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Tuesday, 20 March 2012
Page: 2314

Senator FAULKNER (New South Wales) (17:28): by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the reports.

I want to make some very brief remarks this afternoon about the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee's report on the 2011-12 additional estimates. I commend to the Senate the committee's unanimous report. I am sure the Senate would be aware that the F&PA Committee deals with the parliamentary departments and the portfolios of Prime Minister and Cabinet and Finance and Deregulation. This afternoon I will just focus some brief remarks on the Department of Parliamentary Services. At the additional estimates a range of important issues was examined by senators: the new Australian Parliament House website, IT and security systems, the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office, the retirement of the Secretary of DPS and the resignation of the Parliamentary Librarian, the protest on the parliamentary forecourt on 27 January, bullying in DPS and the scandal surrounding the sale of billiard tables by DPS. It is important to note that senators at those estimates hearings constrained their questioning of DPS because we had only a limited amount of time.

I remind the Senate, though, that in June last year the committee received a reference from the Senate for the committee to inquire into the performance of the Department of Parliamentary Services. Needless to say, this is an important and substantial inquiry. So far, the committee has received 23 public submissions and a similar number of confidential submissions. Let me assure the Senate that all members of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, from all political parties represented in this chamber, are treating that inquiry into the Department of Parliamentary Services very seriously. There is a strong interest from senators in a range of critical issues about the Department of Parliamentary Services, such as the adequacy of the current parliamentary oversight of the department and the relationship of DPS to the chamber departments, as well as the adequacy and effectiveness of the services provided by DPS.

There is real concern about the workplace culture of DPS, with a particular focus on allegations of bullying and concern about staff selection procedures. There is a real interest also in the committee about heritage issues and the management of Parliament House assets—furnishings, fixtures and significant heritage items that we have here in the building—and there are issues to be addressed about the leadership of the Department of Parliamentary Services and the department's administration, including the commercial and contractual arrangements that the department has entered into.

I do thank the Senate for providing me with this brief opportunity to assure the Senate, and those who might be interested in these matters outside the Senate, that these issues will receive close attention from all the members of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee as we progress our inquiry into the Department of Parliamentary Services in the months ahead and, of course, I can assure the Senate that our good work on estimates committees will continue.