The Parliamentary Service Act provides for an independent Commissioner appointed by the Presiding Officers. The Commissioner's role is to advise the Presiding Officers on the management policies and practices of the Parliamentary Service and, if requested by the Presiding Officers, to inquire into and report on Parliamentary Service matters. The Commissioner is not subject to direction by or on behalf of the executive government in the performance of his functions.
The Parliamentary Service Act empowers the Presiding Officers to make determinations on a range of matters affecting the Parliamentary Service. The Parliamentary Service Act also requires the Presiding Officers to consult the Commissioner before making these determinations.
Section 42 of the Parliamentary Service Act requires the Commissioner to give a report to the Presiding Officers for presentation to the Parliament on the activities of the Commissioner during the year.
Merit Protection Commissioner's role
The role of the Merit Protection Commissioner includes inquiring into whistleblower reports and alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct; functions prescribed in determinations made for the purposes of section 33 of the Parliamentary Service Act (review of actions) and inquiring into actions at the request of the Presiding Officers.
Section 49 of the Parliamentary Service Act requires the Merit Protection Commissioner to give a report to the Commissioner for inclusion in the Commissioner's report under section 42.
The Merit Protection Commissioner's report is at Appendix A.
Roles and responsibilities of the individual departments
Four parliamentary departments are established under the Parliamentary Service Act.
The Department of the Senate and the Department of the House of Representatives (the chamber departments) provide advice and support to the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively, and to committees and Senators and Members.
The PBO was established as a Department of the Parliament by amendments to the Parliamentary Service Act proclaimed on 15 February 2012. The Office is established to inform the Parliament by providing independent advice and non–partisan analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial impact of proposals. Mr Phil Bowen's appointment as Parliamentary Budget Officer from 23 July 2012 will mark the effective commencement of the Office.
DPS provides a range of support services for the Parliament and for Parliament House. Its services include information services to the Parliament, security, facilities, visitor services, building management and maintenance, landscaping, ICT, telecommunications management, broadcasting and records services.
Under the Parliamentary Service Act, the secretaries of the parliamentary departments have roles and responsibilities similar to those of Australian Public Service agency heads. The secretaries of the chamber departments are Dr Rosemary Laing, Clerk of the Senate, and Mr Bernard Wright, Clerk of the House of Representatives. Dr Laing and Mr Wright were appointed by the Presiding Officers for non–renewable terms of ten years from 5 December 2009. As mentioned, Mr Phil Bowen is Secretary of the Department of the Parliamentary Budget Office and Ms Carol Mills is Secretary, DPS. Their respective terms are mentioned above.