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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2372

(Question No. 5018)


Mr Hodges asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 17 February 1987:

(1) What wordprocessing or computer equipment has been introduced into the Minister's Department and statutory authorities responsible to the Minister since 1982.

(2) Why was the equipment purchased and were any specific targets set in terms of time or cost savings and improved efficiencies.

(3) What has been the cost of purchasing the equipment.

(4) Has the introduction of the equipment necessitated the purchase of new office equipment; if so, what have been the costs of the additional purchases.

(5) Has the introduction of the equipment led to changes in work practices; if so, what has been the nature of the changes.

(6) What has been the incidence of repetition strain injury (RSI) in the Minister's Department since 1982.

(7) How many lost working days have been caused by RSI related illnesses since 1982.

(8) How many persons have been forced to retire from the Minister's Department or statutory authorities responsible to the Minister as a result of RSI and what have been the compensation costs of this early retirement.

(9) Has introduction of the equipment (a) saved money and (b) improved efficiency in the Minister's Department or the statutory authorities responsible to the Minister.


Mr Howe —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) and (2) Commencing in 1983 a range of computer equipment was purchased by the Department of Social Security to meet the needs identified in the Department's 1981 Strategic Plan (Stratplan). It was intended that the new equipment would replace obsolete computer equipment to enable the Department's income security processing to continue. In the area of word processing, higher quality correspondence to clients was set as a major efficiency improvement.

(3) The expenditure on hardware and software to satisfy the Department's computing needs to 31 December 1986 was $150.963m. In addition to expenditure on Stratplan this includes expenditure on computer equipment related to new policy initiatives, for example, new offices opened since 1983. The expenditure attributable to word processing is a minor proportion of the above total.

(4) The typical office equipment and furniture package provided at the time of Stratplan installation includes:

VDU monitor

keyboard

adjustable arm for monitor

adjustable arm for keyboard

desk with side return on which workstation is positioned

gas lift chair

anti glare/reflection filter

It is not possible to identify the cost of furniture separately from the overall cost.

(5) The major work practice changes have been associated with introduction of word processing, data entry, on-line manuals and on-line; inquiry for income security systems progressing to on-line update. Consequently many departmental staff now operate computer equipment.

(6) and (7) In December 1984, the Department had recorded 65 cases of RSI, with one of these being reported prior to 1 January 1983. Detailed statistical information is available only from March 1985 quarter onwards. The following figures include staff in the Office of the Commissioner for Employees Compensation.

*Current Cases

Days Lost

March Qtr 1985 403

8,677

June Qtr 1985 444

8,182

Sept. Qtr 1985 536

9,853

Dec. Qtr 1985 554

10,845

March Qtr 1986 548

10,608

June Qtr 1986 513

9,281

Sept. Qtr 1986 544

8,085

Dec. Qtr 1986 427

6,443

*Includes new and old cases where a person is absent during the quarter as a result of RSI.

(8) Invalidity retirements due to RSI: 1985, 17; 1986, 19.

Detailed statistical information was not recorded prior to 1985.

To calculate the compensation costs would require a substantial commitment of time and resources which I am not prepared to authorise.

(9) A report on the Costs and Benefits of Stratplan (June 1986) compiled by the consultants, Coopers and Lybrand, concluded that Stratplan is a cost-beneficial project.