Procedure Office

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Overview   Procedural support   Legislative drafting   Support for legislative scrutiny committees   Public information and parliamentary research   Parliamentary education services   International activities   Factors, events and trends influencing performance   Evaluation   Performance outlook

 

Outputs

Provision of advisory services and procedural support to non-government senators.

Provision of drafting services to non-government senators.

Provision of secretariat support to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, Scrutiny of Bills Committee and Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Provision of research services and delivery of parliamentary information to the community.

Provision of training to senators, staff, public servants and officials from other parliaments; and support for inter-parliamentary relations.

Provision of parliamentary education services to schools, teachers and students.

Performance information

Performance results

Procedural advice is accurate and timely, and support is provided to the satisfaction of senators.

Senators and their staff continued to acknowledge the accuracy and value of procedural advice.

Amendments and bills are drafted promptly, are legally sound, and are provided to senators in time for their use in the Senate chamber or elsewhere.

Legislative amendments and bills were accurate, and were prepared within required timeframes and to the satisfaction of senators.

Advice, documentation and publications are accurate, of a high standard and produced to meet the timeframes set by the Senate and the committees.

Advice and documentation provided to, and publications prepared for, the scrutiny committees were accurate, of a high standard and provided within the timeframes set by the committees.

Parliamentary research is accurate, timely and comprehensive.

Accurate and comprehensive parliamentary research was provided within required timeframes.

Seminars, lectures and public information projects are provided to the satisfaction of target audiences, increasing their awareness of the work and role of the Senate and its committees.

All seminars and lectures were held on time and in accordance with the programmed schedule.

Public information projects were delivered in accordance with the required timeframes.

Training is provided to the satisfaction of target audiences, increasing their awareness of the work and role of the Senate and its committees.

Training was provided to the satisfaction of target audiences, demonstrated by consistently favourable feedback from evaluation processes.

Inter-parliamentary functions are supported to the satisfaction of stakeholders.

Inter-parliamentary functions were carried out to the satisfaction of stakeholders, demonstrated by consistently favourable feedback.

Education Centre teaching and other Parliamentary Education Office (PEO) projects accurately reflect the Parliament and its work.

PEO website and publications were promptly updated to ensure accuracy and to accommodate electoral and other events.

PEO teaching programs held on time and in accordance with booking schedule.

PEO teaching programs were consistently conducted in accordance with the booking schedule.

PEO projects delivered according to programmed schedule.

PEO programs were managed and delivered in accordance with current implementation plans.

Overview

The Procedure Office is led by the Clerk Assistant (Procedure) and has four functional areas, as shown in figure 11. The Clerk Assistant (Procedure) also performs duties as a clerk at the table in the Senate chamber and is a member of the department’s executive responsible for a range of governance matters.

Figure 11   Elements and responsibilities of the Procedure Office

Executive and Legislative Drafting

Bronwyn Notzon, Clerk Assistant

Procedural advice, support and training

Drafting of legislative amendments and private senators’ bills

Public information and parliamentary research

Parliamentary education

Legislative scrutiny

David Sullivan, Director, Research Section

Simon Harvey, Director, Parliamentary Education Office

Toni Dawes, Secretary, Scrutiny of Bills Committee

Ivan Powell, Secretary, Regulations and Ordinances Committee

Jeanette Radcliffe, Secretary, Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights

Publications, seminars, public lectures, exhibitions and research on parliamentary matters

Production of The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate

Parliamentary education services and resources for schools, teachers and students

Secretariat, advisory and administrative support to the committees

The Procedure Office provides a range of advisory, support and information services closely aligned with the role and work of the Senate.

The office directly supports the parliamentary work of senators by providing procedural advice and support; and drafting legislative amendments and private senators’ bills. It also provides secretariats for the Senate’s two legislative scrutiny committees, the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and the Scrutiny of Bills Committee, and for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, all of which examine bills and legislative instruments against certain rights and accountability criteria.

The Research Section develops, manages and delivers publications, resources and programs which inform a wide range of audiences about the role and operations of the Senate and the Parliament.

The Parliamentary Education Office (PEO), jointly funded by the Department of the House of Representatives and administered by the Department of the Senate, produces educational programs and resources—including experiential learning programs, publications and a comprehensive website—for school students, teachers and others.

The full-time equivalent staffing level for the Procedure Office in 2011–12 was 34 (33 in 2010–11).

The cost of providing the services of the Procedure Office in 2011–12 was $6.1 million ($6.0 million in 2010–11).

Procedural support

In 2011–12, the office assisted non-government senators and their staff by providing procedural advice, both written and oral, relating to the role and work of the Senate and its committees, and the Parliament more generally. There was strong demand for such advice, particularly during sitting periods.

Advice was sought on many issues of Senate procedure, but also more broadly to include, for example, the provisions in section 53 of the Constitution, the legislative process and the disallowance process for delegated legislation.

Staff of the office ensured the accuracy of advice by consulting other departmental officers—principally the Clerk and the Deputy Clerk—and researching appropriate precedents. In keeping with parliamentary service values, advice was non-partisan, consistent, and provided to senators and their staff in a timely fashion.

In 2011–12, the office prepared an average of nine procedural scripts per sitting day for senators’ use in the chamber. The scripts typically related to such procedural matters as orders for the production of documents, the referral of matters to committees, and unanswered questions on notice.

The office also received a number of requests, from senators and their staff, to check material for procedural accuracy. The advice provided was accurate and provided in time to enable senators to use the material in the Senate and elsewhere.

Legislative drafting

In 2011–12, the office provided legislative support to senators’ work by drafting amendments to bills and drafting private senators’ bills, in response to instructions from senators and their staff. Notwithstanding the unpredictable levels of demand for legislative drafting and finite resourcing, the office met all timeframes for the drafting of amendments and private senators’ bills.

This work was undertaken primarily for non-government senators. On occasion, the office drafted amendments to inform committee processes and demonstrate the implementation of committee recommendations.

The office drafted and circulated 101 sets of committee of the whole amendments, containing 505 individual amendments. The office also drafted more than 23 sets of amendments that were not circulated, because, for example, they related to bills not dealt with by the Senate over the year or they were drafted for use outside the chamber to inform negotiations between parties.

Where amendments were framed as requests to the House of Representatives, in accordance with section 53 of the Constitution, the office also produced statements explaining the applicability of section 53 and the precedents of the Senate. These ensured senators were able to meet procedural requirements and demonstrate that their amendments were constitutionally sound.

The office also prepared and circulated 26 second reading amendments.

Private senators’ bills continued to be used as vehicles for individual senators and non-government parties to advance debate across areas of interest. In 2011–12, the office drafted 69 private senators’ bills, of which 26 were finalised and processed for introduction in the chamber, and one of which was passed by the Senate.

A number of other bills were drafted to different stages of development, for introduction at a later date or for use by senators outside the chamber.

Table 2 summarises senators’ use of the office’s legislative drafting and procedural services over the past four reporting periods.

Table 2       Legislative drafting and procedural advice services provided to senators, 2008–09 to 2011–12

Service

2008–09

2009–10

2010–11

2011–12

Committee of the whole amendments circulated

859

476

587

505

Second reading amendments circulated

25

29

19

26

Private senators’ bills introduced

23

31

54

26

Procedural scripts prepared

394

441

497

559

Together, these services form a substantial part of the support provided by the department to the legislative work of senators and the Senate. Formal and informal feedback from senators and their staff confirmed the value of the advice provided by the office.

Support for legislative scrutiny committees

During the year, the office provided secretariat, research and administrative support to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, Scrutiny of Bills Committee and Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, assisting them to fulfil their responsibilities in accordance with the standing orders or the enabling statute. The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights was established on 13 March 2012 under the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011.

The committees examine all bills and disallowable instruments within their terms of reference. In 2011–12:

The secretariats, assisted by the committees’ legal advisers, completed the necessary administrative tasks to enable the committees to undertake their work.

The secretariats also prepared material arising from the work of the committees for use in the Senate chamber and for publication elsewhere. This included preparation and verification of disallowance notices, and publication of:

During the second half of 2011, the Scrutiny of Bills secretariat completed backcapturing of Alert Digest and Report information for the past ten years. This information was included in a database to support committee and secretariat research.

The Scrutiny of Bills Committee also completed an inquiry into its future role and direction, and on 9 May 2012, tabled its final report. The report included 14 recommendations intended to enhance the committee’s work.

On 20 June 2012, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights presented its first report, which outlined the committee’s activities since its establishment. On 21 June 2012, the committee conducted its first public examination of a bill, the Social Security Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2011, during which evidence was taken from representatives of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the Australian Council of Social Service.

Staff from the scrutiny committee secretariats briefed several international delegations about the role and operations of the Senate legislative scrutiny committees. Staff from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee secretariat conducted a training seminar for public servants on delegated legislation and the Senate.

Public information and parliamentary research

In 2011–12, the Research Section:

The aim of these programs is to ensure that senators and their staff are supported in their legislative work, and that other audiences are able to develop appropriate levels of knowledge and awareness of the Senate and its work. In addition, the office contributed to the redevelopment of the Parliament of Australia website.

The office also responded in a timely manner to requests for information and research support from a range of sources, including senators; the Clerk, Deputy Clerk and Clerks Assistant; and members of parliamentary associations, the academic community and the general public.

Seminars and training programs

During 2011–12, the department’s seminar series continued to provide members of the Public Service and others with comprehensive training in the operations of the Senate and its committees, and the accountability to parliament of the executive and government departments and agencies. A total of 1,348 people attended 43 seminars.

The seminar series remained an integral part of graduate training programs in the Public Service. A large number of graduates enrolled in both the full-day ‘Introduction to the Senate’ seminar and a range of half-day seminars. Senior officers of the department also conducted half-day seminars for Australian Public Service Senior Executive Service officers on parliamentary privilege and accountability.

The section organised seminars tailored to the needs of individual government departments and other interested groups, including the Department of Finance and Deregulation; the Treasury; the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations; the Department of Health and Ageing; the Attorney-General’s Department; the Department of Defence; the school leaver program for the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities; and the Rural Leadership Program. The section also coordinated the new senators’ orientation program.

During 2011–12, training and information programs were offered to senators’ staff in the form of one-on-one sessions and 14 group seminars, delivered by senior officers, explaining the operations and procedures of the Senate and its committees.

Occasional lectures

The section arranged 11 lunchtime lectures during 2011–12, as part of the well-attended occasional lecture series. Topics ranged from the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians to events leading up to the election of Joseph Lyons at the 1931 federal election.

The department made transcripts, audio files and video files of the lectures available on the Senate website. Lectures were filmed and some were selected for broadcast on television and the internet by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Australia’s Public Affairs Channel, increasing the audience for, and accessibility of, the lectures.

Publications

Two editions of the department’s free journal Papers on Parliament were edited and published by the Research Section during 2011–12. Issues number 56 and 57, published in July 2011 and February 2012, largely comprised papers in the Senate occasional lecture series.

The Senate Briefs were revised and updated to account for changes in committee names and casual vacancies.

The Biographical Dictionary Unit within the Research Section continued work on volume 4 of The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, which will contain biographies of senators who left the Senate between 1983 and 2002. Work on an online edition of the first three volumes of the dictionary also progressed.

The section continued to issue a range of publications aimed at raising awareness of the Senate and parliamentary processes. Details of the publications available in 2011–12 are provided in appendix 4.

Exhibitions

An online version of the popular ‘Magna Carta’ exhibition was completed in 2011–12, featuring a high resolution image of the Latin original and an English translation.

The ‘Meet Your Senator’ touch screen in the first floor public area was enhanced to include video messages from senators on how they see their role in the Senate. New entries were added for senators who commenced their service in July 2011 which contained biographical information, photographs and answers to questions.

Work continued on an interactive touch screen and website for the ‘Women in the Federal Parliament’ exhibition and on new segments for the ‘Acting Wisely’ exhibition on the work of the parliament. Designers have been engaged to work on both these projects. Throughout the year, existing exhibitions in the public display areas were updated to reflect changes in office-holder positions and casual vacancies.

Partnership with the Australian National University

The department runs the Australian National Internships Program in partnership with the Australian National University. During 2011–12, 39 students completed parliamentary internships and 22 students were placed in other departments and agencies. Interns continued to see Parliament House as an excellent placement. The Research Section coordinated an induction seminar for each group of interns, and organised some of the functions associated with the program.

Parliamentary education services

During 2011–12, the PEO delivered an extensive range of high-quality educational services to schools, teachers and students. It also worked closely with members and senators to identify and address their parliamentary education service needs and involve them in PEO parliamentary education programs.

Under its education program at Parliament House, the PEO delivers a very popular experiential learning program which involves students in simulations of chamber and committee proceedings of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Through its comprehensive outreach program, the PEO provides parliamentary education, information and resources for students and teachers around Australia, including those who may not be able to visit Parliament House in Canberra. By analysing a range of data, the PEO is able to identify students from areas that less frequently participate in the PEO’s Parliament House programs and tailor materials and programs to meet their needs. To supplement this strategy, the PEO produces an extensive range of materials and resources on its website, on CD and in print.

The PEO also undertakes many joint ventures, actively builds professional networks and invests in training and development activities for teachers and trainee teachers. In addition, the PEO closely monitors curriculum developments, in particular the ongoing development of a national curriculum in civics and citizenship.

During 2011–12, the PEO continued to work with and report progress to the PEO Advisory Committee, chaired by the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, and worked closely with relevant stakeholders in the other parliaments, parliamentary departments, government departments and educational institutions.

Education Centre activities

During 2011–12, education programs were delivered to 89,624 students in 2,669 groups at the Education Centre and other locations at Parliament House. The total number of students attending the PEO role-play program reveals a marginal increase (1.35 per cent) on the previous year. The slight rise cannot be attributed to any one factor. While the number of groups attending the PEO also rose, there was a slight drop in the average class size at 33.58 students per group. Figures 12 and 13 show the number of students and the number of groups that visited the Education Centre in the years 2007–08 to 2011–12.

Figure 12   Students who visited the Education Centre, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Figure 12 Students who visited the Education Centre, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Text version of Figure 12

Programs delivered in the Education Centre continued to explore the four key functions of the parliament using role-play methodology, with a major emphasis being on the legislative process. The process of regular revision of the role-play scripts ensures that a good range of resources can be used as the basis of any education program in the Education Centre with emphasis being placed on currency, accuracy, topicality and presentation. Client exit surveys conducted on three occasions during the past 12 months confirm that this learning mode has the full support of visiting teachers and high levels of engagement by students. A noticeable trend observed by PEO educators is that increasingly teachers appear to be adopting this methodology to explore studies in civics education.

Figure 13   School groups that visited the Education Centre, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Figure 13 School groups that visited the Education Centre, 2007–08 to 2011–12

Text version of Figure 13

The Education Centre continues to enhance the quality of its visual aids and resource material. The PEO has recently obtained an electronic ‘smartboard’ for better dissemination of information in some PEO educational programs. The smartboard also has potential to assist in remote education program delivery from Parliament House and will be used for the development of new teaching resources for use in the classroom.

Outreach

Each year, less than three per cent of all school-age students are able to undertake a PEO education program and a visit to Parliament House, leaving many teachers and schools to seek alternative parliamentary education to support their curriculum requirements. On a limited basis the PEO is able to conduct outreach programs, deliverable on a school campus. On three occasions in the reporting period, the PEO took its education program ‘on the road’, working in partnership with local senators and members to deliver Parliament Alive in schools in their area. This very successful program combines a PEO facilitated role-play program with an opportunity for students and teachers to meet and discuss the nature of the work of an elected representative with their local member and/or senator.

In 2011–12, Parliament Alive conducted programs in the locations shown in table 3, involving a total of 2,986 students over a period of three weeks.

Table 3       PEO outreach activities by electorate in 2011–12

South Australia

Victoria

 

Hindmarsh
Sturt
Port Adelaide
Kingston


 

Holt
MacMillan
Aston
Deakin
La Trobe
Melbourne
Melbourne Ports
Scullin
Wills


Website and other resources

To address the parliamentary education needs of all students and teachers, particularly those who are unable to travel to Canberra, the PEO devotes considerable resources to expanding the range and quality of its online and multimedia services and resources, as well as its capacity to produce quality educational resources in various formats, including print and video.

During the year, the PEO:

The PEO also continued to produce and update the educational materials listed in appendix 4.

A key achievement in 2011–12 was the development of a new publication, Role-play the Parliament: A Teachers’ Guide, a comprehensive illustrated guide to assist teachers conducting parliamentary role-play programs in the classroom.

In 2011–12, the PEO conducted a variety of member and senator liaison activities including face-to-face briefings about new education resources and provided welcome packs for new members and senators.

The parliamentary education resource allowance continues to provide members and senators with resources and promotional items to use when working with schools in their communities. Allowance inclusions were updated and moved from a calendar to financial year basis to assist budgeting. Additional quantities of many resources have been made available for members and senators to purchase on a cost recovery basis and a comprehensive guide has been prepared to assist members and senators to more effectively use PEO resources. The PEO remains committed to providing high quality services, information and education resources for support to members and senators.

In 2011–12 demand for PEO publications and resources and visits to the PEO website continued to increase. The website recorded almost 590,000 sessions and more than 4.88 million page views, an increase of 8.7 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively since 2010–11. The figures indicate that more people are accessing the PEO website and viewing more content during their visits. These results are key objectives of the PEO’s outreach strategy.

Joint ventures and other programs

As in past years, the PEO has been actively involved in a number of joint venture activities. For example, the PEO contributed significantly to the National Youth Science Forum sponsored by the Australian National University. The forum provides a summer study program for outstanding senior secondary school science students from all states and territories. As part of their experience, the students undertake a specially designed learning program at Parliament House. In 2011–12, 244 students took part, examining legislative work and Senate committee processes through role-play.

The PEO also worked closely with Rotary International to run the Rotary Adventure in Citizenship program in budget week. The five-day program gave Year 11 students from across Australia a unique opportunity to experience the work of the Parliament, meet members of parliament and participate in an intensive parliamentary learning program.

In 2011–12, the PEO also:

Professional associations

The PEO seeks to maintain good relationships with parliamentary educator colleagues, both within Australia and internationally, and further advanced those relationships during 2011–12. In addition to hosting visits by staff from civic and cultural institutions in Canberra and state and territory parliamentary educator colleagues, the PEO attended and made presentations to the Australasian Parliamentary Educators’ Conference hosted by the Parliament of Queensland in November 2011.

PEO staff made visits to ACT-based civic and cultural institutions for the purposes of observing their programs and improving complementary activities and also hosted a visit by the education coordinator of the New Zealand Parliament.

As a foundation member, the PEO continued to actively support the National Capital Civics Education Group. Through this group the PEO has closely monitored and contributed to the development of the national curriculum in civics and citizenship. The Director of the PEO was appointed convenor of the group in May 2012.

The PEO also liaised with the Australian Secondary Principals’ Association and helped to coordinate meetings of the association at Parliament House.

International activities

During 2011–12, the department engaged in a range of activities with other parliaments and assisted in the development of parliaments in the region.

The department supported the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) by funding the attendance of a delegation at the 125th IPU Assembly in Bern, Switzerland in October 2011 and at the 126th IPU Assembly in Kampala, Uganda in March and April 2012. The secretary to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights served as secretary to the delegations, providing administrative support and guidance to delegation members on the procedures and practices of the IPU prior to and during the assembly.

Seminars and training programs were provided for parliamentarians and parliamentary officers visiting from Australian and overseas parliaments. Comprehensive programs were provided for delegations from the Senate of the Kingdom of Thailand, the Tongan Legislative Assembly, the Indonesian Dewan Perwakilan Daerah and the New South Wales Legislative Council. The Inter-Parliamentary Study Program, conducted jointly with the Department of the House of Representatives in March 2012, provided training for officers from the parliaments of Canada, Chile, China, India, Laos, Malaysia, New Zealand, The Gambia and South Australia.

The Senate Department, with the Department of the House of Representatives, jointly funded the International and Community Relations Office (ICRO). ICRO is administered by the Department of the House of Representatives and provides parliamentary relations support to both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Many of the programs administered by ICRO involve significant contributions from officers of the Department of the Senate. An account of the performance and activities of ICRO is contained in the annual report of the Department of the House of Representatives.

Factors, events and trends influencing performance

The demand for procedural and legislative services is substantially driven by the requirements of senators and the Senate chamber. Factors influencing demand include the frequency of sittings, the number of bills dealt with by the Senate and the legislative priorities of the Government and others. The composition of the Senate is also a factor: a situation in which no one group controls Senate outcomes typically leads to a strong demand for these services. The work of the secretariats of the legislative scrutiny committees is similarly driven by the requirements of those committees.

The PEO’s education programs at Parliament House remain very popular and operate at near capacity, and demand continues to exceed available spots during peak teaching periods.

To better address the parliamentary education needs of all students and teachers, particularly those that are less able to travel to Canberra, the PEO continues to devote considerable resources to expanding the range and quality of its online and multimedia services and resources. Projects such as the despatch box assist in bringing greater awareness of parliamentary processes to a greater number of school children, who might not have the opportunity to visit Canberra.

Evaluation

The main vehicle for evaluating the services provided by the office is the survey of senators, which is undertaken every two years. The 2011 survey reported continuing high levels of satisfaction with the services provided by Procedure Office.

The Procedure Office also monitors levels of satisfaction with its performance through formal and informal channels such as letters, emails, phone calls, seminar evaluation forms and direct advice from senators and their staff and members of the public. This continuous performance appraisal assists the office to make timely and responsive adjustments to the ways in which it delivers its services.

The PEO in particular monitors feedback on its activities and resources from senators and members and recently conducted a survey (see ‘Website and other resources’ section above). In addition, feedback is regularly provided by its target audiences of students and teachers.

Performance outlook

In 2012–13, the Procedure Office will continue to provide its procedural and legislative services to meet the requirements of the Senate and senators and to support the work of the legislative scrutiny committees. Training and seminar programs will continue, with the focus on providing tailored programs to senators and their advisers.

The Research Section will further develop its information resources, with work progressing on volume 4 of The Biographical Dictionary of the Australian Senate, and the online publication of volumes 1 to 3. The section will also launch an interactive touch screen and website for the ‘Women in the Federal Parliament’ exhibition and oversee the design and development of new segments for the ‘Acting Wisely’ exhibition on the work of the parliament.

The section will play a major role in organising the Australia and New Zealand Association of Clerks-at-the-Table (ANZACATT) professional development seminar to be held at Parliament House in January 2013, an Open Day to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Parliament House, and a seminar to celebrate the legacy of Andrew Inglis Clark.

The Scrutiny of Bills Committee secretariat, the Regulations and Ordinances Committee secretariat and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights secretariat will continue to examine information technology options to improve the management of the large volumes of information received by the committees.

In 2012–13, the PEO will finalise the introduction in the Education Centre of improved role-play scripts, including concept-based role-plays.

In addition to facilitating role-play classes at Parliament House for thousands of young Australians, the PEO will continue to review, update and improve the material on its website to enhance its accessibility and relevance. Emphasis will continue on interactivity and development of an expanded range of material will be completed and fielded, for primary and secondary students. Publications will be updated as necessary and republished, and a number of outreach programs involving senators and members are planned.


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