Improving support for Parliament and Parliamentarians

Budget resources

Philip Hamilton

The Budget includes a suite of measures that, overall, aim to improve the level of support to parliamentarians in key areas of activity.

The Budget provides $14.4 million over 4 years from 2023–24 and $3.9 million per year ongoing to the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). The funding will assist the ANAO to ‘comply with updated auditing standards’ and ‘upgrade systems to ensure it can safeguard data’. The ANAO is also expected to deliver 45 performance audits in 2023–24 and 48 per year ongoing from 2024–25 (page 188). This will return the number of reports to the levels of 2017–18 (47 reports) and 2018–19 (48) after numbers in the low forties in the intervening years. On the evening of the Treasurer’s Budget speech, the annual statutory statement by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit outlined pressures and priorities that have shaped the increased funding for the ANAO.

The Department of the Senate has been allocated $9.0 million over 4 years from 2023–24 and $2.3 million per year ongoing to ‘support increased parliamentary committee activity’ (page 187). This ongoing funding effectively entrenches two recent one-off measures supporting committee activity, as reported in the Library’s Budget Review 2021–22 (page 158). The Department of the House of Representatives has been allocated $1.3 million over 4 years from 2023–24 to ‘support an expansion of the oversight role’ of the PJCIS, although details about the expansion were not provided (page 59). In concluding his second reading speech for the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Modernisation) Bill 2022, the Attorney-General mentioned ideas for an expanded role to which ‘the government is giving full consideration’. In addition the Government has announced an intention that the membership of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) will increase from 11 to 13.

The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) has been allocated $1.6 million in capital funding for 2023–24 to ‘support the delivery of ICT services to other parliamentary departments’. An additional $15.1 million over 4 years from 2023–24 and $3.5 million per year ongoing is allocated to ‘alleviate accommodation pressures … including facilitate remedial capital works’ at Parliament House (page 187).  The DPS Portfolio Budget Statement (PBS) notes a long term lease for West Block, an office block in the Parliamentary Zone (PBS page 14). Accommodation pressures would be compounded if the number of Commonwealth parliamentarians were to increase, as raised in recent media commentary, the Terms of Reference for parliamentary committee inquiry into the 2022 federal election, and a Parliamentary Library quick guide.

The Finance portfolio has been allocated $51.7 million over 4 years from 2023–24 and $12.4 million per year ongoing to establish the Parliamentary Workplace Support Service (PWSS) as an independent statutory authority. Taking on some functions currently performed by Ministerial and Parliamentary Services (MAPS) within the Department of Finance, the new authority will provide human resources and work health and safety support to parliamentarians and staff employed under the Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 (page 113). The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Department of Finance have been allocated $5.7 million in 2023–24 to implement remaining recommendations from Set the Standard: Report on the Independent Review into Commonwealth Parliamentary Workplaces (page 113).

The Budget provides $159.0 million over 4 years from 2023–24 and $39.9 million per year ongoing to provide parliamentarians with additional electorate staff resources and to ‘extend the nominated traveller expense entitlement’ (page 114). According to media reporting ‘previously, only certain MPs and senators with committee responsibilities could select an electorate staff member to travel with them to Canberra without dipping into the electorate support budget’. Cross-benchers have welcomed the extra resources, but reiterated calls for additional advisory staff to assist with legislation and policy issues.

The Budget allocates $4.0 million in 2023–24 for enhancements to the Parliamentary Expenses Management System (PEMS) to ‘improve governance, operational support for clients and transparency of parliamentary expenses’ (page 112). The PEMS project commenced in 2017 and became operational in mid-2022. Accessible from a computer or a mobile device, PEMS is intended to support parliamentarians to manage and report on their office expenses and HR-related functions. However, PEMS has not performed to expectations and in November 2022 the Department of Finance estimated the project’s cost had almost doubled from $38 million to approximately $69 million. Following a request from the Special Minister of State, the Auditor-General decided to undertake a performance audit of PEMS, due to be tabled in December 2023.


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