Corporate Governance

Corporate Governance Framework

Corporate Governance Framework - diagram described below

Diagram description

The diagram consists of 6 layers, from top to bottom:

    • Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (Cth), ALRC act Enabling legislation - connects to layer 2
    • Commonwealth Authorities and Companies act 1997 (Cth) (CAC act) Reporting and accountability legislation - connects to layer 2
  1. Australian Law Reform Commission - connects to layers 3 and 4
    • Board of Management - connects to layer 5
    • Audit Committee - connects to layer 5
    • Corporate Plan 2009-11
    • Reporting Obligations
  2. Role and functions set out in the ALRC Act, and Quality and quantity measures for outcome and programs connect to Performance Measurement, which connects to layer 6
  3. Accountability to Government

Ministerial powers

The Minister responsible for the ALRC is the Attorney-General of Australia. Under s 20 of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (ALRC Act), the Attorney-General may refer matters to the ALRC for review. In 2009–10, two new matters were referred to the ALRC—a review into Family Violence laws and a review into Discovery of Documents in Federal Courts.

Under s 28 of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (Cth) (CAC Act), the Attorney-General may advise the ALRC of a requirement to comply with a general policy of the Australian Government. During 2009–10, the ALRC was not required to comply with any additional Australian Government policies.

Members of the Commission

Table 9 lists members of the ALRC during 2009–10, and their current term of appointment. On 30 June 2010, there were four members of the ALRC—one full-time member and three part-time members.

Table 9: Members 2009–10

Commissioner Term of Current Appointment
Full-time Commissioners
Professor Rosalind Croucher BA (Hons) LLB (Syd) PhD (UNSW) AMusA (AMEB), FRSA, FACLM (Hon), FAAL, TEP 14 December 2009 to 13 December 2014
Part-time Commissioners
Justice Susan Kenny BA (Hons) LLB (Hons) (Melb) DPhil (Oxon) 9 July 2009 to 8 July 2012
Justice Berna Collier BA, LLB (Qld), LLM (Melb) 2 October 2007 to 1 October 2010
Magistrate Anne Goldsbrough BA LLB (Melb) 14 December 2009 to 31 August 2010

Professor Rosalind Croucher, President

""

Professor Croucher was appointed to a five year term as President of the ALRC from 14 December 2009 to 13 December 2014. She was a fulltime Commissioner for a term of three years, commencing on 5 February 2007 to 4 February 2010. Professor Croucher was Dean of Law at Macquarie University from 1999. Prior to this she was a member of the Law Faculty of the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales. Professor Croucher served as Chair of the Council of Australian Law Deans (2002), Vice President (Western Pacific), International Academy of Estate and Trust Law (1998–2005), Chair of the Scientific Committee for the World Congress of Medical Law 2004 and on the Program Committee for the 8th biennial conference of the International Association of Women Judges, 2006. Professor Croucher has lectured and published extensively principally in the fields of equity, trusts, property, inheritance and legal history.

The Hon Justice Susan Kenny, Part-time Commissioner

""
Justice Kenny was initially appointed a part-time Commissioner of the ALRC on 14 May 2003. She was reappointed as a part-time Commissioner from 9 July 2009 to 8 July 2012. She is a Judge of the Federal Court of Australia, based in Melbourne. During 2009–10, Justice Kenny served on the Divisions dealing with both the Secrecy and Royal Commission Inquiries.

 

 

The Hon Justice Berna Collier, Part-time Commissioner

""
Justice Collier was appointed a part-time Commissioner for a term of three years, commencing on 2 October 2007. She has been a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, based in Brisbane, since February 2006.

During 2009–10, Justice Collier served on the Divisions dealing with both the Secrecy and Royal Commission Inquiries.

 

 

Magistrate Anne Goldsbrough, Part-time Commissioner

""

Magistrate Goldsbrough was appointed a part-time Commissioner on 14 December 2009 to 31 August 2010.

From February 2002, Magistrate Goldsbrough was the Victorian State Supervising Magistrate for Family Violence and Family Law for 6 years until December 2007. Prior to this appointment, she was a Registrar at the Family Court in Melbourne and had an extensive family law practice. Magistrate Goldsbrough was instrumental in the development and implementation of a range of specialist family violence initiatives and practice improvements in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria. This included the Family Violence Court Division of the Magistrates’ Court project in Heidelberg and Ballarat, and the Specialist Family Violence Services Project at three additional magistrates’ courts in Victoria.

 

Farewell to Professor Les McCrimmon

""
When Professor Les McCrimmon’s term as Commissioner ended on 30 November 2009, he had made a significant contribution to the ALRC. Professor McCrimmon had been with the ALRC for 4 years and 11 months and was the lead Commissioner for three ALRC inquiries—the ALRC’s Privacy Inquiry, culminating in the landmark report, For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (Report 108, 2008), a three-volume, 2700 page report containing nearly 300 recommendations for reform; the Inquiry into Evidence (Uniform Evidence Law, Report 102, 2005); and, most recently, Making Inquiries: A New Statutory Framework (Report 111, 2009), into the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cth).

Professor McCrimmon will be remembered for his record in leading inquiries which have resulted in prompt and substantial government implementation; his extraordinary project management and leadership skills; and his excellence in teaching. In 2009, he advised the Government of Botswana on the establishment of an independent law reform agency.

On a personal level, Professor McCrimmon will be remembered for infusing his passion for art into the workplace, his friendliness, thoughtfulness, warmth and collegiality.

Professor McCrimmon leaves the ALRC to take up the position of Chair of Law, Faculty of Law, Business and Arts at Charles Darwin University—a position which recognises his expertise in evidence, advocacy and privacy. The ALRC wishes him the very best in his new position.

Farewell to Emeritus Professor David Weisbrot AM

""
When President Professor David Weisbrot retired from the ALRC on 30 November 2009 he had made an unprecedented and indelible contribution to the ALRC, and to law reform nationally and internationally.

Professor Weisbrot was the longest serving President in the ALRC’s 35-year history and presided over 14 inquiries, demonstrating exceptional intellectual and strategic leadership. Professor Weisbrot’s first inquiry was into the federal civil justice system, which culminated in the landmark report, Managing Justice: A Review of the Federal Civil Justice System (Report 89, 2000). Other significant inquiries followed including the ground breaking report, Essentially Yours: The Protection of Human Genetic Information in Australia (Report 96, 2003); Fighting Words: A Review of Sedition Laws in Australia (Report 104, 2006); and the ALRC’s largest comprehensive inquiry into privacy laws, For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (Report 108, 2008). Other inquiries during the Weisbrot presidency covered areas of marine insurance; a review of the Judiciary Act; civil and administrative penalties; protection of classified and security sensitive information; gene patenting; uniform evidence law; sentencing; client legal privilege; Commonwealth secrecy laws and Royal Commissions.

Professor Weisbrot played an instrumental role in establishing the Australian Academy of Law—a key aspect of the positive action recommended in Managing Justice, uniting members of the judiciary, legal practitioners and legal academics in promoting high standards of learning and conduct across the profession.

Professor Weisbrot is highly regarded in the national and international law reform and policy making arenas and during his presidency, the ALRC took an active a leadership role in assisting law reform in developing countries. In 2009 he was invited by the Government of Botswana to assist in the establishment of a law reform commission following his assistance to law reform bodies located in Papua New Guinea, Samoa and the Solomon Islands.

In 2003, Professor Weisbrot was awarded a Centenary Medal by the Australian Government for ‘services to law reform’, and in 2006 was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for ‘service to the law in the areas of law reform, education and access to legal services, and through contributions to research, analysis and policy development on a range of matters of public interest’.

Professor Weisbrot has taken up the position of Professor of Law and Governance at Macquarie University’s Centre of Research Excellence as well as a position as Professorial Fellow at the United States Studies Centre.

Professor Weisbrot is held in the highest esteem by ALRC staff and colleagues. He will be remembered for his brilliance; exceptional skills as a writer, policy-developer and teacher; and for his commitment to social justice. But, significantly, on a personal level, he will also be remembered for being an outstanding mentor, fostering a happy, collegiate and inclusive workplace, and for his warmth, humour, and compassion.

The ALRC wishes him the very best in his new endeavours and will miss him greatly.

Remuneration

The Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal determines the remuneration for all ALRC members.

Full Commission meetings

A meeting of all full-time and part-time ALRC members—known as the Full Commission—is convened twice a year. These meetings provide an opportunity to discuss the progress of current inquiries, the ALRC’s financial performance and other matters of interest to Commissioners. Full Commission meetings were held in Sydney on 19 August 2009 and 25 March 2010.

Divisions

Section 40 of the ALRC Act states that the President may constitute Divisions of the ALRC, which identify the members of the ALRC who are formally responsible for each inquiry. There were no new Divisions constituted in this reporting period. 

Board of Management

The Board of Management—a requirement under the ALRC Act—is constituted by the President and other full-time Commissioners of the ALRC. The Board of Management is the ALRC’s governance body, with responsibility for general oversight of ALRC operations, including budget and policies. Table 10 shows the attendance of Commissioners at Board of Management and Full Commission meetings in 2009–10.

Table 10: Commissioner Attendance at BOM and Full Commission Meetings 2009–10

  19 Aug 2009
Full Commission
21 Oct 2009
BOM
25 Mar 2010
BOM / Full Commission
18 Jun 2010
BOM
Prof Weisbrot  yes  yes    
Prof Croucher  yes  yes  yes  yes
Prof McCrimmon  yes  yes    
Justice Collier  yes    yes  
Justice Kenny  yes    yes  
Magistrate
Goldsbrough
     yes  

The Executive Director attends all Board of Management meetings and staff representatives attend Board of Management meetings at the open invitation of the Board. The Audit Committee is the only sub-committee of the Board of Management.

Governance

Audit Committee

In accordance with s 32 of the CAC Act, the ALRC has an Audit Committee to oversee compliance with financial and auditing obligations and to liaise with external auditors. The role of the Audit Committee is directed towards:

  •  enhancing the control framework;
  •  improving the objectivity and reliability of externally published financial information; and
  • assisting the Board to comply with legislative and other obligations.

The Audit Committee consists of a Commissioner, the Executive Director and the Finance Manager. During 2009–10, the members of the Audit Committee were:

  • Commissioner, Justice Berna Collier (from 2 June 2010)
  •  Commissioner, Professor Les McCrimmon (until 30 November 2009)
  • Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, Ms Sabina Wynn
  • Finance Manager, Ms Maria Zacharia

A representative of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) is invited to attend meetings of the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee met once in the reporting period, on 20 August 2009. At this meeting the ALRC’s Fraud Plan was reviewed and as part of this process, the methodology for recording and managing annual and long service leave was tested and approved as appropriate and accurate.

Audit

Under s 8 of the CAC Act, the Auditor-General inspects and audits the accounts and records of the ALRC’s financial transactions and assets. The audit of the 2009–10 financial statements was performed by the ANAO.

Internal ALRC Policies

The ALRC’s Policy Manual contains the ALRC’s current policies, guidelines and procedures on a range of administrative matters. ALRC policies are regularly reviewed and revised as required. All new and revised policies are approved by the Board of Management.

New policies were developed during 2009–10 as follows:

  •  Access to Reference Material Policy (updated); and
  •  Twitter Policy.

Policies that concern interaction with members of the public are published on the ALRC website. New staff members are advised of ALRC policies as part of the induction process and all staff have access to the Policy Manual. Compliance with ALRC policies is a criterion in each employee’s annual performance appraisal.

A full list of ALRC policies is included in Appendix B.

Ethics

The ALRC fosters a culture of integrity, honesty and fairness in the workplace and actively seeks to comply with all relevant laws, regulations, codes and government standards.

The ALRC’s Code of Conduct outlines the expectations applied to staff in relation to their conduct in the performance of their job, including interactions outside and within the workplace. The ALRC’s Code of Conduct was updated in April 2009 and requires all employees to comply with certain standards when acting in the course of their employment.

The ALRC Code of Conduct requires that an employee must:

  • behave honestly and with integrity in the course of their employment;
  • act with care and diligence in the course of their employment;
  • when acting in the course of their employment, treat everyone with respect and courtesy, and without harassment;
  •  when acting in the course of their employment, comply with all applicable Australian laws;
  • comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by someone employed by the ALRC who has authority to give the direction;
  • maintain appropriate confidentiality about dealings;
  • disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid, any conflict of interest (real or apparent) in connection with their employment;
  • use ALRC resources in a proper manner;
  • not provide false or misleading information in response to a request for information that is made for official purposes in connection with the employee's employment;
  • not make improper use of:
  1. inside information; or
  2. the employee's duties, status, power or authority,

in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for the employee or for any other person;

  • at all times behave in a way that upholds the integrity and good reputation of the ALRC; and
  • while on duty overseas, at all times behave in a way that upholds the good reputation of Australia.

An ALRC employee must not disclose information which he or she obtains or generates in connection with his or her employment if it is reasonably foreseeable that the disclosure could be prejudicial to the effective working of the ALRC or the Australian Government, including the formulation or implementation of policies or programs.

An ALRC employee must not disclose information obtained or generated in connection with his or her employment if the information:

  •  was or is to be communicated in confidence; or
  •  was received in confidence by the ALRC from a person or persons outside the agency.

It is an exception to this requirement where:

  • the information is disclosed in the course of the ALRC employee’s duties;
  • the information is disclosed in accordance with an authorisation given by the ALRC President;
  • the disclosure is otherwise authorised by law; or
  • the information that is disclosed is already in the public domain as the result of a disclosure of information that is lawful.

Possible breaches of the Code of Conduct will be dealt with in accordance with clause 47 of the ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007–2010, and under procedures established by the President which satisfy the principles of natural justice. Where misconduct is found, the President may take any combination of actions specified in the ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007– 2010, including reduction of salary, suspension or termination of employment.

Fraud control and risk management

The ALRC has a commitment to fraud control and promoting efficient, effective and ethical use of Commonwealth resources. The ALRC is satisfied that the ALRC’s Fraud Control Plan 2008–2010—approved by the ALRC Board of Management in July 2008—complies with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, and ensures that appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures and processes are in place.

In accordance with s 8.14 of the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines, the ALRC collects any information relating to fraudulent matters and reports it to the Attorney- General’s Department. No fraudulent activity was detected in 2009–10. The ALRC’s Fraud Control Plan is reviewed annually by the ALRC’s Audit Committee.

A new Fraud Control Plan is currently being developed and will be in place by the end of August 2010.

Risk management

The ALRC’s risk assessment was reviewed in August 2009 by the Audit Committee and there were no new risks identified. The Audit Committee agreed that the ALRC had adequate controls in place, with all relevant risks being classified as ‘low’ or ‘negligible’.

The ALRC has continued to assess and manage its risks through:

  • appropriate levels of insurance, including cover for public liability, directors’ liability, and property loss or damage, with nature and levels of cover reviewed annually;
  • a positive approach to occupational health and safety, based on preventative strategies and early response to injury;
  • provision of training to staff to ensure that they understand their responsibilities and have the skills necessary to fulfil their responsibilities;
  • transparent reporting of financial management and operational matters, both internally and externally; and
  • administrative policies aimed at preventing fraud and managing risk.

Independent professional advice

Board of Management members have the right, with the agreement of the President, to obtain at the ALRC’s expense, independent professional advice relevant to the discharge of their responsibilities. No such advice was sought by individual members of the Board of Management during 2009–10.

Conflict of interest

Section 39 of the ALRC Act requires members to disclose any material personal interest in a matter under consideration by the Commission. There were no such disclosures in 2009–10.

Full-time members of the ALRC and the Executive Director make annual declarations of private interests, which are provided to the Attorney-General. Updated declarations of interest have been provided to the Attorney-General for 2009–10.

Director indemnity

The ALRC carries directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. Details are as follows:

Directors insured

  • Professor Rosalind Croucher—President (current)
  • Professor David Weisbrot—President (past) (from July 2009–November 2009)
  • Professor Les McCrimmon—Commissioner (past) (from July 2009–November 2009)

Nature of liability

Damages arising as a consequence of a wrongful act of a director, including an error by omission or commission; a misstatement or misleading statement; or negligent breach of duty.

The ALRC has not indemnified or agreed to indemnify any current or former officer against a liability other than by coverage under the directors’ and officers’ liability insurance.

Insurance premium

$7943.09 excluding GST.

Corporate Plan

The ALRC’s Corporate Plan 2009––2011 is publicly available on the ALRC website.

Significant Developments and Trends 2010-11

The ALRC has been notified of a significant financial reduction to its budget going forward as part of Budget Measures announced between 2009–10. The ALRC will lose an appropriation of around 15% over the next three years and this will require finding additional productivity savings to ensure the ALRC’s ability to provide timely, straightforward and sound advice to Government is not compromised.

The reduction in funding has been responsible for a reduction in programs—from two programs to one—in order for the ALRC to achieve its Outcome. The Corporate Plan 2009–10 has been updated to reflect this change. A reduction in the number of programs has been a necessary response to a decreasing budget.

It has also been considered necessary to reduce the number of full time Commissioners from three (including the President) to just one full time Commissioner, being the current President, Professor Croucher. While under the ALRC Act this does not impinge the Commission’s powers, functions or performance, it will impact the Commission’s ability to undertake several concurrent references. The ALRC has been notified that, pursuant to the 2004 Uhrig Review, the Attorney- General requires the ALRC to move from a Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act) body to one subject to the executive management model under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act).

This transition will require changes to the ALRC Act and will also involve the ALRC becoming a statutory agency under the Public Service Act 1999. The ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007–2010 is due to be renegotiated by February 2011 and the ALRC will both take into account requirements of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and associated tr

External Scrutiny and Controls

Parliamentary scrutiny

Representatives of the ALRC regularly appear at Senate Estimates Committee hearings to answer questions about the ALRC’s operations.

The President, Emeritus Professor David Weisbrot and Executive Director Sabina Wynn were required to attend Supplementary Budget Estimates Hearings on 19 October 2009.

The ALRC was not required to attend the Senate Additional Estimates Hearing on Monday 8 February 2010.

The President, Professor Rosalind Croucher and Executive Director Sabina Wynn were required to attend Senate Budget Estimates Hearing in Canberra on Monday 24 May 2010.

In February 2010, the President, Professor Rosalind Croucher and Research Manager, Mr Jonathan Dobinson reported via telephone conference to the public hearing for the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee’s Inquiry into the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 and the Information Commissioner Bill 2009, following a formal written submission the ALRC made to the Inquiry.

Court and tribunal decisions

There were no judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals during 2009–2010 that involved the ALRC or had a significant impact on the operations of the ALRC.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

No issues relating to the ALRC were referred to the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office.

Human Resource Management

Staffing

Employees of the ALRC are appointed under s 43 of the ALRC Act. At the close of the reporting period, on 30 June 2010, the ALRC’s full-time equivalent staffing level was 19.99 FTE. This figure does not include Commissioners.

Since 1996, all staff appointed under s 43 have been appointed on a fixed term basis, in accordance with the ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007–10.

Table 11: Staffing profile, as at 30 June 2010

ALRC Classification Men Women Full-time Part-time Total
Total 4 17 14 7 21
Executive Director (SES-equivalent)   1 1   1
ALRC 6 ($83,029–105,179) 1 3 2 2 4
ALRC 5 ($83,029–93,451)   1 1   1
ALRC 4 ($46,448–76,772) 2 5 7   7
ALRC 3 ($60,605–76,772)   3 3   3
ALRC 2 ($46,448–58,840) 1 4 1 4 5
ALRC 1 ($33,556–47,842)   1   1 1

Table 12: ALRC Staff 2009-10

Team Name Role Full- or Part-time
Corporate Support Sabina Wynn Executive Director Full-time
Corporate Support Maria Zacharia Finance Manager Full-time
Corporate Support Dimitra Zinonos Finance Assistant Part-time
Corporate Support Gregg Diggs Payroll Officer Part-time
Corporate Support Tina O'Brien Executive/Project Assistant Full-time
Corporate Support Trisha Manning Office Services Coordinator Full-time
Corporate Support Alayne Harland
(resigned Aug 2009)
Executive/Project Assistant Part-time
Corporate Support Esther Naulumatua Administrative Assistant Part-time
Communications Marie-Claire Muir Website Manager Full-time
Communications Becky Bower Communications Officer Part-time
Communications Michelle Hauschild
(resigned May 2010)
Special Projects Officer Part-time
 Legal Carolyn Adams Senior Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Bruce Alston Senior Legal Officer Part-time
 Legal Isabella Cosenza Senior Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Maha Melhem Senior Legal Officer Part-time
 Legal

Althea Gibson
(resigned May 2010)

Legal Officer Part-time
 Legal Lisa Eckstein
(resigned March 2010)
Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Joyce Chia
(resigned April 2010)
Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Anna Dziedzic Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Katherine McGree Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Jared Boorer Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Sara Peel Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Khanh Hoang Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Amanda Alford Legal Officer Full-time
 Legal Christina Raymond Legal Officer Full-time

Photo of the Corporate Team - see caption

Photo: The Corporate Team, from left to right: Ms Tina O’Brien, Ms Trisha Manning, Ms Becky Bowyer, Ms Marie-Claire Muir, Ms Sabina Wynn, Mr Greg Diggs, Ms Dimitra Zinonos, Ms Carolyn Kearney, Ms Maria Zacharia and Professor Rosalind Croucher.

Employment conditions

All ALRC staff members, other than the Executive Director, are covered by the ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007–2010. This agreement provides for annual salary increases of 4.2%, as well as a range of measures intended to facilitate retention of older employees and employees with family and/or carer responsibilities. These include:

  • paid maternity leave of 14 weeks;
  • paid parental leave of two weeks;
  • eligibility for parental leave in relation to long-term foster care placements;
  • paid adoption leave;
  • provision for older workers to sacrifice up to 100% of salary into superannuation; and
  • a Work From Home Policy to assist staff to balance work and personal responsibilities.

The ALRC Union Collective Agreement is due to be renegotiated by February 2011.

Performance rewards and bonuses

The ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007–2010 includes a salary scale, with each pay point in the scale representing a 3% increase in salary. The performance appraisal provisions of the Agreement allow for good performance to be rewarded through a combination of movement up the salary scale and one-off bonuses, as summarised below.

Table 13: Performance Rewards and Bonuses

Performance Rating Outcome
 Exceptional performance 2 pay point increase
 Performance between strong and exceptional 1 pay point increase plus bonus of up to 2% of salary
 Strong performance 1 pay point increase
 Performance between adequate and strong Bonus of up to 2% of salary
 Adequate performance No salary advancement

When an employee reaches the maximum pay point for his or her position, the President has the discretion to grant a bonus of up to 3% of annual salary based on a performance appraisal. During 2009–10, nine employees were awarded a performance bonus, amounting to a total bonus payment for the year of $36,811.

Details of total remuneration expenditure in 2009–10 are provided in the financial statements.

Staff development

The performance appraisal process is the main mechanism for determining professional development needs of employees but the ALRC also considers requests for education and training as they arise. The ALRC budgets for professional development at a whole-of-organisation level as well as for individual employees. Where appropriate, the ALRC organises tailored training for groups of employees with similar needs.

In 2009–10 Librarian Ms Carolyn Kearney attended a one-day refresher course in Sydney, on the Libraries Australia Document Delivery (LADD) new online platform. Ms Kearney also attended the 2009 Australian Law Librarians Association (ALLA) Annual Conference, held from 2–4 September 2009, in Darwin.

Finance Manager Ms Maria Zacharia attended an information session on the preparation for Appropriation Bills and Portfolio Budget Statements on 2 March 2010 and CBMS training on 3 March 2010, in Canberra. Ms Zacharia also attended a Fringe Benefits tax seminar on 25 February 2010.

Website Manager Ms Marie-Claire Muir, whose major project is developing a new website for the ALRC and Web 2.0 initiatives, attended a number of conferences for professional development including:

  • NSW Public Sphere: Government 2.0, Sydney, 4 September 2009;
  • Social Media for Government (Conference), Canberra, 11 September 2009;
  • Gov2 Conference, Canberra, 19–25 October 2009; and
  • Web Accessibility Techniques Workshop—Vision Australia, 22 April 2010.

On 13 May and 10 June 2010 Thomson Reuters presented training sessions to ALRC legal staff on the features of Westlaw, the major US-based legal database and on LegalOnline, the integrated online package of Australian legal publications.

Study assistance in the form of discretionary leave or reduction of work hours is available to staff undertaking tertiary studies at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. One employee sought and obtained approval for paid study leave in 2009–10.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

The ALRC is committed to equal opportunity in employment (EEO). EEO principles are applied in recruitment practices, and by providing equality of opportunity for training and development for all employees.

The ALRC has an EEO Policy and Reasonable Adjustment Guidelines. The EEO Policy is a statement of the ALRC’s commitment to the goals of equal opportunity and affirmative action in employment, and aims to provide a work environment for staff, contractors and interns that fosters fairness, equity and respect for social and cultural diversity, and that is free from unlawful discrimination, harassment or vilification. The EEO Policy also sets out procedures to ensure concerns and complaints are dealt with in a prompt and appropriate manner.

The Reasonable Adjustment Guidelines are designed to assist in fulfilling the ALRC’s legal and organisational responsibilities for providing a workplace that allows employees, contractors and interns with a disability to compete for vacancies and pursue careers as effectively as people who do not have a disability. The Guidelines require management to consider whether it is necessary and reasonable to make an adjustment to remove a barrier to enable a person with a disability to achieve equalopportunity, equal participation or equal performance at work.

The ALRC invites all new staff to participate in a voluntary EEO survey that allows the organisation to track the number of staff who are from groups or communities that are specifically identified in the EEO Policy. All information collected through the survey is treated as confidential and is used only for reporting in a de-identified manner.

As at 30 June 2010, 17 of the ALRC’s 21 staff were female. There were eight new appointments made during 2009–10 and seven of these new appointments fell within categories recognised in the EEO Policy (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people with a disability, people from a non-English speaking background, and women). A breakdown of staff by gender and classification is provided in Table 10.

Work/Life balance

The ALRC is strongly committed to providing a work environment that recognises the need for a work/life balance and that enables its staff to be employed, as far as possible, in a way that is consistent with family and other personal responsibilities. The ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007–2010 contains a number of conditions that are intended to ensure work/life balance practices. These include:

  • formal flextime arrangements for most categories of employees and a discretionary time-in-lieu system for senior staff;
  • the ability to ‘purchase’ additional annual leave;
  • flexibility in the use of personal leave to care for family members;
  • generous maternity, adoption and parental leave provisions; and
  • provision to work from home in particular circumstances.

In 2009–10, six members of staff were permitted to work from home or part-time in order to meet family or personal commitments and/or to facilitate their return to work from maternity leave.

Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S)

The ALRC is committed to providing and maintaining the highest degree of health, safety and welfare of all employees by aiming to prevent all injury and illness potentially caused by working conditions. The ALRC recognises its responsibility to provide a healthy and safe workplace for employees and to provide employees with workplace-based, easily accessible information on health and safety matters.

Occupational health and safety is overseen by the ALRC Occupational Health and Safety Consultative Committee (OH&SCC), comprised of the Executive Director Ms Sabina Wynn, Senior Legal Officer Carolyn Adams (staff union representative from June 2009), Office Services Coordinator Ms Trisha Manning (safety officer), Payroll Officer Mr Greg Diggs and Executive/Project Assistant Ms Tina O’Brien.

During 2009–10 the ALRC reviewed its Health and Safety Management Arrangements (HSMAs) and its Occupational Health and Safety Policy in consultation with the OH&SCC and determined that both documents were still relevant and did not need to be changed.

The ALRC’s OH&SCC discussed a number of concerns that had been raised by staff including: managing stress and longer than normal working hours due to the current workload, diminished resources and the amount of change that the organisation had been through in the past twelve months. It was agreed that managing workloads would be very important in the coming months and that ensuring references were clearly and tightly scoped, so that the work to be undertaken was manageable within the timeframe and available resources, would be extremely important.

It was agreed that the OH&S training delivered in October 2008 was very beneficial for staff and that the ALRC should do such training at least every two years, so that people are reminded of safe working practices. In addition, as the ALRC has a number of new staff, it was felt that training would be appropriate. Training should encompass both ergonomics and workstation set up as well as managing stress. This training will be delivered in October 2010.

The ALRC makes every effort to ensure that staff have the equipment that they require to fulfil the requirements of their job without risk to their health. New staff are provided with information on OH&S as part of the induction process.

As a workplace health initiative under the ALRC Union Collective Agreement 2007–10, the ALRC provides free and voluntary influenza vaccinations to staff in autumn each year. In 2009–10, 15 staff took advantage of a free vaccination.

Michael Kirby Library

The ALRC’s Michael Kirby Library (Kirby Library) contributes to the ALRC’s objective—informed government decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes—through the provision of information resources and portals, and library reference services. During 2009–10, the library continued to support the work of the staff of the ALRC through organisation and delivery of journal subscriptions, monograph purchases, online databases, portals with links to relevant websites and materials, inter-library loans and reference services.

In March 2010, the ALRC purchased a stand-alone package of titles from a legal publisher which was being offered to Australian Government Attorney-General’s agencies at a discounted price. This collection is comprised entirely of Australian legal publications and greatly expands the Kirby Library collection of online titles. With six new legal officers beginning work at the ALRC, and in order to achieve maximum efficiency in the use of the new and existing online resources, training sessions for all legal staff were delivered by legal publisher representatives in April 2010.

New intranet portals containing links to relevant online resources were developed by the ALRC Librarian for two new inquiries in 2009–2010, Family Violence and Discovery Documents in Federal Courts. These intranets allowed the legal teams access to a base collection of online materials for research, saving duplication of research, ensuring currency and reducing research time. The Librarian also maintains an intranet portal containing updated links to general legal resources and the library catalogue, which remains the key research tool for legal staff.

Photo: ALRC Librarian, Ms Carolyn Kearney and Legal Officer, Mr Jared Boorer in the Michael Kirby Library.All these intranet tools took on extra importance in 2009–10, due to the joint Inquiry into Family Violence. Relevant staff of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission could share use of the ALRC intranet resources offsite, from their own offices.

The Library is also the ALRC’s gateway for locating updated news and legal materials worldwide that are relevant to the ALRC’s current research. The Librarian is responsible for online current awareness services and disseminating relevant electronic information to staff. The Librarian tracks and records media mentions of the ALRC’s work, a task which aids in reporting on the ALRC’s impact and importance of its work in the wider community.

The Library also has a presence within the various networks of law libraries in Australia and New Zealand. These networks are invaluable for professional collaboration and to share expensive resources.

Photo: ALRC Librarian, Ms Carolyn Kearney and Legal Officer, Mr Jared Boorer in the Michael Kirby Library.

Purchasing

Purchasing within the ALRC is guided by the Purchasing Policy and Procedures, which are consistent with the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines (January 2005). As an agency expending public money, the ALRC must be accountable for its resources and expenditure. The Government requires the ALRC to promote the proper use of resources within the framework of policies that the Government has set for itself and its agencies. These policies aim to achieve efficient, effective and ethical procurement outcomes with a focus on value for money and provide guidelines as to how these outcomes may be realised when undertaking procurement.

The ALRC’s Procurement and Purchasing Policy was updated in May 2009 and sets ‘value for money’ as the core principle in procurement decisions. ‘Value for money’ is determined with reference to efficiency, effectiveness, accountability, transparency, ethics, Australian Government policies and environmental considerations. In a procurement process this principle requires a comparative analysis of all relevant costs and benefits of each proposal throughout the whole procurement cycle (wholeof- life costing) making decisions in an accountable and transparent manner.

The ALRC’s Procurement and Purchasing Policy recognises that ‘value for money’ also involves adopting processes that reflect the scale and risk profile of a particular procurement and that simple procurements should be undertaken using simple processes.

Risk management is built into the ALRC’s procurement processes and the extent of risk management required will vary from following routine procurement processes, to a significant undertaking involving the highest level of planning, analysis and documentation.

Where the Government establishes a coordinated procurement contract for a particular property or service, the ALRC will use the government contract established for that property or service, unless an exemption has been provided.

The ALRC publishes an Annual Procurement Plan on the Austender website. During 2009–10, the ALRC published one tender on the Austender website, for the development of the ALRC’s website.

The ALRC has an Environmental Management Policy that commits the ALRC to consider the environmental impact of any purchases and to seek to minimise the ecological footprint of the ALRC’s activities. Reference to this policy is made whenever the ALRC seeks to purchase major office equipment, office supplies, printing and publishing services, and other consumables and services that might impact on the environment in a negative way.

Consultancies

The ALRC did not employ any consultants during 2009–10. Some services that cannot be provided within the ALRC’s existing staff resources—including web-hosting and IT services—are accounted for in the expenditure budget of the ALRC. However, these service providers do not constitute ‘consultancies’ as the services they provide do not involve the development of an intellectual output that assists with agency decision-making, nor do they produce an output that reflects the independent views of the service provider.

Advertising and market research

As required under Section 311A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, the ALRC reports that, during 2009–10, it did not undertake any advertising or market research with advertising agencies, market research organisations, polling organisations, direct mail organisations, or media advertising organisations.

Summary of Financial Performance

Financial outcomes

Operating Outcome

The 2009–10 financial statements show an operating deficit of $0.131m. This deficit is due to the Commission being referred a third inquiry, the Family Violence Inquiry, while the Commission was still fully engaged on two other inquiries. This necessitated employing a number of additional staff to work on the Family Violence Inquiry for a limited period. The total sum amounted to $0.121m.

Operating Revenue

The ALRC’s operating revenue of $3.450m comprised revenue from government of $3.387m, revenue from sale of goods (publications) of $0.005m and interest of $0.058m.

Operating Expenses

Total operating expenses of $3.581m were $0.148m more than in 2008–09. The ALRC’s depreciation and amortisation expense increased by $0.031m.

Equity

The ALRC’s total equity increased by $0.193m primarily due to a revaluation of assets which increased the reserves from $0.062m to $0.386m. The Commission carried out a revaluation of all asset classes as at 30 June 2010. This included revaluing leasehold fit-out for the first time (increase of $188,000).

Total Assets

The ALRC’s total assets decreased by $0.039m.

Total Liabilities

The ALRC’s total liabilities decreased by $0.232m.

Cash Flow Statement

Overall, there was a decrease in the ALRC’s cash balance by $0.367m. This decrease was due largely to the resignation of a number of long serving staff and payment of their annual and long service leave entitlements.

Other Reporting Requirements

Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD)

As required, under s 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), the ALRC is required to report the environmental performance of the organisation and the organisation’s contribution to Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD).

The ALRC has considered whether any of its activities have significant ESD implications in accordance with the ESD Reporting Guidelines (June 2003) and has determined that in 2009–10, none of the ALRC’s activities or appropriations were relevant to ESD.

The ALRC monitors energy use and takes steps to reduce consumption where

possible. In 2009–10 electricity consumption decreased by 1.44%.

Environmental Management System (EMS)

The ALRC is committed to environmental best practice in office management and general operations. Through a process of continual improvement, the ALRC will develop and maintain efficient and effective environmental office practices and will comply with relevant government policy and environmental legislation.

The ALRC’s EMS commits the organisation to minimise its ecological footprint by:

  • incorporating environmental management considerations into core business and management practices including the organisation of the ALRC’s reduction in programs, conducting inquiries and community education about law reform;
  • considering environmental impacts of all purchases made and ensuring that, wherever possible, options chosen include recyclable products, minimum packaging and minimum toxic chemicals;
  • creating a culture where sustainable environmental management is considered an integral element of all ALRC activities and providing information to staff as to the recycling system and to maximising energy efficiency;
  • setting measurable environmental targets as part of a continual improvement process;
  • regularly monitoring environmental performance and providing reports to the ALRC Board of Management and to Government, as required; and
  • reviewing this policy at least every two years to ensure it is relevant and delivering desired outcomes. The next revision is due in 2011.

In minimising our environmental impact, the ALRC will consider the following:

  • options for travel during the consultation process, using telephone conferencing when appropriate instead of air travel, using public transport, and sharing vehicles as far as possible;
  • encouraging filing electronically, to reduce the amount of paper used;
  • printing double-sided for internal documents, whenever possible;
  • using recycled paper that has an environmental sustainability rating;
  • encouraging the use of e-payments to reduce reliance on paper products;
  • developing an online option for submitting to ALRC inquiries in order to reduce paper usage and photocopying;
  • purchasing ‘fair trade’ consumables, if available;
  • ensuring all office lights are switched off overnight;
  • ensuring printers, fax machines and computers are turned off on weekends and holidays;
  • encouraging all staff to use the recycling system;
  • asking ALRC Commissioners who are eligible for a vehicle as part of their remuneration to treat fuel efficiency and carbon emissions as significant factors when choosing a vehicle;
  • encouraging staff to use window blinds to regulate the temperature of their offices to reduce the use of the air conditioning system; and
  • considering the amount of packaging when purchasing goods for the office.

The ALRC’s Executive Director is the EMS officer, whose role is to ensure ongoing monitoring and continuous improvement of environmental performance. The EMS officer is responsible for developing and implementing the EMS, including the review of the established objectives and targets.

Freedom of Information Statement

The ALRC follows a policy of openness with the information it holds (set out in the ALRC Access to Reference Material Policy), subject to necessary qualifications where, for example, material is supplied in confidence or its disclosure might breach the privileges of Parliament. A large number of requests for information are satisfied by material provided on the ALRC’s website.

In 2009–10, the ALRC received no applications for information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (FOI Act).

Section 8 of the FOI Act requires the ALRC to publish certain information in its Annual Report. Information about the ALRC’s organisation, functions, decision-making powers and about public participation in the work of the ALRC is contained in this Annual Report. The other information required by the FOI Act is set out below.

The FOI Act requires the publication of a statement of the categories of documents held by the ALRC. The ALRC holds the following categories of documents:

  • correspondence and working papers, including formal submissions, notes of meetings and transcripts of public hearings relating to the ALRC’s references and relating to the reform of the law in general;
  • databases used by staff for the purposes of communicating with persons and organisations connected with the ALRC and the conduct of its references or general operations; and
  • correspondence and working papers relating to the administration of the ALRC, including personnel and financial papers.

The following categories of documents are available in hard copy for purchase by the public or accessible free of charge through the ALRC’s website.

  • ALRC reports, including inquiry and annual reports;
  • community education and consultation documents relating to past references, including background papers, issues papers, discussion papers and summary papers; and
  • past issues of Reform, the ALRC’s law reform journal (no longer in publication).

The following categories of documents are available upon request (without the need for a formal application under the FOI Act):

  • community education and consultation documents relating to current references, including any relevant background papers, issues papers, discussion papers, summary documents and final reports; and
  • submissions to ALRC inquiries that have not been marked confidential by the submitter.

Commonwealth Disability Strategy

The ALRC has a broad commitment to the inclusion of, and participation by, people with disabilities. Reporting on compliance with the Commonwealth Disability Strategy continues to provide the ALRC with the impetus to improve its policy, procedures and approach to working and communicating with people with a disability.

Table 14: Commonwealth Disability Strategy

Goal Achievement Revised Goal for 2010-11
Provide advice on availability of accessible formats, as publications are released. Goal achieved.
The ALRC makes all new publications available in HTML, RTF and PDF formats.
No change to goal.
Implement Communications with People with a Disability Procedures as consultations are arranged in association with ALRC inquiries. This is an ongoing goal.
The ALRC’s Communications with People with a Disability Procedures provide guidance for ALRC staff on how to consider the needs of people with a disability when organising consultation meetings.
No change to goal.
Identify issues of relevance to people with a disability for each reference, and consult with appropriate disability groups on those  issues.

This is an ongoing goal.
For the Family Violence Inquiry the ALRC received 6 submissions concerning people with disabilities. Issues discussed in this Inquiry include vulnerable witness protection for cognitively impaired  witnesses; sexual offences against people with a cognitive   impairment; guiding principles/objects clauses to include reference to people with a cognitive impairment; the difficulties faced by people with disabilities in terms of providing information to courts in initiating application forms; family violence legislation to include examples of emotional or psychological abuse which may have particular relevance to those with a disability; how economic abuse may have particular impact on those with a disability and that family violence legislation should refer to the particular impact of family violence on a wide range of marginalised persons—including those with a disability.

For the Secrecy Inquiry the ALRC received one submission addressing disability issues.

For Royal Commission Inquiry, the ALRC received one submission
addressing disability issues.

No change to goal.
Provide HTML versions of all past reports, currently available only in PDF and ASCII. This is an ongoing project.
During 2009–10, the ALRC completed HTML versions of six past reports.
No change to goal.
Monitor ALRC website to ensure it remains compliant with relevant standards for access by people with a disability. This is an ongoing goal.
ALRC staff monitor current developments in relation to accessibility. In 2009–10 the ALRC’s website manager attended training on web accessibility standards and is ensuring that the ALRC’s new website implements the recent Web Content Accessibility Guidelines Version 2.0 to make government websites more accessible to people with disabilities.
No change to goal.
Consider the principles of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and incorporate them into any new or revised employment and staff development policies, practices and procedures. This is an ongoing goal.
The ALRC considers that its policies, procedures and practices are consistent with the principles of the Act.
No change to goal.
Ensure all key ALRC documents are available in HTML or RTF format on the ALRC website. All recent ALRC reports and consultation papers—including Annual  Reports—are available on the ALRC website in HTML format. Key documents such as the Corporate Plan 2009–11, relevant ALRC policies, information on the internship program and information on the general work program of the ALRC, are available on the website in accessible formats. No change to goal.