Tuesday, 5 December 2017
Publications Joint Committee; Report
On behalf of the Publications Joint Committee, I present the committee's report on the inquiry into printing standards for documents presented to parliament, together with the minutes of proceedings and the evidence that's been received by the committee.
Report made a parliamentary paper in accordance with standing order 39(e).
by leave—This is the first inquiry report of the Publications Joint Committee in 10 years. The previous report of the committee was also into the printing standards of documents presented to parliament. This report provides a revision of those standards that were set in 2007. The Publications Joint Committee sets the printing standards for documents that are presented to this parliament. As you're aware, Mr Speaker, thousands of documents are presented to parliament each year. Most of these are required to be presented by law. That includes documents such as annual reports of Commonwealth entities, reports of royal commissions, reports of other government inquiries, parliamentary committee reports and other periodic reports with statutory requirements.
The purpose of presenting documents to parliament is to keep the parliament and, through it, the Australian public informed of the government's activities. At the heart of the practice of presenting documents is maintaining government accountability. In the 10 years between the two reports of the committee, a number of developments have occurred which make this review of standards timely. They include the parliamentary paper series becoming a digital-only series, developments in printing capabilities and technology, and the continually growing expectation that documents are accessible through electronic mediums. In the past, the printing standards provided guidance to government entities, authorities and companies on issues such as format, the use of colour and illustrations, and the type and size of paper. A number of arguments were put to the committee that these standards should be relaxed to allow for greater flexibility.
Despite advances in technology, though, and an increasing preference for accessing such publications electronically, documents printed in hard-copy format are still very much pertinent. The committee, therefore, has agreed to relax the standards to allow flexibility while ensuring the ongoing integrity of parliamentary documents. In relation to electronic documents, the committee has made a number of recommendations, including that the Digital Transformation Agency, in consultation with the Department of Finance, develop a minimum set of standards for electronic documents and that the Department of Parliamentary Services develop a dedicated web interface with appropriate functionality for locating and accessing electronically tabled documents.
Another area the committee explored is the possibility of presenting documents to parliament electronically. The committee endorses this idea and has made a recommendation that the parliamentary departments, together with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, develop a system that would facilitate the embargoed delivery of digital documents for the purpose of electronic tabling of these documents before parliament.
Finally, the committee has made a recommendation to each house of parliament which, if agreed to, will streamline the procedural process for making tabled documents parliamentary papers. That's getting rid of process and red tape, which is a good thing.
In conclusion, the committee is keen to ensure that government and parliamentary information remains accessible in whatever form that information is made available. The committee is confident that the revised standards, the recommendations we have made today, will provide author bodies with sufficient flexibility for their evolving needs to satisfy public demand for digital dissemination of information and ensure the ongoing integrity of access to parliamentary records and maintain the accountability of the government of the day. I therefore recommend this report and the recommendations to the House.