The primary function of the Black Rod’s Office is to provide support services to the Senate, including to Senate committees and to senators at Parliament House, and to deliver certain corporate services to the department. The office is led by the Usher of the Black Rod and has three operational areas, as shown in figure 13. The Usher of the Black Rod is supported by an Executive Officer.
The Usher of the Black Rod undertakes duties in the Senate chamber, including clerking and ceremonial roles, assisted by four senior staff and the chamber attendant team, among others. A major focus for the Black Rod’s Office during this reporting period was assisting with various accommodation moves in the Senate wing of Parliament House due to the high number of vacancies that occurred as a result of decisions of the High Court in relation to section 44 of the Constitution.
The Usher of the Black Rod represented the department at cross-parliamentary forums including the Parliamentary Administration Advisory Group and the Security Management Board. The Usher of the Black Rod also administered the Presiding Officers’ Rules for Media Related Activity in Parliament House and its Precincts as the President’s delegate.
The Black Rod’s Office maintained its high level of service and support to the Senate, the President, senators and committees during this reporting period.
The regular work of the office involves frequent and direct contact with Senate office holders, senators and their staff, and other stakeholders, all of whom provide regular informal feedback which is generally positive. The work of the Black Rod’s Office was also subject to scrutiny by the Appropriations, Staffing and Security Committee and the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee in estimates hearings. The full-time equivalent staffing level for the Black Rod’s Office for 2017–18 was 36.2 (34.3 in 2016–17) and the cost of running the Office was $3.3m ($2.9m in 2016–17).