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Wednesday, 14 October 1964

Senator GORTON (Victoria) (Minister for Works) . - Senator Kennelly raised a number of matters to which I should like to reply. He asked me the total amount which the Department of External Affairs paid in rent. I have not been able to obtain the figures, but I understand that the honorable senator obtained them from the Department himself this afternoon. So I am willing to concede that the figure that he quoted is probably accurate. He also mentioned the need for buildings. The Department has in hand quite a large building programme which includes buildings either to be constructed or in the process of construction in Argentina, Fiji, India, Indonesia. Japan, Laos, Nigeria, Sweden, the United States of America, Brazil, Malaysia and Pakistan, lt will be seen that the Department is taking some steps along the road that Senator Kennelly said it should follow. The Department has a trade-in policy in relation to motor cars. Whether it meets everybody's requirements or judgment I do not know. A programme of replacement and purchase of additional vehicles totalling 39 vehicles is provided for in Division No. 240.

Senator Ormonde - Senator Kennelly seemed to think that members of the staff were underpaid.

Senator GORTON - He expressed the opinion that they were underpaid. Pay and allowances and arrangements to meet varying living costs overseas are under the control of the Public Service Board, which is a statutory authority. An alteration of the law would be needed to remove the Department of External Affairs from the control of the Board in that respect. Such a precedent could not be established without consideration of all the implications involved, particularly when members of the staff of the Department of Immigration and the Department of Trade and Industry are doing similar work. Senator Cooke referred to Division No. 202 - Embassy - United States of America.

Senator Cooke - And the consulates at New York and San Francisco.

Senator GORTON - At page 163 in the schedule of salaries and allowances there is a detailed breakdown of the amounts that are paid to permanent employees of the Department. The other provision is for locally engaged employees who are employed with the approval of the Public Service Board in Australia at rates of pay which are scaled to ruling rates in the United States. I refer to people who are employed as typists, guards, messengers and clerks and who are not members of the Department of External Affairs. There is quite often a considerable turnover of those personnel. The same general situation applies in regard to the New York consulate. At page 168 in the schedule of salaries and allowances details are given of payments under Division No. 231 to permanent members of the Department of External Affairs. Again, other employees are staff who have been engaged locally with the authority of the Public Service Board at the ruling rates of pay. Of course, when the Australian £1 is converted into American dollars, one does not get as much for those dollars as one would get for the £1. Again, when the ruling American rate of pay is converted into Australian currency, the salary looks very high indeed.

Senator Cooke - I am not quarrelling with the salary. My complaint is that the major expenditure is not classified.

Senator GORTON - The only advice I have is that this class of employee is not classified in any department. Senator Cavanagh asked how long the Australian force in Cyprus would need to be there. I cannot answer the question, because in part the stay of the force depends upon the wishes of the United Nations. There will always be some argument as to whether aid given by Australia to other countries is directed into the best possible channels. I think that on the whole it is so directed, lt seemed to me that there was some confusion in the honorable senator's mind about the gift and distribution of various commodities. It is true that commodities such as wheat and flour are given to these countries for distribution. They are sold by the governments of those countries and the money so obtained is placed in counterpart funds. These are then used in consultation with the Australian Government for some specific project requested by the Indian Government and agreed to by us. The money is used, not to buy some consumable article which simply disappears, but on something that will contribute to the economic growth of some area of that country, either by accretion of capital, the provision of health services, or the erection of equipment or something of that sort.

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