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Friday, 16 December 1983
Page: 4022

Question No. 460


Senator Elstob asked the Minister representing the Special Minsiter of State, upon notice, on 2 November 1983:

(1) What was the total cost of the Fraser Government's Task Force on Departmental Information activities.

(2) Who were the members of the Task Force.

(3) How long did the Task Force take to conclude its enquiries.

(4) What Federal Government departments were covered by the Task Force investigations.

(5) Was the final report of the Task Force withheld temporarily from normal distribution; if so, why.

(6) What departmental information units have adopted the policy recommendations of the Task Force.

(7) Is there currently in operation a Standing Inter-departmental Committee on Domestic Information as recommended by the Task Force; if so, when was this Committee set up and what Departments are represented.

(8) What is the role of the Committee referred to in Part (7).


Senator Gareth Evans —The Special Minister of State has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Task Force on Departmental Information was serviced by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and its cost, other than the salaries of officers who comprised or assisted it, was as follows:

1978-79 1979-80 1980-81

$ $ $ Travel and Subsistence 4,347 10,970 nil Office Requisites 35 1,029 nil Incidental (freight, advertising, et cetera) 5,913 10,614 nil

Total 10,295 22,613

The salary costs associated with the Task Force are not shown separately in departmental accounts and I am not prepared to request the considerable work that would be necessary to identify these costs.

(2) Members of the Task Force were: Mr W. P. Butler, Chairman, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Mr J. C. Russell, Public Service Board, Mr J. M. Malone, Department of Administrative Services.

(3) The Task Force, supported by a small secretariat, began its detailed review in November 1978 and printed its Report in July 1980.

(4) The Task Force reported that it surveyed every department and relevant statutory authority with information programs.

(5) The Task Force Report on Departmental Information was released in February 1982 along with an announcement of the then Government's decision as to improving departmental information programs.

(6) All departments have been encouraged to incorporate the relevant policy recommendations of the Task Force into the activities of their departmental information units. The Information Co-ordination Branch (ICB) of the Department of the Special Minister of State is assisting in the implementation of the Task Force recommendations.

(7) Instead of the Standing Inter-departmental Committee on Domestic Information as recommended by the Task Force, the ICB was established and is now located within the Department of the Special Minister of State.

(8) The role of the ICB is to assist all departments in the co-ordination and expert presentation of their information programs. This involves the review and monitoring of ongoing programs for efficiency and effectiveness, and participation in the development of new information programs in areas of communication deficiency.

The primary objective of ICB's co-ordination activity is to improve departmental communication with the public about rights, obligations, administrative procedures, and matters of national importance. The Branch is also required to remedy deficiencies identified in the Task Force Report on Departmental Information, including information services to the 'communication disadvantaged'.