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Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
Department of Parliamentary Services

Department of Parliamentary Services


CHAIR: I welcome Ms Carol Mills as Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services and Dr Dianne Heriot, the Parliamentary Librarian, and officers of the department. Ms Mills, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Ms Mills : I will make just a very brief one, beginning with a significant variation from opening remarks I have made at recent estimates. For some time I have been advising this committee that the department's budget was in a perilous state and that while all efforts were being made to control spending we were on the cusp of having to make extremely difficult decisions to reduce service levels and standards. I would therefore like to place on record my gratitude for the government's allocation of significant additional funds in the recent budget, totalling $60 million over forward estimates plus one-off funds to allow us to commence a major analysis of the maintenance and upgrading needs of this building for the next 10 years. These funds provide us with the certainty and level of support needed to continue our services and to accelerate our change program. We will use the funds to provide greater assurance to our staff on our directions and to deliver improved and more efficient services to the parliament and the community over the next four years.

This allocation came after a comprehensive review of our fiscal position and, for the first time, a detailed analysis of the specific costs of service provision. That work enabled us to submit a robust application for additional funding, with support of both Presiding Officers, whom I would especially like to thank. I would also like to add my personal thanks to the President, as this will be my last hearing with him given that he is retiring in June. Throughout my time here the President has offered me and the department invaluable support. He has actively driven reforms in such areas as ICT, which have delivered improved services to all parliamentarians, and has been a vital advocate for the new directions of DPS. On behalf of the department, I would therefore like to put on record my acknowledgement of his leadership. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Ms Mills. Dr Heriot, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Dr Heriot : No, thank you.

CHAIR: Then we will go to questions, and I will hand to Senator Faulkner.

Senator FAULKNER: Ms Mills, you may have heard some questions I was asking of the Department of the Senate—and obviously you may not have; I appreciate that. But I was asking about the CCTV code of practice, and I asked the Usher of the Black Rod, who obviously is a member of the security management board, some questions about this, and I just wondered if I could just briefly confirm that there is a security-in-confidence version of the CCTV code of practice and a public version.

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: I could not get a copy of the code from the APH website. Is that because I am hopeless at finding it or because it is not there?

Ms Mills : I do not know. I will have to look into that matter. I must say that it is a difficult website to navigate for certain policies, so I cannot be sure. But I will certainly look into that straightaway.

Senator FAULKNER: You can just take that on notice. Neither could anyone else that I asked, but I did get a copy of the code by what is called a google search—which of course I did not undertake myself, as everyone would appreciate! My staff were able to do that for me, which I appreciate. So, I do have a copy of the public version of the code, dated 23 June 2011. And just following up on questions I asked of the Department of the Senate, to the Usher of the Black Rod, there have been no changes since that time—is that correct?

Ms Mills : That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER: I also asked a question in relation to sections in the public version—they may be different in the security-in-confidence version; how would I know? But in the public version the statement of purpose of the code is clause 5, and I asked if in the security-in-confidence version there were any other elements—it is (a) to (j) in the public code—and I was assured that there was not. Can you confirm that?

Ms Mills : That is right, yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Also, in relation to the public code, the key principles—paragraph 6, the principles that apply to the operation of the Parliament House CCTV footage, that is (a) to (k)—I asked whether in the security-in-confidence code there are any other elements, and I was assured that there were not, but you can confirm that.

Ms Mills : That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER: This is described in the code that I gleaned through a google search, which is described as 'Governance Paper No 10.18— Parliament House Closed Circuit Television Code of Practice—Public Version'. It is dated 23 June 2011, which we have established; you can confirm that. It effectively says that it is up for review in this month of this year. Is that still the case?

Ms Mills : That is the date that was scheduled. It is scheduled to be reviewed every three years, yes. No work has yet been done on that.

Senator FAULKNER: So, that review has not commenced?

Ms Mills : Not at this stage, no.

Senator FAULKNER: So, the code is as I have it in this public version. Can you explain to this committee, please: if CCTV footage needed to be accessed by the Department of Parliamentary Services, what are the steps that are followed?

Ms Mills : There are a number of steps that come into the policy that you do not have available to you, which is the criteria for which CCTV might be used—very specific criteria. The department, at a senior level, must make a judgement as to whether those criteria would be met in one or more ways. There are a series of specified criteria as well as a clause that says that if there are other reasons then the permission of the presiding officers must be sought. That is the normal process before which any access to CCTV can be made. Then, depending on the purpose for that access, there are a number of different steps, but it is heavily controlled and it has to be for a very specific purpose.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but it has to be in accordance with the purposes and principles of the code?

Ms Mills : That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER: So access to the CCTV footage, in terms of DPS staff, is very limited, isn't it?

Ms Mills : Yes, it is.

Senator FAULKNER: Can you say who it is limited to, please?

Ms Mills : Depending on the circumstances, it is limited to a very small number of people from the security branch, who will do the original accessing of the information, then, depending on the nature and the purpose for it, it will be restricted only to officers who have an essential need to view that footage, and that will vary according to the situation.

Senator FAULKNER: But they also have to have a security clearance, don't they?

Ms Mills : Under normal circumstances, yes. I am unaware if there are any exceptions to that.

Senator FAULKNER: What do you mean—they are required to—

Ms Mills : Yes, they are required to. As I said there is a variety of reasons why CCTV footage has been accessed over the years. Some of them are not for internal reasons. The decision about whether or not that material can be provided is taken on a case by case basis.

Senator FAULKNER: But when it is taken, who is the final authority in that regard?

Ms Mills : Senior security—unless it is an 'other', in which case it has to go to the presiding officers.

Senator FAULKNER: Presiding officers, yes.

Ms Mills : Senior people within the security branch.

Senator FAULKNER: What level of security clearance do they have to have?

Ms Mills : They would have to have at least a Neg Vet 1 or 2.

Senator FAULKNER: So—

Ms Mills : Senator, I might assist this, because I did see you this morning and I have looked into the matter. It would appear to me from investigations this morning that it is possible DPS has breached the code in investigating a case to do with a staff member. It may not be that issue. I was unaware of the circumstances, but I did view your questions this morning. What I can say is that—in looking very rapidly at that situation—it would appear that in dealing appropriately with what were the guidelines for criteria for viewing footage, that I believe that was done in good faith. I believe that some additional information came forward in the course of the review that led to what appears to be a breach of the principles, which I will look into this afternoon.

Senator FAULKNER: That is not a question I have asked yet, so we might get to some of those issues. Frankly, what you have just said there worries me even more than I have been previously worried, and that is saying something. I want to know whether CCTV footage in this building has been used to monitor DPS staff?

Ms Mills : Not to monitor DPS staff, no. To gather evidence in a potential code of conduct case around an individual, yes. The notion of monitoring staff would infer a broad-brushed approach to following our staff. That is certainly not the case. An incident occurred some months ago where a potential code of conduct breach had occurred, and, reading guidelines 10.18, it was the view of the department's senior legal and security area that a potential access to CCTV to assist in understanding that code of conduct issue was not in conflict and was in fact supported by the policy.

Senator FAULKNER: Wait a minute. What you have offered up to this committee this morning, not in answer to a question from me, is that you have said that CCTV footage has been used in relation to a staff member of DPS, and you said, 'contrary to the principles and purposes of the guidelines'. That is either right or it is wrong.

Ms Mills : No, what I said was that the footage was approved to be accessed, consistent with the guidelines. It is regrettable to find in the process of doing that an aspect of its use appears to have breached the guidelines. There are two separate issues here. I believe, in my interpretation, that the department was within its rights to access the footage. In continuing that dialog, an assessment that I have been able to make only this morning, it would appear that as a by-product of accessing that footage some breach of the principles may have occurred.

Senator FAULKNER: You have only just found that out this morning?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Because I asked questions of the Department of the Senate?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: But not about that matter.

Ms Mills : You asked a number of questions. I always prepare when I watch you—as there may be issues where we might have that follow on. You did make reference on a couple of occasions that you would ask similar questions of the Department of Parliamentary Services.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but I was talking about the use of CCTV footage. You are now saying that CCTV footage has been inappropriately used by the Department of Parliamentary Services in some form—I do not know and I do not intend to ask, because I do not intend to breach the privacy of an individual or individuals, who are either employees or former employees—I do not know their status—of DPS. But this is a very serious problem. We now hear that DPS has not acted in accordance with its own code of practice.

Ms Mills : Having seen your questions this morning, I asked to be reassured that all members were acting in accordance with the current policy, and that there had been no changes to the policy. These are questions you asked this morning—

Senator FAULKNER: Yes.

Ms Mills : And I wished to have that verified. I also asked if there had been any situations where we had used CCTV that might be relevant to my investigation, and I found in that preliminary advice that we have used it once recently and, in that activity, may have inadvertently breached that. I am being up-front with the committee that we may have made an error, and I am being up-front with the committee that I am confident it was an isolated issue, and I am being up-front with the committee that no-one would have willingly, or deliberately, breached any of these things, but it appears it may have happened, and I will look into it later today.

Senator FAULKNER: Well, I will look into it now. How often has CCTV footage been used in relation to staff matters, disciplinary or otherwise?

Ms Mills: I cannot answer. I would have to take that on notice. I am aware myself of one instance, the one I have just spoken of.

Senator FAULKNER: You have spoken about one. I want to know if there are other instances. This is very serious.

Ms Mills: There are none to my knowledge.

Senator FAULKNER: So you can assure me there are no other instances?

Ms Mills: I can assure you that there are none to my knowledge, but I would have to look back over the records to see if there had been other instances.

Senator FAULKNER: Who is monitoring this?

Ms Mills: The senior part of our security area.

Senator FAULKNER: Can we get them to the table right now.

Mr Skill : I am the first assistant secretary of the Building and Asset Division.

Senator FAULKNER: Mr Skill, you have heard my question. I am trying to establish at this stage how widespread the practice is, contrary to DPS's own code of practice, and the purposes and principles of that code of practice, and how many cases there are of CCTV footage being used in relation to staff matters. Ms Mills has told us she is aware of one case. I am now asking you how many other cases there are.

Mr Skill : To my knowledge, there is only the one case, although it would have been approved at the branch-head level and not necessarily the division-head level, which is the level I am at. We will be watching this now and I am sure we will have some information for you shortly, if there were any other cases. But it is a very rare occurrence. As Ms Mills said there is only one that we are aware of.

Senator FAULKNER: But it is not approved at your level?

Mr Skill : No, it is approved at the SES band 1 level.

Senator WONG: But this is the very senior people we are discussing, isn't it?

Mr Skill : Yes, the assistant secretary of the security branch.

Senator FAULKNER: Well, is that person available to inform the committee what the situation is?

Mr Skill : No, senator, that officer has departed the Parliamentary Service. He is no longer a public servant.

Senator FAULKNER: That's handy!

Senator WONG: When did that happen?

Mr Skill : He departed about a week and a half ago.

Senator FAULKNER: Is the security management board informed when CCTV footage is used in these circumstances?

Mr Skill : Not to my knowledge. I will review the previous SMB reports, but to my knowledge they are not informed.

Senator FAULKNER: How can this happen when the DPS code of practice, its purposes and principles, does not allow such behaviour to occur?

Ms Mills : As I said, there was an incident involving a senior manager of staff—I will not go into the details of that—

Senator FAULKNER: I do not want you to go into the details. What I am concerned about is the one incident—and I will not go into details; of course we never do at this committee. I am concerned at the moment about establishing whether it is one incident or more than one incident, and I have received no answer that gives me any confidence in that regard at this stage.

Ms Mills : We have no reason to suggest there is more than one incident. There are none that have been brought to our attention; there may have been historically. There is one, and one only, that we are aware of. I have been upfront about admitting that and upfront in suggesting that, whilst I believe the material was accessed originally in accordance with the policy and the operating guidelines, in the access of that material and its use it would appear on preliminary advice that we may have breached the principles.

Senator FAULKNER: I do not accept the evidence that there are not other cases; nevertheless, we will hear about that in the future. In relation to the one matter—obviously without identifying the person who was subject to this surveillance—how was the request to access for that CCTV footage made?

Mr Skill : The request came from the HR area of the department to the assistant secretary of the security branch requesting still footage and/or CCTV footage of a nine-minute period in relation to an officer.

Senator FAULKNER: And the authorisation of that access to use—it is footage and images, is it?

Mr Skill : That was released. It is basically the footage and then you can extract images from the footage.

Senator FAULKNER: Still images?

Mr Skill : Correct.

Senator FAULKNER: Of course, the code goes into a process in relation to the extraction of still images, doesn't it?

Mr Skill : Yes, it does.

Senator FAULKNER: Could you explain what the code requires you to do in relation to the extraction of still images.

Mr Skill : Still images—again, I am not sure whether this is from the security-in-confidence version—

Senator FAULKNER: The public version is fine. I do not expect you to quote from a security-in-confidence document.

Mr Skill : Images can only be requested where they are required for the investigation of an incident, a possible crime or administration of security at Parliament House. All still images remain the property of DPS. Printed copies of still images will display the date of printing. The release of printed still images to PSS or AFP perimeter guarding employees, for intelligence purposes only, can be approved by the director of security or the assistant secretary building services—and that has been superseded by the assistant secretary security branch.

Senator FAULKNER: Were those requirements adhered to?

Mr Skill : That is part of the investigation. We are looking into that now.

Senator FAULKNER: What investigation?

Mr Skill : The one that Ms Mills indicated we are doing this afternoon.

Senator FAULKNER: Oh, the one that just started as a result of me asking questions today?

Mr Skill : Correct.

Senator FAULKNER: But not these questions, other questions?

Mr Skill : Yes, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: I want an assurance from you, Ms Mills, that at no stage has CCTV footage been used to in way impede, affect or have any impact at all on the work of either members of the House of Representatives or senators in this building.

Ms Mills : It is my belief that DPS endeavours at all times to accord with that. I believe that we operate in a very difficult and challenging environment. We are dealing with staff matters. This is the one and only case that I am aware of where there may not have been best practice in that regard, where we had an inadvertent conflict between staff management issues and the protocol of the protection of members' and senators' rights to do business in the building. I will have more information about that soon, but I want to assure you that we well understand the purpose and the significance of the protection of the rights of members and senators and that we are also aware that on occasion in dealing with, as a normal department would, the behaviour of its staff and code of conduct it is possible in this particular situation that those two things have come inadvertently into conflict.

Senator FAULKNER: Is that a yes? Are you saying it has impacted on a member or a senator?

Ms Mills : You are asking me to make a blanket comment on what is not a blanket situation. The department understands the principles, understands the guidelines and believes, in acting on a code of conduct matter against a staff member, that it had followed the principles and guidelines appropriately. It would appear in the course of that action, following access of the CCTV footage, another issue may have occurred which is in conflict with the principles, which we are now investigating.

Senator FAULKNER: But I want to know whether any of this activity, outside DPS's own code of practice and the purposes and principles of that CCTV footage, impacts on the free performance of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives in the conduct of that senator or member's duties. That is what I want to know.

Ms Mills : I do not believe that has ever occurred; I do not believe that that occurred in this instance; I believe that we understand that. What I am suggesting is that, to verify that and to make sure that there can be no ambiguity, I am looking into the matter. As I said, it is a difficult environment; we appreciate that; it is a complex work environment. At times the department's management staff make decisions that we would make if we were any department in the Commonwealth, or parliamentary services, and we conduct that in an appropriate way. In this particular case, the only one I am aware of, and therefore the only one I can speak about today, there may have been some inadvertent conflict between staff management issues and the principles of the free use of everything in the building for members and senators. But it is not a report I have seen; it is something that I have looked into today and will investigate further.

Senator FAULKNER: Why are you saying there might be? You must have reason to say there might be.

Ms Mills : I have reason to say that there might be because, on the basis of your questions this morning, I asked if we had any current situation where we had used the CCTV code of practice rules and whether there was any circumstance in which we had any concerns about any matter other than regarding a staff member. As I say, I can absolutely assure you that we do not use CCTV or anything else with disrespect to the rights of members and senators. We have never used it, and never would use it, for that purpose.

Senator FAULKNER: I used to believe that. In fact, Senator Ronaldson and I have asked a lot of questions at this committee over quite a number of years, and I have always accepted the assurances given at the table in regard to these matters. But, let me assure you, I no longer accept them. Given that we are at a Senate estimates hearing, are you concerned that there is a senator involved in this—

Ms Mills : I make no reference to who might be involved; I am suggesting—

Senator FAULKNER: But I am asking whether a senator is involved—whether a senator has been spied on.

Ms Mills : No-one is being spied on.

Senator FAULKNER: Is a senator or a senator's office involved in this surveillance?

Ms Mills : An individual staff member of the Department of Parliamentary Services was involved in the surveillance. The only reason that permission was given was because of a potential code of conduct breach by a staff member of the department. We are within our rights to do that.

Senator FAULKNER: No, you are not within your rights to do that at all. It is not allowed for under the code of practice.

Ms Mills : As I said earlier in making the decision to release the footage, I am aware, although the person is no longer here, that they took due consideration of OPP No. 10.18.

Senator FAULKNER: Which part?

Ms Mills : The private part, which I can show you later.

Senator FAULKNER: But you told me there is no difference in the statement of purpose and key principles between the private part, which was described as security-in-confidence, and the public part. It is not in the public part.

Ms Mills : What I said is in the private section are the specific criteria under which permission may be granted, and they were the criteria used to assess this. I am confident in saying that at no point in the approval given by the former assistant secretary to release this footage was there any belief that it would have anything to do with either a senator or a member. It was made in good faith that it was about the behaviour of an individual within DPS's own office space.

Senator FAULKNER: Where does it say you can do it with a staff member? Which clause in this public document, governance paper 10.18, Parliament House Closed Circuit Television Code of Practice, is used? The terms of the statement of purpose say that the CCTV system is intended to provide surveillance to areas in and around parliamentary precincts as established by the Parliamentary Precincts Ac, and that subject to this code of practice the CCTV system is only to be used for the following purposes. Then we have (a) to (j). Which purpose was used?

Ms Mills : I will take that on notice because I was not part of the approval process.

Senator FAULKNER: Let us get someone to the table, then, who can answer. This is critical.

Ms Mills : As I said, regrettably that person has resigned from the department. I am not able to ask him his motivation. I can only say that both papers—10.18 the public version and 10.18 the private version—would have been accessed and taken seriously into account before making a decision.

Senator WONG: I am not sure how you can say that.

Senator FAULKNER: No, I am asking you which statement of purpose was used.

Ms Mills : I am saying I believe the person was very professional, I believe they would have taken it seriously.

Senator FAULKNER: I don't—

Ms Mills : I am sorry, I was answering Senator Wong's comment.

CHAIR: Can there be one question, and then we will allow the witness to provide an answer and then there can be subsequent questions. It makes it very difficult if people are asking things at cross purposes.

Senator WONG: I am sorry. You answered a question from Senator Faulkner about whether there was a senator involved. At some point are you going to at least clarify the circumstances in which the footage was taken and used?

Ms Mills : I am very happy to do that, but it is a code of conduct which is currently underway. There is only one case, so anything I say in detail would relate—

Senator FAULKNER: Is there only one case?

Ms Mills : I am aware of only one case. If there are more cases, then bring them forward and I will look into those as well.

Senator FAULKNER: I do not know. You are the person who can tell us.

Ms Mills : I have said there is only one case. You are saying there is not. I have no evidence that there is more than one case.

Senator FAULKNER: Ms Mills, you are the person who has raised the issue of this case, not me.

Ms Mills : I have put it on the table in good faith to demonstrate that the department would never deliberately breach a policy, and that, in acting appropriately, in making an approval process consistent with the policy, information, as I understand it, came to light during this investigation which may then have led to a breach of the principles, which I am looking into. There are no other cases; there is no endemic issue with this.

Senator WONG: Ms Mills, I do not understand how you can say 'there is no other case' so categorically when it is only as a result of questions in this estimates committee this morning that you even became aware of the case we are discussing. The reality is that is not an assurance you can give.

Ms Mills : I accept that, yes. I guess I simply want to make the point that I have confidence in the professionalism of the staff and that they would have exercised appropriate steps in making the decisions.

Senator FAULKNER: I would like to know, given the statements of purposes, which are the same in the security-in-confidence version of the code of conduct as they are in the public version, which clause is used in relation to this. You have told us about a staff disciplinary matter. I cannot see any clause that can be used in the statement of purpose for this code. Staff disciplinary matter, or code of conduct matter as you describe it, is not there; it is not contained within that at all. So how could this happen? It is only to be used for the purposes outlined in the code.

Ms Mills : The advice I have is that the interpretation related to clause (e)—potential for civil proceedings.

Senator FAULKNER: What are the key principles of the interpretation, and whose interpretation was that?

Ms Mills : The authorising officer was the assistant secretary responsible for security. I cannot go through the thoughts that he had about that, but I am telling you it is my understanding that that is the clause that was used to determine whether it was appropriate, on one specific matter, regarding one specific potential code of conduct by an employee of the Department of Parliamentary Services, to access nine minutes of film or photos of that person's behaviour as part of a code of conduct process.

Senator FAULKNER: And you are saying to this committee that you are only aware of CCTV camera footage or stills being used in one code of conduct case? Is that what you are seriously saying to us?

Mr Skill : That is correct. There is one case which is not related to code of conduct—we are defending claims that are being made by an employee as to the conduct of our security officers. We are accessing that information.

Senator FAULKNER: That is a second case. How is that described? It is not code of conduct, it is not disciplinary—what is it?

Mr Skill : It is clause (i), which is to identify and investigate incidents or accidents that could result in a compensation or insurance claim against the Commonwealth. Claims have been made by an ex-employee as to the conduct of our officers.

Senator FAULKNER: So in relation to staff disciplinary or code of conduct issues, you are maintaining there is only one case that you are aware of where CCTV footage has been used?

Mr Skill : That is correct, to the best of my knowledge.

Senator FAULKNER: I come back to the question I asked before about the functions and performance of parliamentarians in the course of their duties and responsibilities. I want to now ask why you made the comment you did before about the possibility that at least one parliamentarian—is it one parliamentarian or more than one?—may have been affected in the performance of their duties, and that this has just come to your attention.

Ms Mills : What came to my attention this morning was that, as I saw you ask a number of questions about the policy, you asked a number of questions of the Department of the Senate and intimated that you would also ask similar questions of the Department of Parliamentary Services. I, therefore, in preparation, went to reassure myself that the answers that had been given to you by the Usher of the Black Rod were correct—that, in fact, we had not varied at all from the policy and we had not yet scheduled a change. I also asked if there had been any use of the policy in recent times around any decision and I was at that time advised that it had been used on this occasion for this one incident to do with the code of conduct for a staff member. I then asked for further information about that, which led me to come forward and say to you that, in making those inquiries, I feel there may have been an inadvertent and ancillary breach of the statement of purpose in undertaking what was an appropriately constituted approval to look at a code of conduct issue under category (e) of the policy.

Senator FAULKNER: Why do you say there may have been?

Ms Mills : Because the information that was provided to me suggested that some of the CCTV footage may have captured that person doing other activities in the building besides the one for which the CCTV footage was released.

Senator FAULKNER: What does that mean?

Ms Mills : Because the matter is still under investigation, I would prefer not to provide details at this time. However, I am happy to provide you details in private discussion.

Senator FAULKNER: All right. Does it involve me? Does it involve people providing information to me?

Ms Mills : It may do.

Senator FAULKNER: It may do? Does it involve a person or people—an individual or individuals—providing information to me as I go about my work as a senator in this parliament?

Ms Mills : That is what I am looking into. That is the issue that was brought to my attention today, and I am looking into it.

Senator FAULKNER: This is a serious issue of parliamentary privilege. I will stop my questioning on this matter at that point, and I flag with the chair and the President, as you would understand, Mr President, that I will be taking this matter forward as a matter of privilege immediately. This is the most serious breach. I am sure every senator around this table understands what has just been said. It is a serious breach that a senator in this parliament is being spied on in that way as they go about the proper conduct of their duties. No-one in this place is ever going to accept that. It is not proper for me to proceed with this now. Obviously, I have to raise it as a matter of privilege, but I hope you, Mr President, understand the significance of what we have just heard.

Senator XENOPHON: Further to Senator Faulkner's line of questioning, in respect of the public version of the governance paper, the code of conduct, you can use this material in respect of providing evidence upon which to take criminal and civil proceedings—correct?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator XENOPHON: So that would include under sections 70 and 79 of the Crimes Act, which are the whistleblower provisions of that legislation—correct?

Ms Mills : That is potentially true, yes.

Senator XENOPHON: That is right. So, further to Senator Faulkner's line of questioning, that means that, if a member of the DPS has concerns about the conduct of the DPS and goes to a member of parliament, because it covers sections 70 and 79, it means that you can establish which members of your department have gone to see a member of parliament with concerns about the running of the department?

Ms Mills : We could potentially do that. This case did not relate to that. As I said, it was—

Senator XENOPHON: But potentially you can do that, can't you?

Ms Mills : I would have to take legal advice under the new PID Act because there have been changes to the whistleblowers act from July. But, as I said earlier, this is an issue where there turned out to be an unintended conflict between a staff management issue and the rights of members and senators.

CHAIR: Senator Xenophon and Ms Mills, I am going to interrupt here because there has been a request for the committee to hold a brief private meeting. In accordance with that request, I am going to suspend.

Senator FAULKNER: Could I just say something before you do that, Chair? I support what the committee would want to do in these exceptional circumstances. I do want to point out to committee members—not the witnesses—that this is a matter that, as I said, Senator Ronaldson and myself have asked questions about previously. There was an article in The Age newspaper on Monday, 12 December 2011. I will quote it:

Departmental insiders also allege that in-house security cameras at the Federal Parliament House were used to try to identify whistle-blowers allegedly leaking information to Labor Senator John Faulkner, who is driving an inquiry into parliamentary administration.

I refer my colleagues to the questions at the subsequent estimates hearing around that. I want to say to the committee members that I absolutely accepted all the assurances that witnesses at the table gave me at that time.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Faulkner. The committee will enter into a brief suspension and we will meet in the anteroom. Witnesses, could you remain? We will resume as soon as is applicable.

Proceedings suspended from 12:01 to 12:07

CHAIR: I will reconvene this meeting of the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee. For the benefit of the estimates hearing, the committee has resolved to seek some advice from the Clerk about a particular matter which Senator Faulkner was discussing prior to the break. Pending that advice, we may return to that matter at another time. In the interim, we are going to move to another matter of security, I believe. I will give Senator Heffernan the call.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Through you, Mr Chairman, could I seek some guidance on the cameras that are behind us and can read the documents on the table?

CHAIR: We will ask the cameras to please move behind the main desk. Thank you.

Senator HEFFERNAN: I think they should be out of line of sight of the paperwork.

CHAIR: They are all right. We will be able to monitor them.

Senator HEFFERNAN: I want to ask some questions on the budget for DPS and the changes to the security arrangements in recent days which were proposed before Christmas and were put on hold and then reinstituted. My understanding is that there are certain classes of people who can now enter the building. We have had a discussion about this, and you have been most helpful in those discussions. I realise it is a serious budgetary issue. It has changed to where certain classes of pass holders can pass through, as ably demonstrated today, with whatever they like. And I understand further that there are certain people who cannot, and I understand further that there can be random checks, and I understand further that this new program can be put on hold at short notice, and I am asking you to give consideration to putting it on hold at short notice today.

To start with, the security arrangements for the building: the AFP this morning told me that they have not finished negotiating with DPS. I have had a discussion with the security intelligence organisations. They are happy with their plight. The AFP are not happy with their plight. Can you tell me where we are up to with the security arrangements on the perimeter, first response and the likelihood of preventing this building, which is the most symbolic building in Australia, as the White House is in America, from becoming what we know as a 'dirty building', so that in the event of an international visitor—the President of the United States or someone—coming here there would have to be a thorough clean-out of the building? Can you tell me where we are up to in those terms, with the advice you have received from the AFP and Australian security?

Ms Mills : With regard to the current memorandum of understanding with the AFP, which is a longstanding memorandum, there have been over a very long period of time attempts to renegotiate that. As recently as 2010, a decision was made, because neither party had agreed on a new model, that the existing MOU would roll over until such time as a new MOU was successfully negotiated. DPS and the AFP have been in discussions on that MOU for quite some time. We have looked at the future arrangements for a potential MOU in a number of different ways. The first one is in terms of value for money. It is a very expensive part of our overall budget. And yes, you are quite right that we have been investigating every aspect of our budget across the board to ensure that we are getting best value for money and providing the resources where they are most needed.

We are also absolutely cognisant that this building is an important one and that the people who work here and visit here are important and need to be adequately protected. As part of the commencement of the 44th Parliament and in view of the fact that such things as our past policy and some of these other policies are due for renewal, having last been signed in 2009, we undertook a fairly broadbrushed approach to looking at security arrangements for the 44th Parliament, including perimeter security. We commissioned some work to be done independently to assist us in the discussions with the AFP around levels of security, the type of arrangement that we presently have in place, the work done by the AFP, the training and skill base of the AFP, the resources behind it to reassure ourselves that they were necessary and that that was the best or perhaps even only way that those services could be delivered. As a result of those reviews, we have continued to discuss with the AFP whether there can be changes to the MOU to allow more flexibility in the arrangement than is presently there. Those are ongoing, but as part of the discussions we have had an independent report done to look at whether alternative service delivery models—for the same qualifications of staff, the same extent of security management, the same number of personnel et cetera—could be deployed here if they were part of an in-house service rather than contracted to the AFP. And that is work that is underway.

Senator HEFFERNAN: As I understand it, from discussions, from the committee from which I have been dumped, I understand—the House committee—there was a prospect of training the internal people to be perimeter people.

Ms Mills : The prospect of extending the role of the internal security service, not necessarily individuals—it would be a change in our—

Senator HEFFERNAN: So they would have to be trained in first response?

Ms Mills : Recruited and trained, yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Some of these people, like myself, if you ran them up three flights of stairs would probably have a heart attack.

Ms Mills : As I will repeat, it would be an expansion of our functions; it would be a new role.

Senator HEFFERNAN: In terms of budget saving, what do you identify there?

We are talking about $400,000. My understanding—further to that, as an adjunct—is that there was a consideration in what has happened that we would save $400,000.

Ms Mills : There are two separate issues. With the perimeter security arrangements, the advice we have—and, again, I would like to say that this is preliminary and has not been to the presiding officers—is that we could potentially, by an insourced model rather than an outsourced model of security, mirroring exactly the numbers of staff, the type of training, the mechanisms and systems used, the policies and procedures et cetera, save $3 million per year.

Senator HEFFERNAN: And the internal arrangements? We have not come to a conclusion on the external. It is not much good having the external security—you can just bring whatever you like into the building. So, the security entry arrangements—is that a $400,000 estimate of saving?

Ms Mills : Our original estimate was, yes, it would be approximately $400,000 a year. I would like to also stress though that it was not intended to simply cut that money from the budget but is part of the ratification that the best way we are using our resources is the current way. And part of that finding was that by increasing our capacity to do internal patrolling that would actually be an effective use of money.

Senator HEFFERNAN: So, would you agree that if the AFP and the security intelligence organisations think that what we have done is dodgy, is risky, lowers the security rating of the building, for a budget saving, it would be sensible of the government of the day and the Department of Finance—if we are going to have a building in which people can come to work in confidence that someone is not setting up a mischief, whether it is today or in two months, by bringing bits and pieces in or whatever, someone who has mischief in mind—to find the $400,000 to put it back to where everyone gets screened? I realise that some people think they are too important to be screened as they come into the building. And I am pleased to recognise, for instance, that Senator Parry is now worried about the classic entrapment issue. It does not matter how good your pass is. As I said to the AFP this morning, I had a list of people, which is highly confidential, who, if it was a public document, would be subject to entrapment because it was an intelligence document. So, have you given consideration to a special appeal? I understand you looked at the pool and the gym, and that was all too hard, because people did not want to lose the facility. Is that correct?

Ms Mills : I can only say that we have looked at every single aspect of our business—

Senator HEFFERNAN: But the pool and the gym—

Ms Mills : and we certainly have not looked at trading one thing off for the other.

Senator HEFFERNAN: But the pool and the gym were considered 'too hard' to cut and get savings there, so you had a crack at security, and you decided to have the savings there, which I—a picture paints a thousand words—demonstrate today is stupid.

Ms Mills : I would not like anyone to think that we were looking at security to trade off the gym. We have looked at—

Senator HEFFERNAN: I know you would not, but—

Ms Mills : I would like to reassure people that what we have looked at is, within the resources we have, whether we are using those resources to best effect for the 44th Parliament.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Have there been recent renovations of the office?

Ms Mills : To my office? Sorry—which office do you mean?


Ms Mills : Well, we are always doing work in the building, and yes, we do have work—

Senator HEFFERNAN: How much did you spend—

CHAIR: Senator Heffernan, let the witness answer the question.

Ms Mills : We have to date spent only a small amount of money. And I think I have spoken about this before at estimates. When it was determined that the Parliamentary Budget Office would be established and located in Parliament House, because there is no free space in Parliament House, we therefore had to find an area that met its requirements for space, security and access and determined that the place that best met their requirements was actually the area where I was at that time located. So we demolished my office and built the PBO. I have been in a temporary location since that time, and we are currently now refreshing a 25-year-old fit-out elsewhere in the building to accommodate me and a large number of other staff, many of whom are present in—

Senator HEFFERNAN: Including some new executive staff you have put on.

Ms Mills : One position would go there, yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN: So can you give the committee an estimate of that cost?

Ms Mills : Of the refit of the floor?

Senator HEFFERNAN: Yes.

Mr Skill : At the moment the budget is $1.8 million for that.

Senator HEFFERNAN: There you go.

Ms Mills : I might remind you Senator that that is also from capital funding. It is a different bucket of money, and it cannot be used—

Senator HEFFERNAN: I do not care what it is from. It is the Department of Finance that pays the bill. The message from me to the Department of Finance is, get your priorities right. I am sure you would appreciate the message, because I have not spoken to anyone in this building who thinks what has happened is right—not one soul.

We then move to the arrangements you have. As I say, the AFP people are unhappy, the security people are unhappy and I am sure, if the US President were coming here, he would be bloody unhappy. By not screening everyone, how do you get around the risk of entrapment or, as the AFP preferred to call it this morning, 'people who are compromised'?

Ms Mills : The trial is targeting only certain categories of pass holder on the basis of those being the lowest risk in the building: members and senators and their staff, members of the parliamentary department—they have obviously been through security screening, police checks et cetera—and those members of Commonwealth agencies who are permanent employees with passes.

Senator HEFFERNAN: But, with great respect, all human endeavour—including my own especially—has lots of failure. We know and I know people who think it is alright to smoke cocaine or go to a brothel. We have just seen in Sydney hundreds of high-profile people—everything from politicians to lawyers—have swiped their card at a couple of brothels at the weekend. Those people are potentially subject to entrapment or compromised. That is just one example. There are lots of ways to be compromised, and that is all about the human species. How do we know that I do not say to someone with a pass, 'Would you mind taking this into parliament?' and get it waved through? How do we prevent that? If you have a mischief in your mind and something that would have occurred outside as a demonstration can now occur inside the building—and it can be seriously malicious without me going into the technical details, which I could, of how you could make a hole in the building—

Ms Mills : This is a very important building. The people who work here are very important. We are extremely cognisant of that. There are many ways in which we protect this building, not just at the gateway, not just by X-raying people's bags coming into the building. You have to look at this as an overall picture, and our judgement call through the security management board and having considered the security reports for the 44th parliament is that this is a way that we can allocate resources to equally-high-risk, if not high-risk strategy.

Senator HEFFERNAN: And this is to save $400,000—a bit like the pot plants, which turned into a disaster because the pot storage was more than the pots were worth and then someone stole half the pots. This is stupid. Could this committee see that report and who is on the committee that made the report?

Ms Mills : I understand this morning someone asked to see the security management board papers—was it Senator Wong? That will be made available and will contain a significant amount.

Senator WONG: What will it contain?

Ms Mills : It will contain the discussion and the minutes of the security management board. Some of the background papers, because they relate to national security and arrangements of this building in more detail—

Senator HEFFERNAN: The national security people are unhappy.

Ms Mills : For the security of this building, the more detailed papers I would be happy to provide but not on a public basis. If there were some means by which they could be provided but not as part of the public part of the estimates hearing, that would be okay.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Are the people who put this report together on the public record?

Ms Mills : No.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Could that be put on the record—not the report but the people who put the report together?

Ms Mills : I think it is difficult to do that without revealing the spectrum of our security issues in the building. I think that would be unwise. I accept your point that we do need to take security—

CHAIR: Before we continue, Senator Heffernan, I have been advised that Senator Xenophon and Senator Wong had a supplementary question to where you were going. I am going to go to Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Thank you. I will be very quick because I intend to come back to this after lunch, and perhaps you could take this as a bit of notice. You asserted, as does your circular, that this trial targets those who are lowest risk. I would like to understand on what basis you made the assessment that the plethora of people who have passes in this building, including people who are employed by senators or members and are not required to get a security clearance as part of their employment, can be unilaterally asserted to be lower risk than, for example, journalists such as Michelle Grattan or others who have been working in this building for a very long time. Is there any factual basis on which that assessment of lowest risk was in fact made?

Ms Mills : Again, I acknowledge Michelle Grattan's status. It was based around categories rather than individuals.

Senator WONG: On what basis was it found that the categories of pass holders were—as a class, including people who may have left and not had their pass revoked as yet—lower risk?

Mr Skill : The assessment was made on the basis of a threat risk assessment. There were a number of factors that went into that, including the status of MPs and senators, their ability to vouch for members of their staff and also the security clearances or police record checks of the vast majority of the other pass holders.

Senator WONG: There is a security clearance for the vast majority of pass holders. Is that your assertion?

Mr Skill : That are included in this trial, yes.

Senator WONG: Hang on. In the MoPS agreement it makes it very clear that security assessments—this is non-ministerial staff, so we are not talking about what is required of ministers and their staff or senators and members—are at the discretion of senators and members. When you made this assessment—for example, and we will come back to this—did you actually check how many pass holders actually have formal police or security clearance?

Mr Skill : Not of the members and senators' staff. No, we did not.

Senator WONG: You have just told me that part of the reason that there was a low-risk assessment was that people had security clearances, but you have now just told me that you did not actually check how many had.

Mr Skill : What I said was that the staff of members and senators were included on the basis that the member or senator was vouching for those staff or they were trusted people within the office. The other pass holders—for example, photographic Commonwealth office holders or the staff of parliamentary departments—have all had a police records check, at the very least. The vast majority hold a higher level of clearance by virtue of their seniority.

Senator WONG: Do you know how many people are pass holders?

Mr Skill : I do. I do not have that statistic with me.

Senator WONG: Let's explore this after lunch, because I will yield to Senator Xenophon. I would like to understand precisely how many people are pass holders and your process for issuing passes. I will be clear with you: a number of us have had changes of staff over the time we have been here and I do not recall anyone from DPS rocking up and saying, 'Hey, you have got to give your pass back.' How many inactive passes or passes that belong to people who are no longer employed here still subsist?

Mr Skill : I will see if I can find that detail for you.

Senator WONG: Do you track that?

Mr Skill : There is a process in place where people who leave that employment or leave the building have their pass suspended or terminated. So let me get the detail on that.

Senator WONG: Process? What is that process? Turning up and just asking them to give it back?

Ms Mills : We receive regular advice from the Department of Finance if there is changes to pass—

Senator WONG: Hang on, that is different point. I am asking this: when someone ends their employment, I want to know what you do in terms of the pass. You are putting all of this emphasis onto pass holders. I have to say, and other senators may have a different experience, that my experience has been that that has not been the most stringently policed method of regulation. But I am happy to yield to Senator Xenophon.

Senator XENOPHON: This was covered in large part by Senator Wong. It seems that Laurie Oakes and Michelle Grattan are deemed a higher security risk than others in the building—than Senator Heffernan, for instance! There seems to be no rhyme or reason in this. You seem to have created a different class of people in this building, some of whom have been here for 20, 30 or more years. I do not get it and I agree with Senator Heffernan that you have now opened this building up to all sorts of security vulnerabilities. On Senator Wong's line of questioning, in relation to the media, I would like to know who are the experts that gave advice in respect of this. Could you please tell us the qualifications and the process that you went through to determine the risk assessment?

Ms Mills : We can certainly provide that detail after lunch.

Senator HEFFERNAN: There was a person who was a tradie in the building and he was allowed access. He had a criminal record around guns. I wonder how he got in? You can tell us after lunch.

CHAIR: Take that on notice. The committee will now suspend for lunch and resume at 1.30.

Proceedings suspended from 12 : 30 to 13 : 34

Senator FAULKNER: Could you please inform me of the current staffing establishment for Hansard?

Ms Mills : As at 31 March—the most recent data I have in front of me—Hansard has 57 personnel employed, the equivalent of 42 FTE, of whom 27 work full time, 12 work part time and 18 are sessional. Fifteen of the editors are still in their traineeship phase.

Senator FAULKNER: In the past 12 months how many editors have left Hansard?

Ms Mills : Nine staff left Hansard between 1 July and 31 March, a turnover rate of 9.9 per cent, which is less than the department's overall turnover rate of 11.9 per cent. Of those nine staff, four editors retired, two editors resigned to take up academic roles, two editors transferred to the APS and one took a position with the New South Wales parliament.

Senator FAULKNER: Does that add up? How many did you say? It does not add up.

Ms Mills : It adds up to nine. Four editors retired, two editors moved to take up academic roles elsewhere, two moved to the APS and one editor moved to the New South Wales parliament.

Senator FAULKNER: And one other?

Ms Mills : There were nine staff.

Senator FAULKNER: How many staff in Hansard in the same period have been, or are, subject to disciplinary or code of conduct actions?

Ms Mills : I do not have that in front of me. I can check that for you and come back to that.

Senator FAULKNER: All right, I would appreciate that. Would I be right in suggesting that a lot of experience has been lost as a result of the departures we have been speaking of—or is it, as you have been suggesting, basically standard operating procedure?

Ms Mills : If you look at where people went, there are a number of factors. Half of the nine—four—actually retired. I think this is one of the features of our parliamentary staff in general. We have a large number of people across the Department of Parliamentary Services who are towards the end of their careers, so we do have probably a higher rate of retirement than some other agencies. And the other staff have taken new roles elsewhere. I am pleased to say, however, that the calibre of people being recruited is very high. We have had a high level of interest in, and a high number of applications for, the new roles; and, I am advised, we have a very highly skilled potential team being built.

Senator FAULKNER: But is there a staff shortage in Hansard at the moment?

Ms Mills : Given that we have a higher number of trainees than usual, there are probably more people training than is desirable. But we have not made any reduction to the Hansard numbers by any sort of strategy, and we are delivering on time and at the usual quality.

Senator FAULKNER: As I read the answers to questions on notice 3 and 4, we have got 15 trainee editors among the—

Ms Mills : Fifty-seven editors.

Senator FAULKNER: It is 15 out of 57?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Is that a very high proportion of staff at the level of trainee?

Ms Mills : I would have to take advice on that.

Senator FAULKNER: Why are there so many trainee editors?

Ms Mills : With nine people leaving, and also because of the changing nature of parliament, we have a philosophy of increasing the percentage of, in particular, sessional and part-time staff as part of our commitment to providing a flexible service. We recruit a large number of trainees and train them up so that they can work sessional, so it is not unusual for there to be a number of people being trained at once. But I do not have in front of me the record of how that has been over the last several years.

Senator FAULKNER: According to a question on notice 3, there are 60 staff in Hansard, with 42 permanent editors. Of those permanent editors, 31 are full time, eight are part time, three are sessional and there are seven permanent trainee editors. I am interested in that category of 'permanent trainee editors'. How can you be a permanent trainee editor—or can you be a permanent trainee editor? According to your own categories, you can.

Ms Mills : The definition is those who have come in to work not as sessional but on a full-time basis on an ongoing basis.

Senator FAULKNER: Say that again.

Ms Mills : That category covers people who have been employed to work full time or on an ongoing basis. Sessional staff are employed for approximately six months of the year and they are available when the parliament is busiest. But we also maintain a corps of around just over half the total quota of staff, who are employed full-time, so that we have the ability to deliver services throughout the year.

Senator FAULKNER: But has there been a change in the way Hansard is operating during this current period, because of staff shortages, compared to other Senate estimates periods?

Ms Mills : Not to my knowledge. Each time an editor position becomes vacant, Hansard management has assessed the needs and the available resources and made decisions about recruitment. It is true to say that we have had an extremely difficult budget for the last couple of years in particular and we have had to make serious decisions about the number of staff. But each case is brought forward and the Hansard management team make a decision about whether they can continue to operate with the number of resources they have or whether they seek additional resources, and each of those cases is being looked at very carefully.

Senator FAULKNER: So there will be subediting in the House of Representatives chamber over this sitting fortnight?

Ms Mills : As I understand it, it has been the practice for many years that, when estimates is on and one of the chambers is sitting, we do often rely on additional contract staff and we do sometimes have to vary the timetable. That is nothing new. I have been advised that has been the practice for many, many years.

Senator FAULKNER: So what is the status in relation to subediting for the Reps over this sitting fortnight?

Ms Mills : I will ask Karen Greening, the assistant secretary for that area, to provide the detail.

Ms Greening : Depending on the workload that we have at any particular point in time, decisions are made as to whether we subedit the transcripts as they are produced on the day or hold over the subediting to a non-sitting period. Estimates is traditionally a very busy period for Hansard, so sometimes we make the decision—and it has been made this time round—that we will not subedit, or do as much subediting, of the chamber transcripts until a non-sitting period.

Senator FAULKNER: That is this time round. That means it has not applied previously, I assume.

Ms Greening : No, it does apply. I cannot tell you exactly when it has applied, but it is a regular occurrence. It depends very much on how many staff we have in the workplace; it also depends on the number of hours of transcription work that we have to do. We make a decision on whether or not we will subedit based on the number of hours of transcription work and the number of staff that we have in the workplace. We also try to keep the length of day as short as possible for our staff. We ask them to work a 7½ hour day when parliament is sitting; there are some days when we ask them to work a lot of overtime. If we were wanting everything to be subedited, it would mean asking people to work more overtime. We actively try to avoid asking them to do that.

Senator FAULKNER: How many Hansard editors are currently suspended from their duties?

Ms Greening : We currently do not have any Hansard editors suspended from their duties.

Senator FAULKNER: How many have been suspended from their duties in this calendar year?

Ms Greening : Three.

Senator FAULKNER: What is the status of the three who were suspended?

Ms Greening : They are no longer parliamentary employees.

Senator FAULKNER: They are no longer parliamentary reporters?

Ms Greening : No, they are no longer in the parliamentary service.

Senator FAULKNER: We know that three editors have been suspended from Hansard this calendar year. Can you provide any update in relation to any other Hansard employees, or is it just the three editors?

Ms Greening : I am not sure what you are asking, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: Three editors have been suspended this calendar year and no longer work for the Department of Parliamentary Services. Are there any other categories of employee who have worked in Hansard who have the same status?

Ms Greening : No.

Senator FAULKNER: Ms Mills, before the break you indicated you had established some facts in relation to the use of CCTV footage. Are you able now to provide further information to the committee on that point? You said you were going to check this out, so what have you been able to establish?

Ms Mills : A draft code of conduct report—I have not viewed that report—following interviews with a staff member indicated that there was access to CCTV footage following an interview with that person to verify their statement. It would appear in that act that a potential breach of the guidelines occurred.

Senator FAULKNER: Have you read this draft code of conduct report?

Ms Mills : No, I have not.

Senator FAULKNER: Is that available?

Ms Mills : I understand there is a report but I have not read it. I was not aware that it was at this state until today, and during the lunch break, given other questions, I did not have an opportunity to look at it.

Senator FAULKNER: Sure, but there is a draft code of conduct report?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Can that be brought to the table, please. I want quoted from the report just the paragraphs that relate to a senator's office or a senator—in this case, me. I will give someone some time to get that. I am not interested in names, ranks or serial numbers—I am interested only in the paragraphs of that report that relate to, in this instance, as a result of the evidence you gave earlier, me. I appreciate that might take a little time.

CHAIR: While that is happening, we will go to another senator for questions.

Senator RHIANNON: Were the Speaker or the Liberal Party charged a fee for the use of the Speaker's rooms for the Liberal Party fundraiser held during the budget?

Ms Mills : DPS has no direct involvement in that type of role. The House of Representatives would support the Speaker in any event she might have there. Our role is quite tangential, so I really could not answer that with any confidence.

Senator RHIANNON: I keep on getting bounced from one place to another in trying to understand this, so I will continue to ask a couple of questions to see if some issues come under you. What was the value of the gift in kind that parliament effectively made to the Liberal Party for the free use of the Speaker's rooms?

Ms Mills : Again, I am sorry, I cannot assist you with that question.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that because you do not know what the value of hiring out the Speaker's rooms are?

Ms Mills : The Speaker's rooms are not generally in our lettable area. We have very defined areas of the building that are let through IHG. The special suites all have dining room capacity, and it is normally up to the Speaker, the President or other holders of special suites to decide how they wish to use them. They get support for that, if it is the President or the Speaker, from their respective chamber departments.

Senator RHIANNON: So would you agree that this is a gift in kind considering they rented—

Ms Mills : I cannot make that comment. As I say, they are offices allocated to the respective holders of those positions. I am not aware of any rule that prohibits them using them for the purposes that they see most appropriate.

Senator RHIANNON: No, I am not talking now about prohibiting their use. I am just trying to see if the rules have been followed. With regard to disclosure, the AEC does require donors to put in forms that cover gifts in kind, so that is where I thought it would come under your responsibility.

Ms Mills : We would not be involved in that side of it at all. We are really more the infrastructure provider and facility provider rather than the manger of the sorts of issues you have just spoken about.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are saying the Department of the House of Representatives would be responsible for that?

Ms Mills : It depends on the circumstance. I am not familiar with the circumstance.

Senator RHIANNON: I am speaking of the specific examples of using rooms in here for fundraisers. If rent is not paid on them, that is a donation in kind that needs to be reported, so I am trying to understand who should take responsibility for that and if it has happened.

Ms Mills : The chamber departments would be able to provide you with a lot more information about how that operates. There are, as I said, lettable areas in the building, and there are categories of functions in the building that members and senators apply for and suggest whether it is a parliamentary or non-parliamentary event. We really work with IHG on the facilities and the catering rather than on the purpose behind any particular event.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you keep a list of what the purpose is when events are held here?

Ms Mills : No we do not.

Senator RHIANNON: Does somebody?

Ms Mills : If the Intercontinental Hotel Group, which are our caterers, are catering for an event, they would know about what the event was, the location and the number of people for whom they were catering; but, again, that is perhaps not the same as the question you are alluding to. In addition, we would only have that information if they were using IHG. In the special suites, the President, the Speaker and the Prime Minister may choose whichever catering company they wish.

Senator RHIANNON: You are quite serious that no list is kept of events in this building and the purpose of those events.

Ms Mills : What is kept of the building are bookable events in our bookable spaces. There is much more flexibility in each individual member's office as to what they have and who they host, and we extend that right to the special suites as well, obviously.

CHAIR: So it is fair to say that, if I wanted to request some catering in my office, I could host a private dinner of any description in there.

Ms Mills : In your circumstance the only restriction you would have is that you would use the in-house caterers whereas the Speaker, the President and the Prime Minister may choose any caterers they wish.

CHAIR: Thank you.

Senator RHIANNON: So for bookable events you do have a list of what those bookable events are and the purpose?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: Within that could be party political fundraising events?

Ms Mills : Yes. If an organisation has booked—such as, for example, budget night, when the Mural Hall would have had bookings and the Great Hall had bookings—we would be aware of who booked, we would be aware of the numbers of attendees and we would be aware of the hours during which the function operated.

Senator RHIANNON: And the costs—the charges that were made to those groups?

Ms Mills : We would not know that on a specific case by case basis. We would know for a different reason. Our interest would be in our contract with IHG—about their turnover. They pay us based on their turnover and the number of activities. So we monitor those values at a broad level, but we certainly do not look at every event.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are saying that it is IHG who would have the list of who it is hired out to and what the costs are—what they charge.

Ms Mills : Yes. As part of their role as engaged catering, food and beverage providers across the building, they need to know that information for the purposes of catering and charging. But it is not something that we require from them on a case by case basis. Our relationship with them is about the overall turnover and therefore our share of costs and their share of contribution towards utilities—electricity et cetera.

Senator RHIANNON: To gain that information, do we go through you?

Ms Mills : If you put those questions on notice, I can explore whether I can answer any of them for you. It would certainly not be because I do not wish to answer them; it is more about whether that information is in fact available.

Senator RHIANNON: I will put on notice that I would like a list of fundraising events for the last three financial years—2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14. To confirm again: you are saying you have no responsibility for putting in a disclosure to the AEC where gifts in kind have been provided?

Ms Mills : That is right.

Senator RHIANNON: I also wanted to ask about the interests register. Is it appropriate to put that question to you?

Ms Mills : It is probably more appropriately put to the chamber departments. They manage the registers.

Senator RHIANNON: When do they appear?

CHAIR: They were this morning.

Senator RHIANNON: I missed that this morning.

CHAIR: You can put your questions on notice.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Chair.

Senator WONG: I just wanted to clarify couple of things. You referenced the Mural Hall and the Great Hall—the functions held there. Are people who hold functions there charged for the use of those facilities?

Ms Mills : Yes, there are two categories. There are parliamentary events. Under our contract, we can have 220 parliamentary events at, effectively, a discounted price. For—

Senator WONG: I will come to catering later.

Ms Mills : It is all part of the same package. There are no—

Senator WONG: I will get to catering later. I want to ask you about that. But I am asking about the use of the facilities for fundraisers. It is the case, is it not, that a charge is made—has to be paid—for facilities such as the Mural Hall and the Great Hall?

Ms Mills : The contract we have with IHG, which is the contract that was entered into in early 2012, provides them with complete control of the spaces. There is no separate fee that I am privy to that can tell you exactly how that would be broken down. The contract we have does not differentiate between room hire and catering.

Senator WONG: But it differentiates in terms of use.

Ms Mills : As I said, there are two categories. There are parliamentary and non-parliamentary events.

Senator WONG: For non-parliamentary events, it is user pays. Is that correct?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: So the Labor Party or the Liberal Party would pay for the use of the Mural Hall or the Great Hall for fundraisers and so forth—which were non-parliamentary. Is that correct?

Ms Mills : Correct.

Senator WONG: But no such payment is required in respect of the Speaker's suite?

Ms Mills : It is outside the contract, so there would be no precedent for that that I am aware of.

Senator WONG: Let us just be clear about who does what. DPS is responsible for catering, via your contract, and the building. Is that correct?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: In that context, are there any protocols whatsoever that you are aware of that exist in relation to the use of the offices of the Presiding Officers—the Speaker and the President?

Ms Mills : Not that I am aware of.

Senator WONG: So you do not regard it as relevant to your role as secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services whether or not those suites are used appropriately or not appropriately?

Ms Mills : When presiding officers are elected by their respective chambers and take a leadership role in the parliament certain rights and obligations attend to that, and our role is to support them in their duties, not to audit how they use those rooms on a daily or other basis.

Senator WONG: When did you first become aware that the Speaker had used her Speaker's suite for the purposes of a Liberal fundraiser?

Ms Mills : I read a newspaper article yesterday that suggested that. I have no further information.

Senator WONG: Can you tell me, given that you have been on notice about this issue, how the billing for food and alcohol works when the Speaker chooses to use her suite for private fundraisers?

Ms Mills : I would have to refer that to the House of Representatives.

The PRESIDENT: [inaudible]

Senator WONG: With respect, Mr President, this is a matter that goes to DPS's catering function. I am not asking questions that are about the House's management of this matter; I am asking an estimates question about services billed for to this department, which is perfectly appropriate.

Ms Mills : Again, the contract we have is a very unusual one. We do not receive the bills. The relationship is—

Senator WONG: Well, this is an expenditure of public money, so I suggest, if I may, that you work out who from IHG needs to be here, because if you cannot tell the parliament how particular billing arrangements work—and I understand that there are matters that the House of Representatives can properly deal with; I am not going to issues of whether or not it is appropriate at this point; I am asking very specific questions about catering, which is your responsibility—if you cannot answer it then perhaps you could get someone here shortly who can.

Ms Mills : The agency that would have coordinated something such as that on behalf of Madam Speaker would have been the Department of the House of Representatives.

Senator WONG: Well, is that the case? That is not what you just told me previously.

Ms Mills : Yes it is. I said to you that the booking—

Senator WONG: No.

Ms Mills : Well, I am sorry; if I did not make it clear, let me make it clear.

Senator WONG: So, catering was not coordinated by DPS?

Ms Mills : No.

Senator WONG: Who provided it—IHG, your contractor?

Ms Mills : I do not know. As I said to you, in the special suites the person who is in that position may choose to use IHG or may choose to use—

Senator WONG: This is a different question.

Ms Mills : What I am saying is that I do not know, because we are not involved in—

Senator WONG: So, it is possible that—

Ms Mills : individual organisations and events—

Senator WONG: Hang on: there have been three different answers so far. And maybe I just do not understand your answers. I understand your point that the Prime Minister, President and Speaker can choose, but if they did not choose someone else they would have used IHG, correct—pursuant to a contract you have with IHG?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: Does the House of Representatives have a separate contract with IHG?

Ms Mills : No, they do not.

Senator WONG: Therefore, any service provided by IHG in terms of catering and alcohol, whether to the Speaker's suite or to the Prime Minister's suite, is under a contract with you.

Ms Mills : That is correct.

Senator WONG: And that is what I am asking about.

Ms Mills : What I am saying is that we do not have a report from IHG on every individual event or the cost of every individual event that they provide. We have a policy—

Senator WONG: Then I suggest we work out a way of getting IHG to provide that information, because it is perfectly legitimate for this committee to be asking you about costs that are levied pursuant to a contract that you have. It is not a contract with the Department of the House of Representatives.

Ms Mills : I am very happy to look into it, but I cannot give you a definitive answer at the moment because I do not know how that particular event—I assume we are all referencing the one that was covered in the newspaper article—

Senator WONG: Well, not only. I think it is not unreasonable for us to be able to understand how a contract that you are part of—how billing arrangements for private fundraising events—work under that contract. That is a pretty reasonable proposition, isn't it?

Ms Mills : As I said earlier, we are interested simply in the categories of parliamentary and non-parliamentary and the—

Senator WONG: This is your contract.

Ms Mills : Our contract does not specify the detail of the purpose of the event. It does not specify whether it is an annual conference, whether it is a dinner or whether it is something else at all. It specifies the two categories because they impact on the pricing regime. Obviously, there is a policy for the broader department—the lettable areas of the department—about events and the types of events that can be had here, and there is a process for determining those. In the private spaces of members and senators—including the private spaces of the Speaker and the President and the Prime Minister—we do not have an active role.

Senator WONG: You keep saying that, but if IHG is used, any catering, any services provided are provided pursuant to a contract with you. There is not a separate contract between Ms Bishop or the Prime Minister or the President, for example, with IHG; they are provided pursuant to a contract with you. Correct?

Ms Mills : Yes, we have the contract with IHG to provide services at the request of members and senators, or other parties.

Senator WONG: Are you ever advised as to how many private functions are catered for under your contract? Who handles this contract? Can they come to the table?

Ms Mills : They are not here at the moment, but I can take these questions. I think, again—

Senator WONG: We might want to come back to it, Ms Mills.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, perhaps Ms Mills could answer the question.

Senator WONG: With respect, she cannot answer many of the questions.

CHAIR: It is hard to answer when you keep interrupting her.

Ms Mills : Senator, I understand the tenor of your questions, and I know that my answers might seem frustrating to you, but the reality of the contract I have inherited is a very difficult one. It has very few management triggers in it, and it has a very limited reporting regime, which is focused principally around the amount of turnover and the costs that—

Senator WONG: Under that contract, are you able to get reports? Are you able to request them?

Ms Mills : We are able to request a limited set of reports. I can certainly—

Senator WONG: Okay. I would like to know, under that contract—so, not separate—the total cost in the last financial year of private events within the Speaker's or the Prime Minister's—I think the President has already made his position clear this morning—events and on which dates those events occurred.

Ms Mills : I will endeavour, but at this point I cannot confirm that that sort of information will be available.

Senator WONG: That is fine. We can hold another inquiry, and we can ask IHG to attend. It is ridiculous—this is a public facility—where I am simply asking for transparency around this. I will also ask this: you said in relation to this Speaker's function that you would not have been involved. So no-one from DPS—sorry?

Ms Mills : Continue. Sorry, Senator.

Senator WONG: Did you want to add to your answer?

Ms Mills : No, I will listen for your question.

Senator WONG: Do I take it from that that no officer from DPS would have been involved in any way in arranging this function? Is that right?

Ms Mills : Possibly providing chairs, if requested. That would be the end of it.

Senator WONG: But any arrangements about catering would not have been made with any knowledge of anyone in DPS?

Ms Mills : That is correct.

Senator WONG: So who would negotiate directly with IHG or the other caterer?

Ms Mills : In that circumstance it would normally be the Department of the House of Representatives.

Senator WONG: For a party political fundraiser, a staff member of the House of Representatives would be negotiating?

Ms Mills : I really do not know. I know only what I saw in the newspaper. What I am describing to you is the normal arrangements for assisting presiding officers to host events in their suites, or elsewhere in the building. I am only describing the normal process.

CHAIR: I would just caution about this committee discussing or making allegations of the specifics of a particular event. We are able to canvass the broad arrangements for private functions, and I would ask us to confine our discussions to that rather than the specifics of the House of Representatives issues.

Senator WONG: There is not a privilege issue here, because it was a private function. That is the whole basis of her defence—that this is not her as Speaker; this is a private function. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot say it is a privilege issue on one hand—

CHAIR: I am entitled to rely on the advice that I have received, and we are talking about private functions. It does not matter what purpose that private function is for; it is about the private function.

Senator WONG: With respect, that is a debating point, and I am happy to debate you at any point about the—

CHAIR: It is your time, Senator Wong. I am happy to debate you.

Senator WONG: merits of the Speaker using the suite in this way, but I will go on. You said DPS's involvement might have extended to chairs, was it? Getting chairs?

Ms Mills : As I said, under the normal arrangement that would be as far as we could go in describing our regular practice for the offices of the presiding officers.

Senator WONG: Was anybody involved in arranging more chairs or other furniture for the function?

Ms Mills : I would have to look into that.

Senator WONG: Is there no-one here who can assist?

Ms Mills : No, but I can find that out fairly quickly.

Senator WONG: What about glassware and cutlery? What would usually happen there?

Ms Mills : We do not involve ourselves with that for any individual event.

Senator WONG: So no-one from DPS would have been involved in that?

Ms Mills : No.

Senator WONG: What about crockery?

Ms Mills : The same. We are responsible for managing the contract with IHG, not the individual events.

Senator WONG: So you are telling me that, as far as you know, no-one from DPS was asked to do anything in relation to furniture, cutlery, glassware or crockery for this event?

Ms Mills : To my knowledge. This is a newspaper article; I am describing to you the normal practices. I have no reason to believe that we did anything different. I have asked somebody to provide confirmation of that, and I am sure that will come forward soon.

Senator WONG: I had four questions on that point plus the IHG question. Instead of hypothesising, if you have not investigated it, why don't you get the information and come back. Thank you.

Ms Mills : I am sure it is on its way.

Senator SMITH: What is the process for commissioning official portraits?

Ms Mills : Matters relating to portrait commissions are approved by the Memorials Committee—

Senator SMITH: Who is the Memorials Committee?

Ms Mills : It is a committee that was established by decision of the Executive Council in 1911. Its members comprise the Prime Minister as chair, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and the Vice-President of the Executive Council. Secretariat support for the committee is provided by the Department of Parliamentary Services. In recent years it has been the practice of the committee to support the commissioning of portraits of all holders of certain offices. They are the head of state—the Governor-General—the Prime Minister, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. There has also been on a periodic basis agreement to other portraits to recognise firsts in parliament. One of those is presently under way—a commission of the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives.

Senator SMITH: That last comment is news to me. So, we have had an extension of the program to allow for portraits to be made of firsts—in this case Mr Wyatt, the member for Hasluck. Is Mr Wyatt the first portrait under this extension of the official portraits policy?

Ms Mills : No, it has gone back some way but, as I said, it is done on a case-by-case basis. For example, you will see around the public areas of the building a portrait of Neville Bonner, the first Indigenous member of parliament. We also have a portrait of Joan Child, as the first female Speaker.

Senator SMITH: In recent times we have had three Prime Ministers, four Speakers and three Governors-General. Are you seeing an increase in the cost of official portraits individually?

Ms Mills : The individual cost is the same for each commissioned work. The value of that is determined on a periodic basis by the committee.

Senator SMITH: Has the individual cost been the same for each portrait?

Ms Mills : Yes, that is right. There is a standard sitting fee.

Senator SMITH: I am curious to know what has been the average cost for official portraits over recent times.

Ms Mills : The current standard sitting fee, which has been in place for at least two or three years—I do not know the exact date—at present is $30,000 per portrait.

Senator SMITH: That is the sitting fee—present.

Ms Mills : The current sitting fee, yes.

Senator SMITH: When did that become the current—

Ms Mills : I would have to check that, but it has certainly been in place for at least two or three years.

Senator SMITH: For two or three years the current sitting fee has been $30,000.

Ms Mills : Yes, plus some allocation toward costs such as travel.

Senator SMITH: The previous sitting fee—most immediate to the current sitting fee—what was that?

Ms Mills : I would have to confirm this, but I believe it was $20,000. I believe that had been in place for many years and was obviously out of sync with the current value of such portraits.

Senator SMITH: Please correct me if my understanding of what you have shared with us is wrong. The current sitting fee is $30,000 for official portraits. That current sitting fee has been in place for approximately two years.

Ms Mills : Yes. I would have to confirm that date.

Senator SMITH: The previous sitting fee was $20,000 and that had been in place for some time.

Ms Mills : Yes, that is my recollection, but I do not have the specifics in front of me.

Senator SMITH: Can you provide us with an update with regard to the progress of the official portraits for former prime ministers Rudd and Gillard and the former Speaker of the House of Representative, Mr Slipper?

Ms Mills : Yes. Former prime ministers Rudd and Gillard—my art services branch has been in discussion with them around the process and explaining to them the process for selecting an artist. We have not moved beyond that phase at this point.

Senator SMITH: That is still not artwork in progress, but negotiations are underway and still in progress with the former prime ministers with regard to commissioning an official portrait.

Ms Mills : Correct, yes.

Senator SMITH: And Mr Slipper, the former Speaker?

Ms Mills : The former Speaker, Mr Slipper, has a contract—his portrait is in process. Mr Slipper had selected Mr Paul Newton, a Sydney based artist and nine-time Archibald finalist. The study for the portrait was originally due a couple of months ago, but the subject and the artist were not able to come together for a sitting. We are waiting for confirmation of a new timetable for that work.

Senator SMITH: I have got in front of me the contract notice—I think you call it the CNID—No. 1812371, which, as you say, identifies Mr Paul Newton as the artist for the official portrait of the former Speaker, Mr Slipper. Am I correct in saying that the contract value is $35,200?

Ms Mills : As I understand it, $30,000 is GST exclusive and an additional sum of $2,000 has been paid to the artist to assist with framing costs. As I said earlier, there are often small variations to the price either for travel or other incidentals connected with the portrait.

Senator SMITH: Am I correct in saying that the official portrait yet to be done of the former Speaker, Mr Slipper, will cost the taxpayer $35,200?

Ms Mills : I am sorry, I do not have the contract in front of me. The figure I have here is a working figure and is a little less than that, but I can confirm that.

Senator SMITH: The document I have in front of me is taken from AusTender and it is called: Contract Notice View—CN1812371; agency, Department of Parliamentary Services; publication date, 11 October 2013; category, art; contract period, 1 October 2013 to 10 June 2014; contract value, $35,200; description, requirement for artistic services—portrait of the former Speaker, Mr Peter Slipper, MP.

Going back to our earlier discussion about the previous sitting fees being $20,000 and the current sitting fee being $30,000, am I correct in assuming that this is going to be the most official portrait yet commissioned under our official portraits policy?

Ms Mills : Each varies slightly, depending on the location of the sitter and the location of the artist. If I could, again, give an example. The Honourable Dame Quentin Bryce's portrait was unveiled recently as part of her handover to the new Governor-General. The cost of that commission was $30,000. We contributed $2,000 on top of that toward travel for the artist to undertake the commission, given the timing and given his location. So it is not unusual to have some additional costs attached, but the $30,000 is the fee for the actual work of art.

Senator SMITH: I will come to the former Governor-General in a moment. What is the size of the official portrait of the former speaker, Mr Slipper?

Ms Mills : It has not been determined yet because they have not sat for it.

Senator SMITH: Where is the official portrait of Dame Quentin Bryce? Where is it currently? The last I saw of it was in the Great Hall at the reception that was held to note the conclusion of her tenure.

Ms Mills : It is in the public area of the Members' Hall on the first floor close to the entrance to, what we call, the Tom Roberts area.

Senator SMITH: That struck me as a very large portrait. Was it uncharacteristically large?

Ms Mills : It is unusual in the sense that it is a landscape portrait. If you look at our collection, the vast majority of artists have done them in a portrait style. The artist that the Governor-General selected, Ralph Heimans, who is a very accredited artist, almost always paints in landscape style. Therefore, it is slightly larger than normal. I also want to reassure you that we met with the artist, and we showed him the likely areas where the portrait would be hung. He took a very strong understanding of that back with him. He also looked at the way in which the other portraits were scaled, to ensure that it was not out of scale with the rest. So the final size was determined by a whole lot of factors.

Senator SMITH: Does the decision on size rest with the artist or can the individual who is having the official portrait done say, 'Well, actually, I would like a mega-portrait, please'? How do we stop this race of the portraits? Precedents get changed, and some people, I think, were struck by the size of the previous Governor-General's portrait. How do we stop the race of the portraits?

Ms Mills : There are approval processes throughout the portrait painting and approval process—

Senator SMITH: I am sure we do not go back every step of the process to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and the memorials committee?

Ms Mills : There are three critical phases. The first is a discussion with the sitter and the selected artist, very early on, before the contract is signed, to understand the general requirements. The second phase is where the artist is required to provide, depending on the nature of the work, a sketch or an initial indication of the work for approval at a halfway point. After that, the artist will move to a full-scale oil work. Each of those phases has to be supported by both the sitter and by the committee.

Senator SMITH: How does that communication happen with the committee? Obviously, they do not keep getting together, because they are busy people. Does it just happen by communicating through letters and email?

Ms Mills : By a combination. For example, when the Governor-General's portrait was received, prior to its unveiling, we did what we normally do, which is take the portrait physically around the building to the key officeholders so that they can actually view it and sign. Or, on this occasion, because the paint effectively was still wet, the way the artist works is that he continues to refine the art right up until the last moment, so we did not want to move the painting very much. So we sat it in one of the offices for some time and allowed a number of people, such as the Leader of the Opposition, to come into the office to view it.

Senator SMITH: Will it be Dame Quentin Bryce or the former Speaker, Mr Slipper, who will have the honour of having had the most expensive official portrait?

Ms Mills : As we have not yet concluded the former Speaker's portrait—

Senator SMITH: The race is on.

Ms Mills : Can I also say that the quality of the artists who are selected and the longevity of these art works and their relevance to this building mean that it is a very cost-effective way of adding to our collection. All of those artists would under normal circumstances charge a great deal more for their work than $30,000. You can see that in a number of exhibitions and in their sales lists across Australia.

Senator SMITH: In this contract notice view, under the heading 'Contract Period', it says '1 October 2013 to 10 June 2014', which is not very far away. If the former Speaker and the artist have not come to an agreement does the artist's contract expire on 10 June, or is it renewed or do you have to go through the whole process again? Could we see the current sitting fee reduced from $30,000 to a lesser amount?

Ms Mills : The $30,000 is a standard fee.

Senator SMITH: It is set.

Ms Mills : The normal circumstances would be that we will be in discussions with the artist and the sitter to reconfirm a date and reconfirm that the delay is not caused by them not actually wishing to proceed. We would then issue a variation to that contract.

CHAIR: What is the policy or procedure in the event that someone whose portrait has been done is then found to be guilty of an offence while they were in office? Does the portrait remain on display?

Ms Mills : The only policy on which I can comment is the policy that all former office holders are entitled to have their portrait done. To my knowledge I do not believe we have ever had that situation.

CHAIR: What is the progress of Senator Faulkner's request?

Ms Mills : It is here and I will just have someone bring it forward.

CHAIR: Before we get to that, Senator Wong has a couple of brief questions.

Senator WONG: To recap on the portrait issue, the Historic Memorials Committee, of which I am a member, is the leaders in both chambers. Is that correct?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: It is bipartisan committee across the parliament?

Ms Mills : Yes, it is the office holder.

Senator WONG: I had some questions about a dining set that is on display currently. Is it the Queen's dining set?

Ms Mills : Yes, we have a set called the Queen's dining set.

Senator WONG: Who can answer questions about the usage of that?

Ms Mills : I can answer general questions. If it is very specific I could perhaps offer more.

Senator WONG: Who is able to use it?

Ms Mills : My understanding is that it is available to the presiding officers and the Prime Minister, on a loan basis, for events.

Senator WONG: I think on the little art descriptor it says that it is only used on rare occasions, such as a formal parliamentary function or state visit. Is that correct?

Ms Mills : It is a very valuable set of crockery. It has been with the parliament for a long time and, yes, it is used for special occasions.

Senator WONG: But it is available to the presiding officers?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: Do you know if it was made available to the Speaker for the function we have been describing?

Ms Mills : Given that I am gathering information on that I will find that out for you.

Senator WONG: Does anyone here know. This is a different issue, because this is owned by the—

Ms Mills : I appreciate that. I will have to check that with some staff.

Senator WONG: Is it available for party political fundraisers?

Ms Mills : I would have to find the criteria, but I believe the criteria would be that it is for use by those people at their request, rather than specifying the purpose.

Senator WONG: So it could be used for a party political fundraiser by the Prime Minister or one of the presiding officers? Just to safeguard the President's reputation, he made it clear this morning that he has not used his suite for party political fundraisers.

The President: I have never used it.

Senator WONG: The crockery set?

The President: I have never used it and never requested it.

CHAIR: But you have had private functions in your suite, Senator Hogg.

The President: I am talking about the crockery.

Senator WONG: If the President or the Prime Minister wants to use the crockery set who do they talk to?

Ms Mills : It is normally stored in our Art Services branch, in the arts store, because of its value. But again—I am hypothecating here because I will have to get the answer—normally whoever is organising the event would contact us and arrange to have it delivered.

Senator WONG: Whilst you are dealing with Senator Faulkner, can we come back to this and have at the table the person from the art collection who deals with this?

Ms Mills : Certainly.

Senator WONG: Will you be able to arrange that?

Ms Mills : Somebody is taking care of that now.

CHAIR: Whilst we get to Senator Faulkner's issue I would just like to recognise and acknowledge the presence of members of a parliamentary delegation from Malaysia, who have chosen to join us. You are most welcome.

Honourable senators : Hear hear!

CHAIR: Ms Mills, you were going to respond to Senator Faulkner.

Ms Mills : Yes, my staff have just provided a copy of the report—

Senator FAULKNER: Thank you. First, I want to make clear, Chair, that I am not interested in any names being used. I am only interested in the issue of—how will I best describe it—the use of CCTV footage and the collection of evidence. I am not interested in any other elements of this, which, I do not know, may go to personal privacy and other matters. Having made that point absolutely clear, can I start by seeking a reassurance, as I was given earlier today, about the fact that on only one occasion has CCTV footage been used in a staff disciplinary or code of conduct matter? That is what I was assured and I just want to be reassured.

Ms Mills : I said that to my knowledge that was the case. I have confirmed that there have been additional cases and I have asked for—

Senator FAULKNER: I am sorry. You have confirmed what?

Ms Mills : I have confirmed in the lunch break that there were some additional cases. Before lunch Neil Skill referenced one or two, and we are confirming if there are any—but what it did say—

Senator FAULKNER: So we are clear on this, the earlier evidence in relation to the use of CCTV footage for a staff disciplinary or code of conduct matter being limited to one case was not right. It is more than one case. We have established that now.

Mr Skill : No, that is not correct. There is only one code of conduct related case. One is the case I mentioned this morning in relation to alleged inappropriate conduct by our guards. The third, which I found out about this morning after our session finished, is related to a fraud incident. So there is a code of conduct and there is a fraud related issue, as well.

Senator FAULKNER: It is the terminology used by DPS. Whether that is fair terminology I am in no position to judge. Anyway, we will come to that in future hearings, I suspect. I want to go to the issue that related to identification, effectively, of a senator. I am not interested in any names or identifying factors being read into the Hansard. I am only interested here in matters that go to the use of CCTV footage and possibly, if you like, the collection of evidence about the issue we were discussing. I wanted that sentence or paragraph, if it is a paragraph, quoted, or, sentences and paragraphs quoted, so that I precisely understand what the detail of that issue are. I repeat that I am not interested in any identifying factors at all. I am only interested in the issue of collecting information or evidence via CCTV footage and how it applies. That should limit it down and means that no privacy issues are involved. Can you assist me with that? Is it a report or a draft report? I think you used the terminology 'draft report'.

Ms Mills : As I said to you, I was unaware of that until this morning. I have not yet read it. This is the first time I have actually seen it. As I understand it, it is a draft investigation report.

Senator FAULKNER: Alright, draft investigation report. If you or another witness would like a little more time to identify those paragraphs, sentences, enumerations, subsections or however the report appears, I am only interested in the ones I have asked. Given the need to protect privacy, I am happy to leave this a little while if someone wants to be absolutely doubly sure and check. Otherwise, we can do it now. In other words, if you need another 10 or 15 minutes to check—

Ms Mills : I think that would be beneficial. If there are ongoing questions, I am happy to keep answering them.

Senator FAULKNER: I am happy with that. Then we can come back to that before DPS leaves. I think that would assist.

CHAIR: It would.

Senator FAULKNER: I am happy to ask some other questions, of course.

CHAIR: There are plenty of questions.

Senator FAULKNER: I am also happy to stay in the queue.

CHAIR: Always mindful of the time. Senator Madigan, did you have an issue you wanted to raise?

Senator MADIGAN: In relation to the request for the tender for the provision of manufacturing the Australian flag on this building, there is a plethora of conditions that are placed on the tenderers in the document. I want to establish whether all the conditions in the tender document are applicable if you are an Australian manufacturer or a foreign manufacturer. Do you have exemptions for foreign manufacturers under the tenure document?

Ms Mills : As I believe I answered at the last estimates, we are not able to dictate, under the fair trade agreement which the government is party to and under Commonwealth guidelines, the source of things that we tender for.

Senator MADIGAN: The question is: are there conditions in the tender form that you apply to Australian companies that you do not apply to foreign companies?

Ms Mills : If you are referencing things like—I am going to speculate here, because I do not know—salaries, terms and conditions of employment of staff of whoever that company might be or something like that, no. What we do is follow the Commonwealth guidelines about tendering arrangements. We specify from our perspective the nature, design quality or whatever it might be related to that particular item and value for money. We do not specify anything related to, perhaps, employment conditions. I do not know the example, but that is one I could give.

Senator MADIGAN: I refer you to page 12 of the tender document, where there are 17 conditions with yes/no tick boxes that comply to legislation policy compliance. Are all of those things applicable to an Australian company who is tendering for the thing and equally to a foreign manufacturer? Yes or not?

Mr Skill : My understanding is they would be applicable to all tenderers as far as I am aware, but I have not seen the tender documents.

Senator XENOPHON: This relates to occupational health and safety, discrimination legislation, environmental legislation—a whole range. These are all conditions that apply to that. So, you are saying that that would apply as well to an overseas based company—a company that manufactures overseas?

Ms Mills : Within their own framework, yes, we would expect them to comply for example with their—

Senator XENOPHON: I think Senator Madigan might be able to assist you on that, then.

Senator MADIGAN: Page 16 of your document says:

The Tenderer confirms that (except where it is an overseas based supplier to which these requirements do not apply in accordance with the Fair Work Principles User Guide) …

And it goes on. So, we have one set of rules for an Australian manufacturer, and we have another set of rules for a foreign manufacturer. Is that right?

Ms Mills : Our set of rules is that if you are based in Australia you need to comply with Australian laws and regulations. We obviously cannot impose that upon any foreign entity.

Senator XENOPHON: So they could be using sweatshop labour overseas—child labour—and we could have the Australian flag flying on top of Parliament House being made with child labour. But because they do not have to comply with Australian conditions they could end up winning the tender because they will be cheaper. That is the effect. That is the logical effect, or a potential effect, of what you are saying.

Ms Mills : Under the free trade agreement we follow Commonwealth guidelines. If it were to apply to the flag it would apply to other things. But, again, as I have also indicated previously, the current Australian flag and the flags under trial as part of the tender are indeed Australian.

Senator XENOPHON: In terms of what Senator Madigan has highlighted, you are saying that at the moment price is the main consideration, as long as the quality is the same, all things being equal in terms of quality. Is that right? If the quality is the same—

Ms Mills : If the quality is the same and in this case the deliverability is the same, then of course price comes into it as the final component.

Senator XENOPHON: So they could be breaching environmental laws, international labour laws. They could be breaching occupational health and safety laws. And they could still win it. So, we could have a flag flying on top of this building that would breach the standards that would apply to the Australian workforce and Australian companies here.

Ms Mills : You are asking a question much bigger than the selection of the flag. This is—

Senator XENOPHON: Let's talk about the selection of the flag now.

CHAIR: Let the witness answer, Senator Xenophon.

Senator XENOPHON: I am just trying to assist the witness.

CHAIR: You are very helpful. Thank you. But I am sure Ms Mills is capable of responding.

Ms Mills : I was just saying that we follow broader government guidelines in all our procurement. We do not differentiate the flag from other things that we procure, so these are the standard ways in which the contemporary procurement arrangements for Australia operate.

Senator XENOPHON: So, notwithstanding that it does not comply with the standards that would apply in this country, a flag under the broader procurement requirements that you are referring to could be raised above this building that was made overseas without the same standards that apply to a local company. That is the effect of what you are saying.

Ms Mills : We are not able to specify all of those things. But, again, this is a hypothetical, because the Australian flag that flies above this building is Australian made—

Senator XENOPHON: At this stage.

Ms Mills : At this stage.

Senator XENOPHON: But you cannot guarantee that it will continue to be so.

Ms Mills : As long as there is an industry here that supports Australian flag making then we would hope that it will continue. But it is obviously a small and specialised industry, and we have to have the best available options for us at the moment.

Senator XENOPHON: And the best available option is that it is a cheaper price, notwithstanding the job effects—the multiplier effects—and complying with Australian laws?

Ms Mills : As I said, it has to meet a number of requirements, including standard, colour, patina and, most importantly for us, of course, the ability to fly 24 hours a day and be sustained in the weather that Canberra has. So, there are a whole lot of criteria, and included in that is of course the ability to provide it on an ongoing basis should we need replacements during the contract. There are a lot of factors we take into account.

CHAIR: Senators Madigan and Xenophon, perhaps you could conclude.

Senator XENOPHON: We do have some questions to do with crockery.

CHAIR: We are going to go back to crockery in a little while, so I might ask you to hold that. I think we will deal with crockery as a whole, all at once. Ms Mills, how have you progressed with Senator Faulkner's request?

Ms Mills : Given that the staff member who was reading it has not returned, we might need a few more minutes.

CHAIR: Senators Faulkner, Wong, McKenzie, Madigan and Xenophon all have questions. I would really like to wrap this up as quickly as possible.

Senator WONG: Ms Mills, can you do the art collection and crockery questions now?

Ms Mills : Senator, I cannot.

Senator WONG: Are you getting the officer, Ms Mills?

Ms Mills : Yes. I received advice on the nature of the collection; I did not receive advice on the specific—

Senator WONG: Why can't we just get the person from the art collection who handles arrangements around the crockery, rather than people running notes back and forth to you that do not answer our questions?

Ms Mills : I believe we are endeavouring to get either that person or the answer to you as quickly as possible.

Senator WONG: But you do not know the questions I am going to ask, so how can you get my answer?

Ms Mills : If there are more than the question you asked me—

Senator WONG: There are; I said that to you. Can we just get them here?

Ms Mills : Yes.

CHAIR: Senator McKenzie.

Senator McKENZIE: I want to return to one of my favourite topics, which is the Parliamentary Library. The questions I have today go to research being undertaken by the library for parliamentarians. Can you outline briefly the library's role in providing that service?

Dr Heriot : The library is tasked with providing information, analysis and advice to senators and members in support of their parliamentary and representational duties. We do this in a number of ways. We provide a range of materials in the public sphere. We provide research publications such as the Bills Digest, which provides independent commentary on bills before the parliament. We provide a range of research papers, quick guides and statistical bulletins on matters of relevance to the work of the parliament—which, as you would imagine, is a fairly broad—

Senator McKENZIE: And those are things you generate internally from within the library itself, not as a result of requests from senators and members?

Dr Heriot : It may be that a topic is the subject of a number of requests and is likely, therefore, to be of general interest; we may turn it into a publication. If a matter has been raised in committee hearings or in parliamentary debates, we may also do a research paper. I should note that, last financial year, we issued around 420 such publications, which of course includes our Parliamentary Library blog on topical issues. We also as part of our research work for senators and members provide confidential, individualised research. So a member of parliament or their staff, or the staff of a parliamentary committee, will contact the library with a question or a series of questions and we will provide a response to that.

Senator McKENZIE: Are there any guidelines to help library staff determine what is appropriate research to undertake and what is not?

Dr Heriot : The act is very broad but we do have a series of governance papers that provide information about scope and scale. As you will appreciate, members and senators being quite time pressured, there is often a degree of negotiation about what can be provided in what sort of time frame. We do have a statement of client services—which, unhelpfully, I do not have with me. It talks about the information that we can and cannot provide. For example, we cannot provide constituency work for individual constituents—those sorts of things.

Senator McKENZIE: In that negotiation phase are there some principles for library staff to make decisions about what type of research are going to be an unreasonable diversion of resources?

Dr Heriot : There are guidelines. There are also, I guess, escalation processes within the library—if an individual researcher has a large request that they are not able to do because of other pressures of work, we may look at who else might do it in the library or we may negotiate the scope down. Sometimes, unfortunately, we have to have discussions with members or senators to say that we are unable to do their request because the information simply is not available or—as I have had to do on rare occasion—because the scope of the question is just too large and we need to winnow it down.

Senator McKENZIE: So you would agree that the library does prioritise research requests?

Dr Heriot : We do have a prioritising process. For example, things that are needed for chamber debate get the highest priority. That is also reflected in the fact that our Bills Digests gets the highest priority; they are integral to our service to the chamber and they are used by multiple members and senators, so they get our No. 1 priority. If someone needs some information for X or they are giving an address in the chamber, we do that sort of prioritising on the run because it is always a juggling event to try and provide the best service we can within the resources available.

Senator McKENZIE: If on notice you could flesh out those prioritisation steps, that would be fabulous. Is it appropriate for library staff to undertake political research—for instance, into the staff members of senators or members?

Dr Heriot : I would not have thought we would do that.

Senator McKENZIE: Has the library ever undertaken such research?

Dr Heriot : 'Ever' is a long time.

Senator McKENZIE: In your time.

Dr Heriot : I am not aware of any.

Senator McKENZIE: Could you provide the committee with a list of the online databases that the library subscribes to and the cost of those subscriptions, please?

Dr Heriot : Sure.

Senator McKENZIE: I will put the rest of my questions on notice. Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator McKenzie. Are we ready to return to things crockery?

Ms Mills : Yes.

CHAIR: Thank you. We have two sets of crockery questions, the first of which will come from Senator Wong.

Senator WONG: Ms Hanley can you tell me about 'the Queen's crockery'?

Ms Hanley : There is a crockery set known as the Queen's crockery, yes.

Senator WONG: And that is technically part of the art collection?

Ms Hanley : It is, yes.

Senator WONG: It was, according to the little display note, acquired in 1950-something?

Ms Hanley : It was acquired in 1954, when the Queen visited.

Senator WONG: I think Ms Mills said in previous evidence that that is available to the Prime Minister and the Presiding Officers. Is that right?

Ms Hanley : Yes.

Senator WONG: And that is on request?

Ms Hanley : There is currently crockery in the art store and there is also the Queen's dining set. There is crockery in the Speaker's suite and there is some crockery in the President's suite as well, as well as some crockery in the art store.

Senator WONG: Is any kept in the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Hanley : On my advice here today, no. But if the Prime Minister wanted to use it he could ask it.

Senator WONG: So some of it is in the Speaker's suite and some of it is in the President's suite?

Ms Hanley : Yes.

Senator WONG: And how long has that arrangement been in place?

Ms Hanley : I cannot answer that. I do not know.

Senator WONG: Mr President, how long have you had some crockery?

The President: I have no idea. As I said before, I did not even know I had any in my suite. So Ms Hanley's answer is a surprise to me.

Senator WONG: Ms Hanley you could get on notice when that arrangement first came in?

Ms Hanley : Yes, we can find that out.

Senator WONG: How much is in the Speaker's suite?

Ms Hanley : There are 248 pieces in the Speaker's suite.

Senator WONG: And in the President suite?

Ms Hanley : There are 60 pieces in the President's suite and 247 in storage in the arts store.

Senator WONG: Why has the Speaker got 248 when the President has got 60?

Ms Hanley : I do not know. It may have been the stuff that has been there for a long time.

Senator WONG: Has there been an increase in the amount that the Speaker has had in recent times?

Ms Hanley : I think there may have been an additional allocation in recent times. I can check that for you if you give me a minute. There were eight additional entree plates allocated to the Speaker's office on 12 May.

Senator WONG: That was Budget day.

Ms Hanley : I think the 13th was Budget day.

Senator WONG: The day before the Budget. Do you know why eight additional entree plates were allocated?

Ms Hanley : No.

Senator WONG: Who would have made that request—the Speaker's staff member?

Ms Hanley : It would have come from the Department of the House of Representatives, which looks after catering.

Senator WONG: Do you know if the Queen's crockery was used for the Liberal fundraiser that has been publicly recorded?

Ms Hanley : No, I do not know that. There are a number of other dining sets in the suites. I cannot answer that.

Senator WONG: Because you do not know?

Ms Hanley : Because I do not know. And I know there are other sets of crockery there.

Senator WONG: But we know that eight additional pieces were requested by the Speaker, by whatever mechanism, prior to the Budget?

Ms Hanley : Yes.

Senator WONG: Are you able to tell me how many other additional allocations of the Queen's crockery have been made to the Speaker since September?

Ms Hanley : I cannot.

Senator WONG: Is that because there were not any or because you would need to check?

Ms Hanley : We would need to check.

Senator WONG: Okay. I would appreciate it if you take that on notice. Could you check also why it is that the Speaker has so much more of this crockery than the President?

CHAIR: She might have more friends than you, Mr President!

The President: That would not be hard!

Senator WONG: Ms Hanley, you said there are no guidelines or protocols applied to the usage of this crockery for the Prime Minister, the President—

Ms Hanley : Other than that it is for the use of the Prime Minister and the Presiding Officers.

Senator WONG: There is no suggestion that it cannot be for private events or political events?

Ms Hanley : Not that I am aware of.

Senator WONG: I just noticed that the descriptor of the crockery talks about it being only used on rare occasions; it references 'formal parliamentary functions or private visits'. It does not say 'private Liberal fundraisers', does it?

Ms Hanley : Are you referring to the text panel in front of the exhibition?

Senator WONG: Correct.

Ms Hanley : That is what the text panel says, yes.

Senator WONG: That is correct isn't it? It is intended to be for rare occasions such as formal parliamentary functions or state visits?

Ms Hanley : It is for the use of the Presiding Officers and the Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: Do you know if it has ever been used before for fundraisers?

Ms Hanley : I do not. And I do not know if it was used this time, either, because there are other sets there.

Senator WONG: Except that we know that eight additional plates were requested by the Speaker on the day before the Budget. That is the evidence you have given, correct?

Ms Hanley : Yes.

Senator WONG: So there are no guidelines and no protocols—they can use it for whatever they like—and you are not aware whether or not anybody has used it before. And you will take on notice the history of the allocation?

Ms Hanley : Yes.

Senator WONG: What I am interested in is: how long has the Speaker had this many, how did it get up to 248? If you have got 248 pieces, that this a full dinner for how many people? I do not know; I do not do catering; it is a lot the people.

Ms Hanley : It would be, yes.

Senator MADIGAN: Where are we at with the crockery Senator Xenophon and I donated, the $11,000 worth of Australian made crockery?

Senator XENOPHON: There were 750 pieces.

Senator MADIGAN: In an article in The Australian on 25 April, Phil Hudson stated that the department was yet to make a decision on the use of the crockery. What is the state of play with DPS as we stand now?

Ms Hanley : Currently the crockery is in storage. DPS actually has quite a large supply of crested crockery. The last time we ordered new crested crockery was in 2008. The rate of breakage is very low, so we do not go through a lot of crested crockery. We have some supplies. The crockery that was given to us is currently in storage and we are looking at how it could possibly be used—for example, possibly in members' suites.

Ms Mills : I might add to that. One of the difficulties is that, in the area for which you indicated you would like it to be used, it does not match the existing crockery and, because we do not actually have a shortage, the ability for us to differentiate it when it comes out of the common kitchen and goes into a common area is quite hard. We have been looking to see whether there are discrete areas—the services for event hire or other places—where we might be able to use it as a discrete set.

Senator MADIGAN: I am quite aware it must be difficult, Ms Mills, because, when I checked the crockery, we have English crockery, we have Australian crockery, we have crockery from the UAE and we have some plates floating around from China, and nobody seems to be able to marry up any of those into complete sets. So I can see it is quite a challenge for people. It still does not answer the question. Senator Xenophon and I specifically got it for the parliamentary dining room's members and guests area, with enough to cover that whole area so that there would be continuity through that area. When could we reasonably expect a decision from DPS as to where and when it is going to be put into use?

Ms Mills : Again, going back to some of the dialogue we have had previously—I am not sure that you were here—although 120 places is the normal sitting area for the Members' Guests Dining Room, in fact the central kitchen provides from the same source and the same set of crockery the Members' Guests Dining Room, the members and guests club, the Sir Richard Baker Room, the Sir Frederick Holder Room and the cabinet room. At the moment, we use up to 375 settings in those areas and they are all sourced from the same kitchen, the same preparation areas, the same washing areas. It is quite difficult to do that as a full set. The other issue for us is that there is a variation in the setting contents of what you have generously offered and what we presently have. We currently have 11 different items that comprise a setting. Your donation does not have an equivalent number of items. For example, we currently have two sizes of dinner plates, we have a specific entree plate, we have a specific side plate and dessert bowl, which are not matched in terms of what you have provided. So for IHG to provide a three-course meal equivalent, there simply is not enough crockery in the donation, which is why we are looking at other uses for it.

Senator MADIGAN: It obviously seems very difficult for you, Ms Mills. This is what you are telling us. If it is all too difficult and it is going to be sitting in a skip bin somewhere, how would Senator Xenophon and I go about getting the crockery back from DPS and, say, auctioning it off or donating it to a charity? It just seems all too difficult, doesn't it?

Ms Mills : Senator, I want to reassure you that it was with goodwill that we accepted it and we are genuinely looking for ways to use it. It is just not suitable for the purpose you would have preferred. We are certainly very happy to provide it back to you if there is a good use to which it could be made sooner than a use we might be able to find for it in Parliament House.

Senator FAULKNER: Senators do not have 11 different types of crockery in their own individual suites. I assume members do not have 11 different types of crockery, do they?

Ms Mills : No.

Senator FAULKNER: So why wouldn't that be an option?

Ms Mills : As I think Ms Hanley said, that is one of the possibilities. The timing is slightly awkward in the sense that, because of the changeover of parliament, crockery sets were replenished in all of the private areas, but nonetheless that may be something that senators wish to consider. We would be happy to assist in distribution of that, but what I am suggesting is that their preferred use, which was in the Members' Guests Dining Room, is just not practical for us.

Senator FAULKNER: Is that distribution done by the chamber department?

Ms Mills : It is done in the House of Representatives by the chamber department. It is a mixed model in other parts.

Senator FAULKNER: What about senators' offices, then?

Ms Mills : The Department of the Senate. Sorry, I had that around the wrong way. We assist the House of Representatives and the Department of the Senate does it itself.

Senator FAULKNER: There is obviously some possibility there given it is considerably smaller, and it would appear, perhaps, there is more flexibility. Anyway, I will leave that to those who know more about—

Ms Mills : As I said, I am very happy to have discussions with the senators about their gift, if we can look at other ways to use it or if they wish to auction it or something else.

Senator MADIGAN: Could you take on notice, Ms Mills: could you inform the committee how much money has DPS spent on crockery, re-equipping members' rooms or the Prime Minister's room or whatever—a total? How much money you have spent? And where was the crockery sourced from?

Ms Mills : Yes, I can take that on notice.

CHAIR: Ms Mills, how are we going with the matter of that report that Senator Faulkner is so interested in?

Ms Mills : I have a copy in front of me that has marked paragraphs that may be relevant from Senator Faulkner's perspective. I am happy to go to that now.

Senator FAULKNER: Could you just explain to us what you are going to read into the record, please? You are not going to mention any names? There is going to be no breach of privacy?

Ms Mills : No. I am sorry, Senator: do you want me to read the entire report into the record?

Senator FAULKNER: No. I just asked, in relation to the collection of evidence and CCTV footage issues or collection of information in the case that has been described as a code of conduct issue that might mention a senator, is there is a sentence or are there sentences, or a paragraph or paragraphs, or a numbered clause or numbered clauses, which could be read in, which is only a very small part of the document? One assumes we are talking about a small part of the document. I did not want, at all, that document to be read into the record; just any element that related to the CCTV footage and collecting information and evidence in that case. I want privacy to be protected. I am interested in only the use of CCTV footage in that regard.

Ms Mills : Again, because Ms Teece has actually gone through the document, I will get her to read them, if that is okay.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes. One assumes it is not much.

Ms Mills : There would appear to be a couple of paragraphs.

Senator FAULKNER: I am assuming it is something like that. How many pages does your document have?

Ms Teece : There are a number of pages and they are not numbered, but there are about five paragraphs.

Senator FAULKNER: I appreciate that. I am really trying to focus on small, relevant information so I can fully understand the nature of the evidence that Ms Mills provided earlier today. Obviously, it is critically important, not only for senators but also, I accept, for witnesses at the table—to protect the privacy of any individuals involved in the matter.

Ms Mills : Before Ms Teece reads it—because we have had a long break since this came up—again, could I place some context around it. There was an allegation about the behaviour of a staff member. A staff member was identified through security records as having attended the building in unusual hours. They were asked for their reason for being in the building. They gave a particular rationale. That was looked at on CCTV. It did not accord with the advice that person gave. A second interview was conducted. They gave new advice, and that is the basis, really, of what Ms Teece—

Senator FAULKNER: Just so we are absolutely clear: there is absolutely no capacity under the purposes and principles of the CCTV code to look at such material—none; absolutely no authority. There is no way it could ever be authorised, and it is a massive, massive breach of proper process. Having said that, let's hear the paragraphs.

Ms Teece : In response to the allegation, the person that is subject to the code said:

I also had some personal business with the senator and left documents at the senator's office. Should you wish to confirm this by contacting the senator, please advise and I will seek approval from the senator to provide their name.

In relation to the section under consideration of the available evidence: 'She contends that the reasons for her attendance at this time were to both drop off work related papers to her normal work location and to conduct some personal business with the senator.

Senator FAULKNER: What I have been trying to do here is clearly—I mean, I may as well be speaking Swahili. I am interested only in the elements that I have outlined.

Ms Teece : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: In other words, that relate to the parliamentarian. In this case it appears to be me.

Ms Teece : It just says to conduct some personal business with the senator.

Senator FAULKNER: Okay. I think you just used the term 'collection of evidence'—that is what I am interested in, the use of CCTV footage. I must have said this six times.

CHAIR: You have been very clear, Senator Faulkner.

Ms Teece : Consideration of available evidence:

The photos and security camera footage reveal that—


did not attempt to enter her normal work location, which was the other stated intention of her attendance. The relevance of the photos is that they demonstrate there was no need for access to the areas of Parliament House that she did if the sole purpose of her trip was ultimately to deposit material which could only relate to personal business under the door of suite 42 on the outer corridor.

Senator FAULKNER: Who occupies suite 42 on the outer corridor?

Ms Teece : Senator, I—

Senator FAULKNER: You do not know?

Ms Teece : No, I—

Senator FAULKNER: I do. I occupy it. Go on.

Ms Teece : Evaluation of the evidence.

Senator FAULKNER: What are the subheadings of this document, please?

Ms Teece : The subheadings are: introduction, the alleged breach of the DPS Code of Conduct, investigation procedure, evidence collected—

Senator FAULKNER: Okay, and others.

Ms Teece : Response to the allegation, consideration of the available evidence, evaluation of the evidence and summary of findings.

Senator FAULKNER: All I would ask to be read into the record is relevant paragraphs of what is called 'evidence collected'. Any names or identifiers completely removed. I have limited this to the use of CCTV footage and evidence collected.

Ms Teece : Under evidence collected, would you like me to just read out that portion or—

Senator FAULKNER: No, I only want to know if there are any relevant sentences or paragraphs in relation to what we now have identified as suite 42. Well, that is me. Is suite 42 mentioned in evidence?

Ms Teece : Yes, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: How many times, please?

Ms Teece : Once. It says: 'The route taken after entering through Senate security checkpoint was determined as being on the Senate side of the parliament as follows.' Then it goes through a number of dot points and then: 'place an envelope under the door of suite 42 on the Senate side of Parliament House'.

Senator XENOPHON: Why should you have access to this?

Senator FAULKNER: Before we go to that—you can confirm that is the only place that is mentioned in evidence collected? You just told us that.

Ms Teece : Yes, that is correct.

Senator FAULKNER: Just that occasion.

Ms Teece : That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER: Just repeat those words, please: place an envelope—

Ms Teece : 'Place an envelope under the door of suite 42 on the Senate side of Parliament House.'

Senator FAULKNER: In broad terms, again with no identifiers, where does the evidence collected issue go beyond that in terms of this report?

Obviously this committee can get this report if it wishes to. There are issues for the committee. I do not want to engage in that, because I have deliberately absented myself from the private discussions—you would acknowledge that Chair?

CHAIR: Indeed, Senator Faulkner—

Senator FAULKNER: I have absented myself from any private discussions of the committee, because, clearly, it is now established that I am a first party here—I might have mentioned, an aggrieved party. What else is involved, apart from placing an envelope under the door of my office? Anything else?

Ms Teece : In that section, no. Then I mentioned the two responses to the allegation.

Senator FAULKNER: All right. If that is all. Is that what you were referring to earlier, Ms Mills?

Ms Mills : Yes. As I said, I had not seen the report until it was brought here this afternoon. But I was informed that a draft report around a code of conduct matter may have related to a number of questions you were asking earlier today.

Senator FAULKNER: I of course have received advice in relation to parliamentary privilege from the Clerk of the Senate in relation to this matter. Has DPS sought any advice in relation to the privilege of parliamentarians?

Ms Mills : I spoke to the Clerk of the Senate this morning when I became aware of this issue. I sought her advice on the circumstances as I knew them at that time.

Senator FAULKNER: But not before?

Ms Mills : I am not aware of the department doing anything previously. I can only speak about what I did this morning when I heard about the issue. I went straight to seek the technical advice of the Clerk.

Senator FAULKNER: What did the Clerk say to you?

Ms Mills : The Clerk indicated to me that on face value it would be a breach of the guidelines, albeit potentially inadvertent. The outcome would technically be potentially a breach.

Senator FAULKNER: There is no question it is a breach of the guidelines. The principles—

Ms Mills : Well, the principles, yes.

Senator FAULKNER: There is no question about that. Did you address the issue of privilege with the Clerk?

Ms Mills : Yes, specifically. Sorry, I used the word 'principles' but I should used the word 'privilege'.

Senator FAULKNER: What did the Clerk say about the issue of privilege?

Ms Mills : I went to her this morning and said that I had become aware of an issue and these were the circumstances of it and I sought her advice about whether it was likely to be a breach of privilege. She said that on the advice available to her that was likely.

Senator FAULKNER: And there are two other instances where CCTV footage has been used. Obviously the circumstances in individual cases are different. Everyone would acknowledge that. As far as you know, in those other two cases neither the offices occupied by a member of the House of Representatives or a senator nor the actions of a member of the House of Representatives or a senator are involved. Is that correct? That is what I understand is the case and I am just checking that.

Ms Mills : That is the advice I have received.

Senator FAULKNER: The Clerk's advice to me includes this statement:

The use of electronic surveillance of a senator's office for unauthorised purposes to intimidate persons who provide information to senators is also capable of being found to be a contempt …

I could read a whole range of areas from the Clerk's advice, which I might make public. I am careful here, as you would appreciate, because I have absented myself from the private meetings of this committee. I am not clear on what action, if any, the committee has taken. We all seek advices from the Clerk. It is a straightforward course of action. I might be in a position to make that advice public. I have made it absolutely clear how seriously I treat these concerns.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Faulkner. I think it is fair to say we have had a pretty good exploration of this issue for the moment. What the committee determines will be determined by the committee—

Senator FAULKNER: Now let me ask this, Chair—

CHAIR: Before you continue, Senator Faulkner, there are some other questions relating to security matters. I do want to wrap this up very quickly.

Senator FAULKNER: I am always happy to cede the call.

CHAIR: Senator Heffernan, you have two questions.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Is the $400,000 estimated saving, of kinds, over the security arrangements per annum or in the forward estimates?

Ms Mills : Per annum.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Could you provide on notice to the committee the cost of clearing the building. Under the present arrangements, as we have discussed, any MP can more or less bring anything into the building. Correct?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator HEFFERNAN: That has never been tested, which is interesting. Under the current arrangements, probably anyone with a pass can bring anything into the building—

Ms Mills : If I may, as you know there are only certain categories and there are random checks. There are a number of checks and balances in place.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Yes, all of the above. But in terms of a clearance for a visit by someone important, such as the US president, I would have thought that within a month or two this building would have been well and truly declared a dirty building. Could you give an estimate to the committee of the cost of clearing the building back to clean status?

Ms Mills : I can certainly provide—

Senator HEFFERNAN: I will bet you it is more than $400,000.

Ms Mills : I am thinking of the most recent occasion when we had President Obama here. There would have been a standard clearing, and we can have a look at that as a case.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Do you have a rough idea what that was?

Ms Mills : I am sorry, I do not.

Senator HEFFERNAN: I will have a pound to a penny and a peanut that the cost of cleaning the building up will be more than the savings in the budget from lowering the security.

Ms Mills : We will certainly try to answer that on notice.

Senator WONG: Returning to the passes issue, I think Ms Mills or Mr Skill took on notice the security threat assessment question.

Mr Skill : I think so, yes.

Senator WONG: So you will provide that, with redactions, if required.

Mr Skill : My interpretation was that you asked for some details around the number of passes on issue—

Senator WONG: No, I am coming to that. Earlier I asked about whether or not a security threat assessment, or risk assessment, was undertaken. I was told yes. I am asking on notice for details of that—a copy of the document, with appropriate redactions, and I also want to know who prepared it. Are you able to tell me that?

Mr Skill : Yes, the final threat assessment was prepared by the Security Branch of DPS.

Senator WONG: So you had an internal document?

Mr Skill : We had an internal document, but it was informed by external advice.

Senator WONG: Who is the external advice from?

Mr Skill : It was formed on a number of pieces of information, including the ASIO threat assessment of the building, and there was an external consultant who provided an initial threat risk assessment.

Senator WONG: Who was that?

Mr Skill : It was a company called Kinetic.

Senator WONG: Will you provide some details about that?

Mr Skill : Yes, we can do that.

Senator WONG: Who saw the final version?

Mr Skill : I would have to check the final circulation, but my understanding is that it went to the Security Management Board.

Senator WONG: So, presiding officers—I see the President shaking his head.

The President: As I understand it, we would not see the final draft of that report. That would go to the Security Management Board for them to tick off.

Senator WONG: Would you remind me who that is—the Usher of the Black Rod?

Mr Skill : It is the secretary of the DPS as the chair and the clerks of the two chamber departments, or their delegates, and they normally delegate.

Senator WONG: So, no presiding officer, no senator and no member had the opportunity to consider that and put their views, before this occurred.

Mr Skill : I think it is fair to say that the risk profile of the proposal was included in the briefing to the presiding officers.

Senator WONG: Moving on to the pass system: how many passes are currently outstanding, or issued?

Mr Skill : As at this morning there are 10,417 passes on issue.

Senator WONG: Are they all people within the exempted category?

Mr Skill : No, they are not.

Senator WONG: How many of those are within the security exempted category?

Mr Skill : 54 per cent of those are exempt.

Senator WONG: When you say 10,417, is that active? Issued? What are you telling me with that figure?

Mr Skill : The advice I have is that it is active and issued.

Senator WONG: Of which just over half are exempted?

Mr Skill : Yes, 54 per cent.

Senator WONG: Perhaps we can just talk about what happens when someone is no longer in a position that enables them or entitles them to have a pass. So, let's say a member or senator leaves or their employment finishes. The usual practice is that you send them a letter, do you not, asking them to return the pass?

Mr Skill : The advice I have received is focused—as I think you were this morning, Senator—on staff of members and senators.

Senator WONG: Let's start with that.

Mr Skill : When the Department of Finance becomes aware that the staff member has terminated their employment with the member or senator there is an automated email that comes to my security pass office that advises of the cessation of employment of that person, at which point the pass is de-activated.

Senator WONG: Well, that is not true. There were staff members who continued to have passes after the change of government—former staff members—and they were not de-activated.

Mr Skill : Well, that is contrary to the advice I have.

Senator WONG: I see here that Senator Tillem apparently used to work for Senator Conroy.

Senator TILLEM: I've still got a pass.

Senator WONG: Is this still active, Senator?

Senator TILLEM: [inaudible] but there was no request for me to return it.

Mr Skill : That is—not an omission, but it is certainly an area that we could improve in the process—to retrieve the passes. However, they are de-activated.

Senator WONG: With respect, do not tell us that things are happening if they are actually not.

Mr Skill : I did not say that we were retrieving the passes; I said that they were de-activated.

Senator WONG: So, you are not retrieving the passes.

Mr Skill : Where we can, and where they are offered, we do so. But we do not actively go out and chase those passes.

Senator WONG: So, how many non-retrieved passes are out there?

Mr Skill : I might have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: You do not know?

Mr Skill : No.

Senator WONG: So, you do not know how many people, like Senator Tillem, have a pass that technically is still active, because obviously they are issued for a year. He is obviously a senator now, so he does not need a pass. But you do not know how many—

Mr Skill : I cannot give you evidence here today that I can guarantee we have collected every pass or how many are on issue. I can say that there is a process in place within the Department of Finance such that when the employment status of members' and senators' staffers changes we are advised and their passes are de-activated.

Senator WONG: Let's go back through that. By the way: of the 10,417 passes that are out there, active, can you give me the actual number of those who are exempt from the trial?

Mr Skill : Of the 10,417, it is 5,621 who are exempt.

Senator WONG: So there are 5½ thousand people who do not have to have their bags screened and who can enter this parliament at any time.

Mr Skill : Other than the random screening, yes.

Senator WONG: Let's start with senators' and members' staff. If, for whatever reason—change of status of their employer or resignation or for other reasons—employment ends. What do you say happens with those staff members?

Mr Skill : As I said before, my evidence is that we receive an automated email from the Department of Finance systems when there is a change in the status of employment, and my pass office de-activates that pass upon receipt of that advice.

Senator WONG: And how many of those emails have been received in recent times, including the change-of-government period? So, let's say from just prior to the election until now, how many emails do you say have been received?

Mr Skill : I have a figure from the Department of Finance that gives us a period from 1 May 2013 to 30 April 2014, and during that period Finance advised DPS of 605 personal staff and 921 electoral staff ceasing employment.

Senator WONG: What happens in relation to those 1,500?

Mr Skill : Their access is revoked—terminated immediately.

Senator WONG: How long does it take?

Mr Skill : It is upon receipt of the email. I do not know whether there was a big flurry of them arriving as a result of the electoral changes, but—

Senator WONG: These passes now entitle someone to enter the parliament without having any security screening whatsoever. So, how long does it take the Department of Finance to issue the automated email? That is the first question.

Mr Skill : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator WONG: You do not know?

Mr Skill : No. I understood it was an automated system, so they do not have to actually do any manual intervention. When they make the change—the cessation—that comes through to us.

Senator WONG: Is it before their employment actually ends? Is it within 24 hours? Is it within two weeks? Or is it within three months? Do you know?

Mr Skill : No.

Senator WONG: How come this was not checked at the time the risk assessment was being considered—how long someone would have an active pass out there?

Mr Skill : I do not know the answer to that.

Senator WONG: Next step: once your staff receive the automated email, what then occurs?

Mr Skill : The pass access is revoked.

Senator WONG: How quickly?

Mr Skill : As I said before, it depends on the volume of these arriving. Generally it is immediately, but if they receive a large number as a result of Finance processing large numbers of changes then it may take them a couple of hours to work through them. It is not something that they do not treat as a priority.

Senator WONG: How many people work in this area?

Mr Skill : In the pass office? It depends on the time of day.

Senator WONG: Do you want to go through this step by step?

Mr Skill : No. I am happy to take that on notice and give you an overview of the full—

Senator WONG: How many people are engaged in the de-activation, as you describe it?

Mr Skill : I will have to check that.

Senator WONG: You do not know?

Mr Skill : No. I know the assistant director of security—

Senator WONG: We are talking one, two, five or 20?

Mr Skill : It would not be any more than the assistant director of security and potentially two or three in the pass office.

Senator WONG: And you can't tell me—do you track how long it takes? Do you have any KPIs in relation to receipt of the automated email, as you describe it, and formal de-activation of the pass?

Mr Skill : Not that I am aware of, but I can check that for you.

Senator WONG: So, you cannot tell us how long it might take to de-activate a pass?

Mr Skill : No.

Senator WONG: Or what the average time is or the longest time?

Mr Skill : No, I cannot.

Senator WONG: I can certainly say to you, anecdotally, that there are passes that were not de-activated for a substantial period of time. Are you aware of that?

Mr Skill : I am happy to take the information if people have it and have a look into it, but I am not aware of any that are—

Senator WONG: No, because this is a security issue for DPS. It should not rely on senators and members checking whether or not a pass has been de-activated for someone who does not work for them anymore. You are telling us that this is all okay because these people are—what was the phrase?—as lower risk, or threat; I cannot recall.

Mr Skill : A lower risk.

Senator WONG: But you do not even know how long it takes to de-activate a pass, and you cannot give the committee any assurance about whether any passes are in fact de-activated?

Mr Skill : I can give the committee the assurance that there is a process in place to capture that. There is also a broad-ranging review being undertaken into pass policy, including those passes on issue, access rights and the ability to sign people in et cetera. So we will be capturing all those issues as part of that review.

CHAIR: Senator Wong, I would ask you to conclude your questions, because there are two brief matters to be considered.

Senator WONG: Does that mean that a former staff member, if the pass had not been de-activated—because you cannot give any assurance that it is within any specified time frame—could not only access the building but could in fact access their former employing member's or senator's suite by showing their pass to security staff? Is that correct?

Mr Skill : Potentially, but that would be reliant upon their ability to swipe in at the entry points.

Senator WONG: And you cannot give any evidence to suggest that that happens within any reasonable time frame?

Mr Skill : I do not have that knowledge. It is not that I am not giving evidence; I just do not have the ability to give you that assurance at this point.

Senator WONG: Will the number of security personnel working on both sitting and non-sitting days be reduced during the trial period?

Mr Skill : Not immediately, no.

Senator WONG: The trial period is a very long period.

Mr Skill : It is. I say 'not immediately' because we will be monitoring the progress of the trial, and monitoring the flow of the traffic through the doors through the various points. As you would be aware, the demands on the guards as a result of this trial are changing. There is still the requirement to have the face-to-face, face-to-pass verification as part of the trial. That still requires guards on the points. What we are doing, though, is looking to reallocate some of the resources to be more mobile patrols, so we are actually targeting the threat internally.

Senator WONG: Here is the final question from me. I would like to know what the components are in the savings which have been calculated as a consequence of these revised arrangements.

CHAIR: And that would have to conclude your questioning, Senator Wong.

Ms Mills : We can certainly provide you with the rostering arrangements on notice, which will explain the costs.

Senator WONG: No, that is not what I asked for. You have given evidence to this committee—to Senator Heffernan, from recollection—of a $400,000 saving per annum as a result of this. You would have had to cost that. I want to know what is contained in that costing. Is there a staffing reduction included in that?

Ms Mills : If you mean, 'Are there fewer people at the gates?', the answer is, progressively, yes. If you mean, 'Are there fewer staff?', no.

Senator WONG: Are there fewer staff in security roles?

Ms Mills : No. The intention is that there will be less overtime paid, and that some of the resources will be used to have additional staff doing mobile patrols across the building.

Senator WONG: But fewer people doing overtime?

Ms Mills : Yes.

CHAIR: Senator Madigan has a supplementary on this.

Senator MADIGAN: Thank you. Further to Senator Wong's questioning, Ms Mills, Mr Skill, could you inform the committee how many times you have detected breaches by former members of staff of former members of parliament, whether House of Representatives or the Senate, and/or of other people's former staff—who claim to be working for another senator? How many breaches of that are there? I know of one, which was against myself. The Parliamentary Library informed me of that, which I appreciate. I would just like to know how many times it has occurred that the department knows of?

Mr Skill : I would have to take that on notice, to see what records we have of attempted entries or otherwise.

Senator MADIGAN: Thank you.

CHAIR: Senator Tillem.

Senator TILLEM: On the termination of employment of any employment contract, the staff member's email is also cancelled at the same point. Does the department have a process for getting in touch with a staff member to collect their pass, beyond an automatically generated email?

Mr Skill : The automatically generated email is from the Department of Finance to DPS. It is not necessarily to the staff member.

Senator TILLEM: How do you communicate with the staff member, at the cessation of their employment, to retrieve their security pass?

Mr Skill : We do not, necessarily.

Senator TILLEM: Okay.

CHAIR: You gave evidence before that it was via email.

Senator WONG: No, that is from the Department of Finance.

CHAIR: I beg your pardon.

Ms Mills : As I alluded to earlier, when we know in advance that somebody is leaving, such as with a change of member, we do write to the members, senators, ministers, et cetera with a checklist of things that need to be done as part of that process. It is partially covered but certainly you are right that it is not fully covered.

Senator TILLEM: So there are a whole lot of people—like the one Senator Wong pointed out—with these old passes at the moment that have not been collected. With the changed security protocols, it is conceivable that at any point, they might flash an old pass and walk through or get in with a crowd? Is that a fair call?

Mr Skill : No.

Senator TILLEM: I saw that happen this morning.

Mr Skill : Sorry?

Senator TILLEM: I saw it happen this morning as I was entering through the Senate entrance.

Mr Skill : That is interesting to know, and I will look at that. But, essentially, it is a requirement of every entry point that the face-to-pass verification be undertaken for every entrant that comes through the doors. The only exception are the MPs and senators whose identities are memorised by the guards.

Senator TILLEM: Sometimes.

Ms Mills : They try.

Mr Skill : They do try.

Senator TILLEM: And they do a great job. Thank you, Chair.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Tillem. That concludes the questioning of the Department of Parliamentary Services. Before I suspend proceedings, I want to point out that, Senator Hogg, this is your last estimates—unless you are coming back in another term?

The PRESIDENT: No, I think I will forgo that. I just want to place my appreciation on the record to all senators for their participation in this process. I have been a great advocate of Senate estimates from my early arrival in this place and I have no reason to think that this process is not a good process. I thank all the staff associated with the Senate Committee on Finance and Public Administration and the other Senate committees. Particularly, I would thank the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade committee. I have a long association with that committee and I wish the committee the best in the future.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Hogg. On behalf of the committee, I can say that we do appreciate your contribution as President of the Senate, and I hereby declare you officially liberated from Senate estimates.