suited to the needs of communities with petrol sniffing issues. It is an unleaded fuel with no sulphur content and extremely low levels of aromatics. The fuel will not give sniffers a ‘high’. Opal performs similarly to regular unleaded petrol (ULP) in terms of economy and efficiency but it is more expensive than ULP to both produce and distribute.

The Australian Government subsidises the production of Opal to the extent of 33 cents per litre and also subsidises distribution costs at a rate of between zero and 40 cents per litre depending on the location of the receiving communities. The need for a distribution subsidy arises because Opal is bulk stored at one location in South Australia.

The current recurrent budget allocation to support the Comgas Scheme is $1 million annually. This is sufficient to meet the subsidy needs of the 42 communities currently registered for the Comgas Scheme prior to 12 September 2005.

A $9.6 million (over four years) expansion of the scheme to additional communities and regions was announced in the 2005/06 Budget measure ‘Combating Petrol Sniffing’.

An additional $9.5 million was announced on 12 September 2005 to implement a Central Australian desert regional rollout. This will allow for 6 new Indigenous communities, 7 roadhouses and 9 pastoral properties to be added to the scheme.