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Thursday, 30 April 1987
Page: 2412

(Question No. 5013)

Mr Hodges asked the Minister for Trade, 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 new 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 Dawkins —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:


(includes Minister's Office, Trade Development Council, International Trade Development Centres and Overseas Trade Representative Posts)

(1) 57 Convergent Technologies' NGEN integrated workstations. 35 IBM compatible microcomputers, 60 printers and plotters.

(2) The NGEN workstations were installed to perform both the professional wordprocessing tasks of the Department and the majority of its minor data processing.

The majority of wordprocessing equipment was brought to replace electric typewriters which has resulted in greater productivity, higher quality reports, together with significant savings in staff time.

IBM compatible microcomputers were acquired for data processing, particularly where software packages were available to meet specialised needs, and to act as communications terminals.

Specific targets set in terms of time savings, cost savings and improved efficiencies are detailed in the Department's ADP strategic plan.

(3) Total cost of wordprocessing, computing and associated equipment introduced into the Department of Trade since 1982 is approximately $1.7 million.

(4) Office equipment purchased as a direct result of the introduction of information processing equipment consists mainly of ergonomic furniture (adjustable steno-secretarial and wordprocessing desks), adjustable monitor arms and anchor pads. Costs of the equipment installed to date has been $61,000.

(5) Changes in work practices have generally been fairly limited. Wordprocessing equipment has eliminated the need to redraft whole documents; typing pools have generally been devolved to Group (Division) level and this arrangement will facilitate the integration of keyboard staff into the broader office structure. There will be an improvement to keyboard staff job mobility prospects and in more variation to their work routines. Staff have been trained by external consultants in the use of the new equipment. Clerical/Administrative staff are undertaking minor typing and editing tasks themselves.

(6) The first case of RSI reported in the Department was in July 1982.

A total of 58 cases have been reported.

24 RSI cases are current. The balance (34) have transferred to other departments; retired; resigned; or have become Austrade employees.

One new RSI case was reported in the twelve months to December 1986.

(7) Working days lost through RSI are as follows:

period ending 31.12.84...1447 days lost

quarter ending 31.3.85...222 days lost

quarter ending 30.6.85...310 days lost

quarter ending 30.9.85...550 days lost

quarter ending 31.12.85...618 days lost

quarter ending 31.3.86...291 days lost

quarter ending 30.6.86...241 days lost

quarter ending 30.9.86...196 days lost

quarter ending 31.12.86...120 days lost

Figures up to 31/12/85 include all State regional offices and Austrade officers employed by Department of Trade prior to the separation of the Australian Trade Commission and the Department on 6/1/86.

(8) Four officers have retired as a result of RSI. One of these officers has no entitlement to compensation payments.

Compensation payments to the three retired officers are as follows: 1982/83: Nil, 1983/84: $4,952.37 to one officer, 1984/85: $13,185.40 to two officers, 1985/86: $16835.56 to two officers, 1986/87: $23,142.22 to three officers.

Approximately $27,000 will be spent in the 1987/88 financial year on compensation payments to officers retired as result of RSI.

(9) (a) Yes. It has been possible to achieve increases in workload without commensurate increases in staff numbers.

(b) The ADP strategic planning exercise 1986/87 surveyed benefits expected from proposed systems or achieved by operational systems. In summary, three categories of benefit were reported:

Improved efficiency-reduction in time spent searching and analysing manual records, once-only typing of information, ease of information retrieval, elimination of duplicate record keeping, prompter financial report generation, reduction in the time spent maintaining certain manual records, prompter distribution of cables.

Increased productivity-ability to tackle additional tasks, ability to spend more time on higher level tasks, reduction of backlogs, improved quality of reporting and briefing, improved integration of Group data holdings, co-ordination of briefings, need for extra staff deferred.

Additional capabilities-computational accuracy, automatic report generation, access to information not available to manual analysis, improved presentation of reports, performance of tasks which would otherwise be impracticable.


(1) The word processing and computer equipment introduced into the Commission, Statutory authorities and those areas of the Department included in the Commission at the time of its formation is as follows

Major computer: FACOM M360

Remote peripherals: FACOM VDU's (147) FACOM printers (41)

Small computer: Prime 2655

Mini systems: Honeywell DPS/6 units in Australia and overseas posts (21 systems)

Micro Systems/word processing: Sigma Data NGEN (63 units). Wang Office Assistants (5 units). Other microcomputers (approximately 30 units from various vendors).

(2) The FACOM was acquired as a general purpose computing facility the main application being: Trade Statistics (Australian and International), Australian Products and Services Information System (APSIS), Marketing Systems, General administrative systems.

The specific target set was for same day turnaround on the trade statistics system, and interactive APSIS system and a reduction of operating cost compared with the previous bureau service.

The Prime equipment was initially introduced in 1980 and upgraded in 1987. The computer provides a general purpose computing facility for the Export Credits Division of the Commission including: General Ledger, Debtors Accounts, Policies and Statistics, Claims Recovery and Payment Delays, Buyers credit rating, Payroll, Assets and investments.

The equipment was purchased as a result of a review of existing computer facilities. Targets for time and cost saving were part of this review.

The Honeywell equipment was purchased to provide office automation facilities for the overseas posts and for the recording of information on firms in the post's territory. The objective was to increase efficiency by reducing clerical labour in record keeping.

The NGEN and Wang Office Assistant equipment was purchased to provide office automation facilities within Australia. Improved efficiency with the greater use of decentralisation of word processing and the use of spreadsheets to analyse data was the target.

A number of microcomputers have been purchased to perform specific tasks. Each purchase was justified individually as cost beneficial or allowing better attainment of business objectives.

(3) The cost of the equipment is estimated as follows: FACOM central computer together with upgrades $1,557,000, FACOM remote terminals $623,000, Prime upgrades and peripherals $280,631, Honeywell mini computers $1,541,000, Sigma Data NGEN micros $491,000, Wang Office Assistants $35,000, Other micros $230,000.

(4) The only additional office equipment provided has been ergonomic furniture. As this furniture has been provided as part of the Commission's continuous refurbishment program the cost is not available as a separate item.

(5) The most significant of the changes in work practice have been:

Decentralisation of word processing functions to the personal secretaries of senior officers of the Commission with a consequent reduction in processing delays.

The combining of certain clerical and keyboard tasks in the one job.

The greater use of computer based information systems by clerical staff.

(6) The Commission is currently handling 18 cases of RSI, of which 4 have occurred since the formation of the Commission on 6 January 1986 and the other fourteen transferred from the Department of Trade on that date.

(7) The 18 cases have resulted in a total of 679.5 lost working days of which 472 have been lost since 6 January 1986.

(8) No person has been retired from the Commission because of RSI. The compensation costs are therefore nil.

(9) (a) Yes.

(b) Yes