- Parliamentary Business
- Senators & Members
- News & Events
- About Parliament
- Visit Parliament
FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
DEPARTMENT OF THE SENATE
- Committee Name
FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
DEPARTMENT OF THE SENATE
Senator ROBERT RAY
Mr Vander Wyk
- Sub program
- System Id
Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Table Of ContentsPrevious Fragment Next Fragment
FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(SENATE-Monday, 2 June 1997)
- Start of Business
DEPARTMENT OF THE SENATE
Senator ROBERT RAY
Mr Vander Wyk
- Program 1--Clerk's Office
- Program 2--Table Office
- Program 3--Procedure Office
- Program 4--Committee Office
- Program 5--Corporate Management Office
- Program 6--Black Rod's Office
- DEPARTMENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY
- DEPARTMENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY REPORTING STAFF
DEPARTMENT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET
- Program 4--Governor-General
Program 1--Departmental Policy Coordination
Senator ROBERT RAY
- Subprogram 1.1--Economic and Industry Policy
- Subprogram 1.2--Social policy
- Subprogram 1.2--Social Policy
- Mr Bonsey
- Program 7--Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs
Content WindowFINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 02/06/1997 - DEPARTMENT OF THE SENATE
CHAIRMAN --I welcome the President of the Senate, Senator Reid, and officers from the Department of the Senate. Are there any questions on program 1?
Senator ROBERT RAY --My first question is one that goes across the Senate portfolio but tends also across the other parliamentary departments under your control, Madam President, and that is the question of asset replacement. Would you like to give us a summary of where we are up to with that, and what the future holds in terms of the budget over the next three or four years regarding those assets that need to be replaced?
The PRESIDENT --Nothing has been resolved at the present time. It is partly to do with re-examining the budget in the light of any amalgamation or joining of departments which may take place. The proposals we put in this year for asset replacement I think were all refused or declined.
Mr Evans --Security assets.
The PRESIDENT --Security assets, in particular. The money for security that has come in is transferred from Joint House Department surpluses. Other things that we applied for have not been approved in this year, and I think it is a matter of continuing to raise it. The discussions that we have had with the Minister for Finance indicate an awareness of the need for asset replacement and a proper proposal or plan for doing it, but certainly there is nothing in place at the present time.
Senator ROBERT RAY --You might have a clearer idea at the additional estimates round; the question of amalgamation may have been resolved by then.
The PRESIDENT --I hope so because it is one of the key aspects that needs a solution. You cannot have a building like this without the building being properly maintained and the assets within it being properly maintained. At the present time, that has not been put in place--and it has not been, I think, for the last few years.
Senator ROBERT RAY --But the progress that is currently being made on this aspect basically has been done by moving money out of, I think, basically, Joint House Department across to the two chamber departments.
The PRESIDENT --That is correct.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Doesn't this mean that you are moving a little closer to a joint cabinet submission over the five departments?
The PRESIDENT --No, I do not think you can go that far yet.
Senator ROBERT RAY --You do not think we should?
The PRESIDENT --I am not convinced that we should. There may be a case for it, but I do not think we are at that point. My concern, in the end, is to make sure that we do not put in place strategies, mechanisms, or whatever they might be called, which reduce the status of the parliament and increase the power of the executive.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Yes, I understand that. But premise it on this basis: if the Speaker and President could agree on a joint parliamentary submission, doesn't it give you more flexibility, as this example has shown--that you can move money out of one department to make up the shortfall in another?
The PRESIDENT --I think that is probably right. But it also has to have within it mechanisms so that one department, one chamber department, does not dominate the other; that they are both protected and have equal status.
It is not just a question of personalities of presiding officers, and things like that, as to what is achieved. The Speaker and I get on very well at the present time, and I do not see any difficulties with the current Speaker and the current President working these things out. I think you have to recognise that into the future there may be occasions when presiding officers are different personalities and will see things differently. It is my responsibility to see that whatever we put in place protects the Senate into the future in times when things may be different.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Yes, I follow.
Senator COONEY --I do not know where the appropriate place to ask this question is but it appears there has been discussion of amalgamating the five departments into two to make things more efficient. An efficiency dividend is being looked for. On page 13 it talks about an efficiency dividend minus three, whatever that might mean. That is a build-up to my question. I think the Senate is an excellent department--a happy department. There are some very good people and I do not know where you get better service than in the Senate. It seems that there may be some downsizing, if that is the word you use now. I am a bit concerned that there may be restructuring of the Senate and as a result of that people who now hold jobs may no longer hold them. Is that a possibility?
Mr Evans --If you look at these estimates you would think the Senate department looks fairly healthy but, as we have just been discussing, there is a large transfer of funds from the Joint House Department to fund particularly the asset replacement program, security, the Internet connection and so on. That apparent healthiness is being achieved by shifting money around. The department will have to continue to be very frugal with all resources, including staff resources. That will continue for the foreseeable future.
Senator COONEY --There is a biblical statement about wars and rumours of wars--we hear about restructuring and rumours of restructuring. For example, is there a move to have Senate transport rejigged?
Mr Evans --There is a proposal by the government to contract out the making of all transport arrangements for members and senators. That could result in the transport office not continuing to exist in the way it does at the moment simply because the work that they do at the moment may theoretically be taken over by that contracting arrangement. We are not entirely sure what the effect of that will be at the moment.
Senator COONEY --I think there was some discussion--I have not read it myself--in the Financial Review. Whether it is so or not, for anybody who has given us excellent service over the years, which the Department of Senate has, is there some care being taken as to their sensibilities, if you like? Anybody would be a bit worried if changes were made that affected people and those people were not kept abreast of it.
Mr Evans --That particular operation has been a bit out of our hands. The contracting arrangement is being undertaken by the government. We have been consulted about it as it has gone along, but we have basically no control over whether it will happen or when it will happen or what the content of it will be. The question we are looking at now is: is this arrangement going to deliver the same level of service to senators? We have some doubts about whether the same level of service will be delivered by this contracting arrangement.
What we are looking at is: do we need to maintain a transport office in order to ensure the level of service is maintained--in other words, to top up the services that will be provided by the contractor--or do we accept that the transport business has been subsumed into this contracting arrangement and not have a transport office? That is what we are looking at the moment. That is basically the sort of decision we will have to make. We are still not entirely sure what level of service this arrangement will deliver.
When you say looking after the sensitivities of the staff concerned, I think I was saying to another committee the other day that if we go into contracting out we will be very deliberate about the process, but this process has basically not been under our control and may not have been as deliberately handled as it may otherwise have been.
Senator COONEY --I understand. The proposition I am putting is this. When you come from Melbourne, beautiful city as it is, to Canberra, which is also a beautiful city, and you walk into the Senate, you are welcomed by all--Mr Nankervis gives you a smile, Mr O'Keefe, Mr Evans and everybody else; it is a very pleasant place to come to. It would be a shame if the atmosphere was soured by people being put in a position where they are uncertain about their future or they thought they were not being treated well and kept abreast of things as they should be. I was wondering whether you had any comments to make about the fact that the happiness of the Senate might be endangered if proper approaches are not taken in dealing with these new arrangements.
Mr Evans --That is always a point that is made about so-called outsourcing, contracting things out--that at the end of the day you find the same level of service is not delivered; you have really disguised a lowering of the level of service by the new arrangement. But as I said the other day, if the department itself gets into the business of contracting out we will be very deliberate about it and certainly try to ensure that the level of service is not lowered. But then there would be some people who would no doubt tell you that the level of service is probably too high anyway.
Senator COONEY --On that point, you say that the Senate itself has not got a great deal of control of whether anything is outsourced or not--that that is decided by others?
Mr Evans --Not in that area of transport, because the Senate department was never solely responsible for arranging senators' transport, as you know. So in that area we have not got control of it, but in other areas of departmental operations if there is any suggestion of contracting out we would have a greater degree of control over both the process and the result.
Senator COONEY --Have the people in the transport office itself been kept in touch with the changes, if there are any, that are mooted?
Mr Evans --As much as we possibly can. I think one of the problems with it was that, as I said, when we were being consulted at one stage we were given some information that was supposedly a state secret and commercial-in-confidence and all that sort of stuff and we probably were not able to keep the staff as informed as we would like to have.
The PRESIDENT --There may be matters you would want to ask of the Department of Administrative Services, Senator.
Senator COONEY --Leaving aside the parts that the Senate has not got control of and looking at those parts that it has, is the department looking after the staff in the Senate? I hope you are not going to suddenly outsource the Director of Finance's position or that of the Clerk Assistant (Corporate Management)?
Mr Evans --That would be an area where the economic rationalisers--if I can use that term--would say that you probably could outsource all that, all that could be contracted out. But in the document concerning amalgamation of departments we made the point that it is very important for the Senate to have its own source of advice about its own finances and staffing. By having that area either handled entirely by a larger joint department or by contracting it out you would lose that dedicated source of advice and information. That is an example of where we have to be very careful about so-called outsourcing.
Senator COONEY --Senators may have to walk around the Senate with placards saying, `No outsourcing. Keep our good people.'
Mr Evans --I hope that senators would have a more direct influence than that via the Appropriations and Staffing Committee.
Senator COONEY --I noticed in there that there is a suggestion that we are going to go into contracting rather than relying on the old award system--that there are going to be workplace agreements, in effect. I think there is a point to be made about the ability to go into such agreements where wages may depend more or less--depending upon what is agreed--upon the resources available. Would there be enough money in the Senate to make fair workplace agreements, given the level of skill that is there?
Mr Evans --I mentioned at the last meeting of this committee, I think, that that is a very significant problem for a small, specialised agency whose main resource is the skills of the staff. It is going to be a very difficult problem to find savings from rationalisations to pay salary increases, if that is what the system amounts to. I think I said to you last time, Senator, that I hope you will not ask me for what my solution is to that problem, because I do not have one at the moment.
Senator COONEY --But those two pressures are there: on one side, the pressure to have the individual agreements made and, on the other side, the pressure of not having sufficient resources?
Mr Evans --Yes, it will be a significant difficulty for the future.
Senator ROBERT RAY --I am only asking the first question. I have just got so much knowledge in this area of the Internet that I am going to hand it over to Senator Lundy, who has less knowledge but can get a better grasp. Can you tell us how we are going on Internet?
Mr Evans --Part of the money that has been transferred to our budget from the Joint House Department is for the new policy proposal to give senators desktop access to the Internet. And with that money, some $140,000, we hope we will be able to do that.
Senator LUNDY --Mr Evans, perhaps in taking up Senator Ray's invitation, I could ask you to explain what proportion of that money is actually for connection costs and how that money will be spent.
Mr Evans --I would ask my colleagues if they can give us some clue on that.
Mr Alison --The answer to Senator Lundy's question is that we share with the other departments the total cost of the connection, which will be $50,000.
Senator LUNDY --What sort of support services will be accompanying that connection?
Mr Alison --There is provision for funding for a parliamentary officer class 4, who will oversee the connection, the administration of accounts--as we call them--and some technical assistance to senators.
Senator LUNDY --With respect to actually getting Senate material up on the Internet and therefore creating a very useful resource, what sort of allocation is the Senate making with respect to getting Senate publications and so forth up on the Internet--publishing it on the Internet?
Mr Alison --Are you talking about publications of the Department of the Senate?
Senator LUNDY --In terms of committee reports, at the moment I understand that a lot of that work is actually done through PISO as opposed to the Department of the Senate specifically. How will this additional allocation assist in the publication of that material? Is there any recognition of the fact that that work is done by PISO and will this additional funding mean that the Senate can actually assist in doing some of those things?
Mr Alison --I think that Senator Lundy may be under some misapprehension. I am not aware that PISO has much to do with our publication of committee reports. We have two Senate staff who assist in the publication of committee reports. We would intend that that should continue. At the same time, it is our intention that more and more any of us who have any keyboard skills whatsoever would be able to prepare documents for publication on the Internet or electronic publication in any form.
Senator LUNDY --I guess that is the point I am getting to. My understanding is that, at the moment, there is not an allocation for the publishing of materials on the Internet within the Department of the Senate. What I am trying to explore is: does this additional funding provide for that specific task?
Mr Alison --The short answer probably is that there is very limited resource for publishing on the Internet. The demand in the future, particularly from senators, I would imagine, will increase significantly. At the moment, we would have few funds to assist in that.
Senator LUNDY --The other issue with respect to getting senators and members on line is security. Can you tell the committee what proportion of those funds will go to security and what is being assessed as to the security of the connection and also the management of the transfer of, for example, Internet e-mail?
Mr Alison --I am probably not the best person to ask about that. PISO will follow us shortly. It may be better to address that question to PISO. So far as I am aware, technologically the best security arrangements that are available for the network will be applied to the Internet connection.
Senator LUNDY --Can you give the committee any indication as to the timing for connection?
Mr Alison --It is my understanding that all senators will have desktop access to the Internet in July and August of this year.
Senator HEFFERNAN --I want to go back to Senator Cooney's remarks. Have there been any complaints to the Senate from people who are worried about security late at night, especially from women senators?
Mr Alison --I am not aware of anything recently.
Senator HEFFERNAN --I have had conversations with people especially in some other capital cities where late night and early morning pick-ups have been by privateers, shall I say, whose language has put off a few of the senators--for example, `Hop in the front, love,' and that sort of talk. None of that has been brought to your attention?
Mr Alison --No.
Senator COONEY --I notice on page 54 of the portfolio budget statements that there is some suggestion that the Protective Service officers may go from the ministerial wing because they provide contestable services at Parliament House. Is there a move to get private security companies in?
Mr Evans --This subprogram is our contribution to paying the APS for the security services the APS provides to this building. If there were any decision by government to contract out the services currently provided by APS that would be another one of those areas where we would not really have control of it. All this is is money that we provide and the House of Representatives provide to pay APS for the security services they provide, principally in the ministerial wing.
Senator COONEY --Is that a decision that is made by the Department of Administrative Services?
Mr Evans --It is basically a government decision to have APS provide security services for the ministerial wing. To have the APS provide security services at all is basically a decision under the control of government.
Senator COONEY --The only other matter I want to raise relates to the concept of financial in confidence. You were saying before that it is sometimes hard to tell people what might be coming up because there is this issue of financial in confidence. What sort of weight do you give the issue of financial in confidence when you are deciding, for example, whether to tell somebody in Senate transport that the services they are providing will be contracted out? It must be one of several other elements, but what weight do you give to the issue of financial in confidence in making that decision?
Mr Evans --`Very little weight at all' I think is the answer from my point of view. Most claims that information is commercial in confidence are not justified; on investigating them you find that no harm would be done by disclosing the information. But, in the particular case I was talking about, the information was not ours--it was basically being shared with us by somebody else--and we were a bit restrained in what we could pass on to the Transport Office because of that. Subsequently, the information that was supposed to be commercial in confidence appeared to be widely broadcast anyway, as that sort of information often is, and our respect for the confidence was probably not well placed anyway. But we were slightly restrained by that. If it is one of the operations that the Senate department basically has control over, I would not set much weight by claims of commercial confidentiality at all in keeping staff informed.
Senator LUNDY --Going back to the Internet, I would like to follow up a few points. One of the complaints that I have received is that a number of the publications or reports that the Senate produces are put on the Internet in the PDF format, which makes it very difficult for that material to be accessed unless you have the appropriate application to download it. I would like to get some information on what your plans are with respect to rectifying this problem. It goes back to the point I made earlier about allocating some resources to the Internet so that it does start to provide a genuine service to people trying to access information.
Mr Alison --All I can say is that we have sought additional resources for the Internet. Initially they were refused. We have received funding of $144,000 in the next financial year for that purpose. We will make the very best use of that to publish in the most accessible form. At the same time, I think it is true to say that more of us who have keyboard skills will be able to prepare documents in such a way as to be available in a usable form on the Internet.
Senator LUNDY --With respect to the provision of hard copies of reports and Hansard, that seems to be tightening up across the board. Can you, perhaps, take this question on notice and provide the committee with a summary of all the restrictions that have been placed on the distribution of printed material in the last financial year so the committee can get a picture of how those printed resources are shrinking? It may give the committee some indication as to other ways that we can provide the public with information such as that.
Mr Alison --Yes, Mr Chairman.
Mr Evans --We will take that on notice and get a full list. I should say that the restrictions on availability of printed material have nothing to do with the availability of material on the Internet. It is usually a cost saving exercise only. The electronic availability of material is sometimes used as a supporting factor, but the main factor is cost saving on the cost of the printed material, of course.
Senator LUNDY --Yes, I understand that, Mr Evans. My point in asking that question is that because you are looking at cost savings from restricting printed material, then perhaps an allocation towards publication of material on the Internet can provide some great efficiencies while still servicing the public in an effective way and allowing them access to that material. I think to do one without the other leaves a significant gap.
Mr Evans --Yes, the electronic publication of material can partly make up for the lack of availability of the printed material, but only partly, of course.
Senator LUNDY --I have got some general questions also. On page 4 of the PBS the opening paragraph talks about uncertainty ahead for the department with respect to amalgamation plans. Can I ask whether or not the department has actually conducted any research into the restructuring process? For example, have you looked at other examples of where such a process has occurred? If you have, could you table that research and any associated documents?
Mr Evans --The answer to that is no. In fact, one of my complaints in the submission that was provided to the President and later to the Appropriations and Staffing Committee was that there has been very little research done on these restructuring operations to see whether they provide the results that they are supposed to produce.
Senator LUNDY --But you have not conducted any?
Mr Evans --Certainly we have not conducted anything, no.
Senator COONEY --Following on from that, is any cut to the Department of the Senate being done on the basis that there ought to be a cut to afford savings over the overall budget, the result of which has not really been examined or even predicted?
Mr Evans --We know what the result of it is--we know what services have been reduced as a result of it--but basically you are right: the cuts in services have basically been to make savings. They certainly have not been based on any rational overhaul plan. I was asked at the Appropriations and Staffing Committee public hearing the other day whether there had been an overall assessment of the services which ought to be provided to both houses of the parliament and the appropriate way of providing the appropriate resources. My answer was that no such study has been done. The question was: wouldn't it be a good idea to start from there and go forward to see what resources are required? It would be a very good idea, but it certainly has not been done.
Senator COONEY --So you are presented with a budget and they said, `Look, we all know you border on genius. Work out how you can make the saving.'
Mr Evans --Basically, the department comes up with--
Senator COONEY --The Department of the Senate?
Mr Evans --Yes. The Department of the Senate comes up with the budget that the department thinks is necessary to provide the services of the department. That is then looked at by the Appropriations and Staffing Committee. It is then looked at separately by government and it then becomes a matter of negotiation between the committee and government as to what will be provided with--
Senator COONEY --But that process of negotiation is done in terms of money rather than in terms of services.
Mr Evans --Absolutely, yes. Usually you are in a position of government wanting to impose some level of savings. Some negotiation takes place between the committee and the government about that and you have an end result, which, in the last budget, resulted in the Senate department cutting back on some services.
Senator LUNDY --Page 4 of the PBS goes on to talk about the Presiding Officers deciding on the re-allocation of funds from the Joint House Department for new policy proposals. It then goes on to list those proposals. Can you describe the actual process leading up to the ERC application, the rejection of that request and how much was originally requested?
Mr Evans --In relation to the last question, what we have here for these new policy proposals is nearly $1 million, and that was, basically, what was originally asked for. That sum was drawn up by the department as the required amount for those programs in conjunction with other departments determined by the Appropriations and Staffing Committee and went forward as new policy proposals.
The government said, `You're not getting any new policy money.' The Presiding Officers subsequently transferred the same amount of money for the same programs out of the Joint House Department. We now have the amount of money that was originally asked for for those new policy programs, but it has had to come out of another area of the parliamentary budget.
Senator LUNDY --Perhaps we will explore the gap that that left in Joint House when we get to Joint House specifically. Further on that point, in relation to that process of application and rejection--perhaps this question is best put to the President--was the decision to source that funding from Joint House made on the basis that it was the only other source available? Were any other factors taken into consideration in sourcing the money from that particular area?
The PRESIDENT --They had the money available and it was the only option.
Senator LUNDY --You did not have any other choices; it had to come from there. If Joint House had not had that money available, what would have happened?
The PRESIDENT --These proposals would not be going ahead.
Senator LUNDY --Under `Committee funding', the PBS makes mention of the fact that the funding for select committees is now capped. What is going to be the situation if the Senate decides to take select committee activity over the capped amount?
Mr Evans --We have to find the money to fund that activity from somewhere else in the department--somewhere else in the committee office or somewhere else in the department. But it has not happened on this occasion because the select committee activity determined by the Senate has not been as great as it has been in previous years.
Senator LUNDY --That is all I have in terms of general questions, Mr Chairman.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Madam President, you have issued new regulations on travel allowance and sent us all a copy. I just wanted to raise one of those with you. I did not write back, but there is one--
The PRESIDENT --Many did. I do not think I have actually issued them.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Good. Could I just put forward my opposition to the one that concerns you?
The PRESIDENT --Yes.
Senator ROBERT RAY --I do not believe that, given the high office you hold, you should have to report to anyone on the travel allowance that you claim. I just point to the feature you said earlier on--that is, that you and the Speaker currently get on well, but conditions change. With all due respect that I hold the Clerk in, I do not think the President should have to report to the Clerk on her travel allowance. My view is that you have the same status as that of a minister. I know that as a minister I never would have agreed to report to my departmental secretary on my travel allowance claims. I ask you to respond on that one point either now or later. That is the only point I disagreed with.
The PRESIDENT --A number of people have raised that with me and said that they think it is quite inappropriate. The other thing that has been raised is in relation to those stopping en route to Canberra. In relation to the proposal for hotel accounts, which frequently disclose a lot of other information, it has been suggested that boarding passes which indicate, on the face of it, that there would be no choice but to stay in either Melbourne or Sydney, or, on occasions, Brisbane, on the way to Canberra would be appropriate. I am changing the draft that went out to include that, because it is probably a better option anyway because it gives information on the face of it.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Yes.
The PRESIDENT --A number of senators did respond both in relation to the President and in relation to the means of establishing the need to stay in a city en route to Canberra. I am re-drafting it from that point of view.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Great.
Mr Evans --Perhaps I could add that the department was conscious that having to have the President notify the clerk looks a bit funny. But we were trying to devise some method whereby there would be some notification for everybody, although we were conscious that it is a bit odd.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Couldn't you get the President to declare that to the Deputy President and vice versa? I mean, whatever, but I do not think an appointed official is the one in the case of the President.
Mr Evans --I suppose that is a possible solution, Mr Chairman, yes.
Senator ROBERT RAY --How are we going on putting in place a declaration of senior officials' travelling expenses? We mentioned that at the last meeting because of the issue of transparency and there seemed to be an enthusiasm to get this in place.
Mr Evans --I would assume that at the last meeting I said that information is public in one place or another, but we would bring together a statement of it so that it would be available in one place.
Senator FAULKNER --What place is it currently public in?
Mr Evans --If you looked through the annual report alone, probably you could put it together, but you would have to put it together from the available information. What I undertook to do was that we would put somewhere a full statement of it.
Senator ROBERT RAY --In a similar way that you put down the senators' statement, that is: the nights claimed, the location, the purpose and the amount? That is not available.
Senator FAULKNER --That is not in the annual report.
Senator ROBERT RAY --That is not in the annual report or anywhere else.
Mr Evans --No, probably not to that level of detail. But we will certainly get a statement to that level of detail, put it somewhere and table it, as Senator Ray suggests.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Madam President, what is the revised estimate for the deputy president's staff position?
The PRESIDENT --A total of $0.108 million. I am getting the breakdown of the figure.
Senator ROBERT RAY --That consists of a back payment of $33,000 for the current financial year. Is that right?
Mr Evans --Perhaps Mr O'Keefe can give you a breakdown of that figure.
Mr O'Keeffe --The president is right in the sense that the original budget for the deputy president's staffer came to $108,000. As a result of some changes we expect that the current staffer of the current deputy president will cost the department just over $56,000. I say `just over' because we have an uncertain quantity of travelling allowance to add to that anticipated figure. We understand the staffer will be a Canberra-based person and we are not expecting that the travel allowance will be significant.
Senator ROBERT RAY --That implies at least a $19,000 saving. My understanding also is that staffer is not expected to travel much. If the person is Canberra based, in fact, the figure would be far less than $56,000, wouldn't it?
Mr O'Keeffe --The calculation is based on a salary figure of just over $37,000, a ministerial staff allowance of $11,500, a superannuation contribution of $6,000 and an employer productivity superannuation contribution of $1,100, which rounded comes to $56,000.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Yes, I understand that, but in the previous calculations you had calculated in, not to the $75,000 and $108,000, a base salary paid by the Senate from somewhere else. These figures do not add up.
Mr O'Keeffe --The previous salary estimate for the previous staffer was $68,000. That is what we would have been paying out. You have to be careful not to be confused by the amount of money we need to budget to pay these things and the amount of money which is actually paid to the staffer.
Senator ROBERT RAY --I think I am ahead of you, not behind you, on this. We are involved in a process of having a salary, then having an additional amount sought, which averages $75,000 a year. That was an additional amount sought which was over and above a basic salary. Its components included an increase in salary, an increase in travel allowance and an increase in travel. There is no point in telling me that this exercise is costing $56,000 out of the $75,000. That is not comparing apples with apples. I am trying to find out what the overall saving was from the additional $75,000 plus the base component--which I assume is about $40,000, which would take it to about $115,000 per annum--and see what the actual saving is, because I wanted to move on as to where we could spend the saving, but I am just not getting close to it.
The PRESIDENT --I understand what you are asking.
Mr O'Keeffe --We can get the saving to be $44,000 in the coming financial year.
Senator ROBERT RAY --I think that was the figure I was looking at: $44,000 from what was estimated on an all-reason balanced view.
Mr O'Keeffe --Yes. That is the difference between what we expect to pay the new staffer and what we would have expected to pay the previous staffer.
Senator ROBERT RAY --So I am right in saying that you had to fund that $44,000 from within existing resources, Madam President? It was not additional money supplemented to the Senate?
Mr Evans --This is one of the new policy proposals for which money has been provided.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Sure, it is a new policy proposal, but it is not a new policy proposal where more cash has been moved into the overall parliamentary departments. It has moved around within departments. In other words, it is already within the parliamentary cache.
Mr Evans --Yes, that is right.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Normally if you got financed for an extra $108,000 by the Department of Finance and you underspent they would expect you to return it. Surely there is a very strong argument here that this has come from within your existing program and that you should have permission, if necessary, to reallocate it.
Mr Evans --Certainly, yes, there is a strong argument for that. There was a strong argument in the first place for additional funds being provided in total for it, of course.
Senator ROBERT RAY --There was a very strong case, wasn't there? This is one of only two MOPS positions not funded by DAS.
Mr Evans --Exactly, yes.
Senator ROBERT RAY --In other words, you got the conditions and everything imposed on you, yet you just have to pay for it--tick the bill?
Mr Evans --Yes, that was the complaint on the last occasion.
Senator ROBERT RAY --We will come back with a shopping list at additional estimates for the $44,000 based on a look at our needs of senators in the next six months. But I will not press you on that other than to say that I would have argued it is really your discretionary money rather than it go back to Finance. I only have a couple of general questions left. How is the biographical dictionary of senators going? It's okay, Senator Cooney, it only goes up to 1946, so it does not concern you. I think it is 1946.
Mr Evans --It is progressing very satisfactorily. We hope to have a volume published going up to 1950, which I think is the cut-off date, next year or early the following year and to have the whole thing published by 2001.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Who does the Parliamentary handbook? Is it still done by the library?
Mr Evans --The Parliamentary Library, yes.
Senator ROBERT RAY --I will wait until they come up then. I have a couple more general questions. I notice that you have been publishing how far answers to questions on notice are behind. How do you think they are getting answers in to questions on notice on the whole? Is it slipping back or is it more efficient?
Mr Evans --I have not got the figures with me. I do not know whether one of my colleagues can help me. We do not have the figures with us.
Senator ROBERT RAY --If you do not have an impression, it does not matter. We will let that one go.
Mr Evans --I notice there have been a few more occasions in recent times of people asking for explanations in the Senate, if that is any indication.
Senator ROBERT RAY --Can I make a comment, Mr Chairman, because I have asked questions before on the clipping service. Now on average the clippings tend to arrive between 9 o'clock and 9.30 a.m., which is a tremendous benefit to senators. It used to be about 11 o'clock. They now seem to have got it back to 9 a.m. or 9.30 a.m. Could you pass on my view--I do not know about my colleagues'--that the clipping service is really going gang busters.
Mr Evans --We have achieved speed. Now what we want to achieve is accuracy.
Senator ROBERT RAY --True.
Senator COONEY --I have some questions I want to ask about the performance forecast for 1997-98 and the discussion there of the passage of the proposed new Public Service act on page 46. Mr Chairman, I was wondering if this is the proper place to look at that. I was going to go ahead and ask what measures you are going to put in place to ensure that people working within the Department of the Senate were properly looked to. Would this be the place to ask that or should I leave it until later?
CHAIRMAN --I wonder, Senator, if perhaps it should be part of program 5--corporate management office. We should not take long to get there anyway.
Senator FAULKNER --I just wanted to ask a question about the survey of senators' satisfaction with services provided by the department. This could be done, I think, at any stage of proceedings. I am just interested in comments made about services provided by the table office on page 20 where it asks for other comments or suggestions. It notes in the document the positive feedback about the cooperative, helpful service and the efficient, friendly staff--comments, I might say, that I would endorse.
It does go on to talk about a couple of problems being identified. One I am interested in, given there was no specific opportunity to draw these out, is the issue of the table office not being accessible at lunch time. I just wondered if there had been any thought given to this because it is an issue that does have quite an impact on senators. I was interested to see it was actually drawn out in the survey of needs.
Mr Evans --That was one of our savings measures of this year.
Senator ROBERT RAY --It cost more than $44,000 to fix.
Mr Evans --I was just about to suggest that perhaps we may be able to review that.
Senator FAULKNER --Historically, was it open at lunch time on both sitting and non-sitting days, Mr Evans?
Mr Evans --I am not sure about that, certainly on sitting days. I will ask Mr Vander Wyk to respond to that.
Mr Vander Wyk --I am not 100 per cent certain either whether it was previously open on non-sitting days. I think it was. To add to the answer that was given previously, we have with some of the savings that have been achieved in the table office this year put on a temporary staff person to reopen the table office at lunch times. We hope to continue that for the rest of the financial year.
Senator FAULKNER --Say that again. I missed what you said.
Mr Vander Wyk --We have put on in the last two weeks a temporary staffer to enable us to reopen the table office at lunch times at least on sitting days. We hope to continue that for the rest of the financial year. At this stage we think we can continue that service into the next financial year.
Senator FAULKNER --My strong view is that a skeleton staff during sitting days would be really helpful to senators. I do not think there is the same requirement in non-sitting days. So if you could take that on board, that would be helpful. If it leaves all of the $44,000 still sitting there for further suggestions, that is even better.
Mr Vander Wyk --We will endeavour to do that, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER --That would be much appreciated.
Mr Evans --We will certainly review it.
CHAIRMAN --Thank you very much. Let us move on to program 1.