In this chapter the committee sets out its consideration in relation to matters
under the terms of reference and other issues which arose during the inquiry,
funding models for the Department of Parliamentary Services;
the use of Parliament House as a commercial venue; and
DPS' refusal to provide information to the committee.
Funding models for DPS
The committee's terms of reference include 'further consideration of
budget-setting processes for the Parliament and the merits of distinguishing
the operating costs of the parliamentary institution and such direct support
services such as Hansard, Broadcasting and the Parliamentary Library, from the
operations and maintenance of the parliamentary estate'.
The committee received no evidence on this term of reference, however
the committee notes that funding models for the parliamentary departments have
been considered in other forums.
Joint Committee on Public Accounts
In its 2012 report the committee referred to the 2008 inquiry by the
Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA) into the efficiency
dividend and particularly the JCPAA's deliberations regarding the effect of the
efficiency dividend on parliamentary departments.
In a submission to the JCPAA's inquiry, the Department of the House of
Representatives argued that the funding of parliamentary departments should be
determined differently to government departments and agencies:
The Department [of the House of Representatives], together
with the other parliamentary departments, supports the Parliament, a quite
separate arm of the state from the executive government. It is completely
unsatisfactory that the funding of the departments that support the Parliament
is dictated by a model developed by the executive, with little capacity for the
departments to negotiate additional funding.
The Department [of the House of Representatives] will propose
that the Parliament needs to be treated differently to an agency of executive
government and that the independence of the Parliament to be able to influence
its budgetary outcomes should be recognised in any funding model.
In its report, the JCPAA noted:
Canada, the United Kingdom and New Zealand readily accept the
concept of the legislature independently maintaining control of its own
staffing and funding. Such an arrangement has operated in Canada for the last
140 years. In Australia, however, the Executive continues to see the funds
allocated in support of Parliament as within its jurisdiction – subject, of
course, to parliamentary approval of the appropriations.
The JCPAA recommended that '[t]he Government establish a parliamentary
commission co-chaired by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the
President of the Senate and comprising elected representatives to recommend
funding levels for the parliamentary departments in each Budget'.
The government response 'noted' the JCPAA's recommendation for a
The Government considers it appropriate that decisions on the
future funding for the parliamentary departments continue to be subject to the
usual budgetary processes in which proposals for additional funding are
considered against other competing priorities.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President
of the Senate are, of course, still able to put forward funding proposals in
accordance with the budgetary rules and processes in place at the time. It is
open to the Speaker and President to make arrangements to increase the input by
elected representatives into such proposals as they see fit.
Committee's previous inquiry
In correspondence to the committee during the previous inquiry the
former President of the Senate, Senator the Hon John Hogg, stated 'it is now
time to consider other funding models for DPS, possibly related to levels of
Parliamentary activity in each financial year'.
Similarly, DPS supported a model allowing for funding to fluctuate with
DPS saw the advantages of this funding model as providing a
base payment component which assumes a 'quiet' sitting year with extra payments
for increasing levels of chamber and committee activity. This model would allow
DPS to respond to peak demands in busy parliamentary years; establish rigorous
service standards for key services such as IT; and ensure effective asset
The committee also noted comments by the Clerk of the Senate,
Dr Rosemary Laing, when asked about funding models which would provide greater
autonomy for the financing of parliamentary departments. The Clerk referred to
the Latimer House principles which were endorsed by all member nations of the
Those principles include a best practice guideline that
houses of parliament should have the autonomy to set their budgets using an
all-party committee to determine and administer a budget of the house without
amendment by the executive. That is a Commonwealth-wide best practice model.
As discussed in Chapter 2, the committee's recommendation about
oversight of DPS' funding and administration by the (then) Senate
Appropriations and Staffing Committee and the House Appropriations and
Administration Committee meeting jointly have not progressed.
Budget Estimates 2014-15
During the Budget Estimates hearings in May 2014, the committee again
sought the views of the Clerk of the Senate on alternative ideas for funding
parliamentary functions. The Clerk responded describing developments in
relation to the Department of the Senate, noting milestones such as:
the movement of parliamentary appropriations in to a separate
appropriations bill in recognition that funding for the Parliament should be
separate to the ordinary annual services of government; and
the establishment of the Senate Appropriations and Staffing
Committee which is the key mechanism for negotiating with the government about
the Senate budget.
However, the Clerk then noted:
That kind of framework does give a certain independence to
the Department of the Senate in formulating its budget, but it is independence
in name only because, once you get government-wide initiatives, then who cares
if the parliament is a separate independent arm of government?—everybody is
getting a cut; here it is. The most recent efficiency dividend, the extra 0.25
per cent, did not come from notification from the finance minister to the
President; it came in an estimates memorandum circulated at officer level.
To me, that is wrong. It is offensive to the separation of
powers and I hope that enough senators will be exercised about this issue for
us to look at ways of strengthening the position of the parliamentary service
in securing an adequate budget.
The funding model for parliamentary departments is an issue that has
been deliberated on not only by this committee in the previous inquiry and
through the estimates process, but also by the JCPAA.
The committee understands that there are strong arguments for changing
the funding models and decoupling the funding decisions of parliamentary departments
from executive government, however, there appears little appetite for change.
The committee believes that there is merit in pursuing the committee's previous
recommendation with regards to the Senate Appropriations, Staffing and Security
Committee and the House Appropriations and Administration Committee meeting
jointly to have oversight of the funding of DPS.
The committee reiterates its recommendation for the funding and
administration of the Department of Parliamentary Services to be overseen by
the Senate Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee and the House
Appropriations and Administration Committee meeting jointly for that purpose,
and that standing orders be amended as necessary.
Parliament House as a commercial venue
Parliament House has 14 areas available for hire, which can cater for
events of 20-1000 guests.
Those venues include five private dining rooms (which can be used in a variety
of configurations) and:
the Great Hall and the Marble Foyer;
the Mural Hall;
Senate and House of Representatives Alcoves;
the theatre and the theatre foyer;
Queen's Terrace & Café; and
the Members' Guests Dining Room.
DPS' Annual Report 2013-14 outlines the number of functions held at
Parliament House last financial year:
In 2013-14 [Parliament House] hosted 1,030 functions – a
reduction on the 1,287 held in the previous year which is attributable to the
2013 election and the consequent reduction in activity in Parliament House.
Large scale events in 2013-14 ranged from the Master Builders' National
Conference Dinner and the Press Gallery's Mid-Winter Ball to the visit of Their
Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Contract with IHG
DPS contract out the catering for these venues to the Intercontinental
Hotels Group (IHG). In an answer on notice during the previous inquiry, DPS
explained the nature of the management fee which is paid to IHG:
The contract provides for DPS to pay the catering contractor
an annual management fee of $530,000 per annum ex-GST (CPI indexed from 1 July
each year). The management fee reflects:
services provided by the
contractor to the Parliament. The contract requires the contractor to cover the
costs of the set-up of parliamentary funded activities (including [primary
national events arranged by the Ceremonial and Hospitality Unit (CERHOS) of the
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet] in the Great Hall), up to 220
events per calendar year. If the number of events exceeds 220 per calendar
year, DPS pay the contractor at a rate of 0.1% of the management fee for each
additional event; and
the challenges of operating at
Parliament house (such as irregular trade, requirements to give precedence to
parliamentary activities, security and other requirements).
In its 2012 final report, the committee briefly considered DPS' catering
contract with IHG:
On 1 July 2008, DPS entered a contract with IHG to provide
event catering in Parliament House and with W Catering to provide catering in
the Staff Dining Room and Queen's Terrace Café. From 1 July 2010, all catering
in Parliament House has been provided by IHG following the termination of the
contract with W Catering. A new contract with IHG was entered into in January
2012. The new contract consolidated IHG's original contract for event catering
and the catering in the Staff Dining Room and Queens' Terrace Café which IHG
had taken over from W Catering on a temporary basis. The IHG contract has an
expiry date of 2017 but has the potential to run to 2022, that is 10 years.
At the public hearing on 17 November 2014, Ms Mills noted that the
contract with IHG is 'not commercially in the interests of DPS or in the
interest of the parliament'.
Ms Mills explained that the contract 'traded off to the contractor significant
financial benefits that might normally accrue to the building owner'.
The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO)'s report into the management
of assets and contracts at Parliament House used the catering contract with IHG
as a case study:
Given the length and complexity of the contract, there needs
to be a greater focus on performance measures and a strategic approach to
continuous improvement of services. While recent changes to weight the [key
performance indicators (KPIs)] may provide more capacity to address performance
issues, the situation concerning performance measures and other monitoring
strategies to assure business viability, demand and mix of services, needed to
have been dealt with earlier, and built in at the contract establishment stage.
The ANAO noted:
DPS has indicated that it plans to develop a catering and
retail strategy. The department should give this a suitable level of priority,
considering the public profile and expectations which Parliament House (a nationally
significant entity) generates. In moving towards a new tender process for
catering, DPS should aim to conduct relevant research towards alternatives, and
properly evaluate available options, to ensure that the best possible arrangements
are put in place. In developing future catering contracts, it will be important
to: include a range of performance measures; collect performance data; and
formulate risk mitigation strategies.
Funded and non-funded functions
The committee has sought information about the use of Parliament House
as a commercial venue at estimates hearings. In answers to questions on notice
following the Budget Estimates hearings in May 2015, DPS explained when
financial support was provided for a function:
Functions and events held at Parliament House are divided
into two categories – funded and non-funded. Operating Policies and
Procedures No 24 – Use of the Parliament House facilities for functions and
events (OPP 24)...provides procedures and guidance to all who manage and wish
to book events and functions using Parliament House venues.
Funded functions are defined as functions that are approved
and supported by the Parliament as a whole. In this respect, a
whole-of-Parliament perspective is taken rather than an Executive Government perspective.
Non-funded functions are defined as functions that do not
fall within any of the categories of funded functions. These functions include
those sponsored or booked by Senators and Members. This also applies to
Ministers and senior members of Executive Government.
OPP 24 provides that all functions and events held in Parliament House
must be approved. DPS stated that while the Presiding Officers are the final
approving authority for the approval of functions in Parliament House, this
authority has been delegated and is undertaken by DPS' Director of Programs and
The criteria for approving any proposed function in Parliament House are:
the function/event would be considered to be acceptable to the majority of
Senators and Members in the Parliament;
the function/event is consistent with the dignity of the Parliament;
the function/event is not likely to cause offence to any significant part of
the Australian community;
- that the
function/event will not adversely impact on any other activities in Parliament
House, particularly the operations of parliamentary business, the Chambers or
Committees/Hearings, also providing a clear thoroughfare for Senators and Members;
the function/event does not disproportionately affect public access to areas
that are usually open to the public.
OPP 24 also sets out categories of funded events, which include:
function for any parliamentary purpose, including the Parliament's education
and public relations activities under the auspices of the International
Community Relations Office (ICRO) and the Parliamentary Education Office (PEO)
– this category also includes special ceremonial events, such as the Opening of
function arranged by the Executive Government, which is supported by the
Parliament as a whole – primary national events arranged by the Ceremonial and
Hospitality Unit (CERHOS) of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet;
that are supported by the Presiding Officers in their capacity as Presiding
functions that are held by one of the three parliamentary departments (note
that this does not include social functions);
meetings or functions held by Approved Parliamentary Groups[;]
that might relate to the activities of the Parliament as a whole, or of one
House, such as swearing in of the Governor-General; [and]
held by Parliamentary Joint Committees, or Committees of either House[.]
Non-funded functions include those that are sponsored or booked by
Senators or Members, but do not fall within any of the categories of funded
functions. Non-funded events include:
function organised by a political party, regardless of whether that party is in
Government or whether the function involves parliamentarians;
that are organised or booked by government agencies or departments, even where
it involves a Minister or other parliamentarians; [and]
that are booked by a parliamentarian on behalf of another organisation external
to the Parliament, even if the Member or Senator who makes the booking will be
in attendance. This includes:
Press Club address, media launch or any conference at which a parliamentarian
function for an industry, community or business group booked or supported by
the local member or another parliamentarian; and
function aimed at showcasing an activity, product or industry to
OPP 24 states that any function held in Parliament House may attract
fees and charges, particularly where the function is classified as
'non-funded'. The types of charges that may apply include:
venue set up;
food and beverage;
audio visual services;
DPS' involvement in commercial functions
In May 2014, Ms Mills explained the information available to DPS in
terms of the events being held in the areas managed by IHG:
We have very defined areas of the building that are let
If [IHG] are catering for an event, they would know about
what the event was, the location and the number of people for whom they were
[DPS'] interest would be in our contract with IHG – about
their turnover. They pay us based on their turnover and the number of
activities. So we monitor those values at a broad level, but we certainly do
not look at [the charges for] every event...
The committee also sought information regarding the use of 'special
suites', such as the Speaker's or the President's rooms, for political
fundraising events. Ms Mills stated:
The special suites all have dining room capacity, and it is
normally up to [the] holders of special suites to decide how they wish to use
them. They get support for that, if it is the President or the Speaker, from
their respective chamber departments.
DPS' involvement in such functions would be limited to the movement of
furniture and items in and out of the suite.
Ms Mills noted that those office holders with special suites could
choose whichever catering company they wished to provide for those functions,
however, other Members and Senators were required to use the in-house caterers,
It is important that use of Parliament House as a commercial venue is
strictly regulated to ensure that all functions held in the building are
appropriate to its place as a national symbol.
The committee notes the evidence from DPS that OPP 24 is currently under
review to take account of some changes to position titles in DPS 'and to
clarify the use of some venues currently not specifically referred to in the
existing policy, for example courtyards'.
The committee believes DPS should provide a copy of this operating policy to
the committee once it is finalised and identify the changes from the current
The committee recommends that DPS provide the committee with the revised
and updated policy on the use of Parliament House facilities for functions and
events once that policy is completed.
The committee notes that DPS has indicated that it is in the process of
developing a new catering and retail strategy, and this is discussed in more
detail in the next section of the report on the review of the Visitor
Experience at Parliament House.
Review of the Visitor Experience at
At the public hearing on 17 November 2014, the committee discussed with
DPS officers a review of the visitor experience at Parliament which was
conducted by Sandwalk Partners (the Sandwalk review) at a cost of $269,900.
Ms Mills explained to the committee why the decision was made to review
the visitor experience:
There were a number of things that I was briefed on and read
about when I came here. I met with all the executives across the department
about the areas they were concerned about or working on. From that feedback,
there had been a survey of visitors to Parliament House in I think late 2011—I
will have to check the dates. That survey had a number of findings. It reported
the departments' offering in terms of client satisfaction for our tours, the
types of programs we had, the number of free tours et cetera. It mentioned the
inflexibility of the tours to adjust to different school ages and different
school groups. There were a number of quite negative comments. A number of
concerns were raised with me, including by [former] ACT Senator [Gary]
Humphries, about declining numbers in general. There had been no real action or
plan for how to respond to the survey results.
Ms Mills continued:
In addition to that, the branch [with responsibility for the
area] highlighted the decline in shop revenue. There was a very low turnover
rate and low profit margins in the shop, which was also in decline. We had a
new contract with IHG for catering, which it might be said was not commercially
in the interests of DPS or in the interests of the parliament. It traded off to
the contractor significant financial benefits that might normally accrue to the
building owner. There was also a view expressed that the visitor experience,
which had been core to the opening of the building—we regularly had over one
million visitors a year when the building first opened—had declined and had
become an unchanging but shrinking part of the business. So the idea was to
explore whether in fact there were remedies available to us in terms of the
type of programs that we could offer, the experience that we might learn from
elsewhere and what we could look forward to if we renegotiated our catering
contracts and our shop into the future. Those things were rolled up into a
The committee discussed with Ms Mills at some length her dealings with
some of the principals of Sandwalk Partners. Previously, DPS had informed the
committee that Ms Mills had met with one of the principals of Sandwalk
Partners, Mr Simon Spellicy, on four occasions over the period 15 June
2012 to 30 November 2012.
Ms Mills described how she had come to meet Mr Spellicy:
I went to the Opera House, soon after starting [with] DPS, to
talk about some of the work they were doing there in a number of different
areas. It seemed to me that they had much better practices and capabilities
than we had here at Parliament House at the time. I had not met Simon Spellicy
before, but he was brought into part of the meeting because of the work he had
been doing around the visitor experience at the Opera House. He outlined to me
some of the initiatives they had done around tours and trying to open up the
building to be not only a performing arts centre but also a tourist attraction.
I was quite interested in what he had to say and I asked the Opera House if he
would be available to run a small workshop with our staff to explain the work
that he had done there. That is what occurred midyear. Unbeknownst to me, he
then left the Opera House—and he provided us with information that he was now
establishing a company. None of that was related to our view to move ahead with
this [review of the visitor experience] project; it was completely
Ms Mills agreed that, on the basis that Sandwalk Partners was registered
with the Australian Security & Investments Commission on 5 November
2012, the last meeting that she held with Mr Spellicy, on 30 November 2012, was
after Sandwalk Partners had been formed.
Scope and outcomes of the Sandwalk
Ms Freda Handley, Assistant Secretary, Parliamentary Experience Branch,
DPS, outlined what the Sandwalk review included:
The premise was to improve the visitor experience at
Parliament House and give them a better understanding of what happens in
parliament, as well looking at where we can improve—the Parliament House shop,
the catering and all that sort of stuff.
It included how visitors find their way through the building,
what sort of experience they have in terms of the tours they take or whether
they did not take tours. It looked at the product we deliver to schools as
We have 125,000 schoolchildren coming through the building
each year. Some of them take the Parliamentary Education Office product, the
role-play product, but DPS gives the students a tour of the building as well
and explains parliamentary process to them.
DPS subsequently provided a copy of the Sandwalk review to the committee
and the committee has published a copy of the Sandwalk review on its website
with the commercial-in-confidence material redacted.
The Sandwalk review sets out the following 'Guiding Principle':
The key to creating a fully immersive experience is the
seamless integration of all of the elements into a coherent journey. This
involves tying together content interpretation, exhibitions, tours, [food &
beverage] and retail via a clear and relevant narrative thread, so that the
content of an underlying story informs decisions about exhibition theming, specialist
tour products, menu selection and merchandising decisions.
Taking this 360º view will ensure that all areas of the
business are consistent with, and benefit from, the curation of the overall
experience. It will also provide a consistent framework on which to build a
sustainable cost recovery model that integrates all business areas.
Some of the key changes recommended in the Sandwalk review include:
Accountability for delivery of
tourism visitation should be centralised with the Parliamentary Experience
Branch [PEB] of DPS.
The PEB branch should be
structured into three streams of accountability covering: development; ii)
visitor services; and iii) contracts and services.
The [Parliamentary Education
Office (PEO)] should be moved into PEB and given oversight of the entire schools
A curator role is required and
should report in under visitor services.
Development of an interactive,
interpretive Smartphone app is required.
Use of analogue and digital
displays in key areas will provide content and interactive displays.
A digital content management
system is required to provide content for daily tour experience.
Supply of map and brochure for
non-users of app as required.
Volunteers to be an integral part
of new visitor experience.
Audio equipment provided for
guided tour participants.
Guided tour delivery enhancement
through richer content, interaction, specialisation and integration with
New contract arrangements for [food
& beverage] operations to create a fit for purpose destination offering.
Retail management performance improvement
by better capability in house or outsourcing to create a fit for purpose store.
Increased resourcing of both
onsite and offsite marketing to drive visitation and 360° offerings and
collaboration with ACT Tourism.
The Sandwalk review proposes the implementation of these recommendations
in two stages:
Short-term (6–12 months) actions: improve the quality of the
basic visitor experience, essential capabilities developed and early financial
Mid- to long-term (1–3 year) actions: transformation of
visitor experience and subsequent strategies to drive visitation growth.
Opportunities for higher commercial revenues to offset operating costs will be
Parliament House shop
The committee sought information on the implementation of the Sandwalk
review's recommendations in relation to the Parliament House shop. Ms Mills
informed the committee:
The Sandwalk [review] made a number of recommendations
regarding the shop...We have been very slowly trying to implement those
recommendations because we had stock on hand that we had to deal with and we
have to develop new partnerships and new arrangements. The principal issues
that that report recommended was that there would be value in a stronger link
between the parliamentary experience of visiting Parliament House and the
Canberra region and the quality of shop merchandise.
They also recommended that we reduce the number of lines. We
had a large number of lines that did not have a turnover rate that was
considered commercially viable. So there has been a progressive development of
that. The other piece of work that we have been asked to do is to develop—and
this is perhaps more recently but a significant part of it—a line of products
that are branded more closely to the parliament that would be suitable not only
as souvenirs but also for delegations and so on. That work is underway at the
Ms Mills also informed the committee that DPS were considering
renovations to the Parliament House shop:
We are inhibited in the shop by its size and its layout, and
it is not a very visible store. So part of the planning is to renovate the shop
to make it larger so that we can stock more material...
What it does look at is making it more visible. If you exit
at the moment through the right hand side of the marble foyer, the shop is a
blank wall next to you. It is very easy to miss it. What we are looking to do
is to make that a glass or open wall so that you can see the shop much more
actively that you can at the moment.
Ms Mills noted that it was not possible to make changes to the Marble
Foyer of Parliament House:
We cannot make any changes to the foyer itself, obviously. We
have got one entry point from the foyer, and we have two glass display cases in
the foyer. They would remain unchanged. However, the hallway exit point where
you go out two concertina doors to leave the building, that wall is not...part of
the heritage design of the building. It was part of the security egress when
the doors had to be closed. We are working with the original architectural team
to look at ways in which we can expand the shop and have some sort of visual
recognition of the shop...
We are examining the potential to have a lift to go to the
Queen's Terrace Cafe. The lift currently stops outside the building at the
ground floor where the shop is. We are talking to the architects about whether
it would be feasible, within heritage guidelines, to have a lift that, instead
of stopping at the ground floor, went up to the first floor.
Mr Neil Skill, First Assistant Secretary, Building and Asset Management
Division, assured the committee that the proposed changes would not impact on
the architectural or heritage values of the Marble Foyer or the forecourt of
On notice, DPS stated that the scoping, design and heritage implications
of this work on the Parliament House shop were still being documented, but an
'early indicative budget is $2 million'.
The committee accepts that there was some need for a review of the
visitor experience at Parliament House. However, given that nearly $270,000 has
been spent on the Sandwalk review, it is critical that DPS remain accountable
for this expenditure. The committee's view is that DPS should indicate which
recommendations of the Sandwalk review it intends to implement and provide updates
on the implementation of those recommendations prior to each estimates
The committee recommends that DPS provide the committee with a list of
the recommendations that it intends to implement from the Sandwalk review and,
prior to each estimates hearing, provide the committee with an update on the
implementation of those recommendations.
Senate estimates briefs
At the hearing on 17 November 2014, former Senator the Hon John Faulkner
asked if DPS could provide:
[A]ll their estimates briefs and iterations of all their
estimates briefs, including background that had been prepared for this and the
last two estimates rounds [on notice]. It is quite simple; just a photocopy of
that material will suffice. I would also like to know in relation to that the
amount of DPS resources that are used in the preparation of estimates briefs.
The then Secretary indicated that she was not able to provide the
committee with the amount of DPS resources used in the preparation of the
estimates briefs, but she could say that it was 'very significant'.
On 28 November 2014, as part of the answers to the questions on notice
from the hearing on 17 November 2014, the committee was provided with copies of
the estimates briefs from the Parliamentary Librarian and the Chief Information
On 30 January 2015, the then Secretary wrote to the committee regarding
the provision of the remaining estimates briefs, stating:
There is a longstanding convention that advice prepared for
the Presiding Officers is treated as confidential. In the case of [DPS'] Senate
estimates briefs, the information contained in those briefs is also provided to
the Speaker. Given the longstanding practice, Madam Speaker has not agreed to
the release of the department's estimates briefs to the Committee. The
President concurs with the longstanding practice and Madam Speaker's view.
On 12 February 2015, the committee responded to Ms Mills, indicating it
was of the view the reasons given for not providing the remaining estimates
briefs were confusing:
As you would be aware, DPS already provided estimates briefs
from the Parliamentary Library and the Chief Information Officer to the
committee on 28 November 2014. The so called 'long standing convention'
referred to in your letter of 30 January 2015 has therefore already been
disregarded by DPS. Further, the committee notes that a 'long standing
convention' and 'advice to the Presiding Officers' are not generally accepted
Public Interest Immunity grounds for not providing information to a Senate
The committee reiterated its request for the provision of the remaining
estimates briefs. The committee indicated that it was prepared to discuss any
material which needs to be kept confidential. However:
[G]iven that estimates briefs are prepared for estimates
hearings, and that no in camera evidence can be taken by committees during
estimates hearings, it is not envisaged that there would be a substantial
volume of confidential material.
On 27 February 2015, the then Secretary again wrote to the committee on
As noted in my letter of 30 January 2015, DPS is not able to
provide all briefs and all iterations of all briefs for the last three rounds
as this would involve a significant diversion of resources and would also
impact on the department's ability to fully brief the Presiding Officers and
senior officers in preparation for future Senate estimates hearings.
The former Secretary noted that some of the briefs had been provided to
While DPS did provide copies of some final versions of briefs
in relation to the Parliamentary Library and ICT – these were able to be
assessed more readily and did not involve a significant diversion of resources.
Furthermore, they were provided before there had been time for full
consideration with the Presiding Officers.
Ms Mills also indicated that the provision of the estimates briefs would
'impact on DPS's ability to effectively brief the Presiding Officers'.
On 6 March 2015, the committee wrote again to Ms Mills, pointing out the
inconsistencies between the letters of 30 January and 27 February 2015:
You now state [in your letter of 27 February] that DPS is not
able to provide 'all briefs and all iterations of all briefs for the last three
rounds as this would involve a significant diversion of resources'. I note that
you have not raised this concern with the committee in earlier correspondence...
I note that you are no longer refusing to provide the
estimates briefs on the basis that '[t]here is a long standing convention that
advice prepared for the Presiding Officers is treated as confidential'.
The committee addressed DPS' concerns that the provision of the
remaining estimates briefs would involve a significant diversion of resources:
Given your advice, the committee has decided to amend the
question on notice and now only requires DPS to provide the final versions, and
not all of the drafts, of estimates briefs for the last three rounds.
On 13 March 2015, DPS' Chief Operating Officer, Ms Myra Croke, wrote to
the committee stating that the matter had not yet been discussed between the
Secretary and the Presiding Officers:
[I]t is not feasible for a decision to be taken and any
briefs provided to the Committee [prior] to further discussions. As a result,
DPS is not able to respond to this issue until the Secretary has had the
opportunity to discuss this matter with the Presiding Officers.
At the public hearing on 16 March 2015, the committee questioned Ms
Croke on the shift in the reasoning for not providing the committee with the
remaining estimates briefs. Ms Croke explained:
I think the original reasoning from the Presiding Officers
still very much stands. As I understand it, they are still of that view.
[B]ut there is no getting away from the fact that if we had
to go through and identify all those briefs and assess them, there would be a
diversion of resources.
On 13 May 2015, the Presiding Officers wrote to the committee in
relation to the provision of the estimates briefs:
We wish to advise the Committee that we consider provision of
DPS' briefs would not be appropriate due to the longstanding convention that
information provided to a Presiding Officer is not given to committees of the
other chamber. In accordance with this convention, briefs and information
provided to a Speaker would not be given to Senate committees, similarly,
briefs and information provide to a President would not be given to House
committees. It should be noted that all briefs prepared by DPS for a Presiding
Officer are provided to both Presiding Officers. As such, we do not consider it
appropriate for DPS to provide copies of their Estimates briefs to the Committee.
At the outset, the committee would like to state that it did not make
the request for the Senate estimates briefs lightly. The request was made in
light of a number of factors, such as poor record keeping, high staff turnover
and slow and inadequate responses, which made it extremely difficult for the
committee to obtain information through questioning at hearings.
DPS continues to refuse the production of the estimates briefs which
Senator Faulkner requested in November 2014. Essentially DPS' reasons for doing
this is that those briefs, despite being prepared for the purposes of Senate
Estimates hearings, have been provided to the Speaker and that to produce these
estimates briefs would be a significant diversion of resources.
DPS makes these arguments despite two sets of estimates briefs being
provided to the committee without objection and on the date specified for
answers to questions on notice. Further, the committee notes that during the
course of the previous inquiry, DPS provided copies of briefings prepared for
Supplementary Estimates hearings in October 2010 and Budget Estimates in May
The committee understands that this material was made available by DPS without
The committee maintains its position that as Senate estimates briefs are
prepared for DPS' appearance at Senate estimates hearings before this
committee, they should be provided and have been provided previously. While the
estimates briefs may be provided to the Speaker of the House of Representatives
for information, they are not briefs for decision of the Presiding Officers and
DPS should not be using a different process to keep information from the
committee. As an aside, the committee notes that briefs for decision have been
provided to the committee previously, for example in the case of the brief to
the Presiding Officers for the request for one-off funding for DPS for the 25th
Anniversary of Parliament House.
The committee is frustrated at the manner in which DPS has raised its
objections to answering this question on notice, in particular the apparent
changes to DPS' reasons for refusing to provide the material. The confused and
inconsistent response to this information request again illustrates the
difficult experience for the committee trying to obtain information from DPS.
The committee expects the new Secretary and senior managers to improve the
timeliness and quality of information provided to the committee so that it can
fulfil its important accountability role.
In the committee's view, DPS' refusal to provide these estimates briefs has
not been made on appropriate Public Interest Immunity grounds. However, the
committee has decided not to continue to pursue the production of these
The evidence that the committee has received during the course of this
inquiry causes it great concern. Like the ANAO, the committee finds it hard to
identify anything positive coming from the many recommendations made in the
committee's 2012 interim and final reports. The fact that all the significant
documents for the heritage management of this building are incomplete is inexcusable.
The awarding of photographic commission to the value of $40,000 to someone
personally known to the former departmental Secretary is incomprehensible. That
no documentation exists to explain the awarding of that photographic commission
While the committee does not intend to catalogue all its concerns here again,
after more than a year, it is now time for the committee to conclude its
inquiry. DPS is entering a new stage, which will be marked by the appointment
of a new Secretary and the outcomes of the independent structural review which
the Presiding Officers have initiated.
The committee believes that it is important that a new Secretary be
allowed to commence at DPS, armed with the knowledge of the current status of
the department as outlined by both the ANAO and this committee, but
unencumbered by the overt scrutiny that comes with an ongoing Senate committee
However, as the recommendations in this report attest, the committee will
continue to closely monitor DPS through the estimates process.
Senator Cory Bernardi
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