On Tuesday, 28 November 2023 I gave a speech on the Information Privacy and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 and Public Records Bill 2023 during cognate debate.
You can read the full speech below, or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).
I am going to make a brief contribution on both the Public Records Bill and the Information Privacy and Other Legislation Amendment Bill, but as a member of the committee that conducted the inquiry I will focus most of my comments on the Public Records Bill. At the outset, I take a moment to offer my sincere thanks to the committee secretariat. They work tirelessly as I know all the secretariats do. I also thank the rest of the committee members for the time spent on this bill. I will avoid repeating a lot of what others have said.
Obviously, this is an important bill to update, modernise and harmonise the processes for the management of public records in Queensland and, specifically, those around the management of the work of the State Archivist. From the inquiry I certainly have a better understanding of how the State Archives work and the function of the State Archivist. There is a lot more to it than probably most of us would appreciate. It was an interesting bit of work that we did. We had an invitation from the State Archivist to visit the State Archives at some point. No doubt, at this stage that will be in the new year. I am very much looking forward to that. Heaven only knows what you might find digging around in the State Archives. We will see what comes up.
The proposed creation of a First Nations advisory group is a really important feature of this bill. It is important, not just in the bill but more generally in our work here, that we acknowledge the importance of and the very real complexity around the preservation and management of First Nations archival material, of sometimes very culturally sensitive material. It was very interesting to hear from the State Archivist about how that is done already and to hear directly from Dr Rose Barrowcliffe, who is already in a role as the First Nations archives adviser to the State Archivist. I think Dr Barrowcliffe brings a really nuanced and deep understanding to these issues. It was great to have her share her insights with us.
It was also great to catch up with members of the Interim Truth and Treaty Body, the ITTB. Specifically, Mick Gooda and Katie Kiss came and shared some evidence with the committee. The role of the State Archivist in the truth-telling inquiry will be absolutely pivotal. I will be excited to see the terms of reference for the truth-telling inquiry at whatever point they come about. I am sure the ITTB is eagerly awaiting their publication so that, once the bill is proclaimed, we can get the truth-telling inquiry underway. I am certainly looking forward to seeing some progress on that front.
As others have mentioned, it is worth noting just how disappointing it is to have seen the opposition’s response to the previous bipartisanship around truth-telling and treaty following the referendum result. I think it speaks to a real lack of leadership and a real lack of interest in actually driving change that the state needs to see. It is encouraging to hear some reaffirmation from the Premier about the importance of truth-telling, but I have to say that I would like to see firmer leadership from the Premier around treaty and around continuing to actually lead a program towards treaty in this state.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hart): Member for Maiwar, I am listening closely and you are starting to drift away from the bill. Can you stick with the bill, please.
Mr BERKMAN: Certainly. Thank you for your guidance, Mr Deputy Speaker. Obviously the work of the State Archivist will be fundamental to the work of not just the truth-telling inquiry but also the processes of treaty negotiation that the ITTB is currently working on. That work is a feature of the committee’s hearings on this inquiry. I will not labour the point other than to simply say: to refer to the need for bipartisanship on this one issue when the government knows it is empowered to make progress on any given issue is something of a cop-out, and I would encourage the Premier to pursue it with a little more fervour than she has in recent times.
Some submissions argued for greater independence for the State Archivist. Broadly speaking, that is a proposal we agree with. More independence for important public officers like the State Archivist is, as a general proposition, better, but I can also agree with each and every one of those submitters who broadly agreed that this bill does represent genuine progress. It is a real improvement on the status quo.
I do not think you can speak to this bill without at least saying the word ‘mangocube’, but I leave it at that. As far as the Information Privacy and Other Legislation Amendment Bill goes, we did have some concerns about the exclusion in the bill—
[Honourable members interjected.]
Mr BERKMAN: Two words: that is all it takes to get everyone really excited. It is the last week of school—breakup week. Everyone is ready to go.
[Honourable members interjected.]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Hart): Order, members!
Mr BERKMAN: I had some concern about the exclusion of entities established by letters patent from the definition of public authority. I welcome the Attorney-General’s indication that that will be dealt with in amendments. I will leave my contribution there.