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Tuesday, 8 June 1948
Page: 1773

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The following answers to questions were circulated : -

Mr Dedman - On the 2nd June, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) asked a question concerning the provision of an interim shipping service to Tasmania during the period the SS. Taroona is undergoing overhaul. The Minister for Shipping and Fuel has supplied the following information : -

The Bass Strait steamer Taroona will be laid up for her annual overhaul for approximately three weeks commencing about the middle of July, lt has not been possible to arrange for the provision of an interim service owing to the fact that there is no suitable vessel on the Australian coast available for this purpose. During the period of overhaul passenger traffic is very light, and if necessary, consideration will be given to the provision of additional air service.

Wire. Wire Netting and Galvanized Iron.

M.r. Chifley. - On the 5th May, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) asked me a question concerning zinc supplies for the manufacture, of galvanized iron. I now advise the honorable member as follows : -

Following upon the honorable member's question, I asked the Commonwealth authorities concerned to furnish me with a statement as to the present position. I have ascertained that 450 tons of zinc for Lysaghts arrived at Newcastle on the 16th May and a further 300 tons on the 22nd May. I might point out that the Commonwealth Government 1ms no control over the allocations of zinc but the Department of Supply and Development endeavours to ensure that Australian consumers are provided with reasonable supplies. This has involved close contact with the producers, Electrolytic Zinc - Company of Australasia Limited, and representations to this Company have always met with ready response. The Company has given an assurance that it will use its best endeavours to improve the supply position, but for a number of reasons cannot undertake to provide Lysaghts with stock equivalent to a month's usage. The Electrolytic Zinc Company states that only minor interruptions to production have occurred at Lysaghts owing to the shortage of zinc and these have been due to the shipping position which has now improved. There is no actual control over the export of zinc from Australia, but I am informed that approximately 75 per cent, is reserved for Australian industry, and that the rest is sold to Britain. It is necessary for some of the zinc sold to Britain to be shipped at a port on the mainland as direct shipping is not available from Tasmania. This is the reason why some of the zinc has been transshipped at Newcastle. I might add that the shipments made to Britain mean a great' saving in dollar expenditure, because if the quantities supplied by Australia were reduced, Britain would have to turn to dollar sources of supply to meet her essential needs.

Australian Representation Abroad.

Mr McEwen (INDI, VICTORIA) asked the Minister for Information, upon notice -

1.   Has he yet given his promised consideration to the question raised by the honorable member for Indi, on the loth April, concerning the omission from the department's publication Foots and Figures of any reference to the operations of privately owned airlines in Australia ?

2.   If so. has he taken any action to ensure the inclusion of such information in future issues of this official publication ?

3.   If not, will he issue instructions that such information be included in future?

Mr Lang» asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -

1.   Was Mr. John «Fisher» the Canberra press gallery representative of the Communist party at the time of his appointment as Press Attache to the Australian Legation, «Moscow» ?

2.   Has he since resigned to take up an assignment for the Communist party in Czechoslovakia and Central Europe? 3. (a) Was Miss Irene Saxby a member of the Communist Educational Workers Association, prior to her appointment as archivist at the Australian Legation in «Moscow» ; (6) is she still in that position?

4.   Is it the practice of the department to furnish all legations with confidential information regarding the international position?

5.   Who recommended to the Commonwealth Public Service Board the appointments of Mr. «Fisher» and Miss Saxby?

C.   Will the Minister take the necessary steps to ensure that there are no Communists with access to confidential information in his department?

Dr «Evatt» - The answers to the honorable member's questions are as follows: -

1.   No.

2.   Mr. «Fisher» resigned from the staff of the Australian Legation, «Moscow» , four years ago, to take up a position with the British Exchange Telegraph Agency in «Moscow» . It is not known where he is employed at present.

3.   There is no record in the Department of External Affairs of Miss Saxby having been or being at present a member of the Communist Educational Workers Association. In a letter to the department, Miss Saxby has commented on certain statements made in the House recently regarding her, and has stated : " Before going to Russia I was a teacher in New South Wales high schools and had not for some years been active in any political party. .

I am not a member of the Communist party"

4.   Certain confidential information of relev- ance to their work is sent to all Australian missions for the. information of Ministers or Ambassadors.

5.   Mr. «Fisher» and Miss Saxby applied for positions and were given temporary appointments in the normal way according to Public Service Board procedure. (i. Careful security precautions are already taken in connexion with all personnel appointed to the Department of External Affairs and in relation to all secret information.

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