10 June 1975

29th Parliament · 1st Session

The PRESIDENT- On the matters relating to the Joint House Department, I shall see that each aspect is examined very closely and I shall report back to the Senate. I can say that the Joint House Department is seeking more staff to facilitate rostering for work on the information desks, and I think that this was the reason for the advertisements that have been referred to. It is the intention to man the information desk from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on sitting days and to 5 p.m. on nonsitting days for 7 days a week. Arrangements are under way to employ extra staff for the book stall to overcome the difficulty there. That is all the information that I can give to the Senate at the moment.

Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 12.1 a.m. (Wednesday)

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The following answers to questions were circula

Trail-bike Riding (Question No. 550)

1 ) On what basis did the Department of the Capital Territory determine that sections of the Mount Stromlo forest would be able to be used for trail-bike riding.

Did the Department consider possible damage to the topsoil, flora and fauna of the area.

3 ) Will the Department review the situation in the light of (a) widespread soil erosion and damage to natural water courses and (b) the destruction of the habitat of kangaroos, wallabies and other native animals which used to inhabit the area.

Will the Department review the ban on persons entering the area except for the purpose of trail-bike riding.

1 ) In 1972 complaints received by the Department from residents about indiscriminate use of trail-bikes near houses prompted the search for areas where trail-bikes could be accommodated without disturbance to residents. Management of forest recreation also required separation of trailbikes from some other incompatible recreational activities.

The Department conducted an assessment of forests to locate areas suitable for use by trail-bikes. The selection criteria were: approximately 100 to I SO hectares in area; well-buffered from houses to prevent noise nuisance; quickly and easily accessible from city areas; a range of topography from gentle to steep and rough to cater for beginners and experienced riders; a surface likely to be able to stand the impact of trail-bike disturbance.

The Mt Stromlo Trail-Bike Area was selected as a pilot area to provide information on impact and management of a trail-bike area.

Yes, the Department did consider the risk of damage to topsoil, flora and fauna. The good tree cover of the area was considered an advantage in minimising erosion and noise effects.

Use of and damage to the area have been assessed periodically since the area was opened to trail-bike riders. Only small damage has occurred which has been corrected from time to time by excluding riders from damaged areas. There is no indication whatever of reduction in profitability of the forest as a result of current use levels. Observations from periodic impact assessments and routine management inspections indicate no apparent change in use of the area by kangaroos and wallabies.

The Department’s view is that the prime values of this rough, remote area are achieved by present arrangements. The Department provides public general access to some 10 000 hectares of plantation and 30 000 hectares of native forest. The zoning of sections of the forest is considered essential for maximum safe use of the forest for the greater range of activities. Exclusion of users other than trail-bikes from the 120 hectares assists in avoiding conflicing use of the remaining 2000 hectares of Mt Stromlo forest and in the other natural areas around the city. It is estimated that 10 000 user visits were made to the area in 1974. The Department will continue to monitor the area which has created strong interest as a recreational facility throughout Australia.

Australian Humanitarian Aid to Vietnam

Is it a fact, as reported in a section of today’s press, that the Australian Government did not send aircraft to Vietnam for humanitarian relief purposes recently until after a request was made by the United States Secretary of State, Dr Kissinger?

The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

On 29 March the United States Charge called on the Department of Foreign Affairs and requested assistance from the Government of Australia for what was hoped to be a multi-national effort to uplift a large number of refugees from the war zone around Da Nang. In readily responding to this request the Government noted its humanitarian aim and that it had the support of the Government of the Republic of Vietnam. Immediately RAAF aircraft at Butterworth were placed on standby and six CI30’s left Australia within 8 hours of the request.

Of course, humanitarian assistance to Indo-China had been made available previously through international agencies and, on this and earlier occasions, Australia’s response to the vast human problems created by the fighting in Vietnam was equally prompt and generous. The aircraft were not able to be used at Da Nang but remained in the area and fulfilled a wide variety of humanitarian tasks.

Letters to the Governments in Hanoi and Saigon

The question is:

Is it a fact that on or about 1 May or 2 May copies of letters dated 13 March addressed to Hanoi and Saigon- I think to the Ambassadors or the Foreign Ministers of those countries -were released to the public and to the press? Was that releasing done with the authority of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Minister? If so, why was it done, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister had earlier told the Parliament that it was not proper to release cables?

The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:

The letters sent by the Australian Government on 13 March to the then President of the Republic of Vietnam and to the Foreign Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam were not officially released on 1 or 2 May to the public and to the press.

Gamal El Surani

The Minister will recollect that some weeks ago he informed the Senate of the movement of the gentlemen from Cairo representing the Palestine Liberation Organisation and the Arab League. My question is in three parts. I ask: Firstly, are those gentlemen travelling on diplomatic passports? Secondly, if they are travelling on diplomatic passports, who issued those diplomatic passports? Thirdly, if those gentlemen are travelling on diplomatic passports is that not a breach of the Vienna Convention.

In my answer to the honourable senator, I took it that his question related to the visit by Mr El Surani. I said that Mr El Surani was scheduled to arrive in Australia in early June, that he was first visiting India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, that the visit did not involve Government sponsorship and that the Government had received no indication whether the PLO or other organisations would request visas for further visits to Australia. My understanding at the time was that Mr El Surani was not travelling on a diplomatic passport.

The following additional information is provided in answer to the three parts of the senator’s question:

  1. and (ii) According to information now available from the Australian Embassy in Cairo, senior members of the Arab League Secretariat are normally issued with diplomatic passports by the country in which they reside. Consistent with this policy, Mr El Surani is travelling on an Egyptian diplomatic passport which describes him as a representative of the Arab League.
  2. This is not in breach of the Vienna Convention. According to the Convention, and the rules of international practice, a country is not precluded from issuing a passport, diplomatic or otherwise to anyone it chooses. These passports normally confer diplomatic rights and privileges on holders accredited to a particular country. Since Mr El Surani is not an accredited Egyptian diplomatic representative to Australia, and is coming on a private visit, no such rights or privileges will accrue to him here.

Health Insurance Act (Question No. 518)

Does the explanatory note defining categories of persons eligible under the definition of ‘elegible pensioner’ and ‘dependant’ in section 3 of the Health Insurance Act 1973 sent to all medical practitioners in a circular letter dated March 1975 include the following categories: Dependent children under 1 6 years of age and dependants 1 6 years of age or over who are receiving full-time education at a school, college or university; if so, does this refer to (a) all dependent children of eligible pensioners, and (b) dependants 16 years of age or over who are receiving full-time education at a school, college or university only if they are dependants of a pensioner or does it refer to all such dependent children 16 years of age or over.

The explanatory note referred to by the honourable senator is intended to summarise the categories of eligible pensioners and their dependants for the purposes of the undertaking requested under Section 23 of the Health Insurance Act 1973. In accordance with the definition in the Act a dependent child under 16 years of age means- a child under the age of 16 years in the custody, care and control of the pensioner or of the wife or husband of the pensioner; ‘ a dependant 1 6 years of age or over means- a person wholly or substantially dependent on the pensioner or on the wife or husband of the pensioner, being a person who-

has attained the age of 16 years;

is receiving full-time education at a school, college or university;

is not in receipt of an invalid pension under Part III of the Social Services Act 1947-1973;

except where the pensioner is a person to whom or in respect of whom, there is being paid a service pension under the Repatriation Act 1920-1973- is wholly or substantially dependent on the pensioner;’

Joint House Department: Staff (Question No. 549)

  1. 1 ) What is the present numerical strength of the administrative staff of the Joint House Department.
  2. What are the names, in order of seniority, of personnel in the Department.
  3. What are the duties performed by each such person.
  4. What are the salary ranges of each officer.
  5. What was the date of the establishment of the Joint House Department in its present form.
  6. How was the work of the Joint House Department administered before its establishment in its present form and what was the numerical strength of the staff at that time.
  1. Thirteen(13).
  2. and (4)-
  1. Duty statements for each position have been forwarded to Senator McLaren. Because of their volume, they are not reproduced here.
  2. The Joint House Department was established, substantially in its present form, in 1901 and since then has had a continuing existence.
  3. Up to the year 1954 the functions of Secretary to the Joint House Department were carried out by a senior officer of either the Senate or the House of Representatives in addition to the duties of his substantive office. In 1954 with the retirement of Mr R. H. C. Loof, then Clerk Assistant of the Senate and Secretary, Joint House Department, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives decided that the growth in the functions of both positions made it essential to separate them and so the office of Secretary to the Joint House Department was created and filled in a full-time capacity. The numerical strength of the administrative section of the department at that time was eight ( 8 ).

Hospitals (Question No. 494)

  1. 1 ) How many essentially non-government hospitals have altogether ceased to operate in each of the States for each of the years 1965-75.
  2. How many essentially non-government hospitals have changed their basic functions, for example, from general surgical to geriatric in each of the States for the years 1 965- 1 975 and what has been the nature of each change.
  3. What are the reasons for the changes in each particular case in (1) and (2)
  4. What has been the number of voluntary health funds in existence in each of the States in each of the years 1965-1975.
  5. Where appropriate, what is the reason for individual funds going out of existence.
  1. 1 ) Table I sets out for each State the numbers of private hospitals for which approval under the National Health Act was revoked and the hospital ceased to operate in each of the financial years 1964-65 to 1973-74 and in the nine months from 1 July 1974 to 3 1 March 1975.
  1. The reasons why the private hospitals included in the tables above ceased operations or changed from a hospital to a nursing home are not known.
  2. Details ofthe number of registered medical and hospital benefits organisations operating under the National Health Act during the period 1965 to 1975 are set out in the following schedule, (see table 3)
  3. The main reason for health benefits organisations having ceased operations during the period under review stemmed from the then Government’s acceptance of certain recommendations of the Commonwealth Committee of Enquiry into Health Insurance (Nimmo Committee). Certain of the recommendations of the Nimmo Committee which were accepted were implemented in the National Health Act 1970, which required all existing medical and hospital benefits organisations to seek re-registration, if they so desired, by 1 October 1970.

As a consequence, twelve hospital funds did not seek reregistration, and another three hospital funds and one medical fund were refused re-registration for either an unsatisfactory operational experience or refusal to meet policy requirements. A further three hospital funds sought voluntary de-registration as they did not wish to meet the new requirements.

The remaining organisations which ceased operations during other periods of the review sought voluntary deregistration.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 June 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.