Skip navigation

Motion: Parliament (Joint Services) (Clerks) Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Obtained leave and introduced a bill for an act to amend the Parliament (Joint Services) Act 1985 and to make a related amendment to the Constitution Act 1934.

Read a first time. Second Reading

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move: That this bill be now read a second time. I rise today to introduce the Parliamentary (Joint Services) (Clerks) Amendment Bill 2024. South Australia is now out of step with almost every other state in the country regarding the employment and appointment of the clerks of our parliaments. In almost every other state and also in the commonwealth parliament all clerks are appointed under a specific parliamentary service act. These statutory authorities not only identify the appropriate appointment processes but also outline modern employment procedures, including relevant qualifications, term periods and minimum required experience.

This seems appropriate, given this is taxpayers' money that is being spent here and their job is not only administrative but they also act as the principal adviser to the President, Speaker and members on issues of parliamentary law, procedure and practice. Currently, our appointment of clerks on a legislative level are filled through section 58 of the Constitution Act, and that specifies that the only requirement is that they are a 'suitable person'.

Today, I am introducing a bill to move this process from the Constitution Act to the Parliamentary (Joint Services) Act and provide the specifics as to what should be required of a clerk both before their appointment, including the recruitment processes and essential criteria, and also requirements of their employment, including remuneration and performance reviews.

Standard practice in the South Australian public sector requires performance outcomes and deliverables through executive appointments be set out in a performance agreement. This includes both whole-of-government and agency-specific priorities. As such, all employees, including executives, are required to undertake two formal performance reviews a year.

Currently, there is no requirement for clerks to undertake any performance reviews, nor are they subject to any performance outcomes, deliverables or key performance indicators. In 2024, this is not acceptable. While we all know parliament is a unique workplace, this does not mean it should be completely dismissive of modern workplace practices and employment standards. This legislative change to the Parliament (Joint Services) Act will also mean that the Equal Opportunity Act and the Fair Work Act will apply.

I now turn to the specifics of this bill. Part 1A will establish the offices of both the Clerk of the Legislative Council and the Clerk of the House of Assembly. Within this office, a number of processes will be entrenched. This includes terms and conditions for appointment of the clerks under section 4C, instituting a four-year term limit, an appropriate qualification in law, and extensive knowledge and experience in parliamentary law, procedure and practice. This section also outlines advertising and vacancy requirements for the clerk's position.

Section 4D will establish that the remuneration for all clerks will be determined by the Remuneration Tribunal of South Australia, subject to an annual review, with an accompanying section 4F, which details an annual performance review to be undertaken for each clerk. Under the Constitution Act, currently the chief clerks of either house can be removed by the house for which they are an officer. Similarly, the new section 4G will provide a process where a motion can be passed to terminate the appointment of the clerk where at least six sitting days' notice has been provided. This termination has to be related to either contravention of a condition of appointment, misconduct or failure or incapacity to carry out official duties to a satisfactory standard. As such, this section also allows for either the President or Speaker to suspend the clerk pending the passage of that motion.

South Australians rightfully expect the parliament to employ staff and operate the workplace by modern and transparent means, and not still do it the way it was done back in 1857. This bill is an appropriate step in the right direction and ensures their work is meeting the needs of the parliament and their salaries are in line with community expectations. I now seek leave to table a few documents for the benefit of consideration of this particular piece of legislation, namely, the position descriptions of the New South Wales Legislative Council for the Clerk of Parliament, the Deputy Clerk or Black Rod and the Assistant Clerk's position.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I draw members' attention to those documents and note that, for example, the position description, which is quite well articulated, notes that for the New South Wales Legislative Council: The Clerk of the Parliament and Clerk of the Legislative Council…provide expert and authoritative advice to the President, Ministers and Members of the Legislative Council and its committees on parliamentary law, practice and procedure. The Clerk, as chief executive of the Department of the Legislative Council, is responsible for the strategic direction and effective performance of the Department. The Clerk works collaboratively with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, the Chief Executive of the Department of Parliamentary Services, and the President of the Legislative Council and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, as the Parliamentary Executive Group, to support the achievement of the Parliament's strategic priorities The core requirements are:

1. Expert understanding and application of parliamentary law, practice and procedure of the Legislative Council

2. Expert knowledge and extensive experience in the parliamentary chamber, at the Table and in advising parliamentary leaders and Members on parliamentary law, practice and procedure.

3. Expert people management and development skills including the ability to engage and motivate staff and develop potential in others, through providing effective feedback, promoting a positive workplace culture and maintaining employee wellbeing.

4. Expert leadership skills to communicate goals, priorities and vision, inspire direction and purpose, and recognise achievement.

5. Expert management skills including strategic, corporate, financial and project planning skills and the ability to manage budgets and secure appropriate resources to enable the effective performance of the Department.

6. Expert communication skills including the ability to effectively negotiate, consult with and provide authoritative advice to a wide range of stakeholders in high-pressure situations, and deliver presentations and training.

7. Expert writing, editing, research, conceptual and critical analysis skills including the ability to comprehend complex issues and legislation. 8. Expert strategic judgment, integrity, tact and impartiality to make critical decisions in a political context while maintaining confidentiality and retaining the trust of Members in a high-stakes environment.

It goes on to outline the duties and the key outcomes and accountabilities, including those within parliamentary procedure, leadership, representational responsibilities and also a Legislative Council competency scale at (1) foundational, (2) competent, (3) proficient, (4) advanced, and (5) expert.

I think this is a really useful tool for our parliament—which has not updated our processes in this area since, and I will repeat it, 1857—to take strides forward to ensure a professional and appropriate workplace that South Australians would expect. With that, I seek leave to conclude my comments.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

Continue Reading

Read More

Motion: Child Protection Review

June 21, 2024

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move: That this council— 1. Recognises that in its current form, the Children and Young People (Safety) Act remains primarily a framework for child removal, rather than a holistic document for promoting the best interests of children and young...

Read more

Motion: Kangaroo Harvesting Inquiry

June 21, 2024

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: I move: 1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to inquire into and report on kangaroo and wallaby populations in South Australia, with particular reference to: (a) how they are affected by commercial and non-commercial harvesting;...

Read more