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Thursday, 10 March 2005
Page: 52

The PRESIDENT (1:05 PM) —I indicate, as President, that I have no objections to the second reading amendment moved by you, Senator Murray. I interpret it—correctly, I hope—as support for the President and the Speaker in their responsibilities to oversee the operation of Parliament House and the provision of services to senators and members. I make the observation to the Senate that, although the appropriations to the parliamentary departments are provided for quite correctly in separate legislation to other annual government expenditure, in terms of budget stringency and the need to constantly operate efficiently and within our means, the parliamentary departments are no different from any other agency funded by the public purse.

In saying that, I also say to the Senate that, as President, I take very seriously my obligations to ensure that adequate funding is provided to ensure this chamber and its members can carry out their legislative responsibilities properly. In regard to paragraph (a) of Senator Murray’s amendment, I note that the bill being debated today provides for an annual resource agreement between the Parliamentary Librarian and the Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services so that the funding for library services is known and is considered by the joint Library Committee.

I note the comments about public access to Parliament House during sittings and public meetings of committees. I also note the part of the amendment relating to public access to the Parliament House art collection. Might I remind the Senate that, whilst a few works are in the public areas, the purpose of the collection has never been to provide a public art display. Since the first acquisitions in 1986, the collection was designed to provide Australian art in the suites of senators and members and in other areas of Parliament House. The art in the public areas is largely provided by portraits from the Historic Memorials Collection. The Speaker and I have no plans to diminish that because seeing these portraits of former prime ministers, governors-general and other historical figures forms part of the attraction for visitors to our parliament.

Question agreed to.

Original question, as amended, agreed to.

Bill read a second time.