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Monday, 29 May 2006
Page: 1

Mrs DRAPER (12:31 PM) —On behalf of the Joint Committee on Publications, I present the committee’s report entitled Distribution of the parliamentary papers series, together with the minutes of proceedings and evidence received by the committee.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

Mrs DRAPER —As chair of the committee it gives me great pleasure to present to the parliament the Joint Committee on Publications report titled Distribution of the parliamentary papers series, May 2006, to give a brief overview of the committee’s work over the past year and to outline to the House several key recommendations of the 23 recommendations in the body of the report.

I would like to acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues and other members of the committee, the chair of the Senate committee Senator John Watson, and deputy chair of the House of Representatives committee, the honourable member for Lyons, and honourable members for Braddon, Isaacs, Werriwa, Riverina and Ryan, as well as Senators Johnston, Marshall, Nash, Polley, Sterle and Wortley for their worthy contributions and efforts in compiling this important report. Also, I would like to acknowledge the Secretary of the House of Representatives Committee, Mr Jason Sherd, the Secretary of the Senate Publications Committee, Ms Jan Chapman, and the documents manager, Ms Vicki Bradley, for their hard work, professionalism and patience and recognise their support and involvement throughout the committee process. I would also like to acknowledge and thank former committee members, the members for Paterson and Chifley and Senators Kirk, Moore and Scullion.

The terms of reference were to inquire and report on the distribution of the parliamentary papers series, with particular reference to the potential impact of changes to the distribution of the PPS made by the Presiding Officers, mainly the tightening of the eligibility guidelines and the cessation of blister packs to commence on 1 January 2006; the provision of the PPS in a digital format, either as an alternative or an adjunct to the hard copy series; the feasibility of a subscription service, either in digital or hard copy form; and the possibility of partial or full cost recovery for the series.

Mr Speaker, as you are aware, many documents are presented to the parliament each year; some are required to be presented by law, others may just be presented for the general information of members. These documents include the annual reports of all government agencies, reports of royal commissions and other government inquiries, parliamentary committee reports and a wide variety of other material. Whilst these documents assist with good and accountable governance, only documents of a substantial nature are included in the parliamentary papers series.

Those documents not already ordered to be included in the PPS by the parliament are later considered by the publications committees, which have the role of making a recommendation to the parliament for their inclusion in the PPS. Mr Speaker, as you are aware, the PPS is then distributed to organisations such as state, publicly funded university or parliamentary libraries and is available throughout Australia for use by students, researchers and other sections of the public. It is fair to say that the PPS plays a major role in the governance practices of all government agencies and the parliament and is integral to an open and democratic system of government such as ours. But, most importantly, the PPS provides a historic record for future generations.

The Publications Committee has existed since 1970 and since its inception has only specifically reported on the parliamentary papers series four times—the last time being in 1997. The committee in 2006 has recommended that the eligibility criteria be broadened to include Commonwealth departmental libraries and that all recipients of the PPS are regularly monitored to ascertain their wish to continue receiving parliamentary papers.

The committee has recognised the popularity of electronic copies and the benefits this provides for accessibility; thus, the committee recommends the Australian Government Information Management Office continue to ensure that all government documents are permanently available online and that where possible any digital versions augment the hard copy PPS. Whilst the committee acknowledges the advances in technology and its availability, it was not comfortable recommending it as a replacement of the hard copy series due to the inconclusive evidence of the reliability of digital copies and the concerns arising from this record-keeping format.

The committee has also recommended that historic documents should be made available online and has requested the Department of the House of Representatives investigate the digital imaging of House committee reports from 1901 to 1996 to complement the Department of the Senate’s digital imaging project. I commend this report to the House. (Time expired)