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PARLIAMENTARY REPORT


lie when they hear one. They can spot a phony when they see one. And they know when they have been deceived”. Mr Shorten noted that “for a Prime Minister who staked so much of his reputation and who campaigned to restore trust in our public life, he has let this country down—and badly”. Mr Shorten claimed that


key features of the Australian economy were sound. Mr Shorten stated that “the budget papers reveal the economic truth. Australia is fundamentally strong and so is the legacy that Labor left behind—low inflation; low interest rates; net debt peaking at one-seventh of the level of other advanced major economies; a triple-A credit rating with a stable outlook from all three international credit reporting agencies, one of only eight nations in the world; superannuation savings larger than the size of our economy; and around a million new jobs created in the five years before the last election. That is what we left”. Mr Shorten noted that the Budget papers reveal an $80 billion cut to schools and hospitals. He commented that “how could a collection of states with limited revenue possibly cope with these cuts? The Treasurer and the Prime Minister have hinted at an answer: a broader and heavier goods and tax service (GST). The Prime Minister and the Treasurer are blackmailing the states with unconscionable cuts to turn them into the Commonwealth’s cat’s paw, a Trojan horse to a bigger GST but absolving the Abbott government of fingerprints or blame”. This particular measure has led to the majority of State Premiers, both Liberal and Labor, being highly critical of the Budget. Mr Shorten was particularly


critical of the changes to unemployment benefits for people under 30 stating that “arguably, the changes to Newstart are perhaps the single most heartless measure in this


AUSTRALIA


brutal budget. They sentence young people to a potentially endless cycle of poverty when they should be getting a hand to find a job. This is a classic blame-shifting, cost-shifting measure that will put the price of unemployment on to Australian families. Prime Minister, how are people under 30 looking for work supposed to survive on absolutely nothing?” The 2014 Australian Budget is the most severe since 1996 and has polarized the Australian community. The next big hurdle for the Abbott Government is to try and negotiate the Budget through the Senate where there are a range of disparate parties and independent Senators.


Department of Parliamentary Services scrutinized over use of CCTV


In a dramatic estimates hearing of the Senate Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee, parliamentary officials from the Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) were accused of using closed circuit television (CCTV) in Parliament House to identify a “whistle-blower” providing information to Sen. the Hon. John Faulkner. Senator Faulkner scrutinized the head of DPS, Ms Carol Mills, over these allegations. Senator Faulkner sought to establish the operation of the code of conduct for using CCTV footage, who has access and under what grounds CCTV footage would be viewed. During this scrutiny, Ms Mills acknowledged that “it is possible DPS has breached the code in investigating a case to do with a staff member”. Senator Faulkner asked Ms Mills whether CCTV footage had been used to monitor DPS staff. Ms Mills replied “not to monitor DPS staff, no. To gather evidence in a potential code of conduct case around an individual, yes”. At one stage during the


206 | The Parliamentarian | 2014: Issue Three


scrutiny Senator Faulkner asked Ms Mills for an assurance, “that at no stage has CCTV footage been used to in any way impede, affect or have any impact at all on the work of either members of the House of Representatives or senators in this building”. Ms Mills responded that “it is my belief that DPS endeavours at all times to accord with that. I believe that we operate in a very difficult and


specifically asked is “a senator or a senator’s office involved in this surveillance”. Ms Mills responded that “an individual staff member of the Department of Parliamentary Services was involved in the surveillance. The only reason that permission was given was because of a potential code of conduct breach by a staff member of the department. We are within our rights to do that”. Senator Faulkner immediately responded that, “no, you are not within your rights to do that at all. It is not allowed for under the code of practice”.


After some lengthy scrutiny Sen. the Hon. John Faulkner


challenging environment. We are dealing with staff matters. This is the one and only case that I am aware of where there may not have been best practice in that regard, where we had an inadvertent conflict between staff management issues and the protocol of the protection of members’ and senators’ rights to do business in the building. I will have more information about that soon, but I want to assure you that we well understand the purpose and the significance of the protection of the rights of members and senators and that we are also aware that on occasion in dealing with, as a normal department would, the behaviour of its staff and code of conduct it is possible in this particular situation that those two things have come inadvertently into conflict”. Senator Faulkner scrutinized this matter more deeply asking whether a Senator was involved with this incident and at one point asking Ms Mills “whether a Senator has been spied on”. He


Senator Faulkner asked Ms Mills if the examination of the CCTV footage involved “people providing information to me”. Ms Mills replied that “it may do”. At this point, Senator Faulkner asked the threshold question – “does it involve a person or people–an individual or individuals–providing information to me as I go about my work as a Senator in this Parliament”. Ms Mills admitted that this was the point she was looking into. Senator Faulkner then noted with significant gravity that “this is a serious issue of parliamentary privilege. I will


Dr Rosemary Laing


stop my questioning on this matter at that point, and I flag with the chair and the President, as you would understand, Mr President, that I will be taking this matter forward as a matter of privilege immediately. This is the most serious breach. I am sure


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