Part 5Parliamentary Library

Achievements 2016–17

The Library’s vision is an informed Parliament supported by a Library that delivers services to meet its needs.

The Library’s Strategic Plan (2015–16 to 2019–20) sets out five priorities to ensure that the Library remains as relevant to the working lives of parliamentarians of today and tomorrow as it was to their predecessors, namely:

  • retaining our position as our clients’ preferred and trusted source of high quality information, analysis and advice
  • ensuring a high and consistent quality in services
  • increasing digital access and service
  • supporting the Parliament’s engagement with the community and the ongoing development of parliamentary democracy, and
  • strengthening our staff’s capability.

The strategic plan is supplemented by annual business plans which set out the outcomes, key deliverables and service standards/targets for that year. These are approved each year by the Presiding Officers as annexures to Library’s Resource Agreement.

Retaining our position as our clients’ preferred and trusted source of high quality information, analysis and advice

The 45th Parliament: welcoming new senators and members

The July 2016 election followed the double dissolution of both houses of Parliament—only the seventh since Federation and the first since 1987.26 With nearly 30 sitting members retiring or resigning before the election, it was clear that the 45th Parliament would have a significant proportion of new senators and members. The election saw the return of 14 new senators and 39 new members, of whom 49 (12 senators and 37 members) were taking their seats for the very first time. By 30 June 2017, a further three new senators had taken seats arising from subsequent vacancies.

Support for the new Parliament was, therefore, a major focus of the Library’s work from May 2016 onward. A cohort of 47 new Library contact officers was assembled and trained to refresh their knowledge of all of the Library’s services. One contact officer was assigned to each new parliamentarian to introduce them to the diverse range of Library products and services, and to demonstrate how the Library could support them in their day-to-day work. The Parliamentary Librarian presented at the formal induction sessions for new senators and members and their staff organised by the chamber departments. The Library also offered dedicated orientation and training sessions to parliamentarians’ staff. Over 300 clients took part in Library orientation sessions, and over 120 attended training in our suite of news services or drop in sessions in the Senators and Members Reading Room.

The Parliamentary Library Briefing Book—45th Parliament was published in August 2017, offering strategic level snapshots of a range of issues that were expected to figure in the early months of the new Parliament. Its purpose was two-fold: to provide senators and members with a high-level perspective of key public policy issues, and also to showcase the broad expertise of the Library’s researchers.

To provide both new and returning parliamentarians a quick introduction to the Library’s current suite of services, all were given a customised package of information which included: maps and statistics relating to their electorate or state; an example of a Bills Digest and Research Paper relevant to their region or individual interests; a copy of the Briefing Book; and a guide to Library services.

The success of this orientation and outreach program is demonstrated by the fact that 100 per cent of senators and members used the Library’s services in 2016–17.

Electorate office visits and support

One of the recommendations of the Client Service Evaluation 2015 was that the Library focus more on providing orientation and training, and consider conducting some of these in other capital cities to make it easier for electorate staff to attend.

The Library has approached this is two ways.

Staff travelling interstate for meetings or conferences now routinely contact electorate offices in the locality, offering to visit to talk to them about our services and answer any questions they may have. Staff taking part in this initiative must have a good understanding of all Library services and be confident in discussing services that are not within their principal areas of expertise.

The Director of Client Relations is also coordinating a rolling program of visits to capital cities to offer orientation and training, particularly to electorate staff who may not have the opportunity to travel to Canberra. In 2016–17, 37 visits were made to electorate offices in Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales. Visits to electorate offices in Western Australia and Queensland are planned for July/August 2017, with further visits to occur in other states/territories later in the 2017–18 financial year.

The Library has also been exploring ways in which it can provide better remote assistance to electorate offices using technology. Explaining via a phone conversation how to use a service, be it how to navigate to a particular web page, how to set up a media alert, or how to overlay a custom demographic map over an electorate map, can be difficult for Library staff and frustrating for clients. In collaboration with DPS ICT, a solution has now been found (using Skype) which we expect to implement by the end of the Spring sittings.

Showcasing our products—training and ‘drop in’ centres in the Senators’ and Members’ Reading Room

Although all of our parliamentary clients use the Library, some services are not used as fully as others, particularly since sometimes it can require quite a detailed understanding of the product to realise its potential. To help bridge this gap, the Library supplements its regular one-on-one training with ‘drop in’ centres in the Senators’ and Members’ Reading Room during sitting weeks.

The Library’s news services team held 14 sessions to brief clients on how to get the most out of the Library’s diverse media sources, while mapping specialists offered six sessions covering the variety of statistical information which can be incorporated into customised maps. We also held training sessions for our various news products. One hundred and twenty two people attended ‘drop in’ sessions and news training services in 2016–17.

The Library will continue to hold these sessions throughout the 45th Parliament.

Evaluation of the Parliamentary Library’s services

With each new Parliament, the Library conducts a formal review (using an external evaluator) to measure clients’ satisfaction with the Library and to gain a better understanding of their use of both library and research services. The feedback received helps ensure that our products and services remain relevant and aligned to Parliament’s changing needs.

Implementation of the recommendations of the evaluation of Library services: 44th Parliament

The Australian Parliamentary Library: Client Service Evaluation 2015 was completed in May 2015.27 The overall response—both to the Library staff and to its services—was extremely positive, with the Library’s success in meeting the diverse needs of senators, members, and their staff demonstrated by a high satisfaction rate (93 per cent).28

However, the evaluation identified three areas for improvement: a perceived variability in quality of research services; the timeliness of Bills Digests; and a desire for greater clarity in the way client requests were assigned and prioritised. An implementation plan to address these recommendations was developed early in 2015–16, and endorsed by the JSCPL at its meeting of 10 September 2015. The evaluation also addressed communication with clients, highlighting the competing demands on their time and attention. A communication plan was developed to address these issues and was endorsed by the JSCPL in November 2016. Associated activities to implement both plans in 2016–17 are discussed under the relevant strategic priorities.

Evaluation of Library services: 45th Parliament

The Library approached the market in April 2017 for a supplier to undertake the evaluation of Library services for the 45th Parliament. The contract was awarded to Uncommon Knowledge, the same organisation that had undertaken the 2015 evaluation. The JSCPL invited Uncommon Knowledge to its June 2017 meeting to discuss its proposed methodology. Fieldwork commenced in July 2017. It is anticipated that the evaluation will be completed by the end of 2017.

Tender for news services

The Parliamentary Library provides a wide range of online news and media monitoring services to the Parliament. In 2016–17 it reviewed its three main news services whose contracts were due to expire, namely:

  • breaking news
  • digital news clips, and
  • the digital news portal (a repository of digital press clips from national, metropolitan and regional newspapers, and radio and television news bulletins).

The review looked at usage, cost and gaps in the context of the Library’s framework for the digital delivery of products and services, with priority given to providing access to news services on mobile and other devices outside the parliamentary computing network (PCN). Feedback was sought from Library clients via the Library’s e-newsletter, What’s New. Also relevant was informal feedback gathered on a regular basis when training clients on the use of the services. The review confirmed both usage of and demand for these services remained high and that the existing products were well regarded by clients.

The Library approached the market in December 2016 for the provision of these three service types, plus a new media monitoring services for DPS—the latter being funded and managed by DPS centrally, with no impact upon the Library’s resources. The existing service provider, iSentia, was the successful tenderer for each of the service categories, with the new contract in place by 1 July 2017.

Client requests

The Library supports the Parliament and individual parliamentarians by providing impartial and authoritative information and analysis across a wide spectrum of policy, legislative and administrative issues. Senators and members and parliamentary committees, and the staff who support them, are able to request information or commission research and receive confidential, tailored responses by an agreed deadline, in person, by phone, email, or through detailed written advice. The 2015 evaluation of Library services found it was this ability to provide individualised service that was most valued by clients:

Respondents valued its independence, ability to look at complex issues, customer-focus, easy access, professionalism, and the fact it is there “just for them”. Research services are used ‘heavily’ or ‘frequently’ by almost half the Senators, Members and staff.29

In 2016–17, Library staff answered 11,681 such requests, providing one-on-one or group briefings, reports and memoranda, maps, statistics and other research products for individual senators and members, as well as analysis and information in support of committee inquiries and parliamentary delegations. This was lower than the number of requests completed in the previous financial year (11,681 compared to 13,113), in part a consequence of the dip in the number of client inquiries typical of an election year.

Table 21: Client requests completed in 2016–17
Senators 6,595
Members of the House of Representatives 3,609
Parliamentary committees 182
Departments, reciprocal arrangements and other 1,295
Total 11,681

However, while the number of requests reduced, the time spent answering them increased significantly: 42,178 hours (compared to 37,343 in 2015–16) for commissioned work for senators and members, plus a further 2,478 hours (2,884 in 2015–16) for other client inquiries (committees, parliamentary departments and reciprocal arrangements).

Changes in workforce numbers/profile and expertise are of course relevant when considering year to year variations. However, longer term analysis seems to point also to a change in the balance of the research queries the Library receives. This is supported by more anecdotal data from Library staff. Previous annual reports have noted a shift in the type and complexity of work that parliamentarians ask of the Library. This reflects both the ease with which basic information can be found on the internet and the amount of curated ‘self-help’ information the Library provides on its client services portal. As a consequence, a greater proportion of client requests are now at the more difficult or complex end of the continuum. Research queries are increasingly complex and multi-part, taking longer to complete and often requiring considerable work across disciplines and sections to answer. There is also an emerging trend towards requests requiring comparative analysis across jurisdictions (within Australia and internationally). The implications of this for the way the Library measures its performance and productivity is discussed further in the Performance Report.

Client requests in 2016–17 covered a very broad range of policy and legislative issues, domestic and international, relevant to individual senators’ and members’ parliamentary and representational duties and to the number and diversity of inquiries by parliamentary committees.

As would be expected, the year saw a steady demand for information about: government procurement; parliamentary entitlements and integrity; the 2016 double dissolution and election; referenda and plebiscites; parliamentary statistics; election financing; and election data.

Updated Census data allowed analysis at small areas, with particular focus from clients on religion, housing and income. New population estimates, based on the Census results, generated interest in potential changes to electoral entitlement for the next election. There was strong demand for mapping services.

National security, GST distribution and tax policy, energy pricing and supply, social security, human rights, health, employment, housing migration, and education also featured. Other themes included water and agriculture, environmental issues, regional development, infrastructure and investment and trade.

Figure 7: A ‘Wordle’ representing issues raised by Library clients during 2016–17

Due to the complexity of this document no alternative description has been provided. Please contact the Department of Parliamentary Services at for an alternative description.

Research publications

In addition to responding to client requests, each year the Library produces a broad range of general distribution publications to provide parliamentarians and their staff with authoritative and timely information and analysis of legislation and of current issues relevant to public policy and administration. These publications include short, topical FlagPost blogs, statistical bulletins, research papers, and Bills Digests. The Bills Digests provide senators and members with an impartial and independent explanation and commentary on Bills as they come before the Parliament. Such anticipatory research offers multiple benefits, helping to:

  • ensure information is available for clients when it is needed
  • manage workload in periods of peak demand, and
  • build and maintain staff expertise and capacity.

The Library issued 280 new or refreshed research products in 2016–17, including 121 Bills Digests and 65 research papers. These research publications are not produced for academic purposes (though the Library endeavours always to maintain high academic standards and rigour), but for the benefit of current parliamentarians. Each publication must meet the criteria of timeliness, relevance, objectivity, authoritativeness and non-partisanship. The Library uses social media and regular internal newsletters to inform clients about new or newly topical research publications.

Pleasingly, these publications are recognised by both our clients and the community to be of high value. The 2015 client evaluation of Library services found that 89 per cent of senators, members and their staff, and 80 per cent of departmental staff make use of our research publications, particularly Bills Digests and the Monthly Statistical Bulletin.30

Although produced for the Library’s clients, these publications have a broader public benefit as they are published on the web and are available to inform the broader public debate on important social, economic and legal issues. In 2016, three Library research papers figured in Australian Policy Online’s ‘most viewed’ lists:

  • Basic income: a radical idea enters the mainstream, Don Arthur
  • The National Disability Insurance Scheme: a quick guide, Luke Buckmaster, and
  • Aged care: a quick guide, Alex Grove.

The individual research papers most viewed externally (that is, not via the parliamentary computing network (PCN)) and internally (via the PCN) during the reporting period appear in Table 22 below.

Table 22: Research papers most viewed (in order of page views)
External Internal (via the PCN)
1 Same-sex marriage, Mary Anne Neilsen, 2013 Citizens’ engagement in policymaking and the design of public services, Brenton Holmes, 2011
2 Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts?, Janet Phillips, 2015 Immigration detention in Australia, Janet Philips and Harriet Spinks, 2013
3 Marketing obesity? Junk food, advertising and kids, Rhonda Jolly, 2011 Marketing obesity? Junk food, advertising and kids, Rhonda Jolly, 2011
4 Changed rules for working holiday makers, Les Nielson, 2015 Asylum seekers and refugees: what are the facts?, Janet Philips, 2015
5 Euthanasia—the Australian Law in an international context, Natasha Cica, 1996 Same-sex marriage, Mary Anne Neilsen, 2013
6 Domestic violence in Australia—an overview of the issues, Liesl Mitchell, 2011 Budget Review 2017–18
7 Migration to Australia: a quick guide to the statistics, Janet Phillips, Joanne Simon-Davies, 2017 Domestic violence in Australia—an overview of the issues, Liesl Mitchell, November 2011
8 Refugee resettlement to Australia: what are the facts?, Elibritt Karlsen, 2016 Migration to Australia: a quick guide to the statistics, Janet Phillips, Joanne Simon-Davies, 2017
9 Australian Government assistance to refugees: fact v fiction, Luke Buckmaster, 2012 Community grants: a quick guide to key internet links, Matthew Thomas, 2016
10 Citizens’ engagement in policymaking and the design of public services, Brenton Holmes, 2011 Changed rules for working holiday makers, Les Nielson, 2015

The most downloaded Bills Digests are set out below.

Table 23: Bills Digests most downloaded
1 Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016, Mary Anne Neilsen, 2016
2 Coastal Waters (State Powers) Bill 1980, Law & Government Group, 1980
3 Budget Savings (Omnibus) Bill 2016, Nitin Gupta, Kai Swoboda, Daniel Weight, Paula Pyburne, Alex St John, Don Arthur, Amanda Biggs, Luke Buckmaster, Dale Daniels, Alex Grove, Marilyn Harrington, Michael Klapdor, Matthew Thomas, 2016
4 Treasury Laws Amendment (Combating Multinational Tax Avoidance) Bill 2017 [and] Diverted Profits Tax Bill 2017, Jaan Murphy, 2017
5 Marriage Amendment Bill 2012 [and] Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2012 [and] Marriage Equality Amendment Bill 2010, Mary Anne Neilsen, 2012
6 Plebiscite (Same-Sex Marriage) Bill 2016, Mary Anne Neilsen, 2016
7 VET Student Loans Bill 2016 [and] VET Student Loans (Charges) Bill 2016 [and] VET Student Loans (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2016, James Griffiths, 2016
8 Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan) Bill 2016, Kai Swoboda, 2016
9 Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Amendment Bill 2016 [and] Hazardous Waste (Regulation of Exports and Imports) Levy Bill 2016, Paul Davidson, 2017
10 Migration and Maritime Powers Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2015, Elibritt Karlsen, 2015

Ensuring a high and consistent quality in service

Improving research quality and client focus

The Library is acutely aware of the importance of providing advice that is both accurate and shaped to meet the specific interests and purposes of the client requesting it. It is this tailored service that differentiates us from other sources of information, and is central to the Library’s statutory role. Research publications are subject to formal clearance processes, including second and third readers; however, quality control in the case of individual client requests is intrinsically more complex, given their volume and their general urgency. In 2015–16, in response to the findings of the previous client evaluation, Library staff and management implemented a number of strategies to enhance the quality and consistency of its research output, particularly client advices.

While individual researchers retain primary responsibility for the quality of their responses to client requests, the revised Governance Paper,31 requires researchers to seek peer review of their advice before sending it to clients except in cases where the urgency of the job precludes it. This formalises what was previously common, but not consistent, practice. There is a renewed focus on determining which requests require an inter-disciplinary approach. Section directors are also copied into all client advice emails.

Measures were also put in place to improve the way the Library communicates with clients. For other than simple requests where a response can be sent immediately, researchers are encouraged to call clients to discuss the details of the job, and should routinely send clients a confirmation email summarising the request, the nature of the answer required, its due date, and contact details of the researcher doing the work. This process also serves the important function of ensuring that researchers properly understand what the client really wants so that advice is useful and on point, and to ensure that the client receives no more but no less information than they require.

Directors, the Assistant Secretary of Research Branch and the Parliamentary Librarian continue to review client advices to monitor workload, quality and trends.

2016–17 marks the first full year in which the combination of revised policy, procedures and associated training has been in operation, so the Library will be closely observing the results of the current client evaluation of our services to indicate whether they have led to improvements.

Support to Parliament’s consideration of the Budget

The Library places great importance each year on providing a comprehensive package of information and analysis to support the Parliament’s examination of the Federal Budget, whether in chamber debate or in estimates committee scrutiny.

2017 saw a new addition to our budget-related services with three of Australia’s leading economists—Professors Bob Gregory OAM (ANU), Susan Thorp (Sydney University), and Glenn Withers AO (ANU)—participating in a seminar on the strategic context of the Federal Budget and key issues in public finance, debt, trade and superannuation. The seminar was well attended and received good feedback, so the practice will be carried over to next year.

As usual, the Library also held a budget day seminar, with research specialists from the Economics Section briefing attendees on the Government’s budget strategy and the fiscal outlook, and how to find information in the Portfolio Budget Statements. The budget day seminar was recorded and Library staff also produced a Quick Guide on the Commonwealth Budget papers.

Both events were well attended with 65 pass holders attending the Gregory/Thorp/Withers seminar and 70 attending the Library’s budget day event.

The Library also published its annual Budget Review, which included individual briefs giving background information and analysis on 37 specific budget measures.

Enhancing client service: Library special briefings

A recent initiative—building on the experience of the Library’s long-standing lecture and seminar series—has been to introduce a new model of policy roundtables. These sessions also aim to bring notable speakers to the Parliament to give senators and members and their staff the opportunity to hear, first hand, expert opinion on a range of currently relevant topics. However, they offer the benefits of small group discussion, recognising that a less formal format facilitates discussion and affords greater scope for exploring issues. All parliamentarians are invited to these sessions, but the Library particularly encourages members and senators with portfolio or policy interests in the specific field to attend.

In 2016–17, the Library trialled the briefing format with Professor Rory Medcalf, Head of the National Security College at ANU, as the first presenter. The briefing attracted the small focussed group that had been intended, with the discussion getting good feedback from participants. The Library will continue to hold these briefings on selected topics in the coming year.

Editing skills and professionalism

A less visible part of the Library’s work, but one essential to producing high quality and readable products, are the editors who check all the Library’s publications for readability, structure, correct grammar, and consistent style.

In order to build capability in this important skill, in 2015–16 the Library established a group for the Library’s editors to swap notes, discuss issues and expand their skills. The group continued its work throughout 2016–17, meeting regularly and updating guidance on emerging issues for the Library’s researchers. The group has also hosted a number of guest lectures covering specific issues in editing practice, such as the use of ‘plain English’ for writing, Australian-specific lexicography, and the operation of the ABC’s Language Unit. These lectures have been something of an unexpected hit, with high numbers attending from not only the Library but also staff from other parts of DPS and the other parliamentary departments—highlighting the importance Parliamentary staff attach to producing high quality work that communicates effectively with the intended audiences.

Proactive management of the Library collection

The Library maintains a carefully curated collection to meet the contemporary needs of the Parliament—such selectivity being enabled by the Parliament’s ready access to the National Library of Australia’s extensive holdings.

The Library aims to keep the collection at around 135,000 monograph titles. It also holds around 35,000 individual print and electronic journal titles, including those contained in the large aggregated subscription services. New material is acquired, and outdated, damaged or redundant material is discarded regularly, while materials on Australian politics, legislation and constitutional matters are retained permanently. The major part of the Library’s collection expenditure is, therefore, on current (and digital) sources of information: journals, reference materials and, particularly, news services.

During 2016–17, the Library spent $2.486 million on information resources. Of this $0.626 million was allocated to news services—daily press clips, breaking news, social media monitoring, iSentia Mediaportal, Library Press Display, Newsbank, ProQuest Australia and New Zealand Newstream and hard copy newspapers.

In addition, capital funding of $0.650 million was spent to replace depreciating and outdated items in the collection, such as monographs and reference books (a further $0.204 million was spent on staff capitalised salaries for acquisitions management).

The Library’s budget for information resources is intensively managed throughout the year to ensure that the collection remains relevant and focussed and that Parliament gets the best value from the resources available. Library staff review usage of online databases, and consult with clients and research staff to help ascertain collection priorities and to avoid duplication.

The Library has, in recent years, increased the range of digital resources so that senators and members have access to this information regardless of time or location. Approximately 70 per cent of the collection budget was spent on electronic resources; and 65 per cent of items added to the catalogue in 2016–17 were electronic resources.

In 2017–18, the Library will conduct a full review of the collection to ensure its budget for information resources is spent most effectively and efficiently.

Increasing digital access and service

Growth of online resources

Parliamentarians require ready access to accurate and up-to-date information. Resources need to be as easily accessible to those in electorate offices or travelling as to those working in Parliament House. Because electronic material is available to clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Library’s focus is on collecting material in digital format and, more recently, providing this in ways that are device-neutral.

The percentage of the Library’s collection available in digital form, which allows clients to have easy access to material wherever they are located, increased from 41.2 per cent at the end of June 2016 to 42.2 per cent at the end of June 2017. A little over 88 per cent of titles in the serials collection, and almost 30 per cent of monograph titles are available in full text.

Use of these electronic collections is highest when Parliament is sitting; this has been a consistent trend over several years.

Better management of our digital collections

Increasing digital access and services is a key priority in the Library’s strategic and business plans. Central to this is ensuring we have the necessary policy and procedures, infrastructure, and staff capabilities to collect, preserve and deliver innovative digital content.

In 2016–17, the Library finalised three major governance papers to guide its growing digital collection. The first of these, the Framework for the Digital Delivery of Parliamentary Library Products and Services, provides a structure for our work exploring, developing and driving innovation in the digital space. The Digital Preservation Framework formalises the Library’s commitment to the long-term preservation of its digital resources, setting out principles and priorities that will guide the Library’s digital preservation work until 2020. Finally, the Parliamentary Library Digital Preservation Policy, inter alia, documents the principles associated with preserving the Library’s digital collections, and sets out the Library’s digital preservation standards for digitised print materials, born-digital materials, and audio and video collections.

All three documents were endorsed by the Joint Standing Committee on the Parliamentary Library on 20 March 2017.

A new social media monitoring service

Social media monitoring is the most recent and least mature of the Library’s news services. Given the changing social media landscape, the Library has chosen to use shorter-term contracts for these services so that it has an opportunity to reassess its options regularly. iSentia’s Buzznumbers was selected following an approach to market in January 2016, and contracted to provide services for the period June 2016 to 30 June 2017 (with an option to renew the contract for two years on a 1 + 1 basis). To ensure clients were not inconvenienced during the pre-election period, the Library negotiated a one-month extension to its contract with Sentimentmetrics so that both systems were available in the month of June.

The full roll-out of the new product took place in early July. The service provides access to social media commentary from assorted blogs, Twitter and Facebook, and can be accessed via the iSentia Mediaportal or by requesting a direct login. Users can set up campaigns in the product to monitor particular areas of interest and receive alerts. In 2016–17, 56 per cent of senators’ and members’ offices registered to use the service.

With the assistance of DPS ICT, the Library has also developed a live social media monitoring stream from Buzznumbers which is available via the Library Portal and via the web@work app.

Parliamentary Handbook

June 2017 saw the publication of the 35th edition of the Parliamentary Handbook, the most recent volume in a series which first appeared in 1915, following a request by the Library Committee for:

a Commonwealth Parliamentary Handbook, giving a short political biography of all Members of both Houses since the initiation of Federation, with portraits in most cases, particulars of every election in the same period, with other information likely to be useful.32

A new edition has usually been published with each new Parliament since that time; and it has developed into a comprehensive reference work on many aspects of the Commonwealth Parliament, including summaries of the parliamentary service and political careers of senators and members, together with statistics and historical information on the Australian Parliament.

The full text of the handbook is also available electronically, and updated regularly, on the Parliament’s website and through ParlInfo. This gives the community ready access to current information on their local senators and members and the work of the Parliament. Recent departures from Parliament due to candidate ineligibility have, inter alia, highlighted the benefits of moving to a digital only publication. As reported in last two Annual Reports, the Library has a project under way to provide online access to a more comprehensive suite of information about the Parliament and parliamentarians past and present. The new database will enable faster, more flexible and accurate retrieval of information that currently requires much manual searching across multiple sources.

In 2016–17 the Library finalised the underlying data structure and developed modules for data collection and searching. Staff have completed entry of biographical information for all current parliamentarians (which cannot be fully automated and must be manually checked), and are working systematically to capture data relating to former parliamentarians—including biographical details, parliamentary service, and, in case of members, electorate information. Information on nearly 900 parliamentarians is now in the system, which will in time include the complete set of Commonwealth parliamentarians since 1901. In the next stage, more complete information on parliamentary service in other jurisdictions will be added.

We anticipate a public release of the first generation of the system in 2017–18.

Library mapping services

The mapping team in the Library creates and prints custom maps for clients using specialised mapping software that is able to display wide combinations of thematic data, such as socio-economic or infrastructure data, and electoral information. The Library obtains mapping information from online data sources such as, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Electoral Commission, Geoscience Australia, state and territory governments, and industry sector portals and websites.

This year, the Library performed considerable work to ensure that information was complete and up to date, including through the integration of revised electoral boundaries, and results from the 2016 federal election and national Census. There has also been a trend towards purchasing specific data sets to support customised mapping and analysis.

In 2016–17, the mapping team received approximately 440 requests for mapping products, with the number of maps for each request ranging from one to more than 20. Overall, the team created almost 1,700 unique digital maps, including welcome pack maps prepared for each electorate; and printed just over 1,700 hard copy maps, including the 2017 Library Planner for all senators and members.

Client demand for the maps has been particularly strong leading the Library to recruit an additional mapping specialist to the team to ensure that we are able to provide maps to clients in a timely fashion.

In 2016–17, the Library continued its work on the ParlMap project. The new ParlMap will offer clients an online self-service mapping system they can use to quickly create their own maps using Census and election results, with the mapping team preparing the more complex thematic maps.

ParlMap is based on the NationalMap architecture, managed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet in collaboration with Data61 (a business unit of the CSIRO), and other government agencies. This has enabled the Library to utilise an existing architecture that already includes a wide and growing variety of datasets from across federal and state governments, which should enable the capabilities of ParlMap to expand over time.

As previously reported, detailed testing in 2015–16 revealed a number of technical issues with the way the underlying system used data sets from third parties and presented the data products. Over the current financial year, the Library worked with Data61 and other parties to resolve these issues, which included revisions to the software as well as substantial rectification of datasets. This work is largely complete and the new ParlMap is expected to be ready for release in the near future.


Digitisation of the Library’s collection, both contemporary and historic records, remains a high priority.

News archives

The Parliamentary Library has been compiling information files from newspaper clippings, press releases and journal articles since the 1950s. While this is now a largely automated process involving material that is ‘born digital’, the Library still has significant archives of paper and analogue audio-visual material, amounting to some 2,100 linear metres of files constituting a unique collection of Australian political and public policy history which is still regularly used by clients, Library staff and occasional visiting scholars.

In order to ensure this resource is preserved and to improve access to it, in 2014–15 the Library began a systematic and multi-year digitisation program. Two million pages were digitised in the first year; two million were digitised during 2015–16; and in 2016–17 the Library again met its key performance indicator, digitising a further three million pages at a cost of $671,000 from its capital allocation.

The Library aims to digitise the last three million pages in 2017–18.

In 1975, the Library also began to monitor, record and transcribe radio and television news and current affairs programs; its collection of pre–2004 audiocassette tapes and audio-visual tapes amounts to 55,000 hours of video footage and 38,000 hours of audio recordings. In many cases these are unique. In 2014–15, the Electronic Media Monitoring Service (EMMS) commenced digitising ABC video content dating from 1990. Over 1,200 hours of content were digitised in the first year, and a further 3,710 hours in 2015–16. This work continued during 2016–17 with an additional 2,066 hours of television and 2,576 hours of radio broadcasts digitised. The Library plans to continue this project in 2017–18.

This work is made possible by specific exemptions in the Copyright Act 1968.

Parliamentary Papers Series 1901–2012

The Parliamentary Papers Series (PPS) comprises significant documents that have been presented to Parliament, and subsequently ordered to be printed. They form part of the public record of the proceedings in each Chamber, and include reports of parliamentary committees, annual reports of government agencies, reports of Royal Commissions and other inquiries, audit office reports, and budget and white papers. The PPS thus constitutes an important public record which:

…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.33

As an original parliamentary record, the PPS is a core part of the Library’s collection, and a key resource for its researchers.

From 1901 to 2012, the PPS was issued in bound and indexed volumes; between 2013 and 2016 it was issued in both print and digital form; and from 2017 the Parliament moved to an exclusively electronic PPS.

Last financial year the Library embarked upon a multi-year project to digitise the PPS bound volumes from 1901 to 2012—some 50,000 reports amounting to around 2.4 million pages. Digitisation of the Parliamentary Papers Series will help ensure that it is preserved for the future. It will also enable broader and easier access for parliamentary staff and the public alike as the PPS becomes available online as a series for the first time.

Following a Request for Quote, TIMG was engaged to digitise the papers and apply appropriate optical character recognition technologies so that the files are machine readable and searchable. The latter proved more complex than anticipated because of the range of materials and formats included in the papers. As a result, completion of the first phase of the project will conclude early in 2017–18 rather than in June 2017 as anticipated, with the final payment deferred until then. As at 30 June 2017, 2.2 million pages of the PPS had been digitised.

Library staff are currently quality assuring the documents and will commence uploading them to ParlInfo Search in 2017–18, with the whole project expected to be completed in 2018–19. Once the project is complete, a full set of TIFFs and metadata files will be provided to the National Library of Australia for ingestion into TROVE.

Records of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of Justice Lionel Murphy

At the request of the chamber departments, the Library digitised the remaining papers of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of Justice Lionel Murphy.

The Commission was established in May 1986 (under the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry Act 1986) to inquire into allegations concerning the conduct of then Justice of the High Court, the Hon Lionel Keith Murphy. The Parliament repealed the Act in 1986, after Justice Murphy was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

The Commission’s records were divided into Class A records (relating to Justice Murphy’s conduct) and Class B records (all other Commission records), with the Presiding Officers authorising publication of the latter in 2016. In June 2017 the Presiding Officers announced that they had authorised publication of the remaining records in electronic form on 24 July 2017.34 In a press release on 20 July the Presiding Officers subsequently announced a short delay in publication.35

Enterprise and Portfolio Digital Repository and Data Remediation project

During 2016–17, the Library implemented a new repository and discovery system for its digital collection of journals, reports and ebooks: Portfolio (repository) and Enterprise (discovery), both SirsiDynix systems. These replaced the Library’s existing Electronic Resources Repository (ERR) network drive, a legacy system dating back to early 2000 which had limited functionality and insufficient stability to enable long-term preservation of the digital collection. The new system will improve access to the collection and enhance the Library’s digital storage capability.

To prepare for the transition to the new digital repository, the Library completed a major data remediation project to review and improve the quality of bibliographic data in the catalogue. Specific focus was made on the ERR records, ensuring the data was suitably prepped for migration to the new repository. Two staff members were engaged to work on the project. At the conclusion of the project, they had made more than 36,000 changes to records held on the catalogue, significantly improving the quality of the data. They were also able to harvest more than 4,500 additional resources to the repository, items that were previously only available via external internet links and therefore vulnerable to link rot as the parent sites restructured or were archived.

Completing the Bicentenary Oral History project

As part of the Australian Bicentenary, the Australian Parliamentary Library embarked upon an oral history program, engaging 15 interviewers around Australia to interview former senators and members about their political careers.36 Around 170 interviews were completed as part of the process, amounting to more than 2,200 hours of recording, with around 140 of these being transcribed before work on the project concluded in the mid–1990s.

Recognising that these cassette tapes were a unique resource and were reaching their end of life, in 2015–16 the Parliamentary Library commenced digitisation of the remaining tape collection, giving priority to those that had not yet been transcribed. Hansard staff partnered in the project by transcribing the digital files whenever they had spare capacity.

This important work continued in 2016–17. At 30 June 2017, all of the recordings had been transcribed and are now being reviewed and indexed by Library staff. After the project is finalised, copies will be transferred to the National Library’s Oral History and Folklore Collection, and the collection will also become available to parliamentary clients via Parlinfo Search.

Library risk management and business continuity planning

In 2016–17, the Library continued to refine its risk management and business continuity planning, particularly in relation to its integration with the maturing DPS-wide systems.

The risk management planning systematically identifies and rates the various risks to delivering the Library’s key services, and the measures taken to control those risks. In line with the department’s priorities, this year’s work has concentrated on verifying the actual effectiveness of the controls.

The Library’s business continuity plan has also now been fully integrated into the new DPS business continuity planning system, to ensure commonality of approach and that the Library’s planned responses reflect the broader priorities within Parliament in the event a major, unexpected disruptive incident. In the coming year, the Library will again participate in the DPS exercise program.

Supporting the Parliament’s engagement with the community and the ongoing development of parliamentary democracy

National Reconciliation Week

As it has for the past several years, the Library marked National Reconciliation Week with a public lecture in the Parliament House Theatre. The speakers were Louise Taylor, Deputy CEO of Legal Aid ACT, Associate of the UNSW Indigenous Law Centre and a member of the Indigenous Legal Issues Committee of the Law Council of Australia, and Elizabeth Ganter, author of Reluctant Representatives: Blackfella bureaucrats speak in Australia’s north.

Regional engagement

Support for the Fiji Parliament

Cat Barker, a senior researcher from the Parliamentary Library, was seconded to the Fijian Parliament’s Research and Library Services (RLS) from 28 June to 10 July 2017 as part of a United Nations Development Programme-sponsored project. She joined researchers from the Victorian, New Zealand, Tongan, Scottish and Welsh parliamentary departments to work with the researchers in RLS to produce briefings and presentations on the national budget for Fijian Members of Parliament and non-government organisations.

Researchers from the Fijian, Australian, Victorian, New Zealand, Tongan, Scottish and Welsh parliamentary departments. Source: United Nations Development Programme

The project team, comprising local and international researchers, produced a package of briefs on the 2017–18 Budget including an outline of the budget process, an overview of the Budget and key economic indicators, several themed briefs on specific portfolios and cross-cutting issues highlighted in the Budget, and Bill Summaries for associated revenue Bills. The local researchers delivered presentations based on those briefs in two seminars for MPs and one for NGOs.

This was the second year that RLS provided this support on the national budget for MPs, and the first time a presentation had been provided for NGOs. The international researchers helped RLS staff to build on their success in 2016, adapt the 2017 material to respond to feedback from MPs the previous year, and refine process and guidance documents. The briefs and presentations were very well received by MPs and NGOs alike.

Pacific Parliamentary Scholars

As part of its ongoing support for parliaments and democracy in the Pacific region, in 2016–17 the Library again hosted participants under the Pacific Parliamentary Scholarships Scheme. These scholarships are offered to staff of Pacific parliaments interested in developing their research skills and working on a gender equity issue of relevance in their country. Scholarships were awarded to:

  • Mr Sefanaia Navuda Tudonu from the Parliament of Fiji whose research project explored the economic empowerment of women in Fiji, and
  • Ms Marie Fanueli from the Samoan Parliament whose project explored the benefits of including data in government annual reports.

The Library anticipates hosting further Pacific Parliamentary scholars in 2017–18.

Association of Parliamentary Librarians of Asia and the Pacific

The Association of Parliamentary Librarians of Asia and the Pacific (APLAP) held its Eleventh Conference and General Meeting at the National Assembly Library in the Republic of Korea from 26–28 April 2017. APLAP was founded in 1990 to encourage cooperation and knowledge sharing between parliamentary libraries and research services in the Asia-Pacific region. Its major focus is improving the quality of library and research services provided to parliamentarians by its member organisations.

The theme of the conference was ‘Moving towards a big data era: The roles of parliamentary libraries and research services’. The event, opened by the Hon Jaecheol Shim, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, was jointly hosted by Dr Eun Chul Lee, Chief Librarian of the National Assembly Library and Dr Dianne Heriot, as APLAP President. In addition to formal presentations, the program featured short ‘Postcard sessions’ in which members talked about issues affecting their library or research service. The President of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), Donna Scheeder, delivered the keynote address.

At their general meeting, APLAP members elected a new executive:

  • President: Kazuko Sakata (National Diet Library, Japan)
  • Vice-President (Asia): Mihyang Park (National Assembly Library, Korea)
  • Vice-President (Pacific): Asha Kumar (Library of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji)
  • Secretary: Rosemarie Balidoy (House of Representatives Legislative Library, Philippines)
  • Treasurer: Dianne Heriot (Australian Parliamentary Library)

Australia continues to manage the APLAP web site and Facebook group.

The Hon Jaecheol Shim, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly with conference participants. Source: National Assembly Library, Republic of Korea

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

IFLA is the leading international body for library and information services and its Library and Research Services for Parliaments Section brings together specialist legislative information services from around the world. In 2016–17, the Parliamentary Librarian remained an active member of the Standing Committee administering the Library and Research Services for Parliaments Section.


The Library also remained active in the Association of Parliamentary Libraries of Australasia, a collaborative network of federal and state parliamentary libraries in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, including managing the Association’s website. In 2016–17, the Library hosted staff from the South Australian State Library and Tasmanian Parliamentary Library keen to explore aspects of our online service delivery.

During the year, Library staff also presented to the 2017 Inter-parliamentary Study of Parliament Course; and, recognising the importance of supporting the development of professional skills in the library community, hosted a group of library students from Charles Sturt University.

Australian Parliamentary Fellowship Program

Parliamentary Library Associates

In 2011–12, the then Parliamentary Librarian established an adjunct position of Parliamentary Library Associate to help build and sustain relationships between the Library and individuals with demonstrated expertise in issues of interest to the Parliament.

Two associates continued work in the Library in 2016–17: Ms Janet Vallee, formerly a senior researcher in the Politics and Public Administration Section; and Dr David Headon, a historian and Visiting Fellow at the Research School of Humanities and the Arts at ANU.

Ms Vallee completed an extensive update to a chronology of ministerial departures, worked on the oral history project, and contributed her extensive subject-matter knowledge to the work of the Politics and Public Administration Section. Dr Headon worked on the first of a series of lectures and monographs on Australia’s early Prime Ministers, beginning with Alfred Deakin. Dr Headon delivered his lecture, Alfred Deakin and his ‘Times that try men’s souls’, in November 2016, with the associated monograph being due for release by the end of 2017. The subject of Dr Headon’s work in 2017–18 is Australia’s fourth Prime Minister (1904–05), Sir George Reid, the centenary of whose death occurs in September 2018.

Summer Research Scholarship

Established in 2013, the Parliamentary Library’s Summer Research Scholarship offers post-graduate students the opportunity to undertake a research project at the Parliamentary Library. Scholars examine an aspect of policy, lawmaking, governance, democracy, politics or parliament, and in so doing expand their knowledge and research expertise, and contribute to scholarship on the Parliament and its work.

Scholarship recipients undertake a six-week placement in the Library during the summer academic break where they have access to the Library’s collections and facilities, the opportunity to interact with expert librarians and researchers, and mentoring for their research project. Upon submission of their final report, scholars receive a small honorarium.

Following a merit-based selection process, the Parliamentary Library awarded the 2017 scholarships to:

  • Jacinta Dharmananda, a PhD candidate in law at the Australian National University who examined the relationship between legislative process and the use of extrinsic materials when interpreting legislation, and
  • Meaghan Vosz, a PhD candidate in social policy at Southern Cross University, who explored the involvement of children and young people in the policy-making process.

During the scholarship, the Presiding Officers hosted a reception in the President’s Courtyard at Parliament House. The Parliamentary Library will be reviewing the format of its summer scholar program ahead of advertising the 2018 round in August 2017.

Interns and Graduates

Parliamentary Library intern programs

Since 2014 the Library has been offering four-week placements for interns in the Research and Library Collections and Databases Branches to:

  • foster relationships between the Parliamentary Library and Australian tertiary institutions
  • provide interns with an opportunity to develop their research and/or library skills
  • provide Parliamentary Library staff the opportunity to develop supervision and mentoring skills, and
  • promote the work of the Parliamentary Library and its potential as a future employer of choice.

Placements (by merit-based selection) are available to:

  • students pursuing qualifications as library professionals
  • law students undertaking legal internship units at the Australian National University and the University of Canberra, and
  • Australian National Internship Program (ANIP) participants.

Nine interns have completed the program in Library Collections and Databases (two in 2016–17), three of whom subsequently gained employment in the Parliamentary Library following graduation (two ongoing and one in a non-ongoing position).

Eleven legal interns have completed the Research Branch program (seven from ANU and two from University of Canberra), two in 2016–17.

In the reporting period, the Library also continued its engagement with the Australian National Internship Program (ANIP). The program, open to undergraduate and postgraduate students, offers either six or 13 week research internships at the Commonwealth Parliament, ACT Legislative Assembly, Australian Public Service agencies, and embassies, think-tanks and NGOs (see This program covers all academic disciplines so offers the potential to bring interns into any of the Library’s research sections. In 2016–17, the Library hosted two interns under the program, who conducted their research in the fields of politics and foreign affairs respectively. More broadly, the Library provides some limited assistance to the wider cohort of interns placed in the Parliament, including access to the Library’s databases and collections.

Participation in the Australian Public Service Graduate Program

This year the Library again had the assistance of two graduates from the APS Graduate Program, both from the Department of Human Services, who did their placements in the Science, Technology, Environment and Resources Section and the Law and Bills Digest Section. Graduates contribute to all aspects of their sections’ work including preparing Bills Digests and specialist publications, as well as research to answer specific client requests. The graduates are able to take back to their home agency stronger research skills as well as increased knowledge of Australia’s political system and the complex parliamentary environment across its legislative, scrutiny and representative functions.

Assistance to The Parliament Shop

Since July 2014 the Library has been responsible for selecting and recommending politically themed book titles for sale in the Shop. Over this period, the Library’s acquisitions team has recommended more than 400 titles, helping ensure that The Parliament Shop is the ‘go to’ place for politically themed books.

Digital Asset Management System

Library staff provided technical assistance and advice in the procurement and metadata requirements of the DPS Digital Asset Management System (DAMS). The DAMS will enhance control, management and access of the Auspic photographs, the Parliament House Art Collection and the Design Integrity and Archive Unit’s collections.

Strengthening our staff capability

Needs assessment and workforce development

In 2016–17, the Library completed the development of its workforce capability assessments and the resulting Workforce Plan, which was considered and endorsed by the Library Committee. The plan looks at the Library’s changing operational environment, resourcing, and workforce composition over the past 10 years, including: size, age, average length of service, classification profiles, qualifications, separation and recruitment. Crucially, this process recognised the dynamic environment in which the Library and its staff operate, as discussed earlier in this report. In order to continue to deliver products that are as relevant to our parliamentary clients today and tomorrow as they were in the past, Library staff must be able to support parliamentarians in dealing with matters of ever increasing technical and jurisdictional complexity and diversity.

Training and skills development

The value of the analysis and advice provided to our clients depends in large part on the professional skills and knowledge of the Library’s staff, including their communication skills, understanding of parliament and knowledge of how to manage relationships with parliamentarians and their staff.

In 2016–17, Library staff attended corporate training plus diverse seminars, conferences and workshops as part of their professional development, with the Library also hosting a program of in-house lectures and seminars covering sessions on tax policy, behavioural economics, commissioning approaches to public services, and the interaction of psychology and economics and finance, each given by visiting academic specialists.

The in-house program included further elements targeting parliamentary specific areas of knowledge that are not always readily available externally and which this year covered drafting of bills digests, mapping techniques, and client service skills (in addition to the editing training noted elsewhere) as well as a presentation from the First Parliamentary Counsel. To ensure that the benefits of this program were as fully realised as possible, the Library invited colleagues from the chamber departments, and particularly the committee offices, to attend.

The Library staff orientation program was refreshed with separate sessions being offered to Research Branch staff and Library Collections and Database Branch staff. This allowed the sessions to not only target the particular information needed by that cohort, but also helped anticipate knowledge gaps in their understanding of Library services. The Research Branch sessions were offered to new staff and focussed on interacting with clients, understanding the range of services the Library offers and work tools they could use in their work to support clients. The Library Collections and Database sessions were offered to all in the Branch and focussed on their role in supporting Research Branch staff and our clients, and provided insights into the way clients access and use the information they are providing.

Throughout the year orientation/refresher trainings were held providing an overview of Library services as well as specific information sessions on ParlInfo, media services (including social media monitoring), the process of making laws, and searching Library collections.

Library staff were also invited to attend training sessions presented by our vendors throughout the year, including iSentia’s Buzznumbers and EBSCOhost Research Databases.

A staff member from Library Collections and Databases Branch was again accepted for the Aurora Institute for Emerging Leaders, a premier training program for emerging library leaders in Australia and New Zealand.

The Department’s inaugural PEL1 Development Program commenced in 2016 as a pilot. Four Library staff from both branches participated in the pilot program. In 2017 another four staff from the Library attended.

Engagement with universities

The Library is also working to build more systematic relationships with universities in order to improve the Parliament’s access to the wealth of expertise within the academic and research community. In 2016–17 the Library began discussions with the Australian National University—being both nearby and one of Australia’s top universities—with the aim of creating Memoranda of Understanding to facilitate suitable academic staff providing technical assistance, presenting seminars and preparing commissioned research products, particularly in areas where the Library itself lacks specialist expertise. We aim to widen these relationships to other universities over time.


26 D. Muller, Double, double toil and trouble: the 2016 federal election, Research Paper Series 2016–17, Parliamentary Library, 30 June 2017, p1.

27 Uncommon Knowledge, Australian Parliamentary Library: client service evaluation 2015, Canberra, May 2015. The report is available on the APH website.

28 The Parliamentary Librarian’s report for 2014–15 contains a detailed discussion of the evaluation’s findings (Department of Parliamentary Services, Annual Report 2014–15, pp95–96).

29 Australian Parliamentary Library: client service evaluation 2015, p5.

30 Australian Parliamentary Library: client service evaluation 2015, p5.

31 Governance Paper No. 5.2—Library—Policy—Responses to client requests’, 2016.

32 Australia, Parliament, Report from the Joint Library Committee, 1915, p2.

33 Parliamentary Joint Committee on Publications, Inquiry into the development of a digital repository and electronic distribution of the Parliamentary Papers Series, June 2010, p7.

34 S. Parry, ‘Statement by the President’, Senate Parliamentary Debates, 22 June 2017, pp 4661; T. Smith, ‘Statement by the Speaker’, House of Representatives Debates, 22 June 2017, p7423.

35 Senator the Hon Stephen Parry and the Hon Tony Smith MP, ‘Records of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry’, Press Release 20 July 2017.

36 Brenda McAvoy, ‘The Commonwealth Parliament’s bicentenary oral history project’, The Oral History Association of Australia Journal, 5, 1982–1983, pp107–108.