CHAPTER 1 - Previous initiatives, Presiding Officers' statement and aims

CHAPTER 1 - Previous initiatives, Presiding Officers' statement and aims

1.1.1 There are five departments specified in the Public ServiceAct 1922 to support the chambers and to assist senators andmembers in the performance of their parliamentary duties:

Attempts to consolidate the administrative support structuresin the recent past have concentrated on proposing a partial ortotal amalgamation of the joint service departments (a more complete account is at Attachment 1).

1.1.2 In June 1996, Senator Reid (who was elected President ofthe Senate on 20 August 1996) and Speaker Halverson sought theviews of the heads of the parliamentary departments on the possiblerationalisation of the operations of, and services provided by,the five parliamentary departments. All heads responded on 20August 1996, supporting a two or three department structure. Subsequently,the Presiding Officers commissioned a preliminary review of thesubmitted papers by Mr Noel Tanzer AC, a former distinguishedpublic servant whose career had included being Secretary to severalCommonwealth departments between 1981 and 1994.

1.1.3 The Presiding Officers consideredthe suggestions of the heads of the parliamentary departmentsin the light of the consultative analysis and decided to implementa management structure based on the two chamber departments. Theyidentified this structure as the best way of achieving a dynamicand responsive organisation which utilised wherever possible worldbest practice in its operations, resulting in significant savingswhile improving the services provided to senators, members andthe committees of each House and both Houses. Departmental headswere appointed as a steering committee and were asked to consider:

and to provide by 18 March 1997 an implementation plan for thetransition to the new structure.

1.2 Terms of reference

1.2.1 The President and the Speaker each made a statement to theirrespective Houses at the commencement of proceedings on 5 March1997. The heads of the parliamentary departments appointed a workinggroup comprising Mr I Harris, the Deputy Clerk of the House ofRepresentatives, as convenor and the senior officers responsiblefor corporate management from the other parliamentary departments(Mr F W Bradley, Assistant Secretary (Business Services), JointHouse Department; Mr R McL Johnston, Assistant Secretary (CorporateServices), Department of the Parliamentary Library; Mr P O'Keeffe,Clerk Assistant (Corporate Management), Department of the Senate;Mr J Walsh, Assistant Secretary (Corporate Development), Departmentof the Parliamentary Reporting Staff); with assistance from MrsR Le Nevez (Department of the House of Representatives).

1.2.2 The purpose of this group was toadvise the departmental heads on an implementation plan whichmight be suggested to the Presiding Officers. This report is theresponse of the working party to the departmental heads. The workinggroup defined its task as reporting to the departmental headson practical considerations relating to the assimilation of fivedepartments into two departments. A number of implementation detailsrequiring settlement are more appropriately matters to be determinedby the heads of departments, particularly the Clerk of the Senateand the Clerk of the House of Representatives. The working groupalso considers that the role of the steering committee, particularlyin relation to the specific items mentioned by the Presiding Officers,should extend until the amalgamation is implemented.

1.2.3 The Presiding Officers' statements and associated correspondence,which essentially constituted the working party's terms of reference,are described in paragraph 1.1.3. Theyare available for reference at Attachment 2.

1.3 Other two-department models

1.3.1 In considering the extent to which organisational arrangementsfor the Parliament drew from and reflected world best practicein its operations, the group sought information on other modelsof parliamentary administration which are comparable in varyingdegrees to the Australian situation. The essential element soughtwas administrative support for bicameral legislatures.

1.3.2 It was not possible to determine world best practice fromthe information available. To establish a benchmarking exerciseof this kind, it would be necessary to obtain indicators of theperformance levels of each legislature support mechanism includinginformation as to:

1.3.3 Most comparable national legislatures examined adopt someduplication of functions with a second chamber. For example, theHouses of Commons in Canada and the United Kingdom are supportedby dedicated administrative structures, with some cooperationbetween the support services for the second chamber. Informaladvice from South Africa is that there may have been a move awayfrom a single administrative support structure for two Houses.The State of New South Wales has recently adopted a structureunder which the Clerk of the Legislative Council and the Clerkof the Legislative Assembly each administers a secretariat dedicatedto support the House he or she serves, and jointly administercommon services. However, the NSW Parliament is not constrainedby public service legislative requirements.

1.3.4 There appears to be the opportunity, therefore, for theAustralian national legislature to establish world best practicein delivery of parliamentary services, with any economies achievedreturned to senators and members in the form of new or improvedservices to assist them in better performing their duties. A moredetailed account of other legislatures' administrative supportsystems is contained at Attachment 3.

1.3.5 Recent developments in Australian federal parliamentaryadministration suggest that we may, in fact, be operating at worldbest practice standard in many areas. However, as a base for futuremeasurement, it is vital to establish performance indicators andcosts at the commencement of integration and monitor improvementsin service and efficiency.

1.4 Staging of integration

1.4.1 The working group is of the opinionthat it is in the interests of all concerned for arrangementsto be set in place in the minimum practicable time after decision.However, due regard must be had to legislative, consultative andother requirements discussed more fully at sections 2 and 3 ofthis report.

1.4.2 In brief, the group recommendsthat financial requirements for the 1997-98 Budget to be presentedon 13 May 1997 should be prepared in terms of a five-departmentstructure. Depending on Presiding Officer and legislative approval,it recommends that arrangements for the two-department structuretake full effect from 1 January 1998.

1.5 Senate Appropriations and Staffing Committee

1.5.1 It should be borne in mind that in a resolution of continuingeffect the Senate has declared that there should be no changeto the structure or responsibilities of the parliamentary departmentsuntil:

It will be necessary to comply with the requirements of this resolutionas soon as details of the proposed amalgamation are finalised.

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