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Tuesday, 13 December 1983
Page: 3659


Senator HAMER —I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard information on the National Film Archive received in response to questions I asked during consideration of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1982-83 in Committee of the Whole.

Leave granted.

The information read as follows-

Senator David Hamer D.S.C.

Senator for Victoria

Parliament House

Canberra, ACT 2600

Dear Senator Hamer

During the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) in the Senate on 10 November 1983, you raised a number of matters concerning the National Film Archive in the National Library of Australia.

I am aware that your concern that the Archive be properly supported and developed is widely shared throughout the community. I am also aware of a view held in some quarters that the National Library is not the most appropriate location for the Film Archive. The Government has undertaken to consider both these matters and I will be making a submission to Cabinet in the near future.

Meanwhile, as you have acknowledged, the nation owes a considerable debt to the National Library for having taken the initiative in establishing the archive and for having supported it for nearly fifty years. Without that initiative and that continuing support the nation would be immeasurably worse off than it is today in respect of its film heritage.

No-one denies that the level of support for the Archive in recent years has not been sufficient to enable it to carry out its responsibilities satisfactorily, but it is a fact that the Library has made quite strenuous efforts to remedy these deficiencies within the very severe budgetary constraints that have been imposed on it.

It should also be said that the Library is placed in a particularly difficult position with regard to answering its critics or commenting on statements made about the present and future of the Archive. The National Library Council has given careful consideration to the views that have been expressed in public and to the recommendations made to it by its Advisory Committee on the National Film Archive and by the consultants it appointed on the recommendation of that Committee. It has conveyed its advice to me in the proper degree of confidence and that confidence must equally be respected by the Library.

Since many of your questions raise matters of detail which appear to continue the line of inquiry posed at the Senate Estimates Committee hearing, I have sought the advice of the Director-General of the National Library and this is indicated below where applicable. Otherwise I have answered your questions to the extent possible at this stage.

I believe that it would be a pity if, in their anxiety to establish that the Archive would be more appropriately located outside the National Library, the proponents of that view tended to diminish in any way the very real importance of the National Library and its considerable contribution to the preservation of Australia's cultural heritage and to the provision of library and information services to the nation.

QUESTION 1From 1979-80 to 1983-84 inclusive, the funds allocated to materials for the National Film Archive (i.e. other than for staff and equipment) increased by 123 per cent. 1979-80 expenditure $141,000, 1983-84 budget $315,000 , i.e. 123 per cent.

This compared with an increase of 52 per cent in the funds for the purchase of all Library material, i.e. 1979-80 expenditure on library materials $2.869m, 1983-84 budget on library materials $4.350m, i.e. 52 per cent.

Thus, while overall the Library's purchasing power has not kept pace with inflation, the real provision for the National Film Archive has been very considerably increased.

QUESTION 2The Library has informed me that the following requests for access were received:

1980

931

1981

1533

1982

1721

to end August

1983

872

60 per cent of requests over this period have been satisfied. The remaining 40 per cent either:

(a) fell outside the Library's range of activities and services; or,

(b) were referred to other bodies; or

(c) exceeded the capacity of the Archive's record system to provide the information.

The computerised record system being implemented in 1984 will assist with the third category.

It is estimated that at present 20 per cent of the Archive's staff time is devoted to handling requests.

QUESTION 3The Library advises that the minutes of the meetings of the Advisory Committee on the National Film Archive record very few specific recommendations to the National Library Council. The written response given by the Library on October 6 referred to the Committee's major recommendations to that date. These were contained in a paper prepared by the Chairman of the Committee and presented to the Council on 3 March 1983. The full paper could be made available , if required, but the recommendations were as follows:

''(a) That the NFA be moved to Sydney as the permanent central location of its departments and collections.

(b) That the NFA maintain a permanent staff and offices in Melbourne to provide access service and acquisition activity in co-ordination with the Sydney headquarters;

(c) That a purpose-built home for the NFA in Sydney be adopted as an objective for the Bicentennial 1988;

(d) That the National Film Lending collection remain in Canberra as it is separate from the NFA and subject to different geographical considerations.''

In the same document it is stated that:

''In the context of the foregoing the AC (i.e. the Advisory Committee) recommends that the NFA remain part of the NLA. It would be more than regrettable and most unwise if location separation from the Library resulted in the NFA being absorbed by another statutory authority-such as Australian Archives, the Australian Film Commission, or Australian Film and Television School. In the course of time its relationship to the NLA will become clearer and the possibility that it may grow into an Authority in its own right cannot be discounted. Whether this would be desirable is not yet apparent.''

These recommendations were discussed by Council but, at the suggestion of the Director-General, no decision was arrived at, pending the report of the independent consultants mentioned earlier in this letter.

The Advisory Committee made further recommendations to the Council at its meeting on 7 October. These recommendations were contained in a document prepared by members of the Committee other than the Director-General. Contrary to the Committee's previous advice to the Council, that document recommends early autonomy for the National Film Archive and immediate separation from the National Library.

The firm of Nicholas Clark and Associates was retained by the Library as the independent consultants to report on developmental options for the National Film Archive. The reference to an enquiry is misleading. The Committee's report to Council on 7 October did include recommendations relating to the Clark Report. The Committee has so far commented on only one of the 29 recommendations in that report.

The Library's response to Senator Baume's question of 16 September, which was sent to the Department of Home Affairs and Environment on 27 September, does accurately report on the recommendations of the Advisory Committee. It does not take account of a telex to the Director-General dated 20 September conveying the views of the Advisory Committee. The telex expressed support for ''the generality of 13 resolutions from the A.F.I. Conference''.

I am aware of Ms Lovell's resignation from the Advisory Committee and intend to discuss her reasons for resigning with the Director-General. However I am informed that excluding the recommendations made in the two documents referred to above, the Committee has made six formal recommendations to Council or to the Director-General since its first meeting on 10 December 1981. Two have been rejected, three have been accepted and action has been taken on the remaining one.

The cost of the Advisory Committee has been quite slight. The members serve in an honorary capacity. Meetings are held in Sydney because most members reside in Sydney. The Library pays the fares of two other members, plus those of relevant Library staff, and other incidental expenses. The Committee has held eight meetings, seven of them in Sydney.

QUESTION 4I am advised that information on the questionnaire, organisations responding to the questionnaire, the responses to it and other related matters are set out in the report of another investigation commonly referred to as Nicholas Clark Report Stage 1. The full title of this report is: Survey of organisations involved in collection and preservation of films and video tapes of moving images and Survey of existing and potential depositors and users of film archive facilities, January 1983. The report, which was commissioned by the Australian Film Commission, contains information supplied by respondents on the understanding that the report would not become a public document. In preparing its responses to Senator's Baume's previous questions, the Library understood that you had already received a copy of the report. If this is not the case, I am prepared to make a copy available on an in-confidence basis.

The firm states that the submission from the Australian Screen Studies Association was considered inappropriate at the time it was submitted because it related to matters which had already been dealt with in that first report.

The consultant's terms of reference for the second report were to prepare developmental options for the Archive based on the evidence in the first report, and the consultants were not required to seek new submissions.

The principal of the firm has advised the Library that he has no further comments to make on this matter.

QUESTION 5The circulation of this kit was an initiative undertaken by the Library on its own responsibility without reference to me, which would not be required anyway. I have no comment to make on its contents.

QUESTION 6The National Library intended by use of the phrase, 'total record', the role of the Library as defined in its legislation. The National Library Act 1960 requires the National Library, on behalf of the Commonwealth, to

''Maintain and develop a national collection of library material including a comprehensive collection of library material relating to Australia and the Australian people.''

Library material is defined in the Act as books, periodicals, newspapers, manuscripts, films, sound recordings, musical scores, maps, plans, pictures, photographs, prints and other recorded material, whether in writing or in some other form.

The National Library has well-understood and co-operative collecting arrangements with the National Gallery, the Australian War Memorial, the Australian Archives, the Museum of Australia, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies and the Parliamentary Library-each of which has its own national collection development responsibilities, mostly defined in legislation.

QUESTION 7I am informed that the officer-in-charge of the Film Section was not consulted about the press release of 21 October because he was absent from the Library on that day. He was informed subsequently.

An extra position is being created for the National Film Archive bringing the total to eleven. This position has been made available within the Library's existing approved staffing level following a review of staffing priorities.

The restrictions on access to the Archive were imposed originally on the recommendation of the officer-in-charge of the Film Section. The reasons were published by the Library on 23 June 1982 when the introduction of restrictions was announced.

In view of the extra staff made available, the progress of the Library's Task Force (18 part-time officers equivalent to 15 full-time) in clearing backlogs, and the stage of development reached in completing and implementing the computerised management information system, the Director-General concluded that access restrictions could be eased somewhat.

QUESTION 8I am advised that an error in drafting occurred in the News Release issued by the Library on 21 October. This related to the statement that 'access restrictions for the television industry had been lifted in September 1982'. In fact, only some restrictions had been lifted. As a result of this the Library is considering how to lift all access restrictions for television producers. Users of the Archive will be informed of new arrangements for access by means of a ' For Information' sheet when these are implemented.

QUESTION 9I am advised that the Nicholas Clark report on Developmental Options for the National Film Archive cost $15,000, and was paid for on receipt of the account from the firm.

The National Library Council considered the Nicholas Clark report along with other reports in the preparation of its submission to me on the National Film Archive. The Council's submission to me on the future of the Archive is confidential at this stage.

QUESTION 10The Last Film Search was conceived by staff members of the National Film Archive, part of the film section of the National Library of Australia. Several overseas film archives are considering conducting similar projects. The Library's news release of 21 December 1983 stated that two million feet of film had been discovered during the search. I am advised that not all this footage has yet been transferred to the Library's custody.

The Library advises that material acquired as a result of the Last Film Search is not distinguished from other film in the determination of priorities for copying, but estimates that 100,000 feet of film secured through the search has been copied to date. This has involved an expenditure of about $100,000 for the preparation of preservation master copies. Viewing prints of some of this material have also been prepared.

The Library intends to seek provision of funds in 1984-85 for copying nitrate film and to implement a nitrate ageing test, as part of the normal operations of the Archive's preservation work. This test will enable staff to determine the expected life of any film and, consequently, to allocate more accurately an order of priority to copying so that all film is copied before it deteriorates.

Experience over the last two years now indicates that the Last Film Search needs to be expanded.

So far as the Corrick Collection is concerned, in my letter of 11 August 1983 referred to by Senator Peter Rae I indicated that copying of the Corrick Collection would be resumed. I am now advised that indeed further prints are being prepared for Mr Corrick. The full preservation of the Collection is on the Archive's current program and will be undertaken as resources permit and I am assured certainly before the nitrate stock decomposes.

Investments of Last Film Search funds first matured in 1982-83 and appeared in the accounts for that year. The Library's annual report for 1982-83 is expected to be tabled before the end of these Budget Sittings.

The Library has made a substantial financial commitment to the Last Film Search and already has provided considerable financial support. The Library intends to seek further provision for copying all nitrate film discovered as a result of the Search. It is estimated that the preparation of preservation master copies and viewing prints may involve a total expenditure of about $2 million. The Library has provided administrative support for work undertaken on the Search by the officer-in-charge of the Film Section and the curator of the National Film Archive, in addition to one staff member involved wholly with the Search. Other support provided to the Search includes publicity backup from the Library's Public Information Officer.

In addition, the Australian Film Commission has provided funds as one of the sponsors for the Search.

QUESTION 11The remarks made by the Prime Minister indicate the Government's concern for the adequate support and development of the National Film Archive. The question of the future administration of the Archive and the resources to be provided for it, will be raised in a submission which I will be making to Cabinet in the near future.

QUESTION 12The Director-General advised me that the Council discussed the AFI resolutions at its meeting on 7 October, before it submitted its confidential report to me. I have undertaken to take this report into account and to include the Council's views in my submission to Cabinet.

The Library will consider making its views on the AFI recommendations public at an appropriate time.

QUESTION 13I am advised that a report was prepared by Mr Edmondson on the basis of an independent overseas visit when he was officer-in-charge of the Film Archive. He submitted a copy to the Library for its information.

The report by Mr Clyde Jeavons was not commissioned by the Library. It was based on a comparatively short visit. The report was published by Cinema Papers.

The Easton Report was an internal report commissioned by the Library. Further funds are being sought by the Library to implement, in stages, the main thrust of Mr Easton's recommendations. In the course of his report the consultant commented on some matters outside his brief and for this reason and because the Library was still considering the report, it has been kept as an internal working paper.

The 1980 report of the Australian Film Commission Working Party on the National Film Archive has been the subject of continuing consideration by the Library since it was issued. The National Library Council accepted the recommendations of the Working Party and, with the concurrence of the Australian Film Commission , forwarded them to the then Minister in 1980. The Minister noted that the question of implementation on the recommendations was a matter for the Library to address within its appropriation and since that time progress has been made in all the areas covered by the report.

I again assure you of the Government's concern on these issues.

Yours sincerely

BARRY COHEN

1.12.83