Members’ and corporate support is provided by the Finance Office, the Parliamentary and Business Information Services Office, the People Strategies Office and the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office, all of which report to the Serjeant-at-Arms. The offices liaise with the Department of Finance and the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) to provide comprehensive services to departmental staff as well as members and their staff, including:
- facilitating committees’ private meetings, public hearings and site inspections
- advice and support on financial and human resource management, as well as records management, publishing and office services
- payment of members’ salaries and allowances
- organisation of members’ office accommodation, furniture and fittings
- provision of mail and courier services and a booking service for committee rooms and chamber gallery seating
- maintenance and publication of key information about members and former members.
The 2016–17 budget allocation for the activity was $8.551 million and expenditure was $8.945 million. Results against performance criteria are summarised in the annual performance statement (pages 20–1); staff levels are shown in Appendix 1.
A high priority for the program is to provide advice and support to the Speaker and the Speaker’s Office on the control and management of the precincts, chamber and gallery security, and ceremonial and other events at Parliament House. Staff work closely with colleagues in the Department of the Senate, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Australian Federal Police and DPS.
During the year, we completed a number of ICT projects to support the work of the two chambers, committees and members. This included the development of an online petitioning system for the House.
Opening of the Forty-fifth Parliament
A major activity for the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office during the reporting period was preparation for the opening of the Forty-fifth Parliament. This involved ceremonial duties, gallery attendance and security, and logistics associated with members’ accommodation at Parliament House. The opening was marked by ceremonies and traditional practices derived from those of the UK Parliament and included a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony to pay respect to the traditional custodians of the land.
Address in Reply
The Address in Reply for the Forty-fifth Parliament was presented to the Governor-General at Government House on 23 May 2017. The Address in Reply is the formal acknowledgement by the House to the Governor-General for the speech given at an opening of parliament. The address is printed on goatskin parchment and signed by the Speaker and the Clerk.
Presentation of the Address in Reply at Government House, Canberra, 23 May 2017. In the foreground, left to right:
Claressa Surtees, Deputy Clerk of the House; David Elder, Clerk of the House; the Hon Tony Smith MP, Speaker of the House; Ms Nicolle Flint MP, Member for Boothby; the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister; His Excellency General the Hon Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd), Governor-General. Photo: David Foote, Auspic/DPS.
Services and advice
The Serjeant-at-Arms and staff continued to work with the various media bureaus and the governing committee of the Parliamentary Press Gallery to ensure compliance with the rules for media-related activity in Parliament House and its precincts.
During the year, the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Usher of the Black Rod and their delegates liaised closely with the press gallery to balance media access, security and parliamentary requirements at major parliamentary events, including budget day and the opening of the Forty-fifth Parliament.
The Presiding Officers approved wide-ranging access to Parliament House for the ABC to document the work of the Australian Parliament. The outcome of the filming will be a TV documentary series consisting of six half-hour episodes to be screened on ABC TV in the second half of 2017. The Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office supported arrangements to facilitate filming activities throughout the building over a number of weeks.
On a day-to-day level, the Serjeant-at-Arms and delegates work with members’ and ministers’ offices, representatives of the press gallery, the Australian Federal Police and the Parliamentary Security Service to ensure that media events on the precincts are conducted in compliance with the media rules and with minimum inconvenience to all.
During the year, the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office responded to around 180 requests to film or photograph in the private areas of the building.
As part of the department’s commitment to keep members and their staff informed about developments in the House, four editions of the members’ bulletin, House Update, were published and seven procedural briefing sessions were held during the year.
The Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office provides a concierge service for members and, as part of that, coordinates accommodation, capital works and routine maintenance services in the House of Representatives wing.
In early 2016, endorsement was given to proceed with the construction of two new suites for members’ accommodation. DPS took the lead in managing the design and construction phases, with close oversight of scope and quality requirements provided by the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office. Construction of the suites began in December 2016 and they were completed and handed over in February 2017.
After the election on 2 July 2016, the office was tasked with allocating accommodation for the new members. Defeated members were given two weeks to clear their suites so that they could be prepared for the new members. After consultation with the whips, and endorsement by the Speaker, suite allocations were finalised in readiness for the arrival of the new members.
During the year, the office arranged 73 office relocations as a result of the election, ministry reshuffles and changes to office-holder positions. That number is significantly higher than the 28 relocations in 2015–16. The Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office worked closely with the government and opposition whips to ensure the relocations were completed quickly. The office also coordinated over 600 requests to supply and move furniture. Again, that number is significantly higher than the previous year’s (428), which may reflect increased activity due to members settling into their suites after the election. All tasks were performed within agreed timeframes, to agreed standards, and to the satisfaction of the whips and individual members.
Office furniture replacement project
The second phase of the furniture replacement project continued during the year. Installation of new furniture was completed in 84 of the 125 members’ staff offices as at 30 June 2017, and 55 suites in total were completed during 2016–17. To begin the process, floorplans are developed in consultation with members and their staff; furniture is then installed during non-sitting weeks to minimise disruption.
Maintenance, access and transport services
Requests for maintenance work in members’ suites are coordinated by the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office, and include both emergency and routine work. During the year, the office coordinated 399 emergency requests, which were all attended to promptly. In addition, the office coordinated 229 routine requests for repairs or alterations to suites or common areas. We take a proactive approach by performing office shutdowns and inspections over the autumn and winter recesses, so that issues can be identified, reported and addressed while parliament is not sitting.
The office coordinated 1,321 requests for assistance with telephone faults, relocations and allocations of telephone numbers (1,126 in 2015–16). The increase is a result of the election and the furniture replacement project. Faults reported were referred to telephone support in DPS within five minutes of receipt, and appropriate timeframes for resolution were agreed with the affected areas.
As the area responsible for access to members’ suites, the office approved 919 requests by DPS for access to suites and general circulation areas for general maintenance and services. This is a significant increase on the previous year (615 requests) as a result of the election and an increase in support from the office for DPS projects.
The Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office operates a Transport Office that delivers a parliamentary shuttle service during sitting periods. The shuttle provides a readily available, secure car-with-driver service in Canberra for members. In 2016–17, the Transport Office managed 9,390 bookings from members, compared with 8,172 bookings in 2015–16 (figures exclude unbooked shuttle trips from the House of Representatives entrance). This represents a 15 per cent increase in bookings on the previous year, reflecting a greater number of sitting days in the period.
Parliament House security
The Serjeant-at-Arms represents the department on the Security Management Board. The board is established pursuant to section 65A of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 to advise the Presiding Officers on security policy and the management of security measures for Parliament House. The board met six times during the reporting period.
Certain guests are exempt from security screening on entry to Parliament House. Approvals for any other exemptions are made jointly by the Serjeant-at-Arms and the Usher of the Black Rod. During the year, exemptions were approved for 36 groups and individuals (compared with 26 in 2015–16).
Information and communications technology
Under the revised ICT service delivery framework, most of the department’s ICT functions are provided by DPS. In support of this arrangement, the department continued to participate in a range of ICT advisory and management committees. Negotiations with the other parliamentary departments continued on a revised memorandum of understanding and service-level agreement.
The Joint Management Committee, which comprises senior parliamentary department staff, oversees the service-level agreement; it met four times in the reporting period. The Serjeant-at-Arms is the department’s representative on the committee.
A number of ICT systems supporting the work of the chamber, its committees and its members were put into production in the period. These included:
- ParlWork (see page 33)
- Parliamentary Procedural Records System (see page 36)
- e-petitions system (see page 52)
- Report Builder template (see page 52).
The implementation stage of the Venue Management System project was finalised, and ongoing support arrangements were agreed with the Department of the Senate and DPS.
The department continues to use e-Trim to file and manage records electronically, and upgraded its version of e-Trim to enhance this capability. A project to identify methods of improving the user experience is underway. The department is committed to meeting the targets under the National Archives’ Digital Continuity 2020 Policy by December 2020.
Internet and intranet services
We continued to support the new consolidated intranet portal for senators and members, the portal for outgoing parliamentary delegations and the new departmental intranet site. A project to consolidate House news for members of the public and other interested parties commenced in June 2017.
The department’s in-house printing service produced around 1.5 million impressions in 2016–17 (a decrease of 0.4 million from 2015–16). The decreased volume is a result of further efficiencies achieved in the printing and distribution of chamber documents and committee reports.
Parliamentary assistants program
The parliamentary assistants program is managed by the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office. Parliamentary assistants are university students who perform the roles of messengerial attendants for an average of 10 hours per week; rosters are planned around student commitments and the requirements of the House.
Six students took part in the program in 2016–17: three were existing assistants, and three were new appointments. The new assistants came from the ACT, New South Wales and Victoria, and all were studying at universities in Canberra. Former parliamentary assistants were also engaged in the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office to work at the front counter and in other areas of members’ services.
All processing of members’ salaries and entitlements by the People Strategies Office was in accordance with legislation and administrative decisions. In the 2017 members’ survey, 88 per cent of respondents said that they were satisfied with support for salary payments. Annual expenditure on members’ salaries and other entitlements was $47.531 million.
The People Strategies Office provides corporate services and advice to the department. Operational performance indicators for finance, human resources and other corporate support services were met in 2016–17, and the department was in compliance with internal and external governance and reporting requirements. Also during the year:
- the staff survey was reviewed and benchmarked with a view to modernising the terminology and gaining feedback on newly emerging themes
- the department’s leadership statement was updated and leadership training and development programs for staff were redeveloped
- an Indigenous secondment program was developed.
Related information is detailed in Part 3 of this report.
In 2017–18, the department will continue to provide advice and services of a high standard to support the Speaker, members in Parliament House and the department.
We anticipate that priorities for the members’ services and corporate support program during the year will include:
- overseeing several major capital works projects that will have a significant impact on all occupants of the House of Representatives wing
- completing the second phase of the furniture replacement project
- planning and preparing for the hosting of a Serjeant-at-Arms conference in 2018
- finalising a new memorandum of understanding and related service-level agreement with DPS for the provision of ICT support
- installing new, more efficient print machinery for the in-house printing service
- developing a new system to support chamber gallery bookings
- making further enhancements to various systems supporting the chamber, its committees and its members
- developing a consolidated news page for information on the House and its committees
- negotiating a new enterprise agreement for departmental staff.
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