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Friday, 31 May 1996
Page: 1548


Senator CHAMARETTE(2.03 p.m.) —I seek leave to incorporate the questions that I was given the opportunity to ask.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows

Senator Chamarette to ask the Minister for the Environment in relation to Supply Bill (No 1), 1996:

As funding for the following programs in the Environment portfolio were due to cease on 30 June, what plans does the Government have to maintain the programs between 1 July and passage of the Appropriation Bills after the August Budget? What allocation is being made available to them in the Supply Bill (No 1) for their continuation?

. National Corridors of Green

. Monitoring River Health

. Waterwatch Program

. National Pollutant Inventory

. Clean production

. National Environment Information Database

. National Reserves System

. World Heritage Management System

. Feral Animal and Weed

. Halon Essential uses Panel

Senator Chamarette to ask the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women, in relation to Supply Bill (No 1), 1996:

As funding for the National Agenda For Women Grants Program was due to cease on 30 June, what plans does the Government have to maintain the program between 1 July and passage of the Appropriation Bills after the August Budget? What allocation is being made available to them in the Supply Bill (No 1) for their continuation?

Supply Bills in Committee

These questions rely on information about proposed staff reduction supplied by the Public Sector Union in the attached documents.

1. Attorney General's.

Access to justice: (Please note, it may be that this question should be addressed to Prime Minister & Cabinet or even Aboriginal Affairs, but try it on AG's first.)

Will the government arrange to give an account of how the $400 million allocated in 1992 for implementation of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody has been, or is being, spent?

In relation to Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission:

A constituent recently reported that a complaint under the Disability Discrimination Act, if accepted, would take a minimum of 12 months to reach conciliation stage.

How many staff are allocated to Disability Discrimination Act complaints?

How will the reduction in staff of HREOC, from 251 to 221, extend the timeframes for complainants?

In relation to the Family Court:

How will reducing the staff by 40 people, or 4.6%, impact on the additional emphasis on conciliation and agreements which has been put in place in the Family Law Reform Act, 1995? Does the government assume that people seeking to make Parenting Agreements, as provided for in the Act, will do so without the assistance of Family Court staff?

2. Immigration and Multicultural Affairs

Immigration Review Tribunal:

Does the reduction in staff of the Immigration Review Tribunal indicate that the government anticipates a drop in migration numbers? Or does it signal that the Government is prepared to accept longer times for appeals?

Refugee Review Tribunal:

How many cases are before the RRT at present? How many were there 12 months ago, and how many cases has the Tribunal finalised in that time?

Is the government prepared to release estimates of how many cases it anticipates the RRT will have to deal with in the next twelve months to substantiate its belief that the Tribunal can experience a 22% cut in staff? How has it arrived at these estimates? Do they assume that less `boat people' will arrive? Were the estimates prepared before the latest flotilla of boats?

3. Prime Minister and Cabinet

Commonwealth Ombudsman:

The Ombudsman, Ms Smith, has made her position quite clear—namely that with the sort of staffing cut announced by the government she will be unable to fulfil the functions of her office.

What information is the government relying on to suggest that (a) the statutory functions of the Ombudsman's office will be able to be fulfilled, and (b) the workload of the Ombudsman's office will be halved?

4. Social Security

If the Social Security Department is to experience a 6.15% staff cut, what areas does the department intend to shed?

Does this indicate that professional functions, particularly those fulfilled by Social Workers, will be contracted out? Or terminated altogether?


Senator CHAMARETTE —I thank the minister for his commitment to respond to the questions in two weeks. I just wanted to say that the time we have taken on this is no indication of wanting to block supply or to delay funding to organisations. We actually want to ensure that supply is not blocked by the subtle dropping of programs that we would like to see continued.