House debates

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Questions to the Speaker


3:09 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

I have a question for you, Mr Speaker, concerning the administration of the house. I'm sure that all members would join me in wanting to express appreciation of the staff of the parliamentary departments and contractors, particularly the cleaners, who have shouldered additional responsibilities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joy and Lah are the cleaners in my office, and they're doing a great job. To keep us safe Joy is there at the front at 6 am every day cleaning every single one of the containers that go through the security system. Staff have worked longer hours and expanded the scope of that work to enable parliament to sit during this pandemic. To that end, I ask you, Mr Speaker, to consider when social-distancing and other measures allow, an appropriate form of recognition from the parliament for these hardworking and committed people and to liaise with the President of the Senate to ensure that such recognition is across the parliament for all the magnificent staff. I believe it will be a symbol of what's happening right around the country with cleaners and people who don't normally get a lot of recognition. They have kept us safe. They have served their country, and here we are being extremely well looked after.

3:11 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question. I agree with him very strongly. There are certainly many people in the building who have risen to the challenges presented by the current pandemic here in Parliament House, with the aim of keeping the parliament going and keeping the building occupants healthy, and that's been very important. They have ensured that the hundreds of people needing to work from home as well are able to do so. I certainly agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the cleaners have been doing an outstanding job. It's very visible to us, of course. I agree with him, as I said, very strongly. Given I've been asked the question, I'd like to take this opportunity to also talk about some of those who a lot of us don't see, those who aren't so visible, who have been working long hours behind the scenes. This will give you an appreciation of the great team effort from all of the staff within the building. There are those working on the COVID-19 Taskforce that comprises a mix of DPS staff from security, library, HR, communications, governance and property. Of course, there are those staff who I mentioned earlier in the week who volunteered to work at the Services Australia satellite centre here in Parliament House, processing forms for the millions of people so badly affected. They're doing that right now. The accommodation team has been assisting with social-distancing movements throughout the building and actually helping set up the Services Australia satellite centre.

The ICT team have been assisting with setting up thousands of users to work remotely and with the ICT set-up at the Services Australia satellite centre that I've mentioned. Just to give members an appreciation—and I'm glad to have received this question—between 1 March and 30 April ICT, which is known to all of us as 2020, fielded in excess of 13,500 phone calls and hundreds of emails and walk-ins. They have done a great job as well. What members won't know so much is that the catering team have been flexibly adapting to the restrictions and hygiene and have been assisting St Vincent de Paul to feed the homeless and those at risk in the ACT region.

I can assure the Leader of the Opposition and the House that, when the dust settles, absolutely there will be proper recognition. It is something of course that I will communicate to the President of the Senate, but it will be something we'll all do together as the houses.

In conclusion, I'd like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work that DPS has done more generally in keeping building occupants informed of the changes that had to be made in response to the pandemic. In just over 2½ months there have been 21 circulars distributed covering COVID-19 preparedness, access restrictions, catering changes, extended services that are being provided, remote working access, remote access to IT and social-distancing measures. I thought I'd mention that and thank them for the work that has been done. I thank the Leader of the Opposition.