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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 601


The SPEAKER (12:02): I present the explanatory memorandum and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I will now do the unusual act of reading a second reading speech, as this is a Parliamentary Service bill. The bill amends the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 to reflect provisions of the Public Service Amendment Bill 2012 which has now passed both Houses. In March 2010, the Advisory Group on Reform of Australian Government Administration published its report, Ahead of the game: blueprint for the reform of Australian government administration, and made recommendations to further strengthen the framework for the Australian Public Service.

This bill reflects many of those changes as far as they are relevant to the Parliamentary Service, and also includes a small number of unrelated amendments.

I turn now to some of the main provisions of the bill.

Values and employment principles

The bill revises the existing set of 15 Parliamentary Service Values in section 10 of the act with a set of five values and introduces a set of Parliamentary Service Employment Principles.

Secretaries of parliamentary departments will be required to uphold and promote the new employment principles, as well as the Parliamentary Service Values.

Section 11 of the act will be amended to enable (rather than require) the Parliamentary Service Commissioner to advise the Presiding Officers in relation to any of the values.

The bill also enables the commissioner to give advice to the Presiding Officers about employment matters.

Proposed section 11C sets out the Presiding Officers' powers to make determinations about employment matters.

The bill also includes a statement about the role of the Parliamentary Service in serving the parliament.

Code of conduct

The bill amends section 13 of the act to provide for the Parliamentary Service Code of Conduct to apply to all relevant conduct where there is a connection with the employee's employment.

In addition to the existing requirements employees will be required to uphold the proposed Parliamentary Service Employment Principles and the integrity and good reputation of their departments.

The bill allows code of conduct action to be taken in relation to employees who have provided false or misleading information in connection with their engagement. It provides that a determination of a breach of the code of conduct may be made after an employee has separated from the Parliamentary Service.

Secretaries will be required to establish written procedures to determine whether there has been a breach of the code, which must have due regard for procedural fairness.

Section 20 will be amended to clarify that secretaries are not subject to direction by the Presiding Officers in relation to investigations into code of conduct breaches or whistleblower reports.

Whistleblower reports

The bill provides for new procedures concerning whistleblower reports made by Parliamentary Service employees. It also enables the Parliamentary Service Commissioner to inquire into whistleblowers' complaints after notifying the Presiding Officers of a proposed investigation.

Review of a ctions

The bill adds an option for reviews of action to be conducted by the Merit Protection Commissioner personally. Currently the commissioner must nominate a person or establish a three-member committee to conduct such a review.

Secretaries

The descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of secretaries will be expanded, including provision for a stewardship role for the Parliamentary Service.

Senior executive service (SES)

The provisions relating to the senior executive service are amended to capture better their responsibilities to the wider Parliamentary Service.

Confidentiality of i nformation

Provisions for the use, and confidentiality, of information in the province of the Parliamentary Commissioner and Merit Protection Commissioner are to be expanded and included in the act, rather than in the determinations. A new provision introduces protections for employees who provide information to the Parliamentary Service Commissioner or the Merit Protection Commissioner.

Immunity from suit

Provisions for immunity from civil proceedings for both the commissioner and the MPC will be moved from the determinations to the act.

Miscellaneous amendments

The bill also proposes a number of miscellaneous amendments to update, clarify and strengthen existing provisions and to remove ambiguity.

Amendments not directly related to Public Service Act changes

Other changes are proposed which are not directly related to the Public Service Act changes. These include enabling the Parliamentary Service Commissioner and Merit Protection Commissioner to delegate their powers and functions, and revising provisions dealing with acting arrangements for statutory office-holder positions to align them with the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.

Summary

In summary, the bill before the House will ensure that the Parliamentary Service Act maintains its alignment with the Public Service Act where relevant, while incorporating appropriate modifications reflecting the different role, scale and structure of the Parliamentary Service compared to the Australian Public Service.

The bill will help ensure that the Parliamentary Service continues to provide impartial and professional support of the highest calibre to assist members and senators to fulfil their constitutional and parliamentary responsibilities.

More details are included in the explanatory memorandum which has been presented.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.