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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1054

Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (18:45): The interim and final reports of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee into the performance of the Department of Parliamentary Services are, to say the least, perfunctory. The interim report scores a government response of 23 words. It only notes committee recommendation 1. The final report scores a government response of just 14 words. It does nothing but reject the committee's recommendation numbered 23. Fortunately, the benefit of such reports is not measured by the quality of the government response that they might engender. In the case of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee's inquiry and report into the performance of the Department of Parliamentary Services, I would say that the inquiry process itself was a process of real value.

This was one Senate inquiry which did have an impact. Many matters of concern were raised. They needed to be. Many changes have resulted. So they should have. But parliamentarians in both chambers need to maintain vigilance regarding what happens here in our workplace, Parliament House—in other words, what happens here right under our noses. We have an obligation to ensure that the administration of parliamentary departments is best practice, that these departments are administered competently, efficiently, honestly and fairly.

Even though the inquiry into the performance of the Department of Parliamentary Services is completed and even though the former government's response to the committee's report, however minimal and inadequate it may be, has been received, the obligation remains on all parliamentarians to ensure ongoing scrutiny of the work of the Department of Parliamentary Services. That is why at the recent Senate estimates budget supplementary round, I raised concerns about the proposed relocation of the Parliament House switchboard and help-desk operators from their current location behind the post office in this building's public area to the basement of the building. These concerns are not mine alone. Other senators around the chamber like me want to be assured that if there is any move such a move would be warranted and necessary, and that if a move goes ahead any staff who would be affected by it have been and would be treated with dignity and respect at all times. So I would say, in my brief contribution on this matter in relation to this particular proposal, that it would be appropriate for both the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate to take a close interest in this proposal and I certainly hope that they do that.

Question agreed.