Sound office management requires that particular attention be given to the systematic handling of all records in the Senator or Member’s office to ensure that information and administrative needs are met.
A range of established practices exist to help retrieve information or documents, keep records secure and retire non-current material in a timely manner. Examples of these practices are set out below.
Keeping appropriate records will:
- ensure Parliamentary and electorate business is conducted efficiently and accountably
- document the rights, obligations and views of constituents
- maintain a record of significant Parliamentary and electorate activities.
Responsibility for managing records should be clearly allocated among staff members, and regular reviews of record-keeping practices should be undertaken.
Typically, Senators and Members and their staff receive and generate a large quantity of records, which can be categorised as either official or non-official records.
Official records are created by:
- Australian Government
- a government department or a Minister’s office
- Australian Parliament or a Parliamentary Committee, or
- Senators or Members in their official capacity in relation to any of the above mentioned bodies.
Non-official records are created by:
- Senators or Members
- electorate office and personal staff
- constituents, or
- the general public.
Official records may include:
- departmental files and documents
- committee papers such as minutes, agendas, submissions
- correspondence (including email) on matters of official ministerial business.
Non-official records may include:
- electorate records (that is, correspondence with or on behalf of constituents)
- political party documents
- information on issues of interest to Senators or Members or their constituents
- press clippings
- documents relating to a Senator or Member's use of entitlements
- staffing and office management issues.
It is advisable that records be categorised in a manner that is meaningful to Senators or Members and their staff.
To identify material within each category, loose papers should be placed chronologically in folders, grouping together related material by subject, activity, or name of organisation or person. Folder titles should be clear and specific for easy retrieval.
Easy-to-retrieve indexing systems are recommended. Indexing by subject or name in alphabetical or chronological order, are the most frequently used methods.
Records should be stored in dry and dust-free conditions. Audio-visual or machine-readable records (for example computer discs, audio and video cassettes) require dust-free storage away from magnetic fields and should not be subjected to extremes of temperature.
Access to official records in the office, as described in section 6.8.2, should be carefully administered. In general, access to Commonwealth records (that is, those which are the property of a Commonwealth body such as a department, the Senate or the House of Representatives) is governed by the Freedom of Information Act 1982, the Archives Act 1983 and the Privacy Act 1988. These Acts place particular requirements on the use, disclosure and storage of information.
Further information about access to records may be obtained from the Entitlements Management Branch.
Access to non-Commonwealth records, such as electorate records, political party material, private correspondence, financial records or family papers, is a matter for each Senator or Member to determine. However, privacy issues must be taken into consideration when providing access to correspondence with private individuals.
Senators, Members and their staff are responsible for the safe and appropriate handling of office records, including deciding on the most appropriate means of disposal of those records when they are no longer needed, or when a Senator or Member leaves office. The accumulation of records is normally determined by the available storage space in the office. Arrangements should be made for the proper disposal of records that are no longer or seldom required for current business. Disposal can mean destruction of records or transferring them into the custody of an archival institution or placing in temporary commercial storage.
When no longer required or when a Senator or Member leaves office, official records as defined in section 6.8.2 should be returned to the Government department, agency or Parliamentary Committee, in which they originated or were registered.
Non-official records containing confidential or sensitive data and which are no longer required should be destroyed - paper records should be shredded; electronic records should be wiped, and the device on which they were stored (for example: floppy disc, USB drive, CD, DVD) should be destroyed where possible. Non-sensitive paper records, which are no longer required, may be disposed of in paper-recycling systems.
One option for dealing with non-sensitive records after ceasing to be a Parliamentarian is to lodge the documents in an archive, local library or a historical society.
The National Archives of Australia, the Records Management Association of Australia and the Australian Society of Archivists can advise on management and disposal of records.
In some cases, the manner in which a Senator or Member must deal with records is prescribed by legislation, including the:
- Archives Act 1983
- Evidence Act 1995
- Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 and other Tax Legislation, Determinations and Rulings
- Privacy Act 1988.
The National Archives of Australia provides advice to Senators and Members on records management.
- what records to manage
- creating, controlling and preserving records
- public access to records
- disposing of records and safeguarding privacy.
For further advice email firstname.lastname@example.org.