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Notice given 27 October 2010

*170  Senator Milne: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—Given that the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement (TCFA) Progress report for 2005-06 (the TCFA progress report) states at clause 55, ‘The Commonwealth established and administers the Country Sawmillers Assistance Program (TCSAP) in consultation with Tasmania…The Tasmanian Government has provided specific grants to Britton Bros (Smithton) and Corinna Timbers (Somerset) to assist these mills adjust to the loss of special timbers resource from the areas reserved in the Agreement in north-west Tasmania. The grants are assisting the retooling and upgrade of the Smithton mill and installation of new kiln drying facilities at the Somerset mill to enable the mills to utilise a different log resource mix’, however Table 1 of the TCFA shows that the Australian Government allocated $4 million to this program and the Tasmanian Government allocated no funds and given that the following items occur in the full list of disbursements of funds under the Tasmanian Forest Industry Development Program provided in response to a question taken on notice (CC 10) during the 2009 supplementary budget estimates hearing of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee:

Grantee

Grant title

Final disbursements (ex GST)

Britton Timbers

Act of G race payment to assist the company to meet tax liabilities on special compensation grants that they received from the Tasmanian Government to compensate them for the loss of logging areas reserved under the TCFA.

$850,000.00

Corinna Timbers

Act of Grace p ayment to assist the company to meet tax liabilities on special compensation grants that they received from the Tasmanian Government to compensate them for the loss of logging areas reserved under the TCFA.

$73,719.80

 

 (1) Since the Tasmanian Government allocated no funds to the Tasmanian Country Sawmills Assistance Program (TCSAP), under which these grants are reported: (a) did these funds come from the Commonwealth funding for this program; if not, why are these grants included under the TCSAP and where did the funds come from; and (b) what was the value of each grant to the two companies, Britton Bros and Corinna Timbers.

(2) What is the relationship between the payments to Britton Timbers and Corinna Timbers by the Tasmanian Government mentioned in clause 55 of the TCFA progress report, and those in the document provided in answer to CC 10 and referred to in the table extract above.

(3) Why are these payments recorded in the Tasmanian Forest Industry Development Program (TFIDP) in the document provided in answer to CC 10, and in TCSAP in the TCFA progress report.

(4) Why are these payments referred to as ‘Act of Grace’ payments under TFIDP in the document provided in answer to CC10, and as payments assisting ‘the retooling and upgrade of the Smithton mill’ (Britton Timbers) and ‘installation of new kiln drying facilities at the Somerset mill’ (Corinna Timbers) in the TCFA progress report.

(5) What was the precise definition of an ‘Act of Grace’ payment.

(6) What was the justification for allocating these funds under the TFIDP.

(7) Under what criteria of the application requirements of the TFIDP were these ‘Act of Grace’ payments made to Britton Bros and Corinna Timbers.

(8) According to the document provided in answer to CC 10, Corinna Timbers received no other grants under TFIDP or TCSAP: (a) what other funds did Corinna Timbers receive for the installation of new kiln drying facilities at the Somerset mill; and (b) from what source.

(9) According to the document provided in answer to CC 10, under TFIDP Britton Timbers received an additional $717 308.30 for ‘Purchase & installation of new equipment for dry mill facilities including reconditioner, kilns, docker, dust extraction system, LOSP treatment plant, semi automatic racking machine and forklift truck’: (a) what was the relation between this payment and the grant from the Tasmanian Government for assisting ‘the retooling and upgrade of the Smithton mill’ in the TCFA progress report; (b) what was the total amount of grants from all sources to Britton Timbers from the TCFA; and (c) what was the source and amount of each grant.

(10) Why were the ‘Act of Grace’ payments under TFIDP made only to Britton Timbers and Corinna Timbers and not to any other grantees, given the purpose of the TFIDP.

(11) Why did Britton Timbers and Corinna Timbers, and only these companies, receive ‘special compensation grants’ from the Tasmanian Government, and in each case, what was the value of these grants.

(12) From what Tasmanian Government program were these ‘special compensation grants’ paid.

(13) (a) Why did these ‘special compensation grants’ attract tax liabilities; and (b) what was the tax rate on these ‘special compensation grants’.

(14) Why was the tax liability on these ‘special compensation grants’ paid by the Tasmanian Government considered to be a charge on a program (TFIDP) funded solely by the Australian Government.

 

 *171  Senator Milne: To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—Given that clause 4.71 of the Australian National Audit Office report no. 26 of 2007-08, Tasmanian Forest Industry Development and Assistance Programs (the report), refers to grants under the three programs for second hand equipment: For each program:

(1) (a) How many grants were made for second hand equipment 5 to 10 years old; and (b) to which grantees were these grants paid, and in each case: (i) what was the value of the grant, (ii) what equipment was purchased with the help of the grant, and (iii) what proof of purchase was provided.

(2) (a) How many grants were made for second hand equipment more than 10 years old; and (b) to which grantees were these grants paid, and in each case: (i) what was the value of the grant, (ii) what equipment was purchased with the help of the grant, and (iii) what proof of purchase was provided.

(3) (a) How many grants were made for second hand equipment for which the department had no record of the year or model of the equipment funded; and (b) to which grantees were these grants paid, and in each case: (i) what was the value of the grant, (ii) what equipment was purchased with the help of the grant, and (iii) what proof of purchase was provided.

*172  Senator Cormann: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs—

(1) What Indigenous communities (or trusts associated with Indigenous communities) receive royalty payments in excess of $500 000 per annum and, for each of these communities: (a) what was their resident population at the last official recording; (b) how many recipients of old age pensions were resident; and (c) how many recipients of a government working age payment were resident.

(2) Have any audits or other reviews of these communities been undertaken by the department to ensure that royalty payments are being used for the benefit of the community; if so, when did each review take place and what was its outcome.

(3) What oversight exists to ensure that royalty payments to Indigenous communities, and meant to benefit that community, are not simply paid out to one or more individuals within the community.

(4) Is the department aware of any cases of the age pension being withdrawn as a result of direct royalty payments exceeding allowable thresholds for pension benefits to continue; if so, how many cases and what was the date the pension was withdrawn.

(5) Given that significant royalty payments are being made to Indigenous communities, is the Minister satisfied that widespread breaches of pensions or other working age payments are not occurring; if so, what is the evidence that supports the Minister’s view.