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Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Page: 9669


Senator REYNOLDS (Western Australia) (16:24): I present the report of the Standing Committee on Publications on the inquiry into the printing standards for documents presented to parliament.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Ordered that consideration of the report be made an order of the day for 7 February 2018.

Senator REYNOLDS: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

As the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Publications and also chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Publications, I rise to seek to speak on the report of the committee's inquiry into printing standards. I've been a member of the Publications Committee now for 3½ years and I think it's safe to say that Publications Committee reports are rarely discussed in detail in this chamber. But their low profile certainly does not mean low importance for the matters that the Publications Committee considers.

This particular inquiry is the latest in a number of inquiries we have conducted in response to changes in technology and the way people create and consume parliamentary information. The Joint Committee on Publications sets the printing standards for documents that are presented to the parliament and also recommends documents that were not so ordered at the time of tabling to be included in the parliamentary paper series. The committee's inquiry considered the ongoing suitability of the printing standards and, more generally, how best to present, publish and preserve documents presented to the parliament in an increasingly digital-first environment.

Committee reports, government documents and other papers tabled in the parliament are increasingly being created and accessed in digital formats, as we all know and all use in this place. Given this, the committee reviewed not only the current printing standards to ensure they accommodated a digital-first approach but also the potential for digital-first approaches to increase the accessibility of tabled documents and streamline the administration of the processes for tabling documents in the parliament.

Accordingly, in addition to relaxing some of the printing standards for documents actually tabled in the parliament, the committee's report encourages parliamentary departments and relevant government agencies to continue work on developing processes that will allow immediate digital access to documents. The report particularly encourages the development of systems and processes that may ultimately allow for the digital delivery and tabling of all parliamentary documents.

Also important for consumers of parliamentary information, the committee's report also recommends that work be undertaken to improve the accessibility of tabled documents on the parliament's website via a dedicated web interface with appropriate search functionality. Finally, the report recommends that the Senate and House of Representatives adopt resolutions to effectively trial the devolution of the administrative task of including significant reports in the parliamentary papers series from the committee to the respective chamber departments. While the committee would maintain its oversight—and will retain its oversight—of this process, this would remove a significant administrative burden from the committees. It also recognises that the majority of documents in the PPS belong to established categories that can routinely be included in the series without the need for a decision of the committee in every case, which can, again, slow the process down significantly.

I thank senators and members on the committee for their contributions and particularly our secretariat staff and our committee secretary, Marcus, for their support and their work. In conclusion, this report makes two significant advances: first of all, for parliamentary staff, it makes the system easier and more streamlined, with far less bureaucratic administrative work behind the scenes; and it also makes information far more accessible to the general public, by making it easier for people to see our documents and by making our documents more transparent. I commend this report to the Senate.

Question agreed to.