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Thursday, 27 November 1986
Page: 2904


Senator GARETH EVANS (Minister for Resources and Energy)(5.08) —I am told that it is simply not the case that senators and members are forbidden to use their elec- torate office phones for such purposes. I understand that privately owned personal computers and facsimile machines have been installed in some electorate offices. Telephones have been provided in electorate officers primarily to enable voice communication with constituents and other people in connection with senators' and members' duties and responsibilities. The Special Minister of State (Mr Young) approved guidelines to enable senators and members to use their telephones for data transmission at official expense, provided that additional separate telephone lines are not required.

Similarly, so that an undue burden is not placed on resources available to all parliamentarians, telephone costs are monitored to ensure that they are kept within reasonable limits. So long as privately owned computers do not unduly affect the cost of the provision of telephone services to members and senators no special provision will be made. I understand that there have been no cases of excessive costs due to privately owned computers or other equipment. I am advised that a circular recently sent by the Department of the Special Minister of State to honourable senators and honourable members did not give a complete picture of the Govern- ment's policy on this matter. There it is; honourable senators can treat what I have just said as the Gospel and that that was the Old Testament which has been superseded.