Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 39

(Question No. 1444)


Senator Peter Baume asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 16 October 1986:

(1) What are the procedures at present for the destruction (including the bulk erasure) or retention of:

(a) transcribed; and

(b) untranscribed,

reporters' shorthand notes of proceedings of Commonwealth Courts and Tribunals-

(c) transcribed; and

(d) untranscribed,

sound recording tapes of Commonwealth courts and tribunals

(e) master copies of the transcribed shorthand notes and recordings.

(2) How have these procedures changed between 1979 and the present.

(3) What legal regulations exist to control the retention and destruction of such records.

(4) How have these legal regulations changed since 1979.

(5) Was a tape of a Taxation Board of Review Hearing destroyed in May, 1980 after the material accuracy of the transcript made from that hearing was challenged by a Mr Hancock; and why was this tape destroyed while the accuracy of the transcript was under challenge.

(6) Does the Attorney-General agree that subject to some other reasonable explanation being put forward, only incompetence or more sinister reasons can be advanced for the destruction of a tape in May, 1980 after an ombudsman's investigation was commenced in April 1980.

(7) Is it correct that the destruction of the tape took place on either Tuesday, 6 May or Wednesday, 7 May 1980 after Mr Richardson the Ombudsman made a call to the Commonwealth Reporting Service on Monday, 5 May, 1980 asking for access to the relevant tape.


Senator Gareth Evans —The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question.

Question (1): The current procedures for the destruction or retention by CRS of reporter shorthand notes and sound recording tapes of Commonwealth courts and tribunals are prescribed in Australian Archives Records Disposal Schedule No. S.403. Those procedures are as follows:

(a) The Records Disposal Schedule stipulates that transcribed reporter shorthand notes may be destroyed by CRS when operational references ceases after transcription. In fact, the notes are destroyed three months after transcription. Those notes are held by CRS pending that destruction.

(b) Untranscribed reporter shorthand notes are held by CRS for one year and then transferred to Australian Archives and are destroyed by Archives after ten years, in accordance with the Records Disposal Schedule.

(c) The Records Disposal Schedule stipulates that transcribed sound recording tapes may be destroyed by CRS when operational reference ceases after transcription. In fact, the tapes are erased three months after transcription. Those tape recordings are held by CRS pending that erasure.

(d) Untranscribed sound recording tapes are held by CRS for one year and then transferred to Australian Archives and are destroyed by Archives after ten years, in accordance with the Records Disposal Schedule.

(e) Master copies (typed originals) of transcripts of shorthand notes and tape recordings are held by CRS for one year and then transferred to Australian Archives for permanent retention, in accordance with the Records Disposal Schedule.

Question (2): In 1979 the procedures for the destruction or retention by CRS of reporter shorthand notes and sound recording tapes of Commonwealth courts and tribunals were prescribed in Australian Archives Records Disposal Schedule No. S.393. Those procedures were as follows:

(a) Under the Records Disposal Schedule, transcribed reporter shorthand notes were destroyed by CRS within six months after transcription. Those notes were held by CRS pending that destruction.

(b) Untranscribed reporter shorthand notes were held by CRS for one year and then transferred to Australian Archives and were destroyed by Archives after ten years.

(c) Under the Records Disposal Schedule, transcribed sound recording tapes were erased by CRS within six months after transcription. Those tapes were held by CRS pending that destruction.

(d) Untranscribed sound recording tapes are held by CRS for one year and then transferred to Australian Archives and were destroyed by Australian Archives after ten years.

(e) Master copies (typed originals) of transcripts of shorthand notes and tape recordings were held by CRS for one year and then transferred to Australian Archives for permanent retention, in accordance with the Records Disposal Schedule.

Question (3): The procedures for retention and destruction of reporter shorthand notes and sound recording tapes are prescribed in Australian Archives Records Disposal Schedule No. S.403, issued 2 September 1980 and amended 6 September 1983.

Question (4): Australian Archives Records Disposal Schedule No. S.393 was superseded by Records Disposal Schedule No. S.403, and under that schedule transcribed shorthand notes are destroyed and tape recordings erased when operational reference ceases.

Question (5): It is understood that a tape recording (provided by CRS for the internal purposes of the Board, in accordance with a then existing practice but discontinued soon after) held by the Taxation Board of Review was erased in May 1980, in accordance with the Board's usual procedures at that time, the appeal period for all matters on the tape having expired.

Question (6): I cannot agree that the erasing of the tape recording by the Taxation Board of Review in May 1980 is attributable to incompetence or was done for more sinister reasons. CRS had no interest or involvement in the erasing of the tape recording by the Taxation Board of Review. The tape recordings used by CRS to prepare a transcript of Mr Hancock's matter had been erased by CRS some months earlier. In July 1980, following an investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman of a complaint by Mr Hancock that tape recordings of his matter had been tampered with, the Ombudsman advised Mr Hancock that his enquiries did not support the complaint made by Mr Hancock. The Ombudsman also advised Mr Hancock that the tape recording retained by the Taxation Board of Review had been erased in accordance with normal practice, upon the expiration of the appeal period for matters recorded on that tape.

Question (7): Although it is understood that in early May 1980 the Taxation Board of Review did erase the tape recording in its possession, the precise date of that erasure is not known by my Department.