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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2361

Mr CADMAN(10.54) —In December 1986 it was announced that a pilot project with HRC Time Computers would be undertaken by 31 members and senators in their offices to determine the most appropriate equipment for electorate office computer systems. The pilot study was completed in February and instructions were given to the Department of Local Government and Administrative Services to arrange contracts with the successful company, HRC Technologies Ltd. On 5 February the honourable member for Flinders (Mr Reith) wrote to the Special Minister of State (Senator Tate) setting out the problems that had been experienced by Opposition members with this equipment. Sometime during February I gather that members of the Australian Labor Party back bench saw the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and Minister Tate. Later, on 27 February, a report was published in the Hobart Mercury, with comments from a departmental official stating that members of parliament did not need to be surveyed on these matters because generally they were computer illiterate. The article indicated that there was a list of complaints, and details of those complaints were published. Then on 20 March a memo was forwarded to all MPs and senators indicating that the equipment had been thoroughly evaluated in a pilot study involving 31 electorate offices.

On 2 April I wrote to the Special Minister of State saying that I did not want that sort of equipment and that I was prepared to meet the difference between the Digital equipment and the equipment being offered by the Department. I further indicated that some of the problems instanced by Ministers were that the computers had broken down and, in at least one case, a computer had not worked at all. Lists and data had been lost in machines, and programs had malfunctioned. Machine failures included keyboards which had overheated, screen malfunctions, and programs locking without further access. It was also maintained that the printer could not do envelopes, that it fed only 50 sheets of paper, and that no satisfactory system had been found for printing labels. It was further asserted that the software choice was completely unsatisfactory, that one was compatible but of low quality and that one was incompatible and of high quality. My colleagues who are now having the follow-on contract machines delivered to their offices say that they are coming in bits and pieces, with keyboards missing and a whole lot of other problems.

HRC Technologies Ltd was registered as a company in Tasmania on 19 June 1985. Its major shareholder was HRC Holdings Pty Ltd, formerly known as Hotel Restaurant Club Holdings Pty Ltd, registered in New South Wales. The name of this firm in New South Wales is HRC Time. Nine months after registration in Tasmania, the company tendered as part of the program for the Department of the Special Minister of State, and 18 months later that was the company whose equipment was evaluated by the Department. The pilot project undertaken was as I have outlined, but on 9 March, after the complaints had been made, an application for winding up HRC Technologies was made by an unsecured creditor. On 26 March a further application for winding up HRC Technologies was made on behalf of the major unsecured creditor. On 13 April, following the complaints and after the winding-up notices, the Government signed the contract. The Government signed the contract after this process had been gone through. On 27 April there were hearings in the Supreme Court of Tasmania, and a scheme of arrangement was entered into. I am very concerned about what has gone on here. The Government owes an inquiry to all members of the Parliament. I have no complaints or evidence against shareholders or directors, but I think that a number of serious questions ought to be asked. Were the companies properly investigated before contracts were let? Why was no proper evaluation made of the system? Why was the contract entered into when so many complaints had been made by members about the quality of the equipment?