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Thursday, 16 May 1968

The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:

Postal Department (Question No. 33)

Mr Devine asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice:

1.   Did he receive a letter some time ago marked Personal' and addressed 'Dear Alan' asking what were his Department's intentions in relation to premises occupied by it at 310 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest, New South Wales?

2.   Did this inquirer seek information because be was interested in obtaining the site for business purposes?

3.   Did the inquirer say that for his own information, he would be happy if you would let him know what was the present intention, and if it was intended to dispose of the property, what procedure for disposal would be adopted?

4.   Did the inquirer also seek measurements of the property and any valuations which had been made in connection with it?

5.   Did the inquirer say that he had a standing arrangement with a former Postmaster-General that he would let him know what the Department's intention was with regard to the future of the land?

6.   Did he at the time regard this request for information in confidence as in any way improper; if so, what action did he take?

7.   What was the name of the inquirer?

Mr Hulme - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

1.   Yes, a letter was received on 21st January 1964. It is not unusual to receive correspondence from senators and members in such form, particularly when it is a general inquiry on behalf of a group of persons or where information is personally desired by the member.

2.   Yes.

3.   Yes. The inquirer was informed that when the property became surplus to Post Office requirements it would be referred to the Department of the Interior for disposal in the usual manner.

4.   Yes. He was informed that no valuation had been made by the Commonwealth.

5.   Yes. The inquirer was told that the premises were still required by the Post Office at the time.

6.   I regarded the approach as 'personal', not confidential' and certainly not improper. This is verified by the letter being on the departmental file and consequently available to the honouable member's informer. No preference was asked and none was given.

7.   The inquiry was personal.

Hearing Aids (Question No. .181)

Mr Scholes asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

1.   What arrangements exist for pensioners who desire to avail themselves of hearing aids made available in the last Budget?

2.   Will pensioners be compensated for any fares and accommodation costs which may be involved in having a bearing aid fitted?

3.   Is there a centre in Geelong which will fit and maintain bearing aids?

4.   If not, is it contemplated that such a service will be made available in the immediate future?

Dr Forbes - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

1.   The Government's scheme to provide hearing aids for pensioners and their dependants commenced on 1st April 1968, in the metropolitan area of Adelaide and Newcastle. The scheme will bc extended to other capital cities and to certain large provincial centres by 1st June 1968. Regular visits by staff of the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories to other provincial towns and cities will also be made when the scheme is fully operational. Pensioners in the 65-69 years age group are being tested in the opening stages and as soon as practicable testing will be extended to all other age groups of pensioners and their dependants.

In the areas where the scheme is in operation, pensioners who think they might be in need of hearing assistance should obtain an application form and then consult their doctor. These forms are available from offices of the Commonwealth Department of Health and the Department of Social Services, from outpatient departments of large hospitals and from pensioner organisations.

If the doctor considers that a pensioner has a hearing defect which might be assisted by a hearing aid and he endorses the application form accordingly, the Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratories arranges an appointment for a hearing test and assessment to see if a hearing aid would be of assistance. In cases where the assessment shows a hearing aid would be of benefit, an aid is fitted by the staff of the Laboratories and the pensioner is given all necessary instruction and assistance to obtain the best use from it.

Hearing aids are issued on loan for a hiring charge of $10 for each aid supplied. This charge also covers all normal repairs and maintenance without further cost to the recipient. Aids are issued with batteries fitted but replacement batteries, which are readily available from normal commercial sources, are a personal responsibility. The hiring charge of $10 is also made for an aid issued to replace one that has been lost or damaged bayond repair, but does not apply in the following circumstances:

(i)   Where an aid is unsuitable or unsatisfactory for technical reasons and is exchanged for another one.

(ii)   Where a more powerful aid is required because of changes in hearing ability. This could involve a change from Type E to Type T.

2.   My Department does not have authority to compensate pensioners for fares and accommodation costs incurred in connection with their attendance at a Commonwealth Acoustic Laboratory. 3 and 4. An acoustic laboratory has been established in the Commonwealth Offices at Geelong but is not in continuous operation. This laboratory is visited by staff from the Melbourne laboratory to give services to children and exservicemen. Pensioners will be tested at Geelong and fitted with hearing aids when the scheme comes into operation in that area. Maintenance for hearing aids will also be available for pensioners at the Geelong laboratory.

Cost of Illness (Question No. 187)

Dr Everingham asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

Canhe state, or will he provide facilities to find in conjunction with the Senate Committee concerned -

(a)   what is the cost of illness per head to Australians including (i) lost income training and promotion, (ii) lost production, population and development, (iii) home and other help employed because of incapacity of the employer or his family or employees, (iv) government, World Health Organisation, overseas and charitable organisations' payments, including government-subsidised home nursing, care and special education for the handicapped, etc., (v) health insurance premiums, (vi) fares for patients, attendants and hospital visitors, including government-issued travel passes, (vii) maintenance while in or visiting hospitals and convalescent homes, less maintenance costs for similar periods when not in hospital, etc. and (viii) other costs, and

(b)   what percentage of these costs is incurred (i) on the patients' initiative and/or (ii) on professional advice when the patient thereby (iii) loses or (iv) gainsfinancially?

Dr Forbes - The information requested is not available and on some particular aspects would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain. Should the Senate Committee concerned request any information every endeavour will be made to satisfy that request.

Employment (Question No, 191)

Mr Scholes asked the Minister for

Labour and National Service, upon notice:

1.   Is it a fact that large scale dismissals are taking place in Victorian meatworks as a direct result of recent rain?

2.   Will he give urgent consideration to the ways in which employment can be found for those dismissed, especially those in country areas?

Mr Bury - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

1.   In Victoria, it is customary for employment in the meat industry to decline seasonally during April. The decline is more pronounced this year because employment had been at unusually high levels due to the large number of stock being offered earlier in the year for slaughtering. Recent rains, however, substantially reduced the flow of stock to meatworks.

2.   The Commonwealth Employment Service is giving particular attention to the meat industry and especially to helping those who seek its assistance to secure alternative employment.

Telephone Services (Question No. 220)

Mr O'Connor asked the Postmaster-

General, upon notice:

What was the number of outstanding applications for telephones in the Sydney telephone districts LM, WB and MW at the end of December in each of the years 1965, 1966 and 1967?

Mr Hulme - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

It has been assumed that by outstanding applications for telephones the honourable member is referring to deferred applications, that is, those on which service cannot be offered pending major extensions of plant. On this basis the information sought by the honourable member is as follows:


Defence Equipment (Question No. 87)

Mr Whitlam asked the Minister for

Defence, upon notice: !. Which countries have placed restrictions on the use or replenishment of (a) defence equipment which Australia has bought from them or (b) similar defence equipment which other countries have bought fromthem?

2.   What is the nature of the equipment and the restrictions?

Mr Fairhall - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows: 1. (a) Sweden

(b)   It would not be appropriate for the Australian Government to comment on the arms sales policies of other Governments in relation to third parties.

2.   The Carl Gustaf 84 mm anti-tank gun. This is a light weight man portable anti-tank weapon used by infantry battalions. It has a secondary role as an assault weapon. Sweden has declined to allow the export of further weapons, spares or ammunition to Australia. The supply of anti-tank ammunition for this weapon is unlikely to present any problem for the Australian Army.

Armed Forces Pay and Allowances (Question No. 120)

Mr J R Fraser asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

1.   Hasthe Government received reports indicating that serving members of the Forces stationed in Canberra are finding it extremely difficult to live on their service pay and allowances?

2.   Can he say whether serving members, particularly in the lower ranks, find it impossible to maintain their wives and families unless they themselves are able to secure other employment or their wives go out to work?

3.   Will he have inquiries made on Navy, Army and Air Force establishments to ascertain whether it might be necessary to pay an area allowance in order to onset the high cost of living in Canberra?

Mr Fairhall - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

1.   No.

2.   There is no evidence that the proportion of married servicemen or their wives seeking to supplement the family income by engaging in civil employment is any higher in Canberra than in other areas where such employment is available.

3.   Pay and allowances of servicemen are continually under review. They are broadly aligned with rates payable in the community generally with the addition of elements to compensate for factors associated with Service life. At present these elements for married servicemen are of the order of $1,050 per year for other ranks, and $900 per year for officers below the rank of brigadier. There are no special factors which call for a review of allowances for servicemen stationed in the Canberra area.

Vietnam (Question No. 149)

Mr Uren asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice:

Is he able to say (a) how many civilians have been killed in South Vietnam, (b) how many United States servicemen have been (i) killed and (ii) wounded, (c) how many South Vietnamese Government Forces have been (i) killed and (ii) wounded, (d) how many Australian soldiers have been (i) killed and (ii) wounded and (e) what is the estimated number of National Liberation Front and North Vietnamese Forces killed since the commencement of the Tet offensive on 30 January by the National Liberation Front and North Vietnamese Forces?

Mr Fairhall - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

Casualties from the beginning of the Tet offensive up to 14th April 1968 were:



Taxation (Question No. 239)

Mr Crean asked the Treasurer, upon notice:

1.   How many organisations, appeals or funds in Australia have been approved so that donations to them are deductible items for income tax purposes?

3.   Will he provide a list of the names of these organisations, etc.?

3.   What is the estimated loss of taxation revenue to the Treasury resulting from the deductibility of donations to approved institutions in Australia?

Mr McMahon - The answers to the honourable member's questions are as follows:

1.   It is estimated that there are in the vicinity of 10,000 funds, authorities or institutions currently approved for the purposes of section 78 (1) (a) of the Income Tax Assessment Act.

3.   The Commissioner of Taxation has advised that a consolidated list of such organisations is not presently available. The production of such a publication would be costly and would in any event require frequent amendment because of additions to and deletions from the list of approved bodies. Organisations which solicit public support are generally well aware of the tax position and may normally be relied on to advise donors if a taxation concession is available.The various taxation offices will also readily indicate to an inquirer whether a particular gift qualifies as an allowable deduction.

3.   Statistics of deductions allowed for gifts approved for the purposes of section 78 (1) (a) are tabulated only periodically. The latest available statistics are for the 1963-64 income year for individuals and the 1962-63 income yearfor companies. The estimated cost to revenue of allowing deductions for gifts in those years was as follows: 1962- 63 Income year - Companies$1. 8m. 1963- 64 Income year - Individuals$ 10.0m.

Transport of Handicapped Persons

Mr Fairhall - On 21st March 1968 the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Buchanan) directed to me as Minister representing the Minister for Supply a question concerningthe transport of handicapped persons. The Minister for Supply has now provided the following answer to the honourable gentleman's question:

The current practice is for drivers to lift, or assist, wheelchair patients into vehicles, but where patients are too heavy to be moved in this way, arrangements are made for ambulances to be provided. We are hopeful that the South Australian experiment will be successful, and that this type of vehicle will be introduced progressively so as to eliminate the lifting of the less heavy cases where ambulances are not used.

Pensions (Question No. 99)

Mr Minogue asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:

With respect to the review of social service pensions payable to persons who are in receipt also of a Commonwealth Public Service superannuation pension, what number of age, invalid and widows' pensions were (a) reduced and (b) cancelled and what was the total amount of reduced liability per annum in each case?

Mr Wentworth - The information requested by the honourable member in respect of the adjustments to age, invalid and widows' pensions as a result of recent increases in Commonwealth Superannuation payments is set out in the following table:


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