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Wednesday, 23 April 1980
Page: 1796

Senator Evans asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 3 1 March 1980:

(   I ) Are the documents entitled "The Attorney-General in Parliament- Autumn Session 1979' and 'Press Releases by the Attorney-General 1979' (Vol. 2) consolidations of material otherwise publicly available through Hansard or as a result of the Attorney-General 's press release network.

(2)   Who conducted the research necessary to prepare and publish the two volumes.

(3)   Who researched the material accompanying the photograph of the Attorney-General reproduced at the front of both volumes.

(4)   Of what relevance are the photograph and the personal particulars of the Attorney-General to each of the documents.

(   5 ) What was the cost of the research, printing and distribution of each of the volumes.

(6)   At whose expense were each of the volumes researched, printed and distributed.

(7)   How many copies of each volume were printed and distributed and to whom were they distributed.

(8)   Which areas of the Public Service, other than the Government Printer or individual public servants were involved in the research and distribution of the documents.

(9)   What justification is there for the use of public resources and expenditure of public moneys in the reproduction of the documents, if both documents represent a consolidation of material already available to the public.

(   10) Having regard to the highly personal nature of both documents and the use of public servants in their production, has not the Attorney-General caused those public servants to breach the guidelines on official conduct of Commonwealth public servants.

(11)   Having regard to the recent comments of His Honour Mr Justice Sweeney in the Federal Court of Australia concerning conduct of officials in Trade Union Elections does the Attorney-General propose to apply those same minimum standards to Federal politicians; if so, is it not true that the publication of the documents represents a breach of those minimum conditions.

Senator Durack - The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

The documents, 'The Attorney-General in Parliament' and 'Press Releases by the Attorney-General' are issued every six months. Between them they contain all of the public statements made by the Attorney-General inside and outside the Parliament during that time. 'Press Releases by the Attorney-General' dates back to 1973. The first volume of The Attorney-General in Parliament' appeared in 1976.

The documents are prepared primarily as a reference for officers of the Attorney-General's Department in central office and in the States and for organisations involved with the Attorney-General. They are sent to law libraries, legal organisations and libraries of tertiary institutions and to people who have requested information relevant to the Attorney-General 's Department.

The material for 'Press Releases by the Attorney-General' comes mainly from the press releases issued by the AttorneyGeneral and by the Attorney-General's Depanment. The material for 'The Attorney-General in Parliament' comes from Hansard. Both documents have a chronological and subject index.

The research work for the two documents is carried out by the Information and Public Relations Section of the Attorney-General's Department. The Director of Information and Public Relations supervised the research and production of material in both documents including the photographs and biographical details. No other area of the Public Service was involved. The photograph and biographical details of the Attorney-General have been included in both documents since 1976 to make the documents more informative.

The production run of bom documents was 450. The cost of 'The Attorney-General in Parliament, Autumn Sessions 1979' for the 450 copies was 51,540. The cost of 'Press Releases by the Attorney-General Volume II, 1979' has not yet been sent to the Depanment by the Government Printer. However the cost of the similar documents produced in the first half of the year was $ 1 ,040 for 450 copies.

The documents have been produced at the editorial discretion of the Director of Information and Public Relations to assist people wanting to obtain information announced by the Attorney-General. Apart from speeches outlining the views of the Attorney-General on aspects of legal policy, the documents contain information about appointments, new developments in the law and announcements about the administration of the law. The material in the documents attributed to the Attorney-General is restricted to pronouncements made in the course of his ministerial duties. This, I am informed, is the editorial criterion that has been applied since the documents were first produced.

I do not believe the remarks made by His Honour Mr Justice Sweeney have any relevance to these circumstances. Nor do I consider that there has been any breach of the guidelines on official conduct by public servants.

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