Red tape cut for Queensland statutory bodies as digital publication replaces print in some cases

By Jamie Doran, Sam Weston and Tim Gordon
14 Jun 2021
Amendments to Queensland's Financial Accountability Act 2009 have changed the obligations of certain entities to publish information in print. To reduce costs and red tape, in certain cases information that was previously required to be published in print must generally now be published online.

The Debt Reduction and Savings Act 2021, assented to on 2 June 2021, has introduced a raft of changes designed to reduce government costs, cut red tape, and support the State's contribution to the Queensland Future (Debt Retirement) Fund. 

Requirement to publish information online: what's changing

A key change created by the Act is the introduction of a new Part 5A within the Financial Accountability Act 2009 (FAA) with effect from 2 June 2021. 

This Part is intended to modernise the obligations of certain State entities to publish information to require publication online instead of in print except in particular circumstances.  Its provisions will apply to existing requirements under a State law or policy to publish information, using print publication, to the extent the requirement applies to a Minister, accountable officer, department or statutory body.

Under the new section 88F, a Minister, accountable officer or statutory body must ensure that information which is the subject of a statutory print requirement is not published in print, but is instead published "online" (subject to the exceptions outlined below).

This means that the information must be published through one of the following platforms, as applicable:

  • the department's website;
  • a Queensland government website;
  • in the electronic version of a newspaper; or
  • another website, if the Minister, accountable officer or statutory body considers it appropriate.

These amendments are now in force.  We therefore recommend that all agencies caught by the amendments should take stock of their publication practices and make changes as soon as is reasonably practicable.

That said, the effect of the new section 88G is that non-compliance with the new provisions does not affect the validity of any published notice, instrument or other document.

What isn't changing for Queensland statutory bodies

Importantly, the following kinds of print publication or advertising requirements are excluded from the changes:

  • publication in the government gazette;
  • a requirement of general application, that is, a print requirement that applies to entities other than government entities;
  • a requirement imposed under a national scheme law, that is, a State law that is substantially uniform with or corresponds to a law of the Commonwealth or another State; and
  • tabling documents in the Legislative Assembly.

The Act also contains a series of key exemptions from the requirement for online publication, including where:

  • the print publication is to occur in a regional newspaper (being a newspaper circulating in a regional area of the State, that is not a state-wide or national newspaper. Generally speaking, a regional area means areas outside Greater Brisbane, Ipswich, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast;
  • the purpose of the print publication includes information about, or prevents or lessens, a serious risk to life, health or safety;
  • the print publication is required to be displayed at a particular place, or sent to a person; and
  • the print publication relates to the courts or tribunals, the Public Trustee dealing with unclaimed estates, or public housing developments under the Planning Act 2016.

The statutory bodies affected by the changes

The changes apply to any person or entity who is already a "statutory body" as that term is defined in section 9 of the FAA. Therefore, they will not apply to excluded entities such as, for instance, local governments.

However, the changes extend in their application to also include government owned corporations (and their subsidiaries) and to exclude some statutory bodies such as universities, the Queensland Law Society, and bodies like Urban Utilities and Unitywater.

What you need to do

Queensland departments, accountable officers and statutory bodies subject to the amendments should consider how their publication processes may need to be changed to facilitate online publishing, and whether any exemptions might apply. This will likely involve a stocktake of all of the entity's publication requirements, and comparing each of those against the changes and exemptions.

As the changes are now in force, we recommend that all agencies caught by the amendments should take stock of their publication practices and make changes as soon as is reasonably practicable.

Again, it is important to note that non-compliance with the new provisions does not however affect the validity of any published notice, instrument or other document.

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Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.