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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2373

(Question No. 5029)


Mr Hodges asked the Minister for Local Government and Administrative Services, upon notice, on 17 February 1987:

(1) What word processing 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 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 Uren —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Equipment introduced into the Department of Local Government and Administrative Services (formerly the Department of Administrative Services) since 1982 comprises:

(a) word processing equipment to refurbish aging word processing pool machinery and provision of stand-alone word processing equipment for steno-secretaries;

(b) expansion of data-processing connections to the bureau mainframe network and expansion of the Australian Survey Office mini-computer network;

(c) introduction of office automation equipment throughout the department.

(2) All equipment has been purchased in accordance with the Departmental strategy on word processing and ADP development. This strategy was the subject of a Joint Management Review and an internal review during 1983, both of which were primarily concerned with improved efficiency, productivity and effectiveness.

(3) Cost of purchasing the equipment to date is:

$('000s)

1982-83...926

1983-84...1996

1984-85...1041

1985-86...1755

1986-87...2118

(estimated)

(4) Generally the introduction of automated equipment has required the Department and its agencies to upgrade the standard of associated office furniture in the interests of staff health and safety. To some extent, however upgrading occurred as part of the normal replacement program.

Some additional costs would have been involved but these, as could be expected, would be partly offset by increased staff productivity, and better quality and longer-lasting equipment.

Unwarranted use of staff resources would be required to produce a meaningful assessment of the incremental cost.

(5) Some changes in work practices have occurred. There have been changes in physical work practices in selected clerical areas, in that duties concerned with some tasks are now performed via a workstation instead of desk-top paperwork.

In parallel with the introduction of equipment there have been ongoing training programs on the occupational health aspects. The courses are intended to encourage adjustment of attitudinal work practices in the use of keyboard services and computer equipment generally.

Other specific changes in work practices, such as use of specialist furniture, designated work breaks in keyboard areas, recommended keying rates, have been implemented as per Public Service Board instructions with the intention of minimising the risk of RSI related ailments.

(6) To the end of December 1986 there were 177 recorded historical RSI cases within my Department.

(7) Total working days lost due to RSI for the period 1982-86 is estimated at 17,800.

(8) Since 1982 six staff have been retired from the service as a result of RSI.

Compensation payments, including invalidity retirement pensions paid by the Australian Government Retirement Benefits Office, made to these former staff has been $194,375.45.

(9) (a) Equipment purchased has been generally cost effective.

(9) (b) Improved efficiencies have been evident in areas where automation has been introduced, particularly those tasks involving large volumes of textual material and manipulation of financial information.