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Tuesday, 18 October 1983
Page: 1861

Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.

Motion (by Mr Duffy) proposed:

That the Bill be now read a third time.


Mr SPEAKER —It gives me some pleasure to participate in the consideration of the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill 1983-84. Of course, one of my first duties when I was elected to the position of Speaker was to have substantial involvement in the process of formulating the estimates concerned with the Parliament. I thank honourable members for their contributions to the debate. Whilst the Speaker is the member whom the House has chosen not only to preside over its deliberations but also to oversee its administration, I consider it very important that members communicate their views on the present and future administration of the Parliament. Many members see me privately on a whole range of matters, and many useful discussions are held. Nevertheless, discussions in the chamber itself are welcome and supplement the continuing processes of communication and consultation, which I encourage.

Before turning to particular matters raised, I mention briefly one of the more significant developments currently unfolding. In presenting the annual report for the Department of the House of Representatives on 20 September, I informed the House in general terms of the stage reached with regard to the transfer to parliamentary authority of a number of functions involving services to members. These functions are currently performed by executive departments.

I do not propose to repeat the observations I made then about the importance of the matter, but I wish to advise members of developments since 20 September. Together with Mr President, I have had discussions with the Special Minister of State (Mr Beazley) and the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr John Brown). I am pleased to report that both Ministers are in general agreement with our wishes. We now propose to communicate formally with the Government in the immediate future. We will seek the transfer of policy and funding control in respect of the electorate offices of honourable members and honourable senators, including the actual provision of offices and office furniture, fittings and equipment, together with the staff, services and general support services of honourable senators and honourable members and transport, including ground transport and travel entitlements. It is proposed that Parliament will assume responsibility for setting policy guidelines and for seeking necessary funds. We would then employ as necessary the various elements of the Executive to perform the particular functions on our behalf and report to us. Mr President and I are committed to maximum co-operation and co-ordination on this matter. In addition, I stress that the role of the Remuneration Tribunal in the determination of a range of matters will continue. We hope that the Government will see its way clear to an early and favourable consideration of this matter, which is of such importance to the Parliament.

I turn now to certain aspects raised by honour- able members. The right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) referred to expenditure on the existing Parliament House. I assure the right honourable member that I have no intention of being profligate in expenditure. However, he will realise that with the change of government and the demands on accommodation because of the coalition going into opposition there was a great deal of pressure on the accommodation in the House. Necessary steps had to be taken to provide honourable members with single offices, no matter how small. Pressure was placed not only on these offices but also on the general amenities of honourable members and their staff. I think I have to be conscious of that problem and try to do something about it.

If one examines the Estimates, one finds that there are increases in a number of areas. Some of these increases are relative, because of the election in March which involved a period of relative inactivity. There are some real increases because of the transfer of functions. The House of Representatives has taken on a number of increased commitments in the committee area. A development of information systems is also taking place in the House.

The right honourable member for New England also raised the matter of the Parliamentary Triangle. As he is aware, the precincts of this House are very restricted. The incidents and so on to which he referred occurred outside the precincts of Parliament House. Nevertheless, the honourable member for Cook (Mr Dobie) also raised the question of the precincts of Parliament House vis-a-vis the new Parliament House building. In answer to that, I say only that that matter is very much before the Joint Committee on the New Parliament House which also has the job of dealing with the fate of the provisional Parliament House. One would hope that a very reasonable and commonsense solution will be found to the problem of the precincts under those circumstances.

The honourable member for Lowe (Mr Maher) raised the question of honourable members' stamp allowance. I think the honourable member knows that that matter resides with the Remuneration Tribunal, no matter how sympathetic we feel towards him. I am glad that the honourable member thanked the stenographers around the House who give honourable members so much help. They do so under difficulties of accommodation. I am very happy to say that I believe that the word processing equipment that is gradually developing in the House should make their tasks easier. The honourable member thanked Hansard, the Library, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. I am sure that those thanks were most appropriate.

In referring to the Joint House Department, I am afraid that the honourable member spoke only of the refreshment section. I should point out that the Joint House Department has a much wider function than that, in security and indeed the very difficult task of carrying out the maintenance of this building in its present condition.

I thank honourable members for the comments they have made and I trust that when functions are more completely transferred we will have more scope in this particular building and that will lead to a smooth transfer to the new Parliament House. While we are still in this provisional Parliament House it is my intention as Speaker to see that the facilities for members do not deteriorate just because we are looking to the new building on the hill all the time. I thank honourable members for their participation.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a third time.