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Inquiry into members of parliament staff

CHAIR —Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Finance and Public Administration References Committee. Today is the first of two days of hearings for the committee's inquiry into the staff of members of parliament, who are commonly known as MOPS. The reference to the committee was made on 19 March 2003, and the committee has received 19 submissions, all of which have been published, except for two submissions that were received in camera. At today's hearing we will call a range of witnesses, including current and former Public Service officials and a number of academics who have expertise in the area under consideration.

I remind officers that the Senate has resolved that there are no areas in connection with the expenditure of public funds where any person has the discretion to withhold details or explanations from the parliament or its committees unless the parliament has expressly provided otherwise. I further remind officers that an officer of a department of the Commonwealth or of a state shall not be asked to give opinions on matters of policy and shall be given reasonable opportunity to refer questions asked of the officer to superior officers or to a minister. All witnesses scheduled to appear before the committee today and tomorrow should have received advice on the protections and obligations that apply to witnesses under parliamentary privilege. The committee prefers to conduct its hearings in public. However, if there are any matters that a witness wishes to discuss with the committee in private, they can make a request and the committee will consider that request.

[9.11 a.m.]