Barry Jones

The Honourable Barry Jones AO

  • Redmond Barry Award

The Honourable Barry Owen Jones, AO, has long been a champion of libraries and of the central role they play in a democratic society. His persistence in arguing their importance for all Australians, from his position as one of Australia's most admired politicians and public figures, has been very much to the benefit of the objects of the Australian Library and Information  Association.

Barry Jones was a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly from 1972 to  1977, when he was elected to the Commonwealth Parliament. He has now represented the seat of Lalor in the House of Representatives for nearly two decades. Throughout those years he has been a persistent advocate for a National Information Policy for Australia, including effective strategic development of the nation's library system. He   was personally responsible for the landmark decision by the Australian Labor Party at its 1982 Conference, the first of its kind by any political party in Australia, to adopt a National Information Policy statement in the science and technology section of its platform and a statement on library services in the education section. The wording of these statements closely related to key policy statements of the then Library Association of Australia.

Barry Jones was appointed Minister for Science, with a key responsibility for information matters, in the Labor Government following the 1983 election. He held that office until he left the Ministry after the 1990 election. A central issue throughout his years in office was the pursuit of a National Information Policy. The Minister and his Department published issues papers and promoted policy workshops and widespread public consultation on what a Policy should embrace. The campaign for a National Information Policy eventually failed, for reasons which still largely await the verdict of history.  But the importance Barry Jones placed on the issue, his very active public campaign involving the library profession, and the increased consciousness of information policy matters which it promoted, was very much to the benefit of all Australians  and our   profession.

Barry continued his interest and involvement in information policy matters following appointment as Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee for Long Term Strategies in May 1990. This Committee had a broad brief to inquire into "matters, whether economic, social, cultural or structural, relating to the strength and well-being of Australia and its ability to contribute to the resolution of international problems."  The Committee identified the concept of Australia as an information society and, within that broad  context, the provision  of library  and other information  services throughout the community,  as one of the first issues to be investigated.  Under Barry Jones'  leadership, the Committee held energetic and wide ranging public consultations and in 1991  published its first report titled Australia as an Information Society: Grasping new paradigms which contained major recommendations on issues relating to Australia as an information society, a policy framework for information issues and the elements for a possible information policy. The second report of September 1991 titled Australia as an Information  Society: the role of library/information  networks  was written within the context of renewed debate over the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries of 1975, and among other issues again explored the Commonwealth Government's role in the provision  of public library services.

Both reports provoked further widespread community debate on the importance of information and libraries to Australia. They were the focus for much of the renewed thrust of ALIA and other bodies in recent years to influence Government policies in the library and information area.

During his term in the Victorian Legislative, Barry Jones was a member of the Standing Committee for the Parliamentary Library. More recently, he has been an active member of the Library Committee of the Commonwealth Parliament. He has also given considerable service to the State Library of Victoria.

Mr Jones has an impressive record of publications, most of which are highly relevant to the ambitions and philosophical interests of this Association and to the library and information profession.  His most important and best known work is undoubtedly Sleepers, wake!: technology  and the future of work, first published in  1982 and now  in its fourth edition. A voracious reader, Mr Jones relishes the opportunity to patronise libraries and is often observed browsing through the collections of the Commonwealth and Victorian Parliamentary Libraries.

Barry Jones for over three decades has been one of the best known public figures in Australia, and a strong and passionate participant in the national intellectual debate.  Throughout those years he has sustained a deep interest in libraries and has vigorously argued for information policy developments of major importance to the Association and the Australian library and information sector. He has used opportunities afforded him, including as a parliamentarian, Minister, politician, ALP President and UNESCO Board member, to espouse the right of public access to information, the need to take advantage of information technology, the role of government in shaping and funding a national information policy and infrastructure, and the important role that libraries play in contemporary society for the dissemination of ideas and learning.

Barry Jones is a most worthy recipient of the Redmond Barry Award of the Australian Library and Information Association.