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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
17/10/2016
Estimates
PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS
Department of the Senate

Department of the Senate

[09:05]

CHAIR: I welcome the President of the Senate, Senator the Hon. Stephen Parry; the Clerk of the Senate, Dr Rosemary Laing; and officers of the Department of the Senate. I thank the department for providing updated information on Senate committee activity and the Senate Occasional Lecture Series program, which has been circulated to the committee.

Before I invite Senator Parry to make an opening statement please allow me to place on the record our thanks to you, Dr Laing, since you have announced your retirement. I know we will have more opportunities to thank you more formally and I know you probably have one more round of estimates to go but, since this is the first estimates since your announcement, I want to place on the record our thanks and appreciation for your service.

Senator Parry, do you wish to make an opening statement?

The President: Thank you, Chair. Can I welcome you to your first chairing of an estimates committee. I have no opening statement.

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

Dr Laing : No, Chair, apart from thanking you for your very gracious comments.

CHAIR: That is a pleasure. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Dr Laing, I think I have already put on the public record by way of public statement my and the opposition's views about your service and our thanks for that. I am sure more will be said about that. I am sure you are very pleased that we have another estimates round before you leave. Discretion is the better part of valour, right!

Mr President, I think your email to senators noted that consultation will occur with senators in accordance with the Parliamentary Service Act in relation to the selection of the Clerk. I wonder if you are able to place on the record some information about that for senators?

The President: Thank you, Senator Wong. Whilst it is always difficult to farewell a Clerk, even though we have got plenty of notice, we still must move on with the process of selecting a new Clerk. Yes. What happened originally was that I consulted with you, Senator Brandis, Senator Di Natale and Senator Xenophon about a process I wish to undertake. That process will include the involvement of the Senate Standing Committee on Appropriations, Staffing and Security. That committee is made up of senior members of the Senate, and of course you are a member of that, Senator Wong. I intend to consult with that committee once the process proper commences. I understand applications close today. I think I am correct in saying it is the close of business today. The other thing I would mention about the appropriations, staffing and security committee being the appropriate committee to assist me with the process of selecting a new Clerk is that any senator is entitled to attend any meeting of the appropriations, staffing and security committee. That is an added advantage. It would be my intention, after discussion with the committee, to put together a panel of senators. Certainly I would consider the Deputy President to be one of those, and there would be other senators to assist in the selection process.

Senator WONG: But you would imagine that that committee would auspice the consultation process?

The President: Absolutely.

Senator WONG: I want to turn to security, if I may. We have had a long discussion in previous estimates about the additional capital works around the building. Has that resulted in an additional number of security checkpoints being added?

Ms Callinan : The only additional security checkpoint is the new guardhouse at the ministerial wing entrance. The security capital works have however involved upgrades of other checkpoints or security points around the building.

Senator WONG: There are ministerial wing checkpoints which did not exist a number of years ago.

Ms Callinan : Yes, sorry—that is correct. The entry to the ministerial wing on the ground floor—

Senator WONG: And at level 1.

Ms Callinan : And at level 1, yes.

Senator WONG: Are they staffed at all times?

Ms Callinan : I would have to confirm with the security branch the detail of the staffing arrangements for those points.

Senator WONG: I will ask DPS some of these questions but I do want to ask about the Department of the Senate's engagement with these matters. To your knowledge, have there been additional security personnel employed to cover the additional checkpoints that we have been discussing?

Ms Callinan : I am not privy to the detail of the staffing and rostering arrangements within the Department of Parliamentary Services.

Senator WONG: To your knowledge have there been any shortages of staff for any security checkpoint within the Senate wing?

Ms Callinan : That is something that I am certainly not aware of. I have not been aware that there has been an absence of staff, for example—but, as I said, I am not privy to the detail of the rostering or staffing arrangements.

Senator WONG: Has any member of the Department of the Senate raised any concerns with DPS about any unattended checkpoints?

Ms Callinan : No, not to my knowledge.

Senator WONG: You might want to check that.

Ms Callinan : Okay, I can take that on notice and I can check that.

Senator WONG: You want to have the opportunity to consult with some staff?

CHAIR: Senator Wong—

Senator WONG: I do not want her to take—I think this is an important issue. To your knowledge, have there ever been any occasions when there have not been sufficient security staff associated with the chamber gallery?

Ms Callinan : To my knowledge—but I will check my recollection if I have any file notes to that effect and check with my staff in Senators' Services. At this moment I cannot recall a concern about the staffing in the chamber galleries. But I will take that on notice and check.

Senator WONG: On any occasion, have the chamber galleries been unattended during the sitting of the Senate?

Ms Callinan : Again, not to my recollection—that I can recall at this moment. There is regular staffing of the chamber galleries when the Senate is sitting, including the presence of officers in the galleries themselves when members of the public are in those galleries.

Senator WONG: And I am asking whether there have been any occasions when those galleries have been unattended.

Ms Callinan : As I have mentioned, not to my recollection—that I can recall now. But if there has been—

Senator WONG: Someone is talking behind you.

Ms Callinan : Excuse me. Senator, I am just receiving some advice from the Deputy Usher of the Black Rod, who informs me that last week there was an occasion when there was a shortage of staff—and I am just being careful with my language because it was a very quick piece of information conveyed to me then—which led to, I think, on the information I have just been provided, the absence of an officer within one of the galleries. As you can see, I was not previously privy to that information.

Senator WONG: I appreciate that. Could I briefly ask some questions of the deputy, given that you are not aware of this—just about what happened last week?

Ms Callinan : Yes, Senator.

Senator WONG: Mr Baczynski, there was an occasion last week when we had an unattended gallery—is that right?

Mr Baczynski : I believe that the staffing across the galleries was a bit stretched on one of the evenings. Whilst my understanding is that there were staff outside the galleries, there were a couple of moments when they were outside the door as guests were taken into the gallery.

Senator WONG: My recollection—it has been a while since I was in the gallery—is that you have staff outside and then staff inside as well. Is that right?

Mr Baczynski : Correct.

Senator WONG: There are security personnel before you come in and then there are those in there, and that is to deal with, for example, the protest we had once when people stood up in the front row—those sorts of things. So we have an additional—is it two staff either side in the public gallery?

Mr Baczynski : It depends, I guess, on the day.

Senator WONG: How many people—right. Do you engage with DPS about how many staff there are at any one time?

Mr Baczynski : I engage with DPS on a daily basis just in regard to our anticipated levels of guests attending our galleries.

Senator WONG: Does that mean that the level of staff fluctuates according to the number of guests?

Mr Baczynski : Whilst galleries have staff in them, yes, those staffing levels fluctuate.

Senator WONG: I am trying to get a sense of your understanding of the usual staffing configuration. Is it two in, two out, or—

Mr Baczynski : My understanding of the staffing configuration is that we have a team leader who oversees the staffing levels of the galleries throughout the day. They are positioned at various points on level 1 and level 2. When a gallery is opened, staff from the PSS will attend that gallery and assist.

Senator WONG: Okay. What are the two galleries on either side called again?

The President: There is the President's gallery. They are all public galleries.

Senator WONG: What is the one on the opposite side?

Mr Baczynski : The south gallery.

Senator WONG: Are the President's and south galleries only opened when required?

Mr Baczynski : Correct.

Senator WONG: And then there is the public gallery.

Mr Baczynski : Correct. That is the central one.

Senator WONG: With the public gallery, would the normal staffing component be two staff outside and two staff inside or more?

Mr Baczynski : As long as there are guests in that gallery, there is at least one staff member in that gallery.

Senator WONG: Inside?

Mr Baczynski : Inside.

Senator WONG: And two outside?

Mr Baczynski : I think it fluctuates throughout the day.

Senator WONG: So it could be one.

Mr Baczynski : Yes.

Senator WONG: Does it ever go to one?

Mr Baczynski : There is always at least a staff member on the sign-in desk that is just outside the gallery.

Senator WONG: So the minimum might be one outside and one inside?

Mr Baczynski : Correct.

Senator WONG: On this occasion, what happened?

Mr Baczynski : I believe it occurred in the evening when we had all the galleries being utilised. My understanding is that they were a little bit stretched going between the north and south galleries.

Senator WONG: Usually you would have, if a gallery were open, at least one staff member in that gallery to deal with the issue that we heard about before.

Mr Baczynski : Correct.

Senator WONG: How many of the galleries did not have one?

Mr Baczynski : I believe it was just one temporarily, but I would have to confirm that.

Senator WONG: Okay. How did that come to the Department of the Senate's attention?

Mr Baczynski : I was in the chamber at the time and I looked up and noticed.

Senator WONG: Thanks very much. I have nothing further on that. Mr President, I understand that the Prime Minister has provided additional personal staff resources to all of the crossbench. We will talk about that later today. Is it an additional three personal staff for every crossbencher on top of the four electorate staff?

The President: I think that is correct. I think it is seven.

Senator WONG: Have there been any additional resources to the Department of the Senate to recognise the greater number of crossbenchers?

The President: I will ask the Clerk to address that.

Dr Laing : No, but I expect that would be a point that we would be raising in our budget bids for the next financial year. As you know, we had a program of forward bids for increased resources but, for whatever reason, we were given supplementation for this year only in the context of last year's budget negotiations. So we will go forward and try again. The additional staff that crossbenchers have at their disposal does create an impact for us because there are more people seeking our advice. That will be a basis for us putting the case for increased resources.

Senator WONG: Mr President, it would seem rather odd, wouldn’t it, if crossbench senators received seven staff—almost double what most other senators receive—but the department that supports their work in the chamber does not receive extra resources?

The President: This is a matter that is not controlled by the Department of the Senate or by me. It is controlled by the Department of Finance.

Senator WONG: I am sure you will be a strong advocate, right?

The President: I am a very strong advocate for the Department of the Senate, and this is why I am a strong advocate for independence of the financing of the parliament.

Senator WONG: Until you get that deal, are you going to be pressing for additional resources to deal with this?

The President: Absolutely. The Clerk and I are lockstep in relation to this.

Senator WONG: It just seems illogical to say, 'There is so much work for the crossbench they are going to get nearly double what most senators have'—

The President: That is correct.

Senator WONG: 'but we are not going to give more resources to the department that is supposed to support their parliamentary work.'

The President: I will be fighting for the resources the Department of the Senate requires.

Senator WONG: I think you actually touched on this, Dr Laing: given that they have so many staff, does that mean there is some work they can now do that you do not have to do? Or does it just create more work for you?

Dr Laing : In an ideal world, I think it would be the case that senators having access to more staff would make them a little more self-sufficient. I am not sure whether that has eventuated yet—because everyone is so new. But, certainly, in our attempts to enhance the resources available to senators through online mechanisms, through self-service mechanisms, we have had that in mind—that staff of all senators might become a little more self-sufficient in due course and be able to navigate simple procedures for themselves.

Senator WONG: We will maybe come back to that at the next estimates to see how we have gone. While we are on staffing, Senator Parry, can you tell me whether you have had a staffing allocation change since the last estimates round?

The President: Yes, I have. I have had an increase of one adviser in my staffing allocation.

Senator WONG: At the adviser level?

The President: Yes.

Senator WONG: Who granted that?

The President: The Prime Minister approves the staffing level for the President's office, so it was the Prime Minister's office.

Senator WONG: On what basis were you provided with an additional staff member?

The President: There were a number of reasons. The first is that, as the senior Presiding Officer, I take care of the Presiding Officer meetings. I have a staff member fully dedicated to that. The frequency of Presiding Officer meetings has increased—as has, possibly, the complexity, especially in relation to security capital works. I am also finding that I am out of my home state a lot more than I ordinarily would have expected, so I have had the requirement for someone to represent me in my home state either when I am in parliament for parliamentary sittings or when I am out of the state during non-parliamentary sitting weeks—usually attending Presiding Officer meetings. I therefore required the additional resource, and the Prime Minister has granted that.

Senator WONG: I am interested in your point about representation in Tasmania. You are using an adviser allocated to your presidential role to undertake representative duties in Tasmania?

The President: In relation to my role as President of the Senate.

Senator WONG: Only in relation to your role as President?

The President: Generally, yes.

Senator WONG: Does the staff member attend Liberal Party functions for you?

The President: Not for me, no.

Senator WONG: But they attend anyway?

The President: Most of my staff, if not all, are members of the Liberal Party, so I would imagine that would be the case—that they would attend meetings when they wish to.

Senator WONG: Is the adviser a former member of parliament?

The President: Yes.

Senator WONG: Somebody who lost their seat in the last election has been given an adviser's job in your office?

The President: Correct. I had an adviser's position vacant and I approached this former member who is ideally suited to representing me as President of the Senate. He knows how to handle matters in public, he has ideal representational experience, people know who he is and he has the right status for it. It is unfortunate that he lost his seat, but I am very fortunate that I could pick him up.

Senator WONG: Where is he based?

The President: He is based in my Launceston electorate office.

Senator WONG: Does he come to Canberra?

The President: He has not yet. He is only newly appointed. He has not come yet, but he will be attending Canberra on a regular basis.

Senator WONG: When was he appointed?

The President: I would have to check, but I imagine it was in the last three weeks.

Senator WONG: He is based in Launceston and you agree that he attends party political functions?

The President: I am not aware of him attending any.

Senator WONG: But he will.

The President: I am not precluding him from attending them.

Senator WONG: He is supposed to be an adviser to you as President, and as yet he has not attended the Senate?

The President: He has only just started. We have only had one sitting week since he has been employed and this is only the second week I have been required to be in Canberra. He will be here. He knows he has an obligation to travel to Canberra and that that is part of his duties.

Senator WONG: What other representational events does he attend for you in Tasmania?

The President: I get an enormous number of invitations, as you could imagine, to attend events—either to open things or to be there as President of the Senate. When required, he can do that for me.

Senator WONG: As President of the Senate or as a Liberal senator?

The President: As President of the Senate.

Senator WONG: You do have electorate staff to do this.

The President: I do, but they have duties that are fully occupying their time.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, I am conscious of the time. Do you have any more questions?

Senator WONG: I did, but I am happy to cede.

Senator DODSON: Mr President, I want to ask about the information you convey to us as senators about the notification of the retirement of the Clerk, sad as that is. I want to know what consultations you have put in train to date or what consultations have taken place in relation to the replacement of the Clerk, obviously, about the process going forward—time lines, the selection process itself and potential announcements of that. I would appreciate information in relation to those matters.

The President: Thank you, Senator Dodson. I did answer these questions for Senator Wong but I am very happy to go through them again.

Senator DODSON: I am sorry I was late. I apologise.

The President: That is quite okay. Ostensibly the applications for the position of Clerk close at the close of business today. I have indicated that I will consult with the Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee, which is a senior committee of the Senate. It comprises members who are senior members of the Senate. The committee also has the opportunity whereby any senator who wishes to attend a meeting of the committee can attend. So that is the widest possible consultation that one could have. In addition to that, prior to addressing the Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee at a future date, I did briefly discuss with Senators Brandis; Wong; Di Natale; and Xenophon, being a long-serving crossbench senator, about the process I intended to undertake, and they were comfortable with that process. But the consultation will primarily occur with the Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee.

Senator McALLISTER: I want to ask a procurement question for the Department of the Senate. Should I address those questions to you, Ms Crowther, or to you, Ms Callinan?

Ms Callinan : Yes.

Senator McALLISTER: Does the Department of the Senate still purchase paper for use by senators from the office supply company Staples?

Ms Callinan : Yes, it does. We purchase paper through the Whole of Government Stationery and Office Supplies Panel Arrangement. At the moment we purchase Impact 100 per cent recycled paper.

Senator McALLISTER: Right. That is provided by the office supply company Staples or by someone else?

Ms Callinan : It is through that procurement panel. I am not sure whether the supply company Staples is involved in the provision of that. I would have to get that detail. But the paper itself is Impact paper. Sorry, I am just being advised that Staples is on the panel and we do get our paper through Staples.

Senator McALLISTER: Where do Impact manufacture their paper?

Ms Callinan : That paper is manufactured in Austria.

Senator McALLISTER: So it is 100 per cent of—

Ms Callinan : Recycled?

Senator McALLISTER: No. All of the Department of the Senate's paper is now from Impact—is that accurate?

Ms Callinan : Yes, at the moment it is.

Senator McALLISTER: We obviously inquired into procurement back in 2013 and at that time the majority of the department's paper was an Australian made paper, which was Reflex carbon neutral. Why did the practice change away from having the Australian manufacturer?

Ms Callinan : We periodically review the paper that we procure. We are bound by the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. There are certain requirements that we have to work through to determine which is the best paper pursuant to those rules, including elements such as value for money. In about early 2015, I think, we undertook another review and during the process we looked at the requirements that we are bound to look at under those procurement rules, including value for money, for example. We also did some testing of three different types of paper: Impact paper, Reflex and Staples brands. They all tested well in terms of performance. We did that testing with the department and also with a senator's office.

But, in terms of value for money, the Impact paper was 20 per cent cheaper than the paper we were previously purchasing so, therefore, on a value-for-money basis we went to the Impact paper. But, as I said, it is a periodic assessment that we do and we will be undertaking another assessment in this quarter to go back to those providers on that panel arrangement and to undertake that analysis again. Depending on the results of that, that could lead us to buy a different option. It could potentially be Reflex or Staples, depending on the result of that analysis.

Senator McALLISTER: So when will that analysis take place?

Ms Callinan : We are scheduled to do that this quarter, so in the next couple of months.

Senator McALLISTER: So the last decision to change was undertaken early in 2015, I think you said.

Ms Callinan : Yes, that is right. We first starting phasing out the Reflex and purchasing the new one in June mid last year.

Senator McALLISTER: In making that decision did you investigate whether there had been any complaints to the Anti-Dumping Commission in relation to the new manufacturer and country of origin?

Ms Callinan : I do not recall that detail. I would have to go back to check whether that was a relevant factor for us to consider and whether it was in fact considered. I am afraid I do not recall that right now.

Senator McALLISTER: If you could take that on notice, we would appreciate it.

Ms Callinan : Certainly.

Senator McALLISTER: In the Clerk's submission back in 2013 I think the department observed that the department periodically receives questions from senators about this issue—

Ms Callinan : Indeed.

Senator McALLISTER: That it is something that is of interest to senators. Have you received any questions from senators or their offices since you switched suppliers?

Ms Callinan : Yes, we did in fact.

Senator McALLISTER: How many?

Ms Callinan : I have a record that we received queries from three senators between June and October 2015.

Senator McALLISTER: Any since?

Ms Callinan : Not that I have in my notes with me. I will undertake to double check that, though.

Senator McALLISTER: I think that would be good. And did those relate to the use of Australian-made paper? How many of those—

Ms Callinan : Yes, they did. That was the specific topic.

Senator McALLISTER: So all three?

Ms Callinan : Yes, that is right.

Senator McALLISTER: Are you aware where the Department of the House of Representatives sources its paper?

Ms Callinan : No, I am not, sorry.

Senator McALLISTER: So you are not certain whether they use Australian paper?

Ms Callinan : I am not aware of that, no.

CHAIR: Are there any other questions of the department?

Senator WONG: Just one. I asked a question on notice about the refurbishment of the parliamentary chambers. I was told that the Presiding Officers have not provided any approval as yet to commence work in either chamber. Is that still the case or has that changed?

The President: That is the case. We are waiting on further advice before making a decision—

Senator WONG: From?

The President: From the Usher of the Black Rod—in this case with her liaison with the Department of Parliamentary Services.

Senator WONG: Are you able to give us some time frame for that assessment? Will that go through the appropriations, security—what do we call the committee now?

The President: Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee. Probably not, but it can be raised by that committee. It is probably something I would not put to the committee.

Senator WONG: I am just trying to get the time frame.

Ms Callinan : I am hoping to be able to provide some advice to the President in the coming weeks on that project.

Senator WONG: Remind me, Mr President, would that be funded out of the Department of the Senate's budget or—

The President: Out of the DPS budget.

Senator WONG: Capital budget.

The President: We look after our money.

Senator WONG: I just wanted to make sure. There is nothing further from me.

Senator McALLISTER: I would like to get an update on where enterprise bargaining is up to for staff.

Dr Laing : You may be aware that there was a case before the full bench of the Fair Work Commission on Uniline that threw many bargaining initiatives across the Commonwealth into some if not disarray then uncertainty. In that case, quite a hard technical line was taken in relation to documentation associated with the bargaining process and, in particular, the notice of employee representational rights or NoERR. Looking at the implications of that case, the department looked at our NoERR and discovered that there was a very minor technical error in that our NoERR did not reference the words 'schedule 2.1' and 'regulation 2.05'. It seems like a very minor technical deficiency but, in light of decisions across the Commonwealth for agencies to start again, I took the decision on the basis of the risk of our agreement being thrown out by the Fair Work Commission that we should abandon our previous process and start again. We have done that and we have issued a fresh notice of employee representational rights. The date that we issued that was 28 September. I made the decision to cease bargaining on 27 September. We reissued the NoERR the following day. Our first bargaining meeting in the fresh process will occur on the 26th of this month. We hope to make reasonably fast progress in the new process given that we had, in the series of bargaining meetings held under the previous process, almost completed working through the agreement with the bargaining representatives.

Senator McALLISTER: In establishing the NoERR the first time, had you sought advice from others within the Australian Public Service about the appropriate way to do this so you would be in compliance with the legal requirements?

Dr Laing : I will take that on notice. We certainly followed the process we had followed in the last round, but I will take on notice whether there was further consultation.

Senator McALLISTER: Was there any general guidance issued to departments as the bargaining commenced?

Dr Laing : There is guidance from the Australian Public Service Commission, but I doubt that it covered that level of detail.

Senator McALLISTER: So there was guidance provided at the beginning of the process by the Australian Public Service Commissioner.

Dr Laing : There is guidance available from the Public Service Commission.

Senator McALLISTER: But it may not have dealt with this particular question which has turned out to be reasonably significant.

Dr Laing : That is right. It was in particular the Uniline case that threw this issue up. I think it was a bit of a surprise to a lot of people.

Senator McALLISTER: When did the current agreement expire?

Dr Laing : It expired on 30 June 2015. Our staff received a pay rise in May 2015. We are behind the bulk of the Public Service in that it is not all that long since our staff received a pay rise, but I am very conscious of needing to get moving and address this as soon as we can.

Senator McALLISTER: When do you expect to conclude this new bargaining process?

Dr Laing : Our hope is to make good progress on it by the end of the year or early next year. Our ability to focus on these issues is impacted on by things like the sitting pattern and the fact that almost 100 per cent of our focus in sitting weeks is on supporting the operations of the Senate and its committees.

Senator McALLISTER: How would you assess the impact of needing to restart on that timetable and your ability to conclude that bargaining process?

Dr Laing : I think it will mean a delay of about five weeks at best guesstimate or a couple of months as a more realistic estimate.

Senator McALLISTER: A couple of months?

Dr Laing : I believe so.

Senator WONG: Can I ask a couple of brief questions. I am conscious that we need to move on to the PBO. I want to go back to your additional position, Mr President. Is it at the adviser level?

The President: Yes, adviser level.

Senator WONG: So it will be appointed within the band?

The President: I would have to double-check. It is definitely at adviser level.

Senator WONG: When did you first approach the Prime Minister for an additional adviser position?

The President: I cannot recall the exact time, but it was in general discussions that I have had over many months.

Senator WONG: Before or after the election?

The President: Potentially before the election.

Senator WONG: When was the decision made?

The President: About 24 hours before I employed the person, so it would have been within the last few weeks. These things take a fair bit of time, as you can imagine.

Senator WONG: Was there a concomitant allocation to the Deputy President?

The President: No.

Senator WONG: So now the symmetry between the positions of the President and the Deputy President is different?

The President: It always has been. The President has a vast number of staff. The Deputy President gets an allocation of one additional person.

Senator WONG: I am pointing out that you have had another allocation of a senior staffer. Was there consideration given to making sure there was a similar allocation to the opposition office holder?

The President: No. It has nothing to do with opposition or government. It is—

Senator WONG: You have appointed a former Liberal MP who is doing representational work in your electorate. It sounds pretty political, Mr President.

The President: I would contest that. It is not political.

Senator WONG: It is not political?

The President: No, I would state that it is not. It is purely in recognition of the additional workload of the role of the President. The Deputy President's workload has not adjusted.

Senator WONG: You appointed a mate who lost his seat to do work in your electorate.

Senator McKENZIE: That is how you might categorise it, but I think—

Senator WONG: Is he not a mate?

The President: I have many friends, both Labor and Liberal.

Senator WONG: I do not think you would be offering me a job, though.

The President: If there were a position and you were available, Senator Wong, you would be equally considered. I think an ex member of parliament is an ideal person to represent the President of the Senate at functions both here and certainly in Tasmania when I am not available. I could not have asked for anyone better. It was my fortune and his misfortune. He lost his seat. When I had a vacancy, he was the ideal person to put into that vacancy. It is putting a round plug into a round hole.

Senator WONG: That is good to know, but there is no prohibition on party political work. For example, if you are asked to attend on behalf of the government an opening of something the government is funding which is a political event, could he attend on your behalf?

The President: If it is in my capacity in my co-role as President and senator for Tasmania, yes. Sometimes it is hard to delineate whether I am being invited as a senator for Tasmania or as the President. Quite often an invitation will be addressed to 'the President'. Because of my high profile as President, I seem to get invited to a lot more functions and events. That is just a natural course of events. I have spoken to previous presidents and, once you become President, the demand for your attendance at events certainly goes up exponentially.

CHAIR: As there are no further questions, I thank Senator Parry, Dr Laing and officers from the Department of the Senate.