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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 27

(Question No. 1486)

Senator Vigor asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, upon notice, on 12 November 1986:

(1) What are the reasons for the release of circular No. 86/5 by the Department of the Special Minister of State in which all Senators and Members are reminded that official telephone lines in electoral offices are for voice communications only and not for any other data transmission.

(2) Do the reasons include cost factors based on any experience within electorate offices or elsewhere.

(3) Can the Minister advise the Senate of any studies done to assess the efficiency of using telephone lines to transmit data; if so, what are the findings of those studies, including findings relating to comparative costs of communicating data by electronic means and normal voice communication.

(4) Would the Minister agree that this type of decision reflects a lack of familiarity with and understanding of Senators' and Members' requirements which should, therefore, be more appropriately the responsibility of the Parliament rather than an executive department.

Senator Gareth Evans —The Special Minister of State has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) to (4) As the circular referred to in the honourable Senator's question did not address all of the arrangements relating to the issue it has been replaced. Honourable Senators and Members may, of course, install their own equipment, including data-transmission machines, in their electorate offices provided there is no additional cost to the Commonwealth. Where that equipment draws upon the official telephone lines and other facilities normally provided in electorate offices, the Department of the Special Minister of State continues to meet the costs of those lines and facilities, keeping the arrangements under review to ensure that the costs incurred continue to be at an acceptable level. However, where the installation of privately-owned equipment also involves installing new facilities to enable that equipment to be used, any additional costs incurred as a result are met by the respective Senator or Member.