Saturday, July 28, 2012

e-Tabling Documents for Australian Parliament

This is to propose that the Australian Parliament change its procedures to allow the tabling of electronic, rather than paper, documents. This will reduce cost and resource use, as well as improve the readability of the documents.

Currently the Parliament forces a wasteful duplication on agencies, which are required to prepare documents on paper for tabling, along with an electronic version for the public after tabling. Most of the paper copies printed are probably never opened, let alone read. Also, because the Parliament requires the electronic version to closely match the paper edition, the design of the electronic version cannot be optimized for on-line viewing.

I suggest the priority be reversed, with the agencies producing an electronic document, which is also suitable for printing. This will allow the design to be optimized for on-line viewing. The printed document will not look as well laid out as one specifically designed for print, but will be usable.

Converting to electronic tabling would require a few small changes to the wording of procedures. The "Guidelines for the Presentation of Documents to the Parliament" could be changed slightly to remove mention of "printing":
"... Documents should be printed created in accordance with standards prepared by the Joint Publications Committee ..."
The Parliamentary Papers Series (PPS) procedures require 100 copies of documents to be delivered to a location in Canberra for distribution. These complex and expensive procedures could be replaced with a simpler procedure, where one electronic copy of the document is delivered to parliament and distributed via the parliamentary web site.

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