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Members’ and corporate support

Members’ and corporate support is provided by the Finance Office, PBIS, the People Strategies Office and the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office, all of which report to the Serjeant-at-Arms. The offices liaise with the Department of Finance and DPS to provide comprehensive services to departmental staff as well as to members and their staff, including:

  • facilitating committees’ private meetings, public hearings and site inspections
  • advice and support on financial and human resource management, as well as records management, publishing and office services
  • payment of members’ salaries and allowances
  • organisation of members’ office accommodation, furniture and fittings
  • provision of mail and courier services, and a booking service for committee rooms and chamber gallery seating
  • maintenance and publication of key information about members and former members.

In 2018–19 the budget allocation for this activity was $8.480 million and expenditure was $8.895 million. There were expenses of $2.587 million that did not require an appropriation; the budget allocation for these was $2.690 million. Results against performance criteria are summarised in the annual performance statement (page 25 of the printed report).


During 2017, under section 44(i) of the Constitution, the circumstances of members considered to be holding dual citizenship were called into question. Following resignations and judgments by the Court of Disputed Returns, seven by-elections were required.

Four of those by-elections took place during 2018–19. Two other by-elections were held during the year, following the resignations of the Members for Perth and Wentworth in circumstances unrelated to section 44(i) of the Constitution. In each case, following the endorsement of writs, returning or new members are required to make and subscribe an oath or affirmation of allegiance before being admitted to the House of Representatives and taking their seat in the Chamber.

Members of the Forty-fifth Parliament, December 2018. Image: David Foote, Auspic/DPS

Performance summary

A high priority for the program area is to provide advice and support to the Speaker and the Speaker’s Office on the control and management of the precincts, chamber and gallery security, and ceremonial and other events at Parliament House. Staff work closely with colleagues in the Department of the Senate, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Australian Federal Police and DPS.

The prorogation of the Forty-fifth Parliament and dissolution of the House were a particular area of focus this year, including facilitating the departure of those members who retired or were defeated at the general election in May 2019, and preparing for the arrival of new members.

The ongoing program of building works to improve security at Parliament House also remained a priority. With colleagues from DPS, staff supported the introduction of electronic swipe card access to all members’ Parliament House suites, and developed related access protocols and joint business processes. Staff also continued to support the operation of a temporary entrance to the House of Representatives wing during the year. Throughout these works, staff ensured that the House was still able to effectively meet and discharge its responsibilities.

The second phase of the furniture replacement project was completed this year, with the staff offices of 125 members having received new furniture since the commencement of the project.

After consultation with DPS, ownership of status B furniture was transferred to that department through a memorandum of understanding executed in October 2018. Staff provided support for the transfer and subsequent arrangements for refurbishments and service to members.

Looking into the chamber from the broadcasting booth.
The view from one of the booths from which attendants support the Chamber during sittings. Image: Penny Bradfield, Auspic/DPS.

Services and advice

Media services

The Serjeant-at-Arms and staff continued to work with the various media bureaus and the governing committee of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery to ensure compliance with the rules for media-related activity in Parliament House and its precincts.

During the year, the Serjeant-at-Arms, the Usher of the Black Rod and their delegates liaised closely with the press gallery to balance media access, security and parliamentary requirements on a daily basis and at major parliamentary events such as budget day.

On a day-to-day level, the Serjeant-at-Arms and delegates work with members’ and ministers’ offices, representatives of the press gallery, the Australian Federal Police and the Parliamentary Security Service to ensure that media events in the precincts are conducted in compliance with the media rules and with minimum inconvenience to all.

During the year, the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office responded to around 161 requests to film or photograph in the private areas of the building.

Information services

As part of the department’s commitment to keep members and their staff informed about developments in the House, four editions of the members’ bulletin House Update were published, and seven procedural briefing sessions were held during the year.

Accommodation services

The Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office provides a concierge service for members. As part of that, it coordinates accommodation, capital works and routine maintenance services in the House of Representatives wing.

During the year, the office arranged 102 office relocations as a result of the dissolution of the House and earlier changes to the ministry and office-holder positions. That number is significantly higher than the 27 relocations in 2017–18. The Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office worked closely with the government and opposition whips to ensure that the relocations were completed quickly. The office also coordinated 473 requests to supply and move furniture. That number is significantly lower than the previous year (over 700 requests), which reflects the high activity for the furniture replacement project in 2017–18. All tasks were performed within agreed timeframes, to agreed standards, and to the satisfaction of senior office holders and individual members.

Maintenance, access and transport services

Requests for maintenance work in members’ suites are coordinated by the Serjeant- at-Arms’ Office, and include both emergency and routine work. During the year, the office coordinated 268 emergency requests, all of which were attended to promptly. In addition, the office coordinated 248 routine requests for repairs or alterations to suites or common areas. The office takes a proactive approach by performing office shutdowns and inspections over the autumn and winter recesses, so that issues can be identified, reported and addressed while parliament is not sitting.

The office coordinated 1,048 requests for assistance with telephone faults, relocations and allocations of telephone numbers (compared with 932 requests in 2017–18). The increase is a result of office moves following the general election. Faults reported were referred to telephone support in DPS within five minutes of receipt, and appropriate timeframes for resolution were agreed with the affected areas.

As the area responsible for access to members’ suites, the office approved 998 requests by DPS and contractors working on behalf of DPS for access to suites and general circulation areas for works related to general maintenance, services and projects. This is a small increase on the previous year (962 requests).

The Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office operates a Transport Office that delivers a parliamentary shuttle service during sitting periods. The shuttle provides a readily available, secure car-with-driver service in Canberra for members. In 2018–19, the Transport Office managed some 6,630 bookings from members, compared with 7,800 bookings in 2017–18 (figures exclude unbooked shuttle trips from the House of Representatives entrance, and bookings accepted by COMCAR but serviced by the Transport Office). This represents a 15 per cent decrease in bookings on the previous year, reflecting the extended non-sitting period following the dissolution of the House.

Parliament House security

The Serjeant-at-Arms represents the department on the Security Management Board. The board is established pursuant to section 65A of the Parliamentary Service Act 1999, to advise the Presiding Officers on security policy and the management of security measures for Parliament House. The board met seven times during the reporting period.

The department is also represented on three other security-related consultative groups, all chaired by the Australian Federal Police. The Incident Planning and Response Committee is attended by representatives of the parliamentary departments and several external agencies. It meets before meetings of the Security Management Board in order to provide specialist advice to the board. The Joint Management Group is attended by representatives of the parliamentary departments, the Department of Finance and the Australian Federal Police. This group meets weekly to consider security-related matters and coordinate responses at the operational level. The third group, the Emergency Management Working Group, established in 2017–18, is also attended by representatives of the parliamentary departments, the Department of Finance and the Australian Federal Police. The primary role of the Emergency Management Working Group is to develop, coordinate and facilitate security exercises at Parliament House, as determined and scheduled by the Incident Planning and Response Committee.

The department has established a business continuity network to coordinate contingency plans for work areas in the event of business disruptions. The department ran a desktop exercise in December 2018 for staff of IPRO and the PSC, to test their responses in the event of emergencies disrupting programs for incoming and outgoing parliamentary delegations. Further exercises are planned for other areas of the department.

Security screening

Certain guests are exempt from security screening on entry to Parliament House. Approvals for any other exemptions are made jointly by the Serjeant-at-Arms and the Usher of the Black Rod. During the year, exemptions were approved for 19 groups and individuals (compared with 21 in 2017–18).

Information and communications technology

Under the revised ICT service-delivery framework, most of the department’s ICT functions are provided by DPS. In support of this arrangement, the department continued to participate in a range of ICT advisory and management committees. A revised memorandum of understanding and service-level agreement with the other parliamentary departments was signed on 6 June 2018.

The Joint Management Committee, which comprises senior parliamentary staff, oversees the service-level agreement; it met three times in the reporting period. The Serjeant-at- Arms is the department’s representative on the committee. The same senior parliamentary staff, meeting as the ICT Project Prioritisation Group, consider the priorities for DPS capital expenditure on replacing or upgrading parliamentary business systems.

Information services

During the year, the department continued to work with DPS and the other parliamentary departments to develop new ICT systems and enhance existing applications. These systems support the work of the House, parliamentary committees and members, and include:

  • the House Division Recording System
  • the Online Tabled Documents project (to enable the electronic receipt and publishing of documents tabled in the House and Senate)
  • the Common Data Access Platform (a new centralised data source based on a revised information architecture)
  • the Parliamentarian Information Portal (a replacement for the Members Information Database)
  • the e-petitions system
  • the Parliamentary Procedural Records System (used to record and retrieve procedural events and precedents)
  • the Australian Parliament’s delegation portal for outgoing delegations
  • the venue management system
  • the department’s intranet.

The department continues to use its electronic document and records management system to file and manage records electronically. The collaboration with the other parliamentary departments on a joint upgrade to reduce running costs as well as enhance user experience is ongoing. The department also completed several information management projects during the year in support of meeting the targets under the National Archives’ Digital Continuity 2020 Policy. These included a project to evaluate its business systems against the National Archives’ business systems assessment framework, as well as a project to develop and implement an Information Governance Policy and Framework.

The department continued to support House of Representatives pages on the Parliament of Australia website, the consolidated intranet portal for senators and members, the portal for outgoing parliamentary delegations and the departmental intranet site. There is a continued focus on updating content and improving user experience of intranet and Parliament of Australia web pages.

Digital strategy

On 18 March 2019, following consultation with members and senators, the parliamentary departments published the Australian Parliament Digital Strategy 2019–2022. This strategy is intended to:

  • provide an overarching reference to guide all digital decision-making, particularly investment and architectural design
  • set enterprise ICT direction and priorities for the parliament that align with business needs
  • establish an agreed understanding of digital direction and priorities in support of the parliament’s business.

The department is continuing to work with DPS and the other parliamentary departments to implement initiatives and improvements under the new digital strategy.

Parliamentary assistants program

The parliamentary assistants program is managed by the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office. Parliamentary assistants are university students who perform the roles of messengerial attendants for an average of 10 hours per week with rosters planned around student commitments and the requirements of the House.

Six students took part in the program in 2018–19: three were existing assistants, and three were new appointments. The new assistants are all studying at universities in Canberra.

Members’ salaries

All processing of members’ salaries and entitlements by the People Strategies Office was in accordance with legislation and administrative decisions. In the 2019 members’ survey, 98 per cent of members said that they were satisfied with support for salary payments.

Corporate support

Operational performance indicators for finance, human resources and other corporate support services were met in 2018–19, and the department was in compliance with internal and external governance and reporting requirements.


Operational performance indicators for finance, human resources and other corporate support services were met in 2018–19, and the department was in compliance with internal and external governance and reporting requirements.