Budget Review 2021–22 Index
following Budget measures relate to Parliament, and offices and agencies that
scrutinise the actions of other government agencies.
March 2021 the Government announced that the Sex Discrimination
Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, would lead an Independent Review into
Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces that will report by November 2021. The
Budget provides $3.5
million for the Review over two years from 2020–21 (p. 77). The same Budget
measure also allocates to the Department of Finance in 2021–22 funds for
‘additional support for parliamentary staff and Parliamentarians, including
work health and safety training, counselling and other support services’ (the
amount not for publication ‘due to commercial sensitivities).
There will be small staffing increases at each of the four
parliamentary departments (p. 159). In addition, the Department of the
Senate will receive
$2.0 million in 2021–22 to ‘support increased Parliamentary committee activity’
(p. 171), thereby extending a
similar measure in the 2020–21 Budget (p. 145). In October 2020 the
Information Bulletin number 347 had noted the achievement of a record
number of 12 concurrent select committees supported by the Senate’s Committee
Office (p. 3).
Located in the state and Northern Territory capital cities, Commonwealth
Parliamentary Offices (CPOs) facilitate the conduct of parliamentary
business outside Canberra. The
Department of Finance will receive $13.9 million over four years from
2021–22 for ‘capital works and increased operational support to progress
security and capability enhancements’ at CPOs, with a further commitment of
$1.2 million per year ongoing from 2025–26—that is, subsequent to the Budget’s
three-year forward estimates period (p. 95).
In last year’s Budget the 2020–21
Portfolio Budget Statements indicated that resourcing for the Australian
National Audit Office (ANAO) had reduced by $14.0 million from 2019–20,
Treasurer did not agree with this interpretation. The current Budget provides
the ANAO with additional funding of $61.5
million over four years from 2021–22 to ‘address rising costs due to more
complex financial data and records management arrangements, new audit controls
relating to COVID-19 measures’ and enhanced cyber security (p. 172).
Resourcing arrangements for the ANAO are included in the
scope of a review of the Auditor-General Act 1997
in September 2020, in accordance with section 8 of the Public Accounts and
Audit Committee Act 1951. By convention, in every third Parliament
the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit reviews the Auditor-General
Act 1997; the
last review was tabled ten years ago (December 2010) in the 42nd Parliament.
Freedom of Information Commissioner
The inaugural Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner
resigned in January 2015 and was not
replaced. Since September 2015 the
Australian Information Commissioner has performed the duties of three statutory
roles (Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner and FOI Commissioner).
The Budget allocates $3.9 million over four years from 2021–22
appointment of a Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner (p. 63). It would
appear that Ms Angelene Falk will continue to perform the duties of the Information
Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner. Ms Falk’s
three-year term will conclude on 15 August 2021.
A key responsibility of the FOI Commissioner is to review
agencies’ decisions on FOI requests. A
recent media report stated that ‘independent senator, Rex Patrick, had
lobbied for the appointment, in part due to the large backlog in handling FOI
Oversight of the use of
surveillance, data access and interception powers
Using funding redirected from the Department of Home
Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Office of the Inspector-General of
Intelligence and Security will be provided with $4.0 million over four
years from 2021–22 (and $1.1 million per year ongoing) to ‘support oversight of
the use of surveillance, data access and interception powers under the Telecommunications
and other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 and
the Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020
currently before Parliament’ (p. 132).
Commonwealth Integrity Commission
December 2018 the Government announced that it would establish a
Commonwealth Integrity Commission (CIC). However, although there is support
across the political spectrum for an integrity commission, there is
disagreement about the scope and form it should take. In
April 2019, the Parliamentary Library outlined models and costings proposed at
that time, noting some key points of difference.
The 2019–20 Budget included staffing
of 39 positions (p. 170) for a CIC (and funding
of $104.5 million over four years from 2019–20) (pp. 50–51), and the
2020–21 Budget included 76
positions (p. 162). However, noting that ‘legislation to establish the
entity has not yet passed the Parliament’, the Budget reports zero
staff in 2021–22 (p. 158).
The Attorney-General’s Department invited submissions on draft legislation by
12 February 2021. Many submissions have been critical of the draft legislation,
including that of Anne
Twomey, a professor of constitutional law.