The department’s purpose as set out in its Corporate Plan 2019–20 is:
to support the House of Representatives, and the wider parliament, in the role of a representative and legislative body primarily by providing advice and services, and through engaging with the community and other parliaments.
Role and functions
The Parliamentary Service Act 1999 provides for a non-partisan parliamentary service to serve the Australian Parliament. The Department of the House of Representatives is established by and operates under the Act, together with three other parliamentary departments: the Department of the Senate, DPS, and the Parliamentary Budget Office.
During 2019–20, the department continued in its role as a service department for the parliament, supporting the work of the House of Representatives, its members and committees, and some joint committees (comprising members of the House and the Senate).
The department continued to provide services to increase public knowledge and awareness of the work of the House and the Australian Parliament, and to encourage interaction. The department also assisted the House and the parliament in maintaining institutional relationships with their state, territory and international counterparts.
The department is managed by its Executive: the Clerk, Deputy Clerk, Clerk Assistant (Table), Clerk Assistant (Procedure), Clerk Assistant (Committees) and Serjeant-at-Arms.
While no changes were made to the department’s structure during the year, a new Clerk, Deputy Clerk, and Clerk Assistant (Procedure) were appointed. Ms Claressa Surtees became Clerk of the House in August 2019. Ms Catherine Cornish was appointed Deputy Clerk in September 2019. Mr Jerome Brown became Clerk Assistant (Procedure) in November 2019.
Figure 1 shows the departmental structure at 30 June 2020.
Roles and responsibilities of the Executive
The Clerk is the most senior official of the department and a steward of the parliamentary institutions. The Clerk is the principal adviser to the Speaker, and is responsible for leading approximately 178 departmental staff members who provide administrative and procedural advice and services to the House and parliamentary committees, and support the parliament’s international and domestic engagement. With the heads of the other three parliamentary departments, the Clerk provides leadership of the parliamentary service.
The Deputy Clerk is the second most senior official of the department. The Deputy Clerk is responsible for advising and assisting members, their staff and departmental staff on matters of parliamentary practice and law, and for overseeing the drafting of private members’ bills and amendments. The Deputy Clerk assists the Clerk in managing the department, and during the Clerk’s absence performs the duties of Clerk.
Clerk Assistant (Table)
The Clerk Assistant (Table) is responsible for the areas of the department that provide programming, procedural and legislative support to the Chamber and Federation Chamber of the House. The Clerk Assistant (Table) is also responsible for the areas of the department that support the parliament’s program of international delegations and parliamentary strengthening.
Clerk Assistant (Procedure)
The Clerk Assistant (Procedure) is responsible for the Procedure Office, which provides procedural research, publications and services explaining the work of the House and its institutional role. The Clerk Assistant (Procedure) also contributes to the House’s parliamentary strengthening activities related to parliamentary procedure.
Clerk Assistant (Committees)
The Clerk Assistant (Committees) is responsible for the Committee Office, which provides a range of support services — including procedural, research, analytical, drafting and administrative support — to House committees and to some joint committees.
The Serjeant-at-Arms is responsible for the corporate areas of the department, which provide support and a range of services for members and for departmental staff. The Serjeant-at-Arms has a key role in managing ceremonial, access and security matters relating to the House.
Outcome and program structure
The department’s outcome and program structure for the year is set out in the Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20.
The department has one outcome:
Advisory and administrative services support the House of Representatives to fulfil its representative and legislative role.
The department has two programs:
Program 1: Departmental — supports five activities
Program 2: Administered — supports one activity.
Figure 2 shows the department’s outcome and program structure, and the activities under each program.
Table: Figure 2: Outcome and program structure, 2019–20
PROGRAM 1: DEPARTMENTAL
Advisory and administrative services support the House of Representatives to fulfil its representative and legislative role
Activity 1: Chamber and Federation Chamber
Provide advice and services to enable the House of Representatives Chamber and Federation Chamber to meet and address business as scheduled.
The department provides facilities, support, advice and information to ensure that:
the Chamber and Federation Chamber operate effectively
parliamentary committees operate effectively
members receive appropriate services to fulfil their parliamentary duties
international and regional relationships with other parliaments, parliamentary bodies and organisations are maintained
the community understands, and interacts with, the work of the House of Representatives and the Australian Parliament
the corporate offices fulfil their responsibilities for the management of people, finances, and office services.
Activity 2: Committee support
Provide procedural, research, analytical, drafting and administrative support to enable House of Representatives and certain joint committees to conduct and report on inquiries
Activity 3: Inter-parliamentary relations and capacity-building
Provide advice and services to support the parliament’s national, international and regional relationships. Assist and partner with developing parliaments, primarily within the Asia–Pacific region
Activity 4: Community relations and awareness
Provide services to increase public knowledge and awareness of, and intersection with, the work of the House of Representatives and the Australian Parliament through a wide range of media resources and other activities.
Activity 5: Members’ and corporate support
Provide high-quality advice and services to members and the department relating to accommodation, work health and safety, salaries and allowances. Seek to obtain the resources needed to sustain the work of the House, committees and wider department into the future.
PROGRAM 2: ADMINISTERED
Activity 6: Schools hospitality
Resources supporting the provision of hospitality to school groups visiting Parliament House.