National Archives Advisory Council welcomes changes

Media release: Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The National Archives of Australia Advisory Council has welcomed today's announcement by Cabinet Secretary, Senator Faulkner of far-reaching reforms to the Archives Act.

Speaking at the Right to Know conference in Sydney, Senator Faulkner announced that Cabinet notebooks – handwritten notes of discussions and decisions made at Cabinet meetings – will be made available after 30 years, instead of the current 50 years.

In addition, Cabinet and other government records will become available after 20 years, instead of the current 30 years. However, any records with privacy or national security implications or containing other sensitive information will be withheld in line with exemptions under the Act.

Chair of the Advisory Council, Paul Santamaria commended Senator Faulkner on his commitment to increasing accessibility to government information.

'Today's announcement brings significant advantages for all sections of the community, particularly researchers and those interested in the workings of government.

'Government information is a national resource, and should be available to the Australian community in the interests of public participation in decision making.

'The planned changes put Australia at the leading edge of a worldwide trend to increase access to information. The National Archives Advisory Council has encouraged government in recent years to consider amendments to the Archives Act along the lines of what has been announced today.'

Senator Faulkner served as a member of the National Archives Advisory Council for 12 years (1996–2008). Increasing access to information was a key focus during his term on the Council.

Accelerated access will be phased in over a 10-year period with the first multi-year release commencing on 1 January 2011.

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