Queensland bars OpenAustralia from republishing its Hansard

In an extraordinary turn of events the Clerk of Queensland’s Parliament has refused OpenAustralia permission to republish the state’s proceedings of parliament. This is the email we received this afternoon

Katherine,

I have taken sometime to consider your request because of the multitude of issues and its long term policy implications.

At the outset, I note that the “Queensland State Parliamentary Hansards” is actually the Record of Proceedings. Unlike other Parliament’s Hansards, it is a record, not only of what is said, but a procedural record of what has been done.

Initially, I was inclined to support your request because:

  • I am an ardent supporter of the use of the Internet as a communication medium as exampled by the Queensland Parliament’s lead in areas such as Epetitions and the Tabled Papers database (a single database containing all documetns tabled in the Parliament and linked to the Record of Proceeding).
  • I am inclined to support anything that would make the record of Proceedingaccessible and searchable.

However, I have decided to decline to give permission.

My reasons include, but are not limited to the following:

  • I am concerned about the demands that may ultimately be placed upon the Queensland Parliamentary Service by OpenAustralia in terms of supply of information. I am especially concerned that once OpenAustralia is supplied the record for the purposes of republication, it would become a “special stakeholder” over and above our other stakeholders, to the extent that we would have to take into account OpenAustralia’s needs when any adjustments have to be made to our own systems. System redesign is complicated enough, without the added complication of such a “special stakeholder”.
  • Despite OpenAustralia stating that it is a “not for profit volunteer run service”, I am not able to be assured from the information provided that there is no-one with some commercial interest (even indirect) or some other private interest in the venture. The information and “special stakeholder” status mentioned above could be a valuable commodity, not currently provided to others.
  • A key issue is whether OpenAustralia should given the status and protection of an “authorised publisher” as an engaged entity for the publication of an authorised parliamentary record as per section 51(4)(g) of the Parliament of Queensland Act 2001 ( http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/P/ParliaQA01.pdf ). I do not believe it would be appropriate for me to give this authority as this sort of arrangement was not contemplated by the Act.
  • Therefore, if permission was granted, it would be on the basis that OpenAustralia is not an authorised publisher under the Act and that OpenAustralia accepts all risks of any legal liability arising from the further publication of the parliamentary record – which would not be absolutely protected by parliamentary privilege.
  • Most significantly, I am concerned about an alternative “non-official” site upon which lays the Queensland Parliaments official Record of Proceedings but which no-one in authority within the Parliamentary Service has control.
  • I applaud the use of open-source software used by OpenAustralia

Neil Laurie
The Clerk of the Parliament

This email comes after three months of correspondence which you can read for yourself.

We’ll be appealing this decision, don’t you worry!

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