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Thursday, 25 November 1999
Page: 12743

Mr Bevis asked the Speaker, upon notice, on 14 October 1999:

(1) What were the staffing levels for the Parliamentary Library in (a) 1995, (b) 1996, (c) 1997, (d) 1998 and (e) 1999.

(2) What changes have been made to standard working hours in each year referred to in part (1).

(3) What changes or restrictions have been placed on overtime claims by Parliamentary Library staff since 1995.

(4) What internal policy arrangements are in place to ensure adequate staffing levels are being maintained to assist Members and Senators, especially after normal hours during sitting weeks.


Mr Speaker —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Average staffing levels (ASLs) for the Department of the Parliamentary Library (DPL) were:

Financial Year

DPL Budgeted ASL

DPL Actual ASL

Corporate Management Program ASL

Client Service Programs

1995-96

219

213.9

43.7

79.6%

1996-97

207

195.2

33.2

83.0%

1997-98

195

194.1

30.6

84.2%

1998-99

192

188.8

31.1

83.5%

1999-00

186

178.2*

27.1*

84.8%*

* Year to date (at 30/9/99).

As the above table shows, the proportion of resources committed to client services has increased over the period.

(2) From 9 June 1998, under the DPL Certified Agreement 1999-2000, the Parliamentary Library's standard working hours are from 9:00am to 12:30pm and from 1:30pm to 5:30pm (ie. 7 hours 30 minutes per day)

Before the Certified Agreement, DPL's standard working hours were from 8:30am to 12:30pm and from 1:30pm to 4:51pm (ie 7 hours 21 minutes per day).

(3) Only those staff who are below the Senior Officer level receive overtime. This has been the situation throughout the Australian Public Service for more than 30 years.

Overtime required to be performed in each financial year varies, as it is influenced by matters such as sittings and election periods, changes in request levels from Senators and Members, priority administrative tasks (such as the one-off introduction of new systems for accrual budgeting), staff leave patterns and the actual staffing structure of an area.

Under DPL's Certified Agreement, junior staff receive overtime for all directed duty performed:

(i) after 5:30pm and 8 hours paid duty on that day;

(ii) before 7:30am; and

(iii) on a weekend or public holiday.

Staff may elect to receive a salary payment for overtime or time off in lieu, both being at the relevant penalty rate.

Before the Certified Agreement, overtime was paid for all directed work performed by junior staff outside normal working hours. However, as DPL had flextime, this meant in practice that evening overtime on a business day was payable after 4:51pm and after 7 hours 21 minutes duty on that day for rostered junior staff.

(4) On sitting nights from 5:00pm to 8:00pm, in addition to those staff working up to 8pm under the Parliamentary Library's superflex arrangements, a number of specialist information and research staff are rostered. This roster usually comprises 19 staff and qualified and experienced officers are always available on the Central Enquiry Point to assist Members and Senators.

The joint Library Committee has recently reviewed an independent evaluation of the Parliamentary Library's services and the evaluation report is included in the Parliamentary Library's 1998-99 annual report, tabled on 21 October 1999. The consultants found that, when compared with the 1996 client services evaluation, a greater number of Members and Senators are relying more on 24 hour electronic access to services such as the Internet and DPL's databases to meet their immediate information needs. DPL had already noted this trend and is developing several strategies to assist clients in this area, such as a dedicated intraNet portal and the provision of additional information through PARLINFO.

DPL's Output 2 is; `Provision of self-help information services for Senators, Members, parliamentary committees and parliamentary departments' to distinguish those services from requests commissioned by Senators and Members. Selection of this output has assisted DPL focus attention more on providing self-help services to Senators, Members and their staff 24 hours per day.

Twenty-four hour access is already provided to the Library's fulltext databases through PARLINFO, from both electorate and Parliament House offices, and to an extensive and increasing range of guides to resources and useful sites through DPL's Internet pages.

As set out above, the proportion of Library resources dedicated to the direct provision of client services has been increased, notwithstanding reductions in overall funding available to the Parliamentary Library.