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Tuesday, 4 May 1971

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - During the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was able to obtain some additional information for Senator McClelland in relation to advertising for the Department of Trade and Industry. He referred also to the Public Accounts Committee's inquiry. Treasury has advised me that a draft reply is almost finished and is expected to go to the Committee's secretary within the next 2 weeks. Senator Cant has offered some comments on the estimates of the Department of Customs and Excise. Division 210, indicates that there has been an increase in salaries of $760,000 for Third Division officers under Determination No. 355 of 1970. The increase was effective from 17th December 1970 and varied between 9.5 per cent and 12.76 per cent. The second item of $650,000 refers to salary increases granted to all employees of the Department as a result of the national wage case. That increase was 6 per cent effective from 14th January 1971. I take it that it did not bear any relation to the previous decision relating to Third Division officers. They were separate.

The third item deals with an additional appropriation of $899,000. In accordance with the normal estimating procedure no provision was made in the original estimates for new positions created and existing positions reclassified after 30th June 1970. It is estimated that an additional $899,000 will be required to provide for the filling of new positions created or reclassified since 1st July 1970. It is estimated that from 1st July 1970 to 30th June 1971 the number of employees will increase from 4,554 to 4,802, an increase of 248 officers.

Under division 210, subdivision 2, item 02, office requisites and equipment, the additional appropriation is required for the following reasons:

(a)   Expenditure on paper, letter head, envelopes has been higher than expected.

The rate of increase is 4.5 per cent. The explanation continues:

(b)   Printing costs have been higher than expected.

The increase here is 11.41 per cent. The explanation continues:

(c)   Expenditure on general stores has been higher than estimated due, in the main, to the greater than expected usage of microfilm. The microfilm system was introduced in April 1970 and at the time of preparing the estimate for the current year the rate of usage of microfilm supplies was not known.

(d)   Expenditure on the purchase of office machines has been higher than estimated.

This is due to the need to purchase additional microfilm equipment.

Senator Cantthen dealt at some length with the question of computer facilities under division 210, subdivision 2, item 11. The Government has an Automatic Data Processing Committee. Every application for a computer service in a department is examined by that Committee. Firstly the application is looked at on this basis: Does that department need a computer service of its own or should it hire the service from some other department? That is establishment principle No. 1. If it is established that it needs a computer service of its own then the basis is: Can it pay for itself? If that is established a long process takes place relating to the evaluation of the right type of equipment in order to make sure that the whole computer structure of Australia is complementary and as far as possible can be interlocked. It is then looked at on the basis of how it should best be used. This is a very expensive item of equipment to purchase. I do not know what the equipment for this department is going to cost but it will not be cheap. Next the savings are worked out and a very detailed and complicated programming structure is set up in order that the efficiency of the system will be at a maximum. That will be the reason why this project has taken time and why money is being spent. In the end it will save money. I cannot say any more than that, Senator Cant. That is the general practice as I understand it.

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