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Thursday, 14 November 1974
Page: 2462

Senator Baume asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

(1)   What arrangements has the Government made to replace two patrol vessels that have been given to Indonesia, and a further five patrol vessels should such a number be given to Papua New Guinea.

(2)   When will the proposed combat support ship tentatively named HMAS 'Protector' be built.

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

(1)   The five patrol boats transferred to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force were built in the late 1960's specifically to undertake tasks in Papua New Guinea waters. Since these tasks will now be performed by the Papua New Guinea Defence Force, the five patrol boats need not be replaced.

The two Attack Class patrol craft given to Indonesia were drawn from Reserves. The question of the need for patrol craft is a matter which is under continuing study along with other Defence capabilities in the current cycle of the five year programing process.

(2)   1 refer the honourable senator to a statement made to the House of Representatives on 23 August 1973 in which the Minister for Defence announced that:

We have decided that there is no need to proceed at this time with the construction of a Fast Combat Support Ship, capable of underway replenishment of the fleet. It has been assessed that such a ship would not be required before 1980, when HMAS 'Supply ' is expected to be retired. I believe that a less sophisticated and less costly ship than that originally proposed at a cost now estimated at around $69m might be more suitable. This is being further examined.

The type of vessel to be acquired, its. cost and the timing of its introduction into service are also being considered alongside other defence capabilities in the current cycle of the five year programing process.

Postmaster-General's Department: Charges

Senator Bishop - On 2 October 1974, Senator Townley asked the Attorney-General the following question, without notice:

I ask the Attorney-General a question relating to the increased PMG charges. Is the Attorney-General aware that under the common law where a fee for service is paid in advance this constitutes a contract and the fee cannot be altered until the contract expires? I ask: Do not telephone rentals and mail box rentals paid in advance constitute a contract between the renters and the Postmaster-General's Department? Does the Attorney-General feel that the Postmaster-General should not be allowed to ignore such contracts until they are at an end?

At the end of his statement in reply, Senator Murphy said that he would refer the matter to me to see whether I could give Senator Townley any further information. The following information is now provided:

The Postal Regulations prescribe that the fee ordinarily payable for leasing a private box covers an annual period from 1 April to the following 3 1 March. The increased fees recently authorised by Parliament do not become effective until 1 April 1 975 except in the case of new services let after 30 September 1974, for which the new rates apply straight away.

In the telephone case, for obvious practical reasons, not all subscribers' bills can be sent out on the same day, so rental charges are not statutorily tied uniformly to specified dates. The Telephone Regulations provide that where rental for a telephone service is paid in advance (this is the normal situation) and the amount paid is greater than or less than that prescribed, the subscriber is entitled to a refund of or is liable to pay the difference between the two. In these circumstances, the Post Office has a statutory obligation to apply to all telephone subscribers services from 1 October 1974 the rental charges authorised by the Parliament to operate from that date.

Radio Licence Fees

Senator Bishop -On 30 October 1974, Senator Guilfoyle asked me the following question without notice:

Is the Government aware that the policy to increase by 100 per cent the licence fee which has to be paid by amateur radio operators will disadvantage voluntary organisations such as the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia and the Volunteer Coastal Patrol which provide services to the community.

The following is the answer to the honourable senator's question:

The Government is aware of the effect of increasing the licence fees for radiocommunication stations. The new scale of fees has regard to the cost of administration and supervision involved in the licensing and regulatory functions associated with the different classes of stations.

The reduced fee for outpost stations such as those in the Royal Flying Doctor Service or stations used solely in connection with rural fire fighting or ambulance operations have been maintained at $2 for many years. This concessional fee was recently extended to private voluntary organisations concerned solely with the preservation of life (such as life saving organisations).

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