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Joint Committee on Publications
22/06/2017
Printing standards for documents presented to parliament

BANSON, Mr Peter, Clerk Assistant (Table), Department of the House of Representatives

BRIEN, Mr Andrew, Site Operations Manager, CanPrint Communications Pty Ltd

DRINKWATER, Ms Kayelle, Assistant Secretary, Governance and Public Management Reform Taskforce, Department of Finance

FISHER, Ms Mary Jo, Director, Government Relations, Printing Industries Association of Australia

HERIOT, Dr Dianne, Parliamentary Librarian, Department of Parliamentary Services

KEELE, Mr Matthew, Project Liaison Manager, Senate Public Information Officer, Department of the Senate

LUCHETTI, Ms Elizabeth, Assistant Secretary, Library Collections and Databases, Department of Parliamentary Services

LYNCH, Ms Philippa, First Assistant Secretary, Government Division, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

LYONS, Ms Anne, Acting Director-General, National Archives of Australia

MACFARLANE, Ms Linda, Director, Policy and Digital Strategy, National Archives of Australia

McKENZIE, Ms Amelia, Assistant Director-General, Collections Management, National Library of Australia

McKENZIE, Mr Ian, Chief Information Officer, Department of Parliamentary Services

PYE, Mr Richard, Clerk of the Senate, Department of the Senate

RUSH, Mr Peter, Assistant Secretary, Government Division, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

SHIELDS, Ms Debbie, Sales Manager, CanPrint Communications Pty Ltd

SUUR, Mr Lembit, First Assistant Secretary, Governance and Public Management Reform Taskforce, Department of Finance

Committee met at 08:06

CHAIR ( Mr Christensen ): I thank each and every one of you very much for coming along. I declare open the public hearing of the Joint Committee on Publications for its inquiry into the printing standards for documents presented to parliament. Firstly, I welcome all witnesses representing various different organisations and government departments. We have representatives from CanPrint Communications, the Department of Finance, the Department of Parliamentary Services—in particular, the Parliamentary Library—the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of the House of Representatives, the Department of the Senate, the National Archives, the National Library and the Printing Industries Association. Thank you for coming along.

The Joint Committee on Publications is responsible for the printing standards for documents that are presented to parliament. The current standards set in 2007 were designed to ensure that documents selected for inclusion in the Parliamentary Papers series conform to the series requirements. The standards provide guidance for agencies in areas such as production quality, value for money, use of colour and illustrations, paper size and type, covers, binding and corrections. In recent years, two key developments in relation to the papers series make revisiting the standards timely. From 2013, this series has been available online through the ParlInfo document repository. That has resulted from the committee's 2010 report Inquiry into the development of a digital repository and electronic distribution of the Parliamentary Papers series. In the 44th Parliament, the Presiding Officers, based on a recommendation of this committee, determined that the 2016 series would be the last series in printed format, with this current year's series only available electronically.

I have a few formalities to go through. I want to remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee they are protected by parliamentary privilege. That does not mean go for a free-for-all. It is unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee, and such action may be treated as contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to a parliamentary committee. In accordance with the resolution of the committee, this hearing will be broadcast on the parliament's website. I advise those present here today you that filming and recording are permitted during this hearing. I remind members of the media—I do not think we have any present—of the need to fairly and accurately report the proceedings of the committee. I welcome all of those people who are participating in the round table we have this morning as part of this public hearing.

Just to quickly talk about the procedures for the hearing: we have divided them into four sections, as shown on the program that I think each and every one of you should have. It has been circulated. Each section deals with a key topic raised in the terms of reference for this inquiry. So to give a bit of order and structure to the proceedings, address your comments through me, as the chair. We have only got until about 9.30, so can we can be succinct and relevant to those terms of reference and to the topics as listed so that we can get all issues covered in that time frame? I am going to open now to any of the witnesses, starting from the left, who wish to make an opening remark before we get into each of these different sections. If you do wish to make a statement, please go ahead.

Mr Pye : Thanks, Chair, I would like to make a short opening statement. It is great to be back before the Joint Committee on Publications. Ten years ago, nearly to the day—on 18 June 2007—I appeared before the powerful publications committee. It was a pleasure to do so then, and it is a pleasure to do so again.

You have a submission from me and the Department of the Senate. I will not go over that territory, but I wanted to let you know that the main reason I am here today is to throw my full weight behind the idea of electronic tabling of documents in the parliament. I do not believe there are any obstacles whatsoever to having documents tabled electronically so that you do not even necessarily need hard copy documents tabled in the Senate—I do not know how the House feels about that yet, but we will get there—but there are some preconditions that need to be met before that can happen.

The whole point of certainly the government tabling documents in the Senate is in aid of accountability, and the whole point of the Parliamentary Papers series, and the broader collection of tabled papers, is to provide a record of the work of the parliament. The accountability function will be best served by electronic documents if two preconditions are met. The first precondition is that the government, when presenting reports and other documents to the parliament, should provide them in electronic form before they are due to be tabled. We need to develop a system, a repository, in Parliament House that can accept documents in an electronic form in an embargoed fashion, or under embargo, so that they can be published as soon as they are tabled so that senators and members and other interested parties can have those documents before them in electronic form when they are trying to use them in the parliament, and certainly in subsequent consideration of them in committees. For as long as we say, 'Yes, it's important or it's mandatory to have documents presented electronically, but it's not necessarily mandatory for that to happen before they are tabled', there will always be a cohort of people who will require printed documents. So if we want to get out of the business of delivering bulk copies of documents that people do not want, the only way to do that is to require electronic receipt of documents prior to their tabling in the parliament.

The other precondition is that the government—again, where we are talking about documents required to be presented by the government to the parliament—needs to continue to compile that set of documents that need to be presented. We cannot build a system whereby the parliament is required to go out and get the documents from the government. The whole point of the accountability process is that the government will decide what to table and when to table, and so we really require the same process that we have at the moment of the government having tabling officers who compile these documents, albeit in an electronic form.

I want to fully endorse the Parliamentary Library's digital preservation framework and policy, which has recently been completed and endorsed. I really applaud the decision of the Library and Librarian to develop and maintain the digital version of the Parliamentary Papers series. Dr Heriot and I have talked on occasion also about the Library wanting to become the proper repository for parliamentary committee reports and submissions and so forth, and I think that is entirely appropriate and reasonable. It is very useful for us to lean on the expertise that we have in the Library, and expertise we have in our DPS ICT area.

Leading on from that, in relation to the forward-going standards for publication, say, of documents, rather than necessarily printing standards, rather than adopting very specific standards as we have in the past—it must be B5; it must be black and white; it had to be foolscap a long time ago—it would be better for the committee to connect the parliament's standards to other experts' standards, and you have got the National Archives here today who can talk about where we go with digital standards for archival purposes. There is no reason that we need to, as a parliament, create special requirements ourselves; we can hook ourselves onto whatever the standards of the day are. I think that is an appropriate way to do things. I will leave it there, thank you, Chair.

Ms McKenzie : The National Library did not, on this occasion, make a submission to this inquiry, but we have made a submission to the previous inquiry and our position remains largely the same. The parliamentary papers are published works and, in that sense, they are eligible for deposit with the National Library, and this is an arrangement we—the National Archives and the National Library—are well aware of. From that point of view, the National Library's position is that our role is to collect a documentary record of Australians and Australian life. That includes the record of government. We have an interest in providing citizen access to the record of government. We believe that with the electronic distribution of parliamentary papers, both of those things can be achieved and achieved in a more efficient and equitable way than possibly has been the case with print.

We support the distribution of parliamentary papers in electronic form, and, with a few conditions, such as the Clerk of the Senate has mentioned regarding the standards of the format and the way it is being delivered, that can be achieved. That National Library is ready to accept those works in an electronic form. We have recently completed the digital infrastructure, the digital work flows needed to bring in electronic works and pass them through our system into managed preservation storage. So from that point of view, the National Library also will provide that safeguarding of the national record, in addition to the work that is being done by the Parliamentary Library, and make them freely accessible to members of the public who may wish to have access to the record of government. That is all I would say at this stage.

Ms Lyons : Following on from Amelia, just briefly, the Archives did put in a submission, and it is based mainly on our requirement for digitalisation and digital creation of government information. I will refer to the Digital Continuity 2020 policy of the National Archives, which is a whole-of-government approach to digital information governance. It is centred on all information created in a digital format. It is managed digitally, and all information is kept in an accessible digital format for as long as it is required.

Parliament is responsible for creating, receiving and maintaining a range of information in both published and unpublished formats, including the documents presented to parliament and the Parliamentary Papers series. So in line with our Digital Continuity 2020 policy, we have proposed and are required that all parliamentary records, information and publications should be created, kept, managed and made accessible in digital formats—and I will talk about accessibility. It is mainly to support business efficiency but it also increases the ability to provide timely access to information that it is kept in a format that is accessible over time, and that is where we get to the preservation and access standards. In talking about those, the National Archives has a set of published standards for base metadata that is required on all information that we provide to agencies and it is on our website. But most parliamentary publications will not be deposited with the National Archives so we have no requirements from that perspective. They will be deposited with the National Library under the library standards of the required digital standards that they require. I think that is something that they already have and we will be able to provide those as required.

In reference to the National Archives paper quality, as we said in our submission, we have no requirement for the department to create a printed copy for archival purposes; in fact, that would be contrary to our position—we have some advice that we gave the committee. For those instances where a printed copy is required, we do have recommendations on our website for that and we have provided advice to the committee on where that should be linked to on our website.

Ms Lynch : I do not have any opening comments but Mr Rush will talk about some of the proposals we have been working on in the provision of documents electronically.

Mr Rush : The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's role includes the longstanding practice that PM&C coordinates the presentation and tabling to parliament of government documents. We do that principally through promulgating guidelines to government departments and agencies and we have a tabling officer placed with our parliamentary liaison officers in the parliament to assist with that process. Many of you will be aware that in 2015 a review was commissioned by the secretaries of departments to look at internal regulation in government. It was called the independent Review of Whole-of-Government Internal Regulation. Barbara Belcher, a former First Assistant Secretary in PM&C, led that review so excuse me if I refer to it as the 'Belcher review'. I hope Barbara will excuse me for that too.

The review made more than 100 recommendations but one of those recommendations that was particularly relevant in this context was about electronic tabling. During 2016, PM&C had some exploratory discussions with the Department of Parliamentary Services, the Department of the Senate and the Department of the House of Representatives about the achievability of moving towards electronic tabling. It seems to me, based on those exploratory discussions, that there is, at least at this point, still some expectation that there will be a few hard copies available for the chambers in the foreseeable future. But like the Clerk, I think there is the potential for a significant move towards electronic tabling, perhaps a better described as online publication of government documents that are tabled. We are certainly prepared to continue to cooperate with parliamentary departments on how that might be achieved.

Ms Fisher : The Printing Industries Association of Australia represents the print, visual communications and media technologies sector, and we are the peak body in the industry. Appearing alongside me today are colleagues from CanPrint. Since about 1967, CanPrint has been printing a significant range of parliamentary documents. CanPrint employs 95 people, a third of whom at the moment are security cleared for the purposes of printing parliamentary documents. In terms of our presence here today and particularly CanPrint's expertise, we hope to be able to offer the committee information in respect of parliamentary documents that are currently printed external to parliament. In that respect, we are talking about explanatory memorandum, bills and acts and Senate journals—100 per cent of which, at the moment, CanPrint prints. We are talking about the federal budget and associated papers and CanPrint currently prints 100 per cent of those. We are also talking about annual reports and CanPrint estimates it prints about 50 per cent of those, at the moment.

CanPrint and we, obviously, accept that printing volumes have declined and will continue to do, and we are realistic about that. However, I never thought, Mr Pye, I would be saying something somewhat at odds with Mr Pye's comments, because he was so kind and supportive of me in a previous job I had. We say that print does deliver value for money and we would ask that parliament be very careful in considering going 100 per cent online and 100 per cent replacing print with online. There are a number of reasons for which we do that and we simply ask that you take this into account.

If your purpose is cost then CanPrint can offer some experience—that is, a document does not simply come on a stick and then is printed. In CanPrint's case—for example, explanatory memorandum—yes, a stick is delivered at 6 pm the night before, and the explanatory memoranda is turned around under secure provision by six the following morning. But there is a lot of work to be done with the stuff on that stick before it is printed. That work will still have to be done even if that explanatory memorandum is purely put online, just using that by way of example.

In terms of cost, take annual reports by way of example. Twenty per cent of the 100 per cent cost to each agency, on average, is that print component—the physical printing component; 80 per cent on average of the cost of the production of an annual report is everything else leading up to that, almost all of which would still have to be done for online production. So that is cost.

On access and usability, in the experience of the print industry, print companies have many customers who traditionally have ordered printed documents and who will walk away having made the decision to go 100 per cent online. It is very usual for those customers to return, albeit wanting less by way of volume of printed copy, but recognising that a significant percentage of their customers still want print. So they come back using a combination of print and online.

The third reason is turnaround time. In CanPrint's case, as I say, from 6 pm the night before until six the next morning, by 8 am parliament has an explanatory memoranda. It is not necessarily the case that online production will be as quick as that, particularly when you need to be considering whether you will have parliamentary staff working overnight.

The final reason—and Mr Pye referred to this—is in terms of embargo. Security obviously is a significant issue. As I have said, 30 per cent of CanPrint's staff have security clearance, and all of the documents to which I have referred, including annual reports, are produced under secure conditions. In the case of the budget, CanPrint goes into complete lockdown, as it were, for 72 hours and churns out all the budget documents, working 24/7 over three days, essentially.

Today CanPrint are with me as the experts, so I hope I will not have do much more talking after this. CanPrint also want to offer committee members the opportunity to visit. They have a fantastic place, by the way. It is less than 10 kays from parliament. It is very close. It is very good in terms of the environment and delivery of printed documents. They would be very pleased to show members of the committee some of the logistics and practical things they do in printing parliamentary documents. So thank you. Simply be careful what you wish for if you are contemplating going 100 per cent online, Mr Pye!

CHAIR: Just to allay some of the concerns: my understanding—and I will seek correction from the secretariat and perhaps even the Department of the Senate and the House of Representatives—is that bills and explanatory memorandums would not be included in this, because they are not parliamentary papers. Certainly some aspects of the budget documents would be and annual reports would be, but I would hazard a guess that government departments are still going to have to print annual reports, just not for parliamentary purposes, and the same with the budget, given how much it is circulated. I just throw that out there. Yes, there will probably have to be less in terms of those latter two—budgets and annual reports—for the purposes of parliament, but it is not like ceasing it altogether, I guess. Ms Shields, did you wish to add anything?

Ms Shields : No, thank you.

CHAIR: Mr Brien?

Mr Brien : No comment.

CHAIR: Mr McKenzie?

Mr McKenzie : No, thank you.

CHAIR: Ms Luchetti?

Ms Luchetti : No.

CHAIR: Dr Heriot?

Dr Heriot : I will be very brief. The library has two areas of interest in parliamentary papers. Our researchers are core consumers of them. They are a key resource for us and they are a core element of our collection. As the submission noted, we are in the later stages of digitising the predigital paper series to make them more easily accessible and discoverable. This is part of the library's program of digital service delivery, to ensure that our clients, wherever they are around the country, can have access to these materials. Our interest, I should flag, goes beyond only the parliamentary papers system. We are also interested, for those purposes, in the full set of tabled papers being made electronically. I know that is slightly beyond your ambit, but that has two great benefits for us: it reduces the burden for additional linear shelving every year and, secondly, more sophisticated searching of the materials is then available.

CHAIR: Would any of the committee members like to make a statement or do you just want to get into questions?

Senator REYNOLDS: I might do both. Thank you very much for all your written evidence and for your evidence here this morning. First of all, I just wanted to make a little bit of a comment on behalf of MPs and then turn that into a question. In relation to the hard copy of documents, I know it is my experience, and that of many of my colleagues, that the hard copies for us are still very important. While we have rudimentary access online, when you have multiple documents for a single hearing, or budget papers and all sorts of things, it is not practical yet for us to try and juggle them. It is too slow, too awkward. I notice with a lot of our practices—and just talking to Mr Falinski—we use the papers, we write on them, we review them, we flick through them. So it is just physically not possible for us—

Mr FALINSKI: Maybe we need more iPads!

Senator REYNOLDS: Maybe we could have multiple iPads! That is the first thing, and it is not just for us; it is obviously for parliamentary staff and others in this building to do our business. I just put that out there in terms of consideration for my colleagues. As part of that also—with another two committee hats on—the issue of cybersecurity is very important. For example, in the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters we are looking at the need to have physical backup in case something goes wrong—temporary denial of service or even worse. Is there a requirement for the official record of parliamentary papers and associated documents to have at least one, if not more, hard copy for official records?

Mr Pye : I will respond to a couple of those things—and try to settle this dispute between myself and the former Senator Fisher! And I should say that, before I was a parliamentary officer, I worked in the printing industry! I think people will continue to want hard copy of documents for a long time into the future. But I do not think it is useful for the Senate to receive 100 copies of every document that is required to be tabled in the parliament. We have obviously reduced the number over the years. But there is waste with the documents that come in because there is a requirement to deliver however many there are. I will not nominate any particular agency, but not every agency gets the full Senate treatment.

But I completely agree with the deputy chair as well. Look how I prepared for today—I didn't even bring my iPad! I think there will be a requirement for people to juggle hard copies and digital versions; it makes it hard to transition between the two of them, I guess. But my feeling is that if documents are required to be firstly in electronic form then the way people produce and write documents and link between elements of documents, and the sorts of content that you can include in documents, starts to include things like interactive graphics. That is a very useful thing. If we are telling people they can produce these electronic resources, digital resources, which can then be tabled and archived then I think people will start to create documents that you can more easily flick between on your iPad and that sort of thing. But I think there is a way to go there. There will be print for a while yet, I suspect.

Senator REYNOLDS: I have six or seven folders of various reports and papers printed out for committee meetings today. Again, it is about the issue Ms Fisher raised: because these documents are electronic, most of us still print them all out. So it may be that in some ways it is more economical to actually print some of these things than have all our offices print them out for us. Are there any other comments on that issue?

Ms Lyons : The view of the National Archives is that if it is created digitally then it remains digital and you can print it out if you require it for your own purposes. At the National Archives if it is born digital it stays digital, so there is no need to have a printed copy.

CHAIR: Are there any further comments on that particular front?

Mr McKenzie : From a cybersecurity perspective, obviously using a hardcopy as a backup is one option. There are many other technical options available to us such as offline digital backups, tape backups, tapes being stored in vaults and so forth. So there would be many other ways that we could take things that are born digital and keep them digital, and keep that digital backup copy in a way that is safe and secure.

Senator REYNOLDS: Is that happening currently?

Mr McKenzie : Yes, it is. For what parliament does, what we normally use for the archive or long-term backup would be backup tape that is stored offsite in secure facilities that are fireproof, floodproof and so forth.

Mr FALINSKI: I understand there was an issue where things were being stored using a particular type of storage. I am going to use the example of VCRs: now no-one has VCRs, and it was impossible to recover that. How are we dealing with that issue?

Mr McKenzie : That is a challenge. Obviously, as you create tape backup, you need a tape reader to read that tape in 20 years time. So we are moving more to disc backup, but you can have live disc backup and you can also have offline disc backup. As the disc technology matures, the data would be migrated to newer and newer discs. Where a tape is created and the tape is shifted off site, at some point in time, if you need to read that tape, you need a tape reader, as you alluded to with the VCR tape reader scenario.

Mr FALINSKI: Thank you.

Ms McKenzie : I may add through the chair that in this scenario we are speaking about digital preservation—in other words, the need to ensure that a copy of a digital work is available and still accessible in 20 or 50 years time. For that, what is required is an active program with the appropriate tools and software to continuously assess the accessibility of the collection—the archive, if you like. The National Library has this in place, and we have an active digital preservation program that is intended to do exactly that—to take formats that have become obsolete and works that cannot be read on current versions of PCs, and migrate them, transform them and re-present them in new ways so that they can remain accessible.

Senator REYNOLDS: Thank you for that. Further to that, I know that, for example, the National Film and Sound Archive has a huge problem with some of the tapes and footage that do not last very long and degrade very quickly. How do you deal with that, in terms of the various media that you use for storage? How do you make sure—because you have vast quantities of it—that it does not degrade? Once it has degraded, it—

Ms McKenzie : Correct.

Senator REYNOLDS: So how do you physically do that.

Ms McKenzie : You have to physically undertake the continuous transfer of old formats to new formats. As an example, the National Library has an oral history collection of interviews with individuals which were originally conducted on what we call analog tape—in other words, it was not digitally accessible audiotape. We are just about to complete a 15- to 18-year program to transfer those analog tapes to digital formats. Then, as a consequence, we are able to deliver those oral history recordings online through our website, where you can now listen to them directly wherever you are in Australia or the world. Previously that was not possible. It is a continuous resource and a continuous effort to migrate old formats to new formats and keep digital works accessible.

Senator REYNOLDS: With that, as you transfer vast quantities of digital data from one format to new formats, have you had any evidence or any guarantee that the content is not lost or corrupted along the way?

Ms McKenzie : We have ways of assessing whether there has been any loss. Of course, it is our aim to have no loss at all. If you think about physical books, journals and newspapers that were printed hundreds of years ago, there is always going to be some loss as paper crumbles into nothing. With digital formats, it may well be that there is some content we end up not being able to rescue, but we have a number of tools and skills at our disposal, and at the moment it is our aim to ensure that we transfer all of this digital content for the future.

Senator REYNOLDS: Are you confident that the media that you are using have the same shelf life as a book and can last 100 or 200 years?

Ms McKenzie : Not by any means. Digital formats are far more vulnerable than some paper formats, but that is always going to be the case. It is always a matter of moving to a new format and developing the tools and the resources that will be required to keep those formats available in the much longer term. It is a challenge everybody has.

CHAIR: Dr Heriot, do you want to add something?

Dr Heriot : I was just going to note that the Parliamentary Library is about midway through a preservation digitisation project for its own collection of cassette and video tapes. We have not had the specialist storage that the National Library has, so this was very much a just-in-time intervention. Now, once they are preserved, we will go through the steps in our digital preservation policy to ensure that the integrity is regularly checked through backroom processes; then, as formats evolve, they are migrated in a timely manner.

CHAIR: The deputy chair has to leave in 10 minutes or so, so we will go outside of the topic areas so that she can put her questions and, if you have anything else, jump in too.

Senator REYNOLDS: They were the main questions; I know you will go through the rest. Thank you very much for your indulgence.

CHAIR: The first issue is about the standards for presentation of documents. I might throw over three questions all at once, particularly for the Department of the House of Representatives and the Department of the Senate or the Department of Parliamentary Services. In the research you may have done are there any parliaments you are aware of that have adopted digital tabling of documents, and to what extent, and how has their experience been? If we did go down that track of digital tabling, how would they be delivered and secured whilst under embargo? And what systems and resources would be required to establish that process—is there currently the infrastructure and hardware available to develop such a system? I will throw it to whoever wants to respond.

Mr Banson : I am not aware of any parliaments that have gone completely to digital tabling. I have not looked into it a lot. Perhaps DPS might have more knowledge of that and of the systems that might be required to support that. I think there are questions around how you would deal with receipt of documents and embargo, but I do not think any of those things would be insurmountable. I do not have the answers from a technological perspective but I am sure they would all be able to be dealt with.

CHAIR: Does the Department of the Senate or DPS wish to add anything?

Mr Keele : Yes. All Australian jurisdictions have moved in some way to online tabling or providing their documents in a digital format. In some research that the Senate Public Information Office has undertaken over recent years we have found that the best model, at the moment, in Australia seems to be the South Australian model. It is similar to what we have been talking about, what Mr Rush indicated. Premier and Cabinet in South Australia still maintain the receipt of documents on behalf of executive government and then they provide it to the parliament. That is something that we would be looking at here for the federal parliament.

CHAIR: Did you say you would still require hard copy?

Mr Keele : No, sorry, I did not say that. We want to emulate the existing authority processes where Prime Minister and Cabinet receive the documents and then supply those documents electronically to the parliament, so it goes through that checking, that authority process.

CHAIR: I see, sorry.

Mr Keele : And South Australia follow that model. South Australia have also developed electronic stamping so the documents can be authenticated there that take a copy. Although they have a reasonably significant online tabling system, they still require one hard copy as a backup for their tabled papers.

CHAIR: Would that be something that the House and Senate would require, a hard copy, if they were to go down that track?

Mr Keele : In the early days we probably would but, as the Clerk mentioned before, as the system matured we would look at whether there was an ongoing need.

CHAIR: DPS, do you want to add anything to that discussion?

Mr McKenzie : From a technical perspective, the question around infrastructure software and so forth, our understanding is it is very early days. We are only initially having discussions with PM&C and with the Senate and Reps, understanding what the requirement would be. But from a technology perspective we do not believe there would be any proprietary technology involved with the standard IT infrastructure storage workload technology security aspects of it. So the technology that would be required to do things such as holding under embargo, releasing documents to certain people at certain times, is all technology that exists. It is nothing that would be proprietary to a parliamentary application.

CHAIR: How would you ensure that the electronic document that is being delivered is the same as the stock copy that is delivered? How much work goes into that? Is it going to create an extra layer of work?

Mr Brien : We are communications business not just printing. We receive those files nightly. We could service with the format that we do. For those bills to be tabled the next morning, instead of going to print we supply secure USBs to the House each morning which are delivered by our secure driver. We take the files and set to printing. We produce 163 USBs, for example, and deliver them in the morning. That would solve all of those issues and then you would have your electronic format to upload to the National Library or wherever after that.

Mr McKenzie : There is also technology such as digital certificates and digital rights management. There is technology that exists in the mainstream that would be able to compare documents to determine whether there have been no changes or modifications between two documents. That technology exists and is available now.

Senator REYNOLDS: In relation to the requirement for an embargo period, how long would that be for a document to be lodged electronically? Are we talking about a few hours or a day?

Mr Keele : I imagine it would be similar to what we are doing now with hard copy. We follow that same sort of process for—

Senator REYNOLDS: You would not any more time?

Mr Keele : No. As the Clerk mentioned, a condition for electronic tabling to work is to have the documents waiting there early ahead of tabling, so they can be processed and in a condition to be published the minute they are tabled so they can then be accessed. The embargo time would not be any different.

CHAIR: This one might be for Archives or anyone else who wants to jump in. In moving to digital, there may be a requirement for ever and a day to still have certain papers printed and certainly in the lead-up to that you would still have papers to printed. Should we maintain, relax or eliminate the standards and, if they are going to be relaxed, what relaxations do you think need to be brought in? There is the B5 international size. Could we accept A4? If we allowed other paper size, should there be a requirement in regard to paper quality? For archival purposes, do we need to keep on insisting it be a certain quality of paper? Is there a need to specify requirements regarding the covers of these documents?

Ms Lyons : In relation to archival paper, we do not really need it for our purposes; it would not need to be kept for our purposes. But if a print copy was required to be kept for other purposes then I do think we would recommend you use the recommended paper standard that the Archives has recommended because it will last a lot longer. That is the reason why. In relation to any other format or anything else, we are fairly agnostic about that.

CHAIR: That paper size and so on?

Ms Lyons : Yes.

CHAIR: What do the parliament's departments think about size and the standard and the quality of paper? Any suggestions there, or could those be relaxed without any grief?

Mr Banson : We certainly think that the B5 requirement could be relaxed to A4 without any adverse consequences. It was really for the bound volume of the PPS, which was discontinued. We would not see any issue with that. We would still support a minimum standard. Certainly if we were still required to retain the tabled copy as the official record, for that one we would still support a minimum standard. But otherwise for other copies, such as the stock that we keep, no, we do not need that requirement.

Ms MADELEINE KING: I just wanted some background on the B5. That was about the bound copy of the PPS, which from 2016 we no longer do. That was the background to requiring that size. Was that the case?

Mr Banson : That is my understanding, yes.

CHAIR: We might move onto the production, printing and publication of documents presented. Many of the discussion points that have been raised are also relevant to this area. We could also talk about questions such as whether the current 'printing standards' should be redesignated as 'publication standards' as we are talking about online as well. That leads to the questions, 'What should the minimum standards be for digital documents?' and 'Should those standards make reference to file formats, accessibility, metadata requirements and full text searchability?' Somebody threw out there before particular features within documents that can be done and whether we would allow them or whether they need to be straight PDF documents or Word documents that do not have any whiz-bang gadgetry in them. Those are really some of the key questions for us. In regard to the electronic copies of documents, as I say, is there a preferred format or indeed a required format that we should have? I am going to throw those questions out to whoever wants to answer them from the department mostly. But for anyone else who wants to chime in, please do.

Ms McKenzie : From the National Library's point of view, we have one or two observations to make. One is really a plea to retain the link between the parliamentary paper number and the online version of the parliamentary paper. At the moment I understand that is not available and yet the parliamentary paper number is an important and useful way of obtaining access to that parliamentary paper.

CHAIR: In other words, it should be in the filename.

Ms McKenzie : Correct. Another observation is that the format and standard of the online version of a parliamentary paper in some ways, from the National Library's point of view, would be partly conditional on the manner in which it had been deposited with us. There are a number of different ways that the National Library can acquire an electronic copy. One would be to harvest it from a website. Another would be for it to enter the National Library's deposit system workflow by means of the individual input of metadata about that item through a web deposit form. Those are both options. We would strongly suggest that the parliamentary papers be published online in such a manner that provides the indexes in HTML format and not as a PDF file. The indexes to the parliamentary papers are a very important way of getting access to them and discovering which ones have been published, when and on what subjects. The publication itself would ideally be accessible in both HTML and PDF formats. In the case of a presentation on a website, we have no technical barriers to prevent the automatic collection of that publication. That is perhaps more technology detail than the committee desires, but I believe it is something we can easily continue a conversation about, following the completion of the work.

CHAIR: What parliamentary papers end up going over to the National Library? Is it all of them?

Ms McKenzie : The library deposit scheme currently operates. Through that the Library obtains print copies of parliamentary papers. We have also been harvesting—which means 'collecting'—a copy of the Parliament House website regularly and, where parliamentary papers have been put on that website, then they are collected by the National Library through the website.

CHAIR: At what point should that html document requirement be there? You are basically talking about having an internet page for the document, so should it then be the requirement of the submitter to the parliament—of the government agency or whatever—or should it be the requirement of the parliament to do it? I suppose, at each stage, whoever is doing it, it is adding in a layer of work and of cost, and I guess that one of the drivers in this is to reduce the cost requirement. If you are now having to convert a document to html, obviously there is another layer of work that is needed in that process.

Ms McKenzie : That is true, and I think, as I say, it depends on which workflow is the preferred workflow for the parliament itself, and that is not for us to prescribe.

CHAIR: I will throw it open to anyone else.

Mr Keele : The Belcher review did identify that there are competing priorities at the moment with preparing information for print publication and then, subsequently, preparing it for digital publication. If that review concluded that, on the evidence it got, there was a reverse focus that was digital first and then a more click on demand-type approach, then you would still enable a streamlined process, whereas, at the moment, we are having to capture things and produce html pages, web pages, after the fact, after something has been tabled.

Mr Suur : I would like to describe some work that we are doing at the moment. With the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, we are undertaking a pilot project of establishing an annual report digital prototype. We are taking three years worth of Finance and PM&C annual reports and showing how they might work if they were published in a digital format. That includes introducing search capabilities and graphic capabilities and things like that, so it is really an attempt to demonstrate what kind of functionality may come from annual reports if they are published in a digital-first format. Now, we are some months away from landing this and from showing the JCPAA, but it does open up a range of questions about what format things are published in and how different formats can be reconciled so that there is a consistency in how they are presented, whether in printed form or an electronic form. Our approach to this is that, given the kinds of discussions that are taking place about digital publishing, it is probably time for executive government to knuckle down and have a go at showing what it might look like and how it might work to open up a longer discussion with the parliament about what kinds of formats are acceptable to the parliament and what kinds of formats are acceptable for tabling purposes.

Ms MADELEINE KING: I have comments and questions, and I will just throw them to the floor, given the format we are in today. Mr Suur, I am conscious of what you say. I am on the Public Accounts and Audit Committee. One of my concerns with formats—and all of us members are high users of the parliamentary papers—is how you ensure the print compatibility with certain documents, especially when they are numbers-heavy. It is very hard, and I totally agree with what Senator Reynolds said before—that you need multiple copies to try to get through these hearings and be able to see all the numbers all at the same time. It simply cannot always be done on electronic versions.

That is a format question. I will just go through a couple of things and people might answer as we go. If we, as members of parliament, increasingly rely on electronic versions of all the parliamentary papers we will need to have better printers available to us. Literally, with the graphs that come through on these papers I cannot print them in colour unless I go and find a friendly senator who is willing to do them for me. That is at considerable cost of the Department of Parliamentary Services, I would have thought—to enable us to print on A3 in full colour so that we can get the full picture. These things are really great to see electronically. When you see a graph, particularly an interactive one, it is good, but when you have to sit through these hearings you do have to print them out otherwise you cannot get the full picture when you need to quite quickly, as you would know, Ms Fisher. That is another concern of mine.

The last one I want to raise when talking about formats concerns notations on electronic documents. I have been a member since only last July but I cannot find a consistent view amongst my colleagues about what is a good app I can use to annotate. I went through these papers earlier in the week and I have all my little notes everywhere. What is the best format that is then printable for when I might be in a situation where using an iPad or a laptop is best and that I can annotate by hand and then refer back to that document quite easily. I think that is a barrier to our using electronic versions more so. I am not sure if my colleagues agree. Those are my thoughts on wholly online versus the need for hard copies. I will open it up for comments or feedback on those views.

Mr McKenzie : A lot of what you are talking about there we do manage as part of the IT for the parliament. In terms of the printers I am not aware historically why colour printers are provisioned to the Senate and not to the Reps. It is something I will ask about to try to find out. It would obviously be an additional cost to provision full colour printing. It is something I will do a bit of investigation on. In terms of the annotation of documents, it is a conversation we are having with PICTAB, the Parliamentary ICT Advisory Board. That issue has been raised. From my understanding, a lot of the documents would be accessed through COMDOC and other means, and there is quite a diverse way that people do annotation. It is often a multistep process, particularly on an iPad that requires you to save things and open them in different applications and save somewhere else. What we potentially would be looking at in future is a more integrated way to get documents from COMDOC to annotate them to be able to save your own version of that document. It is something that will always be a challenge for us, because we can come up with one way to do it but there may be quite a diverse view on how appropriate that is. So it is something we would probably work with PICTAB on to devise a way that it was standardised. But there will always be members who might prefer to do it a different way, through the apps available to them. There is not a current project on the plan, but it is something we are discussing as a future project, because the issue of annotation is something comes up quite regularly as we move to digital.

The other aspect, as has been mentioned a couple of times, is that one of the challenges with a digital screen is that you have one screen and it will never solve the issue of when you are trying to look at multiple documents at the one time, as you would spread out pieces of paper on a desk. It is quite suited to when you are dealing with individual documents in individual sequences but juggling multiple documents, unless the documents are written in a way that allows hyperlinking and moving between documents, is always going to be a challenge.

Ms Drinkwater : Thank you for the question around formatting, in particular of financial tables, and how you would have multiple data points or departments represented in the one screen. Our pilot has been specifically looking at that. Obviously, it is just PM&C and Finance at the moment, but we have looked at time series over three financial years and also by comparison between PM&C and us in the same sorts of categories. The technology we have used to do that is that financial statements sit at data.gov.au, which is administered by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and we have used a Drupal web based platform. That has been able to use the HTML versions to be able to pull that information into the one place, on the one screen. That is part of the testing that we are currently doing. I am not able to provide any comments on the printing in Parliament House. The large software providers do have annotation available. The Department of Finance uses one on your mobile devices and, again, in our pilot we could test that on our system.

CHAIR: Does anyone else wish to make a comment on any of the matters that have been raised?

Mr Keele : I will go back to your earlier question about standards and format. While we would not want to prescribe a particular format, I think we have to head towards the contemporary formats and standards of the day. As the library pointed out, we are going to have to be updating those as we move along as things change. But we do need a minimum standard because, as we go back to the conditions for electronic tabling to work, the parliament needs to be in a position to receive documents in a way that it can easily integrate them with the systems we have in here. If we were receiving hundreds of different document types from all over the place, that is not going to work because we would have to manage that, so we have to know what is coming our way in order to be able to publish it.

CHAIR: That leads to another question, and I really am jumping ahead to the preservation of documents which we might do away with. We have probably already discussed a lot of that, unless there are further questions that people have. You have raised that issue. You go and buy an iPhone and then the next one is issued. Daily there are things changing in the technology space, so a complication that we have to consider as we go towards electronic or digital is changing file formats, changing technologies and software updates that come out that might make use of previous electronic copies almost redundant or supersede programs. How do we ensure that documents that we have archived for specific reasons are kept up to date as technology changes and that we are not here 20 years down the track saying, 'We need this document; how do we open it up?'

Ms Drinkwater : If I may, in the Belcher report under publishing and tabling, section 12, they refer to the digital design standard which goes to these machine readable applications and changes in technology. It is now called the Digital Service Standard, and that is looked after by the department of the Digital Transformation Agency.

Ms Lyons : From the National Archives' perspective, current formats that are in use for documents or any type of format that exists now will have to be looked at to be able to be taken in, in whatever format that is. So, from a standard perspective, I suppose that the parliament needs to look at whether the standard is what it wants to be able to not only take in and manage but also have a uniform way of presenting. That is where I see the dilemma is. But, with the formats that exist now, there are standards. Most people are using Word to create a document, for example. That is across the board. That is pretty standard across the parliament and across government. That is a standard format and there will be other software formats that are in regular use by different departments from a financial perspective—financial reports, for example. Those sorts of formats that exist now would need to be taken in, if they are to be archived, for business purposes within the parliament, to be deposited as a publication with the library or if, under agreement, some of those parliamentary records do come to the National Archives. Those formats would be seen as being acceptable. We have not provided any particular requirement for a particular type format at the moment. Other governments in other countries have from a national archival perspective, but we have not at this stage. It may be something that we do do in the future—that is, we say, 'This is the suite of format that we will take in over this period.' Then, as you said, there would be new formats and new ways of producing electronic information into the future. We will have to review that on an ongoing basis and provide advice—'This is the format that we will take in now.' And we will have to migrate, as Amelia said, the archival information in whatever format into another format over time. And that is a constant preservation process that we will need to go through. So that is just from our perspective.

Dr Heriot : Just as there is work to maintain a physical collection to make sure that it is in good condition, there is active husbandry—for want of a better phrase—around managing a digital collection. As Amelia said, there are back-end processes to check integrity and there are decisions when you need to move to new file formats, whether it is because of software changes, hardware changes or both.

CHAIR: That answers my question. Finally, on this point, and then we will move on to what might be our last section: if we are going to keep all or the greater part of parliamentary records from here on in in digital format, how vulnerable does it leave us to a system crashing, a virus, sabotage? How much backup is there going to be to ensure that we do not wake up one day and five years of history has just gone?

Mr McKenzie : I think that it is, probably, myself, again. Talking from a parliamentary perspective and from the perspective of the systems that we run here in parliament—and, I guess, also keeping in mind that these documents may not exist in a single repository; they may be distributed across archives or the library, so the loss of one location in a catastrophic way may not result in the loss of the actual document or the history—we are looking at a number of options. We do have some exposure within the building in terms of single points of failure, which are being looked at in a comprehensive data disaster recovery strategy. So, again, we would always be looking at on-site fail over to an external site and, then, the off-line backup, whether it be tape or disc in a third location. So you would be looking in the same way—if you had a fire, for example, you could lose physical documents. We would be looking, digitally, to try and replicate that so that the loss of a single site would not result in the loss of a whole collection. And then there would be other institutions that would also maintain copies of this. It may appear that it puts it at more risk, but it is possibly not any more than having a library or something burn down that has physical printed copies that would be similarly vulnerable to fire, moths or other vermin that might attack physical copies.

CHAIR: Does anyone else want to chime in?

Ms McKenzie : I would just endorse that comment. In the digital environment, there is a phrase, 'Lots of copies keep stuff safe.' In other words, if you have more than one collection then you are lowering the risk of loss. It is eminently true in the digital word. The National Library, by the same token, has a very secure and sound strategy of maintaining backup copies—running backups every night—to ensure that should some unforeseen event occur then there is resort to another version.

CHAIR: We might move on to our last section: distribution, accessibility and transparency of documents. I will just start off the discussion. On the requirements to provide printed hardcopies for distribution where they need to be printed, firstly, does it need to happen? Could we abolish that requirement or reduce the core group of recipients? If we were to reduce it, who would be the core group? Is there a continued need for chamber documents and for the Parliamentary Library to receive hardcopies for the use of MPs and senators? Could we remove the press gallery? I think there are around 40 copies that currently go to them. Is there still a need to provide hardcopies to the Commonwealth Library Deposit Scheme or free issue scheme, or could that be done electronically? Who wants to kick off?

Dr Heriot : In terms of deposit, we have made enquiries of a number of iterations now of libraries that had been receiving bound Hansards, for example, and we have found that almost uniformly they prefer them electronically because it takes the burden off them for physical storage, which, in a library, is always a vexed issue. We have reduced the number of hardcopies and we have taken in a library of parliamentary papers in recent years. While they are presented in hardcopy, we will collect in hardcopy. That is because that is the way the system has worked. Certainly some of the researchers like to work in hardcopy, but that would be equally satisfied by print on demand of any copy for when they are doing complex jobs that need to work across multiple documents. From our collection point of view, we have a focus on collecting digitally where we are able.

CHAIR: With respect to the chamber documents and receiving hardcopies, do you think there is a continued need for that for use by senators and members?

Mr Banson : You might be aware that over the years we have reduced the number that we require quite significantly. Currently we require 30 copies of government documents that we make available to members through the Table Office.

CHAIR: How widely is that used? Are they all used?

Mr Banson : It depends on the document, but I think we often end up with leftover copies.

CHAIR: So you have the capacity to reduce the number?

Mr Banson : Quite possibly, but it depends on the document. It is only 30 for 150 members. We are constantly looking at that.

Mr Keele : The committee may have seen the Senate's new online Notice Paper. As committee members have identified, there some difficulties in moving through and navigating large documents, as the Notice Paper tends to be. We have broken up the Notice Paper into its component sections so that senators and members can access the information quite easily. Doing things in an online setting enables us to do things in a slightly different way to front cover to back cover printing restricts us to. All those documents are available print on demand, so that they can be printed out onto paper and taken to meetings and that sort of thing.

CHAIR: Are there any further questions from members?

Ms MADELEINE KING: Just about the press gallery. They would have been aware of this inquiry, but I do not think that we heard from them on those numbers. I guess they are the only ones who can tell us that, unless anyone has any insight into that.

CHAIR: Who oversees the EPPS, the electronic parliamentary paper scheme? Is it DPS?

Dr Heriot : No.

CHAIR: So it is the Senate and the House; okay. On accessibility and search capacity for online documents through the EPPS, can it be improved? Is there scope to expand it so that all documents that are tabled and included are provided electronically, rather than just a subset?

Mr Keele : In response to the first question—'Can it be improved?'—yes. At the moment the electronic parliamentary papers series is a little bit hidden within the main search repository, ParlInfo. Exposing that to a webpage that is dedicated, with canned searches on the types of documents—'documents being tabled today', 'documents that have been tabled this week', that sort of thing—can make the documents easier and quicker to find. Sorry, your second question?

CHAIR: It was: if the committee recommends that all documents be provided electronically, is there scope to expand the EPPS so that all documents that are tabled are included, rather than just a subset?

Mr Keele : The short answer is yes. But there is perhaps not a need to expand the PPS as such. The parliamentary papers series as a distinct series can remain what it is. Providing documents online means we can make more documents available and accessible than we can just providing the parliamentary papers series to libraries around the country.

Dr Heriot : Chair, one of the key issues around electronic documents is to ensure their discoverability by maintaining appropriate metadata standards, and that is certainly something we do with the collections we ingest into our catalogues and our databases, both the EPPS and the retrospective digitisation project.

CHAIR: We only have about four minutes left and then the committee is going to close down for loss of members. Is there anyone else who wishes to make a final statement?

Ms Fisher : Chair, I seek leave to table my opening statement.

CHAIR: You can. Thank you. We will receive that. Are there any further statements before we wind up? No? Okay. I think it has been very informative today. I want to thank you very much for your attendance, for the submissions and for your testimony. If you do have any additional information that you want to supply as a result of this roundtable, could you please forward it to the secretariat. You will be sent a copy of the transcript of this roundtable. You will have an opportunity to request corrections.

Resolved that these proceedings be published.

Committee adjourned at 9 : 28