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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1540

(Question No. 5003)

Mr Hodges asked the Attorney-General, 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 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 Lionel Bowen —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Since 1982 the Department and statutory authorities under the control of the Attorney-General have introduced a range of word processing and other computer based equipment to assist in the achievement of their objectives. Summarised, the equipment introduced consists of:

a Fujitsu M200 mainframe in the Central Office of the Department;

Wang VS minicomputer systems for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions;

Hewlett Packard 3000 series systems in the Family Court, Commonwealth Reporting Service, Film Censorship Board and Official Receivers' Offices;

Burroughs minicomputer and microcomputer systems in the Offices of the Australian Government Solicitor;

Wang word processing systems for the Department's Central Office and several authorities;

digital word processing systems in the Federal Court and AAT; and

a range of IBM computers for Legal Aid functions

(2) The equipment was purchased as a means of providing more effective services. The equipment is used for such purposes as:

Legal information systems which provide an important tool for legal research and are extensively used by Government agencies and the private legal profession.

Operational systems to improve efficiency and effectiveness in administrative and operational functions in particular areas such as court administration, censorship, litigation support, case management and word processing facilities.

Management information systems as an aid to departmental management in areas such as:


ministerial correspondence

monitoring of freedom of information requests

statistical systems relating to portfolio activities

human resource monitoring.

It is the Department's policy to undertake a cost/effectiveness analysis as part of the evaluation of proposals to introduce computer based equipment. The evaluation includes an assessment of the benefits of the proposed system including cost savings and improved service standards.

(3) Expenditure on word processing and computer equipment from 1 July 1982 to 31 January 1987 totalled $15,371,000.

(4) New office equipment that has been purchased as a direct result of the introduction of word processing and other computer equipment consists primarily of ergonomic furniture. The cost of this equipment purchased since 1982 is not readily available and could not be established without a substantial commitment of resources.

(5) There have been changes to work practices, for example compulsory rest breaks and eyesight testing have been introduced for operators of screen based equipment. A number of improved work practices have become feasible using the new equipment, for example, a reduced quantity of original keying.

(6) 420 cases of repetition strain injury have been reported.

(7) 29,696 days.

(8) Since 1982 13 persons have been retired due to RSI related medical conditions. Compensation costs of $92,242 have been incurred by the Department.

(9) (a) The Department's experience is that the introduction of word processing and computer equipment has generally improved productivity and effected savings compared to the costs that would have been involved in the provision of equivalent services using manual methods.

(b) The introduction of the equipment has improved efficiency within the Attorney-General's portfolio. Non-quantifiable savings and benefits may be summarised as follows:

improved customer service;

more accurate and timely information;

elimination of duplication and reduction of onerous and repetitive activities;

generation of more informative, accurate and timely statistics;

the ability to cater for peak loads.