Parliamentary Service Commissioner Annual Report 2015-16

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Administration of the Parliamentary Service

Commissioner’s role

The PS Act provides for an independent Commissioner appointed by the Presiding Officers. The Commissioner’s role is to advise the Presiding Officers on the management of policies and practices of the Parliamentary Service and, if requested by the Presiding Officers, to inquire into and report on Parliamentary Service matters. The Commissioner is not subject to direction by or on behalf of the executive government in the performance of his functions.

The PS Act empowers the Presiding Officers to make determinations on a range of matters affecting the Parliamentary Service. The PS Act also requires the Presiding Officers to consult the Commissioner before making determinations.

Section 42 of the PS Act requires the Commissioner to give a report to the Presiding Officers for presentation to the Parliament on the activities of the Commissioner during the year.

Merit Protection Commissioner’s role

The role of the Merit Protection Commissioner includes inquiring into actions at the request of the Presiding Officers and into alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct by the Commissioner and functions prescribed in determinations made for the purposes of section 33 of the Parliamentary Service Act. These functions include reviewing employment actions and promotions, providing recruitment services and inquiring into alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct.

The Merit Protection Commissioner’s report is at Appendix A.

Roles and responsibilities of the individual departments

Four parliamentary departments are established under the PS Act.

The Department of the Senate and the Department of the House of Representatives (the chamber departments) provide advice and support to the Senate, the House of Representatives, Senators, Members and committees.

DPS provides a range of support services for the Parliament and for Parliament House. Its services include information services to the Parliament, security, facilities, visitor services, building management and maintenance, landscaping, ICT, telecommunications management, broadcasting and records services.

The Parliamentary Budget Office informs the Parliament by providing independent and nonpartisan analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implication of proposals.


Under the PS Act, the Secretaries of the parliamentary departments have roles and responsibilities similar to those of Australian Public Service agency heads.

The appointment of the Clerks of the Senate and the House of Representatives are made by the President and Speaker after consulting Senators and Members. The Secretary of the DPS is appointed by the Presiding Officers after receiving a report from the Commissioner. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is appointed by the Presiding Officers after obtaining the approval of the Joint Committee for Public Accounts and Audit.

The Secretaries of the chamber departments are Dr Rosemary Laing, Clerk of the Senate, and Mr David Elder, Clerk of the House of Representatives. They are appointed for non-renewable terms of ten years. Dr Laing’s appointment is from 5 December 2009, and Mr Elder from 1 January 2014. Mr Phil Bowen PSM FCPA is the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Secretary of the Parliamentary Budget Office. His appointment is for a term of four years from 23 July 2012.

Mr Rob Stefanic was appointed to the position of the Secretary of DPS and commenced duty on 14 December 2015.

Dr Dianne Heriot holds the office of Parliamentary Librarian. Her appointment is for five years from 10 May 2012.


There were no legislative changes made during the year.

Reports under the Parliamentary Services Act

A review of the DPS was completed in December 2015.

The review was conducted pursuant to s 40(1)(b) of the Parliamentary Services Act 1999. The review examined the structures, systems and staffing profile of the DPS. It made several recommendations concerning funding, staff structure, job titles and management of the building.

Mr Ken Baxter was engaged to assist me in the review.

The review report was presented to the Presiding Officers in December 2015. The Presiding Officers subsequently asked me to pass a copy of the report to Mr Stefanic. This assisted him in assessing the status of the DPS and what was required to equip the DPS to meet future challenges. A number of initiatives are being implemented to improve the governance of the DPS and its engagement with the other parliamentary departments.

Information and communications technology

The Parliament of Australia ICT Strategic Plan 2013–18 is used as the basis for ICT planning, investment and governance for the four parliamentary departments. Oversight is provided by the Parliamentary ICT Advisory Board (PICTAB), whose members include the Parliamentary Service Commissioner. During 2015–16 PICTAB resolved to undertake a mid-point review of the ICT strategic plan. The review was completed in June 2016.

Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group

The Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group (PAAG) supports 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:

  • 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, People, Strategy and Governance Branch, Department of Parliamentary Services

Liaison between the Australian Public Service Commission and the Parliamentary Service

Representatives of the parliamentary departments and the Commission liaised on relevant issues throughout the year.


All details relating to Parliamentary Service staffing are provided in the respective departmental annual reports.

Financial summary

The legislation establishing the special appropriations from which Department of the Senate and the Department of the House of Representatives draw down various monies to pay for Senators’ and Members’ remuneration and entitlements appropriations is administered by the Department of Finance and the Australian Public Service Commission. These agencies are responsible for reporting these administered special appropriation items.

There are no separate financial reports for the Commissioner and Merit Protection Commissioner. Any costs for the Commissioners are included within the overall financial results of the Australian Public Service Commission.


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