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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1220

Mrs BRONWYN BISHOP (Mackellar) (16:35): In rising to speak to the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill 2013, I do so in the background that we previously passed through this House—and indeed it has been passed into law—an amendment to the Public Service Act that was designed to give a new setting for the public service. This bill is a mirror version of that, applying to Parliamentary Services. It arose from a long-term piece of work done by the public service entitled Ahead of the game: blueprint for the reform of Australian government administration.

One of the most important things it does is strengthen the values and Code of Conduct and establish employment principles for Parliamentary Service. Likewise, it did similar things for the Public Service. But it is important to realise the distinction between the Public Service and the Parliamentary Service, even though the bills mirror each other. But, importantly, there is a clause in the Parliamentary Service Amendment Bill that says in the proposed section 9(2) that the role of the Parliamentary Service is to provide:

… professional support, advice and facilities to each House of the Parliament, to parliamentary committees and to Senators and Members of the House of Representatives …

And it is proposed that section 9(2) confirms that this role is carried out:

… independently of the Executive Government of the Commonwealth.

I think those are important words to put on the record, because it is specifically to make both houses of parliament work so that we can serve the needs of the people.

The Parliamentary Service values set out in proposed section 10 provide that the Parliamentary Service is committed to service and is ethical, respectful, accountable and impartial, and that is the way in which most members and senators who deal with the Parliamentary Service find that they act. Nonetheless, it is important to have it in the bill.

Other important clauses, which is also in the Public Service Act, are the whistleblower provisions. It is important in a lot of the discussion that is currently going on regarding whistleblowers that we allow the provisions in these two new bills—the public service bill is now law and this one will soon be law—that they be given an opportunity to show how they work. I know that others might like to put in regimes which they think will be better, but a lot of work has gone on to prepare both pieces of legislation, and an amount of discussion has gone on between the government and the opposition, to ensure that there is agreement between the government and the opposition and that it is supported by us both. In this life the Public Service has to serve both sides of parliament. One side will be in government from time to time and then the other will be there. The reliance on the Public Service is extraordinarily important to good government and it is important that both the Parliamentary Services Amendment Bill and the Public Service Amendment Bill are given the support of both the government and the opposition.

There was only one serious amendment that I was able to move to the public service bill, and that related to the ability, under the original provisions, of the Prime Minister to extend the terms of departmental secretaries who have resigned or whose contracts have ended. I am pleased to say that no such provision was included in the Parliamentary Services Amendment Bill.

I do not think there is a need for me to speak at great length, except to say that a lot of work went into the preparation of both bills, that both the Public Service and the Parliamentary Service believe that the employment principles will be important and easier for them to deal with, and that the code of conduct is strong and stresses the ethics that are needed for those who are employed in both services. I am pleased to say that the negotiation that went on between the minister at the table and me resulted in us being able to bring to the parliament bills that we really do think serve the needs of the parliament and, indeed, the Public Service.

The opposition will be supporting the Parliamentary Services Amendment Bill, which originated in the Senate and is now here in this House.