House debates

Thursday, 20 September 2007


Publications Committee; Report

9:47 am

Photo of Trish DraperTrish Draper (Makin, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On behalf of the Publications Committee, I present the committee’s report entitled Printing standards for documents presented to parliament, together with the minutes of proceedings.

Ordered that the report be made a parliamentary paper.

by leave—Firstly, I would like to acknowledge and thank my colleagues on the committee for their worthy contributions and efforts in compiling this report: the current and former chairs of the Senate Publications Committee, Senator Julian McGauran and Senator Guy Barnett; and the deputy chair of the House Publications Committee, the honourable member for Lyons. Can I take this opportunity to thank the member for Lyons for his years of experience in this place in assisting the committee and assisting me as chair—Dick, you did a tremendous job; thank you very much. Thank you also to our committee members, the honourable members for Braddon, Isaacs, Werriwa, Riverina—Kay Hull, who assisted the committee no end with attention to detail—and the member for Ryan; Senators Fisher, Hurley, Marshall, Nash, Sterle and Wortley; and former committee members Senators Campbell, Johnston and Polley.

Mr Deputy Speaker, as you are aware, many thousands of documents are presented to the parliament each year. Most are required to be tabled by law, to assist the parliament with its legislative and oversight functions and to contribute to effective and accountable governance. These documents include the annual reports of all government agencies, reports of royal commissions and other government inquiries, parliamentary committee reports and a wide variety of other material. One of the responsibilities of the Joint Committee on Publications is to issue printing standards for documents presented to parliament. These standards ensure that all documents, particularly those selected for inclusion in the parliamentary papers series, conform to certain requirements. The current standards have been effective in ensuring that documents presented to parliament conform to the requirements of the parliamentary papers series with minimal additional cost to author bodies. However, developments in printing technology, the needs of a wider audience and alternative means of accessing documents have all made it appropriate to re-examine the standards.

One of the most significant issues investigated was the use of colour printing. A number of arguments were put to the committee that supported the view that the standards should be revised to allow for more flexibility. Such arguments included the evolving purpose of annual reports; the use of graphs, illustrations and diagrams; web publishing issues; and design matters. The committee is sympathetic to the wish to include more colour in documents that have an audience beyond the parliament, particularly where such bodies are in direct competition with private enterprise. In the past, the committee’s reluctance to allow the use of full colour in documents has been due to the additional cost involved. In its present inquiry, however, the committee found that technological advances have made full-colour printing with a white border nearly as cost-effective as two-colour printing. The exception is colour that bleeds to the edge of the page. Colour bleeding results in a significant cost increase and represents an inefficient use of government funds. The committee has therefore recommended that colour bleeding be avoided in all documents presented to parliament. In light of the numerous valid reasons for allowing greater flexibility in the use of colour, and technological advances in recent years, the committee has issued revised standards, effective from 1 January 2008, which will provide government bodies with increased flexibility in the use of colour in certain circumstances.

It should be noted, however, that the committee expects government bodies to continue to achieve value for money in the production of their documents and maintains that for most annual reports black plus one colour is sufficient for text. In determining whether to use additional colours, author bodies should carefully consider the purpose and audience of the document. They should also weigh the additional costs involved with colour printing against the expected benefits. The report also deals with several other issues, including possible sanctions for noncompliance with the standards, potential cost-saving measures, improved communication with print providers, better training for print procurement officers and environmental issues.

In conclusion, I would like to thank all those who made submissions to the inquiry and particularly the 20 witnesses who appeared before the committee at its very successful roundtable discussion. I would also like to acknowledge the work of the committee secretariat, including the Secretary of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Publications, Mr Jason Sherd, who is currently on paternity leave; the Secretary of the Senate Standing Committee on Publications, Ms Naomie Kaub; and inquiry secretaries Ms Peggy Danaee and Mr Andrew McGowan. I commend this report to the House.

9:53 am

Photo of Dick AdamsDick Adams (Lyons, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I am pleased to support the tabling of the report, Printing standards for documents presented to parliament, from the inquiry into printing standards for documents presented to parliament by the Joint Committee on Publications. I would like to thank the chair, Trish Draper, for her work on this report and for having chaired the committee throughout the year. It has been a pleasure to work with her and I wish her well in her future life. I also thank my colleagues on the committee and the committee secretariat. This small committee has done a lot of work during its term.

The standards that we set will ensure that all documents conform to certain requirements, including production quality and value for money, use of colour and illustrations, paper size and type, covers and binding and the number of printed copies required. Developments in technology and the ability to access documents by alternative means were reasons why it was considered appropriate to re-examine the standards. In light of the evolving needs of author bodies it is important to achieve flexibility and at the same time ensure that the government achieves value for money.

This report considered the existing printing standards and, in particular, looked at the necessity of using colour and illustrations, the cost of producing documents and whether value for money is being obtained. It also investigated the feasibility of sanctions against organisations that do not follow printing standards.

The committee in March 2007 resolved to undertake the inquiry and in April 2007 issued a discussion paper. Details of the inquiry were published in both the Australian and the Bulletin. Submissions were received from nine departments and organisations. They are listed in appendix A of the report. On 18 June this year a roundtable discussion was held in Canberra with representatives from 12 groups representing both government and industry. They are listed in appendix B of the report.

The use of colour was the main finding. Considering the evolving purpose of documents, the need for flexibility was considered. While parliament is the primary consideration when designing and publishing documents, a number of agencies use their publications for marketing and to communicate with an audience external to the parliament. This has been a recent development. With this in mind and considering other issues such as evidence indicating significant reductions in the cost of colour printing, the committee has issued revised standards that permit the use of full colour if necessary. However, design elements of documents should not result in the colours bleeding to the edge of the page as this process results in significantly increased costs. Covers for reports may continue to be printed in full colour. For most reports it is considered that black plus one colour is sufficient for the text. Illustrations may be included in reports as long as they add value to the understanding of the text.

Value for money was another main finding. The committee considers that there is still some scope for identifying further cost savings. It is recommended that agencies review their demand for hard copies, particularly at a time when electronic copies can be made available. It is also recommended that agencies review the length of their reports and their submission deadlines. A review of internal processes such as deadlines and approval processes is recommended in order to reduce costs. Unrealistic deadlines and approval processes often result in late changes to proofs and design work or late submission of copy. This can add significantly to the cost of printing jobs. The committee recommends that there is early consultation in developing a document prior to entering into a contract and that advice is received regarding cost prior to finalising design work. These measures, along with ensuring timely electronic access to documents and providing information sessions for the staff in government bodies who are responsible for procuring printing services, should ensure that value for money is achieved in the procurement of printing and publishing services.

In regard to compliance, the committee recommends full compliance with the guidelines in the revised standards contained in appendix D of the report. The report recommends that compliance continues to be the responsibility of government agencies, authorities and companies. Currently there are no sanctions if the standards are not adhered to; however, if compliance is not demonstrated, the reprinting cost of any document will be the responsibility of the author body, if the document is to be included in the Parliamentary Paper Series. The introduction of sanctions for noncompliance was considered once again in this inquiry but the introduction of additional sanctions was not supported by the evidence received by the committee.

It is not considered that exemptions should be a part of the standards as they may result in an administrative burden for the committee and they are not effective in ensuring compliance. The committee favours steps to improve agencies’ awareness of the standards, possibly through additional roundtable discussions. The usefulness of the roundtable discussion is one of the main findings of the committee’s inquiry. Such forums have the potential to become a key tool in improving government bodies’ understanding of, and compliance with, the standards. Improvement in the printing industry with future roundtable discussions will also improve the understanding of the printing process by print procurement officers, which will ensure better value for money is achieved by government bodies.

In conclusion, the committee is confident that compliance with the standards will increase, particularly given that the revised standards will allow agencies more flexibility in meeting their evolving needs.

Photo of Harry JenkinsHarry Jenkins (Scullin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Whilst it is improper for the chair to make any comment on the report, this occupier of the chair, as the Chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Publications in the 35th parliament nearly 20 years ago, understands the unheralded work of the Publications Committee and understands the unrewarded nature of the work of the chair and the deputy chair and wishes to congratulate the committee’s work in the 41st parliament.

10:00 am

Photo of Trish DraperTrish Draper (Makin, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for your very kind remarks. I present the report from the Publications Committee sitting in conference with the Publications Committee of the Senate. Copies of the report are being placed on the Table.

Report—by leave—adopted.