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Wednesday, 16 March 2005
Page: 1

The SPEAKER (9:01 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The bill I have just presented will amend the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 by providing for the creation of a statutory position of Parliamentary Librarian. This is a significant development in parliamentary administration. The bill will also establish the Security Management Board as a statutory body.

On 24 March 2004 the then Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate announced their intention to introduce a bill to create the office of Parliamentary Librarian.

A bill was subsequently introduced on 21 June 2004, but was not further debated and lapsed at the end of the 40th Parliament. This bill replicates the previous bill and includes amendments agreed to by the Senate on 10 March 2005.

Honourable members will recall resolutions of both chambers in August 2003 to abolish the three joint parliamentary departments and replace them with a new Department of Parliamentary Services. This was one of the key recommendations made by the Parliamentary Service Commissioner, Mr Andrew Podger AO, following his review of parliamentary administration in 2002.

Another key recommendation was the creation of a statutory office of Parliamentary Librarian.

In the 2003 resolutions, the House and the Senate expressed their support for the Presiding Officers in bringing forward amendments to the act to provide for a statutory position of Parliamentary Librarian within the new joint department and conferring on the Parliamentary Librarian direct reporting responsibilities to the Presiding Officers and to the library committees of both houses of parliament.

This bill contains those amendments.

A focus of the bill is to protect the independent provision of library services to the parliament. Throughout the history of the parliament that independence has been central to the Parliamentary Library’s contributions to the deliberations of the parliament. It will be guaranteed by the package of amendments in this bill.

The continued independence of the Parliamentary Librarian is established by the legislative requirement that the Parliamentary Librarian’s functions must be performed in a timely, impartial and confidential manner and on the basis of equality of access for all Senators and members.

The independence is reinforced by the need for the Parliamentary Librarian to be appropriately qualified to perform the role.

The independence is further underpinned by the direct reporting lines between the Parliamentary Librarian and the Presiding Officers and the library committees.

The appointment and termination provisions for the Parliamentary Librarian largely mirror those applying to the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services. This ensures that, although the Parliamentary Librarian is within the joint department, the Presiding Officers, rather than the secretary of that department, retain the final say in the appointment and termination of the Parliamentary Librarian.

These are new arrangements which, as a package, ensure the independence into the future of the Parliamentary Librarian and his or her important functions.

The bill provides that the library committees will have a significant role in advising the Presiding Officers on the annual resource agreement between the Parliamentary Librarian and the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services. As well, the Parliamentary Librarian will report to the library committees at least once a year.

The bill also establishes a statutory Security Management Board. The board will provide advice to the Presiding Officers on security matters. The bill sets out details of the board’s membership and who may attend its meetings. The statutory board will replace a non-statutory security management board which, as members will know, already operates within Parliament House.

Honourable members, this bill is an important one for the parliament and for parliamentary democracy in Australia. It goes to the provision and analysis of information for Senators and members, which is the lifeblood of parliamentary debate.

It answers the call of both chambers to create an independent statutory position of Parliamentary Librarian. By ensuring that independence, this bill should help all of us better to perform our parliamentary and representational duties.

I commend the bill to the House and I present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Gavan O’Connor) adjourned.