On Thursday 2nd May, the Victorian Legislative Council passed an amendment to the Estate Agents, Residential Tenancies and Other Acts Amendment (Funding) Bill 2024, which had previously included wording that abolished the Public Records Advisory Council. 

This vote retracts the abolition of this Council. It also leaves open the possibility of further reforms, so that the Victorian Public Records Office can conduct better consultation with other government departments and agencies, and to enhance its own status as a necessary independent Victorian integrity body. 

The government back-down follows criticism of the move to abolish the Advisory Council by numerous accountability organisations, including ART.

ART wrote to the Premier, Jacinta Allan, Hon Gabrielle Williams, Minister for Government Services; The Hon David Davis Liberal MLC , and Samantha Ratnam Greens MLC on 15th April 2024, pointing out that the Victorian Public Records Office was fundamental to the effectiveness of the State integrity bodies as a major source of the information needed for their work.  

We also asked on what grounds the voluntary advisory body was being abolished, as no consistent explanation had been provided by the Government.

Two amendments were moved on Thursday to amend the inclusion of the Advisory Council in the Bill, one by David Davis (Liberal, MLC for Southern Metropolitan region) and the second by Aiv Puglielli, (Greens, MLC for North-East Metropolitan region).  These were defeated. 

The final amendment by David Davis to omit the words “to abolish the Public Records Advisory Council” was passed.

It appears the Victorian Government has recognised the need for broader consultation on any changes to the Advisory Council or to the Victorian Public Records Office as a whole. 

We think that the public records office ought to be given statutory authority, which it presently does not have, so that it is separated from political influence in its work of choosing what records concerning government decision-making should be kept and what discarded. 

It is vital that Victoria is protected by a government integrity system in which each integrity body can be supported by the work of the other agencies and can work together as a whole.

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