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Wednesday, 24 July 1946

Mr Francis s asked the Treasurer.. upon notice -

What has -been the cost to Australia of exchange on government interest payments overseas for the last financial year?

Mr Chifley - The total amount of exchange paid on remittances to meet interest payments overseas by the Commonwealth and the State governments during the financial year 1945-46 was approximately £5,048,000.

Espionage Control

Mr Francis s asked the Prime Minister,' uponnotice^-

1.   lit view of the important technical experiments to be carried out shortly in Central Australia, ' will lie obtain a copy of the report of the Canadian royal commission investigating Russian spy and espionage activities?

2.   If so, will he make the report available for the perusal of honorable members?

3.   Will he ascertain whether the commission's recommendations .or any of them could lie implemented in Australia, especially those relating to -

(a)   the co-ordination and strengthening - of -security measures to .prevent Soviet agents' from infiltrating into Government positions of trust' and .

(6)   the necessity lor revising the pro-, cedureof issuing naturalization certificates and passports?

Mr Chifley - Advice has been received from the Australian High Commissioner, Ottawa, that the text of the report of the Canadian royal commis-- sion investigating . Russian spy and espionage activities has been despatched, by air mail. As soon as the .text of the report has been received and examined, consideration will be given to the request of the honorable member.

Postmaster-General's Department : Construction Programme; Telephone Services.

Mr Calwell l. - Recently the honorable . member for Maranoa . (Mr. Adermann) asked the following question ; -

What amount waa spent by the department on constructional work during the financial year 1D45-4U in: (a) the Commonwealth, (d) each State', and'(o) the capital city of each State?

The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer:-

In reply- to. the honorable member's question concerning ' (a) and (

Mr Calwell - On the 18th July, the honorable, member for Robertson (Mr. Williams) asked whether, .it would be possible to press on with the extension of telephone services in "country districts, and if consideration could be given to the urgent need to provide trunk line services in outlying centres and to reduce charges to primary producers in . cennexion with the installation of telephones.

The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -

The need for extending, improving ana cheapening the cost of telephone facilities in country districts is fully appreciated. As a practical step in this direction, the conditions governing the provision of exchange services were overhauled last year, and the maximum amount which the department normally spends on the construction of individual services was increased from £50 to £100. Concurrently, reductions were effected in the rental charges on all services extending more than two mile radially from the connecting exchange, and the subscribers concerned benefited by a reduction in rental-charges to the extent of- approximately £30.000 per annum. The ' provision . of additional trunk line circuits in outlying centres' is proceeding as- rapidly as the circumstances will permit. The- progress made in this respect is dependent on the availability of materials and skilled man-power. In addition, investigations are proceeding with a view to determining the practicability of utilizing radio telephone facilities as an adjunct to the. land-line system in outback areas. The wort of establishing an experimental unit in the Broken Hill district is -well. advanced and it ia hoped that the service which will be opened at an early date will provide valuable data 011 the- usefulness of radio in isolated centres.

Mr Calwell l. - On the 3rd July, the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) asked . the ' following question : -

In view of the vastly differing amounts of telephonic business transacted, in post office telephone exchanges, will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General consider, the possibility of grading telephonists, ae is the practice with nil classes of male postal employees, .to ensure that pir ls called upon to fill, the' more difficult positions shall be amply compensated for their extra skill?

The Postmaster-General has supplied the following answer: -

The. rates of pay and conditions of employment of telephonists arc fixed in accordance with a determination made by the Common, wealth Public Service Arbitrator, and provision is made for salary advancement from the mini mum to the maximum -by regular annual increments. With regard to mail officers, advancement to the maximum salary scale is dependent on the passing of certain prescribed tests, hut this is not necessary in the case of telephonists who may, however, become eligible for advancement to the lusher positions of monitor or supervisor on passing a qualifying examination consisting of practical and theoretical tests relating to telephone work.

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