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Wednesday, 9 March 2005
Page: 87


The PRESIDENT (3:39 PM) —I table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill and move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted

The speech read as follows—

PARLIAMENTARY SERVICE AMENDMENT BILL 2005

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. It is a significant development in Parliamentary administration.

On 24 March 2004 the Speaker of the House of Representatives and I announced our intention to introduce such a bill.

A bill was subsequently introduced on 21 June 2004, but was not further debated and lapsed at the end of the Fortieth Parliament. The bill I am introducing today is in identical terms to the previous bill.

Honourable Senators 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 August 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 have professional qualifications in librarianship or information management.

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.

Honourable Senators, 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 Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator Vanstone) adjourned.