[LINK] Re: PMC website taken down???

Tom Worthington Tom.Worthington at tomw.net.au
Wed Nov 28 09:28:30 AEDT 2007

At 12:34 PM 27/11/2007, Roger Clarke wrote:
> From the privacy list:
>It's an absolute scandal that no standards, or even ad hoc 
>practices, exist for archival of these sites. ...

There are precedents, practices, guidelines and laws covering what to 
do with government web pages with a change in government. Government 
web pages are Commonwealth records, the destruction of which is a 
offense under the Archives Act 

At the last change of government I was on an interdepartmental 
committee looking at the web and we discussed the issue. Being a 
public servant, I made a file note about this, which should still be 
on record at the Defence Department and there should be records of 
the discussions in the files of the other agencies on the committee.

At that change of government, one agency foolishly deleted all the 
material about the previous government from their web site. Another 
agency retained the material, marking it as "archival". Other 
agencies left the material in place unaltered until it was displaced 
by new material. Some advice was provided to agencies as to what to 
do, which was generally followed and forms a precedent.

Since then specific guidelines have been introduced. The Public 
Service Commission and the National Archives have issued guidelines. 
They have pointed out it is a crime to simply delete old government web pages.

AGIMO have Archiving online resources "Obligations for Australian 
Government Agencies": 

This includes a reference to the National Archives of Australia 
"Archiving Web Resources - Guidelines for keeping records of 
web-based activity in the Commonwealth Government", unfortunately, 
the link is out of date and the document is now at 

The Australian Public Service Commission issued an updated 
"Implementing Machinery of Government Changes: A good practice guide 
-  Records management" on 31 January 2007: 

A public servant who says they don't know what and simply delete the 
web pages is either lying, or incompetent, or both. In any case their 
employment should be terminated and prosecution considered.

ps: There is an anomaly in the guidelines. Under the usual rules for 
records, old agency files are not made public for years. If applied 
to web pages, this would result in the material which was public then 
not being available, for perhaps decades. Public web pages can also 
considered publications and so can be retained by the NLA and made 
available. But the NLA does not have the resources to retain and 
provide all the material published electronically in Australia and 
only provides some selective material. The new government needs to 
provide a few million extra dollars a years to NLA to do this. NAA 
also needs some more resources to expand its electronic archiving system.

Tom Worthington FACS HLM tom.worthington at tomw.net.au Ph: 0419 496150
Director, Tomw Communications Pty Ltd            ABN: 17 088 714 309
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617                      http://www.tomw.net.au/
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, ANU  

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