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Thursday, 7 May 1987
Page: 2886

(Question No. 5023)


Mr Hodges asked the Minister for Science, 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 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 have 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 Barry Jones —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Since 1982 the following word processing and computing equipment has been introduced into the Department and Statutory Authorities within the Science portfolio:

Mainframe computers

Mini computers

Micro computers

Communications controllers

Shared word processors

Stand alone word processors

Peripherals for the above equipment

CSIRO-As typing equipment has been replaced, word processing equipment has been introduced generally throughout CSIRO. The main concentration is in the word processing centre at CSIRO headquarters, where the present equipment was acquired in 1984 at a cost of approximately $440,000.

Since 1984 the Organisation has also been introducing multi functional workstations to support new on-line administrative computing systems.

CSIRO is also in the process of commissioning a new central computing support system for its library service to be operated on-line from computer terminals.

Further, the Organisation's research and technical staff make extensive use of computing facilities, frequently involving the use of terminals.

(2) The equipment was purchased to improve efficiency by applying office automation to various tasks undertaken within the Department and the Statutory Authorities. Prior to purchase of equipment no specific targets were set in terms of cost savings or improved efficiencies.

CSIRO-Word processing and computer equipment provide a wide range of facilities, in particular the storage, reproduction and transportation of text in the form of electronic media. These facilities enable rapid modification to text, database storage and retrieval and electronic transfer to printing and publishing facilities.

Earlier studies on word processing indicated improved administrative efficiencies would flow from these new technologies and also suggested that increased work loads could be handled while retaining staff numbers relatively stable. Studies on administrative arrangements indicated that a decentralised administration, as envisaged following the Independent Inquiry in CSIRO in 1977, could only be effectively supported through the use of modern computer technology. Improved management efficiencies were seen to flow from the devolution of functions and responsibilities, with a likely saving in administrative staff.

(3) Cost of purchasing equipment 1982-83 to date was $14,246,459.

CSIRO-Since 1 January 1984 has spent in the order of $2m on word processing and related equipment, $2m on administrative workstations and $1.3m for the central library system.

(4) Yes, ergonomic furniture at a cost $272,922.

CSIRO is committed to providing an ergonomic environment. While expenditure throughout the Organisation on new office equipment related to the use of terminals is not recorded separately, expenditure specifically for the headquarters' word processing centre and terminals for the new administrative systems has been in the order of $200,000.

(5) The introduction of equipment has led to an improvement in office efficiency resulting in timely presentation of work and easier access to improved analytical tools.

CSIRO had memory typewriters and other word processing equipment before 1982 which reduced repetitive keyboard work. Thus, the introduction of the current word processing equipment has not changed work practices, although it has assisted scientific staff in the production of their written work. The introduction of on-line administrative computer systems is changing work practices to the extent that processing is more automated and clerical staff are entering data on computer terminals.

(6) Since 1982 there have been 131 cases of RSI reported within the Department.

CSIRO-Since 1 January 1982 there have been 79 incidents of RSI reported.

(7) 10,310 full days and 2,321 part days.

CSIRO-A total of 3,711 working days have been lost.

(8) Six persons have been retired on invalidity grounds due to RSI. The compensation costs amounted to some $59,892.16, plus $163 per week to one former staff member.

CSIRO-Eight persons have been retired as a result of RSI, with compensation costs in the order of $200,000.

(9) (a) Yes; (b) Yes.

CSIRO-The introduction of word processing has enabled increased work loads to be handled without a commensurate increase in staff numbers. New computer systems are still being developed to support the devolution and decentralisation of administrative functions and therefore staff savings targets in this area are yet to be tested.