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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
05/05/2016
Estimates
PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS
Department of Parliamentary Services

Department of Parliamentary Services

[09:04]

CHAIR: I welcome the President of the Senate, Senator the Hon. Stephen Parry; Mr Robert Stefanic, the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services; Dr Dianne Heriot, the Parliamentary Librarian; and other officers of the department. I thank the department for providing information in advance of these hearings in response to the recommendations in the committee's final report on DPS. This information has been circulated to the committee. Senator Parry, do you wish to make an opening statement?

The President: No, thank you.

CHAIR: Mr Stefanic, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Mr Stefanic : No, thank you.

CHAIR: Dr Heriot, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Dr Heriot : No, thank you.

CHAIR: Excellent. Let's get on to some questions.

Senator WONG: Very briefly, I want to go to Budget Paper No. 2, the additional funding to the parliamentary departments at page 133. That has capital funding of $18.3 million over two years from 2016-17 to strengthen the main and side skylights within Parliament House. Firstly, can you tell about that? And perhaps somebody could tell me why we call it a side skylight and not a window.

Mr Stefanic : That does relate to the skylight. It does relate to our security hardening capital projects. I would probably rather not discuss it any further than that, but I am more than willing to brief the committee in private on that.

Senator WONG: All I am asking is: what is a side skylight? Is it a window or is it something different?

Mr Stefanic : It is all on the roof.

Senator WONG: Who is overseeing this project?

Mr Stefanic : My department, Senator.

Senator WONG: Can you tell us why this project has been given priority?

Mr Stefanic : It is part of the security upgrade implementation plan.

Senator WONG: I will come to the security works budget shortly. Why is this additional capital provisioning coming as a separate measure as opposed to coming out of the security works budget?

Mr Stefanic : My understanding is that it was sitting in a contingency reserve and it has been released for the purposes of the project.

Senator WONG: How much more is in the contingency reserve for Parliament House?

Mr Stefanic : Perhaps I could take that on notice, Senator, and get back to you.

Senator WONG: Do you understand that the security works budget that, I think, the Senate committee has been presented with is proposed to be added to bit by bit by the government through separate measures? Is that what the proposition is?

Mr Stefanic : I understand that that funding is already available as part of the capital projects.

Senator WONG: How much in additional capital works is to be funded over and above what is already in the security works budget?

Mr Stefanic : Unless the chief operating officer could answer that question I will probably take that on notice, Senator.

Senator WONG: You cannot tell me?

Ms Croke : My understanding is that the funding we have for security works capital now, and the money that has been released, the $18.3 million, from the contingency reserve, is all we are expecting. I am not aware of any further funds or any further amounts that would be allocated over and above what we have.

Senator WONG: I am going to refer to questions on notice 3407 and 3408. My question may be from the last round or maybe it was a chamber question on notice to you, Mr President. I am sorry; I cannot recall. I was asking about the expenditure on internal and external security works in the ministerial wing. I was told that between September 2014 and March 2016, just under $11.3 million has been spent by the government on security works in the ministerial wing. I also asked a question about the total spend across the building on security works, and that was $16.3 million. That is around 70 per cent of the allocation on security measures only in the ministerial wing. Can I first ask: why was the decision made to allocate such a large proportion of the security works budget only to the ministerial wing?

Mr Stefanic : Perhaps I could take that on notice.

Senator WONG: You're kidding!

CHAIR: The question has been taken on notice.

Senator WONG: All right. I will explore it. Who made the decision to allocate 70 per cent of the security works to be done on the parliament to the ministerial wing? Why is everybody looking down?

The President: If I could just add: there are some sensitivities in relation to security measures. That is the first issue. Secondly, there have been moneys not spent that had been allocated in the previous financial year, or the current financial year and the previous financial year, and I am just wondering whether that might be a distortion in percentage.

Senator WONG: Well, they are your answers, Mr President.

The President: I realise that, Senator Wong. However, that is just a snapshot at one particular point in time. Can we just consider that, hold that question and maybe come back to you, hopefully in the course of the DPS segment?

Senator WONG: Sure.

The President: Otherwise, if we cannot get a definitive answer, it will certainly be a question—as the secretary has indicated—on notice.

Senator WONG: I am happy to come back later today. We all know we are going to have an election and we will have an argument in the chamber about whether or not we have questions on notice, and then we will just have to come back if we are in opposition still and ask the questions. If we are in government, I suppose you will actually tell me. But these are pretty simple questions about spend that has already been answered. I do not want to compromise any security issues, but you have told me we spent $16 million in this time period—18 months—and over two-thirds of it, 70 per cent of it, was spent in the ministerial wing. No-one seems to be able to tell me why. All I am asking is: who made the decision? Surely someone can tell me that.

The President: Ultimately, the decision has been made by the Presiding Officers, upon advice. I just want to get the actual figures in front of me before we start answering the question.

Senator WONG: So you propose to come back later in the day?

The President: Maybe in 10 minutes. I do not know.

Senator WONG: All right. It is questions 3407 and 3408. Can I also ask: what quantum of funds remains to be spent and over what period? No-one can tell me that? Are you going to take that on notice too?

The President: It is part of the composite issue in relation to these security arrangements in relation to the expenditure.

Senator WONG: Departments come before us all the time. This is a simple question about how much is spent and how much is left in that budget line item. Are you not able to answer that?

Mr Yanitsas : As we explored in our last estimates, there was $108.4 million allocated to the security works in capex. There was also an amount allocated in opex.

Senator WONG: What was the amount in opex? One hundred and eight million dollars is capital budget—is that right?

Mr Yanitsas : That is correct.

Senator WONG: While you are looking up the opex figures, is the $16 million out of the $108 million?

Mr Yanitsas : Yes, it is.

Senator WONG: Does that just mean there is $92 million left? And the $18 million for the side skylight—does that come out of the $92 million or is that in addition?

Mr Yanitsas : That is in addition. They are capex.

Senator WONG: We are talking capex at the moment. The $108 million—

Mr Yanitsas : Yes. The $108.4 million is the capex for security works. The skylights are separate, so the money that you are referring to for the skylights that has come out of the contingency reserve is additional to that $108.4 million.

Senator WONG: And the $16 million in the answer to 3408? I asked question on notice 3408, in which I asked how much had been spent on security works. I was told it was $16 million. Is that all capex?

Mr Yanitsas : That is all capex. That is not, however, all my money. In terms of security works, there are other security works that are going on within Parliament House. The majority of that money is the money linked to the security upgrade implementation plan, but not all of it.

Senator WONG: Is the majority of the $16 million out of the 108 that you talked to me about?

Mr Yanitsas : Yes.

Senator WONG: How much of the $16 million is out of the 108?

Mr Yanitsas : My calculation is approximately 15.9.

Senator WONG: Okay, so a small amount is from which other department?

Mr Yanitsas : No, it would be from our building asset management division and security related work that comes from their budget but not for all—

Senator WONG: How much have they got in their budget for capital works?

Mr Yanitsas : That would have to be answered by Mr Barnes.

Senator WONG: While you are looking for that, can you explain to us how much is coming from which bucket? You have 108 capital works budget which is now being added to by another $18 million you are dealing with, which is described as the security works budget, correct?

Mr Yanitsas : Yes.

Senator WONG: Then you have got your building division, which also has a capital works budget. How much have you got there? How do you decide which of that goes into a security work?

Ms Croke : The area of the department that manages the ongoing maintenance of the building has an administered capital funding of 35.519 in 2016-17. It is 35 going out to 36.4 in 2019-20, so they have an annual budget of approximately $35 million.

Senator WONG: Is that used for security or not?

Ms Croke : It is used for the whole range of projects other than the pure security related upgrade works that Mr Yanitsas is managing in his project branch. The $35 million is for the general capital works to the building other than the security project, but there will be some areas where the project may overlap if there is something happening in the security space—Mr Yanitsas might be able to expand a bit on this, but there will be some projects where there is slight overlap, where the project may be partially funded or an element may be partially funded out of the normal capital funding for the maintenance of the building versus the security funding.

Senator WONG: Okay. Mr Yanitsas, you gave me a table in question on notice 163. To use your table: capex there is 13.7, and that is out of the 108?

Mr Yanitsas : Yes.

Senator WONG: Then you have your opex of 5.1, which is where you get 18.9, so what is the updated number?

Mr Yanitsas : It might be useful if I go back and address one of your previous questions, where we talked about the $108.4 million in capex. You also asked what the numbers of administered opex were. The numbers in administered opex are $10.5 million. There are also some departmental opex figures of around $8 million, which is $18 million, which takes the total spend in capex, administered opex and departmental operating to $127 million.

Senator WONG: If you were to update that, are you able to tell me with this table, given the answer that has been given, what the next column in the table is?

Mr Yanitsas : The next iteration, say 31 March. The 31 March commitment now would be an administered capital of $13.9 million and an administered operating budget of $5.1 million, adding to a total of $19.1 million as a commitment. For 31 March, the actual expenditure would be 10.4 in administered capital and administered operating would be 5, the total of that coming to about $15½ million.

Senator WONG: Which is the 16.296 with an addition from the other bucket.

Mr Yanitsas : Correct.

Senator WONG: So the total budget for Parliament House security works, capex and administered opex is actually $127 million.

Mr Yanitsas : That is my understanding, yes.

Senator WONG: How much of that is going to be spent in the ministerial wing? Seventy per cent?

Mr Yanitsas : No.

Senator WONG: They were just the priority?

Mr Yanitsas : You might recall that we have broken the works up to deal with the recommendations in the security upgrade implementation plan across two groups of work—group 1 and group 2. There are 14 construction points that are currently in finalisation under group 1. Under group 2, there is an electronics package, and there are further physical construction works associated within group 2 for the hardening of the precinct.

Senator WONG: Is there anything that is not ministerial in group 1?

Mr Yanitsas : Yes, there is.

Senator WONG: I might move on from this because we have not got a lot of time. You have been allocated some money in departmental capital for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Why is that?

Ms Croke : My understanding is that that is a whole-of-government measure that Finance told us we had to include in our portfolio budget statement.

Senator WONG: That is not how it usually works.

Ms Croke : I do not have any further background on that.

Senator WONG: What are you going to spend it on? Flags?

Ms Croke : We were told that it was a whole-of-government measure and that we were to put it in there.

Senator WONG: And ordered to put it in there?

Ms Croke : We were told that everybody was putting it in and that we were required to put it into our portfolio budget statement.

Senator WONG: Who told you that?

Ms Croke : The Department of Finance.

Senator WONG: I just want to know the name because they are coming and I am going to ask them a question.

Ms Croke : It would be within the agency advice unit that looks after us. I have not got a specific name.

Senator WONG: You did not put in any requests for this, you did not put an NPP for this and you have no capital requirements associated with the job.

Ms Croke : There was no NPP associated with it.

Senator WONG: That is odd. I asked you some questions about the Baxter review previously, Mr President. I think you indicated that you were considering providing it to all senators. Is that going to occur or not?

CHAIR: Senator Wong, just for your information, the committee has received an interim copy of the Baxter review in confidence. It is a confidential document.

Senator WONG: Sure. I have not, though.

CHAIR: No, you are not a member of the committee.

Senator WONG: Correct. That is why I am asking him, because he said he would think about giving it to all members.

CHAIR: I am not answering for the President, but I am just saying that we have received communications from the presiding officers and the committee has received it as a document in confidence.

The President: I am happy to outline a time frame, Senator Wong. The Baxter review was completed, and that is part of the parliamentary—

Senator WONG: When?

The President: In December last year. That is part of the Parliamentary Service Commissioner's investigation or inquiry into the Department of Parliamentary Services, which the previous Speaker and I requested. That forms part of his review. He is also seeking a submission from the secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services, and he is going to then report back to the presiding officers in the near future incorporating both the Baxter review and the Department of Parliamentary Services secretary's submission. Once we receive that, the presiding officer will make a response to that, and then we will be happy to make the reports public. But, in confidence and in good faith, we provided a copy to this committee as an interim measure.

Senator WONG: Why can't the report be provided to all senators?

The President: It would be premature to provide a report and make it public before we have even considered the aspects of the report after the Parliamentary Service Commissioner gave us his final report.

Senator WONG: With all due respect, Mr Lloyd is not the least controversial figure in the bureaucracy. Is the parliament going to be given an opportunity to look at both the previous Baxter review as well as Mr Lloyd's report?

The President: Until I see what the final format is, the presiding officers will discuss that, and we will release what we can. At this stage, I do not see any reason why the Baxter review cannot be released in a more public manner to parliamentarians. But it would just be premature to release it now.

Senator WONG: If you are proposing to release it publicly at some point, I think that is reasonable. My recollection, Mr President, is that you told us that you would consult with senators on the recommendations.

The President: Correct.

Senator WONG: Is that going to happen?

The President: Absolutely.

Senator WONG: Which recommendations? Those were the Baxter recommendations. Is it now going to be Mr Lloyd's recommendations?

The President: It will be a combination of both the Baxter review and the Parliamentary Service Commissioner's final submission to the presiding officers.

Senator WONG: I have just one question on the strategic accommodation review. If we had more time I would ask more questions about it, because I think there is a some concern amongst some occupants of the building about the uncertainty that people face. Where is it at?

Mr Barnes : The strategic accommodation review is a work in progress. The key elements of the strategy are foresight, scenario planning, a precinct master plan and an accommodation master plan. The purpose of the review is to look at the accommodation requirements within Parliament House over the next 25 years. That is still a work in progress.

Senator WONG: What does that mean?

Mr Barnes : It means I do not have any further information at this point because the review is in progress at this point.

Mr Stefanic : I understand the consultants are still finalising their consultations. Then, of course, they will be writing a report to us. But as to what stage that is at, I believe they are due to provide the report to us by sometime in July.

Mr Barnes : That is correct.

Senator WONG: In terms of consultation there was a session which you, Mr President, and the Speaker invited people to, but I think it was cancelled as a result of parliamentary business. Is that right?

The President: I do not know whether it was cancelled. I think the Speaker continued on with it and I could not make it because of what was happening in the parliament at the time. Someone else may be able to advise you who attended that meeting. Sorry, I am advised that it was cancelled.

Senator WONG: So is there any other consultation with occupants proposed?

The President: There has been a general invite, if you like, for occupants to speak with the consultants. I do not know what the take-up was.

Senator WONG: Just one last thing. It is a very military-style name: Operation Tetris. Have you had any discussions with the Department of Finance about utilising vacant office space?

Mr Stefanic : Only in respect of temporary accommodation for DPS staff. As part of the security upgrade works we will need to relocate a number of DPS staff off-site because there is no other space within Parliament House to which to relocate them. For the purposes of identifying space off-site the Department of Finance was consulted about some accommodation within the proximity of Parliament House. That included the Museum of Australian Democracy, West Block and Treasury. Outside of that, there is the MinterEllison Building. Because of our requirements and the speed with which we are required to move staff, we selected the MinterEllison Building for the purposes of relocating staff on interim basis. We foresee at this point that it would be for a period of approximately two years.

Senator WONG: There are two points you have just raised. One was, as I understand, the temporary displacement due to security works. Then there is the broader accommodation issue. Your answer related to the former.

Mr Stefanic : Yes.

Senator WONG: How many staff were displaced due to security works?

Mr Stefanic : There is the staff we need to move, but because we are moving whole units we are moving more than we absolutely have to. We will be relocating approximately 85 staff, to my understanding. I can clarify that.

Senator WONG: From which units?

Mr Stefanic : Predominantly from the ICT projects unit and from our finance and procurement branch.

Senator XENOPHON: I have two lines of questioning. I asked previously questions in respect of the organisations that have pass holders here, like lobbyist companies. I have readily signed off on people that I know, like the Pilots Association and other groups. I was told that this information cannot be provided. I do not necessarily need to know who sponsored whom; I am just trying to get an idea of which lobbyists, which organisations have access to the building. Is it still the position of the DPS that that information is confidential and cannot be released? If so, I am trying to understand why that is. If someone is in the building, presumably you know they are here with a pass—it is self-evident—but to get a list, I thought, would have been a matter of public record.

Mr Stefanic : My view would be that given parliamentarians sponsor those lobbyists, it is information directly relevant to the work of parliamentarians and, therefore, is not necessarily a matter for public interest.

Senator XENOPHON: So it is not reasonable to find out who has access to the building? I do not need to know who sponsors whom—I am happy to tell people about the people I have sponsored—but you are saying that we will not know who has access to this building? That is a matter that is confidential, yet when those people are in the building it is pretty self-evident who they are.

Mr Stefanic : With regard to pass holders, it is important for us to understand that the pass holders have been vouched for and that they do not present an overt security risk to the organisation. The information we have is for the purposes of identifying who that person is in the event of an issue.

Senator XENOPHON: This is not a security issue, this is an issue of is it not reasonable—you have essentially claimed public interest immunity, saying that the list of pass holders is not to be published, is not to be made available. I am still trying to understand—this is not about who sponsored them; this is not about security issues because, presumably, they would not get the pass unless they have been vouched for, so they have passed that threshold. I am just trying to understand why it is not publicly available.

CHAIR: This may facilitate: I am not sure that Senator Xenophon is asking for the specific names of the individuals, but perhaps the organisations that they represent, whether it be as a lobbyist or anyone else who has access?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

The President: I would just indicate that there is a broader security issue, Senator Xenophon, because if we publish a list or make available a list publicly of all of the organisations that have access to the building, that could then flag to someone who wishes to do harm an opportunity to maybe acquire or procure a pass or use a false identity to get into the building. That is one aspect.

Senator XENOPHON: But that was not put to me in any of the answers.

The President: I am indicating that now. If you allow us to consider this, Senator Xenophon. Maybe we might consider whether the list can be made available privately, but I think we would need to consider that and the implications of that.

Senator XENOPHON: It is just a question in the sense that it is obvious who they are when they are in the building. Irrespective of whether it is published or not, it would not be too hard to work out which organisations have access.

The President: But let us not make it easy for people to identify organisations that have access to the building.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure; I will not take that any further. Mr Stefanic, in respect of the Parliament House security system tender—I understand the constraints in what you can and cannot say—are you able to say if that contract or tender has been finalised? I understand it is quite a significant tender in the context of this building. Can you tell us where we are at in broad terms without in any way compromising the process?

Mr Stefanic : Yes. The process has not yet been finalised. Final negotiations are still underway with the first preferred bidder. There was a last minute underbid that had been provided. We understand it was an underbid.

Senator XENOPHON: Can you just explain that to the 1,000 people listening online? An underbid is that it is a bid for a lesser—they have actually said, 'We'll come back to you; we can do this cheaper'.

Mr Stefanic : It is an amount less than originally submitted. That information has been provided to our probity advisor for final advice before making any further progress with that tender.

Senator XENOPHON: Hang on, are you saying that there may be—I am trying to understand the process appropriately, and I disclose that I have met with you in general terms on this, and I am grateful for that because it is obviously a big contract. When there are two parties who are preferred, why would you not allow them both to trim their price so that you have that competitive tension? All things being equal, if someone can deliver the goods at a better price and save taxpayers' money, there is nothing improper about that, is there, if there is still a transparent process internally?

Mr Stefanic : My understanding is that under the procurement rules—I will, obviously, go back and check and, if any information I provide is incorrect, I will seek to clarify—as part of the tender evaluation process, as part of a first pass, the preferred tenderers will be identified—that is, that they are the tenderers who would be qualified to continue any further negotiations—and then the remaining bidders are excluded. Within that, there is a first preferred tenderer and negotiations with that first preferred tenderer need to be exhausted before recourse to the second preferred tenderer.

Senator XENOPHON: Mr Stefanic, what you are saying is that you have a first preferred tenderer. If the second preferred tenderer comes in with an underbid, as you put it, saving taxpayers potentially, say, millions of dollars, that person will not get a look in until you have exhausted your negotiations with the first preferred tenderer, even though the second preferred tenderer is saying, 'We've been able to recalibrate our bid to save millions of dollars.' They do not get a look in, because you are going down a path of talking to the first prepared tenderer?

Mr Stefanic : That question is exactly why we referred it to a probity adviser.

Senator XENOPHON: Okay, but you can understand there will be taxpayers wondering—as long as the process is fair, all things being equal—if someone can save taxpayers a few million dollars for an equivalent security system—although I think there are differences between the two technically, as I understand it. But if it fulfils the criteria, in terms of the technical capacity and specifications and the like, you are saying that the second preferred tenderer, which may be millions of dollars cheaper, will not necessarily get a look in?

Mr Stefanic : Potentially, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: As in, 'Potentially, no, they will not get a look in,' or, 'Potentially, yes, they will not get'—sorry, I am trying to understand.

Mr Stefanic : I guess what I can say is DPS is particularly concerned that it manages its procurement appropriately given recent history in that regard.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure.

Mr Stefanic : For my part, I am making absolutely certain that we dot every i and cross every t. I would not want to make a decision that would later be—

Senator XENOPHON: I understand that. I will not take much longer, but what I am trying to understand is this: do our procurement rules take into account the benefits of local jobs and local supply in terms of Australian content, Australian innovation and the like? Is that clear, or how do you weigh that up?

Mr Stefanic : I am not entirely across the detail of the tender evaluation process and what factors are taken into account with that process itself. That I can take on notice and provide.

Senator XENOPHON: When will we hear from the probity adviser? When are you expecting to hear from the probity adviser?

Mr Stefanic : Very shortly.

Senator XENOPHON: Which is a week?

Mr Stefanic : Within the week.

Senator XENOPHON: I am not sure what the answer to this is, so I do not know. Through you, Mr President, if the writs are issued, does that mean that negotiations are suspended, or is this one of these things that you can still proceed with?

Mr Stefanic : It would continue. My view would be that this is an operational matter and all the approvals of—

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. I am just trying to understand what the process is. In summary, you will hear from the probity adviser in the next week. But, as matters currently stand, if there is an equivalent tender in terms of technical competence and capacity, because they have put in a new bid which is lower than the other bid and it may be several million dollars lower, you may not be able to look at that because of the way the procurement process works?

Mr Stefanic : Potentially, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: But nothing has been signed. No contracts have been signed, though, have they?

Mr Stefanic : No.

Senator XENOPHON: You can understand my concern about that, can't you? Hopefully, the chair is concerned about it as well.

CHAIR: My concerns are your concerns, Senator Xenophon.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you very much.

CHAIR: Mr Stefanic, I have just a few follow-up questions. Can I ask whether medical evidence or certificates or notes are required by DPS for personal leave applications?

Mr Stefanic : No.

CHAIR: They are not?

Mr Stefanic : Not unless a direction is provided by me or my delegate.

CHAIR: If I said I had an email here that said, 'Any permanent ongoing employee taking personal leave will be required to provide medical evidence to support their absence' from one of your officials, what should I rely on—your evidence to me now or this email?

Mr Stefanic : It is my understanding that a practice has developed in certain parts of DPS as part of an unplanned leave management process to require staff to provide medical certificates. I only became aware of that a short time ago. I am seeking advice currently from our HR people, and there is some inquiry to be conducted in this area as to the appropriateness of seeking medical certificates from staff.

CHAIR: You have confused me, Mr Stefanic. Maybe that was your intention.

Mr Stefanic : No. I am looking into it, Chair.

CHAIR: So there is no current requirement?

Mr Stefanic : No.

CHAIR: Notwithstanding that in March this year one of your officers says there was? Ms Croke, you look very helpful.

Ms Croke : I can add to that. Under the enterprise agreement there is no requirement for staff to provide medical certificates for absences. In fact, the reality is that in about 74 per cent of cases medical certificates are provided. There is also capacity for the secretary or one of his delegates to direct a staff member to provide medical certificates if they believe there is a circumstance where they think that is appropriate.

CHAIR: But this is an email from one of your senior officers to other officers within DPS. It says, 'Any permanent ongoing employee taking personal leave today will be required to provide medical evidence to support their absence.' If that is against the enterprise agreement, it surprises me that the email was sent.

Ms Croke : It is not against the discretionary option to ask staff to provide medical certificates in particular circumstances.

CHAIR: So it might have been a specific day?

Ms Croke : It could be. It could be to a specific staff member. It could be for a particular period. That is able to be done within the current structure.

CHAIR: I can understand that it could be confusing. I am a little confused. But it is under investigation, isn't it?

Mr Stefanic : Review.

CHAIR: Review—sorry.

Mr Stefanic : Yes, under review.

CHAIR: Let me move onto another thing. Ms Croke, this involves you. The authority with which you provide evidence to this committee is admirable and I commend you for that. But I want to go back to the conflict of interest discussions we have had on a number of occasions about CPM Reviews. I do appreciate that you have updated some of the evidence you have provided historically, through letters. Once again, I am a little confused about the conflict of interest declarations. You said earlier that, yes, it should have been, with regard to the one particular position we were talking about, and then you say in a subsequent letter it actually was not required to be written and declared because everyone knew about it, and so forth. What is the policy in respect of even the perception of conflict of interest being addressed?

Ms Croke : Chair, we did. As you say, I did clarify my evidence. In the last hearing I indicated that there had not been a conflict of interest declaration from the individual and that perhaps there should have been. When I rechecked the policy it was apparent that it is not a requirement for a conflict of interest to be in writing and, at the time when I went back and checked, it was apparent that, at the time the individual was engaged on a non-ongoing contract, they had made people aware that they had worked for CPM in the past. That was, we thought, an appropriate declaration. Everybody knew that was the case.

CHAIR: Everybody knew?

Ms Croke : Everybody knew at the time that that person was engaged. So, while there was a perception, that perception was in fact declared at the time they were engaged. It was not declared in writing.

CHAIR: That is the 'in certain circumstances' clause which you invoked in your answer?

Ms Croke : That is right, and we provided the committee with a copy of the conflict-of-interest policy. Since then we have also gone out to all staff reminding them of their obligation to disclose any conflicts of interest, and we have provided a copy of that to the committee as well.

CHAIR: How many of your staff have updated their information in respect of the requirements?

Ms Croke : There is a requirement for all SES to update their information on an annual basis. I understand that a reminder went out at the end of last year, I think it was, or early this year, for all SES to put in written declarations. I would have to check how many have provided that. I do not have that information, but for other staff we do not actually keep a record, because the declarations might be something that comes up in the course of their duties. It might come up when they are chairing a panel. They may know, have worked closely with or be closely related to one of the people or something like that. They should declare all that in writing at the time. It may be in relation to procurement. Where there is a perceived conflict, they should declare that. I do not think we have a central register of that. We just keep reminding staff of the need to do that, and it really is the responsibility of each chair of each selection panel for recruitment purposes and each lead person on a tender evaluation panel to make sure that that is done.

CHAIR: You also provided some information in the question about who is in charge of the conflict-of-interest declarations. The answer was:

HR is responsible for providing advice to managers …

So every employee is responsible for providing that up the line. But it indicates that there is no one person within HR who is the determinant, I guess, for managing a conflict-of-interest situation. Is that a fair interpretation?

Ms Croke : I think there may be a couple. Within HR, if there is a question and it is straightforward, I am sure whichever staff member is taking the question would deal with it. It may at some stages be referred to the Director of HR. It may even be referred up to the branch head or to me, depending on the circumstances.

CHAIR: It says, 'HR is responsible for providing advice to managers.'

Ms Croke : On the general conflict of interest, yes, because they are responsible for the policy paper that we provided to you.

CHAIR: So when a new DPS employee comes along, and they have been considered for employment or are commencing employment, there is a formal process reminding them of their obligations, from their commencement as well as the annual review. Is that right?

Ms Croke : The annual review is for the SES. There should also be a process within a few months of somebody commencing in an SES role. But for the general employees below SES there is not that same annual obligation.

CHAIR: I want to go to your estimates evidence again. We were talking about the individual and about the referral of reviews to external organisations. You said of this individual:

He would not be the decision maker in those matters.

This was in February of this year, page 69 of Hansard. Further on you said:

… he does not have the delegation or the authority to take the final decision.

But in question on notice 178 it states that from November 2014 to 30 January 2015 the individual concerned was the Director of HR Services. Wouldn't that be a position where these sorts of reviews would be directly reviewed or where the decision maker would reside?

Ms Croke : I am just thinking. The final decision on whether we go to external review, I think, is generally taken at the branch head level.

CHAIR: You may want to take that on notice.

Ms Croke : I would have to take on notice whether there were any decisions taken on that.

CHAIR: Time is an issue here for all senators, but you may want to—

Ms Croke : I will have a look at that.

CHAIR: look at that. Mr Stefanic, I do not know whether you want to provide a brief update on some of the security issues that we have discussed. They do not need any particular details about any changes to policies, procedures or a review that you are conducting about the policies in respect of security breaches.

Mr Stefanic : Sorry, Chair, you are referring to previous evidence provided to this committee?

CHAIR: Car park instances—all those sorts of things—and the difference in evidence between departments.

Mr Stefanic : As you have reflected in the past, Chair, there have been inconsistencies of accuracy of information provided to this committee. There were two investigations that I had undertaken to carry out following the last estimates process. I anticipate getting reports of those investigations before the end of the month. The information from one those investigations will assist in developing some better policies around notification and information collection. However, what I initiated immediately is that the information that is shared between our security and the information collected by the AFP is collected centrally for the purposes of providing more consistent information, and also that those notifications are provided to the Usher of the Black Rod and to the Serjeant-at-Arms, where appropriate.

CHAIR: In respect of—this is a slightly different thing but it still relates to staff, and in particular staff at PSL1 to security officer positions within the parliament. Has the process for recruitment changed at all in recent times with respect to those types of positions?

Mr Stefanic : In terms of the requirements for applying for the role?

CHAIR: Yes. I will tell you why—Mr Barnes, you are involved in this, so I will come back to you. I am advised, or it has been suggested to me, that current employees within the PSS were not required to go through the full recruitment process, because they had passed it previously. Subsequent to that advice, they have been told that they all have to then go through the same comprehensive examination as new employees.

Mr Barnes : Chair, I am aware that we have been trying to enhance our selection processes, so there has been modification of that process over time to meet the needs as they change. It has been necessary for all applicants for positions to fulfil the requirements of the selection process; however, applicants who are already ongoing members of the service are not required to fulfil the physical aspects of those requirements, unless they are applying for a higher position.

CHAIR: So that would be termed the assessment day. Is that correct?

Mr Barnes : The assessment day is part of that process, yes.

CHAIR: Any advice that you may have provided that said something to the effect that all applicants will be assessed the same way regardless of any prior assessment they may have participated in would not overrule the requirement not to be involved in the assessment?

Mr Barnes : Can I take that on notice? I want to make sure that we have that exactly right.

CHAIR: Sure, if you would not mind. Thank you. I will go to one more issue. I want to talk about competency management training. Part 17 of question on notice 182 states that 'the use of batons is not taught in CMT'. Is that statement accurate?

Ms Croke : That is exactly what it says. 'The use of batons is not taught.'

CHAIR: Are you standing by that evidence?

Mr Barnes : To my knowledge, there is no training in the use of batons for PSS officers at this time.

CHAIR: This is part of the problem. There are a lot of people who read these answers to questions on notice, and some of them decide they want to contact me. Then they say things like: 'In December of 2015, we were shown and trained in the use of batons and plastic slip-tie handcuffs. This is not the first time it's been used. It's been done for a number of years.' These are very interested people. Another person said, 'Defence tactics module included rudimentary introduction to the use of batons and handcuffs.' It is all remarkably consistent; they are saying the evidence provided in that answer to a question on notice is not accurate. I can keep going. I have more. Do you want me to keep quoting the same sorts of things? I think you get the drift.

Mr Barnes : I get the drift.

CHAIR: So who do I believe?

Senator WONG: Maybe the department might need to go away and make further investigations. I am not trying to be obstructive.

CHAIR: I know you are not trying to be obstructive.

Senator WONG: I think the problem appears to be that people at one level have a different understanding than people of a different level. Maybe investigations ought to be undertaken.

CHAIR: I anticipated these sorts of issues, which is why I indicated prior to this that I had some concerns about elements of the responses to questions on notice. I have tried to be as straight up as I possibly can. I am not interested in causing traps. I just want to make sure, because of the repeated difficulties we have had in this committee with elements of DPS and the evidence, that we can rely on what is put to us. Who do I believe?

Mr Barnes : I am not in a position to respond to that question. I would like to make sure that we can get an accurate response.

Senator McKENZIE: In the army of people behind you would there be someone who might actually be able to answer Senator Bernardi's questions?

Mr Barnes : I think that at this point in time it would be appropriate to take the question on notice and make sure we get an accurate response for the committee.

CHAIR: Okay, you have taken it on notice. I appreciate that, but the frustration is that this was a question taken on notice in the first place. Information has been provided. I have received contrary information. I have communicated that there were issues in regard to this question on notice to the department, because I wanted to raise them again. You might not be directly responsible for this, but it is not like this is the first time these sorts of things have happened with DPS, and it is frustrating for everyone involved. I am sure it is frustrating for your executives. I am sure it is frustrating for your secretary. It is frustrating for the other people outside of this process directly and extraordinarily frustrating for those of us who are interested in the conduct of DPS and this building. I think that is a cross-party concern, so this is not going to go away at the conclusion of this parliament. It is maddeningly frustrating, and I am sure that some of your executives—Mr Stefanic, it is maddeningly frustrating to you too.

Mr Stefanic : Absolutely. I undertake that there will be strong action following this.

CHAIR: I just want the truth. It was in December of last year that they got the batons and plastic tie handcuffs out.

Mr Stefanic : So do I.

CHAIR: I for one am grateful that they are getting baton training, but anyway.

Senator WONG: We might not be at one on that, but that is a different issue.

CHAIR: No-one wants to attack you; that's the difference!

Senator WONG: You never know, actually; I bet I get as much hate mail as you do!

CHAIR: Yes, you never know.

Mr Stefanic : I understand the principle. I take this forum very seriously, and the information we provide to it should be 100 per cent accurate, so I undertake to follow that up and report back to this committee.

CHAIR: There are some other issues, and I raised them with you and would like them resolved. We are not going to resolve them in this parliament, but they need to be resolved. Time is an issue today, so I am happy to have another discussion with you over the coming weeks if that is necessary, but it is not going to go away. You have got to get things straight in the department.

Ms Croke : On two questions: you asked about the period when the individual was acting in relation to CPM Reviews. I am advised that during that period of acting no investigations were initiated; therefore, the individual did not take any decisions. The other one was that Senator Wong asked about the Trans-Pacific Partnership measure in our portfolio budget statement. It is a whole-of-government measure designed to implement reforms to government procurement included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and we were given $300,000 in 2016-17 for that purpose.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator McKENZIE: I have not been following Senator Bernardi's particular interest in baton training until now, but I would be interested in the broader question of what training the security staff do receive around Parliament House in terms of apprehending safely any potential threats within Parliament House. I am not asking for that to be taken on notice; I am assuming someone knows the answer to that.

Mr Barnes : I do not have the specific information—

Senator McKENZIE: Do they do firearm training?

Mr Barnes : No, to my knowledge they—

Senator McKENZIE: And they do not do baton training. Do they do taekwondo? What do they do?

Mr Barnes : They are trained in various aspects of their roles, but I am not in a position to detail that level of training. I do not have it available to me at the present time. As you are aware, we have had a bit of turnover of staff in the security area, and so I would prefer to take that question and give you a fulsome response.

Senator McKENZIE: I would appreciate a fulsome response on the type of training that our security officers do to apprehend safely potential threats within Parliament House. Thanks.

Senator LINDGREN: I have one question as well. I would assume that, when a security officer is accepted to work in Parliament House, they would have some sort of formal training to apply for the job. There might be some criteria there that they need to have certain training or a certificate level. I would like to know what professional development occurs once they arrive in Parliament House to maintain whatever levels of expertise or skills they have.

Senator McKENZIE: Fitness.

Senator LINDGREN: Yes. If they come with baton experience, if they do do it, what type of training do they have? If they have plastic handcuff training and so on.

CHAIR: Which they do.

Senator LINDGREN: Yes, those sorts of things. Is there a criteria when they apply for the job that says they must have those things?

Mr Barnes : No, I do not believe there is. The officers are trained once they are recruited. Obviously, many people come to us with prior experience in other law enforcement organisations and bring with them whatever training they had in those, but I think that, again, would be best included in the response to Senator McKenzie.

Senator LINDGREN: All right.

CHAIR: That would be very helpful. Thank you, Mr Barnes.