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Parliamentary Service Commissioner's role

The 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. If asked by the Presiding Officers, the Commissioner also inquires into and reports on Parliamentary Service matters. The Commissioner is not subject to direction by or on behalf of the executive government in performing the role’s functions.

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

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

Subsection 71(1) of the Act allows the Presiding Officers to make a determination conferring functions on the Commissioner as required or permitted by the Act, or that are necessary or convenient for carrying out or giving effect to the Act.

On 23 September 2021, the Parliamentary Service Amendment (Independent Parliamentary Workplace Complaints Mechanism) Determination 2021, was made. It conferred a new function on the Commissioner for the purposes of Section 40(1) of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999.

The Parliamentary Workplace Support Service (PWSS) was established to give effect to the new function. The Commissioner maintains oversight of the PWSS, which is independent of the government, political parties, individual employing parliamentarians and Members of Parliament (Staff) Act 1984 employees.

Roles and responsibilities of the individual departments

Four parliamentary departments are established under the Act:

  1. The Department of the Senate and the Department of the House of Representatives both advise and support the Senate, the House of Representatives, senators, members and parliamentary committees.
  2. The Department of Parliamentary Services supports the Parliament and Parliament House. Support services cover library and research, information and communication technology, security, building, ground, and design integrity. Services also cover audio visual, Hansard, art, visitor, food and beverage, retail, health, banking, and childcare.
  3. The Parliamentary Budget Office supports the work of parliamentarians by providing independent and non-partisan analysis of the budget impact of policy proposals and by publishing reports on budget issues.

Secretaries

Under the Act, the secretaries of parliamentary departments have roles and responsibilities similar to those of Australian Public Service (APS) agency heads:

  1. The Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the House of Representatives are appointed by the President and Speaker, respectively, after consulting senators and members.
  2. The Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services is appointed by the Presiding Officers after receiving a report from the Commissioner.
  3. The Parliamentary Budget Officer is appointed by the Presiding Officers after obtaining the approval of the Joint
  4. Committee of Public Accounts and Audit.

Department of the Senate

The Secretary of the Department of the Senate is Mr Richard Pye, Clerk of the Senate.

Department of the House of Representatives

The Secretary of the Department of the House of Representatives is Ms Claressa Surtees, Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Parliamentary Budget Office

The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Secretary of the Parliamentary Budget Office is Dr Stein Helgeby.

Department of Parliamentary Services

The Secretary of the Department of Parliamentary Services is Mr Rob Stefanic.

The Parliamentary Librarian is Dr Dianne Heriot.

Information and Communications Technology

The Parliamentary Information and Communication Technology Advisory Board (PICTAB) is an advisory body established in 2012. Its role is to provide guidance on the delivery of the Australian Parliament Digital Strategy 2019–2022. PICTAB membership includes parliamentarians and representatives from the parliamentary departments and the Commissioner.

PICTAB continues to function as an effective advisory group on information and communication technology strategy and risk. It also provides advice on a number of programs.

PICTAB met 3 times in 2021–22. The Parliamentary Service Merit Protection Commissioner, as the Commissioner’s representative, attended all PICTAB meetings during the reporting year.

Liaison between the Australian Public Service Commission and the Parliamentary Service

The Presiding Officers and secretaries are informed of major initiatives taken by the Australian Public Service Commissioner relating to employment in the APS.

The Commissioner’s annual meeting with parliamentary department heads was held in August 2021. Representatives of the parliamentary departments and the Australian Public Service Commission (the Commission) met throughout the year to discuss employment- related issues.

Staffing and financial matters

All details relating to Parliamentary Service staffing and financial matters are provided in their respective departmental annual reports.

Employees supporting the Commissioner are employees of the Commission and employed under the Public Service Act 1999. They are accountable to the Commissioner.

The Commission provides all corporate support and services to the Commissioner. There was no specific appropriation for the Commissioner in the 2021–22 financial year.

Any costs for the Commissioner are included within the overall financial results of the Commission.