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Friday, 31 May 1996
Page: 1532

Senator BEAHAN (President of the Senate)(11.43 a.m.) —As I understand it, there are no staff cuts envisaged before the end of the financial year, although clearly planning for the next financial year will involve very substantial cuts right across the five parliamentary departments. The ongoing difficulty we have in negotiating these cuts with the government goes to the agreements that we felt we had made with the previous government through the Minister for Finance for the funding of committees. Those agreements came out of the Senate committee office review of resources, which was a report coming out of meetings between Finance and Senate officers. Eventually it was the subject of discussion between myself and a team of people from the Appropriations and Staffing Committee and the Minister for Finance.

The agreement which came out of those discussions was that in this round of budget estimates we would go for funding for an additional parliamentary officer class 4 for each pair of legislative and general purpose committees, a point which is now in question. We were concerned also about the apparent repudiation of what we thought was a clear agreement on the funding of select committees. That agreement was to change the funding arrangements and make two of those select committees funded as part of the general funding of the Senate. Any additional ones over and above the normal load of those two committees in terms of hours over a year would be funded separately and bids would have to be made for that. There seems to have been a change at officer level anyway. We are not sure whether that is at minister level and that is the subject of negotiations now. I hope that answers the question.