On behalf of the Commission, I present the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Corporate Plan for 2015–19. The Plan has been prepared in accordance with the requirements of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (Cth) (ALRC Act) under which it is constituted and the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth) (PGPA Act) under which it is a Commonwealth non-corporate entity.
The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) is an independent statutory agency that is part of the Attorney-General’s portfolio. The ALRC supports the Attorney-General and the Australian Government in the maintenance and improvement of Australia’s system of law and justice, by contributing to the process of law reform.
Under the ALRC Act, the ALRC’s function is to review Commonwealth laws and legal processes for the purpose of systematically developing and reforming the law. In pursuing this function, the ALRC contributes to the government’s objective of achieving an equitable and accessible system of federal justice and the harmonisation of Australia’s laws and practices. Through the improvement of Australia’s law and justice framework, the ALRC contributes to the Attorney-General’s Department’s outcome—a just and secure society.
The ALRC’s Corporate Plan is designed to inform the Attorney-General, government, stakeholders and the community of the ALRC’s strategies and programs that will allow it to deliver outcomes that meet their expectations and those of the Australian community.
Dated 17 June 2015
The ALRC’s Corporate Plan has been prepared having regard to the requirements of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (Cth) and s 35(1)(b) of the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (Cth) (PGPA Act).
The Corporate Plan is prepared for the 2015–16 reporting year.
The Corporate Plan covers the period from 2015–2019.
A fair, equitable and accessible system of federal justice that contributes to a just and secure society.
The intended impact of the ALRC’s activities are:
Informed government decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes through research, analysis, reports and community consultation and education.
The ALRC is required to review Commonwealth laws relevant to those matters referred by the Attorney-General for the purposes of systematically developing and reforming the law particularly by:
- bringing the law into line with current conditions and ensuring that it meets current needs;
- removing defects in the law;
- simplifying the law;
- adopting new or more effective methods for administering the law and dispensing justice; and
- providing improved access to justice.
With reference to those matters referred to it, the ALRC is to consider proposals for making or consolidating Commonwealth laws, and must consider proposals for:
- the repeal of obsolete or unnecessary laws;
- uniformity between state and territory laws; and
- complementary Commonwealth, state and territory laws.
In performing its functions the ALRC is required by s 24 of the ALRC Act, to ensure that the laws, proposals and recommendations it reviews, considers or makes:
- do not trespass unduly on personal rights and liberties or make the rights and liberties of citizens unduly dependent on administrative, rather than judicial, decisions; and
- are, as far as practicable, consistent with Australia’s international obligations that are relevant to the matter.
The ALRC, when formulating recommendations, must have regard to the effect that the recommendations may have on:
- the costs of getting access to, and dispensing, justice; and
- persons and businesses who would be affected by the recommendations (including the economic effect, for example).
The ALRC must report to the Attorney-General on the results of any review or consideration it carries out and to include in the report any recommendations it wants to make.
The ALRC would expect to work on two inquiries at any one time. However, the ALRC is not responsible for defining its work program, nor for the timing of its inquiries, but is reliant on the law reform objectives of the government, and the referrals made to it by the Commonwealth Attorney-General.
In this environment the extent to which the ALRC can deliver on its objective and meet its performance targets is influenced from year to year by the government’s law reform agenda, the number of inquiries referred to the ALRC, the subject matter and scope of any particular inquiry, the prescribed timeframe and the resources made available to the ALRC to undertake the work.
In light of this, the ALRC will continue to work closely with the Attorney-General’s Department to ensure appropriate lead time for planning and managing resources is afforded when new inquiries are referred to the ALRC.
This also means that the Corporate Plan will be updated annually to reflect the work referred to the ALRC during each period.
The ALRC has one programe to achieve its outcome—conducting inquiries into aspects of Australian law and related processes for the purpose of law reform. It is through the inquiry process that the ALRC is able to undertake the research and analysis that underpin the recommendations for law reform and provide the basis for informed government decisions.
In conducting its inquiries, the ALRC will:
- comprehensively research and analyse the legal policy issues raised during the course of this research;
- undertake community consultation nationally with stakeholders and experts relevant to each area of law under review and report on the consultation process;
- constitute an expert Advisory Committee for each inquiry, as required;
- produce consultation documents, as appropriate, to each inquiry;
- call for submissions that will, along with its own research and findings, inform the formulation of recommendations contained in a Final Report;
- provide web-based consultation and communication strategies to effectively and efficiently broaden access to the ALRC’s activities by the community;
- produce a Final Report containing recommendations for law reform for each inquiry for consideration by the parliament;
- present at public conferences, seminars and Parliamentary inquiries, ensuring that the work of the ALRC is publicly debated and discussed and contributes to the community’s knowledge about the Government’s law reform agenda; and
- track and report on implementation of its recommendations.
The ALRC is committed to ensuring it consults widely and will continue to develop online resources and communication strategies to maximise access, respecting the diversity of the Australian community.
As required by its Act, the ALRC also will have regard to relevant international obligations; the potential impact of its recommendations on the costs of getting access to and dispensing justice; and personal rights and liberties, ensuring that citizens are not unduly dependent on administrative rather than judicial decisions.
Staff of the ALRC will speak at conferences, seminars and meetings of professional and community groups about the work of the ALRC and law reform processes generally and will engage in other consultative and educational activities relating to the ALRC’s current and past inquiries.
As the ALRC’s recommendations must represent international best practice, the ALRC will also engage with other law reform and expert bodies internationally to share information and ideas and to benchmark ALRC practices and procedures.
Where the ALRC has made relevant recommendations or has acquired special expertise or experience, it will also make submissions to inquiries undertaken by other bodies, especially Parliamentary Committees, on the law reform issues raised in those inquiries.
Review into Commonwealth laws that restrict traditional rights freedoms and privileges
The ALRC will measure the success of its programme in delivering its objective through the following key performance indicators:
- the level of implementation of ALRC reports by government and other bodies, either substantially or partially, over time;
- the number of citations or references to ALRC reports and recommendations in Parliamentary debates, in court citations and decisions, and in academic publications and other publications;
- the number of submissions received for each inquiry;
- the number of visitors to the ALRC’s website;
- the number of presentations and speaking engagements; and
- the number of media mentions.
Implementation of reports
Citations or references
Visitors to website
Presentations and speaking engagements
Implementation rates are an indicator of the effectiveness of the ALRC in achieving its objective as the rate of implementation of ALRC recommendations provides evidence of the ALRC’s relative success in facilitating informed decision-making by Government that leads to development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes. The ALRC recognises, however, that implementation is not a matter within its own control but is dependent on government responses.
Using the number of citations of ALRC reports provides an indication of the success of the ALRC’s strategies in achieving legal and academic expert engagement.
Using the number of submissions received is one indicator of the breadth of the evidence base that underpins the ALRC’s recommendations.
The number of media mentions provides an indicator of community engagement and contributes to the community’s knowledge about the Government’s law reform agenda.
The number of visitors to the ALRC’s website is an indicator of the community’s engagement with the work (past and present) of the ALRC. This engagement underpins informed government decision-making.
Presenting at public conferences, seminars and Parliamentary inquiries ensures that the work of the ALRC is publicly debated and discussed.
It should be noted that these indicators are also affected, from year to year, by the subject matter of a particular inquiry, the prescribed timeframe and the resources available to the ALRC.
Risk oversight and management
The ALRC is committed to an active risk management program extending to all aspects of its operations. The PGPA requires that the accountable authority for a Commonwealth agency must implement:
- an appropriate system of risk oversight and management for the entity; and
- an appropriate system of internal control for the entity including by implementing measures directed at ensuring officials of the entity comply with the finance law.
Better practice literature in respect of risk management and internal control for ALRC includes:
- Enterprise Risk Management — Integrated Framework (COSO);
- Risk Management Standard — AS/NZS/ISO 31000 (2009);
- Commonwealth Risk Management Policy (2015);
- ANAO Better Practice Guide — Risk Management (2008 – tools and templates soon to be updated;
- Various Department of Finance & Administration, ANAO, AGD, Treasury, SafeWork Australia guidance on internal control in organisational areas such as finance, fraud control, assets, procurement & contracting, communications, Work, Health & Safety (WHS) etc.
Better practice in risk management is represented by the Risk Management Standard and Guidelines (ANZ/NZ ISO 31000:2009). The diagram below summarises the Risk Management Framework:
Risk management framework
[Graphic described in text]
The risk management framework reflects an ongoing process. Communication and consultation are used in:
- establishing the context
- risk identification
- risk analysis
- risk evaluation
- risk treatment
Each of these elements are monitored and reviewed, with the results feeding back into the communication and consultation process.
Oversight and reporting
The CEO and Executive Director are responsible for oversight on risk including review of framework, risk review process, records update and reporting to the Audit Committee. The diagram below details the Enterprise Risk Management Framework at the ALRC.
[Diagram described in text]
- Framework documents
- Risk Management Policy
- Risk Management Approach
- Risk Assessments
- Internal Controls documents
- Accountable Authority Instructions / Delegations
- Policies & Plans
- Reporting to Audit Committee
- CEO & Executive Director roles
Review of the ALRC’s key functions and strategic environment has developed three Enterprise Level Strategic Risks facing the agency, as follows:
- Sound Governance and Resource Management;
- Maintenance of relationships with stakeholders;
- Maintenance of a high level of Reputational Integrity.
The ALRC’s Strategic Risk Register identifies a number of existing controls required to reduce and mitigate these risks. This risk register is overseen by the ALRC’s Audit Committee and updated annually to ensure that the ALRC’s strategies reduce the Commission’s exposure to the materialisation of its Enterprise Level Strategic Risks.
 Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (2004)