Parliamentary Service Commissioner Annual Report 2013-14

Administration of the Parliamentary Service


The Parliamentary Service Commissioner's Annual Report 2012-13 outlined amendments to the Parliamentary Service Act 1999 (the Parliamentary Service Act) primarily modelled on changes to the Public Service Act 1999 (the Public Service Act) that arose from the report Ahead of the game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration.

The Parliamentary Service Amendment Act 2013 received the Royal Assent on 1 March 2013 and came into effect on 1 July 2013. Changes made by this Act included more concise Parliamentary Service Values, complemented in the legislation by a set of Employment Principles; expanded roles and responsibilities of Secretaries; revised roles of the Senior Executive Service; revised arrangements for the investigation of whistleblower reports by the Commissioner and the Merit Protection Commissioner; and a power for the Merit Protection Commissioner to delegate his or her powers to Parliamentary Service or APS employees.

The amended Parliamentary Service Act is supported by the Parliamentary Service Determination 2013 (Determination 2013) made by the Presiding Officers with effect from 1 July 2013. The Presiding Officers made this determination after consultation with the Commissioner as required by the Parliamentary Service Act.

Determination 2013 was amended by the Parliamentary Service Amendment Determination 2013 (No. 1), made by the Presiding Officers on 4 December 2013. The principal amendments provide for suspension of employees from duties and clarified arrangements for movement of employees between parliamentary departments.

Determination 2013 was further amended by the Parliamentary Service Amendment (Public Interest Disclosure and Other Matters) Determination 2014 (the PID Amendment Determination), made by the Presiding Officers on 26 March 2014 following the commencement of the principal provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013 (the PID Act) on 15 January 2014. The PID Act established a framework to encourage and facilitate reporting of wrongdoing by public officials in the Commonwealth public sector. It provides for the making of 'public interest disclosures', for the investigation of such disclosures, and for the protection of disclosers.

The Public Interest Disclosure (Consequential Amendments) Act 2013 repealed the Parliamentary Service whistleblowing scheme in section 16 of the Parliamentary Service Act and the functions of the Commissioner and Merit Protection Commissioner of inquiring into whistleblower reports. It also inserted new functions for the Commissioner and Merit Protection Commissioner to inquire into public interest disclosures in certain circumstances. The PID Amendment Determination provides details of how these functions operate alongside the inquiry powers set out in the PID Act. These changes were effective from the date of commencement of the PID Act.

The PID Amendment Determination also amends Determination 2013 in relation to certain actions a Secretary may take following a recommendation from the Merit Protection Commissioner in relation to the review of an action. This amendment clarifies that the written procedures established under subsection 15(3) of the Parliamentary Service Act apply in relation to such actions.

The PID Amendment Determination made other minor changes, including clarifying the provisions for requiring employees to attend medical examinations.

The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (the PGPA Act), the principal provisions of which came into effect on 1 July 2014, sets out five general duties of officials under the PGPA Act. They are:

  • a duty of care and diligence
  • a duty to act honestly, in good faith and for a proper purpose
  • a duty in relation to the appropriate use of position
  • a duty in relation to use of information
  • a duty to disclose material personal interests.

These duties are similar to elements of the Parliamentary Service Code of Conduct (section 13 of the Parliamentary Service Act). To ensure consistency between the general duties under the PGPA Act and the requirements of the Code of Conduct, amendments to the PGPA Act and the Parliamentary Service Act were made through the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Act 2014, which was passed by the Parliament on 26 June 2014.

Information and communications technology

The Annual Report 2012-13 reported on the implementation of recommendations of the Roche Review of Information and Communication Technology Services provided to the Parliament which was tabled in October 2012. These included the appointment of a Chief Information Officer, the establishment of the Parliamentary ICT Advisory Board (PICTAB) and the consolidation of parliamentary ICT functions with the transfer of ICT staff from the chamber departments to the Department of Parliamentary Services on 1 July 2013.

PICTAB, whose members include the Parliamentary Service Commissioner, guided the development of the Parliament of Australia ICT Strategic Plan 2013-18 in consultation with stakeholders. The plan, approved by the Presiding Officers in October 2013, outlines how ICT will connect parliamentarians (including their electorate offices), the public and the parliamentary departments with the services they require and will be used as the basis for future ICT planning, investment and governance across the four departments.

Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group

The Senior Management Coordination Group (SMCG), which operated across the parliamentary departments for a number of years, was replaced by the Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group (PAAG), which held its first meeting on 31 January 2014.

The Group's role is to support the Parliamentary Heads Group by overseeing the implementation of corporate initiatives and services of common interest across the parliamentary departments. Its members are an SES employee nominated by each of the Parliamentary Heads, initially:

  • Usher of the Black Rod (Department of the Senate)
  • Serjeant-at-Arms (Department of the House of Representatives)
  • Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer, Corporate Strategy (Parliamentary Budget Office)
  • Assistant Secretary, Corporate Services (Department of Parliamentary Services).

Statutory office holder remuneration

In October 2012 the Presiding Officers agreed with the President of the Remuneration Tribunal that the responsibility they presently have for determining the remuneration of Parliamentary Service statutory office holders should move to the Remuneration Tribunal. This followed the transfer in 2011 of responsibility for Australian Public Service Secretaries' remuneration from the Prime Minister to the Tribunal. The move would require legislative change.


Section 40(1)(b) of the Parliamentary Service Act enables the Commissioner to inquire into and report on matters relating to the Parliamentary Service, if requested by the Presiding Officers. In May 2013 the then Presiding Officers asked the Commissioner to conduct an inquiry under section 40(1)(b) into shared services arrangements in the Parliamentary Service. The outcome of this inquiry is reported in the Commissioner's overview.

Liaison between the Australian Public Service Commission and the Parliamentary Service

Representatives of the parliamentary departments and the Commission have continued to liaise on management matters during the year. Senior executive employees from the parliamentary departments and the Commission met in April 2014 and discussed award modernisation, enterprise bargaining, recruitment arrangements and amendments to Determination 2013.


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