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FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Department of Parliamentary Services
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FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
Department of the Senate
Department of Parliamentary Services
Senator ROBERT RAY
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FINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE
(Senate-Monday, 13 February 2006)
- PARLIAMENT PORTFOLIO
PRIME MINISTER AND CABINET PORTFOLIO
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Senator CHRIS EVANS
Senator ROBERT RAY
Department of Parliamentary Services
Senator ROBERT RAY
Senator CHRIS EVANS
Office of National Assesments
Senator ROBERT RAY
Senator CHRIS EVANS
Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman
Senator CHRIS EVANS
Australian National Audit Office
Senator MARK BISHOP
- Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Content WindowFINANCE AND PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION LEGISLATION COMMITTEE - 13/02/2006 - PARLIAMENT PORTFOLIO - Department of Parliamentary Services
The PRESIDENT —I think it is important to note that for the first time in 16 years we have a Parliamentary Librarian sitting at the table—Ms Roxanne Missingham. I think it is quite significant.
CHAIR —Thank you, Mr President. Quite right. Ms Penfold, welcome. I call on general questions for the Department of Parliamentary Services.
Senator FAULKNER —Firstly, I have a very brief follow-up on a matter that received a little bit of publicity out of the last estimates round, which was the coins in the fountains here at Parliament House. That seems to be a happy story—I think you would agree, wouldn’t you, Ms Penfold—that has had a happy ending? Would that be right?
Ms Penfold —It will have a happy ending. We are still working through with the Department of Finance and Administration the legal implications of how we go about giving away money that is covered by the FMA Act. The current plan is that we will be setting up a special trust account where the Australian currency will go, and then, once a year, we will clean that out and get the foreign coins and hand them both over to the UNICEF people.
Senator FAULKNER —Obviously someone—I do not know whether it was the presiding officers, on your recommendation—has made a decision that UNICEF receive these moneys. That is true, isn’t it?
Ms Penfold —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —I know that because UNICEF in fact wrote to me, thanking me for addressing the issue in Senate estimates. It is rare that I get a congratulatory letter, so I just wanted to get that on the record.
Ms Penfold —They have not written to us yet.
Senator FAULKNER —The reason probably is that you have not actually given them any money yet, by the sound of it. So you will probably get your letter of thanks when you do so.
Ms Penfold —In due course. That is right. You are right: there are two decisions there. The decision was made effectively by the President at the last estimates hearing that the foreign coins would go to UNICEF. The President and the Speaker have subsequently directed us that the Australian money should also go there.
Senator FAULKNER —Excellent. You might let us know on notice perhaps when those matters have been finalised.
Ms Penfold —Certainly.
Senator FAULKNER —That is excellent. Thank you for that. Another issue that I have addressed at a number of estimates committees now is the retractable security bollards here at Parliament House. Things are not going well with those bollards, are they Ms Penfold?
Ms Penfold —They could be going better, but I think that all we are seeing at this stage are inevitable teething problems, particularly, I suspect, related to the fact that the bollards are built to be up most of the time and going up and down some of the time. Because of the way things worked out last year with getting the advice about when they should be up and when they should be down, they were basically all locked into the ground for the best part of six months. So we are probably seeing a few problems related to that and to the effect of that on the mechanisms. We are seeing a few other problems that are purely, we believe at the moment, teething problems relating to how they were installed and how some of them operate. I have some figures, if you would like them, for those things.
Senator FAULKNER —Okay. Why not, if you can, give us some figures about these problems. That would be helpful, I am sure, for the committee.
Ms Penfold —The figures suggest that the bollards have operated approximately 10,000 times since we put them into operation at the beginning of January.
Senator FAULKNER —You mean they have retracted 10,000—
Ms Penfold —They have gone up and down.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Where are you talking about? How many sets?
Ms Penfold —I am talking about the sets at the three slip road entrances and exits, so I suppose six.
Senator FAULKNER —In all three wings—ministerial, House and Senate?
Ms Penfold —The three wings, that is right—entrances and exits. So we are talking 10,000 operations. We have got, in that time, 18 incidents recorded by our security people. There is another one that is recorded by the maintenance people, but it did not cause any sort of incident, as another repair thing. So 18 noticeable incidents since we started using them. Of those, 14 seem to be some sort of mechanical failure in the system.
Senator FAULKNER —What are the other four?
Ms Penfold —There are two recorded as operator error; one recorded as a road loop problem, which seems to relate to a taxi turning around at a point where the road loop would have sensed that it was going in one particular direction; and one where one of our vehicles actually clipped the swipe-card reader and damaged it—and I do not think we can blame that on the bollards.
Senator FAULKNER —No, I do not either. That caused a broader mechanical failure with the bollard?
Ms Penfold —No, I think it just meant we had to fix up that bit. It was a recorded incident.
Senator FAULKNER —Because the electronic tag mechanism didn’t work?
Ms Penfold —The electronic tag mechanism certainly was not working while it was dismantled, yes, and so that had to be fixed.
Senator FAULKNER —Okay. Are you able to say, of these 18 instances, where they were—which ones were on the Senate slip road, which on the House and which on the ministerial wing?
Ms Penfold —I do have the figures by reference to that, but in terms of identifying the fault ones—are those the ones you are interested in, or in general? I can give you a general figure.
Senator FAULKNER —Yes, just give us the general picture.
Ms Penfold —So far, in the Reps we have three at the entry and two at the exit; in the Senate, one of each; in the ministerial wing, two at the entry and three at the exit.
Senator FAULKNER —There was a failure in these bollards last Thursday and last Friday mornings, wasn’t there?
Ms Penfold —Certainly on Thursday, and I have a record here of a fault in the bollards at the Senate side on Friday, but that is not one of the ones that has been recorded as an incident.
Senator FAULKNER —So faults like that, when the orange coloured cones are put across the driveway, are not recorded in these figures?
Ms Penfold —Generally they would be. But I believe—and there is partly an issue because this has all happened at the last minute—the one that happened on Friday involved someone identifying a fault in the bollards and deciding to fix it, rather than anyone getting caught or having trouble with them.
Senator FAULKNER —Have you received any complaints about the operation of the bollards?
Ms Penfold —We have received a number of comments about the whole arrangement, yes.
Senator FAULKNER —We will come to that, but I am talking here about the mechanical failures. Have there been concerns expressed? There have been at the ministerial wing, haven’t there?
Ms Penfold —Not that have been reported to me. I would be surprised if in some cases people who got caught in them did not express some fairly firm views about the operation of the bollards, but nothing that I am aware of that counts as a formal complaint has been drawn to my attention.
Senator FAULKNER —Have there been security issues in relation to the Prime Minister at the ministerial wing? Is it true, as I was informed by one of the security gentlemen, that he has had to use the exit ramp to enter the building and the like? Is that right?
Ms Penfold —I am not aware of that, Senator.
Senator FAULKNER —Have we had a situation where, because of bollard failure on entrance ramps, cars have used the exit ramps and vice versa—that instead of going out the exit they have gone out the entrance?
Ms Penfold —It is quite possible, given the number of incidents and the way some of them happened, that one of the ways of addressing those failures immediately was to redirect vehicles to the other end of the slip roads. But I do not have any formal reports of that happening or of that causing any complaints.
Senator FAULKNER —Are you generally disappointed with the way the bollards have not worked?
Ms Penfold —Obviously, I would have been much happier if they had worked perfectly. But I think it is reasonable to expect it in a system with a reasonable amount of complexity. With, as I mentioned earlier, the problems of the things having been locked down for six months, it is reasonable to expect that there will be some teething problems. If we are still having teething problems in six months I will be very disappointed.
Senator FAULKNER —There have been some suggestions made publicly that the way to deal with this is to have the things permanently retracted. My instinctive view in relation to that is that it makes a mockery and a nonsense of having the things in the first place. I am not sure whether you would agree with that or not, Mr President.
The PRESIDENT —One of the things the Speaker and I spoke to the secretary about was trialling, during heavy volume times, such as between eight and nine in the morning, retracting the bollards for that hour and having a security person there checking the passes. That was not because of the problem with the bollards; it was a question of whether it would make life easier for everybody concerned.
There seems to be a misunderstanding by some people, particularly the taxi drivers, that they cannot come up there. But they can if they have a pass holder. That is what it is all about. As far as the bollards are concerned, as we all know, they are in use at other parliaments around the world. I presume they had problems with them initially. But they are an accepted fact of security and we intend to keep using them. I just hope that they can sort out the few technical glitches. I am disappointed that we have had problems with them. When you spend that amount of money, and with the technology that is around—bollards are nothing new; they have been around for quite a while—I would have thought that the ones we purchased would have been perhaps more efficient. But we will wait and see. In the meantime, we are going to trial having the bollards down for an hour between eight and nine in the morning.
Senator FAULKNER —You are going to trial that, are you?
The PRESIDENT —We are doing it this week, to see if it will make life a bit easier for those coming in to work of a morning.
Senator FAULKNER —Do you think that somewhat defeats the purpose of this huge expenditure of public money?
The PRESIDENT —No, because there will be a security person there checking people through.
Senator FAULKNER —Yes, but how is a security person going to deal with a rogue vehicle? Are they going to stand in front of it?
The PRESIDENT —Vehicles will still have to stop to have their passes checked.
Senator ROBERT RAY —What if they have a bomb on board?
Senator FAULKNER —That is the point. I have always been doubtful about them, although I am not going to go through past evidence. I have been concerned, and I have expressed that, about the type of bollard that was purchased. I have been concerned that an overseas supplier was used when there is, I think, very good technology here in Australia—better technology—that was not accessed by the parliament, which I found disappointing. But now that the things are in place, I do not understand how that expenditure of public moneys can be justified if the things are retracted for a significant period in the day. How do we justify such expenditure when the things are permanently down because they are not working too well and people want to get into the parliament quickly? It is a bit illogical, isn’t it?
The PRESIDENT —For an hour in the morning in the busy period, we thought that—
Senator FAULKNER —Heaven forbid, what if a terrorist decided that that was the hour that they might attack the building?
The PRESIDENT —Whoever comes through there has to have a security pass. Whether the bollards are up or whether they are down, it is still the same issue.
Senator FAULKNER —Are you seriously suggesting that a terrorist would be flashing a security pass?
The PRESIDENT —No, but the person who is in the vehicle would have to have a security pass or they do not get through.
Senator FAULKNER —But the bollards are down—they just drive through.
The PRESIDENT —You are just saying that they are going to come hurling straight through?
Senator FAULKNER —Exactly.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Usually suicide bombers do not worry about a speeding fine. This is the dilemma. I for one actually support you on the bollards issue. I think it is a necessary security thing. I would just urge you to persist until they work. I am not sure the security guard sends the right signal. I cannot understand why more people do not come in like I do, through the basement.
The PRESIDENT —That is the other thing we are doing: we are encouraging more people to come in through point 1, or through the basement. Arrangements are being made to make it a lot easier for people to do that.
Senator FAULKNER —On the staffing and appropriations committee, we were most concerned about the knock-on consequences of this—that is, how do non-MPs get access to the building? It seems to me that you have half-solved that problem. They can use their pass when the husband, wife or partner drops the other one off—they use the pass, go up and get dropped off—but how does that work when they are being picked up? The person in the building has the pass, not the husband or wife coming to pick them up.
The PRESIDENT —They have to be picked up outside, either at point 1or—
Senator ROBERT RAY —Let us go back to that. The Joint House Committee took this over, promising to solve it, and I notice they have not. When it is wet or dark at night, people still have to cross that road, go down the stairs or through the basement and up to get picked up—is that right?
Ms Penfold —Ideally, they will go down to the front basement entrance.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Ideally I would go out and run half a marathon at lunchtime, but you and I both know that neither is going to happen. What they are doing is parking directly outside and, at the moment, the traffic hazard is going up massively. There are ‘no parking’ signs along the slipways instead of ‘no standing’ signs, so people are not even bothering to come up through the bollards; they are just stopping dead and letting people off and they are crossing the road dangerously. Those anticipated problems have not been solved. They have been partially solved, I agree, but they have not been solved.
Ms Penfold —There is some more work that is to be done on the traffic management side of it that simply was not able to be done in time. There will be some marked stopping spaces down on Parliament Drive, below each of the entrances. There is also some work to be done, which will take a little bit longer again, to pursue the idea of turning Parliament Drive into a one-way road, which will also address a number of those issues. In the meantime, the forecourt basement car park is an option. We cannot force people to go down there—I agree—but we have not yet come up with a practical alternative method of letting, if you like, stray, unknown vehicles into the slip-roads safely.
Senator ROBERT RAY —No—you have. You have worked out a way of letting them in to drop them off; you just have not worked out—
Ms Penfold —No—they do not count as unknown vehicles. That is the distinction, and that is the advice we are getting from the Protective Security Coordination Centre.
Senator ROBERT RAY —The taxi with a staffer in it is a known vehicle; a taxi about to pick up a staffer is an unknown vehicle. Therefore, we have a differential treatment.
Ms Penfold —You are absolutely right: there is a risk management element in this. We are not looking for absolute purity, because if we were looking for absolute purity we would not be letting in any taxis at all. But we have been advised that the risk of a taxi that a staffer happens to get into at the airport—
Senator ROBERT RAY —I accept that.
Ms Penfold —and turning up here, happening also to have a bomb in its boot, is much lower than the risk of permitting any taxi to turn up at the entrance and the driver saying, ‘I’m here to pick up a Mr Smith; let me in, please.’ That is the distinction we have drawn.
Senator ROBERT RAY —I have no argument with any of that. It is just that you have come up with a system of differential treatment that still leaves problems. You say you are going to do further work on it. We looked at all this last year; we were looking at this in March last year. What is the timetable for changes? I hope it will be done sometime before May. The weather is fairly benign at the moment. It is light most of the time when people leave. You have not dealt with the danger of people just pulling up willy-nilly on the road out there. Once you get to the middle of winter and there is wet weather and much harsher conditions, it is going to be a bit of a nightmare. I imagine that the House of Representatives side is twice as bad as the Senate side—I have not been over there, but I imagine it will be.
Ms Penfold —The parking signs on either side of Parliament Drive will I hope be going in during the next non-sitting period—so that will be starting next week, in fact. Turning Parliament Drive into a one-way road is a slightly longer process. The other point I should make in terms of timing is that we were talking about it in March last year—in fact, we were talking about it well before that—but in the end it was only in early November last year that we finally got the advice from the Protective Security Coordination Centre.
There are a variety of other possible bits of solution to the problems of people going down onto the road and being picked up or dropped off there. As I say, we have provided one option, which is not a particularly difficult option to use. There has been talk about building secure shelters down below the stairs on each side. That is still an option, but it is an option that the last time we looked at it was costed at somewhere between $750,000 and $1 million. That seems to me to be a lot of money to spend before we know that it is necessary. Whether we spend that simply because people will not use the satisfactory option that is provided is a question for the Presiding Officers in the end.
Senator WEBBER —You will know that it is necessary as soon as a female staff member is attacked at night while having to wait down there, as my staff had to last week.
Ms Penfold —But a female staff member does not have to wait down there. A female staff member has the option of going down to security point 1 and standing there waiting with PSS guards behind her and AFP people driving round in front of her. That is as secure as anyone can get.
Senator WEBBER —I suggest that that is not overly well known to interstate staff who do not come here that often. They do not even know where security point 1 is.
Ms Penfold —I will take your word for that, but we have put out quite a lot of information on that, including some circulars with maps which were emailed to everyone with an email address in this building.
Senator ROBERT RAY —I take it that you will be setting the example and parking in that car park now, to show everyone just how easy and safe it is?
Ms Penfold —In the—
Senator ROBERT RAY —In the public car park.
Ms Penfold —If you think that would be helpful, I can park there. I am not sure that parking there is really an issue.
Senator ROBERT RAY —It means you have to travel there and back every day like every staffer—just to prove how easy it is. I would have thought it would be good to set the example.
Ms Penfold —I could do that.
Senator FAULKNER —What is the cost of these bollards so far?
Ms Penfold —I think the bollards themselves were $2 million.
Senator FAULKNER —You think? Let us be precise about that.
Senator ROBERT RAY —There are a lot out the front of the building, so that may well add to it.
Ms Penfold —To design, supply and install the bollards cost $2.247 million.
Senator FAULKNER —That is of course a subset of very significant security upgrades around the perimeter of Parliament House. What is the current figure for the broader upgrade? It was around $12 million, from memory.
Ms Penfold —It was $11.7 million, and we have not gone above that.
Senator FAULKNER —You might give us that figure, if you do not have it in front of you, on notice—and perhaps disaggregated into the broad areas.
Ms Penfold —Yes, I could get you that.
Senator FAULKNER —How do we describe the mechanism of the bollards?
Ms Penfold —They are pneumatic.
Senator FAULKNER —Are the pneumatic bollards under warranty?
Ms Penfold —They are currently under a defects liability period arrangement.
Senator FAULKNER —Does that mean they are not under warranty?
Ms Penfold —I cannot tell you whether it means they are not under warranty. I think they have to be fixed up and made to work. Whether you call that technically a warranty or part of the building and installation contract that describes itself as defects liability coverage, I do not know.
Senator FAULKNER —How long is the defects liability period?
Ms Penfold —I believe that lasts until August this year.
Senator FAULKNER —That means that any mechanical faults and the like and expenses in relation to fixing them is borne by the manufacturer or the installer. Is that right?
Ms Penfold —It will not be borne by us as far as I am concerned, subject to the ones where—
Senator FAULKNER —Who is it borne by?
Ms Penfold —our people drive into them and so on. I would imagine that it would be borne directly by the installer—the person who supplied and installed them.
Senator ROBERT RAY —We are not going to have any answers based on imagination. Surely you have some people behind you who can answer that.
Mr Smith —The contract for the installation of the bollards was with a company called GE Shaw. They were our construction manager. They are who we go to when we have a fault in the bollards. They also have contracts in place with the manufacturer or supplier of the bollards in Australia, which is a company called Oztime.
Senator FAULKNER —GE Shaw has a Canberra based operation, obviously?
Mr Smith —That is correct.
Senator FAULKNER —So if something goes wrong you get on the telephone to GE Shaw? Is that how it works?
Mr Smith —The security people have a number of call-out numbers that they call to get people in to service the bollards, but GE Shaw is the first contact. The other people are Honeywell and Oztime.
Senator FAULKNER —Honeywell is some sort of computer operation, isn’t it?
Mr Smith —Honeywell were the suppliers of the control system and Oztime are the Australian representatives of the bollard manufacturer.
Senator FAULKNER —And they have Canberra operations?
Mr Smith —They do.
Senator FAULKNER —So there are three ports of call if there is a bollard malfunction?
Mr Smith —The main one is to GE Shaw, but there is backup from the other two organisations.
Senator FAULKNER —You can assure the committee that the parliament is not bearing any cost for any of these malfunctions?
Mr Smith —That is correct where the fault is related to the installation. If, for example, someone were to drive into a bollard and damage it, the cost would probably be associated with us. But, for all faults, materials and labour are paid for by the contractors.
Senator FAULKNER —So, of the 18 faults that Ms Penfold reported, is there only one fault that is basically as a result of damage caused or where the fault in the system was as a result of a matter that would not be relevant to the defects liability arrangements? In other words, it was the fault of somebody here; it was not the manufacturer’s or the installer’s fault? There is only one case in 18—is that right?
Mr Smith —There is only one case in the 18 which required some repair work. That was when a landscape vehicle clipped the card reader. It was a very minor cost. I do not think we have been charged for that at this stage.
Senator FAULKNER —No, but in that situation that is fair enough; that would be borne by the parliament. I understand that. In the other 17 cases that is borne either by the manufacturer or the installer or the person responsible for the control system—is that right?
Mr Smith —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —So there have been no costs borne by the parliament at all? Are there any costs that have been borne by the parliament?
Mr Smith —No.
Senator ROBERT RAY —We have concentrated on the slipways here. There are also movable bollards out the front for ceremonial purposes—is that right?
Ms Penfold —Yes.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Are we testing those? Obviously, faults will come out on the others. I do not particularly want the president of X coming up and being trapped between bollards. Are we testing those on a regular basis?
Ms Penfold —My understanding is that those are manually retracted. We go out and get them down when they are needed.
Senator FAULKNER —The president of X would stand on them!
Senator ROBERT RAY —Senator Mason points out that we do not want the Queen to have to get out and press them down.
Ms Penfold —I think that we will avoid that.
Senator FAULKNER —You are so chivalrous, Senator Mason; I am sure you will do it for her.
Ms Penfold —I am told that the bollards at the front ceremonial entrances are also pneumatic. They are retracted remotely from the operations room and they are always tested before ceremonial occasions as far as we possibly can and we have not had a fault yet.
Senator ROBERT RAY —With respect, President, I would suggest that they be tested a few other times too to make sure.
The PRESIDENT —There is a theory that the reason we have had quite a large number of problems, 17, is that they have been caused by—half of them—the pneumatic part of it. You may recall that those bollards were in the ground for quite some time before they were activated, and that may have been the reason that we have had so many faults.
Senator FAULKNER —Point 1 is a new name for the entrance at the rear of the public car park—is that correct?
Ms Penfold —I do not believe that it is a new name; I think that it has always been the name used by the security people. But it has become more widely used recently.
Senator FAULKNER —Is there an issue that taxi drivers and the like have absolutely no idea where this point 1 is? I have certainly heard from staff that that is a significant problem. I am not surprised to hear that because if you get a change of arrangements it is not unexpected that it might take a while for this to sink in. But point 1 might be pretty meaningless to a lot of taxi drivers around the place.
Ms Penfold —We did write to the taxi companies and we sent them all the circulars that we have put out to other people with the little plan showing where point 1 is in the building. It is possible that that information has not filtered through yet to all taxi drivers in Canberra.
Senator FAULKNER —Is it true that the taxi companies communications systems do not work in the underground car parks?
Ms Penfold —I have heard a suggestion that there is a problem with the radio controls, yes.
Senator FAULKNER —Is this a problem for the arrangements that are in place?
Ms Penfold —No. I think that it is a problem that needs to be fixed and we have a project in hand to do that.
Senator FAULKNER —What is that project?
Ms Penfold —Andrew, are you immediately on top of this? I have a brief but it has got technical terms in it which I do not want to invent without checking—
Senator FAULKNER —We did not want any technical terms to pollute the Hansard transcript.
Ms Penfold —If I am giving you technical terms I would like at least to give you the correct technical terms.
Mr Smith —We have an understanding from the taxi companies that when they get close to the very front of point 1, directly underneath the foyer of the building, they do lose their UHF radio communications. That is a problem that we have a couple of solutions for, and we are going to be trialling one of those fairly soon. If that trial works then that will be a permanent installation. The problem we have is that the taxi companies are in a situation now where they are changing their communications systems. The system they are changing to is a system that is supported already in the forecourt car park, but we understand that it will take about two years for them to make a change to their entire fleet.
Senator FAULKNER —What are the costs?
Mr Smith —We believe that the trial system can be installed for less than $10,000. If we have to go to a more powerful system to get the radio communications back to Mount Ainslie, it could be as much as $20,000.
Senator FAULKNER —Can I just ask, Mr President, so that I am clear: does the decision by you and the Speaker to retract the bollards between 8 am and 9 am relate to the slip-roads to the Senate and the House of Representatives?
The PRESIDENT —It does, but it is only a trial, just to see if it is possible, feasible and whether it helps.
Senator FAULKNER —How long is the trial?
The PRESIDENT —It is this week, and we will probably do it for the next two sitting weeks. As you realise, this week is an estimates week, so on the Senate side there will not be as much traffic as you would normally get. It is like all these things; from day one we have tried to strike the balance between inconveniencing staff as little as possible and on the other hand keeping in mind our obligations for security. These things have taken much longer than we ever expected. We all know that the spectre of the white barriers around the parliament lasted for all too long. Thank goodness they have gone. You would have to agree, Senator, that overall the security arrangements we have put in place certainly have not detracted from the architectural appearance of the building. Currently we are dealing with the bollard problem. There are a couple of other minor security works that have not been completed yet that have shown up. On the bank areas on both sides some minor works have to be carried out to ensure that everything is under control. But the Speaker and I are appreciative of the fact that it is a pretty big task to ensure that you can lock Parliament House down. We are now in a position where we can. We want to make sure that all the options are looked at to ensure the least amount of inconvenience to staff and other occupants of this building. For members of parliament using Comcars it is almost business as usual, except when the bollards do not activate properly. There was some publicity about it last week that I was caught up in.
Senator FAULKNER —Yes, I know. I am probably too much of a philistine to make a judgment about the architectural impact. I think Mr Smith would probably suggest I was too much of a philistine. I do broadly accept what you say in that regard. It does strike me, now that the work has been concluded, that it has only a minimal impact on the building. I think most reasonable people would come to that conclusion. It just strikes me here that the nub of this issue is that, when you boil it all down, if we have a situation where the bollards are retracted for a certain period of the day, does that not defeat the whole purpose of having the damn things in the first place? I do not know how you can have a situation where we spend a huge amount of public moneys—well over $2 million—on putting these bollards in place and then say that for an hour a day, at least, the things are down. What I do not understand is why they are retracted. Is it because of the malfunctioning at a busy time or is it because it is thought that this will be a measure that means more convenience for users of the slip-road? What is the reason? Is it because they are not working properly or is it just a convenience measure?
The PRESIDENT —From mine and the Speaker’s point of view, it was a convenience measure, to see if it made life easier for people coming in. But I take your point. You are probably correct: if we are going to take security to the maximum of what we are capable of, those bollards should remain up all the time and just be used as intended. Plenty of other senators have made the point to me that they should be down. I think Senator Brown, in fact, has a notice of motion before the Senate at the moment calling for them to be retracted until security is of a high nature.
Senator FAULKNER —I understand. But, if it is convenience, why do the whole thing in the first place? That is what you have to be able to justify. You have to be able to justify this expenditure of public money, and then you say, ‘We’ve spent all this money but it’s not convenient to have them, so we’ll actually retract the bollards when people are using them.’
Senator ROBERT RAY —Just because a few whining senators get on to you; just ignore them.
The PRESIDENT —I take your point, but it is like everything else. The secretary, the department, the Speaker and I are always looking at different ways of ensuring that security is the best that we can have. Both the Speaker and I took the opportunity on our way back from a conference in Kenya earlier this year to have a look at the changes that have been made to security at Westminster. I must say that, every time I visit there, there are enhanced security arrangements, including putting a glass wall across the public gallery in the chamber. I hope that never happens in our place, but we have a duty to ensure that we look at security on a continuing basis.
Member of the committee interjecting—
Senator ROBERT RAY —He wants a ban for a week so he does not have to contend with them.
The PRESIDENT —He is in within the field of play, though, so I think he is quite safe.
Senator ROBERT RAY —I have just one final question on this. Security-wise, we are almost in place, apart from some of the technicalities. Are you going to have it tested? Are you going to commission one of the other agencies of government to test the security in this building? I not suggesting the SAS, because that will end up as a bayonet at your throat. But there must be some other agencies of government that could undertake a test of it now, to find out where the vulnerabilities are.
The PRESIDENT —That is why we have asked for advice from the—what are they called?
Ms Penfold —The Protective Security Coordination Centre.
Senator ROBERT RAY —This is different. I well understand seeking advice, and so you should have, and you have consistency throughout. Now it is time to employ an agency, at a time not known to you, to test it, to see whether they can get in—when, where and how.
The PRESIDENT —That may be useful, and it is something that I will talk to the Speaker about.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Thank you.
Ms Penfold —I will take this opportunity before Senator Ray leaves, if that is what he is thinking of doing—
Senator ROBERT RAY —Within a couple of years, I hope.
Ms Penfold —You did say that it was your last question.
Senator ROBERT RAY —On this subject, yes. But you may well provoke many more. Keep going.
Ms Penfold —In returning to your suggestion earlier that I should take to parking in the forecourt basement car park, on reflection I think there are no long stay parking spaces in that car park. I think the longest is three hours. As much as I would like to think that I could come in here for three hours a day, I do not think that will work. What I would be prepared to undertake is that, in future, if I get picked up from this building, which I do sometimes, I am happy to do it down in the basement.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Can I say to you that I did the walk with your officials down through the basement to that spot and back on a particular day, and I drew the conclusion that very few staff would do the journey. That is all. It is human nature just to walk out the side door—even in the rain and with the risk of all the other things—rather than have to make that trip through the basement. That is human nature and you will not change it.
Ms Penfold —I understand that too. I suppose the last thing I would put to you is that we are, if you like, stuck with this building. We have an enormous amount of floor space spread over three or, at best, four levels. That necessarily means that, unless we start putting in moving footways, it is much more difficult to get around this building. It takes a lot more personal energy than if we had a high-rise building with the same amount of floor space over 10 or 20 stories.
Senator ROBERT RAY —No-one is disputing that.
Ms Penfold —There is a limited range of solutions to that. In just the same way that I cannot get from my office to the Speaker’s office anything like as quickly as I might be able to do in a high-rise building, we all live with those things.
Senator ROBERT RAY —I bet that, if there were a shortcut, you would take it. That is my point.
Ms Penfold —Absolutely.
Senator ROBERT RAY —If there is a shortcut out the side door, people will use that rather than wander through the basement.
Ms Penfold —But I would not take a shortcut that did not get me to the right place.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Well, it does at the moment. They have the alternative. They can just be picked up on the road in the rain, running all sorts of security risks.
Ms Penfold —But apparently that is a problem.
Senator FAULKNER —Particularly in the middle of the night.
Senator ROBERT RAY —But they are going to do it. You have to recognise that they are going to do it. They are not going to go down to that car park in the public area—or 90 per cent are not going to do it, so let us try to find some solutions in terms of traffic management.
Ms Penfold —I am open to solutions. As I mentioned earlier, we have had an email address for people to send us helpful solutions and comments. We have had a lot of comments—a few of them positive, in fact. Most of them make similar sorts of comments to the ones you have made. There have been no helpful suggestions yet.
Senator ROBERT RAY —With respect, our suggestion was to use the Senate car park as a pick-up and drop-off point for everyone. I have yet to hear the valid reasons why not. I heard later that there may be a problem with this or that, but I was never convinced by it. If you have thoroughly investigated it and knocked it out, then you have knocked out a suggestion.
Ms Penfold —The proposal there, obviously, is that we would allow anyone into the Senate car park.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Yes.
Ms Penfold —This is the solution: you let the taxis in. I think that then means that we would have to move senators’ cars out of that car park. That then loses us 35 car park spaces on that side and a similar number from the House of Representatives side. I do not know if people are ready to give up that many car park spaces at this stage. Again, that is something we could investigate, but whether that is a solution or we just create a worse problem by solving that one and in effect shift the problem to a different group of people who then cannot find a car park outside their office—I do not know. I am not convinced that that is necessarily a better solution.
CHAIR —Never mind the bollards—
Ms Penfold —We wish!
CHAIR —My questions relate to after-hours access to the Senate. Were the rules changed because of security reasons or because of budget reasons?
Ms Penfold —Which rules?
CHAIR —The rules on after-hours access, I think there is now no access through the Senate entrance after a certain time at night until certain hours in the morning.
Ms Penfold —We have not changed the opening hours of the Senate and House entrances as part of this process; they were changed 18 months or two years ago to close the entrances from midnight to 6 am, I think.
CHAIR —Is it midnight?
Ms Penfold —That was my understanding.
CHAIR —I just wanted to ask you what the hours are.
Ms Penfold —Let me find the brief on that.
CHAIR —I do not want to waste your time. I can understand the Senate entrance not being available in non-sitting weeks, but between sitting weeks—that is, on the weekend between sitting weeks—I was wondering why access is so difficult. A couple of people have raised this with me, and I have had this problem myself.
Ms Penfold —As far as I understand it, on a normal weekend, the entrances are closed from midnight Friday until 6 am Saturday. On Saturdays—and this may be where you have had a problem—they are closed from 8 pm until 6 am Sunday.
CHAIR —And does that rule apply on the weekends between sitting weeks as well?
Ms Penfold —Yes, I believe so.
CHAIR —Was any thought given to not applying that rule on weekends between sitting weeks? I understand why it might apply otherwise.
Ms Penfold —I am not aware that there was.
CHAIR —Could you have a look at that?
Ms Penfold —We could certainly look at it. Do you believe that the entrances need to be open throughout that Saturday night, or just a bit later than 8 pm?
CHAIR —Perhaps a bit later at least. Obviously, the Senate entrance is open 24 hours a day during parliamentary sittings. Many senators are here on the weekends between sitting weeks and it makes access much more difficult.
Ms Penfold —It is Saturday night, Senator.
The PRESIDENT —There is access through the public basement 24/7. All you have to do is follow the red line, Senator, and it takes you straight to the Senate side.
CHAIR —A couple of people have told me, and I have had this experience myself, that there is access through the ministerial car park basement. All of us have passes that give us access to the Senate car park, below the Senate entrance. If I have my car and my pass, will it give me access to the ministerial car park?
Ms Penfold —I do not believe so—now.
CHAIR —Can you see the problem? In a sense, it is tangential to what Senator Ray has asked about access, because it means you have to park and walk.
Ms Penfold —Or you could park down in the forecourt basement and come in that way.
Senator ROBERT RAY —You would need to take a compass and a cut lunch though.
The PRESIDENT —No; you just follow the red line.
Ms Penfold —And what I said before about long-stay car parking would not, I think, apply on a Saturday night.
CHAIR —No. But I could not park in the ministerial car park?
Ms Penfold —I do not believe you could get access to that these days.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Not yet, but you’ll get the call one day!
CHAIR —I think that would be right, Senator Ray!
Senator ROBERT RAY —Do you reckon?
CHAIR —Ms Penfold, could you please look into out-of-hours access on the weekends between sitting weeks?
Ms Penfold —We can certainly have a look at whether that ought to be—
CHAIR —Is it a security issue or is it a financial issue?
Ms Penfold —I think it is a financial issue. As you would know, we are constantly looking to find ways of keeping our security costs down.
CHAIR —I understand that. I raise it merely as a matter of convenience for hardworking senators preparing for estimates.
Senator FAULKNER —On another matter, has there been any refurbishment over in the cabinet suite or in the Prime Minister’s office of late or since we last discussed these matters?
Ms Penfold —There has been work in the cabinet suite with the hearing loop and projector and so on that was specially funded.
Senator FAULKNER —Is that now completed in the cabinet room?
Ms Penfold —Not quite, I believe.
Senator FAULKNER —The hearing loops are in, aren’t they? I think they are in our party room; I was told that. There is a sage nod from Mr Smith at the back of the room—he knows these things.
Ms Penfold —I think there is still some work to be done in the cabinet room.
Senator FAULKNER —Just eyeballing it, I understand that the hearing loops are in. But, in relation to some of the budget decisions about the electronic, audiovisual and public address systems in the party rooms, they are not in place yet, as I understand it.
Ms Penfold —That is my understanding too.
Senator FAULKNER —That is fair enough. What is the timetable for those?
Ms Penfold —The party rooms we are hoping to start on 6 March and finish on 17 March.
Senator FAULKNER —Thank you. And going back to the cabinet room and the Prime Minister’s office?
Ms Penfold —Off the top of my head, I am not aware of anything else in the cabinet room, but I will get David to follow that up. With the Prime Minister’s office, we have done some work on the doors from the foyer into the rest of the suite to improve the soundproofing.
Senator FAULKNER —The foyer of the office?
Ms Penfold —The foyer of the whole suite—where you come in from that main corridor. There were some doors on either side of that foyer that were not soundproof at all, in effect—they had large gaps. We have done some work on that.
Senator FAULKNER —Anything else?
Ms Penfold —We have done a little bit of design work on the Prime Minister’s dining room.
Senator FAULKNER —This is so people in the foyer—
Ms Penfold —Cannot hear what is going on.
Senator FAULKNER —cannot hear what the Prime Minister is saying. So, for example, if Mr Costello was sitting in the foyer, he could not hear what was going on behind closed doors—that sort of thing?
Ms Penfold —Mr Costello, or anyone else sitting in the foyer.
Senator FAULKNER —What is the cost of that work?
Ms Penfold —I have $52,000 in my mind, but—
Senator FAULKNER —I would have said Senator Mason, but he would not even get into the foyer.
Ms Penfold —Perhaps we could come back to that when we have found the amount.
Senator FAULKNER —If you could give me the cost of that, I would appreciate it. What about the dining room? What is happening there?
Ms Penfold —We are looking at a bit of a refurbishment in the dining room.
Senator FAULKNER —A bit of a refurbishment? What does that mean?
Ms Penfold —The dining room has been a bit neglected over the last few years. You would probably be familiar with it. It has mirrors and silk panelling on the walls, both of which have rather deteriorated in recent times. We have been asked to look at what we can do about that and also what we can do about making the room a little more functional in terms of having official dinners there.
Senator FAULKNER —What have you been asked to do?
Ms Penfold —We have been asked to come up with some proposals, which we have done. Before I go on, that $52,000 figure is correct. That was for the soundproofing of the doors.
Senator FAULKNER —What are the proposals for the dining room? Could you table a copy of the proposals that you have prepared?
Ms Penfold —We will take that on notice because there are a variety of bits of paper that I can remember having seen but I am not sure which one of them is in a form that could be tabled at this stage—a statement of requirements or a design brief.
Senator FAULKNER —Someone has requested you do design work in the Prime Minister’s dining room.
Ms Penfold —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —Who requested it?
Ms Penfold —Someone from the Prime Minister’s office.
Senator FAULKNER —Who?
Ms Penfold —My recollection is that it was Terry Crane. Certainly I spoke to Terry Crane some time ago about this. As far as I know, he has been generally making the running.
Senator FAULKNER —What is the request that has been made?
Ms Penfold —The initial request was simply to have a look at it and see what we could do to make it more useable. That has produced several options.
Senator FAULKNER —And I have asked for a copy of the options—that is all. Are the options in writing?
Ms Penfold —There is a costing of each of the options in writing.
Senator FAULKNER —What is that costing?
Ms Penfold —I do not know if anyone has that here. One of the options is just replacing the mirrors and the silk. There is a further option which I cannot remember. The third option was to change the configuration of the walls of that room to open it more into the sitting room.
Senator FAULKNER —That is three options, one of which you cannot remember. What is the cost of these options? What is the budget for these three options?
Ms Penfold —Very much off the top of my head, the largest option, if you like—the one that involves reconfiguring the walls—is costed at around $200,000 at the moment.
Senator FAULKNER —Has anyone written these things down on paper?
Ms Penfold —As I said, I have seen a page with those options costed. I do not have it with me and apparently neither does anybody else.
Senator FAULKNER —I am asking whether I can get a copy of that page which outlines the three options on notice please.
Ms Penfold —We will take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER —When is the work due to commence?
Ms Penfold —I do not think we have a starting date at the moment because there is still more design work to be done. We are at a very preliminary stage. The inclination is to proceed with the reconfiguration option.
Senator FAULKNER —The big money option?
Ms Penfold —If you put it that way, yes—the big money option.
Senator FAULKNER —That is that way I would like to put it, yes.
Ms Penfold —That is where we are heading, but there is more design work to be done before we have a proper proposal that we could go to a project manager with.
Senator FAULKNER —So you do not have a budget for that except that you said it is around $200,000?
Ms Penfold —That is the best I can give you in terms of cost estimates.
Senator FAULKNER —How often is this dining room used? Two hundred thousand dollars is a lot for dining room, isn’t it?
Ms Penfold —I think part of the problem is that it is not used very often because it is not very functional. If we can improve that so that it works better as a dining room—
Senator FAULKNER —So that is $200,000 for a dining room that is not used very often? Okay, I’ve got that now.
Ms Penfold —It is to make it able to be used often.
Senator FAULKNER —Perhaps, but $200,000 is still a lot for a dining room, isn’t it?
Ms Penfold —In the overall scheme of things in this building, I am not sure whether it is or not.
Senator FAULKNER —Anyway, you will give us a copy of the three options. We will look at the most expensive option and see what is being planned. This will go into the silk walls and mirrors and all of that sort of stuff, will it? God knows what they are going to do in there.
Ms Penfold —There may not be as many silk walls as there are now; I do not know.
Senator FAULKNER —That is the point. You tell me that you do not know but I would like to know. Mr Smith would be involved in this because he would be making sure that the design integrity was maintained. That would be right, wouldn’t it?
Ms Penfold —Can I just mention incidentally that, as a result of our restructure, the responsibility for design integrity has moved within the department.
Senator ROBERT RAY —To where?
Ms Penfold —To the Strategic Policy and Planning branch.
Senator FAULKNER —I do apologise. I did not realise that Mr Smith was not in charge.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Who is in charge then?
Ms Penfold —In charge of that branch is Ms Val Barrett, who has most recently been in charge of the IT area.
Senator ROBERT RAY —She is not available today for estimates?
Ms Penfold —Yes, she is here. But I should say in fairness to Ms Barrett that she has only just taken on this role. We are still in the process of moving tasks.
Senator FAULKNER —As you know, Ms Penfold, we are always fair at this committee. Ms Barrett, can you tell us any more about the third option—the preferred option?
Ms Barrett —No, I am unable to elaborate at all on those at the moment.
Ms Penfold —I am sorry; I may have put Val in inappropriately there. The point I was making was that design integrity has moved away from what will be Mr Smith’s new branch, which is Building Infrastructure Services. The design integrity role has moved away from that to our strategic policy area.
Senator FAULKNER —But design integrity is obviously a professional responsibility, isn’t it? I am not suggesting that all of the officers concerned are not highly professional. I am sure they are. But, for example, you would not want to give me the job of being responsible for design integrity because I do not have the knowledge, experience or expertise to be able to do it. It cannot just be lumbered on anybody. You would not want Senator Calvert, for example, doing it either. That is not a criticism of him, but he does not have that—
Ms Penfold —It will still involve a person with expertise in the architectural area. There is no question about that.
Senator FAULKNER —Who is that designated point person these days?
Ms Penfold —At the moment it is a person called Helen Maas.
Senator FAULKNER —Who previously advised Mr Smith?
Ms Penfold —That is right. So it is not that we have taken the role away from people who know it; it is just that we have moved that role into a different part of the department.
Senator FAULKNER —Anyway, we have got the new doors, so people cannot overhear what the Prime Minister is saying. We have got the new dining room, somewhere around $200,000, so that can be utilised over in the Prime Minister’s office. Anything else over in the cabinet room or the Prime Minister’s office?
Ms Penfold —The cabinet room chairs we are still working on, of course.
Senator FAULKNER —Any recarpeting?
Ms Penfold —There was some recarpeting of the cabinet suite following the flood, and my feeling is that that carpet had to be redone because there was a problem with the colour.
Senator FAULKNER —That is my feeling, too. That is what I was told. We did not like the colour of the carpet?
Ms Penfold —I think the colour was incorrect. It was not the same colour as the colour we were trying to replace.
Senator FAULKNER —Will you tell us about that, Mr Smith.
Mr Smith —We did not have stock of the right type of carpet to recarpet the cabinet room after the flood so we used some carpet which was a different colour. Because the carpet is glued to the floor, that carpet had to be taken up to fit the sound loops and we recarpeted at that stage with the correct coloured carpet.
Senator FAULKNER —After the flood—
Senator ROBERT RAY —Sounds biblical!
Ms Penfold —Yes, it does!
Senator FAULKNER —Yes, I should not use an upper-case T and an upper-case F. It is a lower-case ‘t’ and ‘f’. After the flooding of the cabinet room, the recarpeting was covered by insurance, was it?
Mr Smith —That is correct, apart from the fact that we had to pay the first $400,000, the excess.
Senator FAULKNER —What was the cost of carpeting the cabinet room? That was covered by insurance, except for the first $400,000, and a carpet went down that was the wrong colour—allegedly the wrong colour. What colour was it, by the way?
Mr Smith —I would have to take that on notice. I cannot remember the exact colour.
Senator FAULKNER —Did you see it?
Mr Smith —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —I am a layman, so you just tell me: was it blue, was it green, was it red?
Mr Smith —I think the carpet that went down was very much a light shade of blue, when it is meant to be very much a grey coloured carpet.
Senator FAULKNER —It was a light shade of blue. Thank you. Who complained about the colour of carpet?
Mr Smith —Nobody complained about the colour of the carpet. It was just the wrong colour for that suite, and it had to come up anyway to do the hearing loops, so when it came up we put the right carpet down.
Senator FAULKNER —How many metres of carpet are involved here?
Mr Smith —I would have to take that on notice. I do not have that number with me.
Senator FAULKNER —Of course, to install the hearing loops you could rip the carpet up and put the same carpet down at only the cost of the carpet laying, couldn’t you? That is what has happened elsewhere, isn’t it?
Mr Smith —There was a different method of installing the carpet. The carpet in the cabinet room is glued down and therefore when you pull it off the floor it cannot be reused.
Senator FAULKNER —How long had the light shade of blue carpet been down in the cabinet room? Just a matter of months?
Mr Smith —No, since April 2004.
Senator FAULKNER —How long did it last?
Mr Smith —It was taken out just before Christmas 2005, so it was there for around 18 months.
Senator FAULKNER —It lasted 18 months.
Mr Smith —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —And a slightly different coloured carpet went down. It used to be a light shade of blue. Using layman’s terminology, Mr Smith, what is the colour now?
Mr Smith —Grey colour.
Senator FAULKNER —A light grey?
Mr Smith —A fairly light grey, yes.
Senator FAULKNER —So we have changed from light blue to light grey. And what was the cost of the new carpet?
Mr Smith —I do not have that figure with me.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Oh, come on! If we cannot get that figure in the next five minutes I’ll jump in the lake. Now, come on! This is about evincing information, Mr President. I know you have always been terribly cooperative in these things, but to think that we cannot get a figure like that is unbelievable. It is not believable.
Mr Smith —We have someone who will research that for us now.
Senator FAULKNER —When was that work completed?
Mr Smith —We finished relaying the carpet on 26 January this year.
Senator FAULKNER —Was it just the cabinet room or was it the whole cabinet suite? There are other meeting rooms. I am testing my memory—it has been a long time since I was in the cabinet room. There are a range of other rooms, aren’t there—the anteroom and so forth?
Mr Smith —There are. I am not aware of exactly how far we replaced the carpet. I will wait for the research to come back.
Senator FAULKNER —So when you step into the cabinet room you go from light blue carpet to light grey carpet? Either the whole suite was recarpeted or it was not, so surely someone can tell us that.
Ms Penfold —I would hope so.
Mr Smith —We will, once we get the information that is being looked at right now. I cannot remember exactly how much of the carpet that was put down was blue, in April 2004, but we will have the information soon.
Senator FAULKNER —Who decided that the colour of this carpet was not suitable? I fear that falls to you, Mr Smith, doesn’t it?
Mr Smith —It is certainly a part of the design of the building, but the colour designs for various areas were chosen by the original architects and we try and match those as closely as possible.
Senator ROBERT RAY —But the design of the building has not changed in the last 17 years, so why is it light blue one year and light grey the next? It does not make sense.
Ms Penfold —I think that part of the problem is that we had to put down some carpet urgently after the flood and the carpet we had in stock was not the right colour—
Senator ROBERT RAY —I see.
Ms Penfold —but we had to have some carpet.
Senator FAULKNER —DPS stocks carpet?
Ms Penfold —We keep some stores of it, as I understand it, for emergencies.
Senator ROBERT RAY —You are saying that the light blue is the aberrant one?
Ms Penfold —That is my understanding.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Why did we have that in stock?
Ms Penfold —Again, I imagine—Mr Smith would do better—
Senator FAULKNER —Don’t use that word ‘imagine’!
Ms Penfold —that we use it in other places. As you would know from walking around this building, there are whole lots of different shades of the same sort of colour used in different places.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Obviously, from having a look around, 2S1 is at the bottom of the pecking order.
Ms Penfold —I am sure there is a design integrity purpose to this colour.
Senator FAULKNER —So we do not know the cost of the carpet laying?
Mr Smith —We have someone researching that now.
Senator FAULKNER —You are saying that the purpose was the hearing loop—is that right?
Mr Smith —The hearing loops had to go in and they went in under the carpet, which meant we had to remove the carpet. That was an opportune time to change the carpet back to the right colour.
Senator ROBERT RAY —With respect, that is a different answer. Now you are saying it was an opportune time. I thought it was compulsory because of the glue. Which is it?
Mr Smith —It was the glue. The glued carpet cannot be relaid satisfactorily, so it had to come up to put the hearing loops in, which gave us the opportunity to replace it with carpet of the correct colour.
Senator FAULKNER —Anyway, you will come back to us soon on that. We will progress this in a few moments when you get the answers. Just briefly, I note that the Magna Carta has lost value dramatically in the last couple of months.
Ms Penfold —It was in June last year, I think. Yes, it has been revalued down quite substantially.
Senator FAULKNER —What was the value, do you recall?
Ms Penfold —The previous valuation was, I think, $40 million and it is now down to $15 million.
Senator ROBERT RAY —Meanwhile, the much-despised prints in the cabinet room continue to appreciate. Don’t worry—I bagged them when they were put in!
CHAIR —Why has it been devalued so appreciably?
Ms Penfold —That is a very good question. The best answer I can give you is that it appears that the earlier valuation, the 2002 valuation, which was the $40 million, was perhaps a bit expansive or extravagant. When we got the valuation done towards the end of last financial year, we used the Australian Valuation Office and they came up with quite a different valuation. As you might imagine, we were a bit surprised. We put to them that the previous valuation was a much higher figure. We sought from the original valuers any information they could give us about how they had got to their value. We got some information but nothing terribly useful. The Australian Valuation Office expert then went through what we had given him and the things he had taken into account himself and came up with a fairly well-argued assessment of the value. There was a limit beyond which it was not really appropriate for us to challenge that valuation. We do not have that expertise.
CHAIR —Sure, but you asked him to justify it.
Ms Penfold —We asked him to look very closely at it, given what he had come up with. He then fiddled around the edges, I suppose you might say, but he was quite firm that the $40 million was way beyond what he could see by reference to comparable documents. There are not too many directly comparable documents, but the sorts of things he mentioned to us made sense of his valuation.
CHAIR —A 60 per cent reduction is a big reduction.
The PRESIDENT —The good news is that we are not going to sell it and it is going to cost us less to insure it.
Ms Penfold —We probably should not be focusing on the 60 per cent reduction so much as wondering why we got such a big valuation the first time.
Ms Penfold —I do not know that there is really anywhere we can take that at this stage and I do not know that there would be any particular point in doing so.
Senator FAULKNER —We are running fairly short of time, given the timetable that we had established. Might it be appropriate to recall DPS, maybe at two o’clock for a few minutes, and finalise these matters? I think DPS could come back to us then with the issues in relation to the refurbishment in the Prime Minister’s office and the funding for the carpet and so forth in the cabinet room. We could probably save a fair bit of time by asking them to come back to the table after lunch, at 2 o’clock, for 10 minutes, to deal with those outstanding issues. Would that suit the committee? I am trying to save time here.
CHAIR —Thank you. It would suit the committee if DPS could come back at 1.30 pm. Are there any further questions of DPS?
Senator FAULKNER —If I could just flag with you, Ms Penfold, that you could come back with some further detail on these refurbishment issues that have been raised—if you can say anything more about the doors, the costs and so forth, and obviously details about the dining room options and the carpeting. Has anything further happened in the Prime Minister’s suite or the cabinet room or is that it?
Ms Penfold —Not that I can remember. If I think of any or am warned of any between now and 1.30 pm—
Senator FAULKNER —If there are any other matters since we last addressed it, you might come back on them.
Ms Penfold —I will certainly mention them. What sort of information do you want on the soundproofing of the doors?
Senator FAULKNER —You might give us the cost of that.
Ms Penfold —Wasn’t that the $52,000?
Senator FAULKNER —What is the time frame for that work?
Ms Penfold —I think that has been done. It is finished.
Senator FAULKNER —That one is completed. I did not understand that. No need to worry about that.
Ms Penfold —So the doors are okay?
Senator FAULKNER —I thought you were not certain about that figure of $52,000.
Ms Penfold —I am sorry, I was not initially, then we found it and I put that in the middle of another answer.
Senator FAULKNER —So you are confirming that that was $52,000.
Ms Penfold —Yes.
Senator FAULKNER —Thank you.
CHAIR —So the only issues are—
Ms Penfold —The dining room and the cabinet room carpets.
Senator FAULKNER —Unless there is any other refurbishment that we do not know about, but Ms Penfold will check that.
CHAIR —So no further questions of DPS?
Senator FAULKNER —I have a number of questions I would like to place on notice relating to the Citizenship Visits Program. Does DPS or the Department of the Senate deal with that?
Ms Penfold —I do not think it is us.
Senator FAULKNER —This is in relation to the PEO.
Ms Penfold —That is not ours; that is the Department of the Senate’s.
Senator FAULKNER —Righto. I might have a couple more questions to place on notice.
CHAIR —There being no further questions, that completes the examination of the parliamentary departments for the moment. I remind you that the committee set 30 March as the date for the submission of written answers to questions on notice. I know Senator Faulkner has some more questions on notice. I thank the President, and Ms Penfold and officers for their attendance this morning.
Proceedings suspended from 10.46 am to 11.03 am