Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Archives Amendment Bill 2008; Broadcasting Legislation Amendment (Digital Radio) Bill 2008
I table the explanatory memoranda relating to the bills and move:
That these bills be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The speeches read as follows—
The Archives Amendment Bill 2008 (the Bill) proposes changes to the Archives Act 1983 (the Act) that will implement certain recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Report number 85, ‘Australia’s Federal Record: A Review of the Archives Act 1983’. A majority of the recommendations have already been implemented administratively.
The Bill inserts an objects clause which confirms the role of the National Archives of Australia (the Archives) as identifying and preserving the archival resources of the Commonwealth and providing for their access by the public. The clause also acknowledges the Archives’ role in overseeing Commonwealth recordkeeping by determining standards and providing advice to Commonwealth institutions.
This Bill recognises the fact that there can be compelling reasons why archival records should be retained by their agency of origin, or in some other appropriate place. For example, records may be created or accessed through particular technologies not available at a central archives, or, similarly, specialised skills may be required to retrieve, interpret or manage data. For this reason, the Bill introduces the concept that archival records can be considered to be in the care of the Archives, and therefore subject to the provisions that apply to all archival material, even when they are not in the physical custody of the Archives.
Accordingly, the Bill amends the definition of material of the Archives, removing references to records or other archival material being in the custody of the Archives and replacing them with references to being in the care of the Archives.
The Bill also deals with the nature of the arrangements which are to be put in place where records in the care of the Archives are in the custody of others. Importantly, it provides that such records, if in the open access period, are to be available for public inspection. The arrangements must also provide for the protection and maintenance of the records, for inspection by the Archives, for access by institutions as required and for the records to be transferred to the custody of the Archives if so directed by the Director-General of the Archives.
In the 25 years since the Act was drafted, emerging technologies have dramatically changed the way in which affairs of government are transacted and information is recorded. While the Act attempted to allow for the electronic creation, capture and management of records, it did so in a very format specific way. The Bill reflects technological developments and provides for further advances by substituting a new definition of a record as a document or an object in any form that has been kept for the information it contains or its connection with any event, person, circumstance or thing. The new definition also gives legislative authority to a policy direction issued by the Archives in 1995 that accorded the same status to electronic records as to paper records.
As the new definition of a record includes objects, the provision within the Act giving the Minister responsible for the Archives the power to declare an object that is Commonwealth property to be an object of archival significance would become obsolete, and will thus be removed, when the changes proposed in this Bill are enacted.
The Bill inserts a provision such that the Director-General of the Archives may determine that a record or other material is part of the archival resources of the Commonwealth. This formalises existing administrative arrangements for identifying records as of archival value and complements existing provisions within the Act whereby the Archives can give permissions relating to the handling of Commonwealth records.
The earliest possible transfer of archival resources enables the Archives to determine conservation requirements before records begin to deteriorate. This is particularly important in the case of electronic records so that preservation measures can be taken before changes in software and data formats render records inaccessible. The Bill therefore requires that records identified as being part of the archival resources of the Commonwealth be transferred to the care of the Archives as soon as practicable after they are no longer required to be readily available for the business purposes of the relevant agency, but in any event, within 25 years of their creation.
While a key responsibility of the Archives is the identification and preservation of records of archival value, the Archives is not the most appropriate repository for all archival resources. The Bill therefore provides the Archives with the power to decline to accept the care of records that are not part of the archival resources of the Commonwealth. Where such records are currently in the custody of the Archives, records may be returned to institutions or their successors only in accordance with arrangements agreed between the institution and the Archives.
The changes to the Archives Act 1983 proposed by this Bill, while relatively minor, are an important step towards improving government recordkeeping and public access arrangements. In introducing the Archives Amendment Bill 2008, the Government sets in motion a process of reviewing and modernising the Archives Act 1983 to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the operations of the National Archives of Australia.
Digital radio offers the promise of a range of new, diverse and innovative services that will further enrich the experience for radio listeners. It will operate along side the existing analogue radio services so valued by Australians.
The first two of these measures amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and relate to the legislated deadline for the commencement of digital radio services in the six state capitals.
Commercial radio broadcasters in these markets are currently required to have commenced their digital radio services by 1 January 2009. Failure to do so could expose them to sanctions including the cancellation of their right to broadcast in digital.
It has become apparent that due to a range of reasons broadcasters will be unable to comply with this deadline. In this regard, I note that the commercial radio sector recently announced that the national switch-on for digital radio will take place on 1 May 2009.
To facilitate this, the Bill will extend, by six months, the deadline for start-up. The new deadline of 1 July 2009 will give commercial broadcasters additional flexibility to resolve any further infrastructure issues relating to the rollout of transmission equipment as they prepare for the launch of the new digital services.
The Bill will also remove Hobart from the list of markets where broadcasters are required to commence digital radio services from the new deadline of 1 July 2009. Hobart’s commercial radio broadcasters have expressed strong concerns that they would not be in a position to commence digital radio services at the same time as services in the larger mainland state capital cities. The Bill will allow digital radio services to start in Hobart at the same time as other, similarly sized markets such as Newcastle, Geelong and Wollongong.
The final measure in this Bill amends the Radiocommunications Act 1992 and gives the community broadcasting sector an opportunity to participate in the ownership of the transmission infrastructure that will be used to broadcast their digital radio services.
The Government is supportive of the community broadcasters’ participation in digital radio and considers that community broadcasters play a vital role in promoting diversity, local content and grassroots participation in the media sector. However, in a tight fiscal environment, the Government decided to take a more cautious approach to the introduction of digital radio by re-profiling the community sector’s funding to commence in the 2009–10 financial year.
As a consequence, the community sector was unable to claim a share in the joint venture companies, formed in 2008, that own digital radio transmission infrastructure. This amendment will restore to the community broadcasting sector an opportunity to participate in the joint venture companies in line with the original intent of the legislation introduced in May 2007.
The benefits of digital radio to both broadcasters and listeners are enormous and the Government looks forward to a successful launch of Australia’s first digital radio services on 1 May 2009.
Ordered that further consideration of the second reading of these bills be adjourned to the first sitting day of the next period of sittings, in accordance with standing order 111.
Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.