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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE A
Program 2-TABLE OFFICE
- Committee Name
ESTIMATES COMMITTEE A
Program 2-TABLE OFFICE
SENATOR PETER BAUME
MR VANDER WYK
- Sub program
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ESTIMATES COMMITTEE A
(SENATE-Tuesday, 11 September 1990)
- Start of Business
SENATOR PETER BAUME
MR VANDER WYK
- Program 1-PRINCIPAL ADVISERS
- Program 2-TABLE OFFICE
- PROGRAM 2-TABLE OFFICE
- Program 3-PROCEDURE OFFICE
- Program 5-MANAGEMENT OFFICE
- Division 106-DEPARTMENT OF THE PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY
- Program 2-RESEARCH SERVICE
Content WindowESTIMATES COMMITTEE A - 11/09/1990 - PARLIAMENT - Program 2-TABLE OFFICE
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I just want to-it is only a very small matter, this one. At page 3 of the report-and I did not raise it under general questions-under the Table Office, the point was made that the duties include providing procedural advice to a number of people and government senators. That is what appears in your explanatory notes at page 3.
MR EVANS -Yes.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -That is not what appears in your annual report; it is a slightly different form of words.
MR EVANS -Yes.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Why is there a different form of words between the annual report and the explanatory notes on this matter?
MR EVANS -Well, the language has not yet been standardised in consequence of the revision of the corporate plan. When that process is complete the language will be standardised.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Well, now, I asked you a question as to which senators the Table Office provides advice to. You said in the answer that it includes both government and nongovernment senators, and your explanatory notes say the Table Office provides advice to government senators. Which is it?
MR EVANS -The primary function of the Clerk-Assistant Table, is to advise Ministers and government senators, particularly on programming matters but, in the course of performing that task that officer obviously speaks to and advises non-government senators as well. The Table Office, of course, provides a documentary service to all senators.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -In terms of procedural advice?
MR EVANS -I am sorry, senator?
SENATOR PETER BAUME -In terms of procedural advice, what is the situation?
MR EVANS -In terms of procedural advice, the ClerkAssistant Table provides advice primarily to Ministers and to government senators, particularly on programming, but in the course of performing that task also advises other senators.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -If I go to the annual report again, to page 25-certain statements are made on that page about the office structures review arising from the second tier arrangement and its incomplete nature. I asked what was the present situation, and the answer I received said that the office structures review report for the Table Office has not yet been ratified by the joint departmental steering committee, because responses are awaited from other officers before formal approval for the plans is sought. Will you please tell us the process which has taken place to date?
MR EVANS -John Vander Wyk will answer that question.
MR VANDER WYK -There have been delays in completing the process in other sections of the Department. All sections of the Department have been asked to complete the process by the end of November this year so that all the results of the reviews can then go to the steering committee for final consideration.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -The answer I received said by the beginning of November, Mr Vander Wyk.
MR VANDER WYK -I am sorry?
SENATOR PETER BAUME - You just said the end of November. Which is it?
MR VANDER WYK -My recollection was the end of November.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Why did the written response say that arrangements are in place for the completion of the review by 2 November?
MR VANDER WYK -I am sorry, my recollection must be wrong. It must be the beginning of November.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Your recollection must be wrong. When did the process begin?
MR VANDER WYK -It began in 1988. I am not sure what month.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Is it complete anywhere else within the Parliament?
MR VANDER WYK -I am not aware of that.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Is it complete anywhere else within the Department of the Senate?
MR VANDER WYK -The Table Office is the only office that has completed its review as an office. The Management Office has partially completed their review in the personnel section, but that is the only one that I am aware of.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -The annual report says:
The report, submitted in November 1989, was, at 30 June 1990, awaiting ratification by the Joint Departmental/Union Steering Committee.
What has happened in that process?
MR NANKERVIS -It is still awaiting ratification. Nothing has happened because we are waiting for the other sections of the Department to complete their reviews so they can all go up to the review steering committee together.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Is this a pro-active Department?
MR NANKERVIS -We are trying to become pro-active.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Does this indicate a pro-active department?
MR NANKERVIS -No.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -It does not, does it? Thank you.
MR EVANS -Perhaps Senator Baume would define what he means by `pro- active'.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I could, but I decline. I am not answering questions. On the same matter-I do not know; I think this is the appropriate place to ask the next question. I asked a question on notice about progress which might have been made by the Table Office with its plans to reduce typesetting by the Government Printing Office in other areas which are set out in the annual report. I asked about the number of efficiencies which would flow from that. Part of the answer says that, as at September 1990, AGPS has not informed the Department of the Senate of what its charges to publish the journals will be. When was AGPS asked for that information?
MR EVANS -I will have to ask Michelle Cornwell, the Clerk-Assistant Table, to respond to that question.
MS CORNWELL -We have asked AGPS on a number of occasions now. I think the last letter was dated July this year.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -When was the first, please?
MS CORNWELL -I would have to check on that and get you that information.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Can you give us any indication when the first approach was?
MS CORNWELL -Oh, I do know it has been going on for a number of months. I really just cannot recall the exact date when the first request was put forward.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -It says in the answer I was given that indications were given by AGPS in December 1989 that certain annual savings could be achieved. Would the request have been as early as that?
MS CORNWELL -It could well have been. I mean, we have been negotiating about electronic transfer of text for some time, and we, at the outset of these discussions, we were looking to get some indication of what sort of savings would be involved. I think all they have been able to tell us at this stage is that 53 per cent of our preparation costs, we are likely to save, but they have not been able to give us anything more concrete than that, and we only received that advice, I think, in the last 10 days.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I did not hear that last sentence.
MS CORNWELL -We only received that advice just recently.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -This is a process which should save money for the Department of the Senate-do I understand that correctly?
MS CORNWELL -Yes.
MR EVANS -Yes.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -The process was begun, perhaps late last year, and it is still incomplete. Within what time frame do you expect it to be concluded?
MR EVANS -I cannot answer that directly. We hope that it will be concluded very soon, but it is a complex question. It involves other departments and other productions, as you probably know. I do not know if Ms Cornwell would put a date on it, but I am not prepared to.
MS CORNWELL -Well, I think at the end of October is a target date that we are looking at to assess how far we have progressed, what other modification needs to be made, but we are really looking for the whole of the Budget session before we will feel confident about being able to say to the Government Printer that we will need limited typesetting facilities from this point onwards.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -On the same matter, I go to page 30 of your annual report . I asked what are the results of the review by AGPS of its charges as set out in the second last paragraph of page 30 and you have given me the following answer-the answer has already been incorporated, but I will read it out again:
The Department of the Senate has still not been informed of the results of the review which AGPS agreed to undertake `to establish whether the costs are fair and reasonable and reflect the actual work involved in organising Parliamentary Papers', despite numerous requests from both the Department of the Senate and the Department of the House of Representatives to do so. The most recent of these requests was made in a letter dated, 2 July 1990, to Mr S . Palywoda, General Manager, Publishing and Printing, AGPS.
Please tell us about that process.
MS CORNWELL -This is-AGPS, in October 1988, brought in a management fee for the production of parliamentary papers and, early this year, we were told that the costs had been quite substantially increased from $110 to $200 for each parliamentary paper, and that is why there has been a substantial increase in the amount of money that we are seeking for parliamentary papers. Now, we asked for a breakdown of those costs and we have been pursuing it both verbally and in written form. We have not, as yet, received any further information from them.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -What is happening? Is AGPS just not responding to your requests for information?
MS CORNWELL -That is correct. They said they had the matter under consideration, but we have not been able to get, as I said, a breakdown of those actual costs.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Could I ask the Clerk: Is failure to respond by AGPS satisfactory?
MR EVANS -No.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -What action should be taken by senior management of the Senate on this matter?
MR EVANS -I suppose we should stir them up. This is a matter of considerable concern to us. We believe that as a consequence of the electronic transfer of text there should be large savings. The failure of AGPS at this stage to identify the savings is a matter of some concern. But, if the electronic transfer of text does not lead to the savings to which we think it ought to lead, we, as clients of the AGPS, will have to consider our position. As I have mentioned at hearings of this Committee before, that is a difficult question but it is one we may have to consider.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -The Clerk says it is a matter of high priority--
MR EVANS -It is a matter of considerable importance and concern to us.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I am trying to use your words. I think that you said ` high priority' a couple of minutes ago.
MR EVANS -I do not think I used the word `priority'.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I apologise if you did not. It was early this year that the charges were increased, if I understood Ms Cornwell correctly.
MS CORNWELL -That is right.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -You are telling us that the AGPS is simply failing to respond to approaches from the parliamentary departments. So we are paying more money than we might have to pay. We are seeking only a review to see whether the charges are fair and proper. Given that you say that it is a matter of some importance, how reasonable is it that we have done nothing about the unanswered letter to the General Manager of Publishing and Printing of AGPS which was sent on 2 July?
MR EVANS -It would be fair to say that AGPS has been made well aware of our concern about this whole question.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -And the outcome of making it aware has been what?
MR EVANS -The question is not yet resolved.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Has there been any response from AGPS?
MR EVANS -Certainly no conclusive response.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -If I am interested in outcomes and results, what should I conclude?
MR EVANS -I think you should conclude that this is a difficult question but one that we intend to pursue.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -When?
MR EVANS -Immediately, senator; on a continuing basis. Mr Chairman, I think I have mentioned at this Committee meeting before when this question of AGPS charges was raised that the difficulty, from our point of view, is to get a printer who will print the journals and the Notice Paper overnight, as the Government Printer does. I said earlier that we would have to consider our position if we do not get the savings out of the electronic transfer of text that we think we ought to get. But there is that difficulty of finding a printer who will produce those documents with the speed that we expect. If we have to face up to that problem in the end, we will. But it is a difficult problem. I would rather, as the solution, that AGPS produce the savings of the order that we think ought to be produced.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -What might they be?
MR EVANS -I am not sure whether we can put a figure on it.
MS CORNWELL -I think that we have identified between probably $60,000 and $80, 000 for the journals--
SENATOR PETER BAUME -That is one Level 4 salary.
MS CORNWELL -At this stage we are not quite as advanced with the Notice Paper. It is a much more complex document to prepare. At this stage we have not been able to put a figure on what sort of saving there is likely to be. We are talking in terms of saving all typesetting. The fact is that this work is now undertaken in the Table Office and all the formatting is undertaken in the Table Office. It has indicated that of our total costs, preparation is 53 per cent of AGPS's costs. So we should be saving that. But we will probably have to offset that against some additional assistance during sessional periods because our officers are now undertaking a fair amount of keyboarding work.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -What timetable should honourable senators interested in this matter look to to see it completed or resolved?
MS CORNWELL -By the end of this year.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -By the end of this year. What action do you intend to take with AGPS to deal with the situation contained in the answer you gave to my question?
MR EVANS -To pursue it, Mr Chairman.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -When?
MR EVANS -Continuously.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Tomorrow perhaps? If it were not a matter of high importance, what time frame would we have set?
MR EVANS -I think I began my answer to these questions by saying it was a matter of great concern to us. At the moment I am not willing to say that we will take the journals and the Notice Paper away from AGPS; that would be a very drastic step. But I expect it to complete this process and to produce the savings that we expect.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Mr Chairman, no-one suggested they should be taken away. What concerns me is that Mr Evans has described a most unsatisfactory interchange with AGPS and it appears that the Senate is being far too passive in the way in which it is dealing with the matter.
MR EVANS -It may be that the Senate Department is being too tolerant.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Whatever it is, it should change.
MR EVANS -I go back to the point that ultimately our bargaining chip, if you like, with AGPS is to take our custom elsewhere. We know, and AGPS knows-and it knows that we know and we know that it knows-that it is a difficult issue, but we may have to deal with this issue at some future stage.
SENATOR SHORT -Have you made any inquiries of other printing establishments about the possibility of them printing your requirements, Mr Evans?
MR EVANS -I do not know that we have made any recent specific inquiries. But we know, as a matter of established knowledge, that it would be difficult to get another printer to print those documents overnight with the speed that we require at a reasonable cost.
SENATOR SHORT -Would the printing establishment have to be located in Canberra ?
MR EVANS -Not necessarily, although it would obviously create some difficulties if it were not.
SENATOR SHORT -If this is a matter of considerable concern to you, I am surprised that you have not made any recent inquiries as to alternative possible options. It seems to me that the prospect of going away from the Government Printer ought to be one that is high in one's consideration if you are getting the unsatisfactory treatment from the Printer that you are obviously getting. Why have you not looked afield at other possibilities?
MR EVANS -The answer to that is that we have not yet reached that stage. In general terms we know what the situation is with other printers.
SENATOR SHORT -When did you last inquire of the situation with other printers?
MR EVANS -I am not sure whether we are able to indicate when we made any specific inquiries. No, we are not able to indicate any specific inquiries in recent times.
SENATOR SHORT -How do you know that the situation with other printers is unsatisfactory for your purposes?
MR EVANS -As I said, that is a general knowledge of the general situation and I would be surprised if it had changed in recent times.
SENATOR SHORT -But how do you know if you have not asked?
MR EVANS -As I said, Mr Chairman, I would be very surprised if that situation had changed in recent times.
SENATOR SHORT -When was the last time that inquiries were made? What does ` recent times' mean? Six months, 12 months, five years?
MR EVANS -A matter of a year or two since we have been involved in that question.
SENATOR SHORT -Do you have any proposals, particularly in the light of this hearing today, to look at alternative printing possibilities as a matter of urgency?
MR EVANS -As I said, we have not yet reached that stage.
SENATOR SHORT -What determines reaching that stage? The fact is that you are being charged what you consider to be a very high rate without adequate explanation. How long will the situation continue before you get to `that stage'?
MR EVANS -We are looking not so much at too much being charged now, but at the savings that can be made in the future when electronic transfer of text is in place. We are asking AGPS to identify the savings which will be achieved by that process in the future.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I am sorry, but I thought Ms Cornwell said that you were worried about the increased charges now?
MS CORNWELL -In relation to the parliamentary papers.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -So it is a different matter, is it?
MS CORNWELL -Yes.
SENATOR SHORT -Why is it a different matter?
MS CORNWELL -Because we have not had the big increases such as a management fee which relates to the arranging of the printing of parliamentary papers. There is no management fee involved in the printing of the Journals or the Notice Paper. I should also mention that we have obligations. We have recently been a signatory to the charter of printing and publishing which is a contract between the Government Printer and ourselves. It give the printing of our documents a very high priority. His service has been very good and we have been very happy with that. It is just a question of the costs that are involved which we are trying to work out now, trying to get advice about.
SENATOR SHORT -When you presumably discussed all these matters with AGPS before all this, before these developments occurred, did you not reach common agreement on the anticipated savings?
MR EVANS -Well, Mr Chairman, figures were mentioned, the expected order of the savings, but no specific nomination of the savings was made by AGPS.
MS CORNWELL -You also have to remember that it has had to retain a very large typesetting unit down there in anticipation that while we are slowly moving into complete autonomy in the way that we are working, we always had to have the backstop that their officers and facilities were available to us. That certainly meant that over a period of time we are seeing a reduction in costs, but we have only been producing the Journals and the Notice Paper really for the last three weeks-the last three sitting weeks-eliminating the typesetting. The Printer is still doing a small amount of work for us. We are going to review the situation at the end of October and then I think there is anticipation that there will be a reduction in the number of officers who have to undertake night duty.
SENATOR SHORT -At the Printer?
MS CORNWELL -At the Printer, yes. The Government Printer is looking to have a major restructuring by the end of the year and is very much waiting to see just how well and effective our system is before he actually undertake some reduction in staff.
SENATOR SHORT -Thank you. Mr Evans mentioned a figure before. I am not sure it related to the question I am going to ask. What is the proportion, do you know, of AGPS work that you, as a client, provide?
MR EVANS -Our work as a proportion of their work, do you mean?
SENATOR SHORT -Yes.
MR EVANS -I could not answer that. As a Department our work, I think it would be fair to say, would be a small proportion. But to what the exact figure is, I could not say. I would not be able to get that, except from AGPS, of course.
SENATOR SHORT -But you do not have that figure?
MR EVANS -Not a figure, which could only come from AGPS. But I think it would be fair to say that it would be a small proportion of the bulk of work.
SENATOR SHORT -In other words, if you took your business elsewhere, it would not have a dramatic effect on AGPS?
MR EVANS -No.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -To which Estimates Committee does AGPS report?
SENATOR SHORT -Administrative Services, I think, which used to be E. I am not sure what it is. We would have to check.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I wonder whether the Secretary could advise us which Estimates Committee will be doing Administrative Services because we may well wish to take the questions there.
SENATOR SHORT -Yes.
MR EVANS -Mr Chairman, could I-if honourable Senators have finished in that particular point-return to the matter of the attendance of the officer at the Labor Lawyers Conference. I have received a note from Mr Stephen Argument, who has been listening to this. He has not as yet attended that conference. His attendance is in the future. The Conference is on 21 to 23 September. The briefing which I had was in relation to his anticipated attendance at the Conference and I also had a briefing in relation to another occasion on which he travelled with his committee or one of the committees which he was then dealing with. So I just make that correction. The attendance is in the future.
SENATOR BISHOP -Mr Chairman, as the Clerk has chosen to raise the matter again --
MR EVANS -Well, only to correct previous answers, Mr Chairman.
SENATOR BISHOP -It certainly does correct a few things. It means all the sorts of things you were saying before were just incorrect.
MR EVANS -No, not all the things, Mr Chairman. The only thing that was incorrect was that he had attended the conference and provided me with a briefing on it. The briefing which I have had is in anticipation of his attendance, and I also had a briefing from him on another occasion on which he was away with his committee.
SENATOR BISHOP -Mr Chairman, through you: Mr Clerk, that is stunning in its performance, if I might say. I mean, you gave us a long, protracted dissertation on how you had considered this whole application, how you had known it was of vital importance--
CHAIRMAN -Senator Bishop, I must ask you to ask the question--
SENATOR BISHOP -I will, Mr Chairman. But I want to know how it is that the Clerk, having spent so long telling us all this detail, can now say, `Oh, by the way, it was the wrong one'.
MR EVANS -No, no, Mr Chairman. The decision has already been made that this officer attend this Conference, and I have already approved that and given consideration to the attendance of the officer, so that is perfectly correct. My statement that careful consideration was given to it is perfectly correct.
SENATOR BISHOP -Mr Chairman, through you: What particular conference of the Labor Lawyers is this one that is to be held? What is the nature of it?
MR EVANS -I do not know, Mr Chairman. I think it would probably--
SENATOR BISHOP -Do they have them monthly? Are they annual?
MR EVANS -I am sorry?
SENATOR BISHOP -Is it annual? Is it monthly?
MR EVANS -I would think it is the annual conference.
SENATOR BISHOP -Then, perhaps you can tell me why or if you knew that the Department of the Library also sent somebody to the Labor Lawyers Conference in Sydney in August 1989?
MR EVANS -I suspect that that would probably be the previous annual conference .
SENATOR BISHOP -In that case, as this is September, would it not also have been in August?
MR EVANS -Well, I do not think that necessarily follows. It could have been held in August last year and is being held in September this year.
SENATOR BISHOP -Let us go back. This is in the annual report 1989-1990. That is the year ending, I presume, 30 June, 1990?
MR EVANS -Yes, Mr Chairman.
SENATOR BISHOP -Would that be correct?
MR EVANS -Yes, Mr Chairman.
SENATOR BISHOP -Then, how could you have an item in here of expenditure in the year ending 30 June 1990 to attend a conference which has not yet been held and which he has not as yet been to but he has managed to give you a report on ?
MR EVANS -Last year, Mr Chairman. The attendance of Mr Stephen Argument at this Conference is yet to come-at the next annual conference. Last year--
SENATOR BISHOP -Who attended--
MR EVANS -Last year--
MR EVANS -Last year the then Secretary of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Bronwyn McNaughton, attended that Conference. Now, you remember, Mr Chairman, that that was the information which I originally gave but on advice I corrected that, so the relevant officer is Stephen Argument. But Bronwyn McNaughton attended the Conference last year and approval has been granted for Stephen Argument to attend the Conference this year.
SENATOR BISHOP -Mr Chairman, through you: I specifically asked the Clerk earlier in these proceedings when I was trying to identify who had gone and what the purpose of going was, and I asked for an undertaking that it would not happen again, I was told not that, `I have already approved for him to go and he will be going soon', but I was told, `I would think about it'. Now, we have--
MR EVANS -No, Mr Chairman, no. I did not answer to--
SENATOR BISHOP -Excuse me. If you will get the record we will find it.
CHAIRMAN -Wait a minute, Senator Bishop. You have asked a question. I think the Clerk is entitled to answer that question.
MR EVANS -The answer that I gave, Mr Chairman, was to the effect that I had given careful consideration to the attendance of the officer at the Conference and had approved the attendance.
SENATOR BISHOP -Mr Chairman, I am sorry, that just will not do. I asked you very specifically if you would give an undertaking, not that such an occurrence would not happen again, and you said you would consider it. You did not say--
MR EVANS -No--
SENATOR BISHOP --I have approved for someone to go in the future yet again.
MR EVANS -No, Mr Chairman, I did not say that. But what I did say was that if any further application is made to me for attendance at this Conference I will again give careful consideration--
SENATOR BISHOP -Which carefully left me with the impression that no such determination had been made about a future conference.
MR EVANS -Mr Chairman, I indicated that approval had been given for Mr Argument to attend the Conference--
SENATOR BISHOP -No, you did not.
MR EVANS -I had the impression that that had already occurred but in fact it has not already occurred--
SENATOR BISHOP -Excuse me, Mr Chairman. Mr Clerk has not only confused a woman with a man; he has not only confused a conference which has been held with one which is yet to be held, with approval given to attend and attendance having taken place, but with one for which he has approved which he has not yet attended, but you have told us you have had a report on it. Now, that is total.
CHAIRMAN -I might allow the Clerk to answer that because it is an attack on him.
MR EVANS -I have indicated in my correction earlier that the briefing which I was recollecting when I answered my previous questions was a briefing about the prospective attendance of the officer with a view to granting approval and also I had had a briefing from that officer in relation to another occasion on which he had travelled with a committee. You will appreciate, Mr Chairman, that I receive briefings from officers very frequently.
SENATOR BISHOP -Mr Clerk, you will please remember that you are giving evidence and you are bound to give it to the best of your recollection and to make it truthful.
MR EVANS -Indeed.
SENATOR BISHOP -Last year when you were giving us evidence-if we go back and again look at the AuditorGeneral's report-we had some evidence given about moneys that were spent by way of advance which had to be corrected later. I am sure when we see the printed evidence that we have had here tonight and read it, in light of what you have just said to us now, it will be nothing but gobbledegook.
MR EVANS -I think not, Mr Chairman, if it is studied carefully. We answer questions here either on the basis of knowledge and recollection and the documents that we have before us. If we discover that our answers have not been accurate, at the first available opportunity we correct them. I have corrected one element of the answers that I gave before but the remainder of the information I gave before is accurate.
SENATOR BISHOP -Mr Chairman, through you to the Clerk: You have obviously given us evidence about things with which you have no recollection at all. Why can you not simply say that you have no recollection and let somebody who has the knowledge give that evidence?
MR EVANS -That is not correct, Mr Chairman. I do have some recollection but not complete recollection. I have given the answers to the best of my recollection and I have now corrected one element of the previous answer.
SENATOR BISHOP -The Clerk gave us details. He gave Senator Baume details of his careful deliberation about considering the importance of Mr Argument going to the conference.
MR EVANS -Indeed, yes.
SENATOR BISHOP -Yes, you remembered that but you could not remember what the details were about. But you do remember that he came and reported back to you on it. Now we find out, because someone came and told you, that he has not been yet.
CHAIRMAN -Senator Bishop, I think the Clerk has attempted to answer that several times. I will allow him, if he wants, to answer again; but I think there is a certain repetition in the questions you are putting to him.
MR EVANS -Mr Chairman, I will put it this way: There were two elements of my previous answer which were not correct and which I have now corrected, the first element being that Mr Argument was the officer who had attended in the past. We were talking about Mr Argument's attendance at the conference. In fact, his attendance is in the future-although I stress again that his attendance has been considered and approved. That was one element of correction. The second element of correction was that the briefing I received from him was not, in accordance with my recollection, a briefing about his past attendance at the conference but a briefing about his prospective attendance at the conference and also a briefing from him about another occasion on which he travelled with his committee basically to look at legal matters.
SENATOR BISHOP -Where, Mr Clerk? What was the particular one he did report to you on that you now recollect was a different occurrence?
MR EVANS -The occasion I was thinking of was his attendance in New Zealand with a committee and a report which he made to me about the consideration of Bills by committees in New Zealand and associated matters and legal matters connected with that.
SENATOR BISHOP -Would you mind telling me, Mr Clerk, why you can remember that now and you could not remember it half an hour ago?
MR EVANS -Because my memory has been assisted by notes from my colleagues.
SENATOR BISHOP -Obviously the people who are writing the notes have knowledge which Mr Clerk does not have. Could we please hear from the note writers? Who is it who has been writing notes?
MR EVANS -Well Mr Chairman--
SENATOR BISHOP -Could somebody put his hand up that he has been writing notes?
MR EVANS -The Clerks-Assistant-Procedure and Committees-have been refreshing their memories as to these matters and refreshing my memory. As I indicated before, I also received a note from Mr Argument who is listening to the proceedings.
SENATOR BISHOP -How fortunate that he was listening to the proceedings and that he could tell you that he has not been at all and that he has not had a chat with you either. We heard from Mr O'Keeffe who could not tell us that he had not been yet either, so he cannot be the note writer.
MR EVANS -It was Mr Argument who reminded me that this was a prospective attendance.
SENATOR BISHOP -What about Miss McNaughton? Has she written you a note to tell you about her chat with you? Did she give you a verbal report?
MR EVANS -She did.
SENATOR BISHOP -But you can remember that now?
MR EVANS -Yes.
SENATOR BISHOP -Why could you not remember it before? Because you thought it was Mr Argument.
MR EVANS -I think the problem was that I was amalgamating the two occasions.
SENATOR BISHOP -Do Miss McNaughton and Mr Argument look alike or similar?
MR EVANS -Not at all. But I think when I was answering the--
SENATOR BISHOP -Do you frequently mix up having conversations with a man as distinct from a woman?
MR EVANS -Not usually, no. But when you see briefings from officers, and many of them, it is quite understandable that one tends to merge into the other if they are on related matters.
SENATOR BISHOP -I wonder whether we could ask the Clerk if in future he might institute a very satisfactory note book in which he could make notes about people who give him briefings to help his memory.
MR EVANS -I am amazed that people who appear before courts and so on, and inquiries, have detailed notes of all their conversations. To be quite frank with you, Mr Chairman I do not believe them. If I kept notes of all my conversations I would spend all my time keeping notes.
SENATOR BISHOP -I was not asking that every chat that the Clerk has be recorded. I was asking that he make a note about formal reports that are given to him which are accounting for public expenditure of taxpayers' money.
MR EVANS -My answer stands. I would receive very very many reports that would come under that category.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -The answer would be no.
MR EVANS -The answer to which question, Senator?
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Would you keep notes?.
MR EVANS -The answer is no, I do not keep notes of all those reports.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I just wanted to be clear about what the answer is, that is all.
SENATOR BISHOP -And in the future you do not intend to keep them either?
MR EVANS -I think that would be impossible.
SENATOR BISHOP -The answer is no?
MR EVANS -Yes.
SENATOR SHORT -Assuming that it is the annual conference that Mr Argument is going to-and we need confirmation of that-and that last year's attendance by Miss McNaughton was, you understand, to the annual conference, are you sure that her attendance last year was the first time that an officer had attended?
MR EVANS -No, as my answers before made clear, on a previous occasion Mr Peter O'Keeffe attended and addressed the conference.
SENATOR SHORT -I know that he addressed a conference but did he address an annual conference of Labor lawyers or not?
MR EVANS -Yes, I believe that was an annual conference.
SENATOR SHORT -Are his and Miss McNaughton's attendances the only two up-to- date attendances that officers of the Department of the Senate have had at Labor lawyers conferences?
MR EVANS -I believe not. They are the two that I have firm knowledge of at the moment. But I believe there have been other attendances at those conferences, with approval of course. Perhaps I could provide the committee with a full list.
SENATOR SHORT -I would certainly welcome that because my quite clear understanding from your earlier comments was, even setting aside the confusion about Mr Argument, that there had been two, and two only, occasions-namely, Mr O'Keeffe's and the one that we thought was Mr Argument's but which turned out to be Miss McNaughton. Now you are saying that there have been other occasions.
MR EVANS -They were the two that I knew of when I was answering the questions- that I had a definite recollection of at that stage.
SENATOR SHORT -Have you received information since your discussion with Senator Bishop as to attendance by others?
MR EVANS -Yes. I have been reminded by my colleagues, who have also refreshed their memories on the subject, that other officers have gone to that conference in previous years. But we do not have the details at this stage. Perhaps I could provide the details to the Committee.
SENATOR SHORT -Do you have any recollection, and whether you have or whether you have not could you check, whether officers of your Department have attended similar conferences of other political parties?
MR EVANS -Well, this is not a political party conference. I said in answer to a question previously--
SENATOR SHORT -Well, it is, in effect.
MR EVANS -I said in answer to a previous question that I did not believe there were any conferences that people had gone to which were of a similar nature, but I believe that to be correct.
SENATOR BISHOP -Through you, Mr Chairman. Mr Clerk, you are having a very selective memory again now with even what you said half to three-quarters of an hour ago, because you said--
MR EVANS -Not at all, Mr Chairman.
SENATOR BISHOP -Well, we will check when we get the Hansard. Can I ask you another question. What is the source of funds for these participants to go to these Labor conferences? Which line item do they come out of-which program?
MR EVANS -I will just check on that. They come from the program under which the officer concerned belongs. If it is a committee officer, it would come from the committee program; if it is a procedure officer, it would come from the procedure office program.
SENATOR BISHOP -And which part of it?
MR EVANS -Looking at the committee office program--
SENATOR BISHOP -Let us deal with Miss McNaughton. Where does she come from?
MR EVANS -The committee office. If the Committee looks at page 38 of the explanatory notes under the Committee Office program, there is an item there ` other committee expenses', and I am advised that attendance at these conferences in relation to committee officers would come out of that amount.
SENATOR BISHOP -So it comes out of the committee office. Let me take or refresh your memory back to last year when we were talking about political involvement in parts of operations of the Senate and we were discussing particularly the education office and the education program, and this is particularly relevant to program 3. Mr Chairman, may I deal with this matter here? We are dealing with program 3.
CHAIRMAN -Actually we are still on program 2.
SENATOR BISHOP -The general matter that the Clerk chose to raise again has prompted me to look at the Hansard for 26 September last year and to deal with the education office, when we were dealing with the concern that there was a political tainting of education programs that were being produced by the Department of the Senate, and Mr Evans--
CHAIRMAN -I think Senator Bishop is expressing her view--
SENATOR BISHOP -Yes, I am expressing my view.
CHAIRMAN -And not the Committee's view when she says that she thought there was some political tainting.
SENATOR BISHOP -Yes, indeed, and questions were asked by Senator Chapman and myself, and Mr Evans, the Clerk, said in his answer to a question from Senator Chapman concerning an education office program that was being put together, that he was concerned one of the potential programs, is it becoming a promotion of Government as distinct from the Parliament. He was concerned. I had raised the question of there being a temptation in some places perhaps to turn it into a partisan program, but there are other potential problems with it as well. So the Clerk is well aware that there are concerns that operations by the Senate can have a political, partisan flavour and I think if I dredge through my memory I can remember that memorable production of Blood on the Wattle--
MR EVANS -Which was not the responsibility of this Department.
SENATOR BISHOP -I was not suggesting it was. What I am talking about is the concern about party political tainting of what should be straightforward bipartisan presentation of material. You expressed a concern last year about that and yet now we are hearing evidence from you that you have had no qualms for a considerable period of time, and which you are only having dragged out of you that you are remembering bits and pieces--
CHAIRMAN -Senator Bishop, I think you have to ask a question. I have allowed you a little bit of latitude and I think you are abusing that privilege. Would you ask your question.
SENATOR BISHOP -I would not like it to be couched in those terms-abusing a privilege-thank you, Mr Chairman, but I am asking a question. How is it that, expressing concerns on the one hand about political tainting of operations of this place, you can pay, with taxpayers' money, to send officers of the Department off to party political conferences? How do you reconcile those two?
MR EVANS -Well, in my judgment the two matters are completely consistent. I think the two principles which are involved are, in relation to the education office, that the programs run by the Department should not be used to engage in partisan controversy or to put out material which would be regarded as partisan in nature. The principle which is involved in the attendance of officers at these conferences is that officers should not themselves engage in partisan controversy or take partisan positions. Now, as I have indicated in my previous answer, their attendance at that conference I believe to be consistent with that second principle which governed my determination as to whether they should attend or not.
SENATOR BISHOP -The Clerk's answers are either extremely naive or something else.
CHAIRMAN -Senator Bishop, you have to ask a question. I cannot let you continually use innuendo to besmirch officers at the table. I ask you to ask questions, please.
SENATOR BISHOP -I am not using it to besmirch. I am simply saying that the evidence given is not consistent. I am asking, Mr Clerk, how you can expect someone to believe that a conference which is convened for the purpose of putting forward the views of lawyers who are of the Labor party persuasion and espouse legal views in that context, how they are supposed to close their ears and only hear the pure bits?
MR EVANS -Well, of course they do not close their ears. That is not the principle that I mentioned. The principle that I stated was that they themselves should not engage in partisan controversy or take any partisan positions on matters, which they do not in attending those conferences.
SENATOR BISHOP -If they are not supposed to learn anything, what is the point in sending them?
MR EVANS -Well, that does not necessarily follow. I have indicated in my previous answers that they are expected to learn a great deal about the thinking of people who are experts in the fields of law on technical legal matters.
SENATOR BISHOP -The purpose of the Labor Lawyers Conference is to hear the Labor Party's point of view. That is why they call themselves Labor Lawyers and they are all members of the Labor Party. If you had somebody who convened a meeting of the communists--
CHAIRMAN -I think there is one factual thing that might save a bit of time-if you realise that lawyers going to that Labor Lawyers Conference are not necessarily members of the Labor Party.
SENATOR BISHOP -People who formed the Labor Lawyers Association, they were well known who put it together and distinguished in the Labor Party for their politics. It was deliberately put together to push the Labor point of view through the legal profession, and those of us in the legal profession know it well. If, for instance, there was to be convened a communist lawyers conference, would you consider sending an officer to that?
MR EVANS -I think I indicated, that if other political parties conducted conferences of the same nature and the same sorts of matters were raised that were of relevance to officers' work, then, yes, I would consider applications to go to those conferences.
SENATOR BISHOP -So the answer is yes, you would consider sending to the communist lawyers conference?
MR EVANS -In the unlikely event that such a similar conference were to take place, I would certainly consider it, yes.
SENATOR BISHOP -And do you think the taxpayers would approve of that expenditure of their money?
MR EVANS -Properly considering the matter, yes. I think I should say that even if that conference were designed to give expression to Labor Party policies in relation to legal matters, that would not necessarily preclude an officer attending on a non-partisan basis and hearing--
SENATOR BISHOP -I would not wish to preclude someone who wished to attend from attending, if they paid for themself to go. What we are discussing is you saying that the taxpayer can pay.
MR EVANS -I was going to say that it would not necessarily preclude a person attending as part of their work, even if that were so. I do not think that is so, but even if that were so it would not necessarily preclude attendance at the conference on the basis that I have mentioned.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Maybe we should go through the attendance of Miss McNaughton at the previous year's conference of Labor Lawyers, because that is, according to Mr Clerk, the attendance to which the expenditure in the 1989-90 Department of the Senate report relates. Was it the annual conference of Labor Lawyers that Miss McNaughton attended?
MR EVANS -Well, we believe so. We would have to check on that and it will be confirmed in the written answers which I shall give you in due course.
SENATOR BISHOP -That is not necessary. In your own report it says, 'Labor Lawyers annual conference, Sydney'.
MR EVANS -Thank you. I am grateful for having my memory refreshed on that matter.
SENATOR O'CHEE -She attended in her capacity as secretary to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs?
MR EVANS -Yes.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Do you know what matters were discussed at that conference which were particularly relevant to Ms McNaughton and/or the Committee in question?
MR EVANS -As I indicated before, I do not recall the specific matters that were discussed at the conference that were relevant, although they would have been before me at the time when the determination was made that it was appropriate for her to go.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Do you know if the matters were the result of a then current inquiry of that Committee or whether they related to proceedings of that Committee which had closed?
MR EVANS -The likelihood is that they did. They would not have been the result of inquiries by that Committee, but they would have related more or less closely to inquiries by that Committee.
SENATOR O'CHEE -They related to then current inquiries or inquiries that had closed? I am referring to the possibility that Ms McNaughton might have been attending to talk to them about something on which the Committee had done a report.
MR EVANS -That is quite possible.
SENATOR O'CHEE -The other possibility is that she was attending the conference because the conference was discussing matters about which the Committee was inquiring?
MR EVANS -Yes, it is possible that there were matters there that were relevant to matters into which the Committee was inquiring.
SENATOR O'CHEE -I would be very grateful if we could find out what the matters were and whether there was a current inquiry of that Committee at that time, or whether they related to past inquiries of the Committee. Perhaps you would be kind enough to take that question on notice.
MR EVANS -We will indicate that in the answer.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Moving on to the attendance of Mr Argument, that relates to this current financial year?
MR EVANS -This financial year, but the conference is in September.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Do you recollect at what stage or what date Mr Argument requested assistance with funding to travel to this conference?
MR EVANS -No, I do not have a recollection of the date. Again, that could be covered in the answers that we give.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Was it during this financial year or at the end of last financial year?
MR EVANS -Again, I would not be able to answer that. How far ahead this was anticipated and approval was sought, I would not be able to answer that, but I will do so in the written answer.
SENATOR O'CHEE -So you are not in a position to say whether Mr Argument's travel to the Conference of Labor Lawyers is included in estimates or not?
MR EVANS -The money for his attendance would come out of the funds appropriated for this financial year, yes.
SENATOR O'CHEE -But if his request had not been made to you prior to the date at which the budget for the Department of the Senate was compiled, then there is a consequence that it will exceed what is in the budget?
MR EVANS -No, not necessarily. Because of the small amount of money involved, it would be possible to finance it out of the appropriations which are made.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Why is it that there have been two consecutive visits or proposed visits by secretaries to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee to the Conference of Labor Lawyers?
MR EVANS -Because application was made to me to approve those visits on the bases that I have mentioned and approval was granted.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Is it of some concern to you that the same partisan political organisation receives visits from secretaries of a supposedly non-partisan parliamentary committee over a number of years?
MR EVANS -No, it is not necessarily a matter of concern at all. As I have said , in my judgment, because of the nature of the conferences and the matters discussed at them, it is perfectly appropriate.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -It would not be very profitable to repeat all the questions that we asked earlier, but many of those questions related to the information that was then before us. We were dealing with an attendance by Mr Argument. We now discover that we are looking at an attendance by Ms McNaughton, is that correct?
MR EVANS -The attendance referred to in the annual report is last year's, and attendance by Ms McNaughton, yes.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Am I correct in thinking that you will supply us with all the occurrences of attendances at Labor Lawyers conferences or other conferences which have party designations?
MR EVANS -Yes.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Just to save time, would you go through the Hansard and identify all the questions that we asked earlier and re-answer them? Will you give a separate answer to each of the questions in respect of Ms McNaughton's attendance last year? I shall not repeat all the questions I asked as to what were the technical-legal matters and so on.
MR EVANS -Yes, we can do that.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -We asked some of the questions about Mr Argument. It now appears that those questions should have been asked, had we had the information before us, of Ms McNaughton.
MR EVANS -We were talking about both occasions during that earlier discussion. Certainly I will cover both occasions in the written answer that will be provided.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -The reason I do that is that the officers are only required to answer the questions which are asked. I now formally ask that they cover all the questions that were asked for either or both officers.
MR EVANS -I will certainly do that in the written information. If the Committee is about to move off that subject, I simply wish to make a submission to you, Mr Chairman, if I may. My submission is that on the basis I have mentioned, no proper principle involving parliamentary officers is violated by the attendance of those officers at that conference, on the basis that I have mentioned. That is my belief; that was my belief on each occasion when I gave the approval for the officers to attend the conference. Having heard all the discussion here, I would say that that is still my belief. I submit to the Committee that on a proper consideration of the matter, that is a valid conclusion.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Could I ask Mr Clerk, through you, Mr Chairman, to qualify that statement to say that in the light of the particular circumstances, there may be no violation of the principle? You told us that your decision in each case was based upon certain particular considerations of matters to be discussed and benefits to be gained.
MR EVANS -What I am saying is that no proper principle is violated by the attendance of the officers at the conference. The question of whether attendance is justified in the light of what is discussed at the conference and so on is a separate question.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -I also thought that the question we were discussing was not their attendance per se, but the subsidisation?
MR EVANS -Yes.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -That may be a separate matter?
MR EVANS -That is another separate matter.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -So if we are looking at general principles, your general principle does not cover that?
MR EVANS -I was enunciating the general principle about officers attending that particular conference.
SENATOR PETER BAUME -Is there a general principle about their being subsidised ?
MR EVANS -Yes. The general principle about that is that the Department subsidises their visit if it is believed that the Department and, through the Department, the Senate and this particular Senate Committee receive some benefit from it- receive an appropriate benefit from it. Again, that is a separate question.
CHAIRMAN -Are there any other questions on Program 2?
THE PRESIDENT -Mr Chairman, I have the letters relating to the program that were referred to earlier. I have the letters from Minister Willis to the Speaker and myself dated 9 August and our replies to Mr Willis, and also to Mr Dawkins on 14 August.
CHAIRMAN -Is it the wish of the Committee that we incorporate the letters from the Ministers as indicated by the President as part of the record? There being no objection, it is so ordered.<INC.DOC>
The letters read as follows-
14 August 1990
The Honourable Ralph Willis, M.P.
Minister for Finance
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Citizenship Visits Program
We refer to your letter of 9 August 1990 concerning a number of matters relating to the 1990-91 estimates for the parliamentary departments. In that letter you invite us to discuss any of the matters raised by you. While we will be responding separately on some other matters, in this letter we wish to comment specifically on your statement that you cannot support funding for the Citizenship Visits Program in the coming Budget.
The Citizenship Visits Program was begun late last year by the Minister for Employment, Education and Training, Mr Dawkins, as a pilot program in which his department provided financial assistance to high school groups which had to travel in excess of 1,000 kilometres to visit the Houses of Parliament for educational purposes.
The program was provided with administrative and education support by our departments. We understand that the pilot program was funded on a oneoff basis by the Department of Employment, Education and Training, and that the department does not have funds to continue it beyond this calendar year.
In answer to a question in the House of Representatives on 16 May 1990, the Minister said that the program had been 'extraordinarily successful'. He then announced that he was instituting a review to see how the program should proceed on a permanent basis. In consultations with us the Minister put the view that the most appropriate means of continuing the Citizenship Visits Program would be for the Parliament to assume the responsibility for it this financial year. We advised the Minister that we would support the two Houses taking responsibility for the program only if adequate separate funding was made available.
In your letter of 9 August you suggest that the program might be funded, in part at least, by savings made elsewhere in the budgets of the parliamentary departments. Given the tight budgetary situation it is most unlikely that savings would be generated within the parliamentary departments sufficient to support even a partial program. We think you would agree that if the program is to continue at all it must do so on the basis of certainty and assured funding as distant schools have to plan and make arrangements sometimes months in advance.
As we advised in our letter of 19 June the cost of a full year's program is estimated to be in the order of $1 million, based on booking experience in the last few months. We therefore sought approval for an additional amount of $ 500,000 to be included in the estimates of each of the Senate and the House of Representatives as an item of new policy. We also advised that guidelines were being formulated to ensure that all moneys for the program were maintained separately and would be used only in relation to the program and that appropriate limits were placed on access to the subsidy. Since it commenced, the Citizenship Visits Program had enabled a large number of high schools to send students from distant areas to Canberra who otherwise would not have been able to afford to come. Between 1 January and 31 July 1990 students from 74 distant schools were able to visit Parliament House at a subsidy cost of $197,950. As at 31 July a further 88 schools had made bookings , the estimated subsidy cost of which is $290,750.
The program has become a significant component of this Government's attempts to raise the level of political literacy in the community, together with the work of the Parliamentary Education Office and the Australian Electoral Commission. The program is aimed specifically at removing some of the disadvantage caused by distance in enabling students to witness the operations of our parliamentary system first hand. It is important in providing some equity of access to the Parliament and we would be disappointed were it to end because of a lack of continued funding. In view of the success of the program to date and the strong support it has received from members and Senators, we urge you to further consider the provision of funding for the program.
(Kerry W. Sibraa)...(Leo McLeay)
14 August 1990
The Honourable J.S. Dawkins, M.P.
Minister for Employment, Education and Training,
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Citizenship Visits Program
We refer to our earlier consultations on the continuation of the Citizenship Visits Program and the basis on which the Parliament would accept responsibility for maintaining it. You will recall that we agreed to accept responsibility providing specific separate funding was made available, as we are not able to fund the program from within our existing estimates.
On 9 August 1990 the Minister for Finance informed us that he could not support funding for the program in the coming Budget. He suggested that the program might be funded, in part at least, from savings made elsewhere in the parliamentary estimates. We think you would agree that a program such as the Citizenship Visits Program could not be conducted successfully on the basis of small possible savings which may or may not eventuate. At this stage it is most unlikely that savings would be available from within the parliamentary departments. If the program is to continue at all it must do so on the basis of certainty and assured funding as distant schools have to make arrangements sometimes months in advance.
We have written to the Minister for Finance urging him to further consider our request (see copy of letter attached). We would welcome your further support in an approach to the Minister for Finance.
We feel obliged to restate our position that if separate funding is not made available, we will not be able to accept responsibility for the program. In that event, it would be a decision for you whether you wish to continue funding the program on the current arrangement beyond this calendar year from within the resources of your own department.
In relation to your commitment, made in the House on 16 May, that applications received by 31 July would be processed under the current guidelines, we would like your assurance that funds are available for subsidy payments this year and that claims made by the Department of the House of Representatives on your department will be paid promptly. We point out that an amount of $28,050 owing as at 30 June has still not been reimbursed by your department. A further amount of $101,950 has been claimed for reimbursement of subsidised visits since 1 July. We are disturbed that advice received from your department at officer level indicates that both these amounts may not be reimbursed until after the supply period.
Still outstanding are 88 applications made by schools prior to 31 July, involving 3,941 students for subsidised visits in the remainder of this calendar year which are likely to involve a subsidy payment of $290,750. Thus the total amount of subsidy involved in meeting applications lodged before 31 July, including payments to eligible schools which have already visited, is likely to be about $420,750. This is not an amount which can be carried by our departments for any length of time. If prompt reimbursement can not be guaranteed then perhaps consideration should be given to cancelling the remaining applications received before 31 July on the basis of budgetary constraints. At this stage schools applying on or after 1 August for subsidised visits are being advised that further bookings are not being taken pending a decision on future funding arrangements.
(Kerry Sibraa)...(Leo McLeay)
Senator the Honourable Kerry Sibraa
President of the Senate
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Mr President
I am writing to you and Mr Speaker about the 1990-91 Estimates for the Parliamentary Departments. You reached agreement with Senator Walsh that a running costs base would be established for the Parliament and that any requests for additional funding would be handled in a similar way to that for new policy proposals within the Executive Government.
I have been advised that, with the exception of the Parliamentary Information Systems Office element and some aspects of Joint House funding, an agreed running costs base has now been established. In the case of PISO and the Joint House, neither Finance nor your officers can establish a definite position until certain review work is completed.
For PISO, the current review is nearly complete and it would be sensible to provide for 1990-91 expenditures based on the current thinking in the review. I understand that our officers can agree a figure on this basis. I suggest that the 1990-91 Appropriation Bills should include this figure, but that we should regard the additional funding implicit in this amount as being quarantined until we have considered the recommendations of the review.
In the case of the Joint House, adjustments to the running costs base for 1990-91 have been agreed, apart from funding for establishment of an appropriate inventory level. I suggest that our officers should continue discussion on this issue. Now that a running costs base has largely been established for all five departments, I commend to you the related controls that apply in the case of executive departments. These would enhance your control and that of the Parliament over the Parliament's budget. If you agree, I suggest our officers could prepare a paper for our joint consideration to advise on a course of action.
Let me now turn to that part of the Parliament's 1990-91 request for funding that has been considered as 'new policy'.
There is little scope in the 1990-91 Budget for new policy initiatives. Many proposals advanced by executive departments, while worthy in their own right, have had to be rejected for overall budgetary reasons. The same standard needs to be applied to the proposals from the Parliamentary departments.
A number of the proposals are 'new policy' in a technical sense only since their purpose is either to maintain rather than extend the operations of the Parliament or repair obvious shortcomings. In this category I include the fitting out of the Senate suites, work on the Members dining room, kitchen decentralisation, the establishment of the Buildings Operations and Maintenance Management System (BOMMS) and some aspects of the Library proposal . I agree that funds should be provided for the first two proposals listed above-fitting out of the Senate suites and work on the Members dining room ($1 .670m for both). Such funding would parallel the situation for executive departments where some higher priority minor works are to proceed.
I understand that officials now agree that the kitchen decentralisation proposal is premature and should be brought forward later when costs and benefits have been established.
A difficulty with the BOMMS proposal is that funds were provided in 1989-90 in the expectation that these funds would be sufficient. Consequently, I am concerned that there are adequate controls over the project. Could I ask that you and Mr President critically appraise this project.
As I said above, there is little scope for new policy in the 1990-91 Budget and some hard decisions have been made denying proposals emanating from the executive departments. I consider that a similar approach has to be taken to the Parliamentary departments and accordingly I cannot support funding for library enhancement or for citizens visits. However, if these initiatives can be funded, in part at least, by savings made elsewhere in the Parliament's budget, I would not object.
In summary, I believe that $113 million can be justified for running costs in 1990-91 and a further $1.7 million for the two works items plus an element of new expenditure in the foreshadowed PISO review of $0.1 million, resulting in a combined figure of $114.8 million. I suggest that we agree on a slightly higher figure of $115 million to give you scope for dealing with BOMMS and the non-enhancement elements of the Library proposal.
You will recall that it had been our intention to work to a time table that allowed us to discuss the Parliament's estimates earlier in the Budget process . This intention was frustrated this year by the intervention of the election and then our individual commitments. However, I am sure that the underlying intention was correct and I will be writing again on this aspect shortly. In the meantime, I would be available to discuss any of the views set out above on the 1990-91 estimates before the Budget expenditure figures are finalised at the end of the week.
SENATOR O'CHEE -On Program 3, relating to the Parliamentary Education Office, we have already discussed the citizenship program. I was wondering whether it would be possible to discuss particulars that are contained here. For example, what is `Publications/Audio Visual'?
MR EVANS -That is a sum of money for the publications, including audiovisual matters, which the Office makes as part of its program. If you want details on the actual things covered, I could ask Mr Richard Gilbert to come to the table again. Mr Elliott will respond if the senator wants details of what that money is spent on-the particular publications or examples of the publications , perhaps.
SENATOR O'CHEE -If we could work through it with Mr Elliott, it may be better.
MR ELLIOTT -I would qualify my comments by saying that if I do get into minutiae I would prefer to take the questions on notice and refer them to the Director of Education, who has had to attend another meeting. The purpose of the publications and audiovisual program is to develop specific materials, both in printed media and in audiovisual media, to demonstrate to teachers and to pupils ways in which parliamentary education can be enhanced in the schools. The examples that we have so far are the kits on the Parliament, the first one and Parliament Pack No. 2. Those contain printed documentation and also tapes and videos.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Does `Publications/Audio Visual' include the cost of maintaining or installing audiovisual and other computer equipment in the room used by the Education Office for school visits?
MR ELLIOTT -It is difficult for me to answer that specifically, but in general those costs come in part from the Management Office equipment acquisitions and in part from the first subprogram of the Parliamentary Education Office, entitled `Education Program', where some of the equipment and furnishings for committee room 10 have been funded.
SENATOR O'CHEE -Is it still going to be possible under the allocation for this financial year to upgrade the interactive computer facilities in committee room 10?
MR ELLIOTT -The interactive computer video, which is known as the Parliament stack, is still in the stage of development. There is sufficient equipment to continue its development. It has not been submitted to the Presiding Officers for final approval. I can advise the Committee that there are sufficient funds to develop it, to the extent of approval that has been accorded the program so far.
SENATOR O'CHEE -But full upgrading of the facility, including colour projection and so on, is not yet possible and would be subject to further review, would it?
MR ELLIOTT -That question is a bit too specific for me. I would like to take it on notice so that I do not provide any erroneous information by mistake.
SENATOR O'CHEE -That is perfectly all right by me, Mr Chairman.