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Tuesday, 26 November 1985
Page: 2297


Senator PETER BAUME(10.22) —The Department of the Special Minister of State provides some of the facilities and resources for members of parliament. The parliamentary departments, of course, supply the others. The Department of the Special Minister of State supplies resources for electorate offices for senators and members. The Department of the Senate supplies equipment for senators' offices in Canberra. A situation has arisen where the Department of the Senate has moved senators into the twentieth century with the provision of computers for use in their parliamentary offices. That equipment has been provided through the Department of the Senate under its appropriation. The question now arises as to what will happen in relation to the provision of equipment in electorate offices for senators and members. What has been spoken of, apparently, is that the Department of the Special Minister of State may be moving independently along some path to provide computers in some electorate offices.

There are some problems. Firstly, those parliamentarians who use this modern word processing or data processing equipment have a requirement for it in both their electorate offices and their parliamentary offices. I have four such machines-one in Parliament, two in my electorate office and one at home-to enable me to do the kind of work I need to do. Now that many other parliamentarians are acquiring such equipment in their electorate offices, it is quite likely that the Department of the Special Minister of State will want to go down that path. As far as we are concerned, we have one job to do and it does not matter whether the equipment is provided by one or other department. What matters is that we should have equipment which is compatible and can be used in both places, so that we can use modem connections to get the machines talking to each other.

It is not clear what are the intentions of the Department of the Special Minister of State in this area. Will there be a move to provide this kind of equipment for parliamentarians and can we be certain that interdepartmental rivalries will not lead us to a situation where equipment obtained for the electorate offices either is not compatible with that in the parliamentary offices or in some other way is not developed in an integrated fashion? It would be a gross waste of resources if the departments failed to work together on the provision of computers to parliamentarians. I hope that commonsense will prevail and the same equipment is purchased. The Department of the Senate, for example, has chosen equipment from Digital Equipment Corporation (Aust.) Pty Ltd for honourable senators. I hope that a decision taken by the Department of the Special Minister of State will not see some machinery chosen which is not compatible with that which has been chosen by the Department of the Senate. I would like the Minister to advise us of what steps are being taken by the Department of the Special Minister of State in relation to developments in this area. What assurance can he give us that it will be integrated in every possible way with the work being carried on in the parliamentary departments?