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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
Department of Parliamentary Services

Department of Parliamentary Services


CHAIR: I welcome Mr Robert Stefanic, Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services; Dr Dianne Heriot, the Parliamentary Librarian; and 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 its inquiry into the Department of Parliamentary Services, which was tabled in the previous parliament. Mr Stefanic, do you have an opening statement.

Mr Stefanic : No, I do not, thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Dr Heriot, do you have an opening statement?

Dr Heriot : No, thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: We will start with Senator Leyonhjelm.

Senator LEYONHJELM: First of all, I would like to say thank you for your change of approach on motorcycle parking. It is noted and appreciated, and I do not think it will be necessary for me to bother you again with that subject at estimates. However, I do want to ask you about wi-fi in electorate offices. Has the program of introducing wi-fi into electorate offices been completed yet?

Mr Stefanic : I will request the Chief Information Officer to answer your question.

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, Senator, the program has been completed.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Is there any intention of doing anything else on that front—on wi-fi in electorate offices?

Ms Seittenranta : Not at the moment.

Senator LEYONHJELM: If I have a visitor to Parliament House and they bring along their phone, their iPad or their laptop or something, they can access wi-fi via the Parliament House network. If I have a visitor or an intern or someone like that in my office, they cannot do that.

Ms Seittenranta : If you have an intern and they have an account on the parliamentary computer network, they will be able to use the wi-fi in the office. However, visitors will not be able to. That was a specific part of the design that was approved as part of the new policy proposal through the Department of Finance, because we would not be able to control the usage and costs if there is largescale public usage.

Senator LEYONHJELM: So you can control the usage and cost here in Parliament House?

Ms Seittenranta : Parliament House was, I think, considered as a national institution and that it can be a matter that can be dealt with. The last time I looked at the cost of the usage in Parliament House it was about $10,000 per annum of the internet charge that went towards the public wi-fi.

Senator LEYONHJELM: And electorate offices are not national institutions collectively?

Ms Seittenranta : I do not determine what is a national institution. We can review that as we look at the future services in offices. But, at the moment, there is no plan to make the wi-fi public in electorate offices.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I know there is not, and that is why I am wondering who is responsible so that I can give them a hard time at estimates as well. The point is, of course, is that, if I have a visitor into my Parliament House office and they want to show me some information and they need access to the internet to do it then they can do that. If that same visitor comes to see me in my electorate office and wants to show me some information, and they require access to the internet, they cannot do it. They can in fact do it in my electorate office, because I pay for a separate wi-fi service. But I am somewhat frustrated that they can do it without dramas in Parliament House but that they cannot do it without some dramas in my electorate office. I am wondering whether this is about saving money or is it, as I suggested before, that someone has decided that we are not, in our electorate offices, part of a national institution?

Ms Seittenranta : What we can do is refer the matter to the Parliamentary ICT Advisory Board for advice and take it from there. The ICT Advisory Board is made up of senators and members and advises on the direction of services for parliamentarians and for the parliament.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Your colleagues can tell you that, on some subjects, I am reluctant to let go. I have now let go of the issue of motorbikes because there has been progress. I will have a chat to you at a future estimates on this subject, and I will be interested to hear what you have to say.

Senator McALLISTER: I want to ask about the ICT outage that occurred on 10 October. My understanding is that that outage occurred at 11.45 am and was progressively resolved for different users at different times throughout the afternoon. Is that correct, Mr Stefanic?

Mr Stefanic : Correct.

Senator McALLISTER: It was finally resolved at 6.23 pm?

Ms Seittenranta : That is right.

Senator McALLISTER: The impact, then, lasted for 6½ hours?

Ms Seittenranta : For the last users for whom it was fixed, it was probably closer to 7½ hours. For the majority of users it would have been 6½ hours.

Senator McALLISTER: Obviously it is a substantial problem at any time, but it was in the middle of a sitting day. What was the cause of the outage?

Ms Seittenranta : Before I go through that, first I would like to apologise on behalf of the ICT group to everybody on the parliamentary computing network—because you all were impacted by it. The root causes were two human errors. The first error was that something was classified as a routine administrative change when it should have gone through formal change control—and it was a type of change that would not normally occur during sitting hours. The person who executed the change also made a technical error which compounded the first error of doing it at the wrong time.

Senator McALLISTER: There were no outside actors involved?

Ms Seittenranta : In the sense of hacking?

Senator McALLISTER: In any sense.

Ms Seittenranta : The actual change itself was carried out by a contractor, but it was done on our request for the change to be made.

Mr Stefanic : There was nothing malicious in relation to that.

Ms Seittenranta : It was just a technical error.

Senator McALLISTER: There was nothing malicious. The first error was that it was identified as routine when in fact it was not. What would be the alternative categorisation available to you at that point?

Ms Seittenranta : The alternative would have been to identify it as a formal change. Such changes go through a change process that involves a peer review of the change itself and discussion of the appropriate timing—usually it is left until after hours and after sitting. Routine changes are daily administrative activities that occur on computer networks—housekeeping.

Senator McALLISTER: That occurs within a risk management framework?

Ms Seittenranta : That is right.

Senator McALLISTER: Then there was also a technical error which followed the first error. Can you explain that to me?

Ms Seittenranta : They were trying to change the configuration of some of our storage to enable a new project to proceed. There was a mistake in how that change was made and that separated the storage from our server environment. To recover, the storage had to be reattached, and then all of our systems, because they had gone down in an unplanned manner, had to go through a series of health checks—hence the progressive rectification of the outage as different parts of the system passed the health checks. The health checks are to ensure that there are no data integrity issues following the outage.

Senator McALLISTER: You mentioned that there was a human error and then a technical error and that a contractor was involved. Was it a contractor who was involved in both of those errors?

Ms Seittenranta : No, the first error was an ongoing staff member.

Senator McALLISTER: And in executing the decision the contractor made a technical error?

Ms Seittenranta : That is right.

Senator McALLISTER: In terms of restoring it, is that a task that is contracted out also or is that something that happens—

Ms Seittenranta : It was done jointly between us and the storage vendor.

Senator McALLISTER: Does the process of undertaking the health checks bear upon who has service restored and when?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, it does. The order in which you would normally do this is you would bring up the core business systems, like the Table Office systems that the houses use to run their business, and Hansard. In parallel to that, the email system would be coming up behind the scenes. With the email system there is an automatic process that goes through each mailbox to validate that each mailbox is unaffected. We do not control the order it goes through. The system just does it in the order the mailboxes are within the mail system, so for the email boxes it is just basically the order the system has. It validates them, ticks off and makes them available again.

Senator McALLISTER: Is there a protocol within your area that goes to which user groups or which functions should have priority in the case—

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, the priorities are set in conjunction with the house departments and with DPS's business areas based on their risk assessments and assessments of the criticality of systems. It varies from a sitting day to a non-sitting day. There is quite a detailed list of priorities.

Senator McALLISTER: And that is embodied in some sort of internal policy or protocol?

Ms Seittenranta : It is, yes.

Senator McALLISTER: Is that something you would be able to provide to the committee?

Ms Seittenranta : We can provide it.

Senator McALLISTER: I think we would appreciate it. Have you given thought to measures to prevent this from happening again?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, we have. The first one of course is that the change that was meant to happen that failed has been deferred until after the sitting period. We have also revisited the definitions of the various types of changes to make sure there are no other changes that have drifted into admins rather than into formal change management. We have also increased the time from when a change is made to when we declare it successful and allow further business to continue. There are a number of changes that we made immediately. We will also have a bit more in-depth review. My team were as equally shocked as everybody else with the outage, so they have to have time to absorb what they caused and then, in a slightly quieter moment, reflect on the process and make sure that everything is right.

Senator McALLISTER: Who will conduct that review?

Ms Seittenranta : It will be conducted by the team itself with some peers from other teams to make sure that it is complete. If needed, we will get expert advice from the IT industry.

Senator McALLISTER: Is it your intention to provide that review to Mr Stefanic?

Ms Seittenranta : We would normally for a significant outage like that. By the way, that is the first one we have had in over three years, so it really was a shock to the IT team that that occurred.

Senator McALLISTER: Do you have any remarks, Mr Stefanic?

Mr Stefanic : It will obviously be a review that I will brief the Presiding Officers on shortly afterwards.

Senator WONG: I do not propose in a public forum to go through a range of the security issues associated with the ICT network but I do want to ask: are there any guidelines about connecting hardware received from external sources to the network?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, there are. The main recommendation is not to do it. If you do do it—for example, USB sticks are common hardware that people connect—the system does have some end-point validation tools that can be used and will automatically to some extent ensure that that device does not have any malware on it.

Senator WONG: Right. So if there were, for example, a bluetooth watch, would you want to make sure there was no malware on it before it was connected to the network?

Ms Seittenranta : The system would automatically do that checking.

Senator WONG: Mr Fletcher, the member for Bradfield and the Minister for Urban Infrastructure, has declared in his register of interests he received a bluetooth watch from Huawei. I am not proposing to explore what that might mean in detail. But if that is connected to the network, what should happen?

Ms Seittenranta : The end-point malware detection software at the time it tried to connect to his PC or laptop would initiate some antivirus-type checking processes.

Senator WONG: Do you know if that happened?

Ms Seittenranta : No, I do not for that particular case.

Senator WONG: So you are not aware of whether the watch was connected to any of the ICT networks, either for DPS or for his portfolio department?

Ms Seittenranta : For DPS I am not aware, and I would not get told by his portfolio department if he did connect it.

Senator WONG: If it were connected to the DPS network, could you find that out?

Ms Seittenranta : I can look to see if we could. I am not 100 per cent certain whether we would have that level of—

Senator WONG: Were you asked to provide any risk assessment before this occurred?

Ms Seittenranta : No, we were not.

Senator WONG: You were not?

Ms Seittenranta : No.

Senator WONG: A range of security concerns have been raised publicly about this company.

Ms Seittenranta : We do not generally get notified of which devices senators and members privately bring into the system.

Senator WONG: Do you have any concerns about something provided by the company Huawei being connected to the network?

Ms Seittenranta : We take advice through the Australian Signals Directorate and the advice we get from Attorney-General's and other departments—ASIO, for example, on intelligence issues and issues like that. So we do not in DPS do independent assessments of risk for those devices.

Senator WONG: What I am simply asking is: as a result of those consultations—and I do not need to know what the advice was—do you have any concerns about hardware provided by the company Huawei being connected to the network?

Ms Seittenranta : We have never had an issue with it and we have not been given any specific advice about anything Huawei.

Senator WONG: I now want to turn to security staffing and associated issues. Who can talk to me about security personnel and the staffing of various—what are they called: checkpoints?

Mr Cooper : Security points.

Senator WONG: Who do I talk to about this?

Mr Stefanic : Me and the Acting First Assistant Secretary of the Building and Security Division.

Senator WONG: That is Mr Cooper. How long have you been in the position, Mr Cooper?

Mr Cooper : In the security position, six months. And I have been Acting First Assistant Secretary, Building and Security for three or four months.

Senator WONG: You might need to get some advice then, because I want to understand how many additional security checkpoints have been added, as a result of the many capital works that have been engaged in, within the APH over the last 12 months—so if you compare the number of areas you have to staff now with what you had to staff 12 months ago. I would like to know the numbers, please.

Mr Cooper : I will check the numbers but I think I can answer your question to the greatest extent by saying that the new guard houses at the ministerial wing are the new checkpoints. We have refurbished a number of others; however, the security works that you refer to require approximately a further 10 full-time-equivalent security personnel.

Senator WONG: I will come to personnel. I wanted to start with locations. You have one guardhouse or two guardhouses outside?

Mr Cooper : It is the east and west points. It is the ministerial one where you come in and there are two boxes.

Senator WONG: So there are two: the east- and west-point ministerial guard houses. Then you have internal entries in the ministerial wing, so that would be an additional four.

Mr Cooper : That is correct.

Senator WONG: That is six. Are there any more.

Mr Cooper : I do not think so.

Senator WONG: In total is that six additional security checkpoints? And you said those additional six require 10 additional staff at any one time?

Mr Cooper : Approximately 10, yes.

Senator WONG: Tell me how they are configured.

Mr Cooper : It is one at each of the internal four points and two or three people in each of the two guard boxes out the front. I should also add that we are about to commence a functional review of security, where we will revisit the staffing numbers and the position of our security personnel across the department. We are conducting that review in partnership with the Australian Federal Police, because, as you are aware, we have an integrated security model now. So, when I say it is notionally an extra 10 people now, that may change when we complete our review.

Senator WONG: Did you increase your security FTE allocation to reflect the 10 additional staff requirements?

Mr Cooper : Notionally we have.

Senator WONG: What does 'notionally' mean?

Mr Cooper : It means that we did not have a full complement of staff in the period from when they were opened until now. We have an ongoing recruitment campaign program to ensure that we get to the numbers that we need to get to.

Senator WONG: If you compare 12 months ago with now, do you have more security personnel and, if so, how many?

Mr Cooper : What was the first part of the question, sorry?

Senator WONG: We have agreed that there is an additional requirement as between 12 months ago and now of about 10 staff. I am just trying to get a sense of how many more there are than the baseline of 12 months ago.

Mr Cooper : I do not know the number that we had 12 months ago. I can speak to the number we have now.

Senator WONG: Can you see what I am trying to understand?

Mr Stefanic : Yes.

Senator WONG: I do not want to have an argument about baselines et cetera. If you are not able to answer the question now, can you at least over the break get a sense of where you were—and you got these additional staffing requirements—where you are now and where you want to be? And I want to understand the budget allocation associated with that.

Mr Stefanic : I do have the figures to hand for the past six months. We have recruited an additional 23 security staff, with a further nine due to commence in November. However, in that same period we have lost 10 people to retirements and resignations.

Senator WONG: So that is a net 22?

Mr Stefanic : Currently, yes. As Mr Cooper indicated, there are ongoing recruitment processes. Obviously Canberra is a small market for recruitment, and with rolling recruitments it is difficult to obtain sufficient staff to put on board. So we are continuing to seek that out. But, until that period—six months ago—there was not an active process of ongoing recruitment, which meant that our staffing levels have fallen well short of where they need to be.

Senator WONG: I want to go back to the 10 additional staff. That is at any one time, isn't it?

Mr Cooper : Yes.

Senator WONG: So, over a 24-hour period, what is the additional staffing allocation? I assume you do not staff all of these points for 24 hours. Is that right?

Mr Cooper : That is right.

Senator WONG: So, in a 24-hour period, what is the additional staffing requirement for those six additional checkpoints?

Mr Cooper : Four of them are not open for 24 hours. The two at the front are open until 11 pm. So we would need to break that figure down, and I do not have that with me.

Senator WONG: I want to understand—and, to allocate staff, you must know—over a 24-hour period, how many staff do you need to roster on and where. Can that be done over the morning break? Is that possible?

Mr Cooper : Are you talking about just those additional points?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Mr Cooper : I will make some inquiries.

Senator WONG: I would appreciate that. After the break, I would like to ask you about overtime. I think Mr Stefanic helpfully indicated that additional recruitment did not commence occurring until about six months ago. Is that right? When did you come on board, Secretary?

Mr Stefanic : In December last year.

Senator WONG: So, not long after you came on board, you obviously started to try to recruit to deal with this security staffing shortage and you are not there yet and you are going to give me some information about that. I would like to understand what has happened to people's overtime payments in the interim. Can someone get that information during the break?

Mr Stefanic : Specifically, what---

Senator WONG: I do not need to know individuals; I am trying to understand how many people are working more overtime to cover. I assume that is how you must be covering it.

Mr Cooper : That is correct. And I have some figures on both extended hours and double shifts over the past 12 months.

Senator WONG: Are you able to give us that in document form and I could ask questions from it? Or is it in a brief that you do not want me to see?

Mr Cooper : It is in a more comprehensive brief.

Senator WONG: Can you redact bits—for example, 'Don't let Wong see this'?

Mr Cooper : I do not think that is a classification, but we will see if we can get those numbers out during the break.

Proceedings suspended from 10:30 to 10:43

CHAIR: We will resume with the Department of Parliamentary Services. Senator Xenophon.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you to Senator Wong for allowing me to interpose in this way. I want to ask questions that relate to the preservation of metadata. Do the email servers and web servers that I might rely on, that senators may rely on, to receive APH emails or to look up information on the web reside in Parliament House or are they external to the building?

Mr Stefanic : I will ask the Chief Information Officer to answer that question for you.

Senator XENOPHON: Did you hear the question?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, thank you.

Senator XENOPHON: Are they in the building or external to the building?

Ms Seittenranta : The email servers are held within Parliament House in the data centre here.

Senator XENOPHON: Sure. Are they managed by subcontractors or by DPS directly?

Ms Seittenranta : By DPS directly.

Senator XENOPHON: Are they shared in any way with any other commercial or government entities?

Ms Seittenranta : The servers?

Senator XENOPHON: Yes.

Ms Seittenranta : No.

Senator XENOPHON: Is there a requirement for those parliamentary IT systems inside—that is, the email servers and the web servers—to be capable of preserving metadata in accordance with the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979?

Ms Seittenranta : The department is not a telecommunications carrier, so we are not required to do so. What we do, though, is retain some metadata for system administration purposes.

Senator XENOPHON: Does the system distinguish between emails and web searches of parliamentarians and personal staffers, and emails and web searches of, say, DPS staff members?

Ms Seittenranta : The administrative systems tend to look at all of the mailboxes as a single entity. But, in our policies about how we deal with data in the longer term, we would separate different user segments within the parliamentary computing network.

Senator XENOPHON: This is something the President may want to consider. I am asking whether, under our metadata preservation laws, members of parliament are covered by those laws and whether the system architecture could allow the lawful preservation of, say, DPS staff members' emails and web searches but prevent what many would consider to be the unlawful preservation of metadata about a parliamentarian's emails and web searches.

Ms Seittenranta : My understanding is that the metadata preservation laws do not apply to normal corporate entities or government agencies; they only apply to network carriers such as Telstra, Optus and so on.

Senator XENOPHON: I will put a scenario to you. If a whistleblower contacted a member of parliament at their APH address, would any part of that communication be subject to a metadata search? Presumably the communication between the whistleblower—if from a private email address, say a gmail account for instance—could be preserved? Or would it be protected?

Ms Seittenranta : All data of senators and members is treated as belonging to the senator or member—and that includes the data of their staffers. DPS will not give access to either the data or the metadata unless permission has been given by the senator or member who owns the data or unless it is under a coercive power such as a search warrant.

Senator XENOPHON: Those search warrants would then be subject to an argument about parliamentary privilege, presumably?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, I would expect so.

Senator XENOPHON: I just want to clarify this. If a whistleblower contacts a senator or member from, say, a gmail account, would—insofar as there could be a metadata preservation order on the gmail account—that preservation order identify that that person had contacted a member of parliament?

Ms Seittenranta : If there were a coercive order to DPS, it would contain information—the addresses, for example—about where the mail came from and where it went to. If there is no coercive order against us, that information would normally be kept for three months as our back-up cycles churn. If there is an order, it would depend on the order.

Senator XENOPHON: This question is for the President—perhaps on notice given its technical nature. Is this something that has been considered in the context of parliamentary privilege? I think you understand my concerns about this.

The President: I do appreciate your concerns, and the Speaker and I go to great lengths to ensure that parliamentary privilege is not interfered with. But I think the ICT officer has explained very well that, unless there is a warrant—unless there is an order—that needs to be legally complied with, the information is secure. When a warrant is issued, the Presiding Officers have a memorandum of understanding with the Minister for Justice and the Attorney-General—which in effect translates as the Federal Police—that parliamentary privilege must be taken into account at all times. We communicate that in writing on each occasion to the Australian Federal Police.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. My final question to the Chief Information Officer is, is if I were, for instance, to send an email from my APH email address—say, from a computer in Parliament House—to my colleague Senator Griff's APH email address at his electoral office in Adelaide, is that email protected, firstly, by physical security means prior to encryption and by encryption means?

Ms Seittenranta : All traffic on the parliamentary computing network is encrypted.

Senator XENOPHON: Thank you. That is it.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Xenophon. Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Senator Polley just had one question.

CHAIR: Senator Polley.

Senator POLLEY: Sorry, I was not in the room when the President enlightened us with his new staff. Considering that you have employed Eric Hutchinson, is he based in your Launceston office or your Hobart office?

The President: My Launceston office.

Senator POLLEY: His role is an electorate officer, not on your personal staff?

The President: No. I have answered these questions, but he is an adviser—personal staff.

Senator POLLEY: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Thank you. Mr Cooper.

Mr Cooper : We have the table, Senator, that you requested.

Mr Stefanic : Senator, if I may I can table a list that identifies both the numbers of staff working additional shifts and a list of staff that have worked double time during the past 12 months.

Senator WONG: Chair, can I have a look at that? And, while I am doing that, Senator Dodson had a question or two.

CHAIR: Good idea. Senator Dodson.

Senator DODSON: Thank you. My question was in relation to the Rod's comment that the chamber gallery had been unattended, or was noticed to be unattended, at some point, and also the Rod mentioned that there had been a stretching of the resources as the reason. I am keen to know what are the factors that are stretching these resources, firstly. Secondly, is there a need for specialist training for those that attend the chamber galleries? Should there be a guard on any chamber gallery that happens to be open to the public at any point?

Mr Stefanic : Senator, if I can answer the question broadly, initially. When I commenced here in December 2015, the security staffing was chronically short. Part of the reason was that there was some structural change proposed, and ongoing recruitment actions had been suspended for a period of time. There is a rate of natural attrition that occurs, and that replenishment was not occurring for that period of time. The acting first assistant secretary at the time put a stop to that structural change because it was deemed not appropriate, and immediately following that we commenced a process of rolling recruitment actions. We have, since that time, struggled to get up to the full number of security staff we require on duty at all times. On that Wednesday evening in question, we did run short of staff and, due to an oversight, the Black Rod's office was not informed that night that we were short.

Senator DODSON: In terms of the special training and the attendance in any chamber that is open?

Mr Stefanic : Not all security staff that commence with DPS have to have professional training in the security industry. Assessments are made for suitability and then that training is provided in various respects. To my understanding, all security officers can operate at any of the security points around Parliament House, but it is my understanding that the security staff that tend to be posted around the chambers are the more experienced officers.

Senator DODSON: Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you. I am just conscious of the time. Senator Wong, how many questions do you have?

Senator WONG: I have lots. Shall I try and be quick?

CHAIR: That would be great, thank you.

Senator WONG: Okay. Perhaps this will be on notice. You were going to come back to me and tell me in a 24-hour period how many additional staff are required for the six additional checkpoints.

Mr Cooper : Yes, we will have to take that on notice, Senator.

Senator WONG: Okay. Can you also take on notice then the change in the average number of Parliamentary Security Service staff on duty in the sitting day now compared with 12 months ago and two years ago?

Mr Cooper : Yes.

Senator WONG: I assume you will need to take that on notice. I think the secretary has conceded there have been times you have been short on shifts. How many times have you been short?

Mr Cooper : We will take that on notice, Senator.

Senator WONG: You cannot tell me?

Mr Cooper : What I can tell you, Senator, is that we are short on a frequent basis, and that has been the case since I came on board. That is clearly the reason we have really stepped up our recruitment program. I would also add that on those days when we are short, because we have an integrated security model with the AFP we consult with the AFP and we ensure that the AFP personnel are aware of our shortages and where we are risk, managing the security personnel that should be posted.

Senator WONG: Mr President, when the fairly significant amounts of money were spent on the capital works to give the ministers a guard house externally and to include four checkpoints in the ministerial wing, was the need for additional recurrent funding for staffing to staff those sought and obtained?

The President: Yes, it has been.

Senator WONG: Sorry, it—

The President: Yes, it was sought.

Senator WONG: It was sought. When? For which financial year commencing?

The President: I would have to take that on notice, Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Your person should be able to answer. That is a very simple question. Was there an additional allocation for staff associated with security?

Mr Stefanic : It is my understanding that we are funded for an additional 32 full-time equivalents.

Senator WONG: From when?

Mr Stefanic : Sorry?

Senator WONG: From when? When did that additional—

Mr Stefanic : The funding came with the administered capital funding for the security works.

Senator WONG: When? I just want a financial year. I do not need the date. For which financial year was that allocation provided?

Mr Stefanic : Perhaps I could ask the chief financial officer, Nick Creagh.

Senator WONG: Yes, that is fine.

Mr Creagh : The funding commenced in 2014 as part of the overall security package. That is when that funding was provided and it is on an ongoing basis.

Senator WONG: Sorry, 2014—

Mr Creagh : It was 2014-15.

Senator WONG: And it is still not filled?

Mr Creagh : I would have to speak to—

Senator WONG: No, I think that is the evidence. You got funding in 2014-15 and the positions are still not filled. That is accurate.

The President: Taking into account natural attrition, of course.

Senator WONG: But you cannot assume there is not going to be attrition, can you? There is a lot of public money spent on supposedly hardening the building, but if we cannot staff the security points or people are working very long shifts you would have to question that.

I have some EB questions. I will try to be quick, Chair. The current agreement expired in 2012. Is that right?

Ms Croke : In 2014, June.

Senator WONG: Ms Croke, you are handling the negotiations, I think.

Ms Croke : Yes, I am the lead negotiator.

Senator WONG: Are you proposing any reduction in the conditions of staff who work irregular and long hours—for example, reductions to overtime rates, penalties, removal of allowances and changes to working hours and rostering?

Ms Croke : There are some changes to some of those elements, Senator. The process of negotiation is still continuing. We have got to a point where we have gone through the proposed agreement clause by clause with the bargaining group. We are now at the point of talking about where there are residual areas of difference, and there are concerns from the bargaining unit about elements that impact on overtime and some penalty rates and some allowances.

Senator WONG: Why are you looking to reduce overtime penalties and remove allowances for staff who work irregular hours?

Ms Croke : At the moment the department's enterprise agreement is very complex to administer. It virtually has a separate area of agreement for each area of the department. So somebody working in security can get very different rates of overtime and penalties to somebody working in Broadcasting, to somebody working in the Visitor Services team in the Parliamentary Experience Branch. So we are looking at a way of trying to rationalise that across the department.

Senator WONG: By 'rationalise', you mean that some people would, effectively, take a pay cut?

Ms Croke : It does impact on some people's allowances. Some people are getting a much higher rate of allowance to undertake overtime, or to be available to undertake overtime, than others. It is a very difficult agreement to administer. We are going through a process of negotiation on those issues.

Senator WONG: Essentially your position, with respect to some of these employees, is: you work the same hours, the long hours, but you get less pay.

Ms Croke : We do not think anyone would be worse off—

Senator WONG: That is not what you just said in your previous answer.

Ms Croke : I said there would be some changes to overtime. We are also offering a pay increase. There are two areas of the department where people get an allowance for being available to work overtime—at quite different rates. We are trying to rationalise and make that more equitable across the department for everybody who does put in time supporting parliament and parliamentarians. It is an ongoing negotiation.

Senator WONG: Which you have not achieved agreement on yet?

Ms Croke : No, we have not.

Senator WONG: Who, under your proposal, is classified as a rostered employee?

Ms Croke : It would be anybody who is on any form of roster, schedule or shift that is an ongoing agreed pattern of work. Clearly it would include all of our security officers, who are on a 24/7 shift cycle. It would include other areas of the department where staff are told that they are working set hours to support the parliament.

Senator WONG: Are you proposing to change overtime rates for weekends, public holidays or night shifts for any employee?

Ms Croke : We are currently in a state of negotiation, and all of this information has been made available to the bargaining unit but not more broadly to staff. I am really reluctant to get into the detail of that while we are still negotiating.

Senator WONG: This is Senate estimates.

Ms Croke : I know, but we are in the process of negotiating with staff, and things may change slightly through that negotiation.

Senator WONG: Is it currently departmental policy to seek to reduce overtime rates for weekends and public holidays? Is that your current position?

Ms Croke : The proposal does have some changes, but it is not changing—

Senator WONG: Are you proposing—

Ms Croke : Could I take it on notice? I do not have the detail with me and I know we have changed some of that through the negotiation. I would need to check precisely where we have ended up at this point in time.

Senator WONG: Is it currently the department's position that ordinary hours of work could be extended to 10 hours in a single day? If so, could you explain to me how that is reasonable?

Ms Croke : There is a proposal that aligns with what happens in a lot of other departments—for people who are not rostered not to be paid overtime until they work a certain number of hours in a day.

Senator WONG: Which would be in excess of eight hours?

Ms Croke : It does not affect staff who are rostered.

CHAIR: There are other senators who have indicated they have questions. Do you have many more?

Senator WONG: Yes, I do.

CHAIR: Is it possible to ask any of those on notice?

Senator WONG: I am trying to as I go along. The clause-by-clause comparison table released to the bargaining group—are you able to provide that to the committee?

Ms Croke : I can take that on notice. I also point out that that clause-by-clause table is something that has been modified as a working document through the negotiation process.

Senator WONG: I understand that.

Ms Croke : It is not a definitive document and it is not the proposal.

Senator WONG: I understand that. It is a snapshot of where things are at.

Ms Croke : It is a working document.

Senator WONG: You said to me that the EB expired in 2014. Have the current rates been in place since 2012?

Ms Croke : The agreement started in 2011. The last increase in pay rates was in July 2013.

Senator WONG: I have two very quick questions. The first relates to the cleaners. We in this committee have had lots of discussions about cleaners. Is it correct that they have not been given a pay increase since 2012? Is that right, Mr President?

The President: I will ask the department to answer that.

Ms Croke : It is a contract. It is actually administered by our building division but, as we have stated in several estimates hearings previously and on notice, it is a contract. DPS does not pay the cleaners directly. The cleaners are paid by Limro under the contract, and the negotiation between the cleaners and Limro—

Senator WONG: These are men and women who are very low paid, and you keep washing your hands of it by saying it is somebody else's problem. What underpins the contract is a set of pay rates. That is still unresolved, is it? We still have people four years on being paid the same lower rates; is that right?

Ms Croke : I think we would have to check that. I am not sure at what point the Limro negotiation is up to.

CHAIR: Can you just clarify for my benefit: this is a private company which employs people, and they have negotiations about their employees. That private company has a contract with the parliament to provide cleaning services?

Ms Croke : That is correct.

Senator WONG: The people who clean your office.

CHAIR: Yes. I am just clarifying.

Senator WONG: Mr President, I asked some questions about the allocation of the capital works plan—question on notice 3410. Can you provide an updated plan for 2016-17? I asked for a copy of the plan and you did not give me it, so I am asking again. If there are security issues, we can have a conversation about them. If there are other issues, we can have a conversation about them. But what is the difficulty with the parliament having a look at the capital works plan?

The President: I am just reading the question and the response at the moment, Senator Wong. My answer to your question on notice indicated that there were issues concerning the tendering aspect and that some of those aspects had not been tendered for. I believe that that is still the case. I will just check with the secretary.

Senator WONG: Okay, do not disclose the amounts. You can redact the amounts, but using that as a basis not to provide any information at all I think is problematic.

The President: There are two matters there. Firstly, the tendering documents might be highly specified, which might indicate to prospective tenderers what may or may not be required in the future. Secondly, I have always indicated that I am always prepared to brief the committee in private about these matters in as much detail as the committee would like.

Senator WONG: The briefing often is a chat. What I would actually like to see is the plan. I would like to see the capital works plan.

The President: At this stage I will not be releasing the capital works plan in public.

Senator WONG: Are you prepared to release it to the committee privately?

The President: I am prepared to discuss it and potentially release it to the committee.

Senator WONG: But a chat from you, Mr President, with respect—we find out a whole heap of things through Senate estimates or through things being announced that were not discussed with us. What is wrong with our understanding what the capital works plan is? You can redact the commercial-in-confidence information. There is no reason why that should not be provided to the committee.

The President: I am very happy to consider providing it to the committee, Senator Wong, in private.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Do you have someone here who can respond to questions about the flag on Parliament House?

The President: The one currently flying?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes. How often is it changed over?

Mr Stefanic : Senator, I became aware of the tear in the flag this morning and I have asked our Building Services Branch for some information. I am not sure if that has as yet been forthcoming, noting that there were significant winds over the weekend, which probably would have impacted heavily on that flag.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So, we think the tear is new. I noticed it this morning as well.

Mr Stefanic : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Perhaps you could provide the committee, on notice, how often the flag is changed. Is it meant to be at half-mast out of respect to the Thai king?

Mr Stefanic : Correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It does not much look like half-mast, either. Perhaps it is the health of the flag that is contributing to that.

Mr Stefanic : I will look into it, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you.