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The department reports against the performance indicators contained in its portfolio budget statements, tabled in the Senate in May 2017, and those in its Corporate Plan for 2017–18. Those indicators have two dimensions, comprising an assessment of the demand for the department’s services and an evaluation of the department’s performance in delivering those services.

Factors influencing demand

A constant in the department’s planning and reporting has been the recognition that much of the demand for its services shifts in line with levels of Senate legislative and committee activity. Demand is overwhelmingly driven by the requirements of senators, and the decisions and activities of the Senate and its committees. Each year, significant factors include:

  • the political dynamics of the Senate
  • the number of days and hours, and distribution, of its sittings
  • the legislative workload of the Senate
  • the number of committees on which senators serve, and
  • the number and complexity of committee inquiries.

Each of these is in turn affected by the electoral cycle. 2017–18 was the second year of the 45th Parliament, and the Senate’s large and diverse cross-bench continued to affect the level of demand for advice, and the character of advice and support required.

The Senate sat on 57 days and committee activity maintained the levels seen in the previous Parliament. The need to support this activity saw continued high levels of staff numbers in committee secretariats, which was funded by the increase in the department’s appropriation.