Employment issues in the Department of Parliamentary Services
This chapter canvasses issues relating to DPS as an employer including
bullying and harassment, recruitment practices, workforce trends and
occupational health and safety issues.
Bullying and harassment
A very disturbing issue raised in submissions and evidence was the
alleged extent of bullying and harassment within the Department of
Parliamentary Services (DPS). Much of the evidence received by the committee
was provided in confidential submissions with the majority of these submissions
providing details of individual cases. The committee agreed that it was not in
a position, nor would it be appropriate, to adjudicate on individual cases.
This decision is in line with that of other Senate committees provided with information
about individual cases concerning the matters under review. However, the
consideration of the evidence contained in these submissions provides a picture
of the employment culture within DPS.
The committee was also mindful that reliance on information in
submissions from a limited number of individuals may distort its view of the
level of bullying and harassment within DPS. Therefore, as part of its
deliberations on this matter, the committee has examined a range of other
material, in particular the survey of DPS staff carried out in late 2011 by
The committee also notes that some matters have been considered by Fair
Work Australia. The committee has noted these matters but will not be
commenting on their outcome.
Submitters to the inquiry
The following evidence is taken from confidential submissions. As has
already been stated, the committee will not be deciding on the merits of
individual cases. Rather, the committee wishes to provide examples of the type
of allegations received and the reported response from DPS to the allegations
The allegations of bullying and harassment came from staff across the
department and involved all levels of staff in DPS. Some submitters described
individual incidents that they had experienced or had observed. Another
witness, however, commented that the 'greater issue at DPS is the systematic
and organised form of bullying that is entrenched rather than the individual
The following provides examples of the type of conduct provided in submissions:
- use of the performance management system as a tool to bully staff
with unsubstantiated claims and innuendo being used;
- accusations of not upholding parliamentary service values being
made when employees questioned DPS management decisions;
- use of code of conduct investigations as a tool to bully staff;
- bullying occurred in private with staff members being refused
requests for another staff member to attend;
- bullying occurred at staff meetings in the form of derogatory
comments, for example, a staff member was told that they were 'too stupid to be
given a task' and comments made which marginalised the professional input of
staff physically ostracised by being moved to accommodation away
from their team and even to areas at a significant distance from the team;
staff members were professionally ostracised, that is, staff were
left out of, or not notified about, important meetings with team members or
other areas of DPS when relevant work was being discussed;
derogatory comments being made about staff in emails which were
forwarded to a range of other staff members;
- bullying of members of staff recruitment panels to ensure that
the 'favoured' candidate was selected; and
- allegations of sexual harassment with this type of behaviour
being a source of humour among peers.
The effect of bullying conduct on individual staff members has been
significant with one submitter describing the ostracism they had suffered as
'so insufferably lonely, unstimulating and hopeless that all I could do in
response was to seek outside employment.'
Other submitters described health problems including depression and high blood
Submitters also put to the committee that many DPS employees chose to
stay silent over bullying and harassment because of the conviction that no
action would be taken by DPS in response to a complaint. In some cases it was
alleged that the protagonists were promoted or provided with other 'rewards'
rather than being sanctioned for their behaviour. Part of the reason for the
lack of action, it was argued, was the perception that some of the perpetrators
were the 'favourites' of executive officers. It was also alleged that there was
a fear of witnesses reporting bullying becoming a victim themselves. Indeed,
one submitter suggested that as a consequence of providing a witness statement
to an incident, they had become a victim of bullying themselves and chose to
leave the department when offered a redundancy.
Others submitters stated that victims decided to leave DPS rather than
report bullying and risk further victimisation. One submitter stated that a
colleague, who had chosen to leave the department after experiencing bullying,
found the events so traumatic that it was many months before the person could
walk back into Parliament House without feeling physically ill.
When victims did decide to report bullying and harassment, it is alleged
that no support was provided by DPS. One submitter stated that, following the
report of instances of bullying, matters improved for a short time. However,
the submitter found that they were then treated differently to other members of
the section and, as a consequence, after a period of depression brought on by
the employment situation, they had left DPS.
It was also alleged that DPS management argued that there was no
bullying in DPS, rather, there were 'performance management' issues stemming
from the inability of staff to handle performance management initiatives or
staff feeling left out, not properly consulted or not engaged with or part of a
larger planning process. The submitter concluded that:
Whilst this may have an element of truth the reality for many
is that DPS Executive have honed their skills in exclusion, isolation, denial
of meaningful work and performance censure to a level that is bullying.
Community and Public Sector Union
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is the primary union
covering the parliamentary departments, including DPS. The CPSU undertook a
staff survey in June 2011 of all staff in DPS with the majority of the
respondents being CPSU members. The outcome of the staff survey supported the
evidence received by the committee in confidential submissions.
The CPSU advised that one third of DPS staff reported that they had
experienced bullying. Hansard and the Information Access Branch accounted for
half of the instances of bullying. Examples of bullying behaviour provided by
Being asked if I think it was the right workplace for me.
Being micro-managed and a total lack of loyalty and support
from my supervisor.
Being overloaded with work was as a result of unrealistic
deadlines and shortage of staff. As EL staff have lost flextime, it seems to be
implicitly expected by senior management that you will work extra hours with
little if any compensation.
Belittling in front of other staff; being expected to perform
higher level tasks; information being withheld that is necessary to perform
Colleagues of mine have been subject to high levels of
bullying from a particular individual at SES level.
Management had my performance rating downgraded from highly
effective to effective.
Not bullying, just "nit picking". Lack of support.
No praise for the 100 things you do right, and "disapproval" for the
one thing that might not be perfect. One co-worker belittles me in front of
others, and criticises me, but with a smile.
Staff shortages put you in a position of doing more hours and
seeming churlish if you need to refuse for personal reasons.
Refused carers leave to look after blind family member.
The CPSU indicated that despite the high levels of bullying reported in
the survey, only one quarter of the staff had reported the behaviour to
supervisors or DPS human resource management. Reasons they did not make a
Because nothing would happen even if you did report it.
I didn't want to make more trouble for myself.
I do not believe that I would be supported. I believe that I
would be considered 'precious' and a trouble maker.
Ongoing negative culture of how people are treated rather
than identifiable incidents.
Wasn't sure if it counted as bullying, I discussed it with my
former supervisor. It’s a bit tricky when it’s a supervisor and director you
are dealing with.
Who to? It would only cause more problems. I did speak to
both the people concerned and they denied the behaviour, so you just have to
"get on with it".
The results of the survey also showed that just under one quarter of DPS
staff indicated that they were not aware of the DPS bullying and harassment
procedures. Two thirds of respondents to the survey considered that DPS did not
provide adequate training on bullying and harassment. The CPSU recommended that
DPS ensure that all staff are aware of current bullying and harassment
The CPSU believed that these responses indicated that many staff felt
that bullying behaviour is not adequately addressed by DPS management with four
in five staff not believing that DPS management placed importance on
eliminating bullying and harassment from the workplace. The staff most likely
to indicate this worked in Hansard and the Research Branch. The survey also
found that only five per cent of staff thought that bullying complaints were
dealt with quickly and appropriately, and almost one quarter of DPS staff
disagreed that quick and appropriate action was taken. Of those staff that did
report bully, no one reported being satisfied with the response received.
Mr Alistair Waters, Deputy National Secretary, CPSU, explained to the
committee the complex nature of bullying and harassment:
Bullying and harassment in many ways goes much more to a
workplace culture issue. Frankly, the union plays a role in this. Bullying and
harassment is significantly less common in well-organised workplaces than it is
in less well-organised workplaces. It is a matter of confidence on the part of
workers. In my experience, what can be seen as bullying by one worker in one
environment may well be water off a duck's back for a worker who is much more
confident in their work environment, so experiences around bullying are far
more complex. Clearly, based on the comments we have got back, there is a
significant element of workload pressure that is feeding into bullying and
harassment concerns here in DPS.
Mr Waters commented that there is a lower level of confidence in the
processes to deal with bullying and harassment in DPS than in other agencies
and that 'the general culture of a workplace has a much bigger influence in
terms of something like bullying and harassment and the reported numbers than
you find with something like the selection process issue'. The CPSU also
pointed to the lack of action on bullying and harassment by DPS with Mr Waters
stating that 'I would not say that in our view that a clear and consistent
message that staff are safe to report it and that issues will be taken
seriously has been communicated consistently through the organisation'.
The CPSU delegate for DPS, Mr Leo Vukosa, also commented that, while he
has received increasing numbers of people contacting over the last 24 months
seeking advice about bully and harassment, many staff had not wanted to take
the matter further. Mr Vukosa stated that those contacting him did not want
further action as they were afraid of the consequences particularly in a tight
job market and as being labelled as a trouble maker or someone who speaks out
too often. Mr Vukosa noted that through his intervention there was often a
successful outcome. However, he noted:
There have been other instances where the manager has denied
the bullying, I have taken it further up the chain to the executive and the
executive, though very high on words, are very low on actions. In the majority
of the cases this is true...
It has been common knowledge throughout DPS that people that
do speak out if they see something wrong or because they feel they have been
dealt with inappropriately find that their career paths are more or less
stalled for the rest of their time here. So it is an ongoing issue. I am not
sure if it is something that is unique to DPS, but it definitely happens at
DPS. I have seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears.
Allegations of bullying raised
during estimates hearings
Allegations of bullying and culture of bullying and harassment in DPS have
been raised at the committee's estimates hearings for a number of years. At the
October 2010 Supplementary Estimates, questions were asked about the incidence
of bullying and harassment as a committee member had received an email from a
DPS employee who outlined incidents described as bullying. The employee alleged
that no action had been taken by DPS to address the issue.
The then Secretary of DPS, Mr Alan Thompson, stated that he was not
aware of any instances of bullying being cited as a reason for leaving the
department but commented that 'I would not want to pretend that there has never
been any reports because we have had some feedback through our most recent
Ms Roxanne Missingham, the then Parliamentary Librarian who also had
oversight of the human resource function at that time, concurred that no one
had cited bullying as a reason for leaving the department.
In addition, Ms Missingham commented that 'during my period of being
responsible for the human resource services, we have not had a bullying
complaint come through [harassment officers] that has required
However, Ms Missingham added that DPS staff surveys sought information
on bullying with the 2009 survey including an 'extensive range' of questions on
bullying. Information from the Australian Public Service Commission indicted
that there were some differences in the results of some branches in DPS and the
public sector generally. DPS management had responded by asking each branch to emphasise
appropriate behaviour and to ensure that staff reported such behaviour.
Bullying and harassment was also canvassed in both the Supplementary and
Additional Estimates 2010–11 with DPS responding to questions on notice regarding
workplace bullying. DPS stated that from 2006–07 to 2010–11, 47 individuals had
indicated in their exit interviews that they had experienced or observed
workplace harassment, bullying or discrimination in the workplace. Of these, 21
individuals stated that the matter had been raised with the DPS Harassment
Contact Officer, their supervisor, senior officer and/or DPS Employee
Allegations of bullying from exit interviews raised before exit from DPS
allegations raised in exit interviews
Estimates 2010–11, Answer to question on notice No. P8.
DPS stated that 'every effort is made to follow up reports appropriately...the
nature of the follow-up action takes into consideration whether the claim is
about a supervisor, work colleague or subordinate'.
DPS reported that five employees had indicated during exit interviews
that workplace harassment/bullying was an influencing factor in their decision
to leave DPS.
Of the five exit interviews in 2009–10 where allegations were made, two named
individuals but DPS stated it was already aware of the circumstances prior to
the exit interviews and added that 'there is no other indication of the
individuals named being difficult to work with, and DPS has not moved them to
DPS provided the following additional information on reporting of
bullying and harassment.
Table 2.2: Reporting of bullying and/or harassment
During employment only
At exit interview only
At exit interview and
said then that it had been previously reported
in 2010–11 led to a formal investigation. Formal investigations were conducted
for 2 of the 5 instances in 2009–10.
Senate Hansard, 16 August 2011, Question on notice No 682, p. 4576.
Following media reports, bullying was canvassed at the 2011 Budget
Ms Missingham commented that apart from exit interviews, she was unaware of any
allegations of bullying by ongoing staff in the previous financial year.
DPS was questioned whether any of the five employees who reported bullying
during exit interviews were employed with Parliamentary Security Services
(PSS). Ms Bronwyn Graham, then Assistant Secretary, Building Services
Branch, reported that one of the five cases was a casual PSS officer. She
described the actions taken:
That particular incident was reported to me immediately on
receiving the exit interview survey. I know that that particular individual did
not name anyone specifically—did not make any specific allegations of bullying.
That individual's comments were very generic. I took that very seriously. I met
with the director of HR at the time, and we decided on a course of action in
terms of how we should deal with that. I think it is fair to say that we felt
those claims of general bullying allegations were a result of that individual
being performance managed.
DPS provided the committee with information on the status of the eight
matters raised at exit interviews in 2010–11. Where the behaviour had not been
reported previously, one matter had been resolved, the staff member responsible
was not identified in one case and in case where staff member was identified, the
former officer did not wish to pursue the matter after being interviewed by HR
staff. In relation to the three cases where it was indicated that the matters
had been raised previously, none of the employees participated in a one-on-one
interview with HR services. However, the appropriate work areas were alerted by
Following the 2011 Budget Estimates, DPS provided the committee with
information on the number of formal allegations of bullying from ongoing staff.
Table 2.3: Allegations of bullying from ongoing staff
allegations from ongoing staff
Source: Budget Estimates
2011–12, Answer to question on notice No. 22.
As part of Comcare's 2011–12 Preventing Workplace Bullying Campaign,
Comcare conducted an audit of DPS with the aim to improve the management of
bullying and inappropriate workplace behaviour risks to health and safety in
DPS. The audit was first examined at the 2012 Additional Estimates and again at
the committee's May hearing. DPS indicated that Comcare had approached DPS to participate
in the audit. In the first instance, the Comcare audit was to be restricted to
a small number of staff. However, DPS sought Comcare's agreement for all staff
to be surveyed.
Comcare undertook a desktop audit of DPS systems and policies and an
It also included an online survey which was open to all DPS
employees from 19 to 30 September. We received a report and the survey results
on 23 December and that provided us with a number of pieces of
information. We had 259 responses, which was around 30 per cent of the response
rate. At that point in time our headcount was 835, so I am assuming that it
would be around 30 per cent.
The Comcare audit found that, while a high proportion of staff indicated
that they understood what type of behaviour constitutes bullying, only 31 per
cent felt confident to speak up about inappropriate behaviour and less than half
(47.8 per cent) agreed or strongly agreed that instances of bullying were taken
seriously by management. Further, the survey noted that only 40.1 per cent
agreed or strongly agreed that managers lead by example to prevent workplace
The audit made nine recommendations to improve OHS strategies and systems and
DPS's prevention and education programs.
Mr David Kenny, then Deputy Secretary, stated that DPS had accepted the
recommendations and he had asked the HR director to develop an implementation
plan for each of the recommendations and advise Comcare of that plan.
DPS also reported that all new employees are provided with a pamphlet outlining
their responsibilities in relation to the Parliamentary Service and Code of
Conduct, and DPS presents regular induction workshops for new employees
covering the Parliamentary Service Values and Code of Conduct. In addition, all
employees are encouraged to attend bullying and harassment awareness workshops.
ORIMA staff survey
In March 2012, the results of the 2011 DPS staff survey conducted by
ORIMA Research were made available to DSP.
A total of 460 staff (of 817 sampled) took part in the survey, representing a
response rate of 56 per cent. The survey included questions on bullying and
harassment. The survey found that while the results were consistent with the
2009 DPS staff survey, overall levels of perceived bullying and/or harassment
at DPS were above average for medium APS agencies.
Of concern was that around one in five staff (23 per cent) indicated
that they had been subjected to bullying and/or harassment in the 12 months
prior to the survey. This was a small increase from the 20 per cent recorded in
the 2009 survey and above the 17 per cent for medium APS agencies. Just over
one in ten staff (12 per cent) indicated that the bullying and/or harassment
was still ongoing, while 11 per cent indicated that the bullying and/or
harassment was no longer occurring. Those staff most likely to have experienced
bullying and/or harassment were at the PSL 1–2 level and/or had a disability.
Around one-third (32 per cent) of staff indicated that they had witnessed
bullying and/or harassment at DPS in the last 12 months, above the 27 per cent
recorded in 2009.
The survey provided information on the nature of bullying and/or
harassment with the most likely type of behaviour being psychological and based
on perceived personality differences. The psychological nature of bullying
and/or harassment was characterised by:
- humiliation through sarcasm, criticism or insults, sometimes in
front of others;
- managerial style;
- persistent and unjustified criticism; and/or
- intimidating or aggressive body language.
The survey found bullying and/or harassment also related to:
- perceived personality differences: 46 per cent;
- work performance: 41 per cent;
- managerial style: 34 per cent;
- employment status: 23 per cent:
- age: 11 per cent;
- gender: 5 per cent:
- race/ethnicity: 5 per cent;
- disability: 5 per cent;
- political opinion: 5 per cent
- religion: 2 per cent;
- sexual orientation: 2 per cent; and
- other: 18 per cent.
Of those who reported bullying and/or harassment, half indicated that someone
more senior to them (other than their supervisor) was responsible. This was
followed by co-workers (41 per cent ) and direct supervisors (35 per cent).
In relation to reporting of bullying and/or harassment, of those who had
either witnessed or experienced bullying and/or harassment, 29 per cent
indicated that they had reported it. This is below the findings of the 2009 survey
(37 per cent) and the 40 per cent for medium APS agencies. The ORIMA
Survey provided the main reasons for not reporting bullying and/or harassment
- being deterred by potential repercussions (52 per cent);
- leaving the decision to report the incident to the victim or it
being reported by someone else (37 per cent);
feeling their report would not be taken seriously (31 per cent);
- feeling that they would not be believed or it being too hard to
prove (23 per cent).
When bullying and/or harassment was reported, staff indicated low levels
of satisfaction with the way the report of the incident was handled. In 2011,
17 per cent of staff were satisfied, down from 27 per cent in 2009 and well
below the 38 per cent for medium APS agencies.
Response by DPS
The incidence of bullying and/or harassment in DPS was canvassed at the
committee's May hearing. DPS outlined the response to the Comcare audit and
stated that a management plan had been accepted by Comcare. In May 2012,
Comcare inspectors had reported that progress had been made on implementing the
plan and that there was a clear commitment from senior management to deal with
workplace bullying and/or harassment.
In addition, compulsory staff workshops were being held.
Mr Kenny also indicated that DPS had recently initiated a code of conduct
investigation as a result of bullying allegations. In relation to this case, Mr
Kenny noted that a previous allegation had been made and the relevant manager
had not acted on it.
At the May 2011 Budget Estimates, Mr Thompson was questioned about
bullying claims and responded that 'in any workplace there are always concerns
about whether people feel as though they are being bullied'. He went on to
state that he took the claims 'very seriously' and that he expected line
managers, assisted by Human Resource officers, 'to thoroughly investigate any
allegations of bullying'. Once the allegations are fully investigated, in cases
where the allegation is proven, 'we would then initiate a process to ensure
that the bullying ceased and action taken with regard to any officer who was
deemed to have bullied'.
Mr Thompson went on to state that in some cases 'the reality is that
somebody believes they are being bullied when all that is happening is they are
receiving fair and reasonable feedback about attendance or work performance or
whatever'. He concluded that DPS 'every time seeks to be fair to the supervisor
or the other party, whoever that is, in sorting out whether bullying has really
occurred or whether it is a perception'.
Ms Missingham outlined the process that would be used to investigate an
allegation of bullying:
There is a Department of Parliamentary Services practices
policy and all the staff are employed under our guidelines and policies and
practices. The referral process is through HR to the relevant senior executive
service member, which would normally be the person who is the branch head,
which would normally be the assistant secretary of research or the assistant
secretary of information access within the library if there was a reported
allegation of bullying.
In response to concerns raised about the robustness of DPS's processes,
Mr Thompson stated:
I am concerned about all bullying. We have an active program
to attempt to get people to come forward if they do believe they have been
subject to bullying and we normally then manage that through our HR people as a
disinterested third party to try to get to the bottom of the real situation for
each one. If those cases we only learned about it at the end, I apologise for
that, but nevertheless we do actively tried to prevent bullying and deal with
it in the here and now rather than waiting until somebody leaves.
At the committee's May hearing, the DPS response to bullying was
explored. The then acting Secretary, Mr Russell Grove, commented on the results
of the surveys and whether they pointed to a systemic problem in DPS:
A difficulty associated with surveys is that, while they are
valuable, they need to be put into context. For example, only a bit over half,
56 per cent, responded to the survey. If you take into account the percentage
of those who made comment about bullying, I think to draw the conclusion that
bullying is rife and extends right through DPS is an unfair conclusion to draw.
That is not taking away from the importance of the issue.
Mr Grove also commented on the difficulties of investigating bullying if
the allegations were raised only raised during exit interviews rather than when
If, for example, all the five people came from one branch and
they had the same supervisor, clearly there is a message there. It may be that
they are across the branches. While people report that at exit interview, some
people say, 'I'm telling you this but I don't want you to do anything about it
because I am going interstate and I am not available to talk about it anymore,
but I thought you should know.' It is very difficult of course to investigate
something like that. As we know, it is very easy to throw the bomb and then
leave the arena. You have got someone who is being accused of bullying—and it
may very well be true—but to verify the information and provide procedural
fairness to everybody concerned, including the person who made the allegation
and the person about whom the allegation is made, is quite a difficult thing to
do in that circumstance.
However, Mr Grove also stated that 'I think no one is denying that
something does need to be done about this issue and positive steps taken'. He
also noted that DPS was preparing an action plan 'so that people have the
opportunity to speak up without being afraid'.
Mr Grove also conceded that the survey results were very concerning compared to
other medium agencies in the APS.
The views put by DPS were not shared by the CPSU. Mr Waters argued that it
was very concerning that only 29 per cent of employees who had experienced or
witnessed bullying had reported it. Mr Waters indicated that DPS had written to
the CPSU just prior to the committee's hearing indicating that 'DPS is
committed to promoting a positive, inclusive and supportive workplace culture' and
that a plan had been put in place after the Comcare audit.
However, Mr Waters commented:
Obviously there are always differences of opinion that do
occur...We have probably found the department far more defensive when it comes
to some of our concerns about HR practices and policies, be it in relation
merit recruitment or the bullying and harassment issues. The department, as
late as Monday, provided us with information indicating that they felt that
they had been taking steps to promote an inclusive and supportive workplace
culture which is free of bullying and harassment. Certainly the evidence that
we have from our members is that they do not feel that to be the case.
The committee notes the comments made by the then acting Secretary, Mr Grove,
that it was an unfair conclusion to make that bullying is rife and extends
throughout DPS. However, the committee considers that there is overwhelming
evidence to the contrary: confidential submissions detailed individual cases
that point to long term, unacceptable behaviour and lack of action to remedy
the situations; and, two all-staff surveys found a disturbing level of bullying
and/or harassment and low degrees of confidence to report that behaviour.
The parliamentary service is often very demanding, with long hours and requirements
to produce highly quality and accurate work within tight deadlines. The
committee considers that it is unacceptable that staff working in this
environment, indeed in any work environment, have also experienced bullying
and/or harassment. This has taken the form of direct verbal abuse, sexual
harassment and ostracism both physical and professional. The consequences of
this behaviour have been hugely detrimental to individual staff with some
pointing to episodes of depression and other illness. The committee is aware
that some employees have chosen to leave DPS for other agencies rather than
continue working in an unacceptable environment. Being forced to change
workplaces can be very disruptive and may impact adversely on career
progression. DPS has also suffered through the loss of experienced staff, time
spent in recruiting new staff and the impact on the general morale of the
That bullying and harassment has been allowed to flourish for such a
length of time within DPS points to ineffectual processes, lack of leadership
and lack of commitment to stamping out this type of behaviour. There also
appears to have been an element of denial in the responses received from the
former management of DPS. The committee notes that both the 2009 and 2011 ORIMA
staff surveys found worrying levels of bullying and/or harassment and lack of
confidence in reporting this behaviour – only 29 per cent of relevant reported
the behaviour in 2011 and 37 per cent in 2009. Yet, during estimates hearings it
was stated that the DPS executive had only been aware of allegations of
bullying raised in exit interviews. The committee finds that such evidence
underscores its grave concerns about the role and performance of management in
DPS in relation to staffing issues.
The committee welcomes the comments of the new Secretary, Ms Carol
Mills, that bullying and harassment are not appropriate in any workplace and
that a culture of respect will eradicate avenues for bullying. Ms Mills has
also pointed to the need for leadership in behaviour and management style.
The committee is deeply concerned that effective action be taken immediately to
redress the current unacceptable culture in DPS and will continue to monitor
implementation of programs through estimates hearings.
Recruitment and selection
A further issue identified in the ORIMA survey, and raised in submissions,
related to DPS recruitment practices, principally that appointments were not
based on merit but based on nepotism, favouritism and patronage.
The ORIMA survey found that staff at DPS held 'mixed' views about
aspects of recruitment and selection. Just under half of staff (46 per cent)
agreed that recruitment and selection policies and procedures were fair, while
27 per cent disagreed. The level of agreement in 2011 was lower than in 2009
(58 per cent) and lower than for similar APS agencies (51 per cent). Just under
one-quarter of staff (23 per cent) agreed that DPS was good at selecting
the right people for the right job, while 43 per cent of staff disagreed.
The committee received similar information in confidential submissions
which pointed to training and promotional/acting advantages for those staff who
were seen to be in the 'inner circle' and/or favoured by DPS executive
officers. In addition, the committee received evidence that selection panels
were pressured into not interviewing all suitable candidates and recruiting favoured
staff. There were also allegations that selection criteria were changed so that
the most appropriately experienced applicant for the position was not
successful and relatively inexperienced and unqualified applicants were
The evidence in relation to recruiting received by the committee was
supported by the findings of the CPSU all-staff survey. Two thirds of the
respondents to the survey indicated that they did not believe that recruitment
and promotion decisions within DPS are based on merit. Comments from DPS staff
regarding current recruitment processes included:
Assistant Directors are often not trained editors, they do
not stay in the positions for as long as they used to, and favouritism has been
known to happen, resulting in inefficient (and sometimes incompetent) officers
at that level.
Far too much nepotism.
I feel that duty statements/selection criteria are sometimes
amended to suit a particular applicant.
I have witnessed nepotism, cronyism and discrimination by
selection panels (or some members or chairs of panels) that constitute a major
divergence from the APS principles of merit selection.
It depends on the panel. Some are good and honest, others
misuse the interview process to intimidate less preferred candidates. Some
follow riding orders with regards to certain people.
Jobs are for friends and family much of the time.
Lack of equitable treatment, accountability and transparency
of recruitment process for internal applicants.
Nepotism, grooming of certain staff for promotions.
Some (a small minority) of recruitment decisions appear to
have been made prior to commencing the recruitment process.
The decision of recruitment panels not being accepted by
There is obvious nepotism in the DPS and toadyism is one of
the main games played by anybody seeking advancement.
In speaking to the results of the survey, Mr Waters, CPSU, commented that
the responses received were 'deeply concerning'. Mr Waters noted the
legislated requirements for merit based selection process however, in relation
to DPS, he commented:
I would have to say that I am struck by the number of
conversations that I have with members in DPS where these issues are referred
to casually in passing as the ordinary state of affairs. We as an organisation
do not feel that this should be the ordinary state of affairs in any element of
government service. It is not good for public administration. To have this
strength of comment and, I would have to say from my personal experience, the
regularity and general acceptance of that as the state of being is deeply
Mr Waters went on to state that the comments from DPS staff were
'atypical' given the CPSU's engagement with other agencies across the public
sector. While noting that staff selection processes by their very nature are
contentious, Mr Waters stated that the 'situation in DPS goes significantly
beyond that normal level of comment or contention' and further that:
There is that sense of normalcy where staff see the promotion
and selection decision being made on a basis which they consider to be other
than merit based. We make no comment about any particular selection process
but, when you look at the general comments that are made, there is clearly a
very strong perception among staff that the processes in DPS are not merit
based. That is atypical of government service as a whole.
The response by DPS executive to concerns about recruitment raised by
the CPSU were seen as 'quite defensive about the processes that they apply and
generally are along the lines that the processes are appropriate'.
The committee explored alleged cases of nepotism and favouritism during
the committee's estimates hearings in 2010. In the first instance, a member of
the committee reported receiving substantial amounts of anonymous information
alleging nepotism in DPS. The then secretary of the department, Mr Thompson,
was asked whether there is a cultural issue that would drive people to provide
such information. Mr Thompson responded:
I am surprised about the word 'nepotism'. I have not heard
that said about the Department of Parliamentary Services at all. It is a
department that prides itself on adopting the merit principle in terms of
appointments, so I am quite surprised.
The allegations were outlined during the hearing. Prior to taking
maternity leave, the personal assistant to the former Assistant Secretary of
the Building Services Branch was transferred to a higher position in DPS
security administration. It was alleged that this occurred so she could go on a
higher rate of pay while on maternity leave. When the personal assistant
commenced her maternity leave, her husband moved to the then vacant higher
position in DPS security administration. The person who then filled the
personal assistant position was a former bridesmaid of the personal assistant.
The central issue was the allegation that the appointments were not merit
Mr Kenny responded:
Yes, we would certainly like to have the names to investigate
the process by which people were put into jobs. However, from what you have
said, I am aware of a couple of the people and the jobs they were in, and the
job of executive assistant to Karen Griffith was one of the jobs. There was a
person in that job who was appointed on merit. Subsequently she was promoted
into another job, as I understand from memory. That was as a result of an advertisement
and a merit selection.
Mr Kenny went on to state that the personal assistant's husband had
filled the temporary personal assistant vacancy on a non-ongoing basis. Mr
Kenny could not confirm whether the husband had then filled the high duties
DPS set out the employment history of the two employees in an answer to
a question on notice:
response to the question of the Senator, we have set out the employment history
of the two employees, as detailed in paragraphs 3 to 20 below. DPS trusts that
this information responds to the questions raised by the Senator, but we have not
been made privy to the detailed papers that he was reading from at the Estimates
practices for the various positions were in accordance with DPS HR policies. It
is noted that there have been multiple selection panels, with a wide variety of
X was engaged as a non-ongoing Parliamentary Service Level (PSL) 4 employee in
the DPS Executive office in an administrative role from 9 October 2006 to 22
ongoing PSL 4 position, Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary, was advertised
on 26 October 2006. Employee X was the successful candidate.
X permanently transferred at PSL 4 to the position of Executive Assistant,
Building Services Branch from 16 July 2007.
X was transferred on Temporary Assignment of Duties (TAD) at the PSL 5 level in
the Facilities section within Building Services Branch from 28 May 2008 to 27
X undertook a short-term acting opportunity at the PSL 6 level through a TAD in
the Security section within Building Services Branch from 7 July 2008 to 22
ongoing PSL 5 position in the Facilities section was advertised on 12 June 2008.
Employee X was the successful candidate.
X took maternity leave from 22 September 2008 to 10 July 2009.
10. Employee X's position in the
Facilities section was backfilled by another DPS officer on a TAD from 24
September 2008 to 10 July 2009.
11. The husband of Employee X
(Employee Y) registered with the DPS Temporary Employment Register on 31 May
12. An internal process to fill
a TAD for the position of Executive Assistant to the Assistant Secretary,
Building Services Branch, was initially successful. However, the successful
internal applicant withdrew from the TAD effective from 10 June 2008. Employee
Y was engaged as a non-ongoing PSL 4 employee in the Executive Assistant,
Building Services Branch position from 16 June 2008 to 15 June 2009.
13. Employee Y completed two
non-ongoing PSL 5 TADs within the Hansard section in Content Management Branch
from 23 February 2009 to 9 April 2009 and from 11 May to 15 May 2009.
14. Employee Y transferred to
the non-ongoing PSL4 position Executive Assistant, Content Management Branch on
4 May 2009.
15. The Executive Assistant
Content Management Branch was advertised as an ongoing PSL4 position on 9 June
16. Employee Y's initial
engagement as a non-ongoing PSL 4 employee was extended from 16 June 2009 to 15
July 2009 as the selection process for the position he was occupying was still
17. Employee Y resigned as of 3
July 2009 to take up ongoing employment at another Commonwealth agency.
18. The successful applicant for
the Executive Assistant, Content Management Branch position subsequently
declined the offer of employment. The position was readvertised on 11 September
2009, and the successful candidate’s appointment was approved on 22 October
19. At no time did Employee Y
hold any position in the Facilities section.
20. A PSL 4 position in the
Facilities section was advertised on 17 January 2008. While the successful
candidate did have a personal relationship with Employees X and Y, neither
Employee X nor Y had any involvement in the selection process.
A further allegation of nepotism was also raised in connection with the
second of two security reviews
which resulted in staff cuts. DPS indicated that both reviews were conducted
internally and not by a consultant.
Mr Bob Konig, a non-ongoing employee, was engaged to facilitate and lead the
review work as a DPS employee within Building Services Branch. DPS indicated
that Mr Konig was the husband of the then Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Ms
Judy Konig. When asked about his security background, the committee was told
that he did not have a background in the security area but he brought 'quite a
significant body of experience in the public sector assisting organisations to
Ms Graham explained the nature of the work in undertaking the security
review as reviewing the structure and the way in which the administrative and
support processes work together rather than security risk or how those risks
were managed. Ms Graham also added:
But I reiterate that Bob Konig did not have any involvement
in the review of the security roster. His work was solely based on the management
Mr Kenny supported this view and stated that 'the work that was
done on the other two reviews related to how we run our rosters rather than how
many people we need to have at certain points, although there was a bit of that
aspect'. It was noted that Mr Konig did not have any security expertise
and Mr Kenny concluded:
He was providing advice on a number of things, including
whether we had the right number of people for the size of the task. He was not
a decision maker; he provided advice to DPS staff, who then took or did not
take that advice. Secondly, the review was not a one-man or a one-person
review. There were a lot of Bronwyn's people involved in various ways who were
providing the security expertise.
Mr Thompson also commented on this matter:
Can I go to 2008 when this review was proposed to be
initiated. I can recall a discussion with Ms Griffith [former Assistant Secretary,
Building Services Branch] about what she proposed in terms of the scope of the review.
During that discussion, she put on the table that she had proposed to use
somebody whom she had worked with and knew from her past working life who had excellent
HR skills. She mentioned his name and made it clear to me that he had a
personal connection into the department. But—and here is the important 'but'
because I recall having this careful questioning with Ms Griffith about it—the
overriding issue was to have somebody who understood all about issues such as
rostering, call-outs and shift work, and Mr Konig passed those tests. I do not
believe he has a background in security but he does have a background in managing
significant workforces and in doing organisational reviews of significant workforces,
including all of those attributes which are part and parcel of the PSS
operations— shift work, rosters, call-outs. For those reasons, he was offered
In response to questions taken on notice about Mr Konig's appointment,
DPS advised that:
early 2008, with the resumption of normal Parliamentary business (after the
late 2007 election), the Content Management Branch (CMB) was experiencing very
heavy workloads. The CMB is responsible for Hansard and for the broadcasting of
Chamber and Committee proceedings. In particular, the Assistant Secretary CMB,
Ms Therese Lynch, wished to support the Directors in the Branch as they
developed key performance indicators, contracts for external service providers,
training needs and analysis, and induction programs for CMB staff.
Lynch advised that she wished to provide support but avoid the high cost of
using consultants. Instead she investigated the DPS temporary employment registers,
but could not identify an appropriate candidate for the support role (which
would have an intermittent workload). It was also not appropriate to second/transfer
staff from (say) the DPS HR section because of their existing heavy workloads.
Lynch then consulted experienced managers external to DPS who had been involved
with similar tasks in the APS. Arising from this consultation, Mr Robert Konig
was identified as having the appropriate skills. Mr Konig had previously been
an SES-level officer with extensive public sector experience (especially with
Austrade), but had since retired.
Konig subsequently registered his name on the DPS temporary employment
register. On 1 May 2008, Ms Lynch submitted to the DPS HR Section a Request to
engage a non-ongoing employee (irregular/intermittent) form to employ Mr Konig.
This was approved by the HR Director on 9 May 2008.
10 May 2008, Mr Konig accepted an offer of employment under paragraph 22(2) of
the Parliamentary Service Act 1999. He was employed at the PEL2 level as
a non-ongoing employee, on an irregular and intermittent basis.
Assistant Secretary and CMB Directors were very pleased with the work done by
Mr Konig and his achievements during his term of engagement.
July 2008, the then Assistant Secretary Building Services Branch (BSB) required
HR assistance to facilitate and advise on significant changes to her Branch. Again,
she wished to avoid the high cost of consultants, and it was not feasible to appoint
or second existing DPS HR staff because of their heavy existing workloads.
consulting with colleagues, including Ms Lynch, the Assistant Secretary BSB
approached Mr Konig to attend a discussion with her and two Directors to assess
his suitability for the work required in BSB. Mr Konig accepted a second offer
of employment, again at the PEL2 level, and again on a non-ongoing irregular and
his employment with BSB, Mr Konig conducted one-on-one and group discussions
with security staff and provided advice on ways to improve and strengthen
roles, responsibilities, staff development and performance management arrangements
within the Security section. As a result of this work, the management and
administrative structure was streamlined. Two Director positions were reduced
down to one and the number of supervisory layers between the Director and
operational staff was reduced.
10. When his contract with the
department expired on 10 August 2009, Mr Konig accepted a new offer of
employment to undertake a range of work on an irregular and intermittent basis
within both CMB and BSB.
11. The department was aware
that Mr Konig was the spouse of the Chief Finance Officer. However, Mr Konig's
work within the department had no interaction at all with the CFO Branch, nor
did any officer of the CFO Branch have any involvement in the decisions to
12. From time to time DPS needs
to employ people with considerable experience in the public sector, usually to
complete tasks within a relatively short time horizon, and/or tasks where
in-house staff do not have the time or the skills. In general, DPS prefers to
employ these officers as non-ongoing Parliamentary Service staff, rather than
the more expensive approach of using consultants. Such employees will
frequently be either retired public servants, or public servants who have left
for various reasons, but are again interested in public sector work. The
temporary employment register is an important part of this cost-effective
Mr Konig was also engaged 'not just to help with security but also to
help with other areas in the branch, including our facilities area'.
As part of Mr Konig's work for the Facilities section, a review of the
Parliamentary Shop and the Health and Recreation Centre (HRC) were undertaken.
As a result of this review, a revised structure was implemented on 1 July 2009
with one manager, the Retail Services Manager, for both the Parliamentary Shop
and the HRC. The positions of Parliament Shop manager and HRC manager were
abolished. DPS indicated that the staff in these former positions declined to apply
for the new position.
The position was advertised and the person appointed was the son of the then
Ms Graham responded outlining the process that was undertaken to fill
the new position:
The process that was undertaken for that position, as with
all other positions within the branch, was merit based process. The vacancy was
advertised in the Australian Public Service Gazette in accordance with standard
procedures. The panel that was comprised to evaluate applicants for that
position included two people from the branch and an independent person from
outside of the branch. Each of those panel members was a senior member of our
staff at the parliamentary executive level—PEL1—or above. Might I add that in a
situation such as this one where we are looking at appointing someone who has
the same surname as another member of our staff we do ensure that the proper
DPS also provided further details in answer to a question on notice:
9. For the PSL6 Retail Services Manager, the selection
committee comprised two senior officers from the Building Services Branch and
one senior officer from the Projects Branch of DPS. These officers were aware
that one of the candidates was related to the DPS Chief Finance Officer (CFO),
but there was no consultation or discussions about the selection process with
the CFO. The selection panel noted that short-listed candidates all had strong
retail credentials, including the eventual appointee.
10. The previous PSL5 Parliament Shop Manager and the
previous PSL6 HRC Manager elected not to accept redundancy and requested
support in redeployment. DPS supported both employees by funding their
enrolment with the Australian Public Service Commission Careers Transition and
Support Centre and payment of salaries whilst on short-term employment
placements in other Commonwealth agencies. Both employees have permanently
transferred from DPS, having obtained employment in other Commonwealth
The Parliamentary Service Code of Conduct, paragraph (7) section 13 of
the Parliamentary Service Act 1999, states that 'a Parliamentary Service
employee must disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of
interest (real or apparent) in connection with Parliamentary Service employment'.
In relation to compliance with this requirement, Mr Thompson stated:
Perhaps I can help you there. The CFO advised me that her son
was going to be an applicant for a job. I took sufficient care to make sure
that the selection panel was well and truly at arm’s-length from anything to do
with the CFO.
Mr Thompson added:
There is an interesting problem in Canberra, and it happens
to virtually every organisation, where you will find people related to other
people inside organisations. In a town of this size that is just a reality. We
have husbands and wives working here. We have husbands who work for us and
wives who work for our licence holders and the like. It is inevitable in a town
of this size. All we can do to treat all parties fairly is to ensure that we have
a fair process, whether it is a job for a licence for an occupation here or
whether it is to do with employing people, to make sure we have one that is
well and truly arm's-length from the particular personalities and the
As noted above, nepotism was specifically mentioned in responses by
staff to the CPSU survey. Mr Waters, CPSU, commented in relation to nepotism,
that 'as to the level and consistency of concern being expressed in DPS, from
my personal experience I cannot think of another one in the APS or in the
The committee observes from the evidence it has received, that it is
difficult to come to a firm judgement as to whether nepotism has or has not
occurred in DPS selection processes. However, many employees believe that this
has been the case. In addition, evidence was received that favouritism and
patronage also have played a part in selection processes. This view is
supported by evidence from the CPSU.
The committee views this evidence very seriously: there is no place in
recruitment processes for unethical behaviour; only the most suitable and
qualified candidate must be appointed; and there must be no perception that
selection processes are other than merit based.
Leadership in DPS
Of particular concern to the committee was the apparent lack of
leadership exhibited by the senior executives of DPS in relation to employment
issues. As has already been noted, the committee considers that the long-term
prevalence of bullying and/or harassment points to poor leadership. This was
borne out by the results of the ORIMA survey where staff views of DPS senior
executive performance were analysed.
The ORIMA survey noted that staff held mixed views about the performance
of DPS Senior Executive (the then Secretary, the then Deputy Secretary and the then
Parliamentary Librarian). Generally, however, DPS's results were less
favourable than the average for medium APS agencies. The following table
provides the results.
Table 2.4: DPS Senior Executive performance (per cent
Members of the
Executive act in accordance with the Parliamentary Service Values and code of
Focus on achieving
results and outcomes
Manage DPS effectively
drive and integrity
Provide clear and
Source: ORIMA Research,
Department of Parliamentary Services, 2011 Staff Survey, 5 March 2012, p. 61.
The ORIMA survey also provided information on the other tiers of
leadership in DPS, namely Branch Assistant Secretaries, Directors and immediate
supervisors. These groups were assessed more favourably than DPS Senior
Executive. For example, Branch Assistant Secretaries were seen by 63 per cent
of respondents as demonstrating personal drive and integrity, and Directors and
immediate supervisors were seen as acting in accordance with the Parliamentary
Service Values and Code of Conduct to a high degree (74 per cent and 77 per
Other workforce issues
The following canvasses other workforce issues raised in submissions
including workload and hours of work; OH&S concerns and matters relating to
Hansard and the Parliamentary Library.
Workload and hours of work
The CPSU noted that the number of staff in DPS had decreased by nine per
cent between 30 June 2008 and 30 June 2010. The CPSU reported that DPS staff
are under increasing pressure due to a growing workload.
Two thirds of DPS staff indicated that their workload had
increased in the last 12 months. When asked why their workload had increased, a
common response across all areas of DPS was that the increased sitting hours
and increased level of committee work were significant contributors.
The CPSU added:
Overall DPS staff indicated that the increased demand for DPS
services to support parliamentary business, without provision of substantive
additional resources will lead to a reduction of the availability of qualified,
well trained staff, and to a reduction of the quality of services provided by
It is of concern that the CPSU reported that of the DPS staff who
indicated that they work additional hours, over one third were not compensated
for some, if not all of the additional hours that they completed.
In Hansard, respondents to the CPSU survey commented on the reduced
numbers of staff which had increased workload at the same time that the hours of
sitting had increased. Respondents also stated that the increased use of outsourcing
had increased the work of Hansard officers as these transcripts required
further work when returned from often substandard outsourcers. It was also
stated that there are fewer editors being employed and more sessional and
casual typists/editors adding to the workload.
The ORIMA survey also pointed to concerns about workload and resourcing
levels. Less than half of staff (43 per cent) felt that their work area had
adequate resources to meet their client service responsibilities and two in
five staff (39 per cent) felt that the resources that they had were not
The CPSU advised that around one third of DPS staff reported safety
concerns in their workplace. These concerns came mainly from staff in Hansard,
Broadcasting and Visitor Services. The CPSU added:
Similar safety concerns existed within each DPS branch. Staff
in Broadcasting identified concerns regarding fatigue after working long hours,
Hansard staff were primarily concerned around repetitive use injury, and
Visitor Services concerned with physical safety when the Parliament is not
sitting, particularly weekends. Staff working in the Research Branch were the
most likely of any DPS area to feel safe or extremely safe in their workplace.
The CPSU further reported that only two fifths of DPS staff with safety
concerns said that they had reported them. The CPSU recommended that an Occupational
Health and Safety Review be undertaken to look at:
- ways to decrease the incidence of workplace injury by staff
working in Hansard; and
- safety plans for staff working in Visitor Services, particularly
on weekends, and that as part of the review, consideration be given to
increasing the security presence in APH on weekends.
The higher rate of injury among Hansard staff was acknowledged by DPS at
the May 2011 Budget estimates:
Within Hansard we had an OH&S review done a couple of
years ago which identified significant deficiencies in a number of ways, noting
that Hansard staff are very desk and keyboard intense in doing their work.
Hansard is also one of the areas where we have higher than we would like—higher
than we are comfortable with—levels of injury, so there is an issue of safety
as well. That is the refurb work. As Alan said, the other furniture that we are
buying is new furniture for new accommodation where previously there was
nothing. We were involved in working with the chamber departments in
establishing the style guide, the intention being that if we had a common
approach to furniture it would be cheaper and sensible, but we may go to
At the next estimates hearing, while noting that DPS had sought to
address concerns in Hansard, Mr Thompson commented that continued high
workloads affected Hansard production and staff:
It would be fair to say that there are two significant
workload things hitting both our broadcasting people and our Hansard people. On
the one hand there is a very heavy committee workload on the Senate side. On
the House of Reps side there have been greatly extended sittings as well. So
delivering a good service to both chambers and the committees is proving to be
quite a challenge at times. We have been meeting our deadlines for all chamber
work but we are not always able to meet the deadlines and targets for committee
DPS also indicated that Hansard services have been progressively revised
in response to funding constraints, concerns about occupational overuse
injuries and implementation of the new Hansard Production System (HPS).
DPS noted that the old system HPS was outdated and DPS expected some
improvements in efficiencies for Hansard staff, including that it would be much
easier to use.
In May 2011, the new Hansard HPS was commissioned. The system includes a
data-streaming capability and DPS reported that it is more flexible than the
previous system and links directly to other parliamentary applications.
DPS commented that before the new system was fully implemented problems had
been experienced with the old system which affected the delivery of committee
transcripts. Ms Karen Greening stated:
Since we have implemented a new Hansard Production System we
have had a few teething issues which have also impacted on our delivery of
The CPSU survey respondents also provided comments on the new HPS:
A new Hansard production system has been introduced. It is
not working efficiently.
The new Hansard production system is mouse intensive and
slow, which adds to stress in meeting turnaround times for chamber transcripts.
Also, the new audio system (DART) is considerably inferior to the previous
recording system and it takes longer to work out what people are saying, with
the result that it too adds to the stress and pressure of completing quotas for
committee turns during the non-sitting periods.
More sitting hours and more committee work. Learning
completely new software, along with its 'teething problems', has also increased
New system installed within Hansard which has resulted in
more work being assigned to our area.
The committee also received other evidence which supported these
comments. For example, one submitter stated that since the creation of DPS
there had been a decrease in the number of Hansard editors and the mix of staff
had changed with more part-time staff. Editors are required to work longer
hours and as a consequence the number of work related injuries has increased.
Of concern to the committee was the indication that injuries were suffered but
The CPSU reported that staff in the Research Branch identified that
their workload had increased because of an increase in research requests,
primarily related to an increase in Private Members Bills in the 43rd
Parliament. Other workload increases identified by research staff were due to
staff shortages, for example, one respondent stated 'when staff leave the
branch, they are not being replaced as quickly as required, if the position is
filled at all'. Issues included:
Staff shortages, effect of the minority government more
private members bills, workforce profile - effect of retirements. Having to
take on new areas of responsibility.
Staff reduction in the team, lost one staff member not
Fewer staff to spread the load.
Loss of staff.
No temporary assistance hired during budget period like has
occurred in the past.
People leaving the branch and not being replaced, or being
Submissions were also received from Library staff which indicated
concerns with staffing levels and staffing mix. One submitter commented that
the Research Branch required at least 30 per cent more staff to meet the
demands of inquiries and noted that 'the inadequacy of the current staff
resource is especially evident during sitting periods when client demand for
[Research Branch] is noticeably higher and the number of client requests
involving quite short deadlines increases'.
A further matter raised was the mix of staff in the Research Branch. It
was argued that the reduction in the number of information
specialists/librarians in the Research Branch had reduced the speciality service
previously provided. In addition, some higher level positions had been
converted into research assistant positions with the result that staff no
longer had the same level of expertise and experience.
It was submitted that the introduction of the research assistant
classification was a poor decision as there has been a high turnover of staff
at this level, there is a lack of a career advancement structure, and the
subject areas covered by research assistants are large and it cannot be
expected that assistants obtain high level expertise in all areas. It was
concluded that 'the introduction of lower levels of staffing represents a major
change from, and potential risk to, the previously highly successful approach'.
The CPSU reported that staff working in Visitor Services have identified
a reduction in staffing levels, combined with an increase in the number of
schools and visitors, as the main reasons for increasing workload pressures on
This was supported by other submitters who pointed to the reduction in
permanent part-time guides and the increased use of casual guides who were
offered little or only ad hoc training. Other areas of concern included the
increase in the size of school groups that guides are required to take, insufficient
numbers of guides to meet members' requests for tours and guided tours not
being offered in foreign languages.
Mr Kenny noted at the 2012 Budget Estimates that the configuration of
Visitor Services had changed 'in terms of part-time, full-time and sessional'.
Ms Graham provided further information on the change:
Essentially we had too many staff working five days a week
and we did not have the flexibility in that arrangement to meet the demands of
the ever-increasing school numbers. Historically they have increased by about
five per cent every year. In busy periods we had not enough staff, which was
often during the week when schools were visiting, and on weekends we had too
many staff, a surplus, because of the way the staffing model worked. The change
we made was to reduce our regular part-time staff and create a very new pool of
sessional staff. They are all Visitor Services officers, equally trained to
provide tours. That second workforce, if you like, was created to allow us the
flexibility to deal with the seasonal peaks that come with the visiting school
program throughout the year.
In relation to the numbers of Visitor Services staff, Ms Graham
As to the numbers, regular part-time staff was 23 guides and
we now have 14 of those working five days a week, 4½ hours each day. We have an
entirely new pool of staff at the same level, with the same qualifications and
skills, who work sessionally. We have 12 of those positions established. The
net number was 23 and the new number is 26.
DPS stated that the new roster commenced on 1 February 2012, prior to
which extensive consultation had been undertaken including the offer for the
Visitor Services officers to develop their own roster. Ms Graham noted that this
had occurred and 'one of our visitor service officers developed a new roster
and the staff preferred that one' to the one DPS had developed. DPS stated that
it accepted requests from staff about their preferred roster arrangements. Ms
Graham also stated 'there was a reduction in staff: seven staff took voluntary
DPS provided information on the number of Visitor Services officers
(Guides), excluding supervisor, administration and managerial staff as follows:
Table 2.5: Number of Visitor Services officers, 2007–08 to 2011–12
Visitor Services officers
Source: Budget Estimates
2012–13, Answer to question on notice No. 46.
DPS provided the following information on the number of tours
Table 2.6: Number of tours undertaken by Visitor Services
officers 2004–05 to 2010–11
Data not available
% on public tours
Source: Budget Estimates
2012–13, Answer to question on notice No. 44.
The average number of people on each tour has increased from 22 in
2008–09 to 38 in 2010–11.
At the October 2012 Supplementary Estimates, Ms Mills indicated that she
believed a comprehensive review of the approach taken to visitor services was
needed. Ms Mills went on to state:
I think being a public access precinct is a really important
function of this building. We are an important part of the network of Canberra
cultural institutions in that regard. We also have the opportunity to display
the operations of parliament to the community, both in physical and online
Ms Mills also indicated that some matters had already been reviewed
including signage and the number of Floriade tours had been doubled so that
more people could view the gardens. Work is also being undertaken with a number
of the other cultural institutions, including the Museum of Australian
Democracy, to look at ways to better harmonise exhibitions and other events. In
addition, an app will be developed for visitors and, with the availability of public
Wi-Fi in the public areas, there is an opportunity to change some of the
experience for visitors undertaking self-guided tours. Ms Mills concluded by
indicating that further work will be undertaken to provide tours for school
visits which are linked more to the school curriculum and age appropriate.
DPS workforce trends
DPS provided a range of data to the committee on staffing and workforce
The committee has used this information to identify workforce trends in DPS. In
addition, the committee has noted the workforce data provided each year by the
Australian Public Service Commissioner in his report on the state of the
Australian Public Service (APS). This report provides data and information on
changing workforce trends and workforce capability. The major sources of
information for the State of the Service Report are two surveys; one of
agencies and the other of employees.
The parliamentary departments do not take part in the State of the Service
The number of staff in DPS has declined from 929 staff in 2007–08 to 844
in 2010–11. One of the major workforce trends in DPS has been the growth in the
number of non-ongoing staff (including casuals). Since 2007–08 the number of
non-ongoing staff has increased from 76 to 106 in 2010–11 and to 122 in 2011–12.
With the overall decline in DPS's workforce, non-ongoing staff as a proportion
of total employees has increased from 8.2 per cent to 12.5 per cent. In
2011–12 non-ongoing employees accounted for 14 per cent of total DPS
Across the APS generally, non-ongoing employees accounted for 7.9 per cent of
DPS suggested that the growth in the number of non-ongoing employees (which
includes casuals) is 'largely related to the steady decline in purchasing power
of the DPS operational budget since 2004'.
In addition, the branches which include Security and Visitor Services (Building
Services Branch) and broadcasting and Hansard (Content Management Branch) have
the highest proportion of non-ongoing employees, 22.7 per cent and 20.1 per
cent respectively in 2010–11 and reflect the nature of the services provided.
The average length of service in DPS has fluctuated since 2007–08 from
7.03 years to 7.64 years in 2010–11. A marked decline in 2009–10 (6.79
years) reflected the structural change in the Building Services Branch where a
number of separations occurred. The committee notes that the staff of the two
Parliamentary Library Branches (Research Branch and Information Access Branch)
have greater average lengths of service than other most other branches in DPS
with Building Services Branch having the lowest (3.11 years in 2010–11).
Many areas in DPS have undergone restructuring in recent years. This is
reflected in the engagement and separation data. DPS provided the following:
Table 2.7: Department of Parliamentary Services –
engagements and separations
Per cent of ongoing staff
Per cent of ongoing staff
Source: Department of
Parliamentary Services, Answer to question on notice No. 2(d), dated 19 January
2012, p. 12.
Changes in DPS activities are reflected in the engagement data. For
example, increased project work resulted in a 36.2 per cent engagement rate in the
Projects Branch in 2007–08.
As has already been noted, a number of branches in DPS have been
restructured with Building Services Branch experiencing high separation rates
in 2009–10 (21.6%) and to a lesser extent in 2010–11 (10.4%). DPS noted that the
roster review of 2008–09 is reflected in the 2009–10 data.
Other areas of high turnover were the Research Branch in the Library (just over
20 per cent in 2007–08 and 2008–09 and 18.8 per cent in 2010–11) as well as
Corporate Services Branch (20.5 per cent in 2007–08, 24 per cent in 2009–10 and
13.5 per cent in 2010–11).
The following table provides the reasons and numbers of staff
separations and includes both ongoing and non-ongoing staff.
Table 2.8: Number and type of separation
End temporary transfer
Source: Department of
Parliamentary Services, Answer to question on notice No. 4, dated 19 January
2012, p. 29.
The committee notes that the overall separation rate for the APS was 6.5
per cent in 2009–10 and 6.8 per cent in 2010–11.
As DPS has a high proportion of non-going employees, the number of
separations of these employees is a relatively high proportion of total
separations (fluctuating between 29 per cent and 12 per cent during the
years 2007–08 to 2010–11). Like the APS generally, resignations account for a
large proportion of separations (29.7 per cent in 2007–08 and 32.2 per cent in
2010–11) and are the most common separation type. The high proportion of voluntary
retirements (up to 26.5 per cent of separations in 2009–10) reflects various
restructures undertaken across the department.
The CPSU commented on staff turnover rates in DPS and noted that the
ORIMA survey results indicated that work-life balance is seen as being significantly
lower in DPS. Mr Waters, CPSU, commented that the ORIMA survey indicated that
60 per cent of staff were satisfied with their work-life balance while for
other medium size APS agencies the satisfaction rate is 72 per cent. The
committee also notes that the DPS satisfaction rate in 2009 was higher (69 per
cent) than in 2011. Mr Waters stated:
We certainly do get feedback about the HR processes or lack
thereof. Part of that comes from pressure on those middle managers, with that being
reflected down. This has made the working environment less of a place where
people want to work, and that has led to people making choices about moving
Mr Vukosa, CPSU delegate, directly attributed the staff turnover to the
efficiency dividend and the pressure put on staff to increase output with fewer
Where before these used to be more tolerance of people whose
work output was a little lower for a number of reasons than their colleague,
these days that tolerance is much lower because of the lesser number of staff
to perform those duties. They are asking a lot more of the staff for the same
amount of money that they were getting in other agencies, where there was less
pressure and less work. The staff here either stay for a long period of time,
like me, or stay for a very short period of time. That is probably a true
reflection of what has been happening in the last 15 years.
The committee also requested information on personal leave taken by
staff in DPS.
The average number of days of personal leave in DPS since 2008–09 has been
around 13.5 days. This is above the APS where the median absence rate is 11.2
days for medium agencies.
The number of average personal leave days varied across branches with Building
Services Branch and Information Access Branch having averages ranging up to
19.15 days and 18.77 days respectively in 2010–11. The Projects Branch and
the Executive Office recorded the lowest average number of personal leave days.
Mr Kenny responded to concerns about the high level of personal leave:
It has been a concern to us for quite some time, as in not
just in the last 12 months. The concern comes in basically three forms.
The first concern is that the more, let us call it, sick leave that people are
taking may be a reflection of workplace stress. The second concern is that the
more people take, possibly when it is not absolutely required, puts more stress
on the rest of the organisation, so there is a different form of problem. The
third one is to make sure in all our analysis that we do not confuse what many
people would call a 'one-day sickie' with genuine illness. So if the stats are
up because someone has been off for three months because they have had heart
surgery or cancer treatment, then obviously we must be very careful not to let
that paint the wrong picture.
While DPS has noted potential causes for high separation rates, the
committee remains concerned that it is also possible that staff are leaving as
a result of the many problems identified during this inquiry. The committee is
also concerned with the high incidence of personal leave and considers that the
underlying reasons for this rate should be investigated further.
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