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Environment, Recreation, Communications and the Arts References Committee - 10/06/98 - DEPARTMENT OF COMMUNICATIONS AND THE ARTS - Program 1—Arts and heritage - Subprogram 1.2—National Archives of Australia

Senator LUNDY —I would like to kick things off with a question relating to the staff cuts at the archives during 1996[hyphen]97 and 1997[hyphen]98. Could you tell me how many there have been, if any, during each of those financial years?

Mr Wood —Twenty[hyphen]nine staff took voluntary redundancy in 1996[hyphen]97 and an estimated 31 staff will take voluntary redundancy in 1997[hyphen]98.

Senator LUNDY —Were there any involuntary redundancies?

Mr Wood —No.

Senator LUNDY —What was the cost of these redundancies?

Mr Wood —In each financial year?

Senator LUNDY —Yes, please.

Mr Wood —All up, including accrued recreation and long service leave payments as well as separation payments, in 1996[hyphen]97 it was $1,481,000 and in this current financial year, all up, it is an estimated $1,130,000. I should say in relation to that latter figure that $117,000 will actually be paid early in the next financial year in respect of officers leaving this month.

Senator LUNDY —Thank you. I note on page 39 of the PBS that the archives are expecting further staff cuts in 1998[hyphen]99. Could you outline those for the committee and the costs involved?

Mr Wood —At this point there have only been decisions made in respect of four voluntary redundancies in 1998[hyphen]99. It is too early to say exactly what the incidence and number would be in the financial year, but at this stage only four are programmed.

Senator LUNDY —What are likely to be the factors of change that could increase that number?

Mr Wood —There have been a number of factors governing staff reductions in recent years. One of those has been a change in the orientation of the Archives commencing with new strategic directions in 1994 and a revised custody policy of 1995, which has reduced reliance by the Archives on staff for transfer and lending activities in relation to its repositories.

The Archives has deliberately set a new orientation and direction to manage higher value records—in other words, archives with a small `a'—and consequently its records handling activities in relation to short[hyphen]term temporary value records have reduced and the reliance of the organisation on a number of junior staff in records handling activities has consequently reduced.

There have also been organisational reviews in recent years and to some extent these are still being implemented, but largely they have been implemented in the current financial year and the last.


Senator LUNDY —Are there any particular meetings or points within the next financial year that can be used as indicators of when there might be a higher degree of knowledge about potential redundancies?

Mr Wood —I think within the next two or three months the senior management of the Archives will need to address whether, in fact, to reduce some of these junior positions in some of the state offices as the final resolution of former organisational reviews. The organisation may or may not decide to do so. There is a question as to whether the organisation could decide to market test some activities in records handling, for example. If it was considered efficient to outsource, there could be some small measure of outsourcing in relation to those activities. Again, those decisions could happen and would happen in the first half of the coming financial year.

Senator LUNDY —Can you provide on notice to the committee a list of the classifications of the positions lost during the last two years, including the level of the position and the duties connected to each position, like a classification analysis of the positions lost?

Mr Wood —Yes, I can do that. I can actually give you figures now in respect of 1997[hyphen]98 and the four positions programmed for the coming year. If you would like, I can extend back to 1996[hyphen]97 as well but I have not got that information with me.

Senator LUNDY —Feel free to provide it now.

Mr Wood —In respect of 1997[hyphen]98 and the four positions that I have already mentioned in 1998[hyphen]99, it is 35 positions in all: 14 in Canberra, five in Sydney, 10 in Melbourne, one in Brisbane, two in Adelaide, one in Perth and two in Hobart. By classification: two at the senior officer grade B level, three at the administrative service officer 5 level, six at the ASO 4 level, four at the ASO 3 level, five at the ASO 2 level, nine at the ASO 1 level, one professional officer and five general service officers.

Senator LUNDY —Could you also provide that information for the 1996[hyphen]97 year? I am happy for you to take that on notice.

Mr Wood —Yes.

Senator LUNDY —Thank you. Could you also provide details of specifically which areas you are looking at for outsourcing? I know you just mentioned records management as one area, but give us any others that you have got earmarked for market testing for potential outsourcing.

Mr Wood —I cannot think of anything specifically, other than that. Following government policy we do market testing from time to time, particularly in my program, facilities and corporate management. For example, in facilities management it is cost efficient to use contractors in a number of functions. We do that now to a significant degree and have always done. But we keep that under review. We similarly keep corporate management activities, some of which are process activities, under review.

Senator LUNDY —Your performance forecasts in the PBS outline that the archives will finalise and promote record keeping standards to all government agencies. Could you outline for the committee the work related to the development of those standards and how you go about coordinating with the various departments on the implementation of them?

Mr Stuckey —There is an Australian standard on records management, AS4390, which is about two years old and which the Archives had a lead role with Standards Australia in writing. It is a best practice standard, not a mandatory standard and the National Archives has endorsed that. We are taking that standard and writing practical guidelines specifically for
Commonwealth agencies to comply with. The ways that we do that will be multiple and varied and we will be producing web site material hyperlinked to other documents. We are cooperating with the state archives around the country, in particular the State Records of New South Wales, in developing policies so that each of us do not reinvent the wheel. We are in the process this year of a major training initiative for our own staff to allow them to go out next calendar year to explain what modern record keeping is all about.

Senator LUNDY —It sounds very interesting. Thank you. Are you doing anything with respect to the archiving of electronic information; for example, web site data and that sort of thing?

Mr Stuckey —The whole reason that there are new record keeping standards is because of the challenges posed by electronic records. Where people would put things on paper files they are now not. They are not generally organising stuff on their desktop—their computers. So that is a major thrust of the Australian standard and it is the major thrust of what we are doing in relation to advising agencies. We have guidelines out already on managing electronic records and email as records. We have just written a guideline with the Attorney[hyphen]General's Department on the use of electronic records as evidence.

As for archiving web sites, there is an interesting debate in the information profession about whether a web site is a record or a publication. Both the National Library and the National Archives are working together on how you might archive those things. It is really hard to capture a snapshot in time of something—

Senator LUNDY —Absolutely—because of the immediacy of the upgrades.

Mr Stuckey —We are working with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on attempting to archive the web site from the Constitutional Convention earlier this year, which had a defined life and which is still sitting on the PM&C computers. So we are looking at how to archive that as an example.

Senator LUNDY —Can we get copies of the paper that you prepared in conjunction with Attorney[hyphen]General's in relation to email management?

Mr Stuckey —Absolutely. It is both printed and on the web site.

Senator LUNDY —And any other discussion paper? It is a fascinating area in terms of the status of the electronic material. You also mentioned a paper about the use of email as evidence.

Mr Stuckey —Yes. We call it `Managing electronic messages as records.'

Senator LUNDY —In terms of the outsourcing proposals and records management you mentioned earlier, is the management of the electronic records around which you are currently considering all these policy issues featuring in your considerations of what part of your records management you outsource?

Mr Stuckey —No. We have decided, however—and we have advised government agencies of this—that we expect agencies to maintain their electronic records and not transfer them to us. Evidence overseas and investigations that we have done indicate to us that, if you are trying to transfer electronic records from a wide range of operating systems, you have to put them through a filter, in effect, to get them onto a standard machine that the National Archives might run. Otherwise we have to keep every generation of all the hardware and software and every generation of the techies that know how to run them. That is impractical. Our view is that to put those records through a filter to standardise them would mean that you would lose so much functionality that they would not be records any more.


Senator LUNDY —Very interesting. In the context of the government's proposals for, and indeed occurrences of, the outsourcing of the information technology functions of individual agencies or clusters of agencies, have you been consulted as to the archiving requirements for those successful vendors for those contracts?

Mr Stuckey —Yes. We have written a legal instrument pursuant to the Archives Act—a general disposal authority—on outsourcing and we issued that earlier this year. We have guidelines which we have written in conjunction with the Office of Asset Sales and we have written standard clauses into outsourcing contracts.

Senator LUNDY —Do you have a way in which you can engage in a quality control exercise so that you can be assured that the requirements of the Archives Act are not only being adhered to but being put into practical effect within the different agencies? How do you know it is being done to the standards you have provided for in your contract?

Mr Stuckey —We go and look.

Senator LUNDY —And you have access?

Mr Stuckey —Under our legislation we have access.

Senator LUNDY —And that is protected through this standard clause you have provided?

Mr Stuckey —Yes, because the agency that is outsourcing retains control and ownership of the information. The Commonwealth retains ownership of the information, and that means the material is still subject to the Archives Act. We have had discussions with the Australian National Audit Office as the principal auditor of compliance.

Senator LUNDY —What happens down the track with classified information? I am not overly familiar with the processes of the release of archive information or on what basis it can be accessed. But what are the implications of down the track access to these records, given that you as an archive are no longer storing this information but have contractual fingers extending into every agency covered by one of these clauses? How would it work?

Mr Stuckey —We have yet to find out, in the practical sense, how it is going to work. There is a general public right of access to material once it reaches the age of 30 years. Investigations we have done indicate that material created on computers up to about five years ago is not generally the sort of material that we think needs to be retained. It was generally processing material or large aggregations of data. That means that we have 25 years to work out the practical issues. It is something we are looking at because 25 years will go fairly quickly and that is about 50 generations of software. We are trying to put continued accessibility requirements into the software design. We were instrumental in writing some of the criteria for OGIT's records management shared systems suite, and we are working with OGIT on such things as government online, an Australian government locator system that will actually pick up the data requirements that will allow ongoing access. The challenge is going to be maintaining that functionality, and we do not know how we are going to do that yet, to be honest.

Senator LUNDY —I will follow it with interest. It is a challenging area. Thank you for that. Could you explain the item `Reversal of 1996[hyphen]97 one[hyphen]off internal administrative adjustment' in table 4.8 on page 40 of the Portfolio Budget Statements? It is the third point under Running Costs Variations.

Mr Wood —Yes. In 1996[hyphen]97, the organisation overspent its running costs by $224,000, so that money needed to be deducted from what otherwise would have been the allocation in this current financial year. That money is re[hyphen]credited to the base in the forthcoming financial year.


Senator LUNDY —Can you tell the committee how the archives are planning to enhance public access to its collection, as referred to in your performance forecasts?

Mr Stuckey —Through exhibition and through production of finding aids, and we have decided that the Web will be our primary method of delivery. We have a database of individual items in custody, which is now approaching two million individual items, but that is still only about 15 per cent of our total holdings. One of our performance indicators is that we increase that by X per cent per year. We also encourage people to come into our reading rooms and actually use the records.

We have various marketing strategies: for example, we take advantage of anniversaries to go out to people and tell them what we are doing. Within the last two months we have moved into a new national headquarters building at East Block, just down the hill, so being in the triangle enhances our accessibility, by definition.

Senator LUNDY —How many cabinet submissions and decisions from 1967 were released at the beginning of this year?

Mr Stuckey —One hundred per cent.

Senator LUNDY —How many is that?

Mr Stuckey —I cannot tell you. I will take it on notice.

Senator LUNDY —Hundreds?

Mr Stuckey —One hundred per cent of them were released. Nothing was restricted.

Senator LUNDY —I am just curious as to the size or number of cabinet documents that come out per year and whether the number is increasing.

Mr Stuckey —Absolutely. This year we also reached agreement with the Cabinet Office to screen and release the cabinet files in relation to each submission and decision. Up until now we have only released the submissions and the decisions and people have had to—

Senator LUNDY —So we get more information.

Mr Stuckey —Absolutely.

Senator LUNDY —Could you take on notice to provide more detailed information about the numbers of submissions.

Mr Stuckey —Yes. It is about 3,000.

Senator LUNDY —Why have the National Archives had an official name change and were any costs associated with that name change?

Mr Wood —The former name, Australian Archives, was not always understood as the name of a national Australian government organisation within Australia and internationally. So National Archives of Australia was chosen as a name which more readily associates itself with a function of the Australian government. It is also a name akin to names of other national institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia and the National Library of Australia. It was also considered appropriate to time the name change with the occupancy of the national building at East Block. You asked about the costs associated with the name change.

Senator LUNDY —Yes—stationery.

Mr Wood —We are using existing stationery. Obviously the next time we order stationery, business cards and the like—and we are in the process of doing that already—we will use the new name. I think the costs would be minimal and ordinary costs for stationery and the like.


Senator LUNDY —So you did not engage a consultant and get a $60,000 logo created or anything?

Mr Wood —We have had an associated change of logo. We would need to take on notice the costs associated with that.

Senator LUNDY —Did you engage a consultant to help guide you through this process?

Mr Wood —I think we did engage a consultant. I am sure the cost was economical, but I will need to get the information for you.

Senator LUNDY —If you could take all that on notice—who was engaged, for how much, what work they did and the time frame in which it was done—that would be useful. That is all I have for the National Archives.

CHAIR —I thank the officers from the National Archives. I now call the officers from the National Gallery of Australia.

[6.17 p.m.]