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Monday, 14 March 2005
Page: 146

Mr Martin Ferguson asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, in writing, on 8 February 2005:

In respect of the Government’s decision to grant Senators and Members access to Telstra Mobile Online SMS Business Service for one of their mobile phones, (a) does the service extend to the phones held by Senators and Members, and members of their staff, in their capacities as Ministers and Shadow Ministers, (b) what consultations were undertaken by the Government before making the decision, (c) were representations made by any Senators and Members or political parties requesting this service; if so, by whom and on what date(s), and (d) what is the estimated cost over the next three financial years if the service is fully utilised by Senators and Members.

Mr Abbott (Minister for Health and Ageing) —The Special Minister of State has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:


(a)   No, in respect of mobile telephones provided by Ministerial and Parliamentary Services.  I have no discretion in relation to any facilities provided by portfolio departments to Ministers.

(b)   I approved access to the Telstra Mobile Online Short Messaging Service Business (SMS) on the recommendation of the Department of Finance and Administration.

(c)   A number of requests were received from Senators and Members for the provision of a bulk Short Messaging Service (SMS); however, I do not consider it appropriate to publish this information, consistent with the principle that disclosure of such information may deter Senators and Members from making submissions to me in the future.                         I frequently evaluate requests for access to facilities and services and only approve those where a strong business case convinces me that approval is reasonable given the rapid changes in technology.  My decision to approve the provision of SMS acknowledges that SMS is an efficient communication tool that enables Senators and Members to confirm meeting times, changes in travel arrangements and confirming decisions and directions when they are conducting business away from their electorate offices.

(d)   This is a hypothetical question.  As a result the answer below sets out a substantially inflated and highly unlikely outcome, as it is doubtful that the facility will be fully taken up.


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