Annual performance statement

As the accountable authority of the Department of the Senate, I present the department's annual performance statements for 2021–22, as required by subsection 39(1) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. In my view, these statements accurately reflect the department's performance and comply with subsection 39(2) of that Act.

(Richard Pye)
Clerk of the Senate
06 October 2022

Performance reporting framework


In 2021–22, the department successfully achieved its purpose of facilitating and supporting all parliamentary meetings required under decisions of the Senate and its committees, including managing the continuing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, the department provided comprehensive, timely and high-quality support to senators, the Senate and committees, as well as prompt and accurate procedural advice and legislative support.

Throughout the year the department also:

  • published a range of materials on the role and work of the Senate and the Parliament, and delivered effective education and information programs
  • managed its staff in accordance with its enterprise agreement, provided learning and development opportunities
  • managed the department's response to the ongoing pandemic to maintain the department's capabilities, and
  • delivered its services in a cost-effective manner and in accordance with accountability requirements.

The department continued to provide advice and assist the Senate with practical and procedural adjustments required by the pandemic.

The department worked closely with the other parliamentary departments to deliver its services, to improve support for the Parliament and the work of its members and to enhance the strategic direction of the parliamentary service. Other collaborative work during this reporting period included initial work to implement recommendations of the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces (the Jenkins review) and a number of joint ICT projects such as development of an online system for the receipt and publication of tabled documents.

The department's financial result for the year was a surplus of $1.8m (excluding asset-related adjustments). This result reflects the continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a reduction in large expenditure items such as staff travel and venue hire to support committees. Once again, without the supplementary funding received in the May 2021 budget, the department would have been significantly overspent against current resourcing levels. A return to typical levels of committee travel and what appears to be an enduring increase in the volume of committee work will necessitate additional resources to sustain the department's services and activities. In this regard, the department welcomes the funding supplementation it received in the May 2020 and May 2021 budgets.

An analysis of the department's financial performance and the financial statements commence at page 87.

These annual performance statements record the department's results against the planned performance table in figure 2 (below), which is derived from its Corporate Plan 2021–22 and Portfolio Budget Statements 2021–22. They are based on records of services provided by the department, feedback recorded by departmental staff and comments made by relevant groups and committees.

In summary, this data shows both a high level of demand for the department's services and advice, and high levels of satisfaction with what is provided. The Senate's requirements at the end of the 46th Parliament continued to be driven by the large crossbench and sustained high levels of committee and legislative activity. Factors influencing demand are analysed further below.

Before addressing the department's performance in detail, this year's report once again includes a case study, this time examining the support the department provides in relation to the opening of Parliament (see figure 3 below). The case study illustrates the kinds of support the department provides to the Senate, its committees and senators. While the opening of the Parliament occurred early in the 2022–23 financial year, most of the preparation occurred during the reporting period.

Figure 2 – Planned performance

The department is responsible, not to the government of the day, but to the Senate and all senators. In planning terms, the department's purpose is expressed as a single outcome – provide advisory and administrative support services to enable the Senate and senators to fulfil their representative duties and exercise the legislative power of the Commonwealth.


Advice and support – Secretariat support for the Senate and its committees, and advice and support to enable senators and others to participate in their meetings.


The department's outcome is delivered under a single program, comprising services and activities in the following areas:

  • Advice about Senate and committee proceedings
  • Secretariat support for the Senate
  • Secretariat support for committees
  • Administrative advice and support for senators
  • Public information and parliamentary education, and
  • Capability, governance and accountability.


The department's activities enable the Senate and its committees to meet in accordance with their decisions.

Senators (and others) have the advice and support they require to participate in meetings of the Senate and its committees.

Senators are satisfied with the administrative advice and support they receive from the department.

Public information about the work and role of the Senate and its committees and parliament education programs are current and accessible to all.











These services are delivered through a single program.

Figure 3 – Case study infographic – Opening of Parliament

Figure 3 – Case study infographic – Opening of Parliament

Case study narrative – Opening of Parliament

These case studies, included in the performance statements since 2019–20, illustrate the types of support the Department of the Senate provides to the Senate, its committees and senators. Previous case studies considered the support the department provided during a single sitting week and, over a number of months, in relation to a particular bill. This case study provides an overview of the opening of Parliament and the department's role in supporting newly elected senators. The case study was selected by the department in February 2022 to illustrate how the support provided by the department tracks with the electoral cycle.

The work of the department at the conclusion of an electoral cycle and the commencement of a new Parliament involves advice and support to new senators and those taking on new roles as well as coordination of many significant administrative and logistical tasks.

The first points of contact with the Department of the Senate for most new senators were the Clerk's Office followed by the Usher of the Black Rod and his office. The Black Rod's team provided the core administrative support required by new senators and senators who retired or lost their seats at the election. Key tasks related to human resource matters included payment of final monies (including resettlement allowances), onboarding of new senators to the payroll system and changes to senators' entitlement to various office holder allowances consistent with the Remuneration Tribunal determination.

As this election resulted in a change of government, the department supported the movement of senators' APH accommodation as senators with ministerial roles moved to and from the ministerial wing, in addition to moves associated with retirements and commencements (67 suite moves in total, identical to the number of moves following the 2019 election).

The allocation of suites is based on when senators were elected and is ultimately determined by the President with advice from the Black Rod. The allocation of suites at the beginning of the 47th Parliament was particularly challenging as the make up of the ministry resulted in there being insufficient suites to accommodate all senators in the Senate wing. This occurred because there were fewer than the usual number of Senate ministers (ie fewer senators were accommodated in suites in the ministerial wing). Negotiations with the House of Representatives allowed for three senators to be initially accommodated in the House wing, with administrative and accommodation support still provided by the department. The office also coordinated with other agencies, particularly the Department of Parliamentary Services and the Department of Finance, to ensure senators were seamlessly directed to the support available to establish their offices.

A crucial part of the department's work after an election is to provide support to new senators to undertake their parliamentary role. A significant element of this support was delivered through an orientation program which aimed to provide new senators with the constitutional, procedural and practical knowledge they need to perform their legislative, representative and accountability functions. The Procedure Office coordinated the orientation program for new senators held on 21 and 22 July, just before the new Parliament met, and follow-up training.

The delivery of this program required close coordination across the parliamentary service and beyond with sessions presented by the President, party whips, the Clerk, the Department of Parliamentary Services, the Department of Finance, the Parliamentary Budget Office, the Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority, the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service and the Australian Federal Police. The program covered a diverse range of topics from the role of the Senate and practical sessions focussed on Senate and committee procedure to parliamentary expenses and security matters.

For the first time, the department facilitated the McKinnon Institute1 delivering orientation sessions to new senators covering topics outside the scope of material the department is positioned to cover but likely to be of interest to new parliamentarians (such as ethics in politics and a wider perspective on democratic institutions). These sessions were delivered during the second sitting fortnight of the new Parliament.

An election and a change in government also means an increase in demand for training, not only from new senators and staff, but also from senators and staff assuming new roles. Much of this support is delivered by the Clerk and Deputy Clerk directly as well as officers in the Table and Procedure Offices who support government and non-government senators respectively.

Proceedings on the first day of a new Parliament are one of the few occasions when senators and members of the House of Representatives attend elements of the proceedings together. In particular, the Governor-General addressed the Parliament in the Senate chamber. This reflects the traditional practice of the British Parliament, since the 17th century, that the monarch (or in this case her representative) does not enter the lower House of the Parliament. As a result of this procedural quirk, the department takes the lead in organising the majority of the events for the opening day, with the exception of the welcome to country ceremony which is organised by the Department of the House of Representatives.

The opening of Parliament is one of the largest logistical exercises supported by the department. The Usher of the Black Rod and his team led the department's work with colleagues across the parliamentary service, as well as in the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor-General, the High Court, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force to organise the opening of Parliament. For the first time, invitations were managed through the EventsAIR system. While the transition to this system involved some administrative effort, it enabled more efficient management of the event.

A new wave of community COVID-19 infections, driven by the emerging BA.4 and BA.5 variants of COVID-19, led to the Presiding Officers, in consultation with health officials and the Government, deciding to reduce the number of invited guests to enhance the safety of participants. The final decision was made the weekend before the opening and the Black Rod's office used the electronic invitation system to ensure parliamentarians and invited guests were advised of these changed arrangements as early as possible and adapted the arrangements with other stakeholders to accommodate the necessary changes.

Approximately 400 people attended the opening on 26 July and approximately 7,000 followed the livestream of the event. Like 2019, this opening involved the new Parliament and the new Senate meeting for the first time after 1 July (when the terms of new state senators commenced). As a result, the first sitting day involved the swearing-in of senators; eleven of these were newly elected senators. This is a fairly typical number after a half-Senate election (16 new senators commenced after the 2019 election).

As ever, the Table Offices of the department and the Department of the House of Representatives coordinated closely, in relation to the resumption of parliamentary business. The department also worked closely with the Department of Parliamentary Services which is responsible for diverse elements of the opening ranging across broadcasting, producing the Hansard transcript and security.

In addition to the usual preparation required for a sitting period, the opening of Parliament brought with it some extra tasks for the Table Office. Ballot papers were prepared in case more than two nominations were received for the positions of President and Deputy President (ballots were held for both positions). A new warrant was prepared to authorise the appointment of temporary chairs who assist the President and Deputy President in the chamber. Sacred texts such as the Bible, Koran or Torah were required to be at hand to solemnise the swearing-in of some senators, as well as scripts to assist senators making the oath or affirmation of allegiance as required by section 42 of the Constitution.

Finally, Table Office staff updated division lists and procedural publications. Given the opening of Parliament coincided with the first sitting day after a long break, a significant backlog of documents (957 documents in total) was processed for tabling including the qualifications checklist senators lodged with the Australian Electoral Commission when they nominated to be candidates at the election.

The balance of these annual performance statements reports on the department's performance in each of its key areas of service delivery and activity.


Advice about the operations of the Senate and its committees

Senators (and others) have the advice and support they require to participate in meetings of the Senate and its committees

One of the key responsibilities of the department is providing advice about the operations of the Senate and its committees. This advice is often given verbally and immediately by the Clerk, Deputy Clerk and other senior officers in the Senate, and by committee secretaries and their staff during committee meetings. These officers also provide procedural advice to senators and their staff at other times, both orally and in writing. Committee secretaries are supported in providing advice by the Clerk Assistant (Committees) and the Senior Clerk of Committees, ensuring advice to committees is consistent, timely and accurate.

Senators and other recipients of written advice continued to acknowledge its value, and advice was invariably provided within agreed timeframes to meet the purposes for which it was sought. On occasion during the year, recipients of advice published it as a contribution to public debate, at the same time subjecting it to public scrutiny. When committees seek the Clerk's advice it is often for the purpose of publishing it, to show the basis on which committees may have taken particular decisions or reached particular conclusions. No committee expressed dissatisfaction with advice received and several senators expressed their satisfaction with such advice in contributions in the Senate or informally.

Advice about the programming of business in the Senate is the responsibility of the Clerk Assistant (Table), as is the provision of advice and support to government Senate office holders. Procedural advice and support for non-government senators is a particular responsibility of the Deputy Clerk and the Clerk Assistant (Procedure). Senators continued to acknowledge the value of their advice. The Procedure Office drafted large numbers of procedural scripts, legislative amendments and private senators' bills, helping senators participate in legislative proceedings. Amendments and bills accurately reflected the drafting instructions and were prepared within required timeframes and to the satisfaction of senators.

Advice provided by the department was also tested during estimates hearings and in other Senate proceedings and senators relied on such advice throughout the year. In addition to comments made by senators recorded in Hansard, feedback from senators provided directly to the Table Office and the Procedure Office indicated high levels of satisfaction with both advice and the levels of administrative support provided.

Procedural briefings among senior officers and the publication and dissemination of procedural resources assisted in maintaining the department's institutional knowledge and the capacity of officers to provide advice and support. This strengthening of institutional capability was also delivered through senior officers training additional staff to provide support and advice to senators as clerks at the table.

Secretariat support for the Senate and its committees

The department's activities enable the Senate and its committees to meet in accordance with their decisions

This outcome has been met during 2021–22 through two program components.

1. Secretariat support for the Senate

The department provided secretariat support for the Senate on each of its 33 sitting days (a lower number than the 48 sitting days in the previous financial year reflecting government decisions about the timing of the Budget and the general election).

During the sittings the Clerk, the Deputy Clerk and senior officers provided advice in the Senate to the President, Deputy President and other occupants of the chair, as well as to other senators and their staff. The Table Office and the Procedure Office provided procedural scripts and advice to assist senators participating in proceedings. Feedback from senators and their staff acknowledged the value and accuracy of this advice and support.

The Black Rod's Office provided formal and ceremonial support for sittings, including the swearing in of two new senators who filled casual vacancies during the year.

The Table Office and the Senate Public Information Office (SPIO) published the Senate's formal records as well as informal guides to its work. These resources were accurate and timely, and produced to meet the needs of senators and Senate deadlines. Documents supporting the Senate's legislative work were also uniformly accurate and timely.

Documents received for tabling were processed, recorded in procedural documents and archived. A growing proportion of documents and other information is published online, enhancing the ability of senators and others to follow and participate in Senate proceedings, and further improvements to digital publishing processes and online measures were implemented during the reporting period.

2. Secretariat support for committees

The department provided secretariat support for all committee meetings required under decisions of the Senate and of committees themselves, including those joint committees to which the department provides support. This support was primarily provided by the Committee Office, although other offices also supported a number of standing committees.

Secretariat support for committees encompasses:

  • procedural advice for the chair and other members, including advice and support to new senators
  • logistical support for meetings (including interstate hearings) and site visits
  • preparation of meeting documents, including minutes and agenda
  • managing and publishing submissions, and organising witnesses
  • research, analysis of evidence and briefings to members, and
  • preparation of draft reports, and their finalisation for tabling.

The Committee Office experienced another sustained period of high workload. The office supported 16 legislation and references committees, seven Senate select committees, two joint select committees and five other joint committees, undertaking between them, at one point, 61 separate inquiries. Secretariat staff in the Committee Office processed more than 5000 submissions, arranged 222 public hearings (which heard from 4843 witnesses) and 340 private meetings. The Senate made 51 references during the year and the office drafted 199 reports.

Advice, documentation and draft reports were consistently provided to committees in accordance with their requirements. Reports were drafted and presented to the Senate in accordance with the timeframes set by committees and by the Senate.

Secretariat staff work closely with senators to support committees. In particular, they work closely with the chair to prepare draft reports. This provides an opportunity for direct and immediate feedback about senators' satisfaction. Importantly, these open lines of communication allow the Committee Office to be responsive to feedback, and to make improvements to service delivery whenever it is required. Despite the significant workload towards the end of the Parliament, this direct feedback continued to indicate high levels of satisfaction. Senators referring to committee reports during debates in the Senate also indicated high levels of satisfaction with the support provided by secretariat staff.

Administrative advice and support for senators

Senators are satisfied with the administrative advice and support they receive from the department

The department, principally through the Black Rod's Office, provides support services to the Senate, to Senate committees and to senators at Parliament House. These services include preparing and supporting the Senate chamber for each sitting day, general office support, asset management, maintenance of equipment and furniture, and stationery services. The office also paid senators' salaries and allowances as required, organised office accommodation within the Senate wing and provided other services such as arranging transport and delivery services.

The Usher of the Black Rod provided security advice and support to the President, committees, senators and the department. The Usher of the Black Rod and Deputy Usher of the Black Rod also worked with colleagues in the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) Security Branch and the Serjeant-at-Arms' Office, and with the Australian Federal Police, providing the Senate's perspective on security matters.

A significant focus of the office during 2021–22 was the COVID-19 pandemic. This required measures to be put in place to reduce the risk of transmission while enabling the essential work of the Senate to proceed. The department's response to the pandemic required significant coordination between the parliamentary departments and health officials, and health and safety regulators.

Services were delivered within established timeframes and met relevant legislative requirements. This aspect of the department's work involves regular and direct contact with Senate office holders, senators and their staff, and other stakeholders, all of whom provided regular informal feedback which was very positive. Positive comments were also recorded in Hansard about the quality of the support for senators provided by the office and the department.

Public information and parliamentary education

Public information about the work and role of the Senate and its committees and parliamentary education programs are current and accessible to all

The department delivers public information and parliamentary education in a number of ways, primarily through the publication of information on the Parliament's website ( and the delivery of seminars, training and education programs to senators and their staff, the public service, community groups and school students.

In this reporting period, the Procedure Office delivered 19 seminars for public service officers and community groups, 13 training sessions for senators and their staff, and 4 public lectures, as well as publishing material on the role and work of the Senate and its committees to both internal and external audiences. Delivery of some programs in the first two quarters of the reporting period were impacted by pandemic restrictions. Formal and informal feedback about these services, for example from senators, training participants and our seminar audience, indicates that the programs effectively met their objectives.

The Parliamentary Education Office (PEO) continued to deliver high quality education programs to students, in person at Parliament House and through the outreach program, and via videoconference across Australia. 347 schools (approximately 19,500 students) undertook a Parliament House program. 34,182 students and teachers participated in a program via videoconference. This is over three times the number of videoconference participants compared to 2020–21 (a pattern continued from the first two years of the pandemic). Feedback collected indicated high levels of satisfaction with all programs. The PEO website ( continues to be well utilised, with approximately 1.8 million individual users, a 29% increase from 2020–21 including an increase in users in the lead up to the Federal election. Feedback about the educational information and resources on the website was very positive.

The Senate Public Information Office (SPIO) develops and publishes a range of public information resources to support the operation of the Senate, including on sitting days the Dynamic Red and Senate Daily Summary and, during estimates hearings, Estimates Live, and manages the department's web presence including accounts on YouTube (AuSenate) and Twitter (@AuSenate). The office also collates statistics on Senate activity and in this reporting period continued to refine the Senate's online statistical collection, StatsNet. These resources were provided on all sitting days, and accurate, reader-friendly public information resources were delivered within established timeframes.

Capability, governance and accountability

All identified accountability obligations to the Senate are met

Senate committees provide opportunities for senators and others to monitor the department's performance. The department met its accountability obligations to the Senate during the year, including through its appearance before supplementary estimates hearings in October 2021. The Clerk provided the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee with a briefing on the department's support to committees prior to each round of Senate estimates.

These activities provide an important accountability mechanism by which senators may test advice provided by departmental officers and evaluate the department's performance. The department was not required to attend the additional estimates hearings in February 2022 or the budget estimates hearings in April 2022 and was not asked to respond to any questions on notice.

The Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee also has a specific role in relation to the department's appropriations as well as matters concerning the department's structure, staffing and ICT, and security arrangements. Reports on the department's financial performance were provided to the President of the Senate and the Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee, as was the annual report of the department's Audit Committee. Regular reports on other departmental matters are also provided to the President.

The department participated in the Australian Public Service Commission APS Employee Census run in May and June of 2022. The results demonstrated that staff of the department are both highly engaged with their work and very satisfied with their working environment.


The department reports against the performance indicators contained in its portfolio budget statements, tabled in the Senate in May 2021, and those in its Corporate Plan for 2021–22. Those indicators have two dimensions, comprising an assessment of the demand for the department's services and an evaluation of the department's performance in delivering those services.

Factors influencing demand

A constant in the department's planning and reporting has been the recognition that much of the demand for its services shifts in line with levels of Senate legislative and committee activity. Demand is overwhelmingly driven by the requirements of senators, and the decisions and activities of the Senate and its committees. Each year, significant factors include:

  • the political dynamics of the Senate
  • the number of days and hours, and distribution, of its sittings
  • the legislative workload of the Senate
  • the number of committees on which senators serve, and
  • the number and complexity of committee inquiries.

Each of these is in turn affected by the electoral cycle. 2021–22 was the final year of the 46th Parliament and the Senate's large and diverse crossbench continued to affect the level of demand for advice, and the character of advice and support required.

Significant factors during this reporting period included the continuing need to comply with the health and safety constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to scheduled sitting days and committee hearings. This imposed particular demands upon the department in relation to ensuring the safety of estimates hearings as these returned to the majority of witnesses appearing in person.

The Senate sat on 33 days. High levels of committee activity continued, with seven Senate select and two joint select committees supported during the year. This additional activity was funded from one-off supplementation of $2.0 million to the department's appropriation included in the May 2021 budget.

Performance in delivering services

Evaluation of the department's performance is based upon the degree to which its services meet the requirements of the Senate and its committees, and senators, principally measured against criteria centred on:

accuracy—frequently assessed by considering whether advice or documents were demonstrated to be inaccurate

timeliness—particularly whether advice, documents or services were provided in time to meet the purpose for which they were sought

satisfaction of senators (including committees of senators) with the advice, documents or other services provided—the assessment of which is considered further below.

The particular criteria which apply are described in the department's portfolio budget statements and in the performance summary tables for each office contained in this chapter.

Monitoring and assessing satisfaction

Much of the department's work involves contact with senators and their staff, presenting the most direct means of eliciting (often informal) feedback about services and performance, and an avenue for addressing concerns as they are raised. During 2021–22, direct feedback was very positive across all service areas, particularly in relation to core advisory, drafting and secretariat support roles. Senators' comments about the department and its staff, placed on the public record during Senate and committee proceedings, constitute another valuable source of performance information. These comments continued to be resoundingly positive during 2021–22. The department also monitors its performance through formal and informal channels, including letters, emails, phone calls, seminar evaluation forms and outputs from management information systems. Again, these sources were positive. The direct accountability of the department to the Senate through its committees was noted above at page 23.

The department's program managers have adopted a formal process for recording and providing feedback to the Clerk to provide assurance for his certification of the annual performance statements. These measures have been provided to the department's Audit Committee, which has provided advice that the measures and these annual performance statements are appropriate.

The subsequent parts of this chapter report on the activities and performance of the department against the criteria contained in the departmental work plans.

1 The Institute is a not for profit, non-partisan organisation which operates in partnership with Monash University and aims to enhance the effectiveness of political leadership by building the capability of members of parliament.