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Ryan, Sen Scott
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Faulkner, Sen John
Moore, Sen Claire
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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
(Senate-Monday, 27 May 2013)
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CHAIR: Ms Mills, do you have an opening statement?
Ms Mills : Yes, I do, Senator. I have a copy if you would like me to circulate that to members.
CHAIR: That would helpful, but you have the call now, and welcome back.
Ms Mills : I am pleased to provide an update on work underway in DPS to the committee. As previously reported, the restructure of the department is well advanced. Since the last estimates hearing, a number of key positions have been filled so that the management team is now largely in place. The one exception is in the area of building assets where I am continuing to recruit to key positions; however, the staff have commenced in a number of new areas, including assistant secretary strategy and performance, a director of heritage, assistant secretary security, assistant secretary ICT infrastructure services and on the 11 June a director of capability development and a director of HR services will also commence. Each of these people is bringing an extensive experience to the department and helping progress our aim to be an exemplar of best practice.
Governance arrangements also continue to be strengthened. The audit committee has been revamped to include two external experts and a new contract has been let for internal audit with KPMG being the successful tenderer. I am also meeting regularly with the Presiding Officers who are offering strong guidance and support for the department's new direction.
Since February 1 have also met with the Joint House committee, House of Representatives Appropriations and Administration Committee and the Senate House Committee. The meeting with the last named committee in May was the first time I have attended this session, and it was an extremely productive period covering a wide range of core issues and services. These sessions allow parliamentarians to question DPS on matters of interest as well as for the department to both inform and seek feedback from members and senators on its projects and initiatives.
In addition, the department has begun its reworking of key performance indicators and reporting, and a new system of more meaningful data was implemented in our May portfolio budget statement and in preparation for its 2012-13 annual report. We have also initiated a new trial recruitment process through an MOU with the Merit Protection Commissioner and have begun staff capability audits in key areas, both actions arising from the inquiry report. Work has also progressed to clarify roles with the chamber departments around ICT and security and to ensure that the department has a necessary authority to meet its accountabilities.
As you are aware, DPS submitted its response to the committee's inquiry in late February 2013. At the time, the department made a strong commitment to each relevant recommendation and outlined a timetable of work throughout 2013. I am pleased to report that almost all actions are underway or on schedule to commence as planned. The principal area somewhere behind our target relates to the building assets largely due to the fact that key positions have not yet been filled, and I am presently putting in place alternative processes to bring these tasks on track.
Even in this area, however, much is being done. For example, work on the heritage audit is complete, good progress is being made on the design principles, and tender documents have been prepared for the conservation management plan. I am also pleased to report that we now have in place all members of the expert advisory panel who will provide independent advice to me in the development of the conservation management plan.
The department is continuing to embed cultural change in all areas of its work. These range from better informing and engaging staff on key directions, a zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour to a strengthened leadership team with clear accountabilities. DPS is pursuing an ambitious work plan. In addition to the initiatives directly related to the inquiry findings, the department is determined to take a holistic approach to performing its role as a crucial contributor to the parliamentary system. Our key focus is to have all essential elements of our new structure, culture and processes in place for the new parliament.
From 2013-14, DPS will be a customer focused, flexible, responsive and skilled agency with clear deliverables. This will include an appropriate heritage management framework to guide investment, preservation and upgrading of the building and its contents; the first-ever parliamentary ICT strategy, which will shortly be submitted to the Presiding Officers for approval and which will drive a more flexible user-oriented IT delivery system; a customer service charter and published, measurable service standards; service level agreements for the delivery of services to other parliamentary agencies and for services in the ministerial wing; simplified access to DPS services for members and senators through such measures as direct contact with building maintenance, library, Hansard, security, arts and other services; the establishment of client relationship roles and stand-alone induction programs for new parliamentarians and their staff; a plan for improved food and retail services within Parliament House and enhanced visitor services, including more streamlined event management, a wider range of tourist programs centred on authentic parliamentary experience, more professional exhibitions and partnerships with cultural organisations. Many of these are being successfully trialled during this our 25th anniversary year and I am pleased to report that visitor numbers are 30,000 higher than the same time last year.
As part of this program DPS is also trialling new ways of delivering services. For example, we conducted two trials in February and May this year of not having a second screening for people attending the Senate chamber gallery, with a view to ensuring risks remain well managed while customer service is improved. We will also be trialling not having Hansard editors in the two main chambers other than for question time during the sitting period beginning 17 June. This will be closely monitored but will remove the need for staff to walk to and from the chambers, reducing their overtime requirements each day by approximately one hour with a significant benefit in relation to work health and safety.
This reform package is being undertaken in a challenging financial environment. While the department was very appreciative of receiving $7.6 million in additional capital funds to support work health and safety in the 2013-14 budget, it remains subject to efficiency dividends and MYEFO adjustments which equate to more than $3.5 million recurrent from 2016-17.
Given that over 80 per cent of the department's expenditure directly supports parliamentary running costs and that much of our spend is locked into contracts, there is little room for simple efficiency gains. Further, as DPS's budget has been reducing in real terms each year since its formation in 2004, many efficiencies have already been achieved. For example, a reduction of over 14 per cent of FTE staff members has been delivered over the last 3½ years and the agency has joined whole-of-government contracts for utilities to reduce unit costs. Despite this, DPS will run a deficit this year and will need to achieve further savings in 2013-14, particularly to meet its commitment to CPI and other contracts and also a three per cent salary increase which is due from July 2013 and which will result in approximately $2 million in additional salary costs.
The department's priority is to maintain its services to the parliament, to be an effective manager of the building and to improve service quality. In this situation, we are developing a strategic approach to our sustainability. Its key elements are: achieving further internal efficiencies wherever this can be done; seeking parliament-wide savings through reduction in duplication, together with growth in specific areas to deliver efficiencies of scale, as recommended in the Roche report; to increase revenue streams, particularly through new visitor experiences and a commercial approach to our leases; and to reduce non-essential services and seek NPP funding for investment in infrastructure that will reduce or defer recurrent costs.
CHAIR: Dr Heriot, do you have an opening statement?
Dr Heriot : No.
Senator RYAN: I am not sure if I misheard you there, Ms Mills. Did you say that not having Hansard reporters walk around the building would be helpful from an OH&S point of view?
Ms Mills : At the moment the Hansard reporters do a 7½ minute turn in the chambers and they are allowed 15 minutes of time to walk to and from the chambers. One of the concerns that Hansard staff have raised with us over time is the long working hours. By reducing their walking time you will literally reduce their working day by an hour during sitting periods.
Senator RYAN: So it is not the walking that is the issue?
Ms Mills : No, it is not the physical walking; it is the time taken.
Senator RYAN: That is what I wanted to check. Can I just turn to the contract numbered CN1296431. It is for yoga classes.
Ms Mills : I do not have it in front of me, but I will do the best I can.
Senator RYAN: I understand it is for a year's worth of yoga classes.
Ms Mills : I would have to check the exact details of that contract, but I can explain what we are doing at the gym at the moment. We have a number of casual staff who run the classes. We have, as you may be aware, been trialling during this sitting period until the end of June extended hours for the gymnasium. So we have brought on some additional casual staff to do that. But I cannot speak to the specifics of each individual contract. I would have to take that on notice.
Senator RYAN: Is this the sort of contract for which there is a cost to the taxpayer or is it merely payment of costs recouped from people using the facility? We have had examples of sleeping classes for staff. I just wanted to check whether this was for staff or whether it was merely a mechanism for paying for a service to be provided?
Ms Mills : All of the services in the gymnasium are available to staff of the building, including senators and members. There is an annual gymnasium membership fee which is paid by users. There are two rates—one for people who are permanently in the building and one for people who are here part of the year. In addition, people can pay for an individual class on a cost basis. It is true that the gymnasium overall is a subsidised program at the moment. We are looking, as part of our efficiency planning, at the right way to operate the gymnasium on a cost recovery basis.
Senator RYAN: What is the gym membership fee for DPS staff?
Ms Mills : For all staff within the building, it is approximately $300 per year.
Senator RYAN: These classes, the yoga classes, are only available to members of the gym?
Ms Mills : No, they are also available to part-time users. They pay on a fee-for-service basis.
Senator RYAN: They are not like the sleep classes we had once before, which were provided for staff as part of an OH&S program?
Ms Mills : That is correct. Effectively, pass holders who work in the building and all senators, members and their staff are eligible to use the gymnasium.
Senator RYAN: When you take this on notice, could you also take on notice whether or not the cost was recovered by DPS? There may have been a cost to DPS or there may not have been—there may have been a profit to DPS.
Ms Mills : I can tell you that the operating cost of the gymnasium and swimming pool exceeds the revenue raised.
Senator RYAN: I appreciate that. But here we have a specific contract for yoga classes. I was wondering whether or not there was a cost for that or whether you might have taken in exactly that amount in revenue and were just passing it through as the contracting agent to the people providing the class.
Ms Mills : I will take that on notice.
Senator KROGER: Ms Mills, you mentioned in your opening statement the review into Visitor Services. I can remember this being a subject of some interest to Senator Faulkner in previous estimates. When was the most recent review into Visitor Services conducted?
Ms Mills : There was a review of the staffing structure for Visitor Services in approximately 2009. That resulted in changes to staffing arrangements and the management structure. The review we are undertaking at the moment has two elements. One is that we have created, as part of our restructure, a new Parliamentary Experience Branch, which will include Visitor Services staff within it. But we are also doing a much broader review of other ways we can expand the visitor experience in Parliament House. Included in that is looking at our arts services programs, our event management and so on.
Senator KROGER: What is the cost of the review?
Ms Mills : There are two reviews underway. One is to assist us with the staffing structure. That will cost approximately $30,000. There is a much broader review to look at ways we can restructure and offer a wider range of programs, particularly with a focus on increased revenue for the department. That cost is $245,000.
Senator KROGER: So there is a review which is costing $245,000 to tell you how to do things better when your visitor numbers are increasing, if I understand your opening statement correctly.
Ms Mills : I am pleased they are increasing. Part of it is because we are initiating a range of new strategies. Part of this review will look at the areas where we believe we are underperforming, particularly from a revenue-raising perspective. Most of the services we offer for visitors are not charged for and, for those which are charged for, they are charged at a rate which is, I believe, well below actual cost. We have demonstrated, in a number of program trials we have done since late last year with Floriade, that there is a very high level of interest in and demand for programs in Parliament House. I believe we can improve our experience there. I believe our shop is significantly underperforming. Part of the expertise here is to assist us in deciding on the best way to increase revenue from the store.
Senator KROGER: I appreciate your response, Ms Mills. You have indicated where you believe the shortcomings are. If that is the case, why do you need to spend a quarter of a million dollars in a further review to consider the areas you can improve in? It seems an awful lot of money. How many reviews have been conducted in the last five years?
Ms Mills : With regard to Visitors Services?
Senator KROGER: Yes.
Ms Mills : The $245,000 review is the only one that I am aware of that is actually looking at the range of programs that we offer and the way in which we should be providing services. The review that was conducted in 2009 was about staffing arrangements only.
Senator KROGER: I am a bit perplexed. If you are going to have a review into Visitors Services, it is not that complicated, I would have thought—the whole program—and I could not imagine why you would conduct a review into one small aspect and then have a further review, which is more comprehensive, into the broader scheme of things. I just think that anyone who was running a business would look at this and think: how difficult is it to run Visitors Services? In parliaments around the world they run visitors services; surely there is an easier and more productive way in which to do it—a quarter of a million dollars is a lot of money.
Ms Mills : I am very confident that we will gain revenue benefit from this review that will more than compensate for the cost of it—and I am prepared, obviously, to report back on that as we go.
Senator KROGER: So in terms of the review—and I appreciate it has not been concluded—when do you expect to have the report concluded?
Ms Mills : In July this year.
Senator KROGER: So that review is also going to provide you with ways in which to reduce costs?
Ms Mills : It will look at ways in which we can best structure ourselves, but it is principally around revenue raising and ensuring that we provide a contemporary service to people who use this building—in terms of individual visitors but also people who attend events.
Senator KROGER: So, when you talk about 'revenue raising', given what Visitors Services' program provides, you are in essence talking about whether or not you charge schools for visiting—and that would apply per student—or people who are coming off State Circle to have look at the building. Is that what you are talking about when you refer to 'revenue raising'?
Ms Mills : That is right, but we do not intend to charge schools for the visit. We also intend to maintain an appropriate level of free-access services for people visiting the building, as well as, in more specialised areas, providing fee-for-service tours.
Senator KROGER: I am even more confused. You are not going to charge schools for using the service, you are not going to charge tourists or visitors to Parliament House for the opportunity to come and visit this great democratic institution—so who are you going to charge?
Ms Mills : As I said, we will provide free services as a base level for all tourists but we would also be providing, for people who were interested, some paid tours in more specialist areas. We are also working to improve the other services here, such as the shop, so that people will actually purchase items in the shop and raise our revenue. We are also looking at working with the contractors to improve the food services here so that people will spend more money while they are here.
Senator KROGER: So you are looking at improving the commercial viability of the shop, firstly.
Ms Mills : Yes.
Senator KROGER: You are looking at the commercial viability of the catering facilities that are provided for people coming here.
Ms Mills : Yes.
Senator KROGER: And when you speak of 'specialist' programs, presumably the purpose of the services in terms of the programs provided are information based about the parliament and the way it is structured and so on. Are you suggesting that, if people take guided tours to have explanations of the way parliament works, they will be charged. Is that what you are suggesting?
Ms Mills : No. At the moment we run three free tours per day for tourists and visitors to the building. Those tours last approximately one hour and they give people a very general introduction to the building and the operation of parliament—they physically walk through parts of the building, the design is explained to them, they visit and sit in one of the chambers when it is not in session and it is explained how the chamber works. That is what I would call a general introduction to the building and to the parliament. What we have found in the customer survey feedback is that people would welcome, in a number of areas, more detailed and specialised tours around other aspects of the building and the parliament.
Senator KROGER: Such as?
Ms Mills : Such as, for example, the art collection, the physical design of the building and the materials in the building and how it was designed, the landscaping. A number of teachers have provided feedback that, for university-standard students, they would be interested in tours that related in more detail to a political science curriculum. For example, this year for the first time we participated in Heritage Week in Canberra a few weeks ago and we ran a small number of tours as a trial to see if there was an interest in specific heritage themed tours. I am pleased to say that we had well over 200 people; we had a 90 per cent occupancy rate for those tours. So there is a general interest in not only the operation of parliament but the design and features of this building, its art collection and the many elements of its landscaping, et cetera, which are quite unique.
Senator KROGER: In what way did the staffing structure review provide efficiency savings?
Ms Mills : In 2009—and, again, it is before my time, but from my reading of the files—there was a reduction in the number of staff in that area as a result of the review. My view is that we need to focus not on the number of staff but on the quality and support we provide through those staff, and I believe that there are ways in which we can provide a more professional and better experience, and that is part of this review as well.
If I could give one example: it is very common for tour guides in the sorts of areas in which we are providing a service here to have formal certification from TAFE or a fairly lengthy training and induction program. We do not presently have such a thing; it is a much shorter induction, and I believe that we would improve our quality with better training.
Senator KROGER: For my benefit and probably for that of others too, is the contract to run the shop to sell items run out of DPS or is there a contract for a business to run that shop?
Ms Mills : It is run fully by DPS at the moment.
Senator KROGER: I could suggest that, without spending a quarter of a million dollars, you put a contract out for some providers and they will come up with the answer as to how to make some money out of it. Always leave it with small business; I think they will come up with the answers rather than DPS actually trying to make money out of a shop. I would suggest that you might struggle to survive.
Ms Mills : I would make one comment. If you look at cultural institutions across the country—and it is very similar in the way in which the shop works—there are mixed models. About half are done in-house and about half are contracted out.
Senator KROGER: I am interested in knowing what was involved when the Prime Minister announced her cabinet reshuffle—another cabinet reshuffle—this year. How many members of parliament and senators did you have to move out of offices and relocate into different offices?
Ms Mills : I am sorry, I would have to take the full number on notice.
Senator KROGER: So you cannot tell me—
Ms Mills : I do know; I have seen the number but I do not have it in front of me.
Senator KROGER: You will know though how many staff were involved in the relocation of those members and senators?
Ms Mills : There are several staff that assist in that. Our art services team, which comprises six people, assist in moving artworks between rooms. Our IT services staff work with the chamber departments in ensuring that appropriate IT equipment is provided in the rooms, and the same with telephony. We also will examine if there is any need to do any work in those rooms around fit-out and furnishings, but generally that is not the case as we do that in a cycle anyway.
Senator KROGER: So you would cost those relocation operations, those services?
Ms Mills : This is something that we are beginning to do. I believe in the past we have simply absorbed those costs as part of our general business, but I think it is important to actually understand the value of these various movements. As I mentioned, we are developing service-level agreements, a memorandum of understanding for the ministerial wing and also looking at a service charter, which will enable us to actually cost these things more accurately.
Senator KROGER: So you have not costed the effect of those changes to your department for that last move?
Ms Mills : Not in the sense you are speaking about. As I say, we have six members in our art staff, and a portion of their time each year is occupied with assisting in the relocation of offices, but it is not currently quantified on a per unit basis.
Senator KROGER: How many hours would it have taken your staff to be involved in those moves?
Ms Mills : Each time the offices are moving, it obviously is a significant amount of work for staff. We have to match it around the availability of the office. It depends on the seniority of the person. For example, with artworks, the more senior you are, the more artworks you are allowed to have in your office. A backbencher is only permitted two, so it is a very small task to move that. A more senior member will have more artworks. Obviously also, when a person is promoted, we discuss with them what their needs are in terms of art or IT et cetera and we provide those services to them. However, I would say again that this is part of our core business and the Department of Parliamentary Services is funded to support the parliament, and these are some of the actions that we do.
Senator KROGER: I look forward to the way in which you budget for such moves in the future. You touched on Hansard and the efficiency savings of Hansard. I was surprised to read in the Daily Telegraph that this was to be trialled as an efficiency saving. Just confirming: you are trialling this; this is not a permanent move?
Ms Mills : It is a two-week trial—eight sitting days, yes.
Senator KROGER: Why did you consider trialling it at such a time, towards the end of the parliament, rather than leaving it to the beginning of a new parliament, once it had been up and running for a little while?
Ms Mills : A couple of reasons. We looked at the benefit of doing it now versus in the future. One of the issues for us obviously is financial. That is not the key driver by any means. But if this model were successful, it would enable us to reinvest current funding in more sessional staff.
One of the issues is that we have had concerns raised around work health and safety and long working hours by Hansard staff for a significant amount of time. We did do a piece of work, an independent work health and safety review, in October last year. That review found that, whilst the working conditions of people doing Hansard work were very similar to those of anybody else who might be working in a Microsoft Office environment, it was certainly true that there were longer days of work during sitting periods. So this seemed an appropriate opportunity to trial whether in fact we could reduce those hours of work for people. It is not intended as an efficiency, in other words, to save money from Hansard per se, but it would enable us to engage more sessional staff and therefore balance the workload more effectively.
I should also say that we have been, in effect, progressively changing the way Hansard works for a long time. In 2009 a trial was conducted to not have Hansard officers attend when there are away committee hearings. Following that trial, since 2010, we have not been sending Hansard officers to those. They rely on the broadcast stream from our DPS Broadcasting staff, and they do all of the Hansard work for committees here in the building, regardless of where they are being held. In 2012 we trialled, and implemented late last year, no Hansard officers in the Federation Chamber.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but committee work is very different to chamber work, isn't it, for Hansard?
Ms Mills : Indeed, and that is one of the reasons that this is a trial, and it is not including the sitting time. I read an article in the paper today—and perhaps there is also a misunderstanding of what Hansard officers do when they are in the chamber. It has not been since the late 1990s that Hansard officers in chamber or committee work are actually recording the words as they are being spoken. What they do in the chamber is take a log of who is speaking—very similar to the Dynamic Red and its equivalent in the House of Representatives. They simply take a log of record of the speakers. They then return to their office and they listen to the recording of that 7½-minuite period and they transcribe it, using either respeaking or a keyboard. So the work that is done in the chamber is not actually taking Hansard; it is actually taking notes of who is speaking. Our view in the trial is that most parts of chamber activity are very structured and well informed about who is speaking.
The issue of interjections is an interesting one and one that we will be looking at in the trial. There are mixed views about the importance of capturing who makes an interjection. Officially, our view is that we record an interjection only when the person who is speaking actually responds to it, and so we are not there to record every interjection that occurs in the chambers. However, we also recognise that question time operates quite differently in structure to other parts of the day, and therefore the trial is not for question time; it is for those more structured parts of the day.
The staff will be able to, as normal, hear the 7½-minute period of recording just as they do now, and they will also, as they do now, have reference to the Dynamic Red or the equivalent in the House of Representatives chamber, as well as ParlView. I probably should point out too, in regard to the timing, that since late last year we have made available on the parliamentary network not only live viewing of the parliament but also a past parliament recordable, downloadable and pausable screen, so you can actually watch, slow down, repeat et cetera a live recording of parliament, and this is another tool now available to Hansard that was not available previously.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but—if you do not mind, Senator Kroger—can you just tell us who came up with the idea. Whose idea was it?
Ms Mills : As I said, it was no one person's idea. We have been talking since 2009 with the various parties who are involved in Hansard and the recording of parliament, and we have periodically trialled different arrangements, most of which have been successful, as I said, and implemented. This was a question—having now done it in the Federation Chamber—of whether it is an area worth also trialling in the two main chambers.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes. I am really trying to understand, Ms Mills, who is 'we'.
Ms Mills : I have had discussions with the Assistant Secretary of the Content Management Branch, who is the director of Hansard. I have discussions with the Clerks of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the table and other staff, and obviously we also informed the Presiding Officers to seek their preliminary views as to whether they would have concerns with the trial being conducted.
Senator FAULKNER: But what I was interested in understanding is: have the Hansard reporters or editors themselves been engaged and involved in some sort of consultative process around the trial? You did not mention them in the list.
Ms Mills : They have been informed that we wish to conduct the trial and that they will be part—
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, so they have been informed.
Ms Mills : Correct.
Senator FAULKNER: So there has been no consultation with them.
Ms Mills : The consultation will be with regard to the impact of the trial. We will be looking at whether they have a view that it has been more difficult for them. We will also be looking at whether the quality or the quantity of errors has changed. We will be looking at the speed with which the first drafts are available. We will be looking at whether we in fact are making the savings that we anticipate and reducing their hours of work.
Senator FAULKNER: So the hands-on Hansard reporters and editors have not been consulted. That is clear.
Ms Mills : That is right. They have been informed that we wish to conduct the trial.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, I know they have been informed, but they have not been consulted. I am listening very carefully to your evidence.
Senator KROGER: And the Senate Clerk this morning said that she had mixed views about it as well.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but I am just wondering about the people who actually undertake the task. Wouldn't they be in a good position? Wouldn't it have been sensible, in the new consultative environment in DPS, to actually talk to the people at the coalface?
Ms Mills : Certainly the directors of the Hansard team were part of the consultation, yes.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but the Hansard reporters and editors were not.
Ms Mills : No, and their feedback will be gained from the trial.
Senator FAULKNER: What I am asking is: is that a good practice? With a change like this, it would seem to me that some broader consultation might have been valuable. That is just an impression I have.
Ms Mills : I think that we will have a very extensive time for consultation, having done the trial, to see what its impact is throughout the period July-August-September. This gives us the opportunity to actually have a sensible dialogue. There are certainly a variety of views expressed by Hansard staff. The principal issues that have been raised with me include the capacity to capture interjections. That is something that really only through the trial we will know for sure. Some staff have raised with me a concern that there is a symbolism of them being in the chamber. I am probably less persuaded by that, because I think the words of the chamber are the words of the members of parliament and senators. That is the important thing for us: that we record that accurately, and that will certainly be our test in the trial.
Senator KROGER: Have Hansard reporters raised concerns about accuracy during divisions, for instance? That is a time when often clarification is sought as to what had taken place during a division. Has that been raised?
Ms Mills : Not with me. As I said, the two principal issues raised with me to date have been about capturing interjections and the symbolism of their presence in the chamber.
Senator KROGER: Ms Mills, I have to say I am still a bit perplexed because you are saying it is not an efficiency saving, a fiscal saving; that it is about OH&S but on the basis that the Hansard staff themselves will save an hour a day by not walking to and from the chamber; that you will still have the same number of staff, so you are not going to reduce the level of staffing. Why not just have the Hansard staff doing an hour less each a day and have it picked up that way? I just do not understand the logic of it.
Ms Mills : If this trial were a success and if it were implemented, the costs of our current staffing would reduce by around a quarter of a million dollars a year, because we pay overtime for those staff on most sitting periods.
Senator KROGER: So it is a fiscal saving.
Ms Mills : However, our desire, as I said, is to reduce the overtime because it has been raised as a work, health and safety concern, and reinvest that in more sessional staff so that people are working shorter individual hours but an equal quality of service is being provided for the Hansard reporting.
Senator KROGER: In follow-up to Senator Faulkner, the real issue is: have the Hansard reporters themselves complained about excessive working hours, given that the parliament has only sat some 17 weeks or so—
Ms Mills : On many occasions. In fact, one Hansard reporter asked me to ask the Prime Minister to reduce the sitting days.
Senator MOORE: And did you?
Ms Mills : No, I did not.
Senator KROGER: I will leave that there. I would like to note that it is questionable trialling a new system which is groundbreaking—it has never happened before in the federal parliament—in the final throes of the 43rd parliament when, clearly, the remaining sessions will be very busy. It is extraordinary to be trialling a new system in that kind of dynamic and I question the veracity of that decision that is clearly in your court.
Ms Mills : As I said, I would be really happy to report back. Oftentimes it is not well understood exactly what does happen in the chamber. I am very happy to table for the committee's reference some logs, on a random basis, to show what is done by Hansard in the chamber. It is not a recording of any of the text; it is noting who is speaking.
Senator KROGER: I have a few further questions, but, given the number who wish to ask questions, I am happy to wait.
Senator FAULKNER: In the media today, there was a report that one of the reasons for the trial was because there was a complaint that Hansard reporters were blocking a parliamentarian's view. Did you see that article?
Ms Mills : I did, and that is not an accurate statement.
Senator FAULKNER: So there is no truth to that?
Ms Mills : No.
Senator FAULKNER: Will any efforts be made to correct the Age newspaper for printing—
Ms Mills : I am certainly happy to do that. I saw the article about 15 minutes before coming in here, so I have not had an opportunity to comment on it.
Senator FAULKNER: I see. You can assure us that no complaints have been made by parliamentarians about the presence of Hansard reporters?
Ms Mills : That is correct. There has been discussion about having laptops and smaller screens in the chamber, to actually reduce the blockages, but that is not to do with the actual recording of Hansard; that is simply about the equipment that we use. They are not connected issues.
Senator FAULKNER: These complaints are from parliamentarians, are they?
Ms Mills : There has been a suggestion that it would improve the line of sight for people if a lower screen were used. Given that that does not affect the way we do our work, we are happy to support that.
Senator FAULKNER: What is—
CHAIR: Just before we go any further, can I ask the committee to accept the examples of Hansard's logs in the chamber that Ms Mills sought to have tabled. It is so agreed. Senator Kroger, did you have a follow-up question?
Senator KROGER: I just want to seek qualification on the evidence you gave before, Ms Mills, in relation to interjections. You said there were differing views as to how interjections were recorded. What guidance have you given in relation to the trial period as to how interjections will be recorded in that period of time?
Ms Mills : They will be recorded in the same way that they presently are, which is that, if they are responded to, then the person who made the interjection is, where possible, identified. It is already quite—
Senator KROGER: What is 'where possible'? Because, if they are in the chamber, they can see who is providing the interjection. If they are not in the chamber, how are they ascertaining where the interjection is coming from?
Ms Mills : In the same way that they presently do, when they cannot—it is not always possible, even being in the chamber, to identify who is making an interjection. When an interjection cannot—when a person making it cannot be identified, that is referenced in the Hansard presently, and the same practice will continue to be used.
Senator KROGER: So, when they are not in the chamber, how are they are going to identify who the interjector is?
Ms Mills : In the same way that they do now, in terms of the voice-over, in terms of—
Senator KROGER: So you are saying that, when they are in the chamber, they do not look up—
CHAIR: Senator Kroger, can I just remind you to allow the witness to complete her answer before you put another question?
Senator KROGER: It just is not plausible.
CHAIR: Ms Mills, you have the call.
Ms Mills : Thank you. They presently do it, wherever possible, by viewing. But they are also able to check with the recorders, the clerks at the table and their staff. They are also able to use ParlView. As I said, this is a tool that has only been available to us since late last year and provides an opportunity to play and replay and replay, as many times as might be necessary, the recording of parliament. I can assure you, having tried it myself, it is an effective way of having a look at the way the eight cameras across the chambers collect the information.
Senator KROGER: It sounds like you are making life a lot more complicated for yourself.
Ms Mills : I might just add to the question about while doing it—you were concerned about it being a busy time. When we did discuss this with the senior Hansard staff, there was a view that it needed to be trialled in a busy time, because this would be the most effective mechanism for us to truly test them.
Senator KROGER: Good luck with that logic.
CHAIR: Senator Faulkner.
Senator FAULKNER: I was asking about the issue of line of sight in the chamber. So that issue was raised with you as the secretary of DPS, was it, Ms Mills?
Ms Mills : Yes, it was.
Senator FAULKNER: And what was the concern?
Ms Mills : The concern was that there were a number of—obviously particularly for people who are in either the committee room for committee purposes or when the chamber is sitting, that line of sight to people who are speaking is an important element for people in key positions and that we should do everything possible to ensure that things do not block that line of sight.
Senator FAULKNER: Which committee rooms were a concern?
Ms Mills : This was a discussion that we particularly are talking around design issues in the chambers.
Senator FAULKNER: No, but you said 'committee rooms'?
Ms Mills : No, I said when the rooms are used for committee purposes or chambers actually sitting.
Senator FAULKNER: You mean when the Senate is in committee or when the full Senate is sitting?
The President: The committee stage.
Ms Mills : Sorry, pardon my terminology.
Senator FAULKNER: That is fine. Are we talking about the Senate chamber or the House of Representatives chamber?
Ms Mills : The discussion was first held regarding the Senate chamber. That is the area, as I said—I see no change to the way in which we deliver our service by moving from a rather ancient model desktop to a laptop computer.
Senator FAULKNER: Was there a cost involved?
Ms Mills : No.
Senator FAULKNER: And who made the complaint?
Ms Mills : It was not a complaint. It was a discussion around general ways in which we could improve—
Senator FAULKNER: All right, who discussed it with you?
Ms Mills : I have discussed it with the President and the Deputy President of the Senate to seek their views. They are supportive of improving the line of sight and trialling this.
Senator FAULKNER: I am assuming a senator or senators raised this matter with you as the Secretary of DPS. Is that right?
Ms Mills : I had a discussion with Senator Parry and the clerks when we were doing a review of fit-out and furnishings in the Senate chamber.
Senator FAULKNER: Thank you.
Senator KROGER: So it is Senator Parry's fault?
Senator FAULKNER: Senator Parry, as the Chairman of Committees, presides at the table.
CHAIR: Are there any further questions, Senator Faulkner?
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, I do have some questions. I do not know if you saw this, Ms Mills, but I raised with Black Rod when the Senate was still at the table an issue which I want to clear up. You might be able to help me but you might need to take it on notice. Black Rod had indicated at the last round of budget estimates that, in relation to Senate accommodation meeting rooms, there had been consultation with Mr Giurgola. I note that the answer to question on notice No. 105—and thank you for that—from our last round said that, in relation to Senate accommodation meeting rooms, moral rights consultation was not undertaken and heritage consultation was not undertaken. It is not a major issue. I am just trying to establish why there appears on the surface to be an inconsistency, though I accept that 'moral rights consultation' is a more formal terminology than 'consultation'. Can you help me with that?
Ms Mills : Yes, I can. I saw your question this morning and I am pleased to be able to clarify. When we produced the table for you as part of the question on notice at the February estimates, the executives of the department, particularly myself, concluded that we needed to provide advice in the affirmative only when we have firm evidence that the department had in fact conducted the process formally. You will notice in the table that, for each category, we indicated either 'conducted', 'not conducted' or 'not required'. In the case of the Senate meeting rooms, we reported at the time that it was not conducted in terms of moral rights because at that time I could find no-one in the department who could provide me with formal advice or copies of records that showed that formal moral rights consultation had occurred. However, as recently as last Thursday—and it is entirely coincidental; we are doing work for our for 2013-14 programs—referenced under a very unusual definition in our TRIM recordkeeping we did in fact find a copy of the formal moral rights consultation process with Mr Giurgola on those particular committee rooms. That letter is dated 31 October 2011 and it was a formal notification to him. There was also on record an email of 8 November 2011 which referenced a telephone call between Mr Giurgola and a member of our staff, at which point the issue was discussed. The advice in the email said he had 'no issues with the plan and did not need a separate meeting to discuss. That concludes our formal notification process on this project'. So I have always been advised and, as I think the Black Rod indicated this morning, we were aware that consultation had occurred but we were not aware that that had been formally structured. I am now able to report that it was.
Senator FAULKNER: That is helpful and I think does clear up that matter. So, if you were to provide an answer to the question on notice now, you would not write 'not undertaken' in the moral rights consultation column?
Ms Mills : Yes.
Senator FAULKNER: I would appreciate it if you could table the relevant correspondence at the conclusion of the hearing. In relation to these Senate accommodation meeting rooms was there any particular problem with the siting of fire facilities or fire hydrants?
Ms Mills : I am not aware of that. An extensive amount of work was done on their design and placement. They are replacing areas that formerly had open desk spaces. A consultant architect was used to do the design, obviously taking into account both the heritage design aspects and also the health and safety issues. With moral rights, the principal issue that Mr Giurgola was concerned about I understand was to do with natural light. My understanding is that all of the work was done in accordance with the tender process, firstly through an architect and then through building companies.
Senator FAULKNER: But I am asking specifically about fire hydrants and fire retardant facilities. Can you help me with that? If not, perhaps you can take it on notice in relation to their placement and the like.
Ms Mills : I will take it on notice, but clearly the architects would have taken that into account. There are very detailed drawings, which I have seen, on the preparation for the site.
Senator FAULKNER: I do not want to get bogged down on it but I would appreciate your letting me know about that. Can you give me a brief status report on what is happening with the editors' booths in Hansard—I am not entirely sure what the correct terminology is. My understanding is that there is a refurbishment currently under way which will affect those booths, and a brief status report on that would be helpful.
Ms Mills : As a result of the Parliamentary Budget Office being established within the building, the Department of Parliamentary Services is having to relocate a number of our staff. Part of that is a domino effect into the area that is currently Hansard. In the circular areas at the rear of both the ground and first floors there are small booths. They were originally designed not for Hansard but for typing, because of the noise of typing, but have been used in recent years by Hansard reporters. As part of our plan to accommodate staff and to modernise our facilities, we are planning to remove those and make the areas either offices or meeting rooms. We are currently going through a design phase with the architects on that.
I have had discussions with Mr Giurgola and Mr Hal Guida, from the original architects team, about the heritage aspects of those areas. Their view, at this stage only verbal but I am meeting with them again on site on the 30th of this month, was that they do not constitute heritage aspects of the building but they believe there would be merit in photographing them and considering them as part of a late 20th-early 21st century method of working, but that it would be entirely appropriate to remove them from a heritage perspective.
Senator FAULKNER: What is the correct terminology to describe these booths?
Ms Mills : I do not think they have a proper term. The shorthand has been 'Hansard booths' but, as I say, they have not always been used for that over the 25 years.
Senator FAULKNER: These are on the first floor of the building?
Ms Mills : There are booths on the first floor of the building and it is planned to remove them.
Senator FAULKNER: What does the engagement of Mr Giurgola and Mr Guida mean in terms of any further heritage assessment?
Ms Mills : Based on discussions with them I wrote to Mr Giurgola on some of the building works that need to be done to accommodate the PBO and highlighted a couple of areas where we felt we would either wish to discuss whether moral rights applied or to inform him that moral rights would apply. In the case of these, as I said, I have met with him and written to him, and the view was that, whilst it is important to record changes of work practices and the way technology changes how we operate, they are not a crucial part of his design and therefore could be removed without affecting his integrity plans.
Senator FAULKNER: So does this mean there will not be any further heritage assessment or that there is no heritage assessment?
Ms Mills : As I said, we have asked him from a moral rights perspective. He has provided verbal advice on that. We have, since that meeting, made documentary evidence of them and taken photographs of them, and I am meeting with him on the 30th to discuss whether any further work would be required from a heritage perspective.
Senator FAULKNER: So that is an open question at the moment as to whether there will be further heritage assessment?
Ms Mills : That is right.
Senator FAULKNER: So there is no decision about that. I raised consultation in relation to Hansard in the chamber previously. Are you satisfied that Hansard staff were adequately consulted in relation to these changes?
Ms Mills : I have been speaking to the staff over a number of months, both within Hansard and in other areas, about the need to change the way in which our accommodation has been provided in the past, to move to a more open plan and to move into areas where we can ensure that, wherever possible, staff are operating close to windows and that offices are principally placed internally so that the natural light affects the most people possible. This is certainly one of Mr Giurgola's design principles. Staff have expressed concerns right across the board about changes in practice, but we have explained to them that these are actually positives about using an open-plan environment. I have certainly said to Hansard staff that, if they have a concern about being in open plan, we are more than happy to—and I believe we should in any case—provide noise-cancelling headphones for them and that this would aid them in their work.
We are also continuing to discuss office layout to the largest degree that we can, recognising two things. One is that we are working hard to accommodate an additional 40-plus people through the Parliamentary Budget Office, and that we have to work within the environment of Parliament House in terms of its design constraints. So, whilst we are consulting on those elements that we can, we have not consulted on whether, for example, the booths would stay or not, because what we have talked about is the fact that we need to move to open plan. We need to move closer to the government standard for square metrage per person for staffing accommodation, and we need to do this in a cost-effective way.
Senator FAULKNER: We have established, in relation to the Hansard staff attending the chamber, that they were informed, not consulted. Were they informed and not consulted about this change too?
Ms Mills : I would have to speak to the director of that area, because each branch head is responsible for talking with their staff on these matters, and I would have to take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER: But you are not aware of whether they have been informed or consulted, then.
Ms Mills : They have certainly been informed. As to the level of consultation, certainly, again, with management I am sure that has occurred, and I am unsure of the exact degree of engagement with the staff. But I am happy to take that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER: It does not appear to be a very interactive process with the Hansard staff, does it? They are informed but they are not consulted on a couple of issues. Is that a problem? I just do not know whether this leads to a positive working environment around the place.
Ms Mills : I think that we have had to make a number of difficult decisions in order to accommodate the space changes that are required in the Library, in the Hansard area and in my own area, which is being relocated to accommodate the PBO, and we have talked with staff and consulted as much as we thought is possible. Some people would like to see more consultation; some people would like us to get on with it. I think we are trying to find the appropriate balance.
Senator FAULKNER: Sure, but are these Hansard booths used currently?
Ms Mills : The ones on the first floor have not been used for some time, because the refit began some months ago. I think that all the spaces in the building that we occupy have been used for something, but again we are trying to make sure that we provide an equitable service right across the board. One of my concerns remains that a large number of DPS staff work in the basement in roles that are not appropriate for the basement. By increasing, I guess, our density in some of the older areas above ground, we can actually accommodate more staff in better accommodation.
Senator FAULKNER: But they are not being used at the moment?
Ms Mills : I believe the ground-floor one still is—but not the first floor, because that has been in the process of a refit since late last year.
Senator FAULKNER: Do we know whether Hansard editors have a view that they were useful and did want to use them? This is the benefit of a consultation process, you see. I don't know the answer to my question, but I just thought DPS should know that before it makes these sorts of changes.
Ms Mills : I think a large percentage of our staff like the idea of having individualised workspaces, whether that be Hansard or elsewhere; but in concert with our budget constraints, the number of staff to be accommodated in the building, contemporary design principles and the ability to provide the same level of amenity for people, in different designs, we are of necessity moving to different configurations within the building.
Senator FAULKNER: Do you think that we are doing well enough in relation to consultation with staff in DPS, or could we do this a bit better?
Ms Mills : I think we are still improving on what we do. I have two more sessions of all-staff briefings scheduled for next week and the one following. I attempt to meet with staff as much as possible. I had a very lengthy session with Hansard staff a few weeks ago. I attend all-branch meetings whenever I can. I also meet quarterly with all of the unions, including the two unions that represent Hansard staff, and have an open door for them to approach me whenever they wish to.
Senator FAULKNER: So, we received the picture, in answer to question 116 from Senator Ryan in the last round of estimates, in relation to the number of ongoing staff recruited to DPS. Are you able to let us know what the pattern in relation to ongoing staff being recruited since December 2012 is?
Ms Mills : I am just looking for some numbers.
Senator FAULKNER: There were two questions asked by Senator Ryan on notice about staffing: 116 and 117.
Ms Mills : Yes, question 116 related to—
Senator FAULKNER: It might be easier and more logical to start with the second one—let's start with 117. From 1 July to 31 December, 33 ongoing staff left DPS and 11 non-ongoing staff left DPS—you can confirm that?
Ms Mills : Yes, that is correct.
Senator FAULKNER: Can you indicate to the committee what has occurred since 31 December 2012 in relation to staff leaving DPS?
Ms Mills : I am sorry, I do not have the specific figures, but I can make a general comment in that the pattern remains relatively unchanged. The department is heavily reliant on getting the mix right between full-time ongoing staff, non-ongoing staff and part-time and casual staff. Given—
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but in question 117 we see, in relation to full-time ongoing staff, that 33 left and 13 were recruited. That is correct, isn't it?
Ms Mills : Yes, that is right. I think there are three factors that contribute to that. The first is an overall reduction in staff numbers, as targeted this year as part of our budget savings; the second is that we were going through a restructure and therefore delayed recruitment to certain positions until we have our structure clear. The third is that the department, because of its sessional work, its shift work and its heavy work pattern during sitting periods of parliament, does have a very deliberate strategy of engaging non-ongoing staff in a number of key areas.
Senator FAULKNER: From 1 July to 31 December 2012, 11 non-ongoing staff left DPS. Can you say how many non-ongoing staff were recruited in the same period?
Ms Mills : I can give you the figures—not for exactly the same period, but I can give you the figures for 1 July 2012 to 31 March this year. In that time, 55 employees were hired, 22 of whom were ongoing—that is 40 per cent—and 33 were non-ongoing in temporary positions. As I said, there are a range of reasons for that, including our restructure and the nature of our work.
Senator FAULKNER: With staff being recruited—ongoing and non-ongoing—how many are being subjected to the normal competitive selection processes, the normal merit selection processes?
Ms Mills : The vast majority of these would be. In our non-ongoing recruitment, there are a couple of areas—particularly because of the sessional work in, say, Hansard and security, for example—where we recruit a large number of people at one time so that we have a back-up for peak-and-trough work. That is done through open processes. A small number of these staff would come from agencies, due to us needing people at short notice. Others are here because they have come either through recruitment or through agencies to do contract work, particularly relating to our capital program, and some will have come on transfer from other agencies.
Senator FAULKNER: Which agencies?
Ms Mills : Which agencies have we used?
Senator FAULKNER: No, which agencies do they come from?
Ms Mills : A number of different agencies and departments.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but do you have the pattern of the agencies they do come from?
Ms Mills : I can take that on notice, given that they come from a wide variety of places.
Senator FAULKNER: I would appreciate that information. I would also appreciate information about which of these jobs were advertised, as opposed to just gazetted. I am interested in understanding the pattern of selection—competitive selection, merit selection—which has applied in relation to recruitment over the last 12 months. I appreciate you have to find a cut-off point and it may be that 31 March is reasonable. We already have the figures from 1 July 2012, so it might be of assistance to DPS to do that from, say, 1 July 2012 to end March 2013. If you can go longer, that is fine. But I appreciate that it is late May at the moment and you have to find a cut-off point to provide this information. I do not want to delay the committee on that and I do not want to make too much work for DPS either, so I will just place that on notice. But I am very interested in understanding which agencies' staff are being recruited, particularly if there is no advertising of positions.
I have one issue relating to the furnishings of Parliament House. You would appreciate that, in the DPS inquiry, there was some focus on the issue of the terracotta pots. You might want to take this on notice, unless you have these figures at your fingertips. I want to know how many of these things were originally purchased, how many are currently in storage and how many of those currently in storage are damaged and effectively unusable—so how many we have left. I do not expect you to have that information at your fingertips, Ms Mills. I would probably be more concerned if you were carrying that around in your back pocket. But, if you could take that on notice, I would appreciate it. I am also interested in whether there are any plans to bring those pots back into usage in Parliament House.
Ms Mills : I will take the first part of your question on notice. As to the second part of your question, as you know, the majority of them were removed because a decision was made some time ago not to pay for pot plants and the maintenance of pot plants across the building. We are certainly not in a financial position to reverse that decision, which was made some years ago. However, we are of the view that where pots are being used they should wherever possible be those pots. As I walk around the building, certainly in some offices and some hallway locations, I see that other pots appear to have reared their heads. I think that they should be replaced by the original pots wherever it is practical. Some of the pots are very large and there is simply nowhere we could easily accommodate them without having a reversion to the original 1988 design, but there are some smaller pots that I think we could be using.
Senator FAULKNER: You might update us on that.
CHAIR: Has any thought been given as to whether or not the option would be made available for senators or members to have access to those pots if they were to purchase their own plants and to maintain and keep them?
Ms Mills : In some senses that is available to people, but perhaps awareness of that is not what it should be. One of the things that I am very anxious that we do in terms of preparations for the new parliament is have a much more focused service agreement and much more clarity for people about what services we can provide, not just about the artwork, as in on the walls, but all of the things that are able to be provided for senators, including garden pots et cetera.
Senator FAULKNER: Can you give us a quick update on the conservation management plan—just a status report on that?
Ms Mills : Yes. We have had a number of ongoing discussions with Mr Giurgola about the design principles, which obviously form part of the plan. The next scheduled meeting with him is on the 30th of this month. He has been very supportive of the approach and very supportive of participating in the design principle development. We also took, on 12 April this year, the draft tender brief for the development of the conservation management plan to the Heritage Advisory Board for consideration. It was supported.
Senator FAULKNER: Just say that again; I'm sorry, I missed that.
Ms Mills : On 12 April this year the Heritage Advisory Board approved the draft tender brief for the conservation management plan. It was my intention that we would not actually release it until it was also seen by the expert advisory committee that I had proposed establishing to assist in the development of the plan. I am pleased to say that the membership of that advisory panel has now been confirmed. We are in the process of establishing our induction and first meeting with that group. Once that group has viewed and, I suppose, re-endorsed the tender document it will be released.
Senator FAULKNER: So you can let us know who the advisory panel is, then?
Ms Mills : Yes, I can tell you. Five leading experts have agreed to join the panel: Mr Peter Watts AM, an expert in architecture and cultural heritage management; Mr Richard Thorp, an architect who was part of the original design team; Ms Oi Choong, a well-known landscape architect; Mr Keith Cottier AM, also an architect; and Major General Steve Gower AO, an expert in cultural heritage management, whose role at the Australian War Memorial many people would be familiar with.
Senator FAULKNER: One of the issues that kept arising, as you would be aware, in our DPS inquiry was to ensure that there is engagement, if you like, with the original design team. Can you give the committee some assurances that that critical feature or element is taken account of?
Ms Mills : Absolutely. I have been meeting quite regularly with Mr Guida and Mr Giurgola. Mr Richard Thorp has agreed to become a member of the panel. If I could make a slightly tangential comment: as part of our 25th anniversary celebrations we recently played host to an all-day event where around 140 people who had been part of the original construction of this building came together in celebration. In the evening there was an event and some speeches by a number of people critical to the construction, including Richard Thorp. In quite a public way, he went out of his way to say how pleased and confident he was about the direction that the department is currently taking with regard to management of the building.
CHAIR: Senator Faulkner, I have to interrupt you there. We have to table a document, and then we are planning to adjourn for lunch. When we come back we will still require DPS because there are still quite a few senators who have some questions. With the concurrence of the committee I would like to receive and table the moral rights information that Ms Mills talked about earlier. It is so agreed.
Proceedings suspended from 12:30 to 13:30
CHAIR: I call the committee to order and reconvene the hearing. We have some answers from Dr Rosemary Laing in response to questions proposed this morning by Senator Faulkner, which I table. The committee agrees. Senator Humphries, you have the call.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I will start by commending DPS on its trial of extended hours of operation for the gym. As a user of that facility, I am very excited by that possibility, so thank you very much. I do not speak for many of my colleagues at the table in that regard, I notice—with some honourable exceptions, of course.
Senator Hogg: Excuse me, Senator Humphries, there are a number of regular gym users around here!
Senator HUMPHRIES: Just a small number, yes, that is true. I want to ask about the announcement of the proposal for paid parking in the Parliamentary Triangle and its impact on this building and its users. There was a working group that included the National Capital Authority, the Department of Finance and the ACT government. Was DPS represented on the working group that was previously working through proposals to do with paid parking?
Ms Mills : Do you mean relating to the recent budget announcement?
Senator HUMPHRIES: Yes.
Ms Mills : No, we were not.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Was DPS consulted about this proposal before it was announced?
Ms Mills : I was informed about it being announced. It was explained to me that a couple of institutions within the Parliamentary Triangle, because of their quasi-independent nature, would not be automatically covered but it would be a matter for each of those individually to make a determination whether to be part of the process or not. Parliament House is one of those institutions.
Senator HUMPHRIES: What do you mean by 'part of the process'?
Ms Mills : As I understand it, the announcement covered government land within the triangle. But because we are covered by our own legislation—as will the National Portrait Gallery be from 1 July and also the National Gallery—each was considered outside the automatic scope and our own consideration for car parks within the premises would be a matter for, in their case, the boards and, in our case, the presiding officers to take a view.
Senator HUMPHRIES: So it will be a decision for the presiding officers as to whether there is any direct impact of paid parking on this building. Specifically, I assume you mean areas such as the public car park would be made paid parking.
Ms Mills : Yes. Obviously I have had an opportunity to have only a very preliminary discussion with the presiding officers. Given that the information was new to us, that the proposed start date is 1 July next year and that the matter has been referred to a committee, I have suggested that it would be appropriate for DPS to now participate in negotiations and provide advice to the presiding officers in due course.
Senator HUMPHRIES: You cannot tell us whether you anticipate that it is likely you would need to charge for parking in the public car park, by virtue of their being paid parking all around it, to avoid having people migrating there in order to avoid paying for parking elsewhere?
Ms Mills : I think the critical thing for us is being able to ensure that visitors are able to come to the building. We certainly would not want to have a level of paid parking that prohibited them being able to afford to do that, nor would we want to be in a situation where we became the place that other people parked because it was a cheaper option. It is clearly a complicated issue for us. I will be very interested in talking with the galleries in particular, as they also have their own visitor parking, to get an understanding of what they think they might provide by way of advice to their boards.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Obviously there would be a concern about people being able to access the parliament without having to pay for the privilege. These are issues I am sure you will take into account as you work through the consequences of this decision.
Ms Mills : Absolutely. Whilst not party to the specific discussions, certainly in the dialogue I have had with cultural institutions over the last couple of months there has been a concern from their point of view that visitor numbers are impacted by the fact that the streets surrounding the institutions are fully occupied by workers in the area. They were one of the groups concerned about ensuring there are appropriate resources in this area for visitors, and clearly that is something we will be bearing in mind as well.
Senator HUMPHRIES: What is the impact of the provision of paid parking in nearby areas of the triangle on the payment of fringe benefits tax?
Ms Mills : As you are no doubt aware, the fringe benefits tax would affect this building if paid parking were within one kilometre of our boundaries. I am advised by the NCA that the new arrangement will be one kilometre and 30 metres from us.
Senator HUMPHRIES: I see. That is extremely lucky—if not good planning. I thank Mr Giurgola for his very wise design arrangements.
Senator Hogg: Someone had the theodolite at the right place at the right time!
Senator HUMPHRIES: Indeed, Mr President. Ms Mills, can you tell me how much car parking is provided in in each of those four sections that are in the curtilage of the building?
Ms Mills : Yes, I can give you a breakdown of most of the parking spaces if you would just give me one moment.
Senator HUMPHRIES: You can take that on notice.
Ms Mills : Overall, there are around 1,900 spaces. But I would have to take it on notice to provide the breakdown car park by car park.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Okay. And you can include in that the outside parking at the back of the executive wing
Ms Mills : The razor car park, yes.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Would it be fair to say that the spaces in the non-public areas of the building are pretty well at capacity on most sitting days?
Ms Mills : They are certainly in very high demand on sitting days. As you know, concern about space in the building has come up quite regularly, and certainly my own staff have raised it from time to time. Work was done two or three years ago to have a look at the impact of additional car spaces in the building or its surrounding area. The cost is around $15,000 per space. Obviously that is prohibitive when it is really a seasonal matter. On the non-sitting days, which is obviously the vast majority of the calendar year, there is certainly adequate parking here. And obviously on sitting days a number of staff or visitors to the building use Federation Mall and other areas that presently are not charged for. Clearly in our discussions with the NCA that is something we will be having a look at.
Senator HUMPHRIES: In the budget there is provision of money for the capital works associated with erecting signage, parking meters and things like that in the Parliamentary Triangle. Were it necessary to install paid parking arrangements in the public car park, or indeed other areas of the building, would that allocation for the triangle cover that cost, or would DPS need to find that separately?
Ms Mills : Again, from my very preliminary discussions with the NCA the view was that they would be seeking to include us, if we chose to, as part of that financial bucket of money that they have. But if it were not possible to fully cover us, we would probably look at at least going to tender with them to minimise the individual costs that we might otherwise have. I am aware that a number of government agencies across Canberra have, for example, paid ticketed parking. They have the same sorts of issues we have here, about there being insufficient places for all staff. They have all come with different models. Some are doing it on a first-served basis Some are doing it on a rotational basis or almost a raffle basis. Others are introducing paid parking on a fee-for-service basis. And obviously there are commercial entities that provide the equipment and do all the management of it. So I think there are several options for us to explore if we want to go down that path.
Senator HUMPHRIES: Senator Kroger asked a question previously. I am not sure whether you have answered the question or not. We have previously had discussions in the committee about declining visitor numbers. Has that decline been arrested or is it continuing?
Ms Mills : I am hoping that it has been arrested by the things that we have done in the last 12 months. What we found was that, in the first several years of operating the building, it was receiving over a million visitors a year. That has been down to around between 820,000 to 850,000 for a number of years. One hundred and twenty-five thousand of those visitors are school students who are coming as part of the subsidised Commonwealth program, for which we are most appreciative. We are really exploring this year ways of increasing our numbers back to over a million that we had for so many years. That is about refreshing our experience.
A lot of people I speak to say they have been to Parliament House. They have ticked the box rather than seeing it as a place that you come to regularly. We have had a very small budget for promoting the House in recent years. Again, I have been working with some of the cultural institutions to look at ways in which we can promote our visitation cost effectively. We participated this year in the Enlighten festival in a much more, I guess, aggressive manner than we have in the past. We were very pleased to see a large take-up of tours but also special dinners that were offered in the members' and senators' room, and we also had the Queens Terrace open on those weekend evenings. As I said earlier, we participated in the Heritage week for the first time.
The purpose of the visitor strategy is to look at the feedback we have received from visitors in the past, which has been: 'It's been a nice tour but, after the hour, I feel like I'll move onto something else.' We would like those people to think that not only would they stay longer but they will come back. We would like them to spend more money in the centre, in terms of souvenirs, food and so on, and we would like to take up feedback I have had from a number of sources that managing and arranging events here is unnecessarily complex. There are definitely ways we can streamline that experience and make this a much more open place.
With regard to events in particular, it is not all about raising money, by any means. One of the concerns that I have seen is that some event management here is quite expensive and, if you are a non-profit organisation, perhaps prohibitively so. So I have been talking to some of the other jurisdictions about how they manage that balance so that we ensure that this place is genuinely open to everyone.
I do have a breakdown of the car park numbers, which I would be very happy to table.
Senator FIFIELD: The room that we are in at the moment has a hearing loop. I think all of the committee rooms do in the parliament.
Ms Mills : That is right.
Senator FIFIELD: Regarding the galleries in both the House and the Senate chambers, do they have hearing loops?
Ms Mills : To be honest, I do not know. I would have to take that on notice. Certainly there are areas within the building where we do not have hearing loops. We have been progressively doing that and the priority was given to the committee rooms.
Senator FIFIELD: The answer might be provided by an officer while I am asking some other questions. There is the issue of the need for captioning on parliamentary proceedings for people who are deaf or hearing impaired. That is something that has long been sought. Can you provide any advice as to whether that matter is progressing?
Ms Mills : Yes. Taking both those questions together to start with, we are extremely committed to making sure that this building and the work that goes on in it is accessible to as many people as possible. That means physical modifications to this building but also things like captioning and hearing loops being provided for people present here. Also, captioning obviously means that the whole community can participate. With regard to hearing loops, we are in the process. An area that is definitely a black spot at the moment, to come back to the gallery issue, is the Great Hall. There is only the capacity for hearing loops to work in a very small percentage of it. We are currently doing a study so that in 2013-14 we can make that place more hearing-loop friendly. There are two options: one is an extremely expensive construction option and the other is to provide the hung-hearing loop model that individuals can pick up as they enter and then drop off as they leave the room. The latter is probably the model we would move to in the first instance, but I am happy to keep the committee informed of that.
With regard to captioning, I think that this is a very important issue for us. I have come from working in the disability area, so I am strongly committed to making sure that these things work. I looked at the models that we were examining two or three years ago, in terms of introducing captioning. We have a deadline of December next year to be fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. In the past, we have looked at models which introduced captioning virtually as a parallel service: so we would have a broadcasting service; we would have a Hansard service, which records the text and makes text of the words in parliament and the committees; and then we would have captioning as a parallel process.
I think there are, looking at technology, a lot of opportunities for us to bring those three initiatives closer together. Capturing very quickly the words being spoken would allow us to caption and allow search ability on our parliamentary website, and to provide metadata for us to make that experience easy for people. Also, I have seen live examples of people using captioning of not only television programs et cetera but conferences and other areas where the text is captured and presented immediately in a range of different formats, including on iPads. You can change the colour of the text and font and so on, so someone who is also sight impaired can adjust it.
We are about to undertake a review into Hansard. I announced this as part of our response to the inquiry. One of the issues that is in the terms of reference for that is to examine ways in which captioning may be a benefit or more closely linked to the Hansard product. I am very confident, having seen some of the things in the marketplace, that we can actually deliver—rather than a parallel model—something that is much more closely integrated and will allow us to caption across the building in the next couple of years.
Senator FIFIELD: Real-time captioning?
Ms Mills : Yes, real-time captioning.
Senator FIFIELD: Do you have a target date for having captioning, at least, for the proceedings of the House and the Senate chambers?
Ms Mills : Our objective would be to be compliant by December next year. But as this is a preliminary study and I do not have a costing for it, I am hesitant to put a firm date on it other than to say that our best endeavours will be for it to be the end of next year. That is pending (1) the finances and (2) our being able to introduce the infrastructure that is necessary in that timeframe.
Senator FIFIELD: In relation to technological options for the hearing loop for the Great Hall, are you consulting groups like Deafness Forum of Australia?
Ms Mills : Yes, and also the Human Rights Commission and other sources, so that we have a look at—from the point of view of a range of stakeholders—what would be most effective. In an ideal world a full system of hearing loops in the Great Hall would be great. The advice I currently have is that we would have to take up significant portions of the floor to lay the necessary infrastructure, but we have now engaged an independent person to provide advice on the two options. As I said, one may be an interim one. At some point, the floor might be redone and that might be a more appropriate time to do a full hearing loop. I can confirm there are hearing loops in the public galleries in the chambers.
Senator FIFIELD: There are? Good. I was just checking.
CHAIR: Ms Mills, if we could turn to the transition from the Department of Finance and Deregulation for IT services. I was wondering if you could update the committee on what is happening in relation to that transition and whether it is yet completed.
Ms Mills : Certainly. I might make some opening remarks and then ask the Chief Information Officer to fill in some of the detail. As you are aware, a partial transfer of IT equipment was made to the Department of Parliamentary Services in late 2011 and accompanying that was an allocation of funding for the equipment it would be responsible for. As a result of that, we have visited and assessed the equipment in all electorate offices. We have just about completed an upgrade of the broadband speed to all electorate officers. We have either replaced or have a plan to replace the equipment that is at end of life. We now have the ability to provide a much more comprehensive service for electorate offices. The limitations of that model were twofold from the point of view of members and senators. One limitation was that the definitions of what is an IT item, what is a telephone and what is a printer are probably no longer current. The separation of responsibilities does not make sense from an end-user perspective. The second issue, as very understandably raised by senator and members, is that they would like to have more flexibility in the type of equipment they use.
Those two issues have been part of our discussions with the Department of Finance and Deregulation for the past—almost—12 months. We have reached agreement in principle on the transfer of the remaining items which would be, in the broad definition, ICT and that the entitlements for technology items would transfer to the Presiding Officers. That would allow them to, on our advice, offer a much more flexible range of services.
As context before I go into detail, we are very close, as I mentioned in my opening statement, to completing our first parliamentary ICT plan. The foundations of that plan are for us to provide appropriate levels of service anytime, anywhere and on any device. The critical thing for us, in terms of our delivery, is to be infrastructure neutral in the sense that, whether you have a tablet, desktop computer or a smart phone, it will be matched to your needs. We will provide advice on that. But our role will be to push out the information in a format which can be accepted on any of those items—ensuring that we are not restricted to a brand or a particular type of information technology. I will ask Eija to give you a more detailed update on the negotiations.
Ms Seittenranta : The negotiations have been progressing quite well. We have an agreement to have the transfer completed by 1 July this year. So in the next financial year we will be providing a full IT service, including those bits which are missing at the moment—the phones and the printer-type devices. As part of the transfer, we will be getting the existing fleet of equipment. The entitlement will be modified from the very device specific one to a more generic one which will allow the Presiding Officers to determine, from time to time, what will be made available. The intent is to allow both devices which can be obtained through the DPS ICT one-stop shop—where we will have a set of makes and models which are common and well liked available directly through us—and BYOD solutions, where senators and members would be able to use their entitlement to choose the device. We would then provide support depending on what mobile capabilities that device allows—just to give us the protections and security if someone chooses something really odd, some unknown device.
CHAIR: As of 1 July, if a request is made from a senator or member for an iPad, will that request be fulfilled?
Ms Seittenranta : It would be if it were within the allowable amount. One of the issues we will have is the transition from existing equipment to new equipment. Everybody has equipment allocated to the financial value of the allowance, so we would have to look at how we trade old equipment in and out to make space in the allowance.
CHAIR: As an example, with the rollout of the new multifunctional devices—is that the coming under your department?
Ms Seittenranta : We will be inheriting those devices on 1 July for support.
CHAIR: Can you update us on the issue of wi-fi in electorate offices?
Ms Seittenranta : We are looking at options for providing the capability. We are looking at whether we can expand existing contracts to do that or whether we would have to go to the market to make that capability available.
CHAIR: Do you have a time line for the completion of that assessment?
Ms Seittenranta : It will depend a little bit on the cost of the option and funding availability. There will be a cost attached. It is a new capability, so it is not necessarily in our baseline. We have to look at whether we can fit it in or whether we need to seek funding.
CHAIR: When is the one-stop-shop going to open for current senators and members?
Ms Mills : Our plan is to have it fully implemented for the new parliament. We may be in a position to offer some of the services before the new parliament, and certainly, obviously once the full transfer takes effect from the department of finance, there will be an opportunity to talk to members and senators who are presently here about what kind of equipment plans they might have and what their aspirations are.
The idea of the one-stop shop is to be both physical but also virtual. In other words, post election we will have a physical place in the building where people can view and try equipment—a little bit like a very, very modest version of an Apple store, where you can test things out and speak to staff about your IT requirements, what sort of use you are going to put it to, how mobile you wish to be, how tech savvy you are et cetera. Also, as we progressively accept the new model, and as Eija indicated, we need to map out as soon as we can what the needs of senators and members are. Do you want to move to an iPhone? If so, we want to make sure that, in the assessment about the capacity for us to deliver that, we have got that planning soon. So you will see a change in our process really from July onward. But our target date for a truly physical one-stop shop will be post September.
CHAIR: Thank you very much. If there are no further questions on ICT, I want to move to the heritage area, following the inquiry we had but also in relation to reporting back from previous estimates. Could you give us an update on what is happening in relation to the marble facade?
Ms Mills : Yes, I can, if you just give me one moment. As you are aware, after the issue was raised with me at estimates we took immediate action last October to gain a thorough understanding of the issue and the degree to which a risk might be posed. We began with weekly inspections on 2 October and then we conducted a risk assessment with an expert convening a workshop of DPS staff with relevant knowledge of stonemasonry, maintenance and other areas, and then agreed, on the basis of the workshop findings, to conduct those inspections on a monthly basis. Any anomalies in the stonework are then addressed and, to date, we have not found any immediate threats.
The visual inspections are being undertaken by three staff within the department, one with 25 years experience as a consultant in the stone industry and two others—a qualified mason and a mason's assistant—both of whom have worked on stone in this building. The sealant joint in the green marble panels at the ministerial entrance will be inspected for condition and replaced, if necessary, before the end of this financial year. This work was identified following visual inspections that showed the presence of efflorescence at the bottom of the panels, indicating water ingress. The panels will be individually inspected to benchmark their condition for future reference and repairs undertaken as necessary.
A fully detailed, up-close inspection of all the panels of the four niches and the creation of a photographic record of the panels was completed on 18 May this year. All panels inspected were found to be structurally sound and all sealant joints intact. A laser survey of the panels was completed on 20 May, with results being stored by the building information unit for future benchmarking purposes. Follow-up surveys will be conducted at agreed intervals to identify any panel movements to within a tolerance of 0.005 millimetres.
CHAIR: Thank you very much. We talked earlier today and you gave evidence in relation to the tourism issue and visitor numbers here. Can you give us an update on what is happening with the 25th anniversary of Parliament House and how that integrates into hopefully increasing visitor numbers?
Ms Mills : Yes, certainly. We have taken an approach a little bit like that of Canberra, in the sense that it is a one-year celebration rather than a one-day celebration, and have taken the opportunity to both extend our commitment and effort in certain areas and also trial new ones. May I begin in probably outlining by saying I was also extremely grateful to the government, as part of this year’s budget, for giving us supplementation of $85,000 to support the anniversary celebrations. This funding will be used for a number of things, including a photographic record of the building, particularly a celebration event in June.
In addition to this, I will outline some of the other things that we have done. On 15 March this year, during the Canberra centenary celebrations, the Library published an online chronology, Australia's Parliament House—more than 25 years in the making! It is a chronology that looks at milestones in the history of the planning and building of Canberra and Parliament House and key events that have occurred in this building since 1988, its symbolic importance for the people of Australia and the major milestones that have been achieved here. We were very delighted to have a number of senators present at the launch and also Mr Giurgola, who gave a short and spontaneous speech, generously sharing his thoughts about his philosophy and vision embodied in this building. That chronology is available on our internet site and is being regularly updated as additional things happen.
We also participated in the annual Enlighten program in March, which is a program conducted in the Parliamentary Triangle and is supported by the ACT government, with lighting and special after-dark events. We had a record number of people participating here. I mentioned earlier that we had special dinners in the Members' Guests Dining Room. We had bars open and special late-night tours. We had a range of events. We had lighting of the building thanks to the support of the ACT government. Also, for the first time we participated in the Canberra Heritage Festival and conducted a number of tours by our staff between 13 and 26 April. Picking up some of the questions that Senator Kroger asked earlier, a number of these things we are expanding using our existing resources and the goodness of our staff rather than having it currently structured into our business. As these things are proving successful, we will be looking at ways in which we can enhance them.
On 9 May I was delighted to receive the commemorative 25th anniversary $5 note and the 20c coin produced by the Royal Australian Mint which, if I can give a small plug, are available for sale in our Parliament Shop at a staff discount, a members discount. We had a very good series of reunion events at Parliament House to celebrate that date. We have also been conducting oral histories as a record of the 25th anniversary. We did it on that date and we have been doing filming of back of house, I suppose how parliament works, in its 25th year, which we will be making available on the internet and at functions in the near future.
At the constructors' tour and cocktail reception we had over 140 people present, which was well in excess of our original thinking. It was a very positive experience. In fact, a number of the people who participated have offered to come back as volunteers on our open day in August to assist with tours around the building, in areas that they were responsible for constructing. On 15 May, the parliamentary departments jointly launched a commemorative book called Interwoven, covering the commissioned art and craft work in Parliament House. Artists, photographers and former members involved in the commissioning of art were present. The event coincided with the Association of Former Members of the Parliament annual event. We jointly celebrated the 25th anniversary with them. We have also been running special exhibitions in the Presiding Officers' exhibition area, coinciding with both the anniversary of the building and the Canberra centenary. The most recent exhibition was of new acquisitions to complement the book launch, which was about work that was created in 1988 for the 1988 opening and work that has continued to grow in the arts collection. On 24 May we had a special event here to promote the Australian Ballet's centenary performance in Canberra. I am very pleased to say that a display of costumes from the ballet has been part of an exhibition in the Marble Foyer. Very uniquely, the ballet agreed to lend us that material prior to the actual show. That is a very unique thing and it has provided us with an opportunity to highlight the ballet and also show its connection to this building.
On 24 June we will be having an event in the Great Hall to acknowledge the contribution of people who have worked in the building, not just those who created it but those who have been part of the staff, part of the parliament, here for the past 25 years. The open day will be held on 24 August. Its theme will be 25 years of Capital Hill history. Special tours will be open and we will be opening up the chamber areas and private areas of the building. As I said, we have been very fortunate in the number of people who have volunteered to be part of that.
We are working very collaboratively with the chamber departments and also I am very pleased to say that Australian Capital Tourism and others have all seen the benefit of enhancing the visitor experience here. We are hoping that with the success of some of the things we have been trialling during the 25th year we will be able to continue them as part of our visitor strategy into the future.
Senator RONALDSON: The 30,000 visitor numbers increase is impressive. Clearly the visitor group in the department is doing a good job as well.
Ms Mills : Yes, absolutely.
Senator RONALDSON: How many people are involved in that group?
Ms Mills : There are a couple of different areas. There are around 30 staff all up. We have Visitor Services officers who are guides and who work on a roster system, we also have a very small events team, and we have two staff who are responsible for driving the new initiatives and creating the new partnerships.
Senator RONALDSON: Senator Kroger referred to contract CN1327511A1 for the sum of $269,900 for a review of the visitor experience at Parliament House. Who prepared the tender document for that contract?
Ms Mills : The tender document was prepared by the acting assistant secretary for that area, together with the director of our procurement branch.
Senator RONALDSON: Did you have any involvement in the preparation of the tender?
Ms Mills : I had some involvement in the terms of reference, to ensure that the scope of the terms of reference was appropriate.
Senator RONALDSON: Prior to that tender document being written, did you discuss what might be required with any external people? Had you consulted with people you had previously had contact with, for example, in your former life about what might form part of it?
Ms Mills : Not in any sense of directly with the tender, no.
Senator RONALDSON: But had you discussed the visitor review with other people prior to this?
Ms Mills : When I first started here and I saw there were opportunities for us to perhaps do the visitor experience more expansively, I invited a large number of people from cultural institutions and tourism areas across the ACT to participate in a workshop. I also included in that workshop a member of the Sydney Opera House tourism group—
Senator RONALDSON: Who was that?
Ms Mills : Simon Spellicy
Senator RONALDSON: Who is Simon Spellicy with at the moment?
Ms Mills : He is now with a company called Sandwalk Pty Ltd.
Senator RONALDSON: Is he still working at the Opera House?
Ms Mills : No, he resigned from the Opera House late last year.
Senator RONALDSON: I understand Mr Spellicy is part of the group that was given the tender, is that correct?
Ms Mills : That is correct.
Senator RONALDSON: Do you know when the Sandwalk company was formed?
Ms Mills : I do not know the exact date. I know it was formed by a number of people who used to work at the Opera House and who left sometime in the course of 2012.
Senator RONALDSON: The company was only formed on 5 November last year. Were you aware of that?
Ms Mills : I knew that it was a new entity, but can I stress that I had absolutely no involvement in the tender process.
Senator RONALDSON: I was advised this morning that you wrote the tender. Is that not correct?
Ms Mills : I did not write the tender. I had input into the terms of reference, as would be appropriate. I also participated in a briefing session for potential tenderers, people who had registered, and around nine organisations attended that. They were my two involvements in the process.
Senator RONALDSON: So your part of it was to scope the tender?
Ms Mills : I provided guidance and support to the assistant secretary in that area about the type of work that would be required to undertake an appropriate visitor strategy here.
Senator RONALDSON: And the sort of expertise which would be required?
Ms Mills : Only in the sense of asking that they ensure that the skill base was relevant and that there was an understanding of the nature of the work here, particularly the balance between being a working building and a tourist destination.
Senator RONALDSON: When was the last conversation you had with Mr Spellicy prior to the tender being posted?
Ms Mills : I do not recall but I would have very infrequent contact with him.
Senator RONALDSON: That was not my question.
Ms Mills : I do not recall.
Senator RONALDSON: Did you discuss with him the scope of the tender? Did he provide you with any input about what may or may not be required?
Ms Mills : I spoke with Sandwalk in the presence of the acting assistant secretary before the RFT was issued. But I cannot recall the exact date. That was done not with a view that they might be potential tenderers but, given his previous experience at the Opera House, to ensure the scope of works we did would be useful.
Senator RONALDSON: How many people were asked to submit?
Ms Mills : It was an open tender.
Senator RONALDSON: How many people submitted applications?
Ms Mills : We received 12 responses.
Senator RONALDSON: How many were interviewed?
Ms Mills : The responses were evaluated by a tender evaluation panel comprising two DPS assistant secretaries and the Director of Procurement and Contract Management. I am not familiar with the details of the process. I signed the final contract. I believe they did a very thorough assessment using the standard approach. I do not believe they—
Senator RONALDSON: If you did not have anything to do with it and only signed if off, how would you know what the process was?
CHAIR: Senator Ronaldson, please allow Ms Mills to complete her answer.
Ms Mills : I do not believe they interviewed any of them beyond the assessment against the documentation provided by the tenderers.
Senator RONALDSON: So there was a contract valued at some $76,000-odd a month for 3½ months and there were no discussions with any of the tenderers.
Ms Mills : The 12 responses were all assessed against the criteria and evaluated according to Commonwealth tender procurement processes. I do not believe that any of them were individually interviewed.
Senator RONALDSON: I was told this morning that you had prepared this tender and that no-one in Visitor Services was aware of the tender until it appeared on AusTender. Is that right?
Ms Mills : I cannot comment on that. I did not prepare the tender. The tender was done through the acting assistant secretary for that area and the head of our procurement branch. I would have to take on notice the timing of their notification to staff.
Senator RONALDSON: Was anyone present at your meetings with Mr Spellicy who was involved in the preparation of the tender document?
Ms Mills : The acting assistant secretary was, yes.
Senator RONALDSON: Did you have any discussions with the acting assistant secretary after the meeting with Mr Spellicy?
Ms Mills : Only about the advice they had provided about the successful attributes of the tourism strategy at the Opera House. So, in very general terms, the answer is yes.
Senator RONALDSON: Was the conversation this year or last year?
Ms Mills : Last year.
Senator RONALDSON: Did Mr Spellicy indicate to you that, if there were going to be any work done, he would be interested in doing it?
Ms Mills : I cannot recall that.
Senator RONALDSON: Did you indicate to him that you would be seeking a review and that he should apply for that if it were done?
Ms Mills : Only in the sense that I was saying that I was of the view that there were significant areas for expansion and improvement of our visitor services and that I was likely to tender for that.
Senator RONALDSON: Was his company formed at this stage? Do you know?
Ms Mills : No, I do not know.
Senator RONALDSON: Can you please take on notice all your discussions with Mr Spellicy—where they took place, when they took place and whom they took place in front of?
Chair, any other comments I make would be proffering an opinion, so I will wait until I receive those matters on notice. Thank you.
Senator PARRY: Ms Mills I take you back to your opening statement this morning. One of the dot points at the base of page 2 says: 'The establishment of client relationship roles and stand-alone induction programs for new parliamentarians and their staff'. Is that going to clash or be part of or be totally separate to the training that the Department of the Senate has for incoming senators?
Ms Mills : No, it will be complementary to that.
Senator PARRY: What do you propose to do? Do you propose to have an additional one? That is quite a comprehensive training program that the Department of the Senate run.
Ms Mills : They do. Having examined the training programs for the last parliament, there is a very comprehensive process in training around the process of parliament, bills and all of the actions that are supported by the two chamber departments. As part of those sessions, last time there was approximately one hour given to the work that DPS does within the building. I believe it warrants additional time, to be slotted in concert with the current training, to provide advice to incoming members, senators and their staff on the wide range of things that DPS will supply for them, particularly given the changes in IT and the broadening of our role in ICT.
Senator PARRY: So you envisage that as being part of the Senate induction program, just extending the time allocated for DPS?
Ms Mills : That is one way to do it. I have not actually spoken to the clerks in detail yet, but I have examined the program and it seems to me that it is entirely possible for us to do this in the same time frame but with a little more time for the specifics of what DPS offers.
Senator PARRY: I would encourage you to do that because I think that getting senators in particular—I am thinking from a Senate perspective—back for a separate training session would be a bit unwieldy, knowing time constraints.
Ms Mills : I take that fully into account.
Senator PARRY: I am very happy for this to be provided on notice. On page 3, under 'Budget Situation', it says, 'given that over 80 per cent of the department's expenditure directly supports parliamentary running costs'. You go into a lot of the contracts. Is it possible that we could have a table of contracts; the commencement date, when they were originally established; the length of the contract or the conclusion date; whether there were extensions; and whether we can exit the contracts—at which point; what the earliest exit point of a contract would be? That would be very useful for the committee to know.
Ms Mills : I would certainly be happy to provide that on notice.
Senator FAULKNER: Ms Mills, could you take something on notice? I refer you to question No. 2755, which was asked by former Senator Bob Brown, dated 13 May 2010. It is a two-part question, but part of it relates to the number of public car park spaces. There does appear to be considerable disparity between the figures contained in that document and the most recent one, which you have tabled today, entitled 'Brief 45', in answer to Senator Humphries' questions. However, there is always a difficulty in comparing a document from three years ago with a document that was very recently generated. So you can do that on notice and the committee would have an opportunity to compare apples with apples. The reason I am doing that is that it appears there is quite a massive reduction in car parking spaces, which may well be the case over the past three years. I ask DPS to provide a comparative document—in other words, a document that gives us the car parking spaces as of mid-2010 compared with what we have now, the categories, if you like, being the same. I know there will be some differences because of changes, but it is very hard to make a comparison. I do not want to go through it in detail because of that.
Ms Mills : I am very happy to do that. In terms of the numbers that we have given you today, part of the work that we are doing in DPS is to try and get to a single point of truth around a lot of data. We have seen a lot of different numbers quoted at different times. The sheet that I gave you today was based on a physical count of car spaces by our staff over the last month.
Senator FAULKNER: I know that not even your very efficient staff will be able to get in a time machine and do that for 2010 but, given that some work had gone into preparing an answer to then senator Bob Brown's question, it seems to me to be logical that we might have the best comparison that can be done. I do not think this is a massive make-work exercise, but it will at least mean that any comparisons we draw will be more meaningful than the material we have available to us at the moment. They are quite different documents. The reason I ask the question is that, on the face of it, it looks like there has been a very, very significant reduction—maybe around 80 or 90—in car parking spaces in the public car park at Parliament House. I do not know whether that is right or wrong, but if we could get some comparative figures it might assist.
Ms Mills : I will give you the total numbers. I can say that there has been a reduction in the public car park in the last couple of years for two reasons. One was the construction of the new wall, which resulted in the removal of some spaces. The other was, as I understand it, I do not know the timing but I will confirm it, the addition of some disabled spaces, which are obviously wider and therefore consume more space than regular car places.
Senator FAULKNER: In the answer to the question on notice to then Senator Brown there were 10 disabled spaces and there were 10 disabled spaces in the most recent statistics in brief No. 45. That may or may not be a factor; I do not know. I do not want to spend a lot of time on this, but I also assume that the construction of the wall might well have led to a significant reduction in spaces. I direct your attention to that question on notice, which is the last time I think that this has really been canvassed in that level of detail. It is dated 13 May 2010, question 2755. If you could possibly crunch it as best you can so we can look at a comparison, that would be useful. It may not be possible in all instances, I appreciate that, so your best endeavours would be appreciated.
Ms Mills : Certainly.
Senator FAULKNER: I want to ask you about a matter that I do not expect you to be able to answer today. I have had communication with a couple of former staff of the old Joint House Department, who, given this committee's inquiry into DPS and its interest in heritage matters, including billiard tables, have pointed out to me that at the time of the transfer from Old Parliament House to new Parliament House staff were engaged with developing and finalising an inventory. They noted that there were storage areas at East Block and West Block, and the Hotel Kurrajong, even at the then Hotel Canberra, as well as some form of storage facility on the Kingston foreshore. They have identified a range of old fittings, such as the Queen's dinner setting with gold inlay. That is just one of a number of examples. My interest is in what has happened to these facilities, what has happened to the very important, historic items that one would hope are enclosed in those facilities and whether there exists a formal inventory beyond what we have seen, obviously, at the DPS inquiry.
I appreciate, again, that this is not core activity for DPS at the moment. It might mean a couple of phone calls from staff to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. I am not sure, but I would just be interested, if it is possible, to establish the status of any such inventory—or if there was an inventory, because I am assured there was—and what has happened to the items that are contained on the inventory. That is a follow-up issue, but at the moment I am interested in the storage areas, whether an inventory is known to exist and, if so, where it is held. And that might or might not beget other questions about what is contained in the inventory. I do not expect you to have an answer to that question here at the table, but if you could take that on notice I think that would be helpful. And the information I have received about this has, as I said, come from former staff members, one of whom was very, very intimately involved in finalising these matters before the transfer to the new Parliament House.
Ms Mills : Certainly. I will look into it as far as I can.
Senator FAULKNER: Thank you for that. Finally, you might recall that I asked a little earlier today, before the lunch break, about the conservation management plan. I asked you for an update there. I am also interested, as I am sure committee members are, in where we are up to with the central reference document—a related but obviously different issue. First of all, perhaps I could ask you for a brief status report on where things are up to with the CRD.
Ms Mills : The discussions I have had over the last six months in particular with Mr Giurgola, Mr Guida and Pamille Berg, who was the author of the central reference document, have been that for resourcing reasons and practical reasons the priority for the department has been put into the conservation management plan. We see a very direct link between the material that is available in the existing central reference document, the original tender documents, a lot of the papers and materials that were developed during the construction period of the building, the plans we hold, and other material, such as speeches and articles by Mr Giurgola. These all form part of the basis of material that will be used by the consultants in writing the conservation management plan.
If, in doing that plan, they find particular limitations in any areas that might be enhanced by the central reference document, we would potentially reprioritise those particular elements. But at this stage the first and foremost exercise is to develop the conservation management plan. The central reference document, even in its existing form, is obviously an extremely valuable work. I have referenced it myself on a couple of occasions, even just in the last few weeks. But it is a very lengthy document, and it is a combination, as I think I have said before, of a social history and a design history of the building. And many elements of that will help get the CMP right. If we find gaps in it we will bring those forward, but otherwise we will look at the completion of the central reference document after the CMP. And, as I said, it is partly resourcing and partly prioritisation issues.
Senator FAULKNER: But these good things that you mentioned about archiving of material and so forth are not a substitute for completion of the central reference document, I assume—or I hope. Would that be right?
Ms Mills : I think one of the issues—and I have not had an opportunity to have a detailed discussion—is to precisely understand what particularly Pamille Berg but also perhaps Mr Giurgola thinks are the gaps in the current CRD. It is a multi-volume document as it is. And I think we have to work out exactly what completion would mean. Is it something that has another chapter? Another three chapters? Another five chapters? And how does that intersect with all of the other material that we also have available.
Senator FAULKNER: But do you think, in terms of the long-term protection of the heritage values of Parliament House into the future, that the central reference document is critical in terms of establishing a baseline of what we are trying to preserve? Surely that is the baseline—and to use that document to interpret any changes, if you like, that might occur here and ensure that they are absolutely sympathetic with the intentions of those who designed the building.
Ms Mills : I think it is a very important document. I think the design principles that we are drafting, in consultation with Mr Giurgola and that will be signed off by him, will also provide that type of guidance. I think the critical thing for us is to make sure that we are clear about where there are agreed gaps in the current CRD and that we focus on filling those. As I said, it is already a very extensive and very detailed document which is serving us well in a number of areas. It is hard to be specific about what is missing until we really understand the design principles as the framework for everything else to exist within.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but I suppose I wanted to be assured that the significance of finalising this—the central reference document—is well understood. There may be some timing and resources issues, but it seems to me—and this committee I think has taken the view—that it is a matter of the highest priority.
Ms Mills : Yes. I think our discussion is about timing, not about its importance. I agree that it is a vital document and, as I said, one that we are already using. My only issue is that we have a timetable for completion of the CMP and I think we would prioritise in the CRD anything that actually helps complete it rather than run them as parallel processes.
Senator FAULKNER: Yes, I suppose my only concern there is the use of the indefinite article. Is it a vital document or is it the vital document?
Ms Mills : My view is that it is a vital document. I guess it is a matter of wording, but I think that the original tender document, which comprises many volumes and is extraordinarily detailed in terms of what consultation was done with the Australian community in designing this building, is also an important document and certainly also is helping guide us. I think that the material that was actually submitted and the material that is held through the development of the building itself over the 1980s are also important documents.
Senator FAULKNER: Sure. There is no doubting the critical importance of all that material, but the name of the central reference document says it all. That actually sums up in three words its critical importance. Anyway, I will flag with you that it will be my intention to continue to pursue this, and I do hope that DPS really does keep its eye on the main game. And I do accept here that there are issues in relation to funding and recommendations that committees made in relation to that that require a response from government.
Ms Mills : Thank you. But please be assured I absolutely see it as a critical document; there is no question of that.
Senator RYAN: Are there any further security measures that are pending for the basement car park in terms of construction or—
Ms Mills : Do you mean the public car park?
Senator RYAN: Yes.
Ms Mills : Not in a security sense, but there are a number of things that we are looking at from an amenity sense and a safety sense. For example, the central ramps, the pedestrian ramps, in the car park do not meet disability compliance standards and need to be reduced.
Senator RYAN: The gradient?
Ms Mills : Yes. If you walk down the central part of the car park there are a number of humps in the pedestrian area which are too high for people in a wheelchair or with any other form of physical impairment. There is also poor lighting in some aspects of the car park and the signage is not disability compliant.
Senator RYAN: Okay. Are there any measures pending for the roof of the building with respect to security around that area?
Ms Mills : We obviously have recently completed a program of CCTV upgrading of pressure point measurement in the roof. We have fencing on the roof. We do exercises regularly to check that things are working, so there is no immediate program of expanding those. We are funded in the 2013-14 financial year from the money that we have received to include in that to look at the skylights, particularly from a point of view of their physical status, and some of them are leaking. Clearly, in doing any major work like that, we would also be looking at the types of materials we should use and ensure that they remain appropriate for security and safety purposes.
Senator RYAN: So around the skylights at the moment, it is mainly maintenance? I have seen the occasional bucket sitting there, which is a charming look in the middle of the hall. It is mainly around leaking rather than security? Or is it both?
Ms Mills : The driver has been the leaking, but there is no question—
Senator RYAN: If it is leaking, it cannot be secure.
Ms Mills : Yes, if it is leaking, it may be coming towards the end of its life, in which case you would replace it. If we do have to replace it, we would certainly take security into account.
CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Mills, and I thank the officers for making themselves available.