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Wednesday, 13 May 1981
Page: 2359

Mr McVEIGH (Minister for Housing and Construction)(11.0) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak on comments made during the adjournment debate by the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher) who highlighted the need for computer technology as a tool for efficient government administration. At the outset I want to say that I wholeheartedly endorse his sentiments. I thank him very much indeed for a thoughtful contribution to the adjournment debate. It is always good when someone raises his thought to matters of national importance rather than parish pump activities. My Department of course has immense communication and administration requirements which have made its computer purchase essential. I agree with the honourable member that criticism of computers fails to appreciate the tremendously important role they play and the importance of the link between the central and regional facilities in any computer network.

In regard to my own Department the Government decided on the successful tenderer for the supply of its equipment after the Department's own very thorough evaluation process had been reviewed by an expert interdepartmental committee on the technical and procurement aspects of the purchase and later on by an independent assessor, Professor C. H. Brookes. These studies confirmed the original finding that the substantially higher technical risks associated with alternative solutions could not be accepted, The Government is satisfied that the expert reviews carried out have ensured the best possible solution to meet the needs of the Department of Housing and Construction.

Assertions have been made that the Government had changed its tendering criteria and my colleague the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr Newman) has previously refuted this allegation and commented on procurement principles. Perhaps the most extensive refutation of these allegations comes from the Australian General Manager of Sperry Univac-an unsuccessful tender. The Melbourne branch manager of that company was quoted as being critical of the tendering process. The Australian General Manager of that company inserted an advertisement at his company's expense the following week completely refuting those claims. The Australian General Manager has said he is the only person who can authorise official media releases for the company. The official media release includes the statement:

Over the past few months views have been expressed in reports by the media concerning a tender for the data processing requirements for the Department of Housing and Construction, Canberra, culminating in comments and statements made in a report on page 1 of the Pacific Computer Weekly of 23-29 January 1981. All official media releases for my company are authorised from the General Manager's Office at Sperry Univac. As the abovementioned comments that were published were not authorised by me, I must refute the opinons and statements so published on this subject. Sperry Univac's association with governments, both Federal and State, is conducted on a professional basis, with the supply of equipment and services to them being of the highest possible standard. At all times Sperry Univac has received the respected assistance, courtesy and advice from all government departments. We have always found the actions of various government members to be of the highest professional standard.

As honourable members will be aware, there have been many attempts to criticise my Department's computer purchase. Attempts were made on 8 September 1980 at the House of Representatives Committee on Expenditure; in this chamber on three occasions during September 1980; and in the Pacific Computer Weekly of 23-29 January 1981. I regret to say that in this chamber today yet another attempt was made to criticise that purchase and to criticise and question the integrity of the Public Service and the tendering processes which were followed in the computer procurement. I hope that this restatement of the facts will put these unfounded allegations to rest once and for all. I resent the aspersions cast on the integrity of officers of my Department who are men of outstanding ability, honesty and sincerity of purpose. These aspersions were cast earlier today by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren).

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The debate having been concluded, the House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

House adjourned at 11.5 p.m.