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Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories
Canberra's national institutions

AYRES, Dr Marie-Louise, Director-General, National Library of Australia

CARDEW-HALL, Ms Denise, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

COOK, Ms Lyn, Chief Financial Officer, and Director, Finance Branch, National Library of Australia

FRICKER, Mr David, Director-General, National Archives of Australia

LABRUM, Ms Meg, General Manager, Collections and Access, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

MULLER, Mr Jan, Chief Executive Officer, National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

PILGRIM, Ms Cathy, Assistant Director-General, Executive Support and Public Programs Division, National Library of Australia

WILLIAMS, Ms Phyllis, Regional Manager, North, National Archives of Australia

CHAIR: I now welcome representatives of the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia and the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. Although the committee doesn't require you to give evidence under oath, I should advise you that this hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and, therefore, has the same standing as proceedings of the respective houses. The giving of false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. The evidence given today will be recorded by Hansard and attracts parliamentary privilege.

I will invite each of your institutions to make a brief opening statement before we proceed to discussion. The discussion today is roundtable-style. If somebody says something and someone wants to disagree, that is welcome in this building but please indicate you want the call, and I'll ask you to rebut something that you've heard. More than likely, you'll want to reinforce or give a perspective from your institution on something that you've heard as well. This is not the usual parliamentary hearing style, where the deputy chair or I ask a question, we get an answer and then we ask another question. This is a roundtable discussion. We want to hear a variety of views and experiences. If there is a particular topic that we're asking questions on, we may direct it to the table and then see who wants to answer them. We might start with the Archives for a brief opening statement.

Mr Fricker : Thank you for the opportunity to appear at this inquiry. We would like to make very brief statements about some of the unique aspects of the role of the National Archives. I might ask Phyllis if she might provide those opening remarks on behalf of the Archives.

Ms Williams : The National Archives of Australia is the memory of our nation. The stories, images, voices and fingerprints of my mother and father and their families and other families are in the collections of the National Archives of Australia. They are being safeguarded and shared and made accessible for my children and our future generations of Australians. No matter what, we are connected, as is anyone who has a connection to Australia by its people, government, land and our shared histories.

The National Archives collections are in each state and territory, where any Australian can touch, feel and be with the very papers that their family members have touched. For example, last week the National Archives handed over the Larrakia petition to the Larrakia Nation in Darwin. A few years ago my mother saw the petition and, surprisingly, she sat down at the very place that her aunt had put her fingerprint. It was very moving. The documentation of the administration of Indigenous people on settlements and missions, their rations and entitlements, housing, employment, their movement, marriage, eligibility and permissions, the immigration stories, the military service records, the levels and layers of people's histories and our personal stories are documented and in the National Archives of Australia.

Mr Muller : Thank you for the opportunity. This is a very interesting period in time that we're living in at this moment for cultural institutions in general but certainly as an audio-visual archive. We are moving from the analog to the digital domain, which means that, in terms of skills and resources but also expectations from the public, from our users, we need to live up to the expectation that it is all about digital and that we will be able to deal with all the challenges coming from the digital domain at the moment.

We are moving from analog to digital. That means that we will need to digitise our collections as much as possible and as soon as possible, because it's all vulnerable material. That more or less determines our agenda for the coming years, given the fact that the material is vulnerable. Being the only national agency concerned with the visibility, usability and sustainability of audio-visual collections in this country, it makes sense that we need to invest and be able to maintain investing in this digital approach. It's an important starting point. Thank you.

Dr Ayres : Thank you for the opportunity. Certainly, we feel we have much to be proud of in terms of the library's brand, online presence, public engagement and outreach, which address that part of our act which speaks to making the most advantageous use of the collection in the national interest. We were delighted to bring some treasures to Parliament House yesterday, including Cook's journal, as part of our first Library Goes to Parliament.

We welcome half a million visitors to our premises in Canberra every year but we also welcome 30 million online visitors. For every person who walks in our front door down the road, 60 are walking through our digital front door. We're touching the lives of Australians everywhere using multiple channels, including Trove, which is not just about the 22 million pages of digitised newspaper content but also the voices of so many Australians, through our oral history collection—for example, the voices of many of those who were separated from their families as part of the stolen generation. We also offer niche digital products such as our Digital Classroom, which is reaching 60,000 a year.

As our submission noted, though, these activities are only one part of what we do. The majority of our financial, human and intellectual resources are dedicated to our core functions of developing and maintaining a national collection. I want to note that we're also digital leaders in this space. We were the first national library in the world to collect websites. More than 30 per cent of our annual Australian published intake is now collected in digital form. We collect at scale. Recently we had a single acquisition from the Queensland topographic service of 7,000 digital maps that were acquired in one big digital gulp and processed all the way through our systems to accessibility to the public almost immediately. We collect very large personal and organisational archives, and they can also be in digital form. So our digital operation in terms of collecting is enormous, and we're doing this at the same time as our physical collection continues to grow.

Our physical collections grow by 2½ linear kilometres a year, and we have exhausted all possibilities for further compacting collections in our buildings. By June 2020 we will be in dire need of new storage and haven't yet identified an affordable solution. Our digital collections are growing much faster, by around 15 per cent a year, requiring constant reinvestment in storage, digital infrastructure and, of course, cybersecurity measures. We are very efficient at this. We've just costed what it would look like if we were doing this in the cloud. At the moment it would cost us two to three times as much to move to the cloud, so we do this very efficiently in house.

We're also digital leaders in the collaborative space, and I think this is something that's unique about the National Library. We have nearly 40 years experience in leading collaborative digital endeavours across Australia. We have very effective Commonwealth-state relations with our state and territory libraries. We collaborate on a shared web archiving service, an efficient centralised newspaper digitisation service and, by next year, a single national service for collecting all Australian digital publications and ensuring that they are looked after in one place but accessible in all of the states.

Those endeavours are not cost free, and, at the moment, the gap between what we recover on those national endeavours through membership fees and what is actually required to deliver them is very significant. So our challenges for the future will be about storage for our physical collection, storage for our digital collections, maintaining our national collaborative services and maintaining our outreach to the Australian people. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you all. I'd like to start off not by looking at the individual institutions but by asking a few questions that may sound very naive and offensive. But it's important that I ask them to get them on Hansard for our report. I think it will be a good basis for arguing the importance of the role that the institutions play in our nation. I'll ask a couple of questions—not about your individual institutions but from a wider perspective—just to start the discussion. Why are the institutions important? Does it matter if they're there or not? What do they do? Why are they strategically important to a cohesive Australia? What role do the institutions play in relation to more Australians learning from, understanding, experiencing and appreciating the story of Australian history and culture? Are we getting that message to enough Australians? What is the risk of us not getting that message through? I think that, when we look at resourcing of institutions, we need first to make the case on their strategic importance—why it's important that we keep and tell the Australian story.

Mr Fricker : Internationally, we're seeing across Western democracies an erosion of trust in public institutions—in the traditional institutions of democracy and of government.

We're also seeing on a huge scale displacement of people and displacement of people from their culture, from their cultural identity. This is creating incredible tensions and fragmentations and is disturbing the fabric of society. Every nation needs economic prosperity and we need to build wealth and opportunity across nations. But, if you want to have a resilient and strong society, you need a cultural prosperity. People need to feel a sense of belonging, they need to understand why and how they got to be where they are today and they need to be able to associate themselves with the future of their country.

Deputy Chair, I've heard you speak many times about big issues facing Australia, such as foreign interference and foreign influence and the need to have a more resilient society that can be confident about itself and can withstand those adverse effects of foreign influence. I just think cultural strength, a cultural prosperity, and citizens and residents of Australia being confident about where they are, knowing the things they're proud of in their history and knowing the things they don't like their history, but having a channel to correct the other things they don't like and to celebrate the things they do like, comes from a strong cultural identity. That's what all of the institutions in front of you today are about—building a cultural prosperity and that confidence in our nation's identity and that sense of belonging. All of that adds up to more confident and more responsibility for a better future.

Dr Ayres : I would agree with that, David. I think the confidence to have many, many stories as part of Australian identity is important. Phyllis has spoken this morning about her family identity being held in the records of the National Archives. Certainly within all of our collections—because we all hold the memory of Australia and we all tell the stories—the confidence to have many stories being told rather than a single story is incredibly important, particularly in the digital age. Giving every Australian the opportunity to connect their story with their community story with their national story is, I see, only able to strengthen that sense of cultural prosperity and effective citizenship.

Mr Muller : I agree. We're all keeping memories alive. That's our basic rule. The history of a country—our media history and cultural history—can only be told by the records that are used or preserved. So the preservation and sharing of what has been preserved is our main task, which means that together we tell the whole story. That's what we should do, and that's what we do in partnership as much as possible.

CHAIR: Is it fair to say that, as a result of their visitation, a citizen who visits your institutions in person or online, can become a better and more engaged citizen?

Dr Ayres : Absolutely.

CHAIR: What's the risk if they don't or they don't have the opportunity?

Dr Ayres : I think we see the sense of disengagement from our complex national story. As David has said, with the erosion of trust in public institutions and that sense of national identity, I think there is a risk there. We're all about building on the strengths of the Australian story rather than focusing on the kinds of risks. We're all about building a sense of cultural prosperity and identity across the board.

Mr Fricker : If people can't come to us, they're going to go to some stupid Twitter account or something. Something I heard about yesterday is the pen not paper campaign on social media, which is just creating this idea—

CHAIR: A pen not paper campaign on social media?

Mr Fricker : Yes. It is creating this idea that, because ballot papers are filled in with a pencil, your votes are being rubbed out and somebody else is—

Ms BRODTMANN: Some crazy conspiracy!

Mr Fricker : Exactly. If we're not available for people to come to to understand what Australian democracy is and how Australian society works, where are they going to go to get some authentic and reliable information?

If they can't come to us, they're going to turn to sources such as inauthentic ones, perhaps deliberately promoted by actors without the interests of Australia at heart—people that are just broadcasting these ridiculous ideas. So I think it's essential that people have trusted institutions that they can turn to in a very friendly and engaging way and that are right there where they want them to be so they can access something which is not fake news. We are the antidote to fake news.

Mr Muller : It's interesting that you said that, because it's not just the preservation of historical records to be the trusted repository that we all have and that we share together. This example is exactly what needs to be preserved in the future as well. So we need to think about what is our future heritage, and there is a role for us as well. It's not just the preservation of history. If you ask us what would happen to the country without that preservation, it would probably be like being a country with Alzheimer's, because we tend to forget what we are if we don't preserve our records. But there is also an obligation towards the future. That means that we're all collaboratively thinking about what the heritage of the future would be and how it will be preserved but also how it will be used by future generations and how much sense it makes, for example, to keep these Twitter records as well. It's an interesting discussion.

Ms Labrum : Just to add a slightly different perspective on top of what everybody was saying, if you're talking about the experience of people seeing, feeling and understanding what's in one of these collections or all of them, there is also the magic aspect, which is that it's not just about learning or becoming a better person or understanding the history but also about responding emotionally and creatively. The whole question is about whether or not what we are helping to release back to the public is an artistic experience or is a challenging or scary one from the past or the present. But it's about being able to open it up so people can actually respond as and how they wish. I do think magic is one of the most important points. It's not in any of our mission statements, but it's fundamental.

Mr Muller : Yes, that's right.

Dr Ayres : Picking up on that point, we find that the Australian public who are using our digital services are incredibly generous in sharing that magic with us. So I believe that. Just going back to the idea of what needs to be preserved for the future, this is why the National Library started collecting websites 22 years ago. This week we've just received the 2018 snapshot of the entire Australian web domain, and of course this is a form of heritage. If we hadn't started doing this, the last 20 years of history would be gone. So I think that we are always forward thinking. The public may not have realised why it was important for us to start archiving websites in 1996. I think it's a lot more obvious now why that is important and why it is important for that to be accessible.

CHAIR: It's a very important tool in my domain for when people change things over time as well.

Dr Ayres : They do, particularly in the political domain. You're quite correct. There are a lot of changes around elections, and we capture those.

CHAIR: It's very useful. In relation to the importance of telling a story, you've helped me to get the evidence I need in relation to that. Are there elements of the Australian community that are not visiting the institutions in person or online, whether it's male, female, old, young, new Australian, people who have been born Australian, or people from WA as opposed to people from Sydney? Is there a gap there of people who we're not reaching and who we need to reach? What is the consequence of not reaching them?

Dr Ayres : If I may speak to that, we're very conscious of this. We're extremely proud of the fact that we actually reach the Australian population, in terms of geographic distribution, almost in exact proportion to where people live in cities, towns, regions and remote areas. However, there isn't any doubt that we feel that we can do much more to reach Indigenous communities and multicultural communities, and I think we need to talk about the number of communities that there are. But this is really all about collections, too. If people don't see themselves in our collections, then we actually don't have anything for them. So it's really important that we are collecting from those communities, or, if we have material in our collections, that we bring that to the surface. So, for us for the next two or three years it's all about bringing our Indigenous material to the surface—especially next year with the International Year of Indigenous Languages, we're focusing on making sure that what we have is more visible. If you don't have collections that relate to the community, then you are not really serving the whole community at all. It's not just about who visits; it's about the whole spectrum of what we do.

Ms Williams : With collections, it's also really important to engage with communities directly and to inform communities what we have in our collections. The National Archives does that with Aboriginal advisory groups in the Northern Territory, with reach to remote communities, and also in Central Australia as well. But we do appreciate that there's still a level of work to do in that area.

Mr Muller : On that note, at the risk of focusing on the NFSA here, and you probably want to have an overall approach—

CHAIR: No, I'm happy to start delving into particular issues. But before we do start looking at the individual challenges you have, with this issue of bringing your collection to the surface, the reason we've got you together today is that you have a collecting/archiving responsibility and a public display responsibility. Do you find that legislation requires you to focus on the collection in some regards, and that may then mean that you can do less of the public display? What are the percentages, and how do you manage those decisions between those two distinct roles?

Dr Ayres : With difficulty, is the answer. I think we probably all make slightly different decisions. With the library's decision, for example, to focus early and heavily on investing in digital, we actually did make decisions: we don't tour exhibitions anymore, although we partner with others who do. We're not part of the PACER program, so we have fewer children coming into the building, but we reach out digitally. It's not always a case of just saying you're going to do less of this and more of that. It might also be that you focus your resources on reaching different communities in different ways. But, in terms of the balance of our responsibilities, we have absolute responsibilities to collect for the long term, and if that means that in the short term we need to wind back on our outreach activities, as CEO, I would do that.

Mr Muller : In our mission statement we say the NFSA collects, preserves and shares. The focus for now, in the short term, will be preservation—digital preservation, mainly. Again, we're dealing with audiovisual collections, which means pretty young material—literally young material—from the fifties, sixties and seventies, which means that when it comes to sharing the material there is still copyright in place. So, in terms of reaching out to communities, users, visitors and so on, it's sometimes difficult to do what you want to do, because copyright is in place and that means a lot of hurdles to be able to share the material. When it comes to the preservation, that's really urgent. Again, it's filmable material. The knowledge around it, to be able to digitise material, is filmable, literally, because it's dying. People who used to work with machinery that we have in place are literally dying, as well. So it's the machinery and the hardware, it's the knowledge and it's the material that's filmable. That's why we define Deadline 2025, which means before 2025 we need to have digitised our entire collection, especially the very vulnerable part of magnetic tapes.

Mr Fricker : From our point of view, we work hand in glove on the 2025 issue, so I won't cover that ground again, and there is the digital preservation that Marie-Louise has talked about as well. Our enabling legislation predates the internet. Documentary heritage being created today looks nothing like documentary heritage that was being created back in the 1970s. We do make a lot of choices between preserving government records—working upstream—and preserving those records and making them accessible. The accessibility does suffer at times.

We're the institute that gets taken to court all the time, so I'm always before a tribunal or a court defending decisions on why we haven't released records yet. There's a resource issue there, because we have to declassify ASIO, ASIS and sensitive intelligence records. We have a legal obligation to do that. We are a pro disclosure organisation. These are public records; they should be in the public. We want to release all we can and protect only what we must. That legislative obligation, the mandate that we have, does rub up against our capacity to run public programs and make the documentary heritage available. It certainly is the case.

CHAIR: In summary: in times of financial constraint, you revert back to the core focus of keeping the collection, and that puts at risk your ability to tell the Australian story?

Mr Fricker : To lose the collection is irreversible. You have to preserve the irreplaceable. Yes, you can defer a decision about access or a program, but you cannot reverse a permanent loss.

CHAIR: One of the things that has occurred to me during our discussion is the triangle, this national capital area. I think about your ability to bring your collections to the surface. Then I thought about the International Year of Indigenous Languages, which is next year, of which all of your institutions would have elements that would contribute to a good exhibition in relation to that particular issue. Is there a need for a generic national exhibition space in the triangle or in central Canberra that can be funded, utilized and staffed either for one of your institutions to do something special for a couple of months or for your institutions collectively to do an exhibition on a particular issue? Am I the first to have this idea? I doubt it. Has it been discussed? What are the views?

Dr Ayres : We do exhibitions at the National Library, although I stress again: we are not a museum or a gallery; it's actually a small part of what we do. My first reaction is that what you would lose if you did that is the intimate connection to the collections from which exhibitions are drawn. We all share collections for exhibition purposes, but there's a certain character that goes along with how you present an exhibition. As a Canberran, I can't speak for visitors to Canberra, but the opportunity to visit a number of our institutions and see exhibitions that may or may not speak to each other in quite surprising ways—personally, I think that that's more dynamic than the thought of having a generic space. In the digital arena, having a single, more generic space such as Trove does make sense, simply because of the infrastructure requirements to do that. In the physical space—

CHAIR: To be clear, I wasn't suggesting that a generic space would reduce, remove or replace the existing spaces; it would allow some exhibitions to occur in addition to what was already occurring.

Mr Fricker : I think it would turn out to be a cost-cutting measure. I think that Australia's collection would be diminished. Our heritage is too big. I really would feel sad if we thought that Australia's heritage could be compressed and put into a general purpose, one-stop shop for Australian heritage. I think that Australians generally and visitors to Canberra would miss out on an awful lot if, just by happenstance, when they visited Canberra, they had the opportunity to see one particular slice of our cultural heritage but, because they arrived on that Sunday afternoon, missed out on the other 99 per cent. We've got so much to share with people and to engage with. I think the idea of having a timeshare arrangement for Australian heritage would really diminish our national identity.

CHAIR: Thank you for the discussion so far. We'll go into some of those individual issues. I don't suspect that this will be the last time we hear from any of you throughout this inquiry.

Ms BRODTMANN: Before I go into some general questions, Mr Fricker, I want to pursue the issue of the court cases or the tribunal. How much time is devoted to that? How many resources? You can take this on notice. Now that you've highlighted it and we've had a chance to reflect on it, I imagine that that would take up an enormous amount of resources. It's taking up so many resources that you are having to juggle and balance and work out what you're going to be focusing on. My concern is that it's challenging you to work out what you should be focusing on. Can we get some indication of how much of your time and the Archive's time is spent on that? I didn't have an appreciation of that, and I don't know whether the Chair did. I think that the broader community would be interested in that, too. Of course, there is that legislative responsibility, and we understand that, but does that legislative responsibility require devoted resources?

Mr Fricker : It does. Everyone across the Archives is engaged with the declassification of documents at some level, but we have a core team of about 15 or so staff who are working full time on examining and releasing documents that were previously classified. We're often in court because we can't complete that examination within the statutory period of 90 days. In terms of legal costs, it's hundreds of thousands of dollars. In terms of person costs defending court cases, it might be—I will get back to you on that with a more precise answer.

Ms BRODTMANN: And an idea about the legal costs as well. Do you have a line item specifically for that, or is that out of your general budget?

Mr Fricker : Everything's out of a general budget, of course. It's hundreds of thousands of dollars—that's the sort of scale per year in legal fees to defend the Commonwealth's position in the courts. The thing is, the resources we need are to release the documents. I don't wish to present the idea that somehow we're putting up a legal wall or a paywall behind the records that we're releasing; it is a case of the time and the resources it takes to get those records released. People are engaged in scholarships and are doing some sort of research, or maybe they're mums and dads looking through their family history. We want to get those records out as quickly as possible. That does challenge us on the resourcing front. When we miss our deadlines, we can be taken to a tribunal or a court. I can get back to you with more specific figures on that, but for today's purposes it's hundreds of thousands in legal fees. We would have about 15 or so people engaged in declassification.

Ms BRODTMANN: It would be useful for us to get an understanding of that: the percentage of your team devoted to this and the percentage of your budget that is devoted to it.

Mr Fricker : I'd be delighted to do that. Again, the important part of what we're all talking about today, in terms of connecting this work that's done by ASIO, by foreign intelligence agencies et cetera—it all constitutes documentary heritage. Over the passage of time, these documents should be released to the public. It is a function that we provide here. This is the only way that Australians can access these documents. You can't get these through FOI.

Ms BRODTMANN: Exactly. That's my point.

Mr Fricker : It's only through our heritage institutions that Australians can access this information which forms part of the history. It lets people understand what the government's done in their names and what these agencies have done in their names. It's a very important part of what we do. I'd be delighted to that on notice.

Ms BRODTMANN: You are out there and you want this information out there—that is your role. I do understand that. I think we'd all appreciate getting an idea about how much of your budget that consumes. More broadly, we've read your submissions and noticed that for the NFSA and the Archives the budget is actually decreasing this financial year. From all of you—we can start with the Library—what are the challenges you're facing at the moment? You've talked about the Harry White fellowship.

Dr Ayres : The research fellowships—I believe that that's a challenge we've actually met. We used to be able to fund those from our budget. We had to stop. But in fact that's such a compelling proposition that we have been able to raise private sector funding for that, including a very generous gift of a million dollars yesterday from our outgoing chair, Ryan Stokes, to support fellowship over 10 years.

Ms BRODTMANN: If we could just go more broadly.

Dr Ayres : The challenges remain. The application of the efficiency dividend for cultural institutions that have growing collections is extremely problematic. We are all tasked with growing our collections, not with making them smaller, and as we need to move into the digital space and maintain our physical collecting and collections that is certainly a challenge for us. For those institutions within the Communications and the Arts portfolio the additional saving of three per cent that was announced at the 2015 MYEFO—I'm not sure about colleagues, but that takes $1.5 million a year out of our budget, and that is ongoing. So the application of efficiency dividends is difficult for us at the moment.

Ms BRODTMANN: That three per cent was specifically for the department and that flowed onto all the institutions that fell under that.

Dr Ayres : It was across the cultural institutions in addition to the APS-wide efficiency dividend. I do need to say that of course we have short-term modernisation funding of $16.4 million, which allows us to get on with the job of making Trove better, but of course that comes to an end in 2020. So more generically for our institution, and I suspect for some others, increasingly lumpy budgets present a challenge to us. Whether it's additional government funding or additional private sector funding, it's not as smooth as it used to be, and certainly our organisation is needing to learn to work with that. I think another challenge for us certainly is the application of the ASL caps. When you have new money coming in, either government or private, but you cannot increase the number of your employees—even non-ongoing—that actually does pose some really significant challenges, especially if like us you're running long-term infrastructure that members are paying you fees for. They expect long-term staff who know what they're doing, not short-term contractors. So there are a number of issues, I suppose.

CHAIR: It's almost a disincentive. There's no point in getting private sector funding if you're subject to the cap.

Dr Ayres : It makes it quite difficult. That's right.

CHAIR: If there was something that allowed you to remove yourself in some part from the burden of those caps, as a result of the private sector funding, it would make more sense.

Dr Ayres : At least for new funding that comes in, where it's not government funding, that would be quite helpful.

Ms BRODTMANN: This is government funding you're talking, so you get a new budget—

Dr Ayres : No. I'm talking about private sector funding and third-party organisations. The majority of our own-source revenue comes from other organisations around the country who pay us to participate in our digital services.

CHAIR: But you can't spend it, because you're still capped in relation to your staff.

Dr Ayres : This is the challenge; it's a real challenge. So I'd say that the challenges are the growing collections and diminishing resources: our cash revenue from government is five per cent lower than it was in 2009-10 and our staffing is 16 per cent lower than it was at the same period. There is no way that this is not a challenge. I think I would also say that there comes a point where efficiency dividends stop creativity and they stop innovation. We've had to say no to so many exciting digital opportunities that could have changed things for the Australian public because we simply couldn't do it. Frankly, I'd be happy for any part of our business to be benchmarked against any national or international standard, and I would be confident that we're as efficient as they come. So it's that broad-brush approach to efficiency dividends that doesn't sit well with small agencies that have growing collections.

CHAIR: Are there any institutions that weren't affected?

Dr Ayres : Not as far as I know. All the APS agencies are subject to the efficiency dividend. The additional three per cent cut was—

CHAIR: The CSIRO wasn't, but the Australian Antarctic Division was, for example. It was because of where you sat within or outside departments.

Dr Ayres : Yes.

Mr Muller : These are institutions dealing with growing collections, as you say, and there is also, again, the digitisation of all the collections.

Dr Ayres : Yes.

Mr Muller : That means you need to be able to invest, and that is hard in times of efficiency dividends and decreasing budgets.

Dr Ayres : I was just going to say that, in the digital world, that investment brings new responsibilities. We're a big digital shop. We estimate that probably 15 per cent of the IT spend for modernisation will be to meet compliance and to meet our cybersecurity obligations, and they're going up. They're not going to stop, and they require constant investment. These are things that 10 years ago we might not have been so concerned about. We certainly are now.

Ms BRODTMANN: Good point. Mr Muller, what are some challenges?

Mr Muller : Digitisation, as I said before, because our material is vulnerable, so we need to invest in digitisation. The other challenge will be our home. You were referring to architecture. We live in a beautiful building. There probably was an architecture crisis in the thirties, but it is, indeed, literally from 1934. It's never been built as an archive or a visitor destination; it's been built as the Australian Institute of Anatomy. It used to be a morgue, literally—which in a way is an archive as well, for dead bodies. Nevertheless, it's not fit for purpose. Given our challenges in the digital domain and our challenges in order to be visible and useful but also sustainable, we need a place where we can sustain our archives, especially digital archives, which are totally different from analog archiving. It comes with other obligations and challenges. It comes with other budgets, resources and skills. We need to be able to invest in that before it's too late. Coming with that is our new home. Our preferred new home should be a visitor destination, because we strongly believe that an archive should be as open as possible. People can get access to the archive not only by browsing through the collections via the internet but also by literally engaging with it in a physical place—in an exhibition, for example. So these are the challenges we're facing in the short and medium term.

Ms BRODTMANN: What sort of impact is the decreasing budget having?

Mr Muller : Pretty huge, actually. Financially we're healthy, thanks to our CFO. We face challenges in terms of our obligations in our KPIs and the goals that we've set. The fact that our budgets are decreasing means that we need to choose what to do. If we focus on digitisation—which is necessary, again, because it's urgent, and before it's too late we need to digitise our collections—it means that we can't do other things.

CHAIR: What are those other things?

Mr Muller : For example, for the film industry, we digitally restore old Australian films, cultural heritage, which costs a lot of money. That's something that we can't do at this moment, for example. Our film history, our film heritage, is vulnerable in that respect as well. So these are the things we need to choose.

Another example is to reach out to our visitors and users by means of exhibitions. That will be difficult too. We will do an exhibition in August. We will open an exhibition on 10 August about Heath Ledger. That's another issue. Obviously there is not enough money to create our own exhibitions. I'm not saying that it's not possible to do it, because I think that's an important thing for today as well. We should do things in collaboration much more. So, to reach our goals and to be visible as an archive, we collaborate, in this case, with the Western Australian Museum in Perth and bring their exhibition to Canberra, to the other side of the country, in order to engage new audiences, younger people, with that exhibition, which makes sense. So there is a way to do it, but it's probably not ideal and, again, given the fact that we need to invest more and more in digitisation and also in digital preservation and the storage of these two assets, it will probably mean that all the other things will be hard to accomplish.

Mr Fricker : Again, there's a lot of commonality here. With us, the effect of the efficiency dividend is, of course, that you can only absorb that through those discretionary expenses that you have. At the National Archives we have 13 properties across Australia, and 40 per cent of our budget goes to property operating expenses. I can't take the efficiency dividend and tell our landlords that I'm not going to pay rent anymore or I'm not going to pay electricity or air conditioning. That's why I need new legislation.

Ms BRODTMANN: We will come to that, because I think that's important.

Mr Fricker : Because of that very high proportion of property operating expenses that we have, it has a disproportionate effect on our programs in our discretionary activities. I agree with what my colleagues have been saying: we're losing records that should be preserved at the moment because we can't invest in a digital capability to the extent that we should be; we can't drive our programs throughout the Commonwealth to make sure that the documentary heritage that should flow from government activity is flowing into our collection. Of course, it means that right across the board we have to tweak and reduce everything we do because we are still reserving money to invest in a digital future; we're not sitting on our hands on that front. We've upped our fees for discretionary services that we provide. Of course, the public were not happy about that. It now might cost in the order of $200 to get copies of government records made, where in the past it was very cheap.

Ms BRODTMANN: How cheap?

Mr Fricker : It used to be $28 to get a copy of a file made up, but we just couldn't absorb that, because the real cost is $228. So we've had to reflect actual costs to be able to sustain those services. As Mr Muller and Dr Ayres have said, we do collaborate. We collaborate on preservation capability, hosting touring exhibitions and these sorts of things. But, yes, if the dividends come in, we have to make those savings. But we have to maintain expenses on those nondiscretionary items. We have to invest in the future, because we can't go backwards. So, of course, that little bit at the end—the programs that we can run—is affected.

Ms Williams : I just wanted to clarify something, Chair. You looked surprised when the director-general mentioned the cost of a file and the difference between the previous charge and what is being charged now. That $28 was at the lower end.

CHAIR: What do you mean by a file?

Ms Williams : An administrative file that is produced by a Commonwealth agency which is now with the National Archives. These can vary from a page up to 250 pages per file. One to 20 pages was $28, and then the scale would increase proportionate to the number of pages on the file.

CHAIR: So you charge individual departments that?

Mr Fricker : I don't want to take up all the time we have. Everyone is entitled to free access to a record, but most people would like a copy of the record, either digitally or, indeed, in hard copy. Even to make and deliver a digital copy of that record to them, because maybe they live in Broome and the record is in Canberra, requires us to digitise it.

CHAIR: These are changes to the—

Mr Fricker : These are value-added charges, and that's where it hurts the public services—you're quite right—and I'm happy to come back with the precise fee schedules.

Ms BRODTMANN: That would be useful.

Mr Fricker : But my point is: the public noticed there was a step change in the fee structure.

Dr Ayres : And it directly affects access. As soon as you increase charges to individuals, you'll see an immediate reduction, particularly from people from more remote parts of Australia when they're trying to get something that is part of your collection.

CHAIR: We don't keep collections so no-one can see them.

Dr Ayres : No, that's right.

Ms BRODTMANN: Actually when you're getting those stats, could you advise us whether there has been an impact in terms of this access issue—and I know that it's in a way apples and oranges—in term of a reduction in people requesting those files?

Mr Fricker : Yes.

Dr Ayres : There are also the future choices we might have to make, though, as far as budgets get tighter. As a library, we are the largest net lender under interlibrary loans—so we lend our collection through other libraries—but the standard fee for an interlibrary loan doesn't come anywhere near covering the actual cost of doing that. So we're looking now at what the gap is between the cost of providing that service and what we're recovering. I know that in the next couple of years we'll have to make very unpalatable decisions around closing that gap in order to maintain our other operations.

Ms BRODTMANN: I just want to go back to your submission and that gentleman who linked up five million people? Was his name Warren?

Dr Ayres : Mr Warren is an extraordinary—

Ms BRODTMANN: Has that man been nominated for an award?

Dr Ayres : Yes, he has.

Ms BRODTMANN: What a legend!

Dr Ayres : He is a legend. I guess this is a way in which the Australian public show how passionate they are about Australian history and identity. The fact that they are willing to put this much time into creating and adding their own knowledge into a national service, to me, remains absolutely miraculous—that people will continue to do this. I have no doubt that, if we had more of our resources digitised, we would see this grow and we would see different kinds of interaction. So I don't think we should underestimate the Australian community's hunger for the collective heritage that we represent and their willingness to participate actively in that to make a better Australia. One of the greatest things about working in these institutions is that people want to be part of that story.

Ms BRODTMANN: In your submission you said that you conducted a strategic fundraising review.

Dr Ayres : Yes.

Ms BRODTMANN: And you expect to implement the recommendations over the next financial year.

Dr Ayres : Yes. Our fundraising over the last 10 years, first off, was for capital for our Treasures Gallery and then the majority of it over the last several years has been seeking corporate funding to support our major international exhibitions—so Mapping our World and Celestial Empire—where you are really looking for the underwriting of major international exhibitions. It was clear to us, even with Celestial Empire and to our Council that the corporate world was stepping away from that, and even more clear with our upcoming Cook exhibition, which we spent three years trying to raise corporate funds and were basically unsuccessful. And we know how to do this. They are not going to fund these exhibitions—


Dr Ayres : They are no longer engaged in wanting to support single exhibitions that occur in Canberra that are bound by time. They're moving their investment into things like scholarships for Indigenous students and increasing the number of women engineers in Australia. So they're looking to long-term relationships. So we have decided that we are no longer going to do that. So our Cook exhibition, which I'm glad to say is being funded now through additional funding from the budget, will be the last international exhibition we do for the foreseeable future.

We are shifting all of our fundraising and philanthropy effort into increasing digitisation of our collections, and we anticipate that our focus will be more on individuals rather than corporate Australia. So it's a huge shift for us, and we've committed to trying to raise three times as much money over the next five to seven years. It requires a major cultural shift inside the organisation. I do want to stress, though, that this is about increasing access to the collection. It does not help us with our core functions of developing, maintaining and preserving a collection for the future. So that was the finding. We've done well, we need to change and we need to professionalise. Australia is about 20 years behind even the UK in terms of professionalisation of philanthropy. We have a capability issue that we will need to address.

Ms BRODTMANN: Where are we on the US?

Dr Ayres : We don't even bother with looking, we're so far after them. I suppose the other thing—

CHAIR: We're getting better though, aren't we?

Dr Ayres : I think we're getting better. If we're trying to raise our own capability we need to think about what government might need to do to help us to enable that as well.

CHAIR: What would we do?

Dr Ayres : One thing that's come to our attention recently is that there are really strict rules about what we're allowed to do with funds that have been given to us privately. Whether they're held in our own funds or we set up a separate foundation, we're restricted to really earning not much above cash rates, whereas, in the states, for example, there are state investment vehicles that are getting probably three times as much as we can earn on our money, so I'd love to see attention to that. The other thing that would be really helpful would be—again in the states—if we think about what we've seen with State Library of Victoria with their major redevelopment of their building, where there was government funding that was matching private sector funding. We would love to see, particularly for digitisation, a situation in which we could go to a donor and say, 'We would like you to give this much to digitise the papers of Sir Robert Menzies, and government will match you.' So some kind of matching arrangement, which is certainly the case in the UK and other jurisdictions, would be helpful.

CHAIR: If the government is encouraging you to seek private funding, a bit of carrot in relation to things like the ASL caps and matching funding would help you achieve those goals.

Dr Ayres : Carrot would be lovely.

Ms BRODTMANN: Going back to those rules, are they the rules for those agencies that come under the department of communications or is it—

Dr Ayres : No. It's more general rules from the Department of Finance.

Ms BRODTMANN: It's under PGPA?

Dr Ayres : Yes.

Ms Cardew-Hall : We can't invest money.

Dr Ayres : All we can do is put cash on deposit.

Ms BRODTMANN: I'm on the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, so I was there at the birth of PGPA, which was difficult.

Dr Ayres : None of us want to place the gifts of our donors at risk, but, for example, with our chair yesterday giving a million dollars when he knows that I can basically earn cash rates on it, it's not really what his intention was. I'd like to see that change.

Ms BRODTMANN: Going back to the legislation and the acts under which you operate, are they constraining you in any way? Are there any suggestions on what needs to be improved?

Mr Fricker : Our submission identifies this. As I mentioned earlier, our legislation predates the internet. We're in the information business at the Archives, of course, and a lot's happened to the information business since 1978. It goes to how information should be managed and these sorts of things. But to go to some of the issues we've just been talking about, the legislation is not entirely clear. It could be clarified and improved to allow us to raise revenue within proper ethical frameworks. As I say, I never want the Archives to put up a pay wall between public records and the public—that's not what the institution is about—but we should have more capacity to provide value added services and to strike a fair fee or charge for services. Our current legislation makes that very difficult. It's not impossible, but it's very difficult.

Ms BRODTMANN: How did you arrive at the $200 figure, the $28 and then the $200. How did you arrive at that increase?

Mr Fricker : It was quite a forensic examination of what it took—forgetting about the cost of preserving the records for the past hundred years—to locate, to retrieve, to disassemble what could be a delicate file, to put it carefully through a digitisation process, to reassemble the file and to preserve the record. It is really a cost recovery. We are not making profit, and we are probably still not covering all costs in fact. So it's the actual cost of providing that service.

Mr Muller : In terms of legal issues, I would say copyright is an issue for us in order to be able to share our collections with visitors, users and so on, because it's under copyright. The Copyright Act dates back to 1968, a long, long time before the internet came up, let alone digital. There is obviously a need for modernisation here and at least a way for cultural institutions to be able to share that material with our public without any commercial meaning, simply because we need to share the material that we digitise and that we hold in our collections.

Another thing is that it would be very useful if there were a legal deposit, meaning that all the makers would bring at least one copy of what they make, whether it's broadcasters, the film industry or whatever, to the audiovisual archive. For clarity reasons, it's a very transparent way of dealing with audiovisual artists in the country. At least it's known to all the makers that there is one place where all that material can go to, without discussing copyright issues. That's still another discussion, but at least there is this deposit for all the audiovisual material.

CHAIR: So there's no legal requirement at the moment to make that deposit?

Mr Muller : There have been discussions going on for a couple of years now, I think.

Ms Labrum : Decades.

Mr Muller : Decades, I hear. There is one great example in Europe, in France, where the Institut national de l'audiovisuel is dealing with a legal deposit. Again, it is a very transparent solution. Everyone knows that is the place where the audiovisual collection is held and where digitisation takes place. From there, there is sharing with the users.

CHAIR: Would there be an efficiency benefit to your organisation if that were in place?

Mr Muller : Yes, for sure—again, because of transparency and because of the fact that you know exactly what type of work flows you need to have in place to be able to deal with that legal deposit, but also, again, for clarity for the users and for re-use especially. What we saw in France, in Paris, is that, given the fact that there has been a legal deposit in place for years already, the re-use of that material is growing exponentially, because it's very clear where you get material from.

Ms BRODTMANN: Yes, a one-stop shop.

Mr Muller : Exactly.

Ms BRODTMANN: How long have the French had this system in place.

Mr Muller : A long time, since the sixties or seventies.

Ms BRODTMANN: Is that also the case across Europe?

Mr Muller : No. In the Netherlands they're still struggling with that as well. But the French are an example. Within the EU there is a discussion about the copyright and also things like legal deposits, and this is the example of how to manage an archive like that.

Ms BRODTMANN: Great. Thank you.

Dr Ayres : We operate under two acts. The National Library Act 1960 still meets our needs perfectly. It's crystal clear. In fact, in difficult times, such as in 2015 with the additional cut to budget, when we feel we've got our back to the wall, we go back and look at our act and do what it says to do. So it's terrific.

Ms BRODTMANN: Yes, it gives you the direction.

Dr Ayres : It does, yes. We also operate, though, under the Copyright Act, which is where the legal deposit provisions are for the National Library, so a copy of every Australian publication has to be deposited with us. Talking about time, it took us 23 years of advocacy to get the changes made so that we had the right to collect born-digital publications. If we had waited for that legislation before we started collecting Australian web archives, it would be gone. So attending to legal deposit for my colleagues, I think, would be terrific.

I'd also just like to note, in terms of the Copyright Act, that modernisation is an ongoing process. We're delighted that at the beginning of 2019 at last the notion of perpetual copyright in unpublished material will disappear and it will become more sensible. I think it may even be today that the safe harbour legislation may pass through the House, which would mean that we'd have the same protections as ISPs in terms of providing internet services inside the libraries. Certainly we would continue to advocate for modernisation and for broad approaches to fair use rather than the very narrow approaches we have in the Copyright Act at the moment. Even if we think we might fix a few of those at the moment, in 10 years time we'll be back in the same position, because the world will have moved on in ways we can't anticipate. So I think that for some of us the Copyright Act is a very important part of our legislative arrangement as well.

Ms BRODTMANN: Thank you. So there is a precedent in terms of this legal deposit, at the Library?

Dr Ayres : We had legal deposit right from 1968 from the Copyright Act, but for physical collections, which our colleagues don't have. As I've said to you, it took us 23 years to get the right to collect born-digital publications. Clearly for our colleagues at the NFSA it needs to be agnostic. You need to be able to just collect that copy of everything regardless.

Ms BRODTMANN: That's right. Okay. That's been very useful. Thank you.

CHAIR: I'm happy to go over time a little bit on this discussion, because I've also got a couple of things to raise. In relation to private funding, I've had some tourism operators mention to me a couple of things in this space. If you could have another thousand visitors a week visit your institutions, while that would be positive strategically, it would come at a cost, I presume.

Unidentified speaker: Yes.

CHAIR: I think, for each of your institutions, there's no cost to visit.

Dr Ayres : No. They're free.

CHAIR: Okay—free at all of them?

Dr Ayres : Yes.

CHAIR: Is there an ability to offer particular tourism operators a premium product—to go down into the bottom of the Library to see behind the scenes, or to see something special at the Archives—that could be a boost to your own funding arrangements?

Dr Ayres : We already offer that kind of premium product—

CHAIR: You do?

Dr Ayres : through our volunteers. We offer behind-the-scenes tours every day of the week. On weekends we have volunteers—

CHAIR: What's the cost?

Dr Ayres : Our volunteers basically take people on those tours, so we don't charge for them. We think it's just a really important way for people to understand what we do. I should also note that, unlike some of the other cultural institutions, we don't charge entry to our exhibitions. Our exhibitions are small—they are not multiple rooms—and, frankly, it would be unsustainable. We couldn't even afford a ticketing system to manage that. So, for us, I don't see any opportunity to raise more funds from members of the public who walk in the door. We need to seek other funding methods.

CHAIR: Across all the institutions—consistently?

Mr Fricker : With some exceptions. We do have ticketed events at the Archives for a particular performance. It might be during the Enlighten Festival here in Canberra or something like that. But we don't charge admission for exhibitions, for access to reading rooms or to register as a researcher et cetera. I don't object to that, though. I think all of us feel that we're here to create a public good—well, I shouldn't speak for everyone, but I think I do—and we don't want to put a paywall, as I said earlier, between Australia's cultural heritage and Australians. However, I think there is a place for a premium event, a premium service, where I think the ability to charge for that would enable us to create the event, and it would be another avenue through which we could promote what we do and the collection and those sorts of things. So I think there is a place for that. It's a bit difficult sometimes to do that under the current legislative regime.

CHAIR: You've all mentioned the issue of IT, cybersecurity and digital collections. To what extent do you share knowledge or resources in this area? Do you all have individual systems or do you work together? Is there a central system? Are there some efficiencies there?

Dr Ayres : As I said, we have a big IT shop. Ten per cent of our budget and 10 per cent of our staff are in our IT area, and I'd estimate another 10 per cent of our staff are involved in working with our IT staff to make things happen. We don't share systems with the other institutions, but we share systems with libraries across Australia. I mentioned resource sharing, archiving websites and newspaper digitisation. There are really big efficiencies when you're doing very like things, which is why we've centralised those. And it's why, by early 2019, we'll have a single national e-deposit system for our deposit management and preservation of all Australian publications in digital form, instead of it happening in nine different jurisdictions. So I think it's just important to recognise that sometimes the efficiencies are across Commonwealth-state borders, as well as within.

CHAIR: That's very good to hear.

Mr Fricker : Trove is a platform which is shared by many. We've shared capability for the preservation of film with the film and sound archive, and we certainly share technology and know-how. There's a high level of collaboration. It's not always as easy as people might think, with the way budget cycles work and investment cycles work, et cetera, but the spirit is alive and well across the institutions to share whenever we can and collaborate on projects.

Dr Ayres : On sharing know-how and capability, and the fact that our staff often cycle around the cultural institutions, I don't think we should underestimate how much capability we develop through that as well. Our CIOs and CFOs meet regularly. That human capability is just as important as a system.

CHAIR: On the cybersecurity front, do you fund your responsibilities on that basis or can there be a greater role for more centralised advice, review and support in relation to the cybersecurity issues that you will face?

Dr Ayres : We'd need to take that question on notice.

CHAIR: Can you, please?

Dr Ayres : Yes.

Mr Muller : It's a big issue, I would say, because we work with closed systems. We were talking more about disaster recovery—what happens if the digital asset crashes or whatever. That means we need to invest in those sorts of recovery methods.

CHAIR: You'd probably have greater concerns in this area, Mr Fricker.

Mr Fricker : That's right. We are in the process of creating a secure IT environment, because we are receiving deposits of highly classified records from government agencies, which need to remain closed for at least 20 years. It's a huge issue for us, and it's also an issue for us in terms of the advice we provide to the Commonwealth, as a regulatory agent, for how information should be managed across the Commonwealth as well.

Dr Ayres : Legislation, of course, brings new requirements, the changes to the privacy legislation, like the need to ensure that we're fitting with new European provisions. If we have people using us from Europe, they bring new IT and cybersecurity requirements. I think it depends on how far along you are. We're using our modernisation funding to help us get to at least a base level on the Essential Eight. If we had not received that modernisation funding, I have no idea how we would have done that.

Ms BRODTMANN: With my cybersecurity hat on: are you compliant with the Essential Eight; are you compliant with the Essential Eight; and—

CHAIR: And what is the Essential Eight!

Ms BRODTMANN: The Essential Eight is the ASD's list of things that you need to do to be cyber-resilient. An audit report has found that there's only one government agency that is cyber-resilient—that's DHS—despite assurances that everyone would be cyber-resilient, so this is a concern. Mr Fricker and I have had roundtables on this issue. I imagine you're getting to the Essential Eight?

Dr Ayres : We're getting there.

Mr Fricker : It's the same for us. Every time we go back to it, we realise we have to do more because you never finish—

Mr Muller : Remember, we all recently had to get rid of our ration software.

Dr Ayres : In terms of the Essential Eight, we think we'll get to—as I said, only with this additional funding—the base level. The costs to jump up from level 2 to level 3 are just enormous, so we will face those decisions. It's not small when you have a big digital offering.

Ms BRODTMANN: Are you part of the gateway? Small agencies, I understand, are allowed into the gateway, where there's automatic patching and automatic backing-up. From my investigations it seems to be optional, even though it is, in theory, mandated for small agencies to be part of the gateway.

Dr Ayres : We're much too big for them.

Mr Muller : You are a gateway!

Dr Ayres : We are! Our digital collection and traffic are much too big, so, although we're a small agency, we don't fit that. Last year, Trove was the Commonwealth's fourth most used website. So the amount of traffic is much too big. A small agency might be 'small' in terms of your digital collection and your digital traffic. We don't fit that, so we must do it ourselves.

Mr Fricker : I'm very happy to say here in this formal committee that, every time we look at it, we realise there's more to do. So, even when you think you're complying with the top four or the essential eight, technology moves so quickly. The configuration of all of our systems is so complex that we need to constantly look and look and look. Even yesterday we discovered another vulnerability, which was patched yesterday. So I'm never one to sit in a committee like this and say, 'We're covered,' because I know enough about what's going on to say, 'No, we're not covered.'

Ms BRODTMANN: Mr Muller, it goes to your point, too, about recovery, because it's not just a case of ticking the box—

Mr Muller : That's right. It requires investments—

Ms BRODTMANN: and getting all of that in place; it's firstly your resilience and then your ability to recover.

Mr Muller : Yes. We found out that we were vulnerable when it came to our digital storage. It means that next year in our budget we will see huge investments to be able to recover things, if necessary, because it's all we have. This is the core of what we do.

Ms BRODTMANN: And that's a diminishing budget.

Mr Muller : Exactly.

Dr Ayres : And certainly there are costs in terms of events in digital services. A couple of years ago, we looked at what it would cost us to get our big digital services up and running again in the event of a major disaster, and it was completely unaffordable. Certainly, with the cloud coming onstream, that will probably become more affordable, but there's the safety of our collections. Also, what does the public expect of you in the digital space and how quickly could you get back there if you had a major disaster? They are concerns as well.

Ms BRODTMANN: You talked about the cost of going into the cloud, and so you're sticking with this national arrangement with other libraries.

Dr Ayres : Yes.

Ms BRODTMANN: Can you just give us a breakdown of that, just on notice—

Dr Ayres : Certainly. We have just done that.

Ms BRODTMANN: because, as you know, there's a government push to get people onto—

Dr Ayres : It's two to three times as much—

Ms BRODTMANN: It's two to three times as much?

Dr Ayres : Yes. At the moment, it's two to three times as expensive to put either our collections or our web services into the cloud as it is to run them internally. But I think our CIO has done some very detailed work. I would be happy to do that. It will change in the next few years, but right now the tipping point is not there.

Ms BRODTMANN: As you know, the government pushes to get people on the cloud.

Dr Ayres : Yes.

CHAIR: Just finally on the issue of board members: I understand the Library has two parliamentarians on its board.

Dr Ayres : That's right.

CHAIR: Are they on other institutions? No? Nothing?

Mr Fricker : We have two parliamentarians on our advisory council. We have two parliamentary representatives.

CHAIR: What is the benefit of that?

Mr Fricker : There is an enormous wisdom, of course, Chair!

CHAIR: I knew that this question was a bit cheeky.

Mr Fricker : Need you ask!

Dr Ayres : We couldn't have brought the National Library to Parliament House yesterday, without Mr Julian Leeser and Senator Claire Moore. They understand our business. They are passionate about our collections and they helped to bring us up to parliament. We couldn't have done it without them.

Mr Muller : So the question is: what would you miss if there wasn't one parliamentarian on your board? We don't have one.

Ms Cardew-Hall : We don't have one. You have two.

Mr Muller : Exactly.

Mr Fricker : Despite my rather facetious response earlier, Minister Jane Prentice and Senator Moore are on the advisory council of the Archives. I absolutely agree with what has just been said. They bring a great deal to the advisory council in terms of how we should address the challenges that we face: how we should respond to government and how we should work with government and with parliament on the challenges we face. They give us a great depth in terms of strategic leadership on where the Archives should be going.

CHAIR: The advisory council is your board equivalent?

Mr Fricker : That's right. So it's nonexecutive. It is purely there to advise my office and the Attorney-General, the minister, on any matters relating to the operation of the Archives; it's a non-executive advisory council.

CHAIR: Normally, the members of parliament you've mentioned are non-executive members. They are backbench members of parliament. So you would have a large number of MPs over time cycle through, I presume, in those positions.

Dr Ayres : They tend to stay for a while, because they get hooked. In fact, Julian Leeser told us when he joined us that joining the National Library Council was on his bucket list.

CHAIR: I know Mr Leeser well. I believe that to be true.

Dr Ayres : Yes, he did tell me that. But, seriously, I think that one of the things that having a member and a senator does is that over time they continue to remind us about the breadth of Australia, about the people spread across electorates and about the different communities that are represented. So for us it's a really important part of our discussions going on at council and has worked very positively for us, especially when, as now, we have two members who are absolutely committed to what we do and to helping us to advance that. It works very well for us.

CHAIR: What do you think the benefit is to those individual members or to the parliament?

Dr Ayres : I think one of the benefits to the parliament would be spreading the news about what our institutions offer to all of their constituents. It's that circularity that happens. So I think that that would be a benefit to them. There is also just getting in touch with our collections. Nobody should underestimate this. Collections are wonderful, wonderful things, and there are the opportunities that they have to explore them, understand them, understand the multiple identities in our collections and bring them back to the house. It might be hard to put your finger on. I don't doubt that it happens and has value.

Mr Fricker : Can I just add something. We have a recent example. Our advisory council went to Darwin the week before last.

Ms Williams : Last week.

Mr Fricker : Would you mind just briefly explaining what happened? Senator Moore was part of this.

Ms Williams : Some of the activities that the advisory council were exposed to and involved with in Darwin when they visited were to participate in and be part of the handover of the Larrakia petition to the Larrakia Nation. They were also involved in a tour and site visit of the Northern Territory Archives Centre, where the National Archives is co-located with the Northern Territory Archives Service. So they observed and handled firsthand the archival collections of both archives and were also exposed to the outreach activities that occur at the Northern Territory Archives Centre—for example, a joint exhibition which includes the collection items of both the National Archives and the Northern Territory Archives Service. There was also a dinner with Her Honour the Administrator of the Northern Territory and a dinner with key members of the history fraternity. There were representatives from historical societies, the Genealogical Society et cetera.

Mr Fricker : Through their work with us—which we are very grateful for, I might add—it's staying connected with the cultural life of Australia. It's where we began the conversation. It's about the cultural identity of Australia. So I think there is a great deal of benefit that flows back to the parliament from having those firsthand experiences not only in Canberra but right across Australia with the cultural identity of Australia.

CHAIR: Finally, does the National Archives keep collections on behalf of non-government entities as well, or is your mandate strictly just for government records?

Mr Fricker : We have private papers as well, and we have non-Commonwealth records which form part of the collection.

CHAIR: So what would some of those non-Commonwealth records be? Are they on behalf of organisations?

Mr Fricker : No. Primarily they're about persons important to the Commonwealth: governors general, former prime ministers, chief justices and other historically significant people. Otherwise they are collections which, as with the other institutions here today, provide some sort of insight into some episode or development of Australia's culture.

Dr Ayres : We collect non-government archives from organisations. Examples would be the records of the Liberal Party, the Labor Party, the RSL, the Australian Republican Movement, Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

Mr Muller : It is the same for us—for examples, commercial broadcasts, film, documentary makers and private collections.

Ms BRODTMANN: You've got former politicians on your board. You've heard the value that's provided by current politicians to the Archives and the Library. Can you outline what the former politicians—

Mr Muller : It is the connections they provide to create awareness and to provide advocacy for the institutions, so, yes, I think it makes sense.

Ms BRODTMANN: Who are on your board?

Mr Muller : Fiona Scott, Paul—

Ms Labrum : Paul Neville. I might say that they've contributed probably more in terms of actually having some personal interest in aspects of what the archive does. Their possibly ongoing connections with politicians have also been useful in terms of promoting some of the things that we're doing. But I think it's very different from having a current connected one.

Ms BRODTMANN: Have you thought about getting current politicians instead of former ones on your board? Is there some sort of—

Mr Muller : It's not up to us.

Ms BRODTMANN: Is it in the governing legislation?

Mr Muller : The minister decides.

Mr Fricker : Ours is in the legislation.

Ms BRODTMANN: Is yours in the act?

Dr Ayres : Our act specifies a member and a senator, but other appointments, of course, rest with the minister. So in our legislation, yes, it's there.

Mr Muller : We're not involved at all.

CHAIR: From what you've heard, do you see benefit for your organisation?

Mr Muller : It is hard to say after six or seven months in the country, but I guess it makes sense. In the Netherlands it was actually forbidden. It was not allow for parliamentarians to be part of a board.

Ms BRODTMANN: It's not paid—

Mr Muller : It makes sense. There's a connection there. It's creating awareness for what we do, and that makes sense.


CHAIR: Thank you for your attendance here today. If you've been asked to provide any additional information, please do so by Friday, 6 July. You will also be sent a copy of the transcript of your evidence and you will have an opportunity to request corrections to any transcription errors.