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Wednesday, 16 August 1989
Page: 194

Senator MACKLIN(7.01) —Mr President, I wish to talk about a related issue. I am not quite sure whether this transgresses your ruling or not. It is a general issue which actually subsumes the one that Senator Walters was referring to. Quite some time ago there was a dispute, which was finally settled by Senator Tate when he came into the position of Special Minister of State, as it then existed, with regard to the disparity between computers provided by the Department of the Senate in this place and those provided by the Department of Administrative Services in the electorate offices. At that stage it became very clear that greater communication was needed between those two departments with a view to providing reasonable services and avoiding duplication.

Some time ago there was a change in the procedures with regard to the issue of stamps in the Department of the Senate. That had to be reorganised on the basis that it had been eliminated from the deliberations of the Remuneration Tribunal. It was through you, Mr President, and Madam Speaker that that issue was successfully resolved. The issue that Senator Walters and Senator Michael Baume have raised with regard to the stamp allowance and the differentiation between the allowances provided by the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr West) and the allowances provided by the Department of the Senate has again given cause for this type of exercise. I believe that ultimately the entire services offered to senators and the entire services offered to members of the House of Representatives should be provided by one department. I think the present situation is absurd. From the checking that I have done, no other Westminster system anywhere in the world has two separate departments running the provision of services to members in a way which can cause mere duplication. I believe we are about to see another exercise in massive disruption which could be easily avoided by having one department-I believe that in this case it should be the Department of the Senate-providing the resources not only here but also in our electorate offices. It makes sense. It would, I believe, avoid a lot of the problems.

Oddly enough, the push that has gone on is for the reduction of the parliamentary departments, but no attention seems to have been given to the fact that the major duplication is not within the parliamentary departments but between an Executive department and a parliamentary department. The exercise that the Minister for Administrative Services is attempting to undertake may very well be met by other devices, and certainly by legislative devices which I would predict are likely to be used. The issue that has given rise to this particular exercise will not go away as long as we continue to operate with duplication, as long as we continue to provide different types of resources across the board.

The other point I wish to raise briefly-and I congratulate the Department of the Senate-is the excellent transition that has occurred in the past year from the old Parliament House to the new Parliament House. It has meant an enormous amount of work by the staff of the Department of the Senate. The fact that it was done with such expedition and done so well-in fact, with hardly a hiccup-gives credit to the quality of the staff, particularly the senior levels, of the Department of the Senate. I think it shows that we have been in fact well served by the people in the Department of the Senate. On behalf of my colleagues I would certainly like to express through you, Mr President, our thanks for the work that has been done by those officers in the very difficult transition year just gone that was in fact reviewed in the annual report.