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Public Service (Parliamentary Departments) Amendment Bill 1993
House: House of Representatives
Portfolio: The Parliament
Commencement: 1 July 1994
To provide for the amalgamation of the Department of the Parliamentary Library (DPL) and the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff (DPRS) to create the Department of Parliamentary Library and Reporting Services ("the new Department").
The five parliamentary departments came into existence in 1901. Each department is established under the Public Service Act 1922, and an amalgamation of departments cannot be achieved administratively, legislation is required.
The present proposal will see the merging of two of the five parliamentary departments; the DPL with a present staff of 213 and the DPRS with 343 staff (of whom 91 are casual employees).
The Bill is the latest in a series of proposals to streamline the administration of provision of services to the Parliament. As discussed in the Report of the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on the Proposed Creation of a Department of Parliamentary Information and Reporting Services ("the Nugent Committee Report"), 1 such proposals have gained added impetus in more recent times from a combination of factors including:
* the need to address identified deficiencies in aspects of the administration of some Parliamentary Departments;
* the move to the New Parliament House;
* the desire to adopt modern management practices now followed in both the Australian Public Service (APS) and in the wider business community;
* an ongoing requirement, against a background of public sector restraint, to promote the efficient use of scarce resources available for furthering the work of Members and Senators; and
* the demands placed on parliamentarians, their staff and on parliamentary officers by advances in information technology and the proliferation of forms of information service delivery.
The Nugent Committee's Report, recounts the history of earlier attempts to address relevant administrative and structural concerns. Of these, perhaps the most significant in recent times was the Public Service (Parliamentary Departments) Bill 1988 introduced by Speaker Joan Child. That Bill proposed the reduction in the number of parliamentary departments from five to three by merging the DPL, DPRS and the Joint House Department (JHD). This legislation was passed by the House of Representatives and introduced into the Senate, but lapsed without being debated before the end of the Thirty-fifth Parliament.
An impetus for the present Bill was a proposal put to the Presiding Officers on 11 August 1992 by the Secretary of DPRS, Mr John Templeton, relating to " the more effective coordination and management of 'information services' provided to Members and Senators . . .". 2
In September 1992, the Presiding Officers established an Advisory Committee of Senators and Members to report to them on a proposal to replace the DPL and the DPRS with a Department of Parliamentary Information and Reporting Services.
The inquiry was chaired by Peter Nugent MP with Senator John Coates, Senator Mal Colston, Senator Margaret Reid, Senator Karin Sowada, Senator Baden Teague, Michael Lee MP, the Hon Gordon Scholes MP and Warren Truss MP serving on the Committee.
Terms of reference of the Advisory Committee were as follows:
* Examine the proposal put to the Presiding Officers on 11 August 1992 to create a single Department of Parliamentary Information and Reporting Services by combining the functions of the Department of the Parliamentary Library and the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff;
* Assess, in the light of comments and submissions received from Senators, Members, staff of parliamentary or executive departments, staff associations and other interested groups or agencies, the impact of the change on the provision to the Parliament of services currently provided by the two departments and the implications for future developments in Senators' and Members' information requirements; and
* Report back to the Presiding Officers as soon as practicable, consistent with effective examination of the proposal.
The Advisory Committee received 24 submissions and conducted three private meetings and four sets of hearings between October 1992 and January 1993. These hearings were held in private. The Advisory Committee also considered that the transcript of hearings made by Hansard was a working document for use by its members alone and should not be published. Accordingly, transcript of proceedings is not available from the DPL or DPRS.
The Committee's report was presented to the Presiding Officers on 26 March 1993, including a dissenting report by three members of the Committee (Senators Reid, Sowada and Teague).
The view of the majority of the Committee was that the amalgamation should proceed. That view was accepted by the Presiding Officers and is reflected in the present Bill.
The majority report recommended:
1 That a new parliamentary department be created to replace the Department of the Parliamentary Library and the Department of the Parliamentary Reporting Staff.
2 That a consultative group comprising representatives of management and staff of both departments be established for a specified period to assist with the implementation of Recommendation 1.
3 That the Presiding Officers seek the firm agreement of the Minister for Finance that once the running costs bases for DPRS and DPL are settled, the total appropriations for the two departments will be maintained in real terms.
4 That the title of the proposed department be the Department of Parliamentary Library and Reporting Services.
5 That the Parliamentary Librarian and the Chief Hansard Reporter have the right of direct access to the Presiding Officers and be entitled to provide advice on matters within their responsibilities.
6 That the Parliamentary Librarian be Secretary to the Library Committee or any equivalent body of Members and Senators.
7 That the positions of Parliamentary Librarian and Chief Hansard Reporter be statutory offices created under the Public Service Act 1922.
8 That the Presiding Officers advertise the positions of head of the new department, Parliamentary Librarian and Chief Hansard Reporter.
9 That the Library Committee be consulted on the appointment of any selection panels for the positions of the head of the new department and the Parliamentary Librarian.
10 That a report from the Parliamentary Librarian in respect of his or her responsibilities be included in the annual report of the department.
11 That the committee's report be tabled in both Houses of Parliament.
The Bill and the assurances contained in Mr Speaker's Second Reading Speech, 3 faithfully reflect the tenor and recommendations of the majority report.
It may also be noted that, in line with Recommendation 3, an assurance was sought from the Minister for Finance in relation to securing the maintenance of the running cost base. On 21 December 1993, the then Minister for Finance, the Hon Ralph Willis, wrote to the Presiding Officers giving the assurance sought.
As is clear from Mr Speaker's Second Reading Speech, the main weight of the changes will fall on the respective corporate services areas of the amalgamating departments. (No positions in the client service areas of the new department are to be affected and it is intended that the rationalisation of staffing in the corporate areas will release resources for areas directly servicing the parliamentary interests of Members and Senators.) 4
Based on the then current distribution of functions within each department, The Nugent Committee advised that a target for the number of corporate staff in the amalgamated department be set at 54, reflecting a reduction of 13 from the total number employed in the two existing departments at the time. 5
Since the Report was produced, the number of corporate staff in DPL has increased from 37 to 44 with numbers rising from 30 to 36 in DPRS. These figures, however, overstate the actual increase in resources being devoted to management functions. The total net increase in positions represents closer to 3 or 4 staff years. The raw figures are misleading as they include staff movements into corporate management areas associated with the re-location of existing management functions and also include the conversion of several contract positions to permanent offices. The latter change resulting in a significant financial saving.
To facilitate and to protect the interests of current staff, the Presiding Officers have guaranteed that savings will only occur as a result of natural attrition in staff numbers. As observed by Mr Speaker, "[n]o present staff will lose their jobs, but as individuals are promoted, transferred , retire or resign, the positions vacated will be reviewed, and, where appropriate, not filled." 6
In contrast to the Bill and the majority report, the three dissenting members of the Committee urged the retention of two separate departments. Their report, incorporating by reference a submission to the Committee prepared on behalf of the Department of the Senate by the Clerk, argued that the 11 August 1992 proposal presented to the Presiding Officers:
* would compromise the independence of the Parliamentary Library;
* did not enjoy widespread support with there being a degree of opposition to the proposal in the Library;
* overestimated projected net savings from the amalgamation;
* did not recognise that the goals of increased efficiency and enhanced service delivery can be met by means other than through a departmental amalgamation; and
* placed an additional layer of management over staff providing specialised services, thereby creating a situation where that layer, in order to justify its existence, will interfere unnecessarily in the provision of professional services to Members and Senators.
The Presiding Officers have not responded directly in detail to these criticisms, but the Bill and the Second Reading Speech do address some of the concerns raised. Mr Speaker, has also observed:
The minority report also recommended that the majority and minority reports be tabled and debated before the President and I make any response to the report and the dissenting report. The first part of the recommendation has been complied with.
The President and I have considered the second part of the recommendation and have come to the conclusion that debate on the legislation currently before the House will provide Senators and Members with considerable opportunity to make their views known, particularly since they have had the opportunity to put their views to the committee. 7
Mr Speaker, in responding to the Report generally, has also stated his and the then President's commitment to the Library maintaining its role as a provider of independent information, research and advice to all Members and Senators. 8
Clause 2 provides that the Act is to commence on 1 July 1994.
Clause 3 will amend section 9 of the Public Service Act 1922 (the Principal Act) to reflect the abolition of the DPL and DPRS and the creation of the new Department, the Department of Parliamentary Library and Reporting Services. The Secretary of the combined departments is to be appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Presiding Officers.
Apart from consequent name changes, existing administrative arrangements remain. For example, appointment to all other offices in the combined Department are to made jointly by the Presiding Officers and not by the Secretary of the Department or the relevant delegate, as is the case in the executive departments of the Australian Public Service.
Clause 4 will amend section 9A of the Principal Act to create two statutory offices, the Parliamentary Librarian and the Chief Hansard Reporter, whilst conferring general power on the Presiding Officers to create, abolish and reclassify offices in the Parliamentary Departments. This power does not extend, however, to allowing the President and the Speaker to alter the designation of the Parliamentary Librarian or the Chief Hansard Reporter [proposed section 9A(6A)]. The amendment does not appear to require, however, that either of these two offices be occupied.
Clauses 5 provides for acting arrangements flowing from the creation of the position of Secretary of the combined department. Replicating the current provisions, the amendment allows for the Presiding Officers to appoint a person to act as Secretary during times when the office is temporarily vacant or the office holder is unable to fulfil their normal duties.
Clauses 6 and 7 deal with the mechanism for the tabling of an annual report of the new department.
Clause 8 will amend section 50J of the Principal Act and maintains current arrangements for the transfer of officers within the APS. The change is merely formal in nature.
Clause 9 and 10 amend schedules to the Principal Act listing departments and departmental secretaries. These are also formal provisions reflecting the changes in name of the department and the creation of the position of Departmental Secretary.
Clause 11 is a transitional provision formally transferring all officers of the current departments to the new department without loss of entitlements.
Clause 12 makes consequential amendments to a number of other Acts reflecting the abolition of the DPRS and DPL and the creation of the new Department of Parliamentary Library and Reporting Services.
Clause 13 binds the new Department to all existing awards and industrial agreements to the extent that they currently bind the DPRS and DPL.
Members of the Parliamentary Research Service, including the author of this Digest, are affected by the proposals contained in this Bill. They may have, or be perceived to have, a direct interest in the outcome of Parliament's deliberations on the legislation.
Questions concerning the policy underlying the legislation should not be directed to the Bills Digest Service. They may, however, be referred to the offices of either Presiding Officer or to the Office of the Acting Parliamentary Librarian/Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr John Templeton (x7102/x2860).
1. Tabled 27 May 1993.
2. See Appendix 6 to the Report of the Advisory Committee on the Proposed Creation of a Department of Parliamentary Information and Reporting Services, 26 March 1993.
3. House of Representatives, Parliamentary Debates (Hansard), 24 November 1993.
4. ibid, p 3507, column 2
5. op cit, pp 41-43
6. op cit, p 3507, column 2
7. ibid, p 3510, column 1
8. ibid, p 3509, columns 1 and 2
Bob Bennett (Ph. 06 2772430)
Bills Digest Service 3 February 1994
Parliamentary Research Service
This Digest does not have any official legal status. Other sources should be consulted to determine the subsequent official status of the Bill.
Commonwealth of Australia 1994.
Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Parliamentary Library, other than by Members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.
Published by the Department of the Parliamentary Library, 1994.