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Electronic Parliamentary Papers Series
Benefits from electronic provision
In past inquiries, the committee has considered the viability and future
of the PPS, noting that there were (are) parallel schemes
of varying comparability. The committee is of the view that the PPS must
continue because there is nothing as comprehensive to serve as a substitute.
The PPS serves the community by documenting, disseminating and
preserving public information relating to Australia's Parliament and its system
of government. As a collection, the series not only benefits the current
generation of elected representatives, public servants, researchers and other
informed citizens, but it also preserves this information for the benefit of
future generations so that they may have access to a strong record of
Australia's heritage. This is a theme of many submissions to this inquiry, and
indeed, of submissions to past inquiries.
However, the committee recognises that in its current print form the PPS
is not providing the greatest benefit to the largest number of citizens, nor is
it being provided as efficiently as the committee would like. The committee
considers that providing the PPS electronically would allow greater utility and
more efficient dissemination of the information.
The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Library contend:
The availability of freely available online versions
facilitates effective and efficient research. The ability to access a
comprehensive repository of parliamentary papers that incorporates advanced
search functionality is increasingly an expectation of the Australian research
community and the libraries that support them.
The committee is also of the view that, once established, an online
digital repository should be able to provide the benefits noted in the
committee's 2006 report, namely that it would provide:
- more immediate access to the series, overcoming the seemingly
unavoidable delays relating to the print copy distribution;
- wider access to the community via any device with internet functionality;
- a central and powerful search facility capable of searching
information across the breadth of data contained within the series; and
- long-term cost effectiveness thereby sustaining the series'
Another issue, and potential benefit, expressed in several submissions
was that an electronic PPS could allow organisations to discontinue receiving
print copies. Both the State Library of Tasmania and the UNSW Library noted
that their organisations are experiencing infrastructure pressures, in the form
of limited shelving and storage space, due to the volume of print documents
received each year. The Department of the House of Representatives also
indicated that it had received similar statements from current recipients of
the PPS print distribution.
Demand for electronic provision of the PPS
Quantifying demand for electronic provision of the PPS is difficult and
it is also likely that further demand for such a resource would only become
known after it had been made available.
Nonetheless, submissions and correspondence received for this inquiry
expressed a strong desire for the PPS to be provided online and within a
searchable repository. Indeed, several organisations expressed their preference
for online access over print.
In its submission, the UNSW Library stated:
Online availability of research material is the preferred
mode of delivery for the majority of researchers. Academic libraries have
witnessed a dramatic shift from the use of print based resources to online
equivalents, allowing 24/7 online access.
The Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)—a peak body
representing 6,000 members in the library and information services sector—made
a similar observation:
Increasingly Australians are accessing information such as
the Parliamentary Papers online. [However,] finding the[se] papers online is a
considerable challenge ... with some papers simply not being available in
The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) argues that:
It would be very beneficial for all documents tabled in
Parliament that are ordered to be printed to be made available through the
parliament in electronic form...
The State Library of Tasmania stated that it 'would welcome the
electronic delivery of the PPS as it would provide 24/7 remote access for our
It further maintained that the:
...State Library favours online access over print wherever
appropriate as this provides direct, immediate access to information, without
the need to visit a specific site or wait for document delivery.
Its submission went on to state that its current print collection has a
'significant impact on storage space' while the 'demand for specific titles is
low'. Accordingly, it 'favours online access over print'.
The State Library of South Australia stated that it 'support[s] the
online availability of documents tabled in Parliament',
the Queensland Parliamentary Library stated that it 'would welcome access to an
electronic tabled Parliamentary Papers database'
and the National Archives of Australia (NAA) stated that it 'strongly supports
making the PPS available electronically'.
The National Library of Australia (NLA) agrees with the findings in the
committee's 2006 report that 'there is no doubt that the establishment of an
electronic PPS would be widely supported'.
Additionally, correspondence received from the State Library of Western
Australia, the Attorney-General's Department, and the Department of Broadband,
Communications and the Digital Economy all expressed support for the PPS to be
It is the committee's view that quantifying demand, or trying to
calculate it in absolute terms, should not be a determinant as to whether or
not to proceed with developing an electronic PPS. Instead, the committee
suggests that demand will increase or decrease according to how successful, or
not, an online PPS is in meeting the needs of its users. To this end, the
development of an electronic PPS must strive to meet the demands of users,
- access to documents within a central repository;
continuous, permanent and free access;
- electronic documents being provided in common formats (eg. PDF
and HTML); and
- the ability to search across texts within the PPS.
2.17 The committee recommends that an electronic PPS be developed and
Online availability of documents tabled in the Parliament
The Parliament House (aph) website contains documents produced, and
databases managed, by the three parliamentary departments: the Department of
the House of Representatives and the Department of the Senate (the chamber
departments), and the Department of Parliamentary Services. This practice has
evolved as the internet has grown and its place in society has become
customary. In turn, demand for accessing parliamentary information via the
internet has increased.
Initially the parliamentary departments loaded documents which were
traditionally only published in print form. These documents included the
primary business documents (eg. the Journals of the Senate, Votes and
Proceedings, the notice papers and the orders of business of both chambers,
and Hansard), and other fundamental procedural publications. This
collection of documents grew as reports and other documents of parliamentary
committees, among others, were added to the website.
The chamber departments have now devised documents specifically designed
for the web. Particularly, the Senate Dynamic Red and the Votes Officer's
Minutes both provide real time access to information relating to the
proceedings of both chambers.
Bills and their associated documents have been available in static
format on the aph website for some time. A recent redevelopment of ParlInfo to
the ParlInfo Search platform has provided enhanced access to these documents
together with dynamic procedural events which enable users to monitor bills as
they progress through the Parliament.
Despite this evolution of documents included on the aph website,
documents provided to Parliament by government entities for tabling in either
chamber are still provided in print format and are not routinely supplied in
The Senate's Tabled Papers Database is currently the only means by which
some of these documents can be accessed electronically. The original documents
tabled in the Senate from 1901 until 2001 were originally microfilmed and are
now being digitised to provide online access. Documents tabled from 2002 onwards
are now digitised and loaded to the database. The digital images are also microfilmed
for conservation purposes.
Given that the Senate Tabled Papers Database only captures documents
tabled in the Senate—that is, it does not include documents that are tabled in
the House alone (eg. House committee reports)—it is not a complete record of
documents presented to the Parliament. Nevertheless, it does go some way
towards providing access to documents presented to the Parliament, including
many documents that make up the PPS; yet this database lacks the ability to
segregate parliamentary papers from other documents.
As mentioned previously, documents presented to Parliament by government
entities are not accessible from the aph website. The Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) tabling guidelines
set out the requirements placed on departments and agencies that provide
printed copies of documents intended for presentation to Parliament. The
Australian Government Information Management Office (Department of Finance and
Deregulation) standards also require that departments and agencies make those
documents available on their respective websites after they have been tabled.
There is currently no requirement placed on them to provide any electronic copy
to the Parliament.
In its 2006 report, the committee received evidence that most agencies
complied with their obligations to publish documents online.
Moreover, the committee heard that 'probably 90 per cent of publishing is now
online in the government sector'.
The ANAO report also found that 90 per cent of the 2008 tabled documents
were available online.
Although this represented a quantum increase from the 54 per cent of documents
available online in 2000, the ANAO concluded that 'not all government entities
have implemented the relevant policies'.
The committee noted in its 2006 report that 'the establishment of an electronic
PPS would be widely supported'.
As mentioned above, the evidence to this inquiry has firmly restated the view.
In addition to supporting an online PPS, there is also some demand for online
access to all documents presented to the Parliament.
The UNSW Library
and the State Library of Tasmania
both indicated that savings could be gained if an electronic PPS was provided.
The UNSW Library indicated that not having to allocate resources to 'accession,
catalogue and house the series' would enable some academic libraries to cease
receiving the print copy of the PPS. Similarly, the State Library of Tasmania
The current paper-based resources have a significant impact
on storage space [and] online availability would enable the documents to be
printed on demand.
The State Library further pointed out that the demand for these titles
is low and having to print on demand would have 'minimal impact on the
Library's printing resources'.
The NSW Parliamentary Library expressed a need for 'timely delivery of
tabled papers' and commented about current lags between the time a document is
tabled and when it is made available.
Short and long-term access to documents included in the PPS
Since Federation both Houses of Parliament have ordered that documents
'be printed', resulting in the inclusion of those documents in the PPS. Before
the development of online access to documents through the internet, the print
distribution of the PPS provided reliable access to documents considered of
substantive interest to the Parliament and the community at large.
The number of recipients who receive bound volumes and loose pamphlet
copies of the series has reduced dramatically over time, as succeeding joint
committees have inquired into and monitored the free distribution of the
This reduction in access to the PPS and delays in distribution means that the
modern day PPS is now not meeting two major objectives set by the then Joint
Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications:
...that adequate copies are available to all who wish to have a
copy, and that the documents are available to be bound into volumes and
preserved in a convenient and accessible form as a permanent record.
All government publications, including parliamentary papers, were
available to the community through the Australian Government Bookshop Network,
with shopfronts located in the capital city of each state and territory. This
network ceased operations in 2003. As a consequence, government entities became
responsible for providing access to their publications, and over time, this
access has been primarily provided through the relevant agency website. It
could be argued that the Australian community no longer enjoys the central
access point to Australian government publications it had before the demise of
The aph website has grown rapidly as the demand for online access to the
documents published within the parliamentary environment has grown. The
Commonwealth has also developed policies which require government entities to
make their documents and information available online. AGIMO now requires
government entities to publish particular information on their websites,
including a requirement to publish documents tabled in the Parliament. Together
with the PM&C tabling guidelines, government entities are required to
provide documents they present to the Parliament in printed form and, at the
same time, an online version through the 'most appropriate' site.
Both AGIMO and PM&C require the printed and the online versions to be the
With these various obligations on government entities in place, the
short-term availability of documents tabled in Parliament through the various
websites is not an issue. However, the accessibility (the ease of finding) of
those documents is an issue. Submissions received from the National Library of
Australia, the Federal Parliamentary Library and the Australian Library and
Information Association all mention difficulty with locating documents on and
across government entity websites.
A larger issue is the longer term availability of government entity
documents placed on their websites. Currently there is no Commonwealth policy requiring
consistent long-term access to government entity documents online. The AGIMO
online content requirements refer government entities to the NAA archiving
policy which states that 'agencies are not expected to take full responsibility
for the preservation of the records of their public web resources over time'.
This responsibility has rested with the NAA and the NLA which have roles in
'preserving the documentary record of the Commonwealth Government'.
The NLA's PANDORA is a well established national web archive.
The NLA believes that 'the risks to ongoing access are likely to be
greater if it is left to individual agencies to manage long-term access and
Guaranteeing longer term access is also difficult when government
entities are restructured, either during the term of a government, or because
the government changes after an election. Experience has shown that agencies
may actually cease to exist and immediate, easy access to the documents of
those agencies then becomes problematic.
The ANAO also reported that, although it found most documents were available
online, one reason given for documents not being available was 'the
reorganisation of entities and portfolios following Machinery of Government
The diminished availability of the PPS in printed form, coupled with the
issue of accessibility, a lack of consistent policy for archiving documents and
the fluid nature of government entities and their websites, all point to the
imperative that an electronic PPS needs to be located in a central repository.
The ANAO report reached a similar conclusion:
A central digital repository located in Parliament would
provide the Departments of the Parliament with a higher degree of control over
the online publishing of tabled papers and that locating all tabled papers in
one Parliamentary location could increase the percentage of these available
online closer to 100 per cent.
This conclusion builds on the committee's 2006 recommendation to develop
an online repository for the PPS.
A number of technological barriers were raised in the committee's 2006
- internet access;
- accessibility issues;
library resources for accessing electronic material;
- constant changes in the technology used to generate and read
electronic documents; and
the significant outlay of resources needed to develop the
architecture for an online repository.
Most of these issues have now been resolved. However, at least two
issues remain: accessibility and long-term archival requirements; although the
committee considers that these are not insurmountable.
Internet access and data size
Access to the internet previously raised equity concerns with just over
half the Australian population having internet access from their homes in
2005-06. The committee's 2006 report noted that 'large electronic documents can
be time consuming to download, difficult to read online and costly to print
The committee notes that in 2008-09 household internet access had risen
to 78 per cent and 62 per cent of these had a broadband connection.
This increasing level of broadband connectivity now allows households, among
others, to download larger file sizes in shorter timeframes and without
difficulty. And, as mentioned above, the internet now appears to be the
preferred way to access information.
However, the NLA argues that internet access is 'by no means universal
or unproblematic'. It states:
It is likely that some Australians still experience
significant barriers to accessing information in digital form. Reading complex
and lengthy documents such as those in the PPS, and the costs to the public
needing to print them present ongoing challenges.
On this issue, the State Library of Tasmania advocate that individuals
without their own internet access can gain access through public libraries, in
much the same way they would currently access print copies of the PPS:
Clients without internet access can use the document delivery
service or visit a library where assistance will be provided to access the
Indeed, the committee's 2006 report noted evidence that many public
libraries were experiencing greater use of their information technology
resources by individuals transacting with and seeking information from
This trend is also supported by AGIMO's recent findings in its 2009 report: Interacting
with Government: Australians' use and satisfaction with e‑government
In addition to the increasing levels of household internet connectivity,
the use of portable devices to access online content is also on the rise and it
is likely to increase further as technology improves and devices become more
affordable. The Department of the House of Representatives noted that:
...the rapid uptake of mobile devices which can access the
internet, such as smart phones or text readers such as the iPad, may mean that
more people may currently access PPS documents electronically than would access
hard copy versions.
Finally, the committee notes comments by ALIA:
The current paper based system has operated for the past 50
years with collections of Parliamentary Papers made available to the public
through libraries. In practice only those physically located close to a deposit
library with knowledge, time and an awareness of the series have benefited from
the collections. This is but a very very [sic] tiny proportion of the
Opening up access to these very important documents will
enhance access to the Parliamentary Papers in a way that gives a path from all
computers with internet access as well as through public libraries as they
support their patrons' use of online resources to a very significant extent.
Taking away the physical barriers can increase awareness of the consideration
of important reports by the Parliament and, indeed, the role of the Parliament
across the nation.
Resources needed to develop the
architecture for an online repository
The committee's 2006 report noted that there was a significant outlay of
resources needed to develop a digital repository before an electronic PPS could
The NLA's PANDORA web archive was previously discussed as an option to
host a digital repository but the establishment and ongoing costs were
considered too high and as a result nothing further was progressed.
In its submission to this inquiry, the NLA maintained:
While the Library has been developing the programs needed for
long-term preservation, technology changes over the past five years mean there
are significant systems and infrastructure capability and budget issues needing
to be addressed before [the NLA could consider providing an online repository
for the PPS].
However, in its submission the Department of the Senate indicated that a
digital repository could now be established within the parliamentary
information, communications and technology (ICT) network. It stated:
...notwithstanding some upfront capital cost, the department
believes such costs to be less today than previously estimated, particularly in
terms of establishment costs. The existing information systems in the
parliamentary environment could provide the foundation for an online repository
thereby greatly reducing development costs.
The Department of the House of Representatives made a similar
observation and suggested:
that the parliamentary departments prepare a business case
for a central repository in the Parliament, based on the Tabled Papers Register
[within ParlInfo Search]...
Maintenance of electronic records
and long-term archival requirements
A concern about the longevity of technology enabling digital files to be
read is an ongoing issue. Obsolete technology or that which is not compatible
retrospectively presents risk to long-term availability and access to past
years' documents within the series. The NLA suggests that there are four issues
at play here, citing:
- The inconsistent format, metadata and other standards being
applied by agencies, making content hard to preserve and manage in a rapidly
changing technical environment.
- The possibility of underlying data being lost or corrupted if not
stored and managed in ways that ensure its ongoing integrity and security.
- The strong likelihood of access to information being lost as the
software available for providing access changes over time.
- Inadequate management of programs required to deal with these
risks at the scale and over the timeframes needed.
The NSW Parliamentary Library stated that inconsistent standards in
metadata used to describe content is a problem. It maintains that
there is a:
...need to establish uniformity when creating and populating
fields, and the necessity of making search options, particularly advanced
search options, transparent to users.
Finally, the Department of the House of Representatives maintains that:
It is essential for the long term access of the electronic
PPS that file formats continue to be readable into the future. The principle
would be to ensure, whenever technological changes are made to the repository,
that the document formats can be migrated and updated at the same time to
maintain accessibility. [This] issue would need to be addressed in developing a
The committee shares these concerns, however it believes these risks can
be managed. Concerns raised by the NLA and the NSW Parliamentary Library
relating to consistency of metadata over time could largely be addressed by
hosting an electronic PPS in the parliamentary environment. (This will be
covered in detail below.) Hosting a digital repository for the PPS from a
single source should overcome most of the issues mentioned above. The
parliamentary institutions are static compared with the wider APS and its
record keeping has developed according to sound precedents over a long period
of time. It is expected that this practice will continue into the future.
To ensure long-term access and overcome the possibility that specific
software is no longer current, the Department of the Senate suggest that 'an
electronic PPS should have the necessary technology embedded into it to enable
the successful downloading and reading of its digital files into the future'.
The committee supports the idea of undertaking a business case to
investigate these issues further. It also suggests that the NAA be consulted in
this process as it has expertise in this area. In its submission, the NAA
Our experience in this area has identified a number of issues
relating to the maintenance of records in electronic formats, particularly the
long-term archival requirements, to ensure that they will be accessible over
decades and even centuries.
2.62 The committee recommends that the parliamentary departments undertake a
business case to examine issues relating to the maintenance of electronic
records and long-term archival requirements that would be required in
developing an electronic PPS.
Many submissions maintained that accessibility is an important factor
that should be considered with any development of an electronic PPS. In
essence, many submissions pointed to a need for electronic documents to be
available in PDF, HTML and/or RTF formats.
The State Library of Queensland suggested that:
...html documents seem to load more easily and have fewer
problems, and PDF could be useful for clients who need to see the exact format
of the original publication.
The Department of the Senate stated that PDF is essential 'so that the
virtual copy is a true representation of the tabled [print] copy'.
The Department of Parliamentary Services noted that accessibility is an
important issue, maintaining that:
The papers need to be made available in a way that meets
accessibility standards and to enable those with print disabilities [to] read
or hear the content of the publications.
The Department of the House of Representatives echoed these sentiments,
noting standards set by the Australian Human Rights Commission. Again, the
department suggested that this matter be included in a business case for the
development of an electronic PPS.
Nonetheless, the Department of the Senate notes that:
...an online PPS even in a basic form (ie. PDF only) would make
the series significantly more accessible to a wider audience than the current
paper copy distribution arrangements.
The committee views that an online PPS provided in the formats mentioned
above, or at least in PDF and either HTML or RTF, would meet most needs of the
community. However, it also shares the view that any provision of the PPS
electronically would provide increased access for the Australian community.
It is the committee's view that when developing an electronic PPS, all
reasonable measures should be considered that would provide online access to
the greatest number of people in the community.
Options for a digital repository and electronic distribution
Consideration has been given in the past to various models of delivering
a digital repository and providing electronic distribution. The committee's
2006 report provides discussion and analysis regarding these. One model
previously considered was to have a central index that hyperlinked to documents
on external websites. However, this model is no longer supported.
The Department of the House of Representatives stated:
The department does not support the option of hyperlinks to
existing online documents, principally because long term access to electronic
documents on external websites cannot be assured.
Similarly, the Department of the Senate noted:
[this model is] especially problematic over time where the dynamic
nature of many government websites could result in broken links, adversely
affecting the accessibility of documents. The Department of the Senate
considers that the risk in this model remains and it is therefore not a viable
As an alternative, the NLA propose that:
The creation of a single, regularly updated, entry point or
portal for published government documents would greatly enhance their
A digital repository
The State Library of Queensland stated that it 'would like to see a
digital repository for the PPS [on either the] APH or publications.gov.au'
The Queensland Parliamentary Library insists that a digital repository
must provide a search facility that is capable of searching a range of fields,
including title, date of tabling, paper number, authoring agency and subject
A similar view is held by the UNSW Library. However, it maintains that
the publications.gov.au website can only provide basic keyword searches,
stating that 'it is often difficult to identify parliamentary papers within
The Library also notes problems associated with the publications.gov.au
website's reliance on information kept on author agencies websites:
Having papers from the series on a distributed network of websites
makes it difficult to implement a simple yet powerful search interface.
Furthermore, the ANAO report highlighted the many difficulties apparent
with a decentralised and devolved system for online delivery of documents
tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament. As noted earlier, not all documents are
loaded to the internet by author agencies.
Accordingly, it is the committee's view that only a central digital
repository could provide the access, including long-term access, and
functionality, including search ability, that is required to provide the PPS in
As mentioned above, the chamber departments state that the necessary
foundation for developing a digital repository for the PPS may now exist in the
Parliamentary ICT architecture.
In its submission, the Department of the Senate indicated:
The chamber departments currently administer a shared
database which has all the metadata required for such a repository and ParlInfo
Search, administered by the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS), could
provide the search functionality together with the necessary hardware
infrastructure required to maintain an electronic PPS... The metadata from the
chamber departments' shared database is already ingested into ParlInfo Search,
making ParlInfo Search a suitable repository.
The Department of the House of Representatives also indicated:
The Tabled Papers Register was made publicly available on the
Parliament House website in April 2010 via the ParlInfo Search engine. The
Register provides information on all documents presented to Parliament,
including the date of presentation, title, and whether the document is part of
the PPS. The parliamentary departments developed the Register through an
interface with existing software, the Table Office Papers Database. Although
the Register currently does not contain or link to electronic copies of
[documents], provision was made to enable this to occur, with minor changes to
the database to accommodate certain document types.
The Department of Parliamentary Services, the department responsible for
administering ParlInfo Search, also stated that ParlInfo Search is a suitable
repository. In addition, the department suggested that:
...a special web page be established to enable access to the
resources such as that proposed for Hansard in the new Parliament of Australia
The UNSW Library also noted the Tabled Papers Register within ParlInfo
Search as being a suitable repository for the PPS:
The Tabled Papers Register index provided by the Department
of the Parliamentary Library [sic], provides extensive metadata and an advanced
search interface that could be expanded to link to the full text of papers.
ParlInfo Search provides users with particular features that could
assist with electronic distribution, including the 'ability to save searches
and to create alerts based on those searches'
that could notify users when a new parliamentary paper has become available.
The committee notes evidence which expressed a desirability for these features.
The Queensland Parliamentary Library stated:
An email notice by which subscribed clients are notified of
all updates as they occur would be most useful, at a minimum an RSS feed should
be available for updating purposes.
Similarly, the NSW Parliamentary Library maintained:
...to facilitate accessibility and the currency of information,
ideally there would be an alert service which notifies users when new documents
... have been uploaded ... the New South Wales Parliamentary Library would value
something like an RSS feed to facilitate notification.
Finally, the Department of Parliamentary Services indicated that it
supports the development of an electronic PPS within the Parliament:
[It] high[ly] recommend[s] the publication of the full text
of parliamentary papers through a national repository based in the
parliamentary network providing long term access through modern systems
supporting full text searching, RSS feeds, alerts and other mechanisms to
The department further added that:
This would enable Australians to access this great national
resource in a single place, without facing barriers of the current environment
where some papers are not available electronically and other[s] are extremely
difficult to locate... Such a repository would also eliminate the current
problems of agencies changing names and web sites and cleansing their web sites
of older material.
As a further measure to ensure long-term access to the documents in a
digital repository, the NLA suggested that it could:
...play an important role in mirroring the consolidated content
as a backup in case of loss and [as] an alternate mechanism for access.
2.91 The committee recommends that the parliamentary departments develop a
digital repository for the PPS based in the Parliament.
Additional methods of electronic
Both chamber departments noted discussion in the committee's 2006 report
relating to distribution of the PPS in portable digital formats, including CD
The 2006 report noted concerns with the archival properties of these media.
In its submission to this inquiry, the Department of the House of
Representatives reiterated this concern. Nevertheless, the department noted:
This could possibly be a more cost-effective method of
distributing the series [but] it would depend on demand from eligible
recipients before [such a] product was offered...
The Department of the Senate maintained that this option would depend on
demand and perhaps only be provided on a cost recovery basis as a paid subscription
service. However, the department indicated that:
Providing the PPS simultaneously in numerous formats (in
print, online and DVD) would increase the resources needed to provide the
series, jeopardising its future sustainability.
The committee acknowledges that the chamber departments may face some
additional costs associated with providing an online PPS as well as maintaining
the print version. The committee expects that there will be a transitional
period where there may be some additional pressures on resources. However, if
demand for the print series diminishes, this should allow for some offsetting
of costs and a reallocation of resources.
The possibility that demand may decline for the PPS print distribution
was noted earlier, with the State Library of Tasmania and the UNSW Library both
indicating their preference for electronic over print.
The Department of the House of Representatives also noted that although the
'costs have yet to be identified...[some of the additional costs] 'would be
offset, or partly offset, for the chamber departments by no longer producing
and distributing a hard copy version of the PPS'.
Furthermore, the department noted:
There would also be saving for author agencies which would be
required to provide fewer hard copies.
Other documents accessible through
a digital repository
The Department of the House of Representatives raised an issue relating
to the scope of documents that could be provided through an online repository,
indicating the potential for other tabled documents to be accessible through a
repository. The department was mindful, however, that providing an extended
service may have further resource implications. Therefore, priority must be
given to documents in the PPS.
The committee's preferred model is for the parliamentary departments to
develop a repository using ParlInfo Search supported by the databases used to
record documents that are tabled in the Parliament. Electronic versions of
documents should be provided to the Parliament at the same time that the print
copy is provided for tabling.
Over time these systems could be further developed and enhanced
providing greater access for users of the PPS.
2.99 The committee recommends that a business case, referred to in
recommendation 2, also include:
- The scope for other tabled documents not in the PPS to be made
available through the repository; and
- The costs placed on the parliamentary departments to provide the
2.100 The committee recommends that author departments and agencies be
required to provide electronic copies of documents at the same time print
copies are provided for tabling in the Parliament.
2.101 The committee recommends that a digital repository for the PPS be in
production and accessible to users by early 2011, to coincide with the start of
the 2011 PPS.
Administration of an electronic PPS
Since its inception in 1901 the PPS has been administered by the
This administration involves:
(a) support for this committee and the individual publications committees of
(b) allocating parliamentary paper numbers to each document included in the
(c) maintaining distribution lists;
(d) liaising with departments and agencies;
(e) liaising with the distribution agent;
(f) indexing; and
(g) maintaining online information.
Apart from the parliamentary departments, no other submissions indicated
a position on whether another organisation should be charged with the
responsibility of the administration of an electronic PPS. In the absence of
information to the contrary, the committee assumes that recipients of the PPS
believe that the administration of the PPS should remain with the Parliament,
through the auspices of the two chamber departments.
The committee acknowledges that generations of parliamentary officers of
the two chamber departments over the years have discharged this responsibility
with dedication. At the same time, those officers, with the guidance and
approval of this committee and the Presiding Officers, have managed innumerable
efficiencies which have enabled the PPS to remain sustainable today.
It would be derelict of this committee, as gatekeeper of the PPS, and
given the chamber departments' responsible guardianship over the years, to
suggest that the governance of the series should change when considering a
major innovation in the way the PPS is provided now and into the future.
Both chamber departments have indicated their willingness to support an
electronic PPS. The Department of the House of Representatives stated that:
...the department considers that it is time to consider an
electronic repository of the PPS to be jointly administered by the chamber
Similarly, the Department of the Senate stated:
The department believes that, if a single digital repository
for the PPS is to be pursued, the responsibility for developing it resides with
the two chamber departments.
The Parliamentary Librarian, Department of Parliamentary Services also
I high[ly] recommend the publication of the full text of
parliamentary papers through a national repository based in the parliamentary
network providing long term access through modern systems...
The committee welcomes the support of the Department of Parliamentary
Services (DPS) because the functionality of providing an electronic PPS through
the Tabled Papers Register (which resides within ParlInfo Search and is managed
by the DPS) is fundamental to making the development of a centralised
electronic PPS a reality.
2.111 The committee recommends that the chamber departments administer a
digital repository for the PPS.
Senator Carol Brown
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