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Notice given 16 March 2011

439  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport—With reference to travel behaviour change programs:

(1) How many positions are currently employed within the department specifically related to encouraging active transport, such as walking and cycling.

(2) Can information be provided outlining the history of funding and the national approach to travel behaviour change programs.

(3) Can an outline be provided of the current pool of funding and resources for a nationally coordinated approach to travel behaviour change programs, for example:

(a) are there dedicated TravelSmart behaviour change programs within each state and territory; and

(b) how does the Commonwealth invest in them.

(4) To what extent is investment in active transport infrastructure, as a conditional requirement of all Commonwealth funded urban road and passenger transport projects, being promoted within the department, including, for example, shared/cycling paths, end of trip facilities and public transport nodes.

(5) Transport behaviour change programs bring together a range of mutual benefits for our transport and health systems - with the new Australian National Preventive Health Agency established in 2010, has there been any effort to link these common agendas; if so, how; if not, why not.

442  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy—With reference to public Internet access in Pukatja (also known as Ernabella), the largest Aboriginal community in South Australia:

(1) When does the department expect public Internet access will become available in Pukatja.

(2) What proportion of people living on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands in South Australia currently have free public Internet access.


 444  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy—With reference to digital television access in remote communities:

(1) Can the Minister confirm writing to around 140 remote Indigenous communities that run analogue television self-help transmission facilities, on or about 1 April 2010, to advise them of the options they had for converting to digital.

(2) Is it a fact that one of the options provided in that letter was for the communities to set up a digital self-help television transmission facility.

(3) In regard to a letter I received on 21 December 2010 indicating that the special equipment required to set up a Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) fed digital terrestrial facility would only become available in January 2011, could the department state exactly what assistance it might have provided those Indigenous communities to assess the option of setting up their own digital self-help transmission facility.

(4)  As a comparison, can an outline be provided of what the department and the Government have done to financially assist and inform homes within those communities to assess the option of converting to the new VAST satellite.

(5) Is it a fact that, for 16 of the above remote Indigenous communities in North and far North Queensland, pressure is being exerted for them to finally decide, by 28 February, whether the households within those communities will convert to Direct-To-Home (DTH) from the new VAST satellite platform or set up their own digital terrestrial self-help transmission facility.

(6) In developing the new VAST satellite platform and the Satellite Subsidy Scheme (SSS), announced nearly a year ago, what assessments had the department undertaken on remote Indigenous communities to develop knowledge about the:

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

(b) way in which Indigenous people watch television, particularly during the summer months when it is very hot inside homes;

(c) extent of insertion of local material into local self-help television transmissions; and

(d) extent to which indoor, cheap set top aerials only are needed for current terrestrial television reception.

(7) I understand that the per home subsidy available to homes in, so called, remote Indigenous communities in Queensland to convert to the VAST satellite is $980, however, if an Indigenous home is located elsewhere in Queensland (for example, Quilpie or Normanton) the subsidy will be either $550 or $700 respectively - can an explanation be provided regarding the reasons for the difference, including exactly what consultation took place with remote Indigenous viewers when determining these figures. 

(8) At Estimates in May 2010, the department stated that the only currently available model of a VAST set top box cost approximately $269 (a cost now estimated at $280), whereas the Minister stated at the same time that an equivalent High Definition terrestrial set top box cost approximately $80, indicating that portable indoor aerials for terrestrial television reception are clearly less expensive than satellite dishes and mounts - is it therefore a fact that the total private and public subsidy cost of homes in remote Indigenous communities converting to digital via satellite is nearly always likely to be significantly more expensive than converting by terrestrial means. 

(9) Is it a fact that, after the satellite subsidy period expires, all new or replacement homes in remote Indigenous communities will be faced with the full, extra cost of VAST direct from satellite reception and that this will nearly always be more expensive than equivalent digital terrestrial reception.

(10) Is it a fact that no businesses or public facilities in remote Indigenous communities, such as schools, health clinics and community facilities, will be eligible for the VAST satellite conversion subsidy.

(11) What cost benefit studies has the department undertaken to compare, for example, the 10 year, full private and public cost of converting remote Indigenous communities (including new homes and businesses) to digital via VAST satellite or self-help digital terrestrial means and can details of any such cost benefit study be provided.

(12) What is the view of the department regarding the ongoing private cost of maintaining satellite dishes and, in particular, smart cards for the VAST set top boxes in remote Indigenous communities.

(13) Has the department conducted a detailed survey following the two recent cyclones in far North Queensland regarding the impact of cyclonic winds on individual DTH satellite dish installations.

(14) If Queensland local councils and remote Indigenous communities are being required to choose between DTH VAST or digital terrestrial self-help by 28 February and remote Indigenous homes in Queensland will be invited to opt into the Government’s per home subsidy scheme to assist them in converting to satellite on 20 April, 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 deadlines.

(15) Will the Government consider allowing remote Indigenous communities to pool their per home satellite subsidy payments and use this total amount to help pay for the establishment of a digital terrestrial self-help transmission facility; if not, what exactly is the basis for such a position.

449  Senator Ludlam: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities ( transferred to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence on 29 March 2011 )—With reference to Operation Talisman Sabre 2011:

(1) In regard to the Talisman Sabre exercises, what will be the actual cost to the department of the exercises, for example, clean-up operations, monitoring, herding dugongs out of the live fire area etc.

(2) In regard to the AECOM public environment report (PER) concerning the exercises, for which the public comment period closed on 10 December 2010:

(a) how are the unlikely scenarios for which the exercises are intended to prepare the Australian Defence Force (ADF), such as nuclear warfare, weighed up with the actual damage done to the marine and terrestrial environment;


 (b) to what extent has the projected or potential impact on the area in which the exercises are to be conducted and, in particular, Queensland’s Shoalwater Bay region, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the Coral Sea, been assessed,

(c) who conducted the assessment in paragraph (b);

(d) what were the outcomes of the assessment in paragraph (b);

(e) what assessment has been carried out of the impact of the floods in Rockhampton and the cyclone around Cowley Beach;

(f) if no assessment has been carried out in relation to paragraph (e), why not;

(g) to what extent have the impacts of the floods and cyclone in Queensland altered the planning for the exercises; and

(h) based on the understanding that the Great Barrier Reef and other marine environments have been damaged by the recent extreme weather conditions and given the intense naval activity associated with the exercises, will the department consider postponing the exercises in order to give the region an opportunity to recover; if not, why not.

(3) In regard to the rights of traditional owners:

(a) to what extent has the department, representatives of any other government agency, or the ADF consulted with the Darumbal people, the traditional owners of the Shoalwater Bay area, on the use of Shoalwater Bay for these exercises or any other training exercises;

(b) if there has been consultation, what was the outcome of that consultation; and

(c) if there has not been consultation, why not and will the department consult with the Darumbal people prior to the commencement of the exercises.

(4) In regard to nuclear and chemical risks, the PER acknowledged that live firing can cause environmental contamination:

(a) are military activities exempt from the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 ;

(b) what guarantee can be given that contamination of the natural environment will not occur as a result of the exercises;

(c) will toxic materials such as red phosphorus marine markers, seawater ballast containing introduced species and ship-board waste be introduced into the environment in connection with the exercises; and

(d) will depleted uranium armaments be used during the exercises.

(5) In regard to the use of white phosphorous and explosives that contaminate groundwater, and given that perchlorate, the primary ingredient in rocket fuel, has been found to have contaminated groundwater in 20 United States of America (US) states as a result of its use at rocket test site, military bases and production plants, that it has been linked to thyroid conditions, birth defects and problems with newborn development and that reports indicate it has contaminated food supplies in some parts of the US:

(a) will perchlorate be used during the exercises;

(b) what measures will be taken to ensure perchlorate does not contaminate the marine environment or groundwater in the surrounding area;


 (c) what testing has been done to monitor whether the groundwater at Waterpark Creek, Queensland, has been contaminated by perchlorate;

(d) will white phosphorus, TNT or RDX be used in the exercises; and

(e) to what extent will heavy metals, including mercury and lead, be dispersed into the environment during the exercises.

(6) In regard to sonar risks, the PER notes that active and passive sonar will be used:

(a) can it be confirmed that mid to low frequency sonar is associated with whale beachings, brain haemorrhaging, and disruption to breeding cycles;

(b) given that the PER states that ‘Australia and the United States are committed to environmental stewardship and take the need to protect marine mammals from the effects of underwater sound sources very seriously’ - can the Minister confirm that the US Navy has exemptions from US legislation designed to protect endangered species and to allow their use of sonar virtually anywhere;

(c) is the Minister aware that in 2008 environmentalists in the US took the US Navy to the US Supreme Court to try to stop them using sonar during the Talisman Sabre 2007 exercises in Hawaii because intense sound waves can harm or even kill 37 marine mammals, including sea lions and endangered whales;

(d) what guarantee can the department provide that sonar use during the exercises will not have adverse affects on marine life, including the beaching of whales, brain haemorrhaging in cetaceans and disruption to breeding cycles;

(e) how will the impacts of sonar on whales and mammals be measured during the exercises;

(f) how can the Minister guarantee the war games have not killed or injured cetaceans unless affected animals wash up on shore;

(g) what measures will be taken to mitigate any detrimental impacts of sonar on marine life during the exercises; and

(h) measured from the vessels in yards, how far can the sonar currently being used in the exercises travel, given that the PER proposes that sonar will be suspended if a whale is sighted within 1 000 to 4 000 yards from a ship.

(7) In regard to the PER, which states that the exercises will destroy 2 hectares undersea in Shoalwater Bay and create significant noise and residue, and that ‘the risk of psychological harm to marine fauna’ is of concern:

(a) what is the anticipated psychological impact on marine fauna; and

(b) what resources and services will be provided to address the concerns for psychological harm to marine fauna.

(8) Given that Shoalwater Bay is home to the east coast of Australia’s biggest endangered dugong population, the PER states the animals will have to be moved away and that during the 2010-11 Supplementary Budget Estimates hearings of the Environment and Communications Legislation Committee it was described that large marine animals would be ushered out of the area:

(a) how many dugongs live in the affected area;

(b) what percentage could reasonably be expected to be ushered out of the area; and


 (c) what other measures are being undertaken to protect marine life from the effects of excessive sound caused by the exercises.

(9) In regard to noise and impacts on the local community:

(a) what has been done to protect the community of Byfield, Queensland, near the designated live firing range, or any other community in the area, from the risk of fire being caused in nearby forest;

(b) what measures will be taken to avoid excessive noise in habituated areas;

(c) will the US and Australian military honour edicts regarding flight paths to avoid excessive noise in habituated areas; and

(d) can a guarantee be provided that 2 hectares is the maximum area that will be directly affected.

(10) In regard to waste and water dumping, what measures will be in place to ensure that:

(a) ballast water carrying introduced species will not be dumped in the marine environment; and

(b) shipboard waste, which can starve, amputate, maim and infect marine life, will not be dumped in the marine environment but be disposed of properly.

(11) In regard to social or political impacts that question the rationale behind the exercises:

(a) do the exercises require state or federal environmental impact statements or assessments to be formally assessed by the Commonwealth or state governments;

(b) what independent mechanisms of assessment on the conduct of the exercises are in place;

(c) will the department conduct an analysis of the social impacts of the exercises; if not, why not; and

(d) will the department conduct an analysis of the potential political impact of the exercises in the region in the current geo-strategic environment; if not, why not.