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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
08/02/2016
Estimates
PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS
Parliamentary Service Commissioner

Parliamentary Service Commissioner

CHAIR: We are now going to commence questions with the Parliamentary Service Commissioner. I welcome you, Mr Lloyd, and I ask whether you wish to make an opening statement.

Mr Lloyd : No, I do not.

CHAIR: Thank you. We will now go to questions.

Senator McALLISTER: Good afternoon, Mr Lloyd.

Mr Lloyd : Good afternoon, Senator.

Senator McALLISTER: I am new on this committee, so we have not met yet.

The President: But doing a great job.

Senator McALLISTER: Thank you.

CHAIR: That won't get you out of here earlier, Mr President!

Senator McALLISTER: It is a good try, though, isn't it? I just want to ask about your report. You have provided answers to question on notice No. 76, talking about a report in relation to the vacancy in the office of the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services. I am just wondering when that report was given to the Presiding Officers.

Mr Lloyd : The dates I have before me are that the vacancy appeared in the Gazette on 31 August. The process was then conducted. Mr Stefanic accepted the position on 4 November. I do not have the exact date when I gave the report to the Presiding Officers, but it would have been in late October—that is my expectation. It was a short time, I think, before the offer was made; that is my recollection.

Senator McALLISTER: With reference to determination No. 1 in 2015, which contains the details of the remuneration and other conditions of appointment of the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services, can you please advise how the determination might differ from the previous determination that governed the conditions of employment of the former secretary.

Mr Lloyd : The determination was made by the Remuneration Tribunal, so I would have to take that on notice.

Senator McALLISTER: Okay. In the supplementary budget estimates, I understand that you had an exchange with Senator Katy Gallagher, who was formerly a member of this committee. I think it was in relation to the publication of the 2014-15 annual report, and I think at that time the report was still being finalised. You indicated that that would be presented together with your report as Australian Public Service Commissioner. I am just wondering whether that happened and where to find that separate report.

Mr Lloyd : The questions were mainly about my report as Public Service Commissioner, in that role, and that report has been tabled. I also publicly present a report as Parliamentary Service Commissioner, and that has been presented; I have it in my briefcase here. I am not exactly sure—I could tell you what date I signed it. If you would bear with me for a moment, I will get a copy of it. Here is the report. I signed it in October 2015. I do not have a date on it, but it would have been in mid-October I think.

Senator McALLISTER: Has that report been publicly released?

Mr Lloyd : Yes. It has to be tabled, and I understand it has been tabled, so it is on the public record.

Senator McALLISTER: Is it available on the website?

Mr Lloyd : I do not have a website necessarily as Parliamentary Service Commissioner, and I am not sure whether it is on the Parliament House website.

Senator McALLISTER: I think it probably is, perhaps under 'parliamentary departments'.

Mr Lloyd : Yes. It says here that it is available on the APH website. It is on the front of the book.

Senator McALLISTER: You have previously commented in relation to statutory office holder remuneration and a proposed legislative change to transfer the responsibility for determining the remuneration of the other parliamentary service statutory office holder's from the Presiding Officers to the Remuneration Tribunal. You said that the 'necessary amendments to the Parliamentary Service Act and the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 are being developed as part of a package of amendments to be referred to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel in the following reporting period. Do you know where that is up to?

Mr Lloyd : I do not recall. I do not think that was me who said that, but it might have been predecessor of mine. I certainly have no recollection of making a statement along those lines. I do not think it is contained anywhere in my report. So I will have to take that on notice to see if I can find out who made that statement.

Senator McALLISTER: Right. So is it your understanding that that change is underway?

Mr Lloyd : It was a pretty long question. Could you just run through it?

Senator McALLISTER: It essentially goes to responsibility for determining the remuneration of Australian Parliamentary Service statutory office holders, from the Presiding Officers to the Remuneration Tribunal.

Mr Lloyd : My understanding is that they are currently determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, so I suspect that after whoever was talking about change it has possibly been done.

Senator McALLISTER: Is that your understanding, Mr President?

The President: No, I do not think that is the case. But I do recall that my predecessors had written to the Parliamentary Service Commissioner sometime back, and it is a matter that we are going to revisit. But we have not revisited it at this point. We will be re-visiting this.

Senator McALLISTER: In this calendar year?

The President: I am hoping weeks. It came up at our last Presiding Officers' meeting or the one before that, so it is a current item and it will probably involve us sitting down with the Parliamentary Service Commissioner and discussing it.

CHAIR: DPS advised in a question on notice that management of the Baxter review is a matter for you.

Mr Lloyd : That is right.

CHAIR: Can you give us a brief update since October? I am specifically interested in the number of DPS staff that may have engaged in consultations with you.

Mr Lloyd : With me or with Mr Baxter?

CHAIR: Yes.

Mr Lloyd : I know that Mr Baxter undertook a fairly extensive consultation. I do not know at the moment or cannot recall who exactly that was with and how many. I am not sure it is in his report or in the appendix, but we do have extensive consultation with a number of officers, both members of parliament and officers.

CHAIR: In answer to a question on notice, DPS detailed how the advertising had taken place effectively internally, and I do not know how many people took advantage of that. I am not interested in who, but if there is a record I am just interested to know whether 50 people went into their consultations from DPS or three. Could you find that and take it on notice?

Mr Lloyd : Yes, certainly.

CHAIR: If not I will pursue it with DPS and see what we can come up with.

Mr Lloyd : I will take it on notice.

CHAIR: I am done.

Senator WONG: I have another topic we can go to.

CHAIR: Let's go with that, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Mr Lloyd, you were sent a letter by Mr Gray in relation to the investigation into the conduct of Mr Briggs.

Mr Lloyd : I think that probably relates to my Public Service Commissioner role and not to the Parliamentary Service Commissioner role.

Senator WONG: Sure. When do you want to do that?

Mr Lloyd : I am up later in the day, depending on how the time is going.

Senator WONG: We are not doing it together?

CHAIR: No.

Senator WONG: Okay—well, perhaps come prepared. The quote that was read to you by Senator McAllister—I nearly called her Senator Gallagher again for the 14th time today; it is habit—I understand is from Hansard. I am just waiting for that to come to me because you said you did not say it, so in fairness to you we should get it clear. I would like that to come before Mr Lloyd is released.

CHAIR: Senator Smith has a few questions, if you would like to wait for that, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: I am sorry; the quote is in the annual report.

Ms Foster : Do we have a copy of the annual report here?

CHAIR: Would you be happy for me to go to Senator Smith?

Senator WONG: Why don't we do that and then I can find it.

Senator SMITH: Mr Lloyd, your agency was good enough to provide me with some information that was contained in a variety of tables in response to my question around industrial disputation. I was wondering whether or not you had an update for me or whether you might take that on notice and update the table?

Mr Lloyd : That is also in my other role.

Senator SMITH: Okay.

Mr Lloyd : We come to it later in the day.

Senator SMITH: The Public Service as opposed to parliamentary.

Mr Lloyd : Yes, that is right.

The President: Can I add to my answer concerning the statutory office holders of the parliamentary departments. The Parliamentary Service Commissioner indicated that he believed that the Remuneration Tribunal are already engaged. They are because the presiding officers have to engage with the Remuneration Tribunal before we can confirm any salary or any salary packaging. That is why there is the involvement that currently exists, but I think the matter you are referring to is having it permanently transferred and removing it completely from the presiding officers or from the parliament, and that matter has not been finalised.

Senator McALLISTER: Is it your intention, though, to proceed towards a move of that kind?

The President: No, I am ambivalent at the moment. I want to find out more information. I want to make sure the independence of the parliament is not compromised. That is my key objective. If there is no compromising of the independence of the parliament, then we will examine the reasons, the rationale and why we should do that.

Senator McALLISTER: Has there been an initial presentation of the pros and cons?

The President: Not to me, yet. To my predecessor, some time back, there has been and a decision was not taken at that time.

Senator McALLISTER: What is the source of that advice?

The President: I presume it has been in consultation with the Remuneration Tribunal and the previous Parliamentary Services Commissioner. We are both new at this and no doubt we will sit down and have a chat about it together with the Remuneration Tribunal.

Senator McALLISTER: Before we finish on that, under the current arrangements you indicated there is an engagement between the presiding officers and the Remuneration Tribunal before setting salaries for individual officers. That is my understanding and is that correct?

The President: For the four officers of the parliament, which are the two secretaries of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who has a slightly different—I am corrected: the PBO is directly under the Remuneration Tribunal because he is a different statutory office holder. He is removed completely from the parliament.

Senator McALLISTER: How does the nature of the engagement typically take place in your experience?

The President: By formal communication.

Senator McALLISTER: It is formal? It is an exchange of letters—

The President: Yes.

Senator McALLISTER: to say that the presiding officer might make a proposition about the nature of the appointment, length of tenure, salary—

The President: Correct.

Senator McALLISTER: Or just salary?

The President: Let me take that on notice.

Senator McALLISTER: I think it would be helpful to understand what issues are considered in that exchange. It is simply seeking guidance? There is no concurrence requirement from the Remuneration Tribunal?

The President: Again, let me take that on notice and I will confirm that with you.

Senator McALLISTER: I think it would be good to have some clarity about the nature of their role in the finalisation of an offer.

Senator WONG: Mr Lloyd, in answer to a question from my colleague Senator McAllister where she read a quote to you, I think you said, 'They're not my words.' Is that right?

Mr Lloyd : Yes.

Senator WONG: As I understand it, what she quoted was from your annual report as Parliamentary Service Commissioner, on page 3. I am indebted to the secretariat for assisting me in finding it. It is about halfway down the page.

Mr Lloyd : Yes, I have found it too, since I gave the answer.

Senator WONG: Maybe you want to change your evidence?

Mr Lloyd : Yes. It slipped my mind.

Senator WONG: It is a good way to flick the question off, though, isn't it—saying you never said it?

Mr Lloyd : It had honestly slipped my mind.

Senator WONG: Let's forget about that and let's—

Mr Lloyd : If I can just finish my answer, the section in the report says that it refers back to the previous report, which of course I did not write, and I really have nothing to add to what the President has said in answer to a few of the questions—

Senator WONG: I had not even asked a question, so how can you have nothing to add?

Mr Lloyd : Well, I was answering your question.

Senator WONG: Where are we at in terms of this package of amendments, and have you had any involvement in the development of them?

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator WONG: None at all?

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator WONG: Are you aware of them? Has anyone briefed you on them?

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator WONG: What is the status?

Mr Lloyd : The status is as it is in the report.

Senator WONG: Sorry?

Mr Lloyd : The status, from my perspective, is as it is in the report.

Senator WONG: 'The necessary amendments to the PSA and the Remuneration Tribunal Act have been developed as part of a package of amendments to be referred to OPC in the following reporting period.' That is your current knowledge of the status?

Mr Lloyd : Yes, and that is going to require, as the President said, consideration by the Presiding Officers, probably some discussion with me and then the matter will be taken forward.

Senator WONG: Have you had any discussion with the President about these matters?

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator WONG: Have you had a discussion with anyone about these matters?

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator WONG: So you did not know anything until we asked you a question?

Mr Lloyd : I was aware this was in the report, but that was the extent of it.

Senator WONG: These are amendments to the act; it is not a small matter.

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator WONG: This is the 2014-15 report that was tabled in October; is that right?

Mr Lloyd : That is right, yes.

Senator WONG: It is a very short report. So nothing has happened since October?

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator WONG: Do you have anyone in your office who might know if anything has happened?

Mr Lloyd : No. To my knowledge nothing has happened.

Senator WONG: You could not remember anything about it until we asked you a question, so I am asking if there is anyone in your office who might be better informed.

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator Parry: Can I assist?

Senator WONG: Sure, please do.

The President: This came out the blue for us at a Presiding Officer's meeting recently. The Speaker and I have written to the Parliamentary Services Commissioner and also the Chairman of the Remuneration Tribunal, I have just been advised. I am recalling some of this now. This only just happened recently, so the Parliamentary Services Commissioner probably has not received the correspondence yet. The purpose of the correspondence is to set up a meeting to discuss it with both of those entities.

Senator WONG: I am sorry, I missed that last part.

The President: The Speaker and I have written to the Chairman of the Remuneration Tribunal and the Parliamentary Services Commissioner very recently—in fact last week, I understand, so the correspondence probably has not been received yet—with a view to discussing the exact issue you are talking about, because I need more information. I do not know enough about it.

Senator WONG: Mr Lloyd, have you had any conversations or communication with the Remuneration Tribunal?

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator McALLISTER: We come now to the Baxter review. Mr President, your answer to the supplementary budget estimates question on notice No. 40 stated that the review being conducted by Mr Baxter was expected to report to the Presiding Officers in November 2015, after originally being expected in October 2015. Mr Lloyd, in answer to one part of question on notice No. 2771 asking about the reasons for the delay, the President replied that the Parliamentary Service commissioner is responsible for the conduct of the review in accordance with section 41B of the Parliamentary Service Act. This is really a question to either of you, and I am interested in both of your answers. Can you please explain the reason for the initial delay and for subsequent delays?

Mr Lloyd : The report was presented to the Presiding Officers on 14 December.

Senator McALLISTER: It was in December that it was finally reported.

Mr Lloyd : Yes, that is right. The reason for the December date was that Mr Baxter wanted to consult widely with, as I say, members of parliament and I think he had some issues and problems about accessing all of the members of parliament that he wanted to consult with and also other officers. I think, like any person of his stature and business, he had some competing demands and therefore the report was presented at that time.

Senator McALLISTER: So it was delays on the part of Mr Baxter who was—

Mr Lloyd : He wished to consult widely and make sure he was satisfied with the comprehensiveness of his consultations.

Senator McALLISTER: We are yet to understand the cost of the review. I think, Mr President, you have previously indicated that, as the Parliamentary Service Commissioner is responsible for the conduct of the review, you have been unable to provide the costs. Mr Lloyd, can you tell us about the cost of the review.

Mr Lloyd : I might ask Ms Foster to do this. She is more across the costs than I am.

Ms Foster : The cost of Mr Baxter's services, including GST, was $45,375 and there were some travel and accommodation expenses for Mr Baxter, in the order of $54,450.

Senator McALLISTER: So $54,000 for travel and accommodation—

Mr Lloyd : No, no.

Ms Foster : No, for the services, it was $54,450; and for travel and accommodation it was $4,824.85.

Senator McALLISTER: I am glad we clarified that—I was about to take a sharp intake of breath about the travel costs associated with the Baxter review.

The President: So was I!

Senator McALLISTER: So, Mr Lloyd, is your office meeting the costs of this review?

Ms Foster : Senator, no, it is the Department of Parliamentary Services. So what will typically happen when the Parliamentary Service Commissioner undertakes a review on behalf of the Presiding Officers, we will organise and manage the review and it will be billed back to DPS.

Senator McALLISTER: That has been the convention for other reviews of this kind?

Ms Foster : That is my understanding, Senator.

Senator McALLISTER: Do we have examples of other reviews where DPS has taken responsibility for the costs of reviews commissioned by the Presiding Officers?

Ms Foster : Can I take that on notice.

Senator McALLISTER: I think that would be helpful. Mr Lloyd, in an answer to budget estimates Question on Notice No. 40—and that was an answer provided by you, Mr President—the President stated:

The announcement of an appointment to fill the vacancy of Secretary, Department of Parliamentary Services, was made on Wednesday 4 November 2015 and the new Secretary will commence on 14 December 2015. The incoming Secretary is aware of the review and that the Commissioner’s report will be submitted prior to his commencement as Secretary. The Presiding Officers will consider the Commissioner’s report when it is received and will consult with—

a range of people—

on the recommendations.

In the end though, your evidence is that in fact the report, by the looks of it, must have been received on pretty much the same day that Mr Stefanic commenced his new role. Is that correct?

The President: The same day.

Senator McALLISTER: So, Mr Lloyd, are you concerned that the new secretary was appointed before the structural review was completed and the Presiding Officers had the opportunity to consider the recommendations of that review?

Mr Lloyd : No, Senator. These things have a timing which develops and evolves. The position has been filled, and now the Presiding officers have asked me to provide a copy of the report to Mr Stefanic.

Senator McALLISTER: Has that taken place?

Mr Lloyd : No.

Senator McALLISTER: Not yet?

Mr Lloyd : Not yet, no. I will do that later this week.

Senator McALLISTER: It is February.

The President: Can I assist there? Basically the report was handed out after parliament had risen. The Speaker and I have a number of meetings that we have together out of parliamentary sitting weeks. Over the Christmas break, the first opportunity for the Speaker and I to get together, because we had to fit in with the Speaker's travel and all of our commitments, was 25 January. That was the first time we had a chance—

Senator McALLISTER: So the report was provided to you individually—

The President: And we read them.

Senator McALLISTER: on 14 December.

The President: I think I read mine between Christmas and New Year, whenever. But the Speaker and I met on 25 January—that was our first Presiding Officers meeting for the year since the Baxter review had been handed down. We met, and we undertook then to speak with the Parliamentary Services Commissioner and ask the Parliamentary Services Commissioner to go and speak with the new DPS secretary, present the review to him and then allow for the DPS secretary to make some comments back to the Parliamentary Services Commissioner, who would then, in turn, as is proper, report back to the Presiding Officers.

Also, this is the first opportunity we have had since parliament has come back. It is my intention, as I indicated, to take the Baxter review to this committee at some point in the near future in private session to discuss the report with the committee, and it would be great if that did come to—we wanted the DPS secretary to have it first, to get his views. He has now been—in fact, I think the timing, as accidental as it is, is quite good because Mr Stefanic has had a chance now for eight weeks to view the department without seeing the Baxter review. He will now see the Baxter review, examine the two in context, discuss that with the Parliamentary Services Commissioner and we will have a report in due course—adding any commentary from the DPS secretary, through the Parliamentary Services Commissioner.

Senator McALLISTER: Mr Lloyd, can I ask you if you are comfortable with this sequence of events, and I ask it particularly thinking about the possibility you now know the contents of the Baxter review, but you did not at the time that the appointment of the secretary of DPS was taking place. What would have happened if the report had contained major recommendations that affected the position of the secretary?

Mr Lloyd : I am very comfortable with the process.

Senator McALLISTER: I am not asking about the process; I am asking about the sequence of decision-making and interaction between the appointment process and—

Mr Lloyd : I am—sorry?

Senator McALLISTER: I am asking about the interaction. I understand, I am sure, that the appointment of the secretary was absolutely in order, but I wonder about the interaction between that process and the Baxter review and the sequencing of those two processes.

Mr Lloyd : As the President said, it has worked out quite fortuitously and quite well. As I said, I am comfortable with it.

Senator McALLISTER: Mr President, did you receive any advice recommending that you delay the appointment of the secretary of DPS until the review was completed?

The President: No, but I want to state very clearly we did not rush it, either. We had a very slow, deliberate path to the selection of the new DPS secretary. That was going to go ahead independent of the Baxter review. It would have been—our ideal thinking would have been that the Baxter review would have been handed down prior to the appointment. It was not critical; it did not alter our course of action in relation to the DPS secretary. And while we had no control over the timeline of when Mr Baxter would report, I think it has worked out exceedingly well. We are exceptionally fortunate and, in hindsight, I think it is a good move that the DPS secretary has now had this opportunity of eight weeks before he gets the review.

CHAIR: Senator McAllister, before you continue, for the benefit of the committee, I just remind committee members that a five o'clock we are going to the Office for Women—that is a hard marker. I would ask the committee to consider that we may be able to deal with the office of the Governor-General prior to that, given time, and then we can release that. But Prime Minister and Cabinet is more than likely going to be after the dinner break.

The President: Senator McAllister, you asked the Parliamentary Services Commissioner about previous examples of the Department of Parliamentary Services picking up the tab. The Roche review into ICT was a recent example. There was about $60,000. DPS picked that up, and that was in relation to parliamentary ICT before the transfers occurred and the new regime of ICT was implemented.

Senator McALLISTER: And that was initiated by the Presiding Officers?

The President: Yes.

Senator McALLISTER: Can I turn then to the consultation about the Baxter review. I think in evidence thus far it appears that Mr Lloyd, the President, the Speaker and now the Secretary of DPS have seen the report. Who else has seen it?

The President: The Secretary has not seen it yet.

Senator McALLISTER: He is yet to see it?

The President: He is about to see it, imminently.

Senator McALLISTER: Has anyone else seen it, then, besides the three of you?

Mr Lloyd : Ms Foster has seen it.

Senator McALLISTER: Ms Foster has seen it.

The President: Outside of the Speaker's office—and I cannot speak for the Speaker's office—and my office, no. Not to my knowledge.

Ms Foster : Mr Baxter was assisted by a small secretariat. Obviously those people have seen it, and a couple of my staff as we were doing the final preparations with Mr Baxter for it to be presented to the commissioner. But that is in the role of quality control.

Senator McALLISTER: I spoke earlier about your answer, Mr President, to question on notice No. 40, where you talked about the consultation process envisaged once the report had been received. When are those consultations going to take place?

The President: I will negotiate with the chair. I am hoping that in the next parliamentary sitting week the committee may be able to get together and we can have a chat.

Senator McALLISTER: Are there any other senators and members who you think may take an interest in this other than the members of the Finance and Public Administration Committee?

The President: Not one senator has raised it with me, and I cannot speak for the Speaker, but I would imagine it would be the same, apart from the context.

Senator WONG: Sorry—about the Baxter review?

The President: Yes. No-one has raised it with me as to wanting to see the report.

Senator WONG: I would like to see it.

The President: Outside of this committee.

Senator WONG: It is not correct to say that. We can get people to raise it with you if you would like.

The President: The question from Senator McAllister was: has any other senator expressed an interest to see the review? Basically, that was my interpretation.

Senator McALLISTER: No, my question was: do you have any plans to consult with any other senators and members outside of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee?

The President: Look, I have no opposition to that at all at this point in time. I would much rather discuss it with the committee first and then take it one step at a time.

Senator McALLISTER: Thank you.

CHAIR: I thank you, Mr Lloyd and Ms Foster, for your attendance, and we will see you shortly.