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Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee
Office of Parliamentary Counsel

Office of Parliamentary Counsel

CHAIR: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I call back to order the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee in its inquiry into the 2018-19 budget, dealing in this instance with the Attorney-General's Department. We're about to move to Mr Quiggin, the First Parliamentary Counsel.

Before that, I want to seek the indulgence of the committee and the witnesses to announce a rather sad event, and that is that our secretary of some years, Mr Tim Watling, will be leaving us. This is his last time in this wonderful exercise that I know he just loves, and I just wanted to place on record at this early stage, while there are still people here—Tim, you thought we'd leave this until the end of the night, when everyone had gone to sleep!—our appreciation of the work that Tim has done over many years in this committee and in other committees as well. Regrettably, he's going to the dark side, I believe, and moving to work with the state government in Sydney somewhere along the line. It's definitely a retrograde step, though it probably pays more! Not having the fun of Senate estimates is something that you'll sadly miss, I know, but we do wish you all the very best and thank you so much for everything you've done, not just, as I say, for this committee but for the parliament as a whole over many years. We very much appreciate it.

Senator PRATT: Thank you, Chair. On behalf of Labor Party senators and all other senators, particularly as the chair of the references committee and deputy chair of this committee, I want to express our sincere thanks to Tim Watling for his exceptional service to our committees and to the parliament. To say that he will be greatly missed is an understatement. If you don't mind the indulgence, Chair, I know we don't usually meet as a committee and move motions, but I'd like to move a motion of thanks for Tim's service, which is greatly valued.

CHAIR: That's certainly a very good motion. It's perhaps, could I say, the best motion you've ever moved, Senator Pratt! I'm sure that it requires no debate, and I know that the committee would certainly endorse that, so, Tim, thank you very much.

Back to the business at hand: Mr Quiggin, would you like to make an opening statement? If not, we'll go straight to questions.

Mr Quiggin : No, Senator—so straight to questions.

Senator PRATT: We understand that outsourcing of legislation was a trial program implemented last year by Treasury. Was a cost-benefit analysis of this outsourcing conducted before going ahead with the trial?

Mr Quiggin : The trial project was undertaken by the Treasury, not the OPC, so it's probably best to direct those questions to Treasury, who I believe are appearing next week.

Senator PRATT: Okay. I'll put that to them. Were you involved in putting documentation together for Treasury?

Mr Quiggin : No.

Senator PRATT: Could Treasury have done a cost-benefit analysis about this outsourcing without speaking to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, in terms of understanding the work you do?

Mr Quiggin : You'd need to ask Treasury that, I think.

Senator PRATT: Were you consulted about the decision around the outsourcing?

Mr Quiggin : We were involved in some early discussions, but I don't think 'consulted' would be the term.

Senator PRATT: But you weren't consulted on any inputs into the costs or benefits or how that should be managed?

Mr Quiggin : No.

Senator PRATT: So, you wouldn't put out to tender—I guess I need to ask Treasury that, although clearly you would know whether it was. Can I ask you which law firms are currently undertaking work in the pilot?

Mr Quiggin : Again, it's probably a matter for Treasury. There was a newspaper article based on answers given to questions on notice which listed four firms. But, again, Treasury would be in the best position to answer that.

Senator PRATT: But do you have oversight of their work?

Mr Quiggin : No.

Senator PRATT: Or is it the individual departments that do, so therefore you don't know?

Mr Quiggin : Treasury's the only department involved.

Senator PRATT: So, in terms of the quality of their work, that's a question for the departments who are commissioning the work; it's no longer a question for you as the Office of Parliamentary Counsel?

Mr Quiggin : No. Treasury's taken the responsibility for the quality of work. We do some checks against formatting requirements et cetera.

Senator PRATT: But you don't look at whether it's properly drafted in terms of the legal attributes of it?

Mr Quiggin : We do a low level of quality assurance, but Treasury takes responsibility for the quality.

Senator PRATT: So, you wouldn't have any oversight of what bills these law firms are working on?

Mr Quiggin : No.

Senator PRATT: Or whether they've produced any legislation since the trial commenced?

Mr Quiggin : No. Treasury would be best to answer that.

Senator PRATT: Would you as the Office of Parliamentary Counsel have any concern that firms that this work is outsourced to could be regulated by any of the legislation drafted? I might put that question to government perhaps.

Mr Quiggin : It would be better to go to government.

Senator PRATT: Can I ask whether the Attorney-General's Department has any concerns that these outsourced firms would be doing work for companies who will be regulated by any of the legislation drafted? And who's responsible for doing the due diligence on that?

Mr Moraitis : In terms of this project, the Attorney-General's Department would have advised the Attorney, because under the legal services directions anything of this nature would require the Attorney-General's approval, and that has been done for this trial. As for that specific question, I would just ask Mr Gifford or Mr Anderson—

Mr Anderson : In terms of the particular providers, the choice of those particular providers is a matter for Treasury.

Senator PRATT: Okay. So, has the Attorney-General's Department considered the potential for conflicts of interest?

Mr Anderson : When the then Attorney-General approved the pilot he laid down a number of conditions. They didn't go to conflict of interest but did go to, amongst other things, compliance with the legal services directions, which themselves provide a framework for ensuring that you're dealing appropriately with the Commonwealth's interests.

Senator PRATT: What about the public interests?

Mr Anderson : The legal services directions are about the conduct of legal work for the Commonwealth, dealing with Commonwealth matters.

Senator PRATT: That's legal work for the Commonwealth, but when someone's drafting legislation for the parliament, that's really about the public interest. For example, do any of the firms that are currently drafting bills for Treasury work for any companies that have given evidence at the financial services royal commission?

Mr Anderson : The Treasury is the one that's actually procuring the services of these drafters, and so, in accordance with Commonwealth procurement policy, it's actually a matter for the Treasury to consider whether any of these providers might be conflicted in any way.

Senator PRATT: So you're saying it's a question for the Treasury as to whether there is conflict of interest in our drafting processes?

Mr Anderson : Whether there are conflicts of interest in the drafting of specific pieces of legislation or subordinate legislation for the Treasury as part of this pilot.

Senator PRATT: Why don't you put the Office of Parliamentary Counsel into the Treasury then, if you're not having oversight of conflicts of interest?

Mr Anderson : That's not a matter for an official to answer. But I will say that, apart from this limited pilot, the drafting of legislation is tied to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. It's one of the small number of categories of tied work under the Legal Services Directions because of the paramount importance of the statute book.

Mr Moraitis : That is why I said this pilot required approval by the Attorney—because it requires express approval, given it's a tied-work arrangement.

Senator PRATT: So I would need to ask the Treasury if there's anyone drafting legislation regulating the financial services industry that could have a conflict of interest?

Mr Anderson : That's correct.

Senator PRATT: Surely, though, it's in your core business as the department responsible overall for the quality of drafting services within government to be aware of whether any conflicts of interest exist?

Mr Anderson : As I said, Senator, there are a range of conditions that the Attorney laid down in granting permission for this limited pilot to take place. But the Treasury, as the procurer—the one actually making the choice as to who is going to work on which project—needs to itself turn its mind to whether there's a conflict in that particular entity or individual undertaking that particular project.

Senator PRATT: I do find it bizarre that it's not the Office of Parliamentary Counsel itself doing that commissioning so that it can have oversight of such conflicts. There's concern around these conflicts of interest that might arise, for example, when private law firms who are also servicing clients' other needs are briefed for that kind of work. Professor Gabrielle Appleby from the UNSW law school was reported as saying 'careful management of outsourcing of drafting was needed.' She acknowledged:

"… These concerns are not insurmountable, but need to be managed more carefully than when the government briefs the OPC."

What expertise does the Treasury have to oversight these matters from a legal point of view?

Mr Anderson : That's a question best directed to the Treasury.

Senator PRATT: So you, as the Attorney-General's Department, are just happy for the Treasury to have oversight of its own questions in relation to parliamentary drafting that could cover any area of government? You're essentially saying the Attorney-General's Department is no longer responsible for that?

Mr Anderson : It can't cover any area of government; it's only matters for the Treasury. And they have to comply with relevant drafting policy. They've got to adhere to Commonwealth laws and policies and guidance materials issued by OPC. They've got to comply with the Legal Services Directions in doing it. There are some conditions that have been laid down, but, otherwise, it's a matter for the Treasury to satisfy themselves that they're procuring services from appropriately qualified providers.

Senator PRATT: Frankly I find even more ghastly the idea that the Treasury is commissioning legislation specifically for its own department when it's briefing out to law firms that might have conflicts of interests.

Mr Anderson : It might be, as we've said, that you should direct those questions to the Treasury as to what processes or protocols they might have internally for managing that process. As I said earlier, otherwise, legislative drafting is entirely tied to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel because it's so important to make sure that we do have very high quality legislation.

Senator PRATT: Would you agree that drafting legislation is a specialised area of expertise?

Mr Anderson : Absolutely.

Senator PRATT: And the Office of Parliamentary Counsel would agree with that too?

Mr Quiggin : Yes.

Senator PRATT: Can I ask the Office of Parliamentary Counsel what expertise commercial law firms possess when it comes to drafting, and what resources they are receiving from experts—which is, indeed, your office, Mr Quiggin.

Mr Quiggin : I'm not in a position to answer what expertise firms have. Bills are produced using a version of Word with macros and templates et cetera. We provided a version of that to Treasury to provide to the firms. So we haven't talked directly with any of the firms. We also provided a short covering document on how to use those templates. Also available on our website are all of our drafting manuals, drafting directions, forms, manuals and formatting guides. So they're all available.

Senator PRATT: When you say you're unaware of what expertise they have, how do you go about training up a parliamentary draftsperson? Would there be expertise in a law firm to do that?

Mr Quiggin : The way we go about it is that we hire people generally a few years out of university and we train them on the job. We have our assistant drafters, who are non-SES drafters, working closely in a pairs arrangement with a senior draughter and they stay in that sort of arrangement for a number of years until they're in a position to take on work independently.

Senator PRATT: Is it conceivable that people in commercial law firms doing this work would never have done any parliamentary drafting before, let alone have anyone who's done parliamentary drafting available to supervise them?

Mr Quiggin : You'd probably need to ask Treasury whether they ask that about the firms.

Senator PRATT: Thank you.

Senator HUME: Sorry, can I just butt in. Does that mean that the service that you provide is essentially a monopoly service?

Mr Quiggin : Apart from this very special trial, we have a monopoly on all drafting of bills and regulations and other instruments that are done that go to the Governor-General. We also do unbillable work. So that work is done for free and is budget funded. We also do billable work for some other legislative instruments. So departments have a full choice of who they go to. I suppose our core drafting work is a monopoly of—

Senator HUME: Thank you.

Mr Moraitis : Senator, I would also add that, in the system, it's called tied work, as I alluded to. There are also other parts of government activity which is also tied work. If it's not OPC it would be AGS for example on national security law type matters. That's tied work, or constitutional law that's tied. So there are practice of this nature across the board.

Senator PRATT: Treasury Department Deputy Secretary John Lonsdale told the parliament's Economics Legislation Committee in February that the use of law firms for the consultation on and drafting of legislation would expedite the process usually carried out by government bureaucrats. Surely that's a matter of resources, and you wouldn't consider yourself slower or less efficient than commercial sources of parliamentary drafting, would you?

Mr Quiggin : No.

Senator PRATT: So is an assertion like 'expedite processes usually carried out by government bureaucrats' an expression rather than the Office of Parliamentary Counsel is under-resourced?

Mr Quiggin : I think you'd have to ask Mr Lonsdale that, if that was his intention.

Senator PRATT: It seems to me that, if you've got to juggle a workload within your existing resources and he's able to pull out of a bucket as much money as he needs to commission a piece of work, that's not a level playing field in terms of comparing your efficiencies, is it?

Mr Quiggin : I'm not really sure that's what's being said.

Senator PRATT: If previously you've said to Treasury, 'It's going to take us three months to get this piece of work done for you because this is when we can next free up parliamentary draftspeople,' that therefore creates a sense in Treasury that you can expedite things quickly. That's not a reflection of your efficiency; it's a reflection of your allocated resources, isn't it?

Mr Quiggin : It's a question of the resources we have available, and I suppose it does also depend on the efficiency. Perhaps I should add that one of the aspects of recruitment is, as I've mentioned, we work in a pairs arrangement, so we have effectively two limits on the number of new drafters we can recruit at any one time. One of those is funds. The other is making sure that we have a person who'd be available to train them. Over the past few years, we've hired a substantial number of new drafters but that does mean that our current staffing profile is slightly skewed, with a lot of very senior drafters, a lot of newer drafters and not as many in the middle.

Senator PRATT: That sounds better than having people who haven't been trained at all.

Mr Anderson : It's not simply a question of the comparative efficiency or otherwise of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel because the prioritisation of drafting work is not set by OPC; it's set for them by government. It might be that one department would like some legislation progressed but it's been accorded a low priority by government. It just stands to reason then that it'll be a while before they get resources made available for that.

Senator PRATT: That makes perfectly logical sense. But, essentially, Treasury can now bypass that at their own convenience by pulling some money out of their own coffers and paying for it rather than those resources going into the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, which would make more drafters available and expedite the work for everybody. It seems that Treasury's effectively queue-jumping in the course of its own drafting.

CHAIR: I'm not sure that's a question.

Senator PRATT: Have you got any way of comparing the time it takes for Treasury to get things drafted versus the time it takes the Office of Parliamentary Counsel on average to get through the queue to get things drafted? I've no problem with your efficiency. It's really a question of whether it's a level playing field in terms of, frankly, you having been accused of being inefficient.

CHAIR: What's the question though, Senator? This is all very interesting, but what's the question?

Senator PRATT: The question is: how do you compare the efficiency of what Treasury is doing when everyone else who needs parliamentary drafting done has to wait in a queue that's accorded priority by government when Treasury gets to jump the queue? Were any arrangements in this regard put in place to monitor that and whether it's fair?

Mr Gifford : There are two things I would note. You've made reference to a comparison and whether or not Treasury is able to queue-jump. One thing we should note in terms of this particular pilot is that OPC was also being given $5.2 million of additional resources as part of this package.

Senator HUME: Can I just clarify that that was the package of money that went to Treasury and Treasury allocated $5.2 million to OPC; is that correct?

Mr Gifford : There was $5.2 million allocated directly to OPC in addition to the resources—

Senator HUME: For Treasury drafting?

Mr Gifford : For Treasury related bills; that's correct.

Senator HUME: Can I clarify too, while we're on the subject—I don't mean to interrupt you, Senator Pratt—

Senator PRATT: That makes sense.

Senator HUME: what proportion of your work is Treasury related.

Mr Quiggin : It's about 20 per cent to 30 per cent.

Senator HUME: Wow!

Senator PRATT: I guess that's 20 or 30 per cent of the bills that come before us.

Mr Quiggin : Yes. That's based on bill numbers and pages and regulations.

Senator HUME: That's enormous.

Mr Gifford : The second point I would make is in relation to this being a pilot. By its very nature, it will actually be reviewed at the end of the pilot stage to understand exactly how it has operated in practice. Some of the questions you've asked tonight will very much be the nature of that assessment. There haven't been any decisions yet made about the nature of that review, but there will be a review conducted at the end of the pilot.

Senator PRATT: When's the pilot—

CHAIR: You've had 20 minutes now. I've been very generous.

Senator PRATT: That's fine.

Senator Cash: Chair, I will add, because there does seem to be confusion, many of these questions should actually be directed to Treasury, to be fair to the officials with us tonight. I've also been advised that the drafting is only for a select number of Treasury bills. They were obviously responsible for the legislation and, again, if you do have specific questions, it is more proper for them to be put to Treasury, to be fair.

CHAIR: Senator Cash, in Senator Hume's time, I just want to ask you a question, actually—fortuitously, you happen to be at the table. It is my understanding that you were, prior to your parliamentary life, a partner in a senior commercial legal firm in Perth. That being the case, my question is: is it not a fact that commercial lawyers in the big international firms in the capital cities spend their day drafting complex legal documents—in the form of contracts, although perhaps not in the form of legislation but certainly drafting complex legal documents? And, in another part of their world they spend a big part of their day studying legislation and finding holes in it or—

Senator MOLAN: Opportunities.

CHAIR: Yes, opportunities—that's better—opportunities in the legislation as drafted that will enable them to mount a challenge on a tax matter or whatever matter. Is that—

Senator Cash: Obviously I can speak only in relation to the work that I undertook for a decade at the particular law firm that I worked at, and the answer is yes.

CHAIR: I didn't want to give the evidence, but lawyers, particularly those in the big commercial firms, have enormous practice at drafting complex documents—perhaps not legislation—but then they spend their day reviewing legislation—

Senator Cash: Reviewing legislation, yes.

CHAIR: to find holes in it—'opportunities' in it!

Senator HUME: Following on from that issue, can I clarify with the OPC that the alternative drafters who potentially are used by Treasury are drawn from the legal services multi-use list? So, they should have expertise, should they not?

Mr Quiggin : I think the answer to the first part of the question is that my understanding is that it's correct.

Senator HUME: And they have to adhere to certain drafting standards?

Mr Quiggin : They've got to adhere to certain drafting guidelines. As First Parliamentary Counsel I issue drafting directions and a drafting manual.

Senator HUME: So, there's an OPC drafting manual?

Mr Quiggin : There's a drafting manual, which then goes out to drafting directions, but it tends to be directed at how particular things are to be dealt with in legislation. It has particular approaches—for example, the drafting commencement provisions and things like that. I don't know whether I'd use the word 'standards' for that; perhaps 'rules' is a better term.

Senator HUME: There's legislation itself that directs how legislation is drafted, isn't there? There's the Legislation Act 2003 and the Acts Interpreting Act, or interpretory act—a word I can never say!—1901. This is how legislation is drafted, is statutory and is also set out in regulations that you set yourself, in the manuals.

Mr Quiggin : I wouldn't say that they set out how to draft legislation. The Acts Interpretation Act addresses how to interpret legislation, and the Legislation Act deals with the process for making mostly legislative instruments and for the publication of both acts and legislative instruments.

Senator HUME: I'm putting on another hat here for a moment, because I chair the Economics Committee, so I know how much legislation is coming through from the Treasury portfolio. Last year there was an enormous amount, but this year I think it's expected to be about double last year's legislative load, just from Treasury alone. I know you got allocated an additional $5.2 million. What did that $5.2 million enable you to do?

Mr Quiggin : That enabled us to put on two additional drafting teams, so we were able to recruit back a former senior drafter from our office who had retired a short time before and also obtain the services of another experienced drafter from another jurisdiction and also then hire some new drafters who were in training. So, because all our drafters are effectively in a pool, with the resources that's freed up we've moved to work on the Treasury work.

Senator HUME: So, that additional amount of legislation that's coming through this winter would never have been possible without the $5.2 million?

Mr Quiggin : Certainly we need to obtain additional funds—

Senator HUME: You'd be hitting a bottleneck, wouldn't you? There's no way we could get that amount of legislation through like that?

Mr Quiggin : As was mentioned, there's a priority list set by the Parliamentary Business Committee of cabinet, so it would depend on what they did as to whether we moved resources from some other portfolio.

Senator HUME: You said something like—what was the phrase you used? I think it was something like low level of quality assurance?

Mr Quiggin : Yes.

Senator HUME: Is that what you provide? That's the only advice that you provide on the externally drafted legislation to Treasury?

Mr Quiggin : Yes. We look at the bills, provide comments and send those back to Treasury.

Senator HUME: Right. Has OPC ever been required to provide amendments to legislation to deal with issues that were not covered off in original legislation?

Mr Quiggin : Yes.

Senator HUME: I was thinking specifically of the Treasury Laws Amendment (Enterprise Tax Plan Base Rate Entities) Bill 2017. That would be an example of a bill that is in effect fixing an OPC-drafted bill?

Mr Quiggin : I couldn't say I was familiar with the bill. But certainly, until now, all amendments correcting previous legislation would have been correcting legislation—

Senator HUME: So it's not an uncommon occurrence for you to oversee or redraft legislation that even you yourself have drafted?

Mr Quiggin : It certainly comes up. There's a range of reasons that legislation needs to be amended. Sometimes it's changes in policy. Sometimes it's things that weren't envisaged. And in a relatively small number of cases it's due to errors during the drafting process.

Senator HUME: Do you have a personal problem with a trial of Treasury doing this? Is it sort of a professional affront? Or are you okay with this?

Mr Quiggin : I think that's asking me to comment on government policy.

Senator Cash: It is asking for an opinion, Chair, to be fair.

Senator HUME: All right. I will leave it there. Thank you.

Senator MOLAN: I have a simple question: You were asked whether you were consulted on these issues at all and from my memory you said you wouldn't call it being consulted. Mr Quiggin, I wondered whether you saw this as a problem. You got $5.2 million out of it, so you obviously did fairly well and you've obviously spoken up at some stage. But if you need to be consulted or if you've said anything, you would have said anything, I can only assume. Is that correct?

Mr Quiggin : I'm not really sure what the—

Senator MOLAN: You said you attended meetings and you were asked whether you were consulted, and you said, 'I wouldn't call it consulted.'

Mr Quiggin : I don't think I said that we attended meetings. I think we had conversations with Treasury officials.

Senator MOLAN: And if you felt as though you needed to be consulted or to make a point, would you have made that point?

Mr Quiggin : If I was given the opportunity to make those points, I would make those points.

Senator MOLAN: Okay. And would you have created the opportunity if it was important enough?

Mr Quiggin : I think there are situations where you're not necessarily aware of everything that's going on.

Senator MOLAN: Okay. At least you got $5.2 million out of it all?

Mr Quiggin : Yes, we did get additional funding, which was very useful.

Senator MOLAN: Thank you.

Senator PRATT: Mr Quiggin, you said you've got low-level oversight, which means you're giving low-level oversight to each piece of legislation that Treasury commissions. Is that right?

Mr Quiggin : Towards the end of the process, yes.

Senator PRATT: How many pieces of legislation have you given oversight for?

Mr Quiggin : I'd need to take that on notice.

Senator PRATT: Is there a handful, or a substantial number, so far?

Mr Quiggin : Could I say two handfuls?

Senator PRATT: Okay. That's probably a reflection of what we've seen in the parliament, too. That makes sense. You're responsible for the oversight of the legislation within your own office and you've said you are responsible for low-level quality assurance for these bills that come to you from Treasury. So, what are you currently—have you identified substantive problems with any of the bills, or have you had to make substantive changes to any of them?

Mr Quiggin : We don't make any changes to the bills. We'd send them back to Treasury. Again, I think it's probably something we'd need to take on notice to look at what comments have been made in relation to that description.

Senator PRATT: Okay. That's helpful, if you can take that on notice. Are the kinds of comments that you're required to make in response to the bills that Treasury are providing you substantively different to the comments and amendments you need to make to bills that are drafted in your own office?

Mr Quiggin : It's a very different process. I don't think it's something we could really compare. The bills drafted within the office are drafted within the drafting pairs, and therefore the sort of comments that are made along the way would not be recorded, if a senior drafter was making comments on things produced by the other. They are quite different processes.

Senator PRATT: So because you've got that in-house quality assurance, you don't need to give that low-level oversight. What I'm interested in is—I guess it's really a question for both you and Treasury—does this legislation, as far as what you've seen, require more high-level oversight because of the nature of the changes being made to it?

Mr Quiggin : I think that would be a judgement for Treasury. Treasury has responsibility for the ultimate quality of the legislation being produced.

Senator PRATT: Not that you can speak to the process the law firms are using, but it sounds like the product you're getting when your office oversights it is substantially different to what's produced in house.

Mr Quiggin : I don't think I said that. I said the process was different.

Senator PRATT: So the process is different, but does that make the product different?

Mr Quiggin : I think that's difficult to judge. I think that's the sort of thing that would be covered in the review that was referred to earlier.

Senator PRATT: That's fine from the point of view of a product. But these are major pieces of taxation legislation et cetera that we're dealing with that could have ultimately quite different outcomes for stakeholders if things are done in different ways. I've seen that in terms of my own processes within in-house parliamentary drafting. There are a lot of different ways of cracking a nut, as you would know from your own experience.

CHAIR: Senator, I really would ask you to ask a question. Your thoughts and opinions are interesting, but that's not really what estimates are for, and we're running out of time.

Senator PRATT: Thank you for your great interest in my thoughts, Chair.

CHAIR: If there are questions, could we have them?

Senator PRATT: Thank you, Chair. You did give a little treatise on some of your own thoughts earlier today. I note that in parliament in 2017 we've had more than 230 pieces of legislation, of which more than 130 have been passed by both houses, with more than 830 amendments to legislation during debate on these bills. That sounds like a lot of work. Do you require more resources?

Mr Quiggin : The amount of legislation is fairly consistent with previous years, so it's not a particularly high amount. As was mentioned earlier, we have received additional resources at this stage. We're in the process of recruiting additional staff, so I think at this stage we don't—

Senator PRATT: Has there been an increase in your workload over the last two years? You said it's been fairly consistent.

Mr Quiggin : It's been fairly consistent. It goes up and down, particularly with election years et cetera. It's been fairly consistent.

Senator PRATT: Have you had any staff reductions in the last two years?

Mr Quiggin : I think our total ASL today is around 96.6. Last year it was 92 and the year before it was 91.3.

Senator PRATT: So a slight increase.

Mr Quiggin : A slight increase.

Senator PRATT: Have you got a forward projection? Do you expect those levels to be maintained?

Mr Quiggin : Basically maintained or slightly increased.

Senator PRATT: Within that 90-odd to 96, have you had a reduction at all of senior drafting staff as a proportion of those people?

Mr Quiggin : I don't think so, as a proportion. We've had a very small number of senior staff leave over the last probably three or four years. One of the second parliamentary counsel retired and one went to head the Victorian drafting office. But we've been promoting into the SES.

Senator PRATT: Have you had any specific budget cuts over the last two budgets?

Mr Quiggin : Not specific ones, only the normal efficiency dividends et cetera.

Senator PRATT: I think you agreed previously that drafting requires a high degree of expertise and not just a practising certificate as a lawyer. How long do you spend getting someone up to the level of being a senior drafter?

Mr Quiggin : To get to be a senior drafter, it would probably vary between five to 10 years.

Senator HUME: Have you felt that there have been bills introduced to this parliament that perhaps have not met your rules or standards even though potentially they've been drafted based on the standards set out in the OPC manual?

Mr Quiggin : Not that I'm aware of.

Senator HUME: That's good. What problem do you think Treasury or the government is trying to fix by using external drafters?

Mr Quiggin : I think that's not something—

Senator Cash: I don't think that's a fair question for the officer.

Senator HUME: My understanding is that one of the reasons that this is happening is because of something that occurred in 2013, where the now opposition, who were in government then, had over 90 announced but unenacted tax measures, and that caused an awful lot of uncertainty in the business community at the time, because there is such an enormous schedule of legislation that needs to be prepared.

CHAIR: Can you comment on that?

Mr Quiggin : I'm not quite sure what the question is.

Senator HUME: My understanding, as the Chair of the Economics Committee, is that there is almost twice as much legislation coming through Treasury this winter as there was last year.

CHAIR: Yes, but what's your question?

Senator HUME: If that's the case, do you not think that it's very important to get that legislation not just announced but also enacted? If there is a bottleneck, it needs to be addressed?

Senator Cash: Again, I don't think that's a question that the officer should be answering.

CHAIR: The minister could answer it.

Senator Cash: One of the issues with the questions tonight is that they probably should go more to Treasury.

Senator HUME: I will direct those questions to Treasury.

CHAIR: Mr Quiggin, thank you very much for your assistance today. Thank you too, Ms Roberts, although I think you had an easy ride tonight.