Thursday 2 October 2003


 Mr FINCH (Question) - Mr President, a question to the Leader on behalf of a community group which is keen to acquire some of the used government computer equipment. The Premier during the last budget Estimates highlighted their availability and suggested they go to older citizens as well as schools. The Launceston School for Seniors is bursting to embrace information technology and is curious about their application to acquire some computers. When is the announcement going to be made?

Mr AIRD - I thank the honourable member for his question. The honourable member might not be aware that the State Government is providing 125 ex-government computers each year for five years to non-profit community organisations in Tasmania. The equipment is drawn from a pool of ex-government computers collected by the Department of Education for redeployment in schools and software is donated by Microsoft Australia. The computers are cleaned and reimaged before being couriered to the organisation. The program attracts a lot of interest from organisations that wish to access ex-government computers to assist them in carrying out their valuable community work. I am advised that all of the community organisations that apply identify a genuine need for computer technology.

In the first year of the program, 485 community organisations all over Tasmania applied for 125 computers available. Round 1 attracted 228 applications, whilst 257 applications were received for round 2. Sixty-three computers were allocated to 63 organisations in round 1 of the program announced on 15 April 2003. A further allocation of 62 computers in round 2 of the program will shortly be announced. A further 500 ex-government computers will be handed over to community groups over the next four years of the program.

Applications are assessed by an independent committee made up of four people from outside the public service, with the knowledge and experience of community activities and community organisations. The committee is chaired by an officer from the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Members will appreciate that this selection committee faces a difficult task, owing to the number of applications and the problem of determining priorities from many worthwhile and competing applications.

The Tasmanian Government recognises the strong demand within the community for access to computer technology and, in addition to the program, the Government has further developed and funded a network of online access centres throughout Tasmania, as well as ensuring access to computers at Service Tasmania shops and State libraries. Successful organisations in round 1 included Older Persons Electronic Network computing program, Arts Alive Incorporated, Search and Rescue North and Special Olympics Tasmania in the northern region.

Mr President, I think by that answer obviously there will be competing organisations in the next round. If the honourable member is advocating for a particular organisation to receive a computer, I suggest that he writes a very strong supporting letter and ensures that will be drawn to the attention of the committee, which is independent in terms of a formal government decision. Obviously it has to be finally approved but I hope the honourable member is satisfied that there is a process which independently assesses the needs of the community, given that there is a limited number of computers available.