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Thursday, 24 June 2010
Page: 4396

Senator McEWEN (5:00 PM) —At the request of the chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Publications (Senator Carol Brown), I present the report of the Standing Committee on Publications on the electronic distribution of the Parliamentary Papers Series, together with submissions received by the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator McEWEN —I seek leave to move a motion in relation to the report and to incorporate a tabling statement in Hansard.

Leave granted.

Senator McEWEN —I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

The statement read as follows—

It gives me great pleasure to table the joint committee’s report of the inquiry into the development of an electronic parliamentary papers series.

The Parliamentary Papers Series (PPS) is a unique series which brings together information that documents many aspects of public policy formulation and the administration of government since Federation, including all the committee reports presented to this chamber and the House of Representatives. When it first began the series was widely distributed. The Clerk (in her Annotated Standing Orders) observes that an ongoing interest for the joint committee has been the “cost, distribution and efficiency” of the series and, as early as 1917, the committee recommended that members of parliament would receive papers only on request, and not automatically as they had previously. Since then the committee has made decisions which, while guaranteeing the sustainability of the series, have resulted in the series no longer meeting one of its main objectives: to be made available as widely as possible.

In 2006, still maintaining its interest in the “cost, distribution and efficiency” of the series, the committee held an inquiry into the distribution of the Parliamentary Papers Series. A principle recommendation from that report was for the chamber departments to “investigate and implement the development of an online digital repository for the Parliamentary Papers Series”. The initial efforts to progress this recommendation were not fruitful for a number of reasons. Primarily, a lack of technological capability and concerns for the potential capital and human resources that such a development could require stood as obstacles to the development of a repository. However, with the Commonwealth developing a strong web-based presence and the development of systems within Parliament House which could support an electronic series, the committee decided last month to re-visit its 2006 recommendations to endeavour to make an electronic series a reality.

The committee contacted various organisations by letter requesting submissions and I would like to thank those who responded for their contributions. As a result of their overwhelming support to develop an electronic PPS, the committee has made a number of recommendations in this report which will result in the parliamentary departments developing a digital repository for the PPS based in the Parliament. Further, the committee has recommended that the repository be implemented in time to coincide with the start of the 2011 PPS. I would like to stress at this point that there is no intention to stop the printed copy of the series. The committee acknowledges that the electronic access may result in a decreased demand for the printed series. However, the committee also acknowledges that the series needs to be maintained in perpetuity and that paper is the only medium in which this can be guaranteed.

I am personally very excited and proud to be the chair of this committee which, through the recommendations in this report, will enable anyone, at any time, anywhere, to access the PPS online. This will go a long way to making the series more relevant in today’s society which expects to access everything on the web and will ensure the continuing existence of the series into the future.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Sue Blunden and Matt Keele, the secretariat which has diligently assisted me and the committee.

I commend the report to the chamber.

I seek leave to continue my remarks.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.