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Notice given 13 December 2010

342  Senator Bob Brown: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs—

(1) Given that the Minister was reported to be leading a delegation of Members of Parliament (MPs) and journalists on his trip to Israel in December 2010, can a list be provided of who was in that delegation.

(2) Is the Minister aware of any private funding sources contributing to the travel and/or accommodation costs for people involved in this trip; if so, can details of the amounts be provided.

 

 (3) Did the Minister’s trip coincide with the Australia Israel Leadership Forum (AILF) trip to Israel for Australian MPs and journalists or was it one and the same; if it was separate to the AILF trip, can details be provided of which MPs attended the AILF trip, including: (a) the costs of the travel and accommodation; and (b) who paid.

(4) What was the itinerary of the Minister’s trip and, if it was separate to that of the Minister’s, the itinerary of the AILF trip.

343  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs—With reference to AusAID and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI):

(1) Can the Minister confirm that Australia is a supporter of the EITI and provides funds to assist other countries to implement the EITI while not doing so itself.

(2) Can the Minister confirm the EITI would require all mining, oil and gas companies operating in Australia to publicly publish payments made to the Australian Government (and possibly state and territory governments) and in turn oblige the Government to publish what it receives.

(3) (a) Can an outline be provided of what funds AusAID has allocated to supporting the EITI and who receives those funds; and (b) does the funding include consideration for a secretariat.

(4) Is the Australian Government considering the implementation of an EITI; if not, why not.

(5) Who has responsibility for Australia becoming an implementing country.

(6) Is the department aware the United States of America (US) Financial Reform Act requires all oil, gas and mining companies registered on the US Securities Exchange to disclose all revenue payments made to all governments when the country is operating on a country-by-country basis; and (b) will the department consider progressing similar legislation in Australia noting that such an initiative contributes towards improving the transparency of extractive industries’ payments and helps combat corruption; if not, why not.

(7) What is the Government’s position regarding the promotion of improved transparency and anti-corruption mechanisms as a G-20 agenda.

(8) Will the Australian Government be promoting the EITI at the next G-20.

344  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on 22 December 2010 )—With reference to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) and Burma: Has EFIC provided any services, assistance, funding or insurance to Australian companies investing or doing business in Burma; if so, can a detailed explanation be provided of those services.

345  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on 22 December 2010 )—Given that the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) has provided new loan support to West African mines and according to a media release on its website dated 30 August 2010, EFIC is providing a 4 year loan facility to the Australian business, African Underground Mining Services Pty Ltd (AUMS), for its contract underground mining operations in Ghana and Mali to the value of US$15 million:

 

 (1) On what date did EFIC sign the loan contract and the contract become valid.

(2) Did EFIC apply its environment policy to benchmark the application against International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards and the Equator Principles before making the decision to approve this loan facility to AUMS.

(3) Does one of the four contract mining agreements that AUMS has entered into relate to Newmont Mining Corporation’s Ahafo gold mine in Ghana, located in a farming region northwest of the country’s capital Accra.

(4) When EFIC approved this transaction, classifying it as a Category B project (rather than a Category A - significant impacts), was it aware of any controversy surrounding the Ahafo gold mine since its commencement in 2006.

(5) Can comment be provided on the following ‘known’ controversies associated with the Ahafo gold mine:

(a) allegations of human rights abuses by security forces protecting the mine;

(b) displacement of 10 000 people (95 per cent of whom were subsistence farmers);

(c) inadequate compensation;

(d) irresponsible practices; and

(e) a serious cyanide spill in October 2009.

(6) Was EFIC aware that a ministerial panel of the Government of Ghana has recommended that the Newmont Mining Corporation be fined US$4.9 million for failing to prevent a major cyanide spill in October 2009 at its Ahafo gold mine, and for failing to properly report on and investigate the spill.

346  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on 22 December 2010 )—With reference to the publication dated 18 August 2010 on the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) website which states that EFIC had signed a 10 year $50 million loan agreement with Australian business Orica Limited, to support the construction of an industrial grade ammonium nitrate plant in Indonesia: Why were the social and environmental impacts of this large scale project not considered to be significant enough to have the project classified as a ‘Category A’ under the EFIC environment policy.

347  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on 22 December 2010 )—With regard to the Australian Government’s loan of AU$548.55 million to support the development of the liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea (PNG LNG) in which the funds go to the project sponsor through Australia’s export credit agency, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC):

(1) How is EFIC monitoring the social and environmental impacts of the PNG LNG project; (b) what are the results of this monitoring; and (c) can a account be provided on how EFIC is monitoring: (i) project-related conflict, (ii) its impact on women, and (iii) the loss of livelihoods.

 

 (2) Has EFIC sought feedback from civil society on the progress and impact of the project.

(3) To comply with the Equator Principles and International Finance Corporation (IFC) Performance Standards, are EFIC and other financiers of the PNG LNG project obliged to engage an independent expert auditor for the life of the project.

(4) Was the United States company D’Appolonia appointed with the agreement of borrowers and lenders as the independent expert auditor for the PNG LNG project; if so: (a) on what date was D’Appolonia appointed; (b) how many reports by D’Appolonia has EFIC received to date; (c) how many reports has the department received to date; and (d) in its reports on the PNG LNG project compliance with Equator Principles and the IFC Performance Standards, has D’Appolonia identified any issues of non-compliance; if so, can these areas of non-compliance be specified.

(5) Have the PNG LNG project sponsors, who are receiving EFIC and Australian Government loan facilities, breached any loan covenants to date; if so, can the nature of any breaches be specified.

(6) Can an update be provided by EFIC on the implementation of the ‘Joint Understanding between Papua New Guinea and Australia on further cooperation between the PNG LNG Project’ (the Joint Understanding), including any progress on establishing a sovereign wealth fund.

(7) Given that point 13 from the Joint Understanding referred to terms of reference for the proposed subcommittee on extractive industries of the PNG LNG Ministerial forum: (a) can the Minister confirm whether the terms of reference have been agreed to; and (b) will the terms of reference be made public.

(8) Can an outline be provided of the key individuals within the department or the Australian Government providing advice on the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund.

(9) Can the Minister confirm whether ExxonMobil is providing advice on the sovereign wealth fund; if so, what is the nature of that advice.

348  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on 22 December 2010 )—With reference to the Export Finance Insurance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC), AusAID and the liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea (PNG LNG):

(1) What is AusAID’s role in the PNG LNG project.

(2) Does AusAID have a monitoring and advisory role; if so, how many reports has AusAID provided on PNG LNG and what was the nature of those reports.

(3) Given that in the past 6 months there has been more conflict in PNG in relation to this project, with the most recently reported attacks involving high-powered weapons occurring on Friday, 24 September 2010 at the site of an Australian contractor:

(a) can the Minister comment on reports in the PNG daily newspaper, The National , as well as local civil society groups, advising that the violence is a result of uprising of leaders from landowner groups within the project area who believe they have been excluded from the benefit sharing agreements; and

 

 (b) is the Minister aware that in July 2010 a dispute between warring factions from Moran, a lucrative site in the Southern Highlands province where part of the PNG LNG project is located, erupted in a gun battle at PNG’s main domestic airport, with the gunmen and a number of bystanders wounded.

(4) Can details be provided on the level of violence and security issues relating to this project over the past 12 months.

(5) Is any review process currently being employed by EFIC (or the Australian Government) to consider the escalation in security threats and project-associated violence; if so, can details of the review be provided.

(6) Given that on 12 November 2009 The National reported that Australia is assisting the PNG Government with the establishment and administration of the PNG LNG sovereign wealth fund and that AusAID’s chief economist would assist with economic modelling for the fund and provide guidelines for ideal use of government revenues: Can details be provided outlining:

(a) the guidelines for ideal use of the revenue entering the sovereign wealth fund; and

(b) the precise assistance or involvement the Australian Government has in the establishment of the sovereign wealth fund for PNG LNG revenues.

(7) Given that a security assessment for the LNG PNG project was completed by Control Risk Australia Pacific, which concluded that security risks will be manageable if their recommendations are implemented, can an outline of the recommendations be provided together with advice as to whether these recommendations have been implemented to date.

(8) In a recent ANZ report, the bank’s Chief Economist for Asia stated that the revenue boom from the PNG LNG project is a significant opportunity, but he warned that it will only lift the living standards for people of PNG if it is prudently managed, citing Botswana and Chile as examples of prudent management of resource revenues, while citing Nigeria as the opposite: Given this analysis:

(a) what evidence does EFIC and the Minister have that PNG has institutions in place to ‘prudently manage’ the revenue generated from the PNG LNG project; and

(b) is the Minister concerned that PNG, like Nigeria, has seeds of conflict already showing.

(9) Can an outline be provided of what the Australian Government will do if conflict in PNG escalates further.

(10) Noting the warning in the ANZ and D’Appolonia reports which cite that ‘fair and transparent distribution of project benefits to PNG stakeholders is a critical path-item’, why did EFIC or the Australian Government not make the EFIC project finance conditional on the adoption by the PNG Government of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).

(11) In relation to the relocation of 416 households during Phase 1 of the LNG PNG project, have:

(a) project sponsors complied with IFC Performance Standards; and

(b) resettlement action plans been disclosed to all communities.

 

 (12) Given that under section 8F of the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947 (the Act), the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade is required to report on international loans made under that Act and that in 2001, the Australian Government produced a National Interest Statement to be considered by the committee for an Australian Government loan of AU$133.2 million to PNG:

(a) why is an Australian export finance loan to ExxonMobil and other PNG LNG project proponents, valued at more than $500 million dollars, not subject to a National Interest Statement and review by the committee; and

(b) why was the Act in this instance not applicable.

349  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on 22 December 2010 )—Has the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC) provided any services, assistance, funding or insurance to Australian coal companies or coal projects operating overseas; if so, can details be provided of what has been provided, to which company and to what project; if not, can details be provided clarifying whether there is anything preventing coal projects or companies from accessing EFIC assistance in the future.

350  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on 13 January 2011 )—With reference to the 5 year environment and social policy review conducted by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC):

(1) What steps have been taken by EFIC to promote the current review.

(2) What kinds of efforts were made by way of consultation and encouraging public submissions.

(3) Has EFIC provided a public document outlining the review process and opportunities for consultation and engagement.

(4) What efforts were made to seek input from EFIC supported projects where communities have been affected, and from other stakeholders in host countries.

(5) In relation to the submissions received by EFIC as part of its review:

(a) how many have been received and from whom;

(b) will they be made public;

(c) will EFIC publish a public response to the submissions and recommendations received during the current review;

(d) will EFIC respond to these submissions beyond a letter of acknowledgement; and

(e) is there anything in the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 that prevents EFIC from responding to the substance contained in the submissions.

(6) Has EFIC engaged in a public forum or public hearing process during the review; if not, will EFIC hold such a public consultation event before approving the revised policy.

(7) Have the proposed new EFIC Social and Environment Policy and Procedure documents been reviewed by an independent corporate social responsibility expert during the review process.

 

 351  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade on 13 January 2011 )—With reference to the current environment policy and reporting procedures of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC), and drawing on examples of the export credit agencies operating in Canada, the United States of America (US) and Japan:

(1) In terms of establishing international benchmarks for the practice of export credit agencies and their environment policies, is it fair to compare EFIC to other export credit agencies such as Export Development Canada (EDC), Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im Bank) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC); if not, why not.

(2) Has EFIC adopted an environment policy that is consistent or comparative with the environment policies adopted by EDC, Ex-Im Bank and JBIC.

(3) Is EFIC complying with industry best practice; if so, can a copy of its guidelines, policies or standards outlining industry best practice be provided.

(4) Given that the EDC’s implementation and compliance with its Environmental Review Directive is reviewed every 5 years by the Auditor General of Canada:

(a) has EFIC’s implementation and compliance with its environment policy been independently reviewed and audited by the Australian Auditor-General or an independent third party in the past 5 years; and

(b) is there anything in the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 (the Act) that prevents the Australian Auditor-General performing this audit.

(5) Can the Minister confirm that the export credit agencies Ex-Im Bank and JBIC disclose monthly summaries of the minutes of meetings of the Board of Directors, in addition to media releases published, in order to provide a level of public accountability and to keep domestic stakeholders up to date with transactions.

(6) Does EFIC disclose summaries of its Board minutes to the Australian public; if not, is there anything in the Act that prevents EFIC from disclosing these summaries to the Australian public.

(7) Given that the Canadian export credit agency, EDC, has at least one corporate social responsibility (CSR) representative on the Board of Directors, does EFIC have a CSR representative/expert on their Board; if not, is there anything in the Act that prevents the appointment of a CSR representative/expert to the EFIC Board.

(8) With reference to the JBIC and Ex-Im Bank process, where, after receiving submissions on Category A projects, a summary of their benchmarking against International Finance Corporation Performance Standards is published to demonstrate compliance and transparency to domestic stakeholders:

(a) how many Category A projects did EFIC disclose in the 2009-10 financial year;

(b) does EFIC respond to public submissions on Category A projects beyond a letter of acknowledgement; if not, is there anything in the Act that prevents EFIC from responding to the substance contained in public submissions; and

 

 (c) does EFIC publish summaries of project benchmarking; if not, is there anything in the Act that prevents EFIC from disclosing summaries of project benchmarking.

353  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy—With reference to the Digital Switchover Taskforce and the Satellite Subsidy Scheme which will help households that rely on analog-only self-help towers to make the transition to the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) and, in particular, to the switchover process in remote Indigenous communities:

(1) Is it true that on or about 1 April 2010 the Minister wrote to remote Indigenous communities which run analog television (TV) self-help transmission facilities and mentioned that one of their options for converting to digital television was to set up a digital self-help TV transmission facility; if so, can a copy of that letter (redacted as necessary to protect privacy) be provided.

(2) What assistance could the department have provided those communities to assess the option of setting up their own digital self-help transmission facility.

(3) What kind of financial assistance and information has been provided to inform homes within remote communities to assess the option of converting to the new VAST satellite.

(4) What type of research has the department done on remote Indigenous communities in relation to the following:

(a) the average number of TV sets and recorder devices in homes which need to be converted to digital;

(b) the extent of insertion of local material into local self-help TV transmissions; and

(c) the extent to which only indoor TV set top aerials are needed for current terrestrial TV reception.

(5) (a) Can the Minister confirm that the per-home subsidy available to remote Indigenous homes to convert to the VAST satellite may vary from approximately $550 to $980; and (b) what was the nature of the consultations that took place with remote Indigenous community viewers to determine these figures.

(6) During the 2010-11 Budget estimates the department reported there was only one model of VAST set top box available at a cost of approximately $269, whereas the Minister said at the same time that an equivalent high definition terrestrial set top box costs approximately $80. Given that portable indoor aerials for terrestrial TV reception are less expensive than satellite dishes and mounts: Can the Minister confirm whether the total private and public subsidy cost of converting homes in remote Indigenous communities to digital via satellite is nearly always likely to be more expensive than converting by terrestrial means.

(7) Will new homes in remote Indigenous communities be faced with the full extra cost of VAST after the satellite subsidy period expires.

(8) Given that homes across the remote central and eastern remote areas of Australia will have access to the new VAST free-to-air satellite platform from 15 December 2010, and that remote Indigenous homes in Queensland will be invited to opt into the Government’s per home subsidy scheme to assist them to convert to satellite in April 2011, what is the Government doing to assist remote Indigenous communities to develop robust digital self-help facility designs and to compare the overall benefits of converting to digital via VAST satellite or digital self-help terrestrial means before these other key deadlines.

355  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy—With reference to analog self-help retransmission towers in remote areas:

(1) Did the department examine the possibility of upgrading self-help facilities in remote areas.

(2) Was a cost benefit analysis undertaken.

(3) What did any examinations or analyses referred to in paragraphs (1) and (2) cover and what were their findings.

(4) What are the ongoing maintenance costs associated with satellite service in remote areas.

(5) How do these costs compare with ongoing costs associated with using digital retransmission facilities instead of direct-to-the-home satellite.

(6) (a) Under what circumstances will remote communities be given assistance to upgrade their self-help retransmission towers; and (b) for what assistance would they be eligible.

(7) Given that a number of organisations have publicly called for the Satellite Subsidy Scheme (SSS) to allow for individual household subsidies to be pooled and the money used to upgrade self-help retransmission towers for whole communities, has the department examined this suggestion; if so, what were the department’s findings.

(8) How many households would a community need to include before the cost of providing SSS payments exceeded the cost of upgrading retransmission facilities to digital.

(9) How many communities meet or exceed this size amongst those that are to receive digital television via satellite if their retransmission facilities are not converted to digital.

(10) In areas where the size of the community means that it would be more expensive for the Commonwealth to convert retransmission facilities to digital than to pay eligible households SSS payments, what scope is there for local governments to contribute the difference (i.e. to partner with the Commonwealth to cover the cost of converting retransmission facilities).

(11) How would an interested local government body or other local organisation initiate such an arrangement.

356  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy—With reference to the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and, in particular, p. 13 of the SBS Corporate Plan 2010-2013 (the Corporate Plan):

(1) What are the brief definitions of ‘government base funding’ and ‘government appropriation’ for SBS.

(2) (a) How is government base funding for SBS determined; and (b) is there a requirement for the Government to fund SBS according to a specific method; if so, what is that requirement and where can it be found.

(3) (a) How is any amount greater than government base funding determined; and (b) is there any requirement on the Government to fund SBS for an amount greater than government base funding; if so, what will determine that.

 

 (4) If advertisements on SBS television were restricted to be placed before or after programs only, and not in a program:

(a) by what amount (in both dollars and percentages) does SBS estimate government base funding would need to be increased in order to maintain the same total revenue for each of the financial years from 2010-11 to 2014-15 (see p. 13 of the Corporate Plan); or

(b) alternatively, if there was no increase in Government funding, what amounts (in both dollars and percentages) does SBS estimate would be lost in each financial year from 2010-11 to 2014-15, of:

(i) television (only) advertising revenue, and

(ii) total SBS advertising and sponsorship revenue.

(5) If advertisements on SBS television were allowed during live-to-air sports programs (as occurred in programs such as the Tour de France, the FIFA World Cup, etc) but were not allowed in all other programs and were permitted before or after every program, what amounts (in both dollars and percentages):

(a) of television (only) advertising and sponsorship revenue does SBS believe would be lost in each financial year from 2010-11 to 2014-15;

(b) of total SBS advertising and sponsorship revenue does SBS believe would be lost in each financial year from 2010-11 to 2014-15; and

(c) would government base funding need to be increased by in order to maintain the total revenue for each of the financial years from 2010-11 to 2014-15 (see p. 13 of the Corporate Plan).

(6) In the ‘Advertising and Sponsorship’ figures for each of the financial years from 2010-11 to 2014-15 (see p. 13 of the Corporate Plan), what amounts (in both dollars and percentages) account for:

(a) television (only) advertising and sponsorship revenue; and

(b) radio (only) advertising and sponsorship revenue.

(7) If advertisements on SBS television and radio were only allowed between programs, by what amounts (in both dollars and percentages) does SBS estimate government base funding would need to be increased in order to maintain the total revenue for each of the financial years from 2010-11 to 2014-15 (see p. 13 of the Corporate Plan).

(8) If advertisements on SBS television and radio were restricted to before or after programs only, what amounts (in both dollars and percentages) of total SBS advertising and sponsorship revenue does SBS estimate would be lost in each of the financial years from 2010-11 to 2014-15.

(9) For the financial years from 2007 to 2010, what amount (in both dollars and percentages) of all advertising revenue can be attributed solely to television advertising and sponsorship revenue over that 3 year period.

(10) For the financial years from 2007 to 2010, what amounts (in both dollars and percentages) of television advertising and sponsorship revenue, can be directly attributed to advertisements in sports programs only, for example, the Tour de France, the FIFA World Cup, etc. (Please do not include sports segments that are in non-sports programs, for example, do not include the sports segment within a news broadcast).

(11) If the placement of advertisements on SBS television were restricted, as outlined in paragraphs (11)(a) and (11)(b) below, what method or methods (irrespective of the dollar values at any given time), would SBS suggest might be useful as a guide to current and future governments in considering how to cover a potential loss of advertising revenue in future years due to a restriction that provided for:

(a) advertisements on television to be placed between programs only and not in them; and

(b) in-program television advertisements to be placed only in live-to-air sports programs (as occurred in programs such as the Tour de France, the FIFA World Cup, etc) but, for all other programs in-program television advertisements were prohibited and television advertisements were permitted to be placed before or after programs.

(12) If there are legislative restrictions placed on advertising on SBS, would SBS be in favour or against substituting revenue from advertising, for funding from the Government of the same amount.

357  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Finance and Deregulation ( transferred to the Minister representing the Special Minister of State on 20 December 2010 )—With reference to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC):

(1) Who makes the decision on what issues are covered in voter education and information provided by the AEC.

(2) What steps did the AEC take, in the lead up to the 2010 federal election, to explain to electors how the preferential voting system works.

(3) During the 2010 federal election a booklet was mailed to householders that contained approximately eight pages of information about how voters could physically and practically cast a valid vote, however there was no information contained in the document as to why each of the boxes are numbered, or what that means and its effect, i.e. there was no explanation of the preferential voting system: Why does the AEC not include this detail in its material sent to voters.

(4) In light of the apparent misconceptions about preferences amongst voters, particularly in the lower house, can the Minister confirm whether the AEC will endeavour to better educate and inform voters about how our electoral process actually works in the future.