The historically large number of senators on the cross-bench continues to drive increased demand for procedural and legislative drafting support and advice for non-executive senators. In 2017–18, the duties of staff in the Procedure and Research Section were revised to increase focus on providing procedural and legislative drafting support to senators, and staff received specialist training to enhance their capability to provide this support. In 2018–19, these arrangements will be consolidated and additional focus will be put on deepening the procedural knowledge and legislative drafting skills of staff in the section as well as broadening the pool of staff with those skills across the department.
The numbers of bills and legislative instruments examined by the legislative scrutiny committees will remain consistent with previous years. The Legislative Scrutiny Unit also faces challenges in ensuring staff develop the specialist skills required to effectively support the legislative scrutiny committees, which will be met through targeted recruitment processes and the maintenance of structured induction training.
With advance bookings for learning programs at Parliament House likely to remain high, the PEO will continue to operate at capacity and will explore strategies to effectively meet demand while ensuring program quality in 2018–19. In 2019 the renewed PEO website will be launched, along with a redeveloped print resource for teachers. Support for students and teachers who are unable to visit Canberra will be delivered through the expansion of video conferencing and through continued delivery of professional learning programs, and associated content, directed at teachers.
The PEO has been embedded within the Procedure Office since its inception. In 2018–19, a small change to the structure of the department will see the PEO sit alongside – rather than within – the Procedure Office. This change will sharpen focus on the distinct role of the PEO – providing parliamentary education programs and resources to schools, teachers and students. Moreover, it will better reflect that the PEO provides services on behalf of both Houses, not just the Senate. Both offices will continue to be led by the Clerk Assistant (Procedure).
Demand for training and seminar programs, including requests for bespoke programs, continues to increase and this is expected to continue in 2018–19. The office will continue to give priority to providing tailored training to new senators and their staff, but will endeavour to meet requests for tailored programs, particularly from Commonwealth departments and agencies.