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Notice given 18 September 2002

654  Senator Marshall: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs—With reference to the two Australian citizens, Mr David Hicks and Mr Mamdouh Habib, who are currently detained and imprisoned by the United States of America in Camp Delta in Cuba:

(1) What is the current legal status of Mr Hicks and Mr Habib.

(2) What access do Mr Hicks and Mr Habib have to legal counsel of their choice.

(3) What access to and communication with their family members have Mr Hicks and Mr Habib had.

(4) Is there any indication that Mr Hicks and/or Mr Habib will be charged with any offence in any jurisdiction; if so, what are those charges.

(5) (a) What access do Mr Hicks and Mr Habib have to Australian consular staff; and (b) can the details of that access be provided.

(6) Is the Australian Government making any representations on behalf of Mr Hicks and/or Mr Habib to secure their release from custody.

(7) What is the current health situation of Mr Hicks and Mr Habib.

(8) Under what conditions are Mr Hicks and Mr Habib being imprisoned.

(9) Does the Government believe that Mr Hicks and Mr Habib’s imprisonment is legal and that Australia has met its legal responsibilities and complied with all international conventions, treaties and agreements.

655  Senator Harris: To ask the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts—

(1) Does the Minister agree with the Macquarie Dictionary’s definition of the word ‘ombudsman’, meaning, ‘An official appointment by parliament, or some other legislative body, as a city council, to investigate complaints by citizens against the government or its agencies’.

(2) Do Telstra, Optus and other independent telecommunication carriers or suppliers nominate the Ombudsman to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Limited (TIO Ltd), a company which independently hears telecommunication subscribers complaints.

(3) (a) Is the TIO Ltd, a privately-owned company, fully funded by various independent carriers, including at least 60 per cent funding from Telstra; and (b) do the carriers’ employees have the power to hire and fire the TIO Ltd Ombudsman or his staff.

(4) If the answer to any part of (3) is yes, does the Minister consider that the credibility of the Ombudsman could be perceived as being tarnished.

(5) Can the Minister, who is responsible under administrative law for the conduct of Telstra, guarantee that all of the TIO Ltd’s determinations have been independent determinations; if so, can the Minister guarantee that they will remain just and fully independent determinations if privatisation of Telstra proceeds.

(6) With reference to ministerial decisions and judgements on the TIO Ltd Ombudsman’s determinations, is the Minister certain that justice has been done in all cases.

(7) What action will the Minister take to have any unjust TIO Ltd determinations rescinded, if proof could be provided of injustice.

(8) Is it a fact that in-house Telco witnesses or outsourced TIO Ltd experts or independent professional witnesses are not required to submit sworn evidence during TIO Ltd independent investigations; if so, could this not also affect the correctness or truthfulness of evidence and further cast doubts on the TIO Ltd Ombudsman’s credibility and ability to make any independent and just determination, and prevent him from being able to make lawful or just findings of fact.

(9) Is the Minister aware of any cases where Telco witnesses, by not having to give sworn evidence to the TIO Ltd, could tamper with, ignore, destroy or alter evidence without fear of recrimination to ensure a factually incorrect, unjust and improper TIO Ltd determination or, by concealing systemic faults, conceal potential liabilities from the shareholders.

(10) Under administrative law, is the Minister’s office ultimately responsible for the production and presentation of freedom of information (FOI) documents on request, which may or may not be detrimental or prejudicial to Telstra Corporation Limited.

(11) If a TIO Ltd company employee was named or held out to subscribers as an independent ‘ombudsman’, could it not be perceived that he is not an ombudsman under the true meaning of the term.

(12) Is it a fact that, on 1 July 1995, Telecom Protective Services instructed Registrar Brockie at Telecom’s premises in Brisbane to destroy 46 boxes of investigation files (FOI Folio number A68767); if so, can the Minister advise whether these destroyed investigation files belonged to Ms Sandra Wolf, Mr Kenneth Ivory or his Solar-Mesh related identities, or to any other ‘Casualties of Telstra’ complainants based in Queensland, such as Mrs Ann Garmes of the Tivoli Theatre and Restaurant.

(13) If these 46 boxes of Telecom/Telstra investigation files were destroyed on 1 July 1995 while TIO Ltd, Austel and or Senate Estimates Committee investigations were on foot, what is the Minister doing to have Telstra held accountable before any further privatisation of Telstra proceeds.