Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee
18/11/2013
Estimates
PARLIAMENTARY DEPARTMENTS
Department of Parliamentary Services

Department of Parliamentary Services

CHAIR: Welcome. Senator Hogg has indicated he does not wish to make an opening statement.

The President : That is correct.

CHAIR: Would you like to make an opening statement, Ms Mills?

Ms Mills : Yes, thank you. The President just asked me if I have copies of my opening statement. I have only the one copy, but I am happy to table it later. Since the beginning of 2012-13 the department has been vigorously pursuing a transformational change agenda to reshape DPS into a more professional, outward-looking and service-focused department. The last financial year was therefore one of very significant transition across many areas of the department, marked by changes in senior management, functional realignments and an increased focus on quality service delivery. In its recently tabled annual report the department has outlined its programs and progress. I would like to draw the committee's attention now to just some of our achievements.

On 7 February the President tabled the department's response to the committee's inquiry into the performance of the Department of Parliamentary Services and on 21 March 2013 provided a further response to the recommendation. As previously advised at May estimates, the department developed an action plan to address the report's recommendations, as well as additional areas of concern raised by the committee. Substantial progress has been made against this plan.

An important theme of the report was the need for greater accountability and transparency. DPS now has a new corporate plan with a clear mission, key result areas, signposts of success and priorities. We reviewed our annual report and key performance indicators to enable us to provide more accurate and meaningful information. The first phase of these changes is reflected in the latest annual report. However, more significant improvements will occur in the 2013-14 annual report, based on the new structure introduced to our DPS portfolio budget statement for 2013-14.

Appointments to our new senior leadership group were made throughout 2012-13, enabling us to progress our structural realignment and put in place organisational building blocks for the transformation of DPS. I am pleased to report that two assistant secretaries recently commenced in the building management division, meaning that since 1 October the department's new divisional and branch structure is now fully in place. In the six weeks since their commencement, Mr McDonald and Mr Gordon have taken a detailed assessment of our asset management and planning and project management capabilities, in line with findings from the inquiry that these areas required significant strengthening. I am confident these new senior positions will help drive the improvements needed to give the parliament and community full confidence in DPS's custodianship of the Australian Parliament House.

This aim is commensurate with our determination to be a leading parliamentary agency in all areas of our endeavours. I am therefore pleased to report other changes, particularly in the area of ICT, over 2012-13. The 2012 review of information and communication technology for the parliament recommended an improved ICT service delivery model for the whole of parliament, to be provided by DPS, and, as well, the establishment of a one-stop-shop for parliamentarians ICT needs. It further recommended that parliamentarians have greater flexibility in selecting their ICT equipment, as part of their entitlement.

Thanks to the endeavours of the chief information officer and her team, and the strong support of the presiding officers and members of the ICT advisory board, PICTAB, those goals have been achieved. In July 2013, DPS took over full responsibility for parliamentary ICT and has introduced a new flexible model for the provision of ICT services to parliament and to individual parliamentarians. This work has been underpinned by a new Parliament of Australia ICT strategic plan, which was recently endorsed by the Presiding Officers and is driven by the theme of 'any time, any place and on any device'.

DPS is acutely aware of the increasingly mobile environment in which parliamentarians operate. As well as introducing new services to respond to this, such as ParlView and the new entitlement model, we are also regularly reviewing our existing services to ensure they continue to meet needs. For example, in 2012-13, we saw the rollout of some major enhancements to library services. Recognising the importance of electronic media to senators and members, in September 2012 the library launched a new and better platform for our electronic media monitoring service, known as EMMS, which records news and current affairs broadcasts. For the first time, senators and members and able to save and download this content. We have also increased our coverage of TV and radio stations, and clients now have access to stations such as CNN, Sky News Business and the Australia Network.

In December 2012, the Parliamentary Library launched a new client services intranet portal. This is the main service access point for library clients, linking to new services, library catalogues, publications, data bases, online mapping services and staff directories.

A significant focus for the department since the last estimates has been our preparation for the 44th parliament. It has provided us with an opportunity to engage with new and returning parliamentarians and introduce them to the range of ongoing and new high quality services provided by DPS. It has also offered an opportunity for DPS to review some of the ways its other programs work and to pursue more efficient and effective ways of delivering these services. For example, the Parliamentary Library has trained a cohort of contact officers for new senators and members and produced a briefing book for the 44th parliament—a volume of short, strategic level snapshots of big issues and which are expected to feature in the early months of the new parliament.

The library has also provided an enhanced level of service to senators and members, preparing for each new and returning parliamentarian an individualised information pack, including a tailored pack of maps, data and publications relating to their particular electorate or state. This effort has been complemented by new customer service roles and information packs on the other activities and programs of the Department of Parliamentary Services to help building occupants connect to new services more easily. These initiatives were a direct response to the findings of the 2012 customer survey, which asked for easier access to DPS services.

These achievements have been made in a difficult financial environment. At the last estimates, I reported that the department would have a deficit in 2012-13. Since then, further MYEFO adjustments have resulted in further budget reductions over the forward estimates. Another round of efficiency dividends was announced during the election campaign. The department's operational budget has not increased significantly since 2004-05, when it was formed. In fact, in real terms it had reduced by more than 22 per cent over this period. Much has been done over these years to improve the efficiency of DPS. For example, staff numbers have been significantly reduced. The library has gone from 139 FTE to 121 staff, while major cuts were made in security, visitor services and heritage, particularly in the 2009-10 financial year.

DPS is determined to ensure that it is as efficient as possible, but some of these changes have resulted in the loss of expertise not easily replaced and in some cases inefficiencies have resulted. For instance, overtime has increased in security as demand for services in the 43rd parliament were high. In this context, the forthcoming financial year presents us with major challenges and the department will need to make substantial changes to its program and the services it is managing in order to meet its operating budget over the forward estimates. These are presently the subject of discussions with the presiding officers. Thank you.

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

Dr Heriot : No, thank you.

Senator FAULKNER: I want to ask a question arising from the answer that I received to a question on notice from the budget estimates hearings, question 101. It related to terracotta pots. Can you help me with that, please?

Ms Mills : Yes, I can.

Senator FAULKNER: There were originally 1,303 of these things. A stocktake was done in June 2013. Was that stocktake undertaken as a result of my question?

Ms Mills : I asked for an update and was told that there had not been a recent one, so yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Thank you. The stocktake showed that there are now 942 of these terracotta pots left in Parliament House. That is correct, isn't it?

Ms Mills : That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER: That is a shortfall of 361 of them.

Ms Mills : Yes. There has been a significant reduction over the years.

Senator FAULKNER: What happened to them?

Ms Mills : As I have indicated previously, we are unable to find disposal records regarding the pots that are no longer in Parliament House.

Senator FAULKNER: These things are quite heavy, aren't they? How much do they weigh?

Ms Mills : There are four sizes of pots. The largest size are very heavy indeed and would need two people to move them. There were 891 of those originally. The smallest pot is more like a regular pot plant size. There were 97 of those.

Senator FAULKNER: What do the smallest ones weigh?

Ms Mills : Several kilograms. They are terracotta, so they are all weighty.

Senator FAULKNER: They are pretty heavy, aren't they? I am assuming that no-one is suggesting that the 361 have been pinched.

Ms Mills : No. We understand—and I regret that I have to rely on anecdotal advice—that there was some disposal via public auction in 1995-96 by the former Joint House Department. But I am unable to verify that and I am certainly unable to tell you how many pots or what value they may have beenr at that time.

Senator FAULKNER: So apart from the fact that there are 361 pots, which weigh about half-a-tonne, missing, we do not know anything else about where they have gone?

Ms Mills : Regrettably not.

Senator FAULKNER: That is not very good, is it?

Ms Mills : No. As I said, we have endeavoured to make a thorough search of the records of the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Joint House Department and have been unable to bring an answer to this table.

Senator FAULKNER: Does that pattern apply to other equipment around the building?

Ms Mills : I cannot answer that definitively, because I do not know what is absent. But I can—

Senator FAULKNER: Because I asked a question at estimates about missing terracotta pots, we have now found that 361 have gone west. What else has gone west?

Ms Mills : One of the challenges with the terracotta pots was that they as individual items were not recorded on the department's asset register. Although their cumulative value was obviously significant, they were not recorded as items in the asset register. I believe that the items that historically were recorded on the asset register are still known. As you are also aware, as a result of initiatives put in place largely by the committee previously, the department has undertaken a lot of work in the last two years to verify its asset register. We are presently finalising that work with the chamber departments at the moment to ensure that all heritage items are on a reliable, single asset register.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but what is disappointing about this—and I realise that it has happened historically—is that it is only as a result of questioning at committees like this that we found that no-one knows where 361 very heavy pots are. They have gone missing. I cannot accuse anyone of being light-fingered, because you would need a forklift truck to move the damn things they are so heavy.

Ms Mills : Regrettably, all that I can do is give you my commitment and the commitment of DPS moving forward that these things are being well recorded now and that such an event will not occur in the future.

Senator FAULKNER: Righto. Question on notice 100 related to recruitment. The answer looks at the period from 1 July 2012 to 31 March 2013. Fifty-five new employees were recruited to DPS, 19 ongoing and 36 non-ongoing. Ms Mills, when you look at where these particular employees were recruited from, apart from the broad category 'private enterprise', there seems to be a very high number from the Department of Human Services. Is that just happenstance? It does not look like happenstance, does it?

Ms Mills : There are probably three reasons behind that. Through a competitive process, we have recruited some senior executives from the Department of Human Services. That has enhanced our reputation in a number of areas because of their high reputation within that organisation. That has in turn attracted other applicants from that area. The second issue is that DHS is very large department undergoing very major reform due to its merger. Therefore, we have probably been fortunate in the fact that a number of very highly qualified people have in fact been looking for alternative employment opportunities and DPS was at the same time in the marketplace. The third factor is that we are a service delivery organisation, as I have stressed many times, and there are only a certain number of Australian Public Service organisations that have a similar service focus, and DHS is one of those.

Senator FAULKNER: In this case, they are all ongoing employees, aren't they? There are no non-ongoing employees from the Department of Human Services, unlike other agencies. They are all ongoing employees. Can you confirm that?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: How many of those were subject to a merit selection process?

Ms Mills : I would have to take the exact number of which were through interview and which were through direct transfer. But all of them went through an appropriate process. They were either interviewed following advertisement or interviewed and referee checked as part of a transfer process, which is also part of the APS system.

Senator FAULKNER: I used the terminology 'merit selection process'; you used the terminology 'appropriate process'. My question was: how many went through a merit selection process? Can you help me with that? I am not asking about whether they went through an 'appropriate' process.

Ms Mills : If you mean by 'merit', whether the position was externally advertised, I would have to take on notice the split between the two recruitment processes.

Senator FAULKNER: I would appreciate that. I was very perplexed at the pattern and wondered if I was missing something with the numbers coming from the Department of Human Services being far higher than the numbers from any other agency or department.

Ms Mills : As I indicated in my earlier answer, I believe that there are very legitimate reasons for that. Might I also say—

Senator FAULKNER: I would hope that the reasons were legitimate. I just wondered what they were.

Ms Mills : As I said, I think that there is a combination of factors: the scale of the Department of Human Services, the fact that it was going through significant change, the fact that a lot of the work parallels the type of work and expertise required in DPS. I can say with conviction that each of the people who has been recruited has done an exceptional job in the time that they have been at DPS.

Senator FAULKNER: Okay. Could the same information that was provided in the answer to question 100 be updated from the period 1 April to the end of October?

Ms Mills : Certainly. We are happy to do that.

Senator FAULKNER: That would be helpful. I would like to have a look at that when it is made available. With any change of government, there are significant demands placed on DPS, as we would appreciate, in terms of the change of offices and the like. That is understood by all of us. Could you briefly summarise for the benefit of the committee, please, what upgrades have occurred in the ministerial wing as a result of the change of government.

Ms Mills : Yes. Within the ministerial wing, the department is principally responsible for the special suites—that is, the suites belonging to the Prime Minister and the opposition leader and also the cabinet room. In the offices of the Prime Minister and the opposition leader, we undertook minor works during the period between the 43rd and the 44th parliament. I am not able to separate the other two suites, the suites of the Speaker and the President. But the value of those works this financial year has been $62,344 to date. The principal work carried out in the two areas of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition's suites relate to some carpet replacement and general patching and painting in the Prime Minister's office and similar patching and painting work in the Leader of the Opposition's office.

Senator FAULKNER: It does appear from the odd photograph I have seen—and I have not been any closer to the Prime Minister's office than that and would not expect to be—that Mister Abbott, unlike some previous incumbents of the office, has tried to ensure that the integrity of the building heritage is maintained. I am being generous there, but I think that is a fair thing to say from what I have seen in photographs and film footage. Is that right?

Ms Mills : Yes, absolutely. I believe there is quite an amount of work that needs to be done in the Prime Minister's office over the next little while because it has not been done for quite a long time, particularly the dining room, which because of the closure of the Lodge the Prime Minister is presently using. We have had some very constructive discussions with his office about our need to undertake work there for maintenance purposes in line with the heritage directions of the building.

Senator FAULKNER: So you can assure us that that is the case in other offices as well—that there is very much a commitment to maintaining the building heritage in terms of internal fixtures and the like?

Ms Mills : Certainly, with the members of the various parties with whom we have met as part of the changeover process there has been. As part of our induction program for new members and senators, we actually highlighted as background information to them the story of the building and the reason that the design of their individual offices is so important. We have also been working quite recently with the Deputy Prime Minister, who had asked some questions about his office. We had staff from heritage attend there last week and I had a very positive discussion about the reason behind his office design and layout. I am confident that many members of the parliament are now better informed than ever before about the purpose of the heritage design of their offices and they are working very well with us on maintaining that.

Senator FAULKNER: Good. So I can be assured, then, the Chesterfield lounges have not made a re-emergence in the building?

Ms Mills : The Chesterfield lounges never left the building and they are still in the building, but, again, as I want to stress—

Senator FAULKNER: They are in the building; 'in pride of place in an office' would be a better way of using the language.

Ms Mills : They have been in an office for the last six years and they continue to be in an office.

Senator FAULKNER: They are in an office?

Ms Mills : Yes, they are.

CHAIR: It is not yours.

Senator FAULKNER: It is not mine, no—I can assure you of that. What office are they in?

Ms Mills : Minister Andrews's office.

Senator FAULKNER: Are you saying that they were previously in Mr Andrews's office before his recent appointment to the ministry?

Ms Mills : That is right, yes.

Senator FAULKNER: So the Chesterfield's are being well used?

Ms Mills : Yes, they are.

Senator FAULKNER: What did you do with your advice regarding the architectural heritage of the building with Mr Andrews? That was lost on him, was it?

Ms Mills : We advise all members and senators when they ask for work in their rooms about what the original design intent was, and we negotiate with them if there is a particular need that they have. I think the overarching thing for us is to ensure that no changes are made that cannot be put back into their original condition if that is what is required from a heritage point of view.

Senator FAULKNER: But that is all you do? You made a grandiloquent statement earlier, which I was pleased to hear, about ensuring that the furniture is consistent with the heritage values of the building, so I am not entirely clear how you have dropped the ball here in relation to Mr Andrews or who has dropped the ball.

Ms Mills : I guess it was our view that this had been a practice for six years. It was a decision that had been made previously. Whilst it is not maintaining it to 100 per cent heritage value, the furniture is being taken care of and will be put back into that office in the future.

Senator FAULKNER: I'm sure he would take care of it, but you have not thought of sending him off to a re-education camp or anything like that?

Ms Mills : As I say, we advise members and senators about the intent of the heritage. We work as closely as we possibly can on that design intent. But there are times that people ask for specific things in their offices—and, historically, they have been permitted to do that. We have a lot less of that now but we still have some people who have, for many years, been able to make their own choices. I guess we are in a situation of transition.

Senator FAULKNER: I suppose the office that gets the most public awareness would be the Prime Minister's office, because of visiting dignitaries and the like—which is understandable. And in recent years the architectural and heritage values of that office have been very much consistent with the original plans for Parliament House. You have been able to say to us today that Mr Abbott has maintained that approach.

Ms Mills : Yes. If I can give an example, I understand that for a number of years the dining room was not used as a dining room and there were in fact plans—in 2006 or 2007, I think—to radically reshape that. I have had very constructive discussions with the new people responsible for his office about maintaining the dining room as a dining room and not proceeding with other than significant maintenance work that is required there—but not the fundamental changes that were previously suggested.

Senator FAULKNER: Fair enough. So any refurbishment of the PM's and Leader of the Opposition's offices—and, I assume you are also saying the Speaker's and the President's offices—have been consistent with the sorts of values that we are talking about?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: That is good. Apart from furniture and fittings, has DPS been responsible for providing any other accessories for the relevant offices?

Ms Mills : Other than the artwork, which is our regular responsibility, no.

Senator FAULKNER: Just artwork?

Ms Mills : That I can think of. If you had something particular in mind—

Senator FAULKNER: No. Well, in members and senators offices there are things like crockery, cutlery and artwork—those sorts of things. I was just checking with you.

Ms Mills : With crockery and cutlery: that is a sort-of shared responsibility across the department—there are different arrangements for each of the areas. In the Senate they have traditionally, for a number of years, provided the crockery to the senators. We have traditionally provided that in the House of Representatives. And we have a mixed arrangement with the Department of Finance for everything in the ministerial wing.

Senator FAULKNER: So how does the mixed arrangement work?

Ms Mills : In the past DPS has purchased and supplied crockery for the House of Representatives and the ministerial wing. This year, because of our financial difficulties, we have negotiated an arrangement with the Department of Finance, where they would reimburse. We have looked to fit out based on gaps in the crockery requirements, rather than fully new sets regardless of whether there was existing crockery.

Senator FAULKNER: Okay, let us pick an example. Why don't we just pick the Prime Minister's office, for example. Has there been any new crockery, cutlery or artworks—although artworks are not relevant for reimbursement, but those sorts of accessories—that have been reimbursed by the Department of Finance?

Ms Mills : I would have to take the crockery question on notice, because I am not sure how it has been allocated in individual offices.

Senator WONG: I do not understand that answer.

Ms Mills : Sorry, the senator asked me—

Senator WONG: I am sitting next to him. I heard his question but I don't understand the answer.

Senator FAULKNER: She is saying she understood me but not you!

Ms Mills : Yes, I understand that.

Senator WONG: Well, in this particular instance!

Ms Mills : My answer is that I am not aware of which individual offices new crockery has been placed in.

Senator WONG: Is someone here aware of that? Presumably, if it is a reimbursement arrangement it goes through DPS before Finance considers paying it. Surely there is someone sitting here who can tell us what crockery or cutlery has been purchased or ordered. Who is responsible for that?

Ms Mills : I can get that information and provide it to you shortly, but I do not have someone in the room at the moment with that data.

Senator WONG: We are in the parliament, so presumably they cannot be far away.

Ms Mills : That is right.

Senator WONG: Can we come back to that, then?

Ms Mills : Absolutely.

Senator WONG: Thank you.

Senator FAULKNER: When did the reimbursement process with the Department of Finance start? Because that is new, as far as I am aware—you can tell me if I am right about that.

Ms Mills : That is right. As I said, in the past DPS has basically funded items without any co-contribution model. I am not sure when it started, but in the Senate a number of years ago the decision was made that they would provide the crockery directly. As part of our transition to the 44th parliament, and our discussions around our financial situation with other departments, we talked about the need to have either assistance with that or to not provide the number of new crockery items that we had in the past. The Department of Finance have been working with us on what is a legitimate cost for the ministerial wing as opposed to something that DPS has traditionally paid but is now in financial difficulty and cannot carry the costs of into the future.

Senator FAULKNER: But, unless you are going to Tiffany's or something, it is not going to be a massive saving for you. What are we talking about—crockery and cutlery?

Ms Mills : It is about $80,000.

Senator WONG: For what?

Ms Mills : About $80,000 was the estimate for replacing the crockery in the same model that was used previously.

Senator FAULKNER: Sorry, you have replaced the crockery?

Ms Mills : Sorry, the previous policy was to automatically replace it—and that cost was around $80,000.

Senator FAULKNER: Okay. So, let us come back to the arrangements with the Department of Finance. Do you have an MOU or just a broad—

Ms Mills : We have a very longstanding MOU, yes.

Senator FAULKNER: You said it was not longstanding; you said it was new.

Ms Mills : I am sorry: there is an MOU between the Department of Finance and ourselves that has operated since 1988, which indicates their shared arrangements. In this situation, previously the Department of Parliamentary Services had not asked for a co-contribution under that MOU. At the start of the 44th parliament, looking at the potential cost, and looking at the department's financial position, for the first time I used that MOU to approach the Department of Finance as to whether they would be in a position to co-contribute or to subsidise, or in fact to pay for, new crockery.

Senator FAULKNER: And they have agreed to that?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: So when did that new co-contribution commence?

Ms Mills : At the beginning of this parliament.

Senator FAULKNER: Okay. And it relates to, as we have heard, crockery and cutlery—is there anything else it relates to?

Ms Mills : At this stage those are the items that came up as urgent expenditure that we discussed. However, there have been discussions over the last 12 months around updating the MOU much more broadly. As I said, it is an MOU that has operated since 1988. And the costs of the ministerial wing, along with the costs across the building more broadly, have increased over time. There has never been a specific appropriation for those costs. So, part of our discussions with the Department of Finance, whilst it has been on the matter of crockery, have also been broader about what is the appropriate model for funding services to the ministerial wing going forward.

Senator FAULKNER: Just so we are clear on the co-contribution: does it apply only to the offices that you have identified—in other words, the PM's, the Leader of the Opposition's, the Presiding Officers and the Cabinet room?

Ms Mills : No, previously we provided crockery in all of the ministerial wing offices.

Senator WONG: Yes, but the co-contribution arrangement—

Ms Mills : Whatever the cost is in the ministerial wing: that is the discussion we are having; not just about special suites.

Senator FAULKNER: Let us cut to the chase, then: has the crockery been replaced in the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : As I said, I do not know about individual offices. I have only been discussing it as a broad number of offices.

Senator WONG: But we are getting someone to—

Ms Mills : I am getting someone to answer that, yes.

Senator WONG: Okay. You mentioned $80,000 and the urgent expenditure we were faced with. Just explain to me the genesis of that. What came to you, from whom, that led you to such concern that you approached the Department of Finance for a co-contribution arrangement?

Ms Mills : My department's financial position is very difficult.

Senator WONG: I am perfectly aware of that, but I am asking what expenditure request came.

Ms Mills : It came forward as: what is the list of items that are usually procured as part of a changeover of parliament and what are the activities that we normal expend funds on in a changeover over of parliament? Replacement of crockery was one of them. And there is a lengthy list of items that have traditionally been provided—a number of glasses, cups et cetera.

Senator WONG: From whom did this list come?

Ms Mills : This list exists in the Department of Parliamentary Service's service directory. My understanding is that it has been in place for many years and the items have traditionally just been replaced. As I said, our financial position was such that I have been exploring all of our areas of expenditure. I spoke to the Department of Finance to confirm whether in fact a full new set of crockery was required or whether some of the crockery remained and could continue to be used—and, indeed, if crockery did need to be replaced, whether there was some way in which they could financially contribute to that, in the spirit of the wider MOU.

Senator FAULKNER: I am pleased that you did that. I was not aware that crockery or cutlery were replaced in a Prime Minister's office every time we had a new parliament. One or two prime ministers over the years have wielded the odd knife, but that is about it!

Ms Mills : I can confirm that we have not replaced any crockery in the Prime Minister's office as part of this process. But it is in other ministerial suites. I guess over the period of time of a parliament items are broken or lost.

Senator FAULKNER: Sure. But there is replacing broken items and there is, if you like, whole new services—is that the correct term?

Senator WONG: Dinner services.

Senator FAULKNER: Dinner services—or whatever. And I thought you were saying that the tradition had been at the beginning of each parliament for a whole new crockery service—

Ms Mills : That is what I was advised, yes. This is obviously the first time I have been here for a changeover, but that was the advice I received.

Senator FAULKNER: Okay. And cutlery is the same?

Ms Mills : Cutlery less so, principally—

Senator FAULKNER: There would not be so many breakages.

Ms Mills : No. It has principally been around—

Senator FAULKNER: Perhaps one or two people might go out of the office with a knife inserted in their back or something like that, but you couldn't imagine too many would go missing.

Ms Mills : No, the principle issue is around the crockery sets and glasses.

Senator FAULKNER: So you are going to come back to us—

Ms Mills : I can confirm that we have not put anything new into the Prime Minister's office. And I am getting the costs brought over while we are here.

Senator FAULKNER: Thank you.

Senator WONG: To date have any requests been made for new crockery or cutlery?

Ms Mills : In the Prime Minister's office? Not that I am aware of.

Senator WONG: How would they usually be made?

Ms Mills : Through the Department of Finance.

Senator WONG: Let us say the Prime Minister's office needed new cutlery, or a dinner set had been broken et cetera. What would the process be?

Ms Mills : There are two representatives of the Department of Finance who are based in the ministerial wing and they coordinate requests for work in there—and, if it is something that relates to the Department of Parliamentary Services, they bring it to our attention.

Senator WONG: So you only get told about a request from a minister for additional crockery or cutlery by the Department of Finance? I find that—

Ms Mills : In general, that is the model that has operated here for a long time.

Senator WONG: Well, there you go. I probably didn't ask for enough crockery!

Senator FAULKNER: There was a little argy-bargy earlier on at the committee when Senator Ludwig was addressing the issue of the bookshelves being possibly transferred to the Attorney-General's office. Has that been something that DPS has been engaged in? It has not happened, we have heard.

Ms Mills : We have been engaged only from the point of view of providing heritage advice and technical advice as to whether the bookcase could physically be relocated.

Senator FAULKNER: And what was your heritage advice?

Ms Mills : That it was not part of the original heritage design and that, if it were necessary for storage, it would be desirable that it were built from similar materials and to a similar standard and that it was built in a way that could be removed if that need were no longer there.

Senator FAULKNER: Were you aware of a request for the shelves to be transferred?

Ms Mills : We did not have involvement in their original installation, so it was only when we were asked whether they could be moved.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but you would not be providing heritage advice unless someone made you aware of the issue.

Ms Mills : That is right. It was brought to our attention by the Department of the Senate that this request had been made—and, again, by the Department of Finance, because of their responsibility in the Ministerial Wing.

Senator FAULKNER: So the Department of Finance and Department of the Senate asked DPS for a heritage assessment on whether the bookshelves that were located in Senator Brandis's office could effectively be transferred to the ministerial wing. Have I got that right?

Ms Mills : And the technical advice about whether it could physically be broken down, moved and rebuilt—so our maintenance staff as well.

Senator FAULKNER: So the heritage advice was, 'Don't do it'? I am wrapping it up in two words, but—

Ms Mills : The heritage advice was that they are not part of the original design intent of those offices. As I have said earlier, where there are circumstances where some particular need for a design or a particular addition to an office is there, we would prefer that to be done in a way that, firstly, is consistent with the overall design and, secondly, is in a way that can be removed without damaging the original heritage.

Senator FAULKNER: And the technical advice was?

Ms Mills : That it could not be broken down and relocated. It would be difficult to do that the way it had been built.

CHAIR: I might interrupt there because I understand there are other senators that have some questions and I had a few questions along the same vein. If you do not mind, I will give you pause to draw breath.

Senator FAULKNER: By all means.

CHAIR: Ms Mills, would you be able to advise me of the last time the cutlery was replaced in the Prime Minister's office?

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

CHAIR: Thank you. Could you also advise me of the cost of that replacement? You can take that on notice as well.

Ms Mills : Yes.

CHAIR: I want to return to an earlier statement you said about the refurbishment of the Prime Minister's office and the office of the Leader of the Opposition at a cost of $62,344.

Ms Mills : That included work in all five suites during the break. I was not able to break that down into individual suites. That also includes the President's and Speaker's suites and the cabinet office.

CHAIR: Okay. In general terms, what did that refurbishment undertake?

Ms Mills : We have been doing work around carpet replacement in the Prime Minister's office and carpet cleaning, some painting and patching, and general maintenance work. We do not often get an opportunity to go into those offices to do catch-up work because they are always in use.

CHAIR: Is there anything out of the ordinary in the process that was applied? Was there a state of disrepair in the offices?

Ms Mills : There is nothing out of the ordinary in the sense that, because access is often difficult, in an ideal world some of that maintenance work would be done more regularly. Sometimes there is catch-up work above and beyond what we would like. To give an example, in both the office of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister's office we still have the original carpet. In the main we have original curtains, original furniture, sometimes still the original upholstery. A lot of that work does need to be done now. We have had an opportunity to do some of the quicker work in the intervening period, but more needs to be done to keep those at a standard that is appropriate for this building.

CHAIR: You might want to take this on notice, but are you able to provide a breakdown of that $62,000 for the respective expenditure per office?

Ms Mills : I am certainly happy to take that on notice.

CHAIR: Thank you very much. How many people work in the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : I do not have direct responsibility for employment, so you would have to ask the Department of Finance.

CHAIR: Okay, I will pass that on. It has been brought to my attention that in some of the ministerial offices—and perhaps in the Prime Minister's office in particular—there are a lot of people working there. As the offices have grown over the years, some of the facilities might not be suitable or appropriate from an occupational health and safety perspective to accommodate the number of people. Some of the staff have expressed to me over the years that perhaps 20, 30 or 40 people trying to get in the same size kitchenette in a backbench office is really a bit of a hazard. Has the department considered or received any discussions about the occupational health and safety of the old design?

Ms Mills : Yes, we have. I think this is something consistent across the ministerial wing, where there are many more people employed than in the original design. Remembering that the building has been open for 25 years, and the design goes back even further than that. Certainly in the Prime Minister's office this Prime Minister and at least the last two before him have had significantly larger numbers of staff than were first envisaged. As we speak we are looking at whether we can provide additional kitchenette and other facilities from a WHS perspective to ensure that people are working in an appropriate environment. Again, these people work very long hours and are required to be in the office. It is difficult for them to leave the spaces. So, just as we have in other areas, we are looking at what refurbishment might need to happen to ensure that the building is maintained adequately and work health and safety is also prioritised.

CHAIR: You also mentioned, as part of the works that have been planned or investigated at the moment, the Prime Minister's dining room, which was not used for many years because it was deemed to be—I will paraphrase what you said—not in an appropriate state of repair.

Ms Mills : I think there are a number of different reasons why it has not been used, but the result has been that work that might have normally been done if it were in regular use as a dining room simply was not done. We have very severe markings in the mirror work on the walls. The glue has come out from behind, and it is a very unattractive look. The curtains are 25 years old and are showing their age a little bit.

CHAIR: They'll be back in fashion before you know it!

Ms Mills : The fabric on the dining chairs is in extremely poor condition, and it is imperative that it be replaced and reupholstered. The walls are made of a Thai silk with a special backing which has deteriorated over 25 years. It is very sagging and loose and, again, not an appropriate standard for anyone's office, let alone the Prime Minister of the country.

CHAIR: You said—I will stand corrected—that quotes had been undertaken for the refurbishment of that dining room in 2006-07. Is that correct?

Ms Mills : In approximately 2006-07 there was work done on a major refurbishment of that area which included removing the wall. There is presently a wall between a sitting room and the dining room, and the proposal then was to remove it and make it more open plan, which is a design similarly offered in the office of the Leader of the Opposition, which is an open-plan area. That work was not proceeded with. I understand the estimate was in excess of $600,000 to do that work. What we are proposing and believe is well overdue in that area is much more modest.

CHAIR: Thank you very much.

Senator LUDLAM: I have a question for IT support if those people are here. As a member of the parliamentary ICT advisory board, I am well aware of the enormous effort that gets put in behind the scenes to facilitate and advance the work that this parliament and its committees do, so I want to open with a note of appreciation from my colleagues and me. On the subject of security, we are all changing our passwords regularly and using remote access tokens because collectively we understand that security in here is important. Can you give us a brief run-down of the number of attempted cyberintrusions into the APH system over the last year?

Ms Seittenranta : We get an average of about 400 incidents of malware a month in the parliamentary computing network. In the last three months we have also had three specific phishing-type attempts against various users on the parliamentary computing network. All of those were part of broader campaigns across the government and other organisations, so none of them were specifically about us, but we have had a set of those.

Senator LUDLAM: None of those were specifically about parliament? There were just part of what is generally—

Ms Seittenranta : They were part of broader campaigns targeting multiple government agencies. In each case we received advice from the Australian Signals Directorate about the nature of those attempts and remediation actions.

Senator LUDLAM: Are you aware of any that were targeting parliament specifically?

Ms Seittenranta : No.

Senator LUDLAM: All of our staff and I presume most of the building runs in Microsoft software. Are there any other operating systems in widespread use under your purview?

Ms Seittenranta : Microsoft Windows is the most prevalent operating system we have. We do have people now with Apple devices which run the iOS operating system and we have a small number of users who are using Android-type telephones.

Senator LUDLAM: But, in terms of the servers that are used in here, they are mostly Microsoft.

Ms Seittenranta : They are mostly Microsoft. We do have some Unix servers in the data centre.

Senator LUDLAM: I figured. We know that Microsoft software contains a back door which is utilised by the US NSA and Microsoft has been very active in assisting the NSA to circumvent the company's own encryption standards. What can you tell the committee about the network-level security threats posed by using Microsoft software given that it has been backdoored by foreign intelligence agencies?

Ms Seittenranta : I would have to take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: Why is that?

Ms Seittenranta : It is not a level of detail that I am familiar with.

Senator LUDLAM: I am not sure that I would call it detail. For example, do we provide for a specific patch against that back door, or is the parliament's network open to intrusion by the US government?

Ms Seittenranta : We implement the patches provided by the Microsoft organisation to their systems based on vulnerabilities that they are aware of. We do not get specific advice on vulnerabilities that may or may not be built into the software.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay, but you are aware that Microsoft is under a legal obligation to allow the US NSA access to its servers and its hosting services.

Ms Seittenranta : We are aware that there are rumours to be things like that around, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: It is not a rumour; we have primary source documentation and know that is correct.

Ms Seittenranta : We do not have capabilities to create any patches for vulnerabilities of that nature. We are dependent on what the industry provides us and advice that we might get from the Australian Signals Directorate.

Senator LUDLAM: So should parliamentarians and staff working in this building assume that we are exposed to that level of intrusion.

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, I suppose you should be able to assume that. Also, it probably should be noted that our network is not a protected network. It is unclassified.

Senator LUDLAM: Yes. What about ministerial?

Ms Seittenranta : For ministers their home departments provide their IT. Each minister has access to the parliamentary computing network in the same way as backbenchers.

Senator LUDLAM: I would have to chase the departments around this building one after another to see what they do, wouldn't I?

Ms Seittenranta : To see what they do.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. But, as far as the work of ordinary MPs—everybody sitting around these tables and most of the people behind—that back door is in effect? You have not taken any actions to remedy that security hole that has been opened by the NSA?

Ms Seittenranta : No, we would not have taken any specific action.

Senator LUDLAM: Is there any reason why not? Could I request that you might take that action on behalf of all of us?

Ms Seittenranta : We would be dependent on somebody being able to provide us appropriate patches to close that. We do not have the technical skills to create patches to close that nature of vulnerability, so we would have to take that on notice to work with the Australian Signals Directorate.

Senator LUDLAM: I agree that they would be the ones with that expertise. You said you were aware of the rumours, as you called them. Have you sought to verify whether those rumours are correct? Have you called on the ASD to date to provide you with advice on the fact that all of our email, calendars and data traffic in this parliament has been exposed to a fairly serious security flaw?

Ms Seittenranta : We have not had a discussion with the ASD specific to any particular nation-state. We have had some general discussions about potential intents from all styles of potential threats—a nation-state, hacktivists or organised crime. So we have some regular conversations with them.

Senator LUDLAM: But, if the Chinese government had opened a back door in the operating system of every device in this room—indeed, in this building—it would have been a gargantuan scandal and, presumably, you would have called the ASD as soon as you were notified. Is it the fact that it is the United States government that means you have taken this rather more relaxed attitude?

Ms Seittenranta : No, we have not considered any differences between any nation-states.

Senator LUDLAM: So if the Chinese government, to use that as an example, had opened a security hole on every device in this building, you would not have sought advice?

Ms Seittenranta : We would have sought advice, yes.

Senator LUDLAM: But have you sought advice given that it is the US government that has done this to us?

Ms Seittenranta : No, we have not.

Senator LUDLAM: Why is that?

Ms Seittenranta : We have not been given any validation that that exposure exists or is there at the moment?

Senator LUDLAM: What sort of validation do you need? The primary documents are in the public domain that Microsoft is under a legal obligation to open that security hole. What validation are you awaiting? It has been in every newspaper on the planet for three or four months.

Ms Seittenranta : We would need some evidence that the exposure has been used against us. We have not had any.

Senator LUDLAM: Have you sought evidence?

Ms Seittenranta : We do not have that capability or the skills in our fairly small IT team to look for that sort of evidence. We would be dependent on advice from—

Senator LUDLAM: ASD?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Have you asked them?

Ms Seittenranta : We have not asked that specific question.

Senator LUDLAM: Why is that? Don't you think it's kind of remarkable? Every device in this building has been backdoored. You are not primarily responsible for security?

Ms Seittenranta : I am responsible for IT security.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay, so do we have a serious problem here or is this something you are perfectly relaxed and comfortable about?

Ms Seittenranta : I am not perfectly relaxed and comfortable that there would be an exposure, but it is not on that has been specifically on the top of our minds or specifically brought to our attention earlier on.

Senator LUDLAM: You are aware that security holes such as the one that we are discussing here are open to exploitation by parties other than the US NSA once they are open?

Ms Seittenranta : We are reliant on the Microsoft patching program for their systems.

Senator LUDLAM: And you are aware that Microsoft is under a legal obligation in the United States to leave the security vulnerability as built—that there will be no patches from Microsoft for this particular hole?

Ms Seittenranta : I would imagine that they would give us patches if it was open to other than the intended target or the intended recipient.

Senator LUDLAM: When you became aware that the security vulnerability existed that has been built into the software that we are all forced to use in this building, did you notify occupants of this building? Was there a memo that I missed?

Ms Seittenranta : No, there has not been notification.

Senator LUDLAM: Why is that?

Ms Seittenranta : It is just something that we have overlooked.

Senator LUDLAM: It is a pretty big thing to overlook, I would submit to you.

Ms Seittenranta : What we can do, now that you have brought this to our attention, is seek advice from ASD. Generally for exposure like that which would impact all of the government computing networks, not just ours, we would be expecting that they would give us some advice and guidance on how to treat that.

Senator LUDLAM: These vulnerabilities have been in the public domain for months. Were you waiting on an estimates session to give this some consideration? I am not sure what kind of trigger you would be seeking otherwise.

Ms Seittenranta : Normally the trigger would be that we would be getting advice from Australian Signals Directorate.

Senator FAULKNER: Do the risks include malware?

Ms Seittenranta : Malware is something that we get regularly through all sorts of means. We had over 400 incidents of what we would call stock-standard malware a month in the network.

Senator FAULKNER: How do you detect and remediate that risk?

Ms Seittenranta : For malware we have software systems that are designed to detect and clean out that style of things. There are a number of companies and we have got Trend Micro and a couple of other products which will help us detect.

Senator FAULKNER: Are those ongoing programs that you have got to address malware?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, they are.

Senator FAULKNER: All of them?

Ms Seittenranta : The ones that we have implemented are operating in real time all of the time on the network. They will pick the products that are known malware that have hit before. The companies who provide the software are constantly updating and releasing patches and patterns that help identify content that is malicious or potentially malicious and those products are blocked at the gateway.

Senator FAULKNER: We have got public wi-fi now available in the building, haven't we?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Can you just explain what that means in terms of any additional risk to the network?

Ms Seittenranta : We have not had any incidents of malware or things having been introduced through the public wi-fi. We have got firewalls that separate the public wi-fi from the rest of the network.

Senator FAULKNER: Could you say that last bit again, sorry?

Ms Seittenranta : We have firewalls that separate the public wi-fi from the remainder of the network and we have not had any instances that we have detected of any malware being introduced through the public wi-fi into the private parts of the network.

Senator FAULKNER: So that means there is no risk or no additional risk. Is that fair?

Ms Seittenranta : There is some additional risk but it has not eventuated. The likelihood is quite low. There are strong security protections between the various elements of the network.

Senator FAULKNER: If there is additional risk, are you doing anything to address it?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes, we have got the firewalls and we have got the monitoring and logging of what happens.

Senator FAULKNER: Do you actually test it for risk?

Ms Seittenranta : There have been risk assessments undertaken as part of the projects that implemented the wi-fi, and we do penetration testing.

Senator FAULKNER: And what was the original date in relation to wi-fi?

Ms Seittenranta : I do not have the original date, it preceded me. I can take that on notice.

Senator FAULKNER: Has there been ongoing testing since that time?

Ms Seittenranta : There is regular testing of penetration, but not constant testing of penetration.

Senator FAULKNER: And you are responsible for coordinating that testing?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes—or my teams are.

Senator FAULKNER: Your team, sure. And the results of that testing are reported to whom?

Ms Seittenranta : The results are reported internally. We also work with ASD on a series of capabilities and they do look at our traffic and also use their capabilities to help us monitor our environment.

Senator FAULKNER: And so on the basis of that you are able to make the comments you have made to me about risk and additional risk?

Ms Seittenranta : Yes.

Senator LUDLAM: Look, just by way of follow-up: I do not know whether you are aware that the ABC made an FOI request to the Attorney General's Department, maybe a month or six weeks ago. That was provided to us, that they had prepared a briefing for the Attorney-General—that is the former Attorney General—about PRISM. So this is about the NSA security program that has installed these back doors in major US service providers and software companies over a period of years.

The Attorney General's Department had briefed the attorney roughly two months prior to the revelations when the whistle-blower Edward Snowden put the issue into the public domain. Two months before that, the AG had been briefed by his department. I am just wondering, whether on or after that time, the Attorney General's Department provided a briefing to DPS, or to the Clerk, or to the Black Rod, or to the Senate IT or to the people who are responsible for the security of the network in this building?

Ms Seittenranta : I have not been provided with a briefing, I do not know what briefings other people have been provided on that matter.

Senator LUDLAM: I am inviting anybody at the table to speak up if you were provided a briefing by the AG's department or anybody.

Ms Mills : No we have not been.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay, thank you. So the AG knew and they did not think it—and I will follow these questions up with them later in the week—worth briefing the people responsible for security of this network that Australia's parliamentarians use, that that system had backed all of the software that we were all using in here. You had heard nothing from the AG's department?

Ms Seittenranta : Not specifically about PRISM and those back doors.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay, thank you. Has APH IT security staff engaged with the new cyber security centre on this issue in particular? Do you guys have a seat at that table?

Ms Seittenranta : We have not, to my awareness, had any particular discussions about PRISM and that exposure with the ASD or the new Cyber Security Operations Centre.

Senator LUDLAM: Okay. Now, your colleague came to the table just before we broke before. We were just wondering—the Chair was wondering out loud—whether you had had a message from the NSA. Do you have any information that you could enlighten us with?

Mr McCauley : I have had some discussions or communications with my Director of Security. They can advise that we are aware of such communications. We are patched, and there are no outbound messages that are sent to Microsoft or any other organisation that we are not aware of and that we would not then choose to select. And we are not aware of those types of backdoors, so to speak, for Microsoft to obtain that data. We have worked with ASD and they also monitor all outbound messages in conjunction with us as a partnership.

Senator LUDLAM: All right, this is interesting. It is also somewhat at odds with what your colleague had told us, but that is okay. I am presuming those patches have not been provided by Microsoft because it would be illegal under US law for them to do so. So is that something that your staff had written here?

Mr McCauley : The specific patches, I cannot comment on. I can take that on notice if required, but I have been advised that we have specific patches to negate these types of things as recommended from time to time by ASD. If there are any vulnerabilities discovered, again, any outbound requests for this type of data would be trapped, I am advised, at our security frameworks. And therefore we would choose as to whether we send them or not and I am not aware of us sending any such data to Microsoft.

Senator LUDLAM: I am trying to be very specific here; this is not a generalised question. The patches that you have installed to close those loopholes in the Microsoft OS and its various applications: have they been designed to prevent PRISM from collecting data or traffic?

Mr McCauley : They are not necessarily Microsoft patches; they are Firewall, another security-type gate, so to speak, that stops those sorts of requests going back to—

Senator LUDLAM: I know I am picking on Microsoft a little bit. I am presuming members of parliament and staff also use Facebook and various other applications which have been backdoored by the NSA. Are you telling us that the Parliament House firewall is designed to explicitly block data traffic going back—to block PRISM collection capabilities?

Mr McCauley : Not specifically for those applications. Again, we can monitor the traffic flow. If there were things detected or known of, as far as vulnerabilities were concerned, we would work with ASD to close those gaps—if any.

Senator LUDLAM: I am seriously trying to get a yes or no. Once I have it, I am happy to wind up. Has the parliament, and the applications and devices used by ourselves and our staff, been firewalled against use of the PRISM system in the United States?

Mr McCauley : I will take that on notice and follow it up for you.

Senator LUDLAM: It sort of sounded as if it had, but I am not sure you are walking back from that or whether you are not sure. What are you telling us exactly?

Mr McCauley : Not specifically for PRISM, as far as I am aware. But, again, there are processes in place which would generally prohibit these types of requests going out.

Senator LUDLAM: I would imagine so. What reaction did you and/or your staff have—or what action did you and your staff take—when those revelations became public? Your colleague has informed us that AGD did not provide you with a briefing. When those revelations broke into the public domain, did you take any specific action?

Mr McCauley : I believe my security staff had discussions with AGD around those revelations. As to what things were put in place to mitigate the risks, I would have to take that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: You are aware what the specific question I am asking is? I am interested in the PRISM program which, effectively, bifurcates traffic and leaves a copy on the NSA servers in the United States—whether this building is immune from that collection capability or not.

Mr McCauley : I understand your question and that is what I will take on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: Thank you for providing that additional information. That has been helpful. I have a couple of questions about the Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC. DPS has a contract, to the tune of nearly $1.4 million, with that corporation for software services. Can you tell us what kind of software that entity is working on for DPS?

Ms Seittenranta : There are a number of contracts with SAIC. I am not sure which specific one you are talking about, so I will take that on notice. But the types of products they provide include support for the ParlInfo system in the library—they have provided a product called TeraText which supports the search capability in that product. The company's software is also used in the bills system which supports the work of the chambers. They are developing the new Table Office production system for the chamber departments at the moment. So there are a number of contracts with them.

Senator LUDLAM: That is fairly serious stuff. Maybe on notice—because I know we are short of time—could you break down the contracts? I am interested in the dollar amounts, the dates they were initiated, their duration and exactly what services are being provided.

Ms Seittenranta : Some of those contracts might be with the chamber departments. They may not all be directly with us.

Senator LUDLAM: To the limits of what you are responsible for, please provide that information. If you are aware of other contracts, please give us some pointers so I know whom to chase. Is DPS aware of just how notorious this company is for false claims and misconduct allegations against it over federal tenders in the United States—and that in March 2012 it agreed to pay half a billion dollars to the City of New York after the company CEO admitted to criminal behaviour by employees on a contract? Did that behaviour come up when you were doing the due diligence on this company?

Ms Seittenranta : I would have to take that on notice. Some of these contracts are quite old. They are not new contracts.

Senator LUDLAM: But you are rolling them over. The original one went from February 2012 to 2013 and has just been extended to February 2015.

Ms Seittenranta : I am not sure which contract you are—

Senator LUDLAM: You have indicated that there are a number. On notice, will you please provide us with what due diligence you have done and whether you are aware of those specific allegations of misconduct—a half a billion dollars is a fairly serious breach penalty—and whether you spotted that behaviour before you rolled these contracts over.

Ms Seittenranta : I will take all that on notice.

Senator LUDLAM: That is very much appreciated. Thank you.

Senator DASTYARI: Before I ask my questions, I want to make express my appreciation to Ms Mills about the Parliamentary Library—how helpful they have been to new senators. I will go back to an issue which was touched on earlier regarding the Prime Minister's office. Please help me get an understanding of this. Are you saying that, since the change of government, apart from a bit of paint and a few other things, there have not been any major changes to the structure of the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : That is right. There has been no major work done in that office for a very long time. Around August last year we did do some refurbishment work of the timber panelling in the Prime Minister's main office. That was $19,500. That is a Huon pine wall, which should really be done every couple of years, but because access is difficult we had not been in there for many years, so it was quite imperative that we do that work.

Senator DASTYARI: So you are not responsible for the computer system within? I did not quite understand what that meant. Does that mean that you are responsible for the physical computers and the cameras and that but you are not responsible for the computer system?

Ms Mills : Unfortunately, it is a very complex model.

Senator DASTYARI: Yes.

Ms Mills : It is shared between departments. In the ministerial wing it is shared between the departments' responsibilities. We provide the PCN, the Parliamentary Computing Network. If a member of parliament who is a minister—whether that be the Prime Minister or someone else—is working with the finance department or their home department, they have a particular connection to that system. In terms of cameras and security, yes, that is a responsibility of the Department of Parliamentary Services.

Senator DASTYARI: Without, obviously, going into details, because with some of them I understand why you would not want to, is the only monitoring system in the Prime Minister's office the—sorry, I—

Ms Mills : In terms of camera coverage of the Prime Minister's office—perhaps I could say 'suite'; the whole area of the offices, and not just the individual but the staffers as well—we have cameras that operate at the main exit and entry points so that we can see the hallways outside the office entries. There are also cameras that operate inside—which I am happy to talk about at some other point, but probably not here—that ensure that there is adequate security coverage inside that suite should it be required. Again, I am happy to give a security briefing—not in a public forum but more privately—to the committee if they require it.

Senator DASTYARI: I am interested in that, but are you saying the only purpose of the internal cameras in the Prime Minister's office is a security one, so the security services are the only people that have access to those cameras?

Ms Mills : There is very restricted access to the cameras, obviously, and they are shared between our department and the Australian Federal Police, who have a shared responsibility inside the Prime Minister's suite for security.

Senator DASTYARI: And no member of his staff has access to cameras in the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : My understanding is that he has one camera that his staff may see, but that is not part of the network system.

Senator DASTYARI: So who manages that?

Ms Mills : That is really not a matter for my department, because it is not one of our cameras.

Senator DASTYARI: So there is a camera in there that is not the department's camera.

Ms Mills : There are in some offices. There has been traditionally, in some of the more senior offices, a desire by the office holder to have something whereby some of the members of their staff can see if they have people in the office or their comings and goings. But it is not part of the national parliamentary security system.

Senator DASTYARI: Yes, I realise that. Sorry, I am new to all this, so this might be a silly question. Who is responsible for that camera, then?

Ms Mills : As I said, that one is not part of our system. Therefore I cannot really answer that question for you. It would be something that would depend on who it is—in the case of the Prime Minister, perhaps PM&C. But, as I said, we run a security system for the parliament as a whole. If people have individual requirements, whether that be the Prime Minister or somebody else, they are able to make some one-off arrangements to suit their own business management.

Senator DASTYARI: And what you are saying is that there is a one-off camera in the Prime Minister's office that his staff has access to to see who comes in and out of his office—or you are not saying that?

Ms Mills : I am saying that it is not unusual for that to occur.

Senator DASTYARI: Considering that it is not unusual, who would normally have access to being able to have that camera?

Ms Mills : Again, it is a local business arrangement; it is not part of the security system. I think they have been put in more for secretaries to see whether their boss is there or whether they have meetings or whether they are on the phone and so on. I cannot really comment about the PM's current arrangements; I am only speaking generally about things that have happened in the building over time.

Senator DASTYARI: But you are not sure who I should put that question to, though.

Ms Mills : Because they are individual arrangements, that makes it rather complicated. But PM&C may be able to assist you if you have a specific question on the PM's office.

Senator DASTYARI: I get that message. Sorry, I am new to all this, so this may be a silly question. But let us say hypothetically that I want to put a camera in my office so my chief of staff can know whoever is in and out with me at all points in time. I would need to come to you to get permission to do that, wouldn't I? I cannot just go and install cameras.

Ms Mills : It depends entirely on what type of camera you are talking about. If you wanted to put something inside your existing desktop software that allowed someone to monitor you from another room and it had no impact on the design of the building, no link into our security network and there was no breaching of our PCN protocols, you would be able to do that.

Senator DASTYARI: So you are telling me if there is a camera in the Prime Minister's office that his staff can access to see who is going in and out at all points of time, that camera is not fixed to anything?

Ms Mills : I am saying I do not know what he has or if indeed there is something. I am saying if there were something there could be any number of arrangements, because obviously security cameras these days can be wireless, they can be remote, they do not necessarily have to have a physical base. If someone were installing a camera where they needed physical changes in the building, electricity supply or drilling in the wall or changes to the ceiling, then yes we would be part of that process.

Senator DASTYARI: And you are telling me there is no such camera that needs any of that at the moment in the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : I am saying that I am not aware of what the arrangements might be in that office. Nor would I be aware whether they were new or whether they had been there for some time. I am only aware of those cameras that are part of our formal security system.

Senator WONG: Is the $62,000 figure expenditure to date on the refurbishments?

Ms Mills : That is expenditure this financial year on maintenance and refurbishment work in the five suites.

Senator WONG: At this stage have you been requested to consider, get tenders for or explore any further refurbishments in the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : Yes, we have. As I said, we believe this work is long overdue and so we are in negotiations about whether we can get access to do some work. That includes reupholstering the dining chairs, which are in a very poor condition; and repairing or removing or replacing, depending on what we can do, the mirrors et cetera.

Senator WONG: Have you been given a budget for that, or is there an amount that you have allocated?

Ms Mills : That would be part of our departmental budget for maintaining the building

Senator WONG: Have you internally allocated a budget for the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : No, we have not yet.

Senator WONG: Have you or any of your staff had any discussions with either the Prime Minister's office or PM&C regarding this? Is that the usual process?

Ms Mills : Yes, I have had discussions with the Prime Minister's office?

Senator WONG: Who in the Prime Minister's office have you had discussions with?

Ms Mills : With a number of officers there, not all of whose titles I know but the Chief of Staff is amongst them.

Senator WONG: Ms Credlin?

Ms Mills : Ms Credlin, yes.

Senator WONG: What was the nature of the discussions with Ms Credlin?

Ms Mills : She asked us for advice about what could be done in the dining room, given that it was now being regularly used. My advice was that we for some time had been hoping to do work in there to upgrade it and to bring it to an appropriate state and that we would discuss with her getting quotations and the timing that was convenient for the Prime Minister if that work could proceed.

Senator WONG: What do you understand to be Ms Credlin's request—to get the dining room able to be used to host regular official events?

Ms Mills : My understanding is that in the absence of the Lodge the Prime Minister has been using that dining room quite regularly and in our view, as the custodians of the building, work in that dining room is long overdue and we would welcome the opportunity to do it.

Senator WONG: I have heard that evidence now and I understand that is the view you want to put. I am not even engaging with it; I am just asking process questions and you have explained that. How many conversations did you have with Ms Credlin about this issue?

Ms Mills : On the furnishings I have had two short conversations.

Senator WONG: Including in relation to the dining room?

Ms Mills : That is right, including such matters as if we were to remove the dining room chairs—because it is being regularly used they would need replacement chairs—how we might manage that.

Senator WONG: What about kitchen or kitchenette upgrades? Are they that part of the consideration?

Ms Mills : We have done some work on an additional kitchenette in the area given that there are now a large number of staff, as there have been for several prime ministers, and only one small kitchenette. We are exploring—but have no quotations in front of us at this point or commitment to budget—ways in which we might be able to put some extra kitchen facilities in for staff.

Senator WONG: Was the need for an additional kitchenette also raised with you by the Prime Minister's staff?

Ms Mills : We discussed a number of things that need to be done in that area to ensure that it is an effective working space.

Senator WONG: This was the conversation with Ms Credlin?

Ms Mills : And other staff.

Senator WONG: What about upgrading of the kitchen given, as you say, it is being used more?

Ms Mills : We have not discussed upgrading the actual kitchen that supplies the Prime Minister's office, although again I would say that there are fridges and things in there that I am told were Bob Hawke's fridges. At some point we would very much like the opportunity to upgrade to an appropriate standard.

Senator WONG: So that will be part of the work you are doing now?

Ms Mills : We will be doing two types of assessment in each of the suites. We do a long-term plan about what we would like to do over the next several years, and we look at the work that needs to be done instantly. I believe, as I said, some of the work in the dining room is long overdue and we would like to do that first.

Senator WONG: The process will be that you will make an assessment based on your views plus the views of the Prime Minister's office, and you work out what is the sequence of upgrade, refurbishing and expenditure.

Ms Mills : That is right, yes.

Senator WONG: Would that be paid for my DPS or by PM&C?

Ms Mills : It would come from DPS's budget. There is not at this stage, but were there any request at any time beyond the normal management of the building we would obviously discuss that with Finance or PM&C.

Senator WONG: DPS also runs the art program or service.

Ms Mills : Yes, the Parliament House art collection.

Senator WONG: Yes, they do a very good job.

Ms Mills : Thank you.

Senator WONG: I assume, as is usual post an election, there has been changes in ministers', senators' and MPs' requests for art.

Ms Mills : That is right.

Senator WONG: You go through a process of assessing and meeting with the member, senator or minister concerned or their office and they choose various things, correct?

Ms Mills : Yes, that is right.

Senator WONG: That is generally confidential?

Ms Mills : Yes, although we do have periodic interest from people including the media about who chooses what, but we would only ever release that with the permission of the individual.

Senator WONG: Although, this is a Senate estimates hearing.

Ms Mills : Today, I have no detail, even if you were to ask me.

Senator WONG: Do ministers, senators and MPs only have access to the Parliament House art collection or, on occasion, do people have access to art that might be held externally?

Ms Mills : Principally it is to the Parliament House collection. Some individuals choose to bring in works themselves which may come from a collection or may come from something to do with their electorate. Recently the Director of the War Memorial has raised a couple of times in public an interest in lending from the War Memorial collection to the collections right across the country, including here, but we have not yet entered into any serious negotiations about that.

Senator WONG: Have any other national institutions made such a suggestion?

Ms Mills : Only in the Prime Minister's office where we have a standing arrangement with the National Gallery of Australia whereby the Prime Minister of the time may choose from that collection as well.

Senator WONG: I was not aware of that. Have any such requests been made?

Ms Mills : I cannot speak about the current Prime Minister because I am not yet familiar with the list of works but traditionally, yes, there have normally been at least two or three works from that collection. I do not know the criteria by which they lend, I only know the availability.

Senator WONG: Do you broker that?

Ms Mills : We assist in brokering it.

Senator WONG: Who would know about what has been asked for from the National Gallery?

Ms Mills : I could get that information but it would go through our art services team and the local gallery team.

Senator WONG: You do not have anyone here who could answer that?

Ms Mills : Not in this room.

Senator WONG: They used to sit and watch it on TV.

Ms Mills : Hopefully, someone will bring an answer in just a moment.

Senator WONG: I think the chair wants to break for lunch soon, in any event. If we could clarify that. What has been requested from any national institution? As you said, it is only the Prime Minister who has that capacity, is that right?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: Any art for departments would not be your responsibility?

Ms Mills : That is right.

Senator WONG: The portrait of the Queen at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet since the election is not your responsibility.

Ms Mills : We assist with hanging works but we are not necessarily responsible for managing the work.

Senator WONG: So, you assisted with hanging it?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: The one in the department. I am not talking about the PMs.

Ms Mills : Not in the department, no.

Senator WONG: There was an article, I think in the SMH, saying that there is now a portrait of the Queen hung in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet since the election.

Ms Mills : Yes, I saw that article but I cannot comment on it, I am sorry.

Senator WONG: I am not asking you to comment.

Ms Mills : There is a portrait of the Queen in the foyer of the Prime Minister's office. I thought you were referring to that.

Senator WONG: Is there? The portrait in the Prime Minister's department, you would not have any involvement in either selecting that, getting it there or hanging it, would that be right?

Ms Mills : That is right.

Senator WONG: You just said that there is a portrait of the Queen in the Prime Minister's office.

Ms Mills : In the foyer.

Senator WONG: When did that get there?

Ms Mills : It has come as part of the rehanging with the new Prime Minister.

Senator WONG: Since the new government?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: Is that part of the Parliament House collection?

Ms Mills : No, it is actually a copy of a work that we have in our collection, which is on public display. It was provided on loan from the National Museum of Australia. That was done when I was on leave.

Senator WONG: I thought it was the National Gallery that lent art?

Ms Mills : Under normal circumstances it is the National Gallery that does the lending, but my understanding is that, in this case, specific negotiation was had because the painting was held. It is not on display, it is a copy, and there was a request that it be part of the hanging in the foyer.

Senator WONG: Of the National Museum?

Ms Mills : It was a request of the Prime Minister's office.

Senator WONG: By whom?

Ms Mills : I cannot comment, I am sorry, I was on leave when that happened. I do not know the detail but I will look into it.

Senator WONG: Is it the person behind you who has been handing you notes about this?

Ms Mills : Yes, she is checking it now.

Senator WONG: Shall I come back to that, if you want to check the notes?

Ms Mills : Yes, please.

Senator WONG: To clarify, there is generally an arrangement with the National Gallery that they lend to a Prime Minister.

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: But on this occasion, something that is held at the National Museum was requested by the Prime Minister's office and is now hung in the Prime Minister's office.

Ms Mills : Yes. It is not unusual to have one-off requests. In fact at the moment you will see in the front of the building in the public area we have a painting from the War Memorial, the Lambert painting, because their World War I gallery is closed, and we agreed with them that it was such an important national work that it should be hung here.

Senator WONG: Sure. Do we have any information about who made the request?

Ms Mills : No, we do not at this point, I am sorry.

Senator PARRY: On the point of the Queen's portrait in the Prime Minister's office, are you aware of when a portrait of Her Majesty was removed from the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : No, I would have to take that on notice. I know that there were paintings previously.

Senator PARRY: So, it has been reinstated, basically.

Ms Mills : That might be one word to describe it, yes.

Senator WONG: This particular painting was previously in the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : No, paintings of the Queen.

Senator WONG: This particular one, which is from the National Museum.

Ms Mills : This one has not been here before, not to my knowledge. It is a copy.

CHAIR: Do you have any further questions, Senator Wong?

Senator WONG: I am just trying to work out logistically when we might get an answer on that, and also you were going to come back, I think, with the list.

Ms Mills : Yes, I have a partial answer to that question. The total cost of the crockery and cutlery for the ministerial wing was $22,225 including GST.

Senator FAULKNER: That is crockery and cutlery, is it?

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: Was that the entire ministerial wing?

Ms Mills : Except for the Prime Minister's office.

Senator FAULKNER: They do not have any new cutlery or crockery?

Ms Mills : That is right.

Senator FAULKNER: They are just managing with the old stuff, but for the other ministers cutlery and crockery cost $22,225? How come the Prime Minister can handle the old crockery and cutlery but the other ministers have new stuff?

Ms Mills : I think to a large degree stuff was actually missing from the previous ministerial offices and had to be replaced.

Senator FAULKNER: $22,000 worth? Surely if $22,000 worth of cutlery and crockery were missing you would call in the police, wouldn't you? Are you really telling us that $22,000—

Ms Mills : I did not say 'through theft', Senator, I was saying that over the period of the parliament the collections were broken up to a point by misplacing, or by IHG collecting, or by other means, I cannot say.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but it is a new collection, a new service, if you like, in the offices. It is not just replacing individual plates and saucers and knives and forks, is it?

Ms Mills : No, because they are kept as a set.

Senator FAULKNER: What happens to the old set, the non-set, where there might be some missing pieces? What do you do with that?

Ms Mills : It had been my desire that we would do an audit and if there were incomplete sets we could actually recompose certain sets and then only fill those gaps, but—and, again, I have to take the detail on notice—the verbal advice I had was that there was so few of those items that it was more cost effective and easier to actually replace the full sets.

Senator FAULKNER: Accepting that, you did not get your wish, which, by the way, it seems to me that what you had tried to do was very sensible compared to a huge amount of money just to buy a whole lot of new cutlery and crockery sets. What I am asking is: what happens to the old crockery and cutlery sets, some of which may not have been complete? Where did it go?

Ms Mills : In the current case, I cannot tell you except I can say that traditionally things have been stored in the building until an assessment is made about whether they have heritage value and then, as with any other item, they would be either—

Senator FAULKNER: You could feed armies with the amount of cutlery and crockery you must have stored in the building.

Ms Mills : We do have a very large number of crockery items in the basement, particularly because they have crests that are no longer the standard crest. They are not full sets. Again, in regard to this question, they are not full sets, therefore they are not easily put back into use.

Senator FAULKNER: So we are talking about many, many tens of thousands of items of crockery and cutlery stored in the basement.

Ms Mills : Many hundreds.

Senator FAULKNER: Of sets.

Ms Mills : Many hundreds of items, so partial sets, many hundreds of partial sets.

Senator FAULKNER: Many hundreds of partial sets.

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Has anyone come up with an idea over the years. I accept that obviously crockery breaks and the odd item goes missing. Everyone accepts that and everyone understands it. Perhaps someone could be tasked to save the $22,000 and put it all together in the future. I think that what you suggested seems to be far more reasonable of just trying to replace missing items. Of course there are missing items, everyone understands that.

Ms Mills : I think it would be a good thing to do. We did actually try to start that process in this break but found that, regrettably, the places are so scattered where they are stored and the plates and things are so different in their design, it was hard to find a way to easily create acceptable sets from what was stored.

Senator FAULKNER: To assume that what happened in the Prime Minister's office during the life of the last parliament, the occupants there were very, very careful, obviously, with the cutlery and crockery and nothing needed replacement. Is that what you are saying?

Ms Mills : I only know that we have not been asked to replace anything. I do not know any other arrangement.

Senator FAULKNER: It has not been replaced, we know that.

Ms Mills : That is correct. It has not been replaced by DPS as part of our process of doing the rest of the ministerial wing.

Senator FAULKNER: Did every other office ask for it to be replaced?

Ms Mills : My understanding is that every other office has had a replacement.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but did they ask? Why didn't the Prime Minister's office, who didn't ask—

Ms Mills : What normally happens is that we do not know—

Senator FAULKNER: Are you sure there is no conspiracy here?

Ms Mills : As you know, there are very rarely conspiracies, there are usually mishaps.

Senator FAULKNER: We will not go there. It is incomprehensible what you are saying. Just explain to us why it is replaced in all the other offices and not the Prime Minister's office. An explanation that the Prime Minister's office did not ask is no explanation because I am damn sure all the other 29 offices we have heard did not ask either.

Ms Mills : I can only tell you what I understand the process was. In the intervening period between governments, during the election period, an audit is normally conducted of offices to see what, if any, equipment or in this case crockery might need replacing. As a result of that audit I was advised that we needed to purchase new sets of crockery so that they could be fitted out for the incoming ministers whoever they might be. It is not so much about an individual requesting it as the Department of Finance working with the Department of Parliamentary Services to ensure that all of the facilities that are normally provided in ministerial suites were available.

Senator FAULKNER: That is clear.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Faulkner. Senator Ludwig, before I go to you, could you indicate how long you think your line of questioning is going to be?

Senator LUDWIG: I am really just following up on this line.

Senator FAULKNER: I have a few more questions before we end, and I might need to place them on notice. Is your plan not to bring DPS back after lunch?

CHAIR: I am planning not to bring DPS back after lunch.

Senator FAULKNER: If we can be a little flexible with the lunch hour we should be able to do that.

CHAIR: Senator Ludwig.

Senator LUDWIG: Thank you. Just following up on the refurbishments that have occurred to the ministerial suites but not the Prime Minister's office, have there been any requests from the ministerial offices for new fixtures or fittings?

Ms Mills : Not that I am aware of, other than the example that was spoken about earlier today with Senator Brandis seeking a bookcase.

Senator LUDWIG: So, there is only one request?

Ms Mills : That I am aware of.

Senator LUDWIG: Was that by writing or email, and do you have a copy of it?

Ms Mills : As I said, because we are not directly responsible in the ministerial wing, we receive advice from the Department of Finance when there is a request for something. They handle the first point of contact and then advise us of any request they have.

Senator LUDWIG: So what is your involvement in the request for a bookshelf for Minister Brandis?

Ms Mills : As I said, in this case our advice stretches only to providing heritage advice about the appropriateness of a design, and we also provided technical advice from our furniture maintenance people on whether the existing bookcase could be relocated without being broken.

Senator LUDWIG: I understand that. What I am specifically asking about now, though, is: is there a new request in the ministerial wing for a bookshelf? Now that one cannot be transferred across, we now, I presume, do not have one of the required size for the $13,000 worth of books Senator Brandis wants to store. Is there a current request to change or put a new fixture or bookshelf in the new ministerial wing from Senator Brandis's office?

Ms Mills : There could be, but it will not be dealt with necessarily by the Department of Parliamentary Services; it will be dealt with either by the Department of Finance or by his ministerial department, depending on the purpose he is going to put it to.

Senator WONG: Has there been any response on the National Museum, regarding the portrait of the Queen?

Senator PARRY: Her Majesty.

Senator WONG: I am being told to say 'Her Majesty' by the bloke at the other end of the table.

CHAIR: That would be Senator Parry.

Senator LUDWIG: There are a few blokes down there.

CHAIR: Yes, but I would not proffer the same advice as a bloke.

Ms Mills : I will answer a couple of questions at the same time, if I may. I am advised with regard to the Prime Minister's office crockery that it is under a different arrangement than all the other ministerial suites and, therefore, the Department of Finance is the agency to ask about that. With regard to the paintings from the National Gallery of Australia, there are two Arthur Streeton works that have been in the Prime Minister's office on long-term loan for a number of years, which I am sure you are familiar with. With regard to the portrait of the Queen from the National Museum of Australia, I understand that that was at the request of the Prime Minister's chief of staff.

Senator WONG: Directly to the National Museum or via you?

Ms Mills : To the Department of Parliamentary Services.

Senator WONG: I am confused. So Ms Credlin speaks to—

Ms Mills : I am sorry, we are just—

Senator WONG: I will wait; that is fine.

Ms Mills : The information that I have been provided is still patchy, and I apologise for that.

Senator WONG: That is fine.

Ms Mills : I understand that my department facilitated the negotiations with the National Museum, but I am not sure by what process it commenced or how specific the request was—for example, whether they asked for a portrait of the Queen and we found one or whether we were asked for a specific portrait. I am sorry, I cannot answer that yet.

Senator WONG: And those negotiations were with the Prime Minister's chief of staff? I am picking up your phrase.

Ms Mills : That is the advice that is in front of me. But, as I say, I apologise. I have been getting this advice on the run—

Senator WONG: That is fair enough.

Ms Mills : and I would be concerned if it were inaccurate to mislead the committee. It is very difficult to clarify this. I am very concerned about giving you inaccurate information.

Senator WONG: Sure.

Ms Mills : But what I understand is that a request was made as part of the art list for the Prime Minister's office, because, obviously, they are eligible for an unlimited number of works from our collection. I cannot at this point indicate whether we were asked for a portrait of the Queen or this specific one.

Senator WONG: What is the portrait?

Ms Mills : The portrait is a copy of the painting known as the wattle portrait of the Queen, which hangs in the public area on the first floor of this building, where she is in the yellow dress.

Senator WONG: By?

Senator FAULKNER: Is it William Dargie?

Ms Mills : Dargie, yes.

Senator WONG: When you say 'the request came', do you mean the chief of staff requested this particular portrait, or a portrait of the Queen? You are not sure?

Ms Mills : That is what I am saying; I cannot tell you.

Senator WONG: Perhaps you could take that on notice.

Ms Mills : Yes.

Senator WONG: And that request was of the Department of Parliamentary Services?

Ms Mills : As part of our art services team working with that office on what paintings they would like from the collection—

Senator WONG: So, who contacted the National Museum?

Ms Mills : Our staff did, I understand.

Senator WONG: So presumably there were other portraits of the Queen, correct?

Ms Mills : That we have?

Senator WONG: Yes.

Ms Mills : We have some other portraits of the Queen. We have none of that sort of formal style of Wattle Queen.

Senator WONG: So, someone from your staff then contacts the National Museum, with whom there is not a longstanding arrangement, for this particular portrait. And I am asking on notice—or perhaps you can provide it later in the hearing today: what was the request for a specific portrait made by the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : I will have to take it on notice. But perhaps I can also say that it is not unusual for us to deal with the National Museum more broadly. So, we do have relationships with all the collecting museums here, and therefore it would not be that unique—for example, we have recently loaned them works for exhibitions that they have just held as part of—

Senator WONG: Sure, but the arrangement that you gave evidence about earlier was the National Gallery, from where, other than the Parliament House collection, the Prime Minister generally sources paintings to be hung. Correct?

Ms Mills : That is right.

Senator WONG: And was there any communication that you are aware of between the Prime Minister's office and the National Museum directly?

Ms Mills : That I will have to take on notice.'

Senator FAULKNER: I have a couple of quick issues. I gather the switchboard operators are being relocated—or there is a plan to relocate them. Is that right?

Ms Mills : Yes, there is.

Senator FAULKNER: So, where are they currently located?

Ms Mills : They are currently located on level one, behind where the post office is, in the public area of the building.

Senator FAULKNER: Exactly. And the plan is to put them in the basement. Is that right?

Ms Mills : That is right. At least for an interim period they would be in two areas of the basement that have recently been vacated by the Parliamentary Budget Office, because we have now completed work on the PBO's permanent home.

Senator FAULKNER: I wondered about the cost of such a move. I thought there would be quite a significant cost; I might be wrong about that. Can you help me with that?

Ms Seittenranta : No, there is not. The equipment they use is just standard PCs and terminals, so they will just be put on trolleys and moved down.

Senator FAULKNER: And why is that happening?

Ms Mills : We are doing a series of relocations, largely—but not entirely—as a domino effect of the creation of the Parliamentary Budget Office. The space into which the Parliamentary Budget Office has moved was DPS office space, and that has led us to having to do a sequence of other moves to place people in appropriate accommodation. I have a number of people in the basement as well, both long term and short term. We do not have sufficient space in the building or funds to do the level of refurbishment that would allow everybody to be out of the basement, so it is a constant juggling act of moving people around.

Senator FAULKNER: We probably do not have enough time today to go into all these changes, but I am very interested in them. Is there some grand plan in relation to relocations—where DPS staff are going?

Ms Mills : There is currently a plan within the existing boundaries that DPS has, but I have raised with the clerks at the chamber departments the need for us to have a more coherent accommodation plan for the building. The footprints that people are moving spaces within tend to be the footprints that were allocated in 1988, and obviously business needs have changed since then. A comment was made earlier about the number of staff in ministerial suites et cetera being very different to in 1988, and I believe it would be timely for us to have a Parliament House accommodation needs study rather than a piecemeal one, which is what we are operating under at the moment.

Senator FAULKNER: But there is no such study? There are plenty of other studies around, aren't there?

Ms Mills : There are. There was a study done on if Parliament House became so pressured for accommodation that it needed an extension, but there has not been work done on anything coherent inside the existing footprint of the building—reallocation of spaces based on current need rather than 1988 needs.

Senator FAULKNER: I am still not clear on the justification for why the switchboard operators, for example, are being changed.

Ms Mills : They occupy quite a large space for a relatively small number of people, and we could actually use that space closer to the desired square metreage than we are presently using it.

Senator FAULKNER: So, they are in a desired space, as opposed to the basement, which is not desired?

Ms Mills : I would like to have as few of our staff as possible in the basement. We have a very large number of people in the basement who do office work, nine-to-five work as well as workshop and other things, because there is no capacity at the moment, under the current accommodation arrangements, to have all staff or all contractors in what might be seen as the best possible locations for them.

Senator FAULKNER: What are the current plans for the placement of the executive of DPS?

Ms Mills : The executive moved out of the area that the PBO is now in. We are looking to move into an existing DPS area by reducing the square metreage of that area so that we can accommodate additional offices.

Senator FAULKNER: At what sort of cost and with what sort of facilities are we talking about there?

Ms Mills : We have not yet finalised that. That is why I am in an interim office; I am occupying a space that DPS has in the Senate wing while we look at the ultimate design and costs. But obviously part of that will be assisted by the Parliamentary Budget Office, because we have been forced to relocate in order to accommodate them.

Senator FAULKNER: Even though there is no long-term plan, isn't there some short-term plan in relation to these sorts of accommodation pressures?

Ms Mills : There are, but because it is a short-term plan it is a series of domino movements. My predecessor made a commitment that DPS would find accommodation for the Parliamentary Budget Office. We have done that. The only way we could do that, given the much larger number of people that they ended up having in their establishment than was originally intended, and given their design requirements for confidentiality and other reasons, was to find them an area that was fairly discreet within the building. The area that we identified as best suiting their needs was actually my office area. So I committed to move out to enable them to move in. Some of my staff are now in the library, some of the staff are in the basement and I am in temporary accommodation on level one of the Senate area—which is DPS accommodation.

Senator FAULKNER: Is there a document that outlines all these moves and, as you say, at least short-term planning? Or is it just somebody with the stroke of a pen deciding it all willy-nilly?

Ms Mills : No, we are trying to do it on the basis of minimising the disruption and minimising the cost and with a view to having a long-term plan so that we do not invest in a way that actually has to be undone down the track.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but is there a short-term plan?

Ms Mills : There is a short-term plan.

Senator FAULKNER: Can a copy of that plan be provided to the committee, please?

Ms Mills : On notice, yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Okay. There will be follow-up questions, but we will have to deal with that at a later stage.

The Hansard trial that we have spoken about at previous estimates has concluded. What is the status of the report of that?

Ms Mills : I have not received the final report. I received a summary advice as to the issues that had emerged from it, and I asked that the potential to resolve those issues be included in any final report. I expect to get that within the next couple of weeks.

Senator FAULKNER: Where did the summary advice come from?

Ms Mills : The summary advice was a briefing I had from the Assistant Secretary of the Content Management Branch, who is the head of the area that includes Hansard.

Senator FAULKNER: Is that a written summary advice?

Ms Mills : Some of it was written and some of it was verbal. It was initial feedback from a variety of parties, but there had not been at that time formal advice sought from the clerks, for example, and I asked for that to be incorporated in any final report.

Senator FAULKNER: Could you please provide a copy—accepting that it is not final advice—of the summary advice, on notice?

Ms Mills : It is a draft, and I would not normally provide a draft.

Senator FAULKNER: No, but given our interest in the Hansard trial, on this occasion I would like to compare the draft with the final. I am aware that it is a draft, if you like, or preliminary advice, but that is what I am asking for on notice, if I could please.

Ms Mills : Yes, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: And I wanted to ask for some detail about some contracts. I will not do that today. What I would like to do, please, is ask if you can provide, on notice, effectively an update from the DPS annual report on contracts. Would that be possible?

Ms Mills : Sorry—do you mean contracts like the cleaning contract? Or did you mean new contracts?

Senator FAULKNER: I am personally interested in, for example, visitor services contracts—any in that area—and security services and the like. But to save time today, if a list could be provided in the broad, that might save us a great deal of time, which I think the chair is keen to do. I thought it would be easier to place that on notice—

Ms Mills : Happy to do that, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: appreciating that obviously it is a question of updating from the time of the annual report to a reasonable time—

Ms Mills : The first quarter of this financial year?

Senator FAULKNER: That is fine.

Senator PARRY: Just briefly, perhaps I could just return to the portrait of Her Majesty. I just want to recap, because we got left in a difficult situation where we did not really know where we were going. To make sure I am absolutely clear here: there was no portrait of Her Majesty the Queen, our sovereign, in the Prime Minister's office?

Ms Mills : Not at the time of the changeover.

Senator PARRY: A request came from the Prime Minister's office seeking a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen from our in-house collection?

Ms Mills : That is my understanding.

Senator PARRY: One was not found. The only one here was hanging and in use.

Ms Mills : Not the only one. It is the only one that I am aware of that is an oil painting of the style that it is.

Senator PARRY: But because that one was in use the Prime Minister's office did not want that one, and you have sourced one from elsewhere, and the one that you have sourced is a copy of an original, not an original, and that is now hanging in the Prime Minister's office.

Ms Mills : That is correct—to the best of the advice I have received in terms of the chain of events.

Senator PARRY: And I am sure you will correct that if it is incorrect, but I just wanted to get the sequential event clearly on the record. And finally, that copy could have come from storage, or it may not have been on display—it could have come from anywhere.

Ms Mills : It would almost certainly have come from storage in the National Museum.

Senator PARRY: So, it was not being used, and now it is being used, thankfully. Equally, that is a normal practice for Prime Minister's offices to have portraits from other institutions; that is not unusual, as you have indicated.

Ms Mills : No. As I said, our standing practice is with the National Gallery, but we do make arrangements whenever we can as special requests.

Senator PARRY: It is far better having one on display than in storage. Thank you.

Senator WONG: I have a couple of things as a result of that. I have put a number of questions on notice. Can you also, on notice, clarify: when you say 'copy', is it actually an original painted by Mr Dargie, of the same subject matter? Second, can you confirm the value of it? I have an entry from the National Museum that has the price at a total of $146,000—that is, $120,000 plus auction house charges. Can you confirm what the current value of the painting is? And I asked questions before, which you will take as—

Ms Mills : I am sure we will answer all of those questions, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: It is the National Museum of Australia's Dargie portrait, as we have heard, that went to auction on 6 May 2009, and it was acquired at a hammer price of $120,000 plus auction house charges of $26,400. If we are talking about the same portrait—and from the information you have provided, it sounds like we are—I do not know how relevant the issue of value of the portrait it. Does it affect your insurance obligations or the like?

Ms Mills : A painting of that worth, no—not considering what we cover in this building already.

Senator LUNDY: To go back to Hansard, what opportunity do people have now to comment on the new Hansard format? And would comments gathered now be taken into consideration in the preparation of your final report?

Ms Mills : Yes, I am very happy to take those. There are two separate elements to the report that we were discussing with Senator Faulkner. That report was principally about not having Hansard officers present in the chambers during the taking of the Hansard record. The issue about the e-publication of Hansard I can take as a separate issue.

Senator LUNDY: It is more about the formatting, but also how it is reproduced, in printed format and electronic format.

Ms Mills : We are very keen to move to a more appropriate electronic version for all of our documents, to ultimately have an app. At the moment we rely on PDF versions, which does not give enough flexibility, so we are very happy to take feedback. It is something that we will also raise with the ICT user group and the ICT advisory board, as we increasingly rely on electronic versions that have to be able to be accessed via different platforms, so that we get the design right.

Senator LUNDY: Yes, I would assume that you were placing accessibility principles at the forefront of any of your endeavours.

Ms Mills : Absolutely, and that is one of the reasons for removing two columns. We have done that in all of the other Hansards except the chamber Hansard reports; two columns do not work, effectively, on a tablet device.

Senator LUNDY: And if someone wanted to read the Hansard in two-column format, would they be able to have the option to do so?

Ms Mills : Not while it is in a PDF form. That is something we would need to look at as part of the development.

Senator LUNDY: Yes. I think, like most things these days, people can set up their own options to whatever suits their preference.

Ms Mills : Yes, and I think that is what we have got to work towards. Obviously we want it to be easily scalable, we want it to be easily searchable and we want it to be printable for whichever portions you want. We have got a lot of those elements, but I think we still have an opportunity to get best practice.

Senator LUNDY: Thank you.

CHAIR: Thank you. Senator Moore, you had some comments you wished to make?

Senator MOORE: Thank you. Ms Mills, you mentioned before that there have been a number of staff turnovers in the Library, but I just wanted to put on record today my appreciation of the service of Janet Wilson. Over many years she has worked in this building and provided support through her library services, and particularly in the area of maintaining that valuable gender table, which I trust she has handed on for someone to pick up that role. Dr Heriot, it is a very useful thing to have when you have to make comments really quickly, so I just wanted to put on note my appreciation for the service Janet has provided as a valuable part of your library.

Ms Mills : Thank you, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: Can I associate myself with those remarks and say that Janet has given very, very meritorious, professional and long service in the Parliamentary Library to many of us from all sides of the Australian parliament. It has been exemplary service and, I think, worthy of being acknowledged in this committee. I can assure the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Parliamentary Librarian that that service is acknowledged by so many on all sides of politics around this building. So please pass through our best wishes.

Ms Mills : Thank you, Senators.

Dr Heriot : Thank you, and I will certainly make sure Janet sees the Hansard.

CHAIR: We have now finished with the Department of Parliamentary Services for today. Thank you, officers, for attending. The committee will now suspend for lunch, after which we will resume with the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General.

Proceedings suspended from 12:48 to 13:48