Senate Inquiry into the role and functions of the ALRC

In the last Brief, we reported on developments in this Inquiry, and included a transcript of ALRC President Rosalind Croucher’s opening statement to the Committee.

Since then, the Committee completed its final report (tabled 8 April 2011), which made the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1
The committee recommends that the Australian Government restore the ALRC’s budget cuts for the period 2010-11 to 2013-14 as a matter of urgency.

Recommendation 2
The committee recommends that the ALRC Act be amended to provide for a minimum of two standing, fixed-term (not inquiry-specific), full-time commissioners.

Recommendation 3
The committee recommends that an additional full-time commissioner be appointed, for each additional inquiry referred to the ALRC, in circumstances where the ALRC already has two or more ongoing inquiries.

Recommendation 4
The committee recommends that the ALRC’s public information and education services program be resumed immediately.

Recommendation 5
The committee recommends that the ALRC be provided with all necessary resources to enable it to continue to travel to undertake face-to-face consultations as part of its inquiryprocesses.

The Report also included a dissenting report from Government Senators. The Government Senators stated that the Australian Government strongly supported the work of the ALRC and that “the changes to the ALRC’s structure introduced by the FFLA Act will improve the ALRC’s flexibility to respond to circumstances as required, and will enhance the ALRC’s ability to undertake expert analysis through access to subject-matter expert commissioners for specific inquiries”. Government Senators also considered that “the ALRC is adequately resourced to undertake its important functions, particularly in light of the Attorney-General Department’s ongoing commitment to assist the ALRC and ensure that it is adequately resourced.”

The Senate Inquiry provided an opportunity to give a full review of the operations and achievements of the ALRC, particularly over the past fifteen years since the last such review, and it was extremely important to record the bi-partisan support for the ALRC, as an independent body, and the recognition of the importance of law reform to the democratic processes of an open and transparent government. Noting the success of the ALRC’s prior reports in terms of their implementation, the high quality of its work and its national and international reputation for best practice law reform, there was almost unanimous support from submitters for the ALRC to continue its role in its current form and for the ALRC to be properly resourced to do so. Although the Government Senators did not recommend restoring the ALRC’s appropriation, it was was very heartening to note the Attorney-General’s public statements of support of the ALRC and his agreement to provide transitional funding to allow for the appointment of a full-time Commissioner for the National Classification Scheme Review.

The Final Report was made available on 8 April 2011. View the Senate Committee’s report >>

The Government responded to the Senate Committee’s report on 8 July 2011. View the Government’s response >>