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Friday, 1 June 1984
Page: 2367

Senator HAMER(12.39) —In earlier debate on these Estimates some problems that have arisen with regard to written answers were mentioned and Senator Colston moved motions on the subject which I think will help a great deal in overcoming these problems. But there is still one remaining problem about written answers. That is this: if one asks questions and gets oral answers , frequently the answer is incomplete or leads to further questions, whereas if written answers are given the only place one can raise matters of detail arising out of the answer is in this debate on the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole. Senator Martin asked, on my behalf, a number of questions about the National Film and Sound Archive. In some areas written answers are incomplete and therefore I now have to raise again a couple of matters arising out of those answers. I do it with regret but I can see no other way, under the existing procedures, that these matters can be dealt with. In due course we will have to look at our whole handling of Estimates in committees and in the Committee of the Whole. With that preamble. I draw attention to a question I had asked on my behalf, which was:

How many members of the National Library's task force were engaged in tasks in the film and sound sections of the Library? And how many of these will be reallocated to the new Archive which has been established?

The written answer says that on 11 May-the date when the official transfer of positions from the National Library to the Department of Home Affairs and Environment took place-16 members of the Library's part time task force were engaged on tasks relating to the film archive and sound collection. The answer also said that the Library had been asked to make these officers available until 30 June to enable the Department to recruit staff for the new Film and Sound Archive. What I need to know is this: Since there are only 15 positions transferred from the National Library to the new Film and Sound Archive and since these 16 extra part time people have been lent until only 30 June-which is very close at hand-what happens now? Have advertisements been placed for additional staff? If not, when will the advertisements be placed and how soon does the Department expect to have these 16 part time people replaced?

I mention this because I wish at this stage to congratulate the Minister for Home Affairs and Environment (Mr Cohen) for what I believe was a courageous and far-sighted decision to set up this new National Film and Sound Archive. It is the most important step made in the history of film archiving in Australia since the establishment of the National Film Archive in the National Library in the first place. I am also delighted that the sound archive section of the National Library was also included in the new institution. Honourable senators may remember that the Australian Film Institute held a film archive conference in Sydney in September last year. That conference of all interested parties made a number of recommendations, in particular for the separation of the National Film Archive and the National Library of Australia. Further, the conference resolved that as a transitional measure to full autonomy, the Film Archive should begin to function immediately as a self-contained unit within the Department of Home Affairs and Environment. All this the Minister has done and I am delighted.

However, I would like to remind the Minister's representative that the conference also resolved that the Archive must be established as an independent authority with its own board of directors and budget no later than 1986. The conference also resolved that closer relations between the sound recording section of the National Library and the National Film Archive be explored. That has also been done and they are now combined within the new National Film and Sound Archive. Again I congratulate the Minister.

But now this new body has been established the question of staffing is extremely important. It is important that there be no long term hiatus before more staff can be recruited to replace the 16 members of the task force, which will cease to operate on 30 June-that is, in less than a month. It is essential that new staff be recruited as soon as possible. I have asked these questions of the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs (Senator Ryan) and I hope she will be able to answer them. Before I sit down I will also ask questions about the budget for the new Archive. I was told that $150,000 had been allocated for the remainder of this financial year but at this stage a final budget has not been drawn up. I hope the Minister will be able to give some indication-I understand the problems of budgeting-of how this new National Film and Sound Archive will be financed.

Progess reported.

Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2 p.m.