The ALRC measures the success of its Program 1.1 in achieving its objective of informed government decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes (its Outcome) through three key performance indicators:
- The level of implementation of ALRC reports by government and other bodies, substantially or partially;
- The number of citations or references to ALRC reports and recommendations in parliamentary debates, in court citations and decisions, and in academic and other publications; and
- The number of mentions of the ALRC in media reportage.
Table 3: Program 1.1 Key Achievements 2009–10
|Implementation of reports—implemented or partially implemented||80%||90%|
|Citations and mentions||40||64|
Percentage of reports implemented by those to whom recommendations are targeted
The ALRC has no direct role in implementing its recommendations. As there is no statutory requirement for the Australian Government to respond formally to ALRC reports, the ALRC monitors major developments in relation to issues covered in its past reports, and assesses the level of implementation that those reports have achieved. It is not uncommon for implementation to occur some years after the completion of a report.
The ALRC considers that a report is substantially implemented when the majority of the report’s recommendations, including key recommendations, have been implemented by those to whom the recommendations are directed. Partial implementation refers to implementation of at least some recommendations of an ALRC report. The ALRC takes a conservative approach when considering whether a report should be characterised as having been ‘partially’ or ‘substantially’ implemented. The term proposals under consideration applies to reports that have received a positive response from those to whom the recommendations are directed, but are still awaiting implementation, and to those that have been completed within the past two years and are yet to receive a formal response.
Legislative and other implementation activity in the 2009–10 year, as described in Appendix F, has altered the levels of status of implementation of all ALRC reports with the following results:
- 61% of reports had been substantially implemented;
- 29% of reports had been partially implemented;
- 5% of reports without any implementation to date were currently under
- consideration; and
- 5% of reports had not been implemented.
Graph 1 indicates the implementation status of ALRC reports as at 30 June 2010, and Appendix F provides a detailed update on action in relation to ALRC reports during 2009–10.
Appendix G provides a brief overview of the implementation status of all 77 reference-related ALRC reports.
As at 30 June 2010, the ALRC had completed 77 reference-related reports. Forty-seven (61%) of those reports have been substantially implemented.
During 2009–10, activity in relation to two reports raised their status level from ‘under consideration’ to ‘substantially implemented’:
- The enactment of the Acts Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 (Cth) and the Freedom of Information (Reform) Act 2010 (Cth) substantially implemented the recommendations of Open Government: A Review of the Federal Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Report 77, 1995); and
- The Personal Property Securities Act 2009 (Cth) substantially implemented the recommendations of the ALRC’s Report, Personal Property Securities (Report 64, 1993) The Act sets out a single national law governing security interests in personal property.
See Appendix F for further details.
Twenty-two reports (29% of all ALRC reference-related reports) have been partially implemented. This represents two more reports in the category of partially implemented than at 30 June 2009.
For example, significant activity raised the status of the Report, For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (Report 108, 2008) from ‘under consideration’ to ‘partially implemented’.
In October 2009, the Australian Government issued the first stage of its response to Report 108. The response addressed 197 of the 295 recommendations in the Report, and accepted most of those recommendations.
In June 2010, the Australian Government issued the first of an expected maximum of four draft bills that, following public comment and Committee reports, it was anticipated would then be consolidated to comprise a new Privacy Act. The Exposure Draft of the New Australian Privacy Principles was referred to the Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 1 July 2011.
Other activities included the enactment of the Healthcare Identifiers Act 2010 (Cth) which commenced on 29 June 2010. Its provisions are generally consistent with the ALRC’s recommendations in its Report 108, in relation to the introduction of an electronic health information system.
The other report that was partially implemented was Same Crime, Same Time: Sentencing of Federal Offenders (Report 103, 2006) with the passage of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Torture Prohibition and Death Penalty Abolition) Act 2010 (Cth). This Act amends the Commonwealth Death Penalty Abolition Act 1973 (Cth) to extend the application of the current prohibition on the death penalty to state laws, to ensure the death penalty cannot be introduced anywhere in Australia. The Act is consistent with the ALRC’s recommendations in Same Crime, Same Time: Sentencing of Federal Offenders (Report 103, 2006). See Appendix F for further details.
In the 2009–10 year, two ALRC reports were elevated from ‘being considered’ to ‘substantially implemented’: Open Government: A Review of the Federal Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Report 77, 1995) and Personal Property Securities (Report 64, 1993). Two further reports were elevated from ‘being considered’ to ‘partially implemented’: For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (Report 108, 2008) and Same Crime, Same Time: Sentencing of Federal Offenders (Report 103, 2006).
Two new reports, were tabled and are under consideration: Making Inquiries: A New Statutory Framework (Report 111, 2009) and Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia (Report 112, 2009).
An example of a report under active consideration during the reporting period was Fighting Words: A Review of Sedition Laws in Australia (Report 104, 2006). In March 2010 the Australian Government introduced the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill 2010 which was intended to implement almost all the ALRC recommendations, which concerned sedition, treason, unlawful associations, advocating or inciting crime, and related matters. The Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on 18 March 2010, and its second reading was on 25 May 2010. It was introduced into the Senate on 15 June 2010.
See Appendix F for further details.
Four of the 77 reference-related reports completed by the ALRC (5%) have not been implemented at all, and do not appear to be under consideration. Two of these reports cover the same topic, that of public interest standing: Standing in Public Interest Litigation (Report 27, 1985) and Beyond the Door-Keeper: Standing to Sue for Public Remedies (Report 78, 1996). The other two reports are Product Liability (Report 51, 1989) and Administrative Penalties in Customs and Excise (Report 61,1992).
ALRC reports are cited by Australian courts and tribunals as well as in numerous academic articles and other publications.
During 2009–2010, there were more than 64 references to ALRC reports in decisions of major courts and tribunals. These included two from the High Court of Australia, 12 from the Federal Court of Australia, and 38 from state and territory Supreme Courts or Courts of Appeal, as well as decisions of other major courts and tribunals.
This number represents an increase of 49% (21 judgments) referring to ALRC reports when compared with the number calculated for the 2008–09 year.
A list of court citations identified by the ALRC is included as Appendix H.
Media interest and public debate
The ALRC actively promotes public debate on issues raised by its current and past inquiries, and on law reform generally. The ALRC monitors and records mentions of the ALRC and its work in print, online, radio and television, as well as other sources such as journal articles and Hansard.
During 2009–10, the ALRC identified 393 mentions of its work, both past and present. This number does not match the record set in the 2008–2009 year, which included 363 mentions of the Privacy Report (Report 108, 2008) alone.
However, the number recorded in the 2009–10 year is of significance considering the broad range of ALRC reports and activities that were discussed. For example, topics covered ranged from an ALRC report into Insurance Contracts (Report 20, 1982), to a proposed future ALRC inquiry into coastal management.
However, the ALRC’s Privacy Report, For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice continued to dominate media and journal interest, featuring in 138, or 35%, of these media items. These were related to the fact that the Australian Government accepted many of the ALRC’s recommendations and issued exposure drafts of privacy legislation during this reporting period.
The Family Violence Inquiry, for which the ALRC published Consultation Paper 1 in April 2010, received 47 media mentions during this time, or 12% of the total registered.
With the passage of new freedom of information legislation, interest was stirred in the ALRC’s fifteen-year-old report, Open Government: A Review of the Federal Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Report 77, 1995), with 16 items mentioning it.
Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia (Report 112, 2009) was released in March 2010. By the end of June, 39 media mentions of it had been recorded. The announcement by the Attorney-General in May 2010 of a new ALRC Inquiry into Discovery of Documents in Federal Courts, featured in 7 media items.
There was some media attention (18 pieces noted) given to the report on Royal Commissions, Making Inquiries: A New Statutory Framework (Report 111, 2009), which was published in February 2010.
Past ALRC reports that also received media attention included Genes and Ingenuity: Gene Patenting and Human Health (Report 99, 2004), Essentially Yours: The Protection of Human Genetic Information in Australia (Report 96, 2003) and Personal Property Securities (Report 64, 1993).
Some media mentions related to the departure of Emeritus Professor David Weisbrot AM as President of the ALRC in November 2009, and the appointment of Professor Rosalind Croucher as President in December 2009.
Table 4: Media Articles 2009–10
|Document||Number of media articles|
Freedom of Information Report
Open Government: A Review of the Federal Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Report 77, 1995)
Privacy Final Report
For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (Report 108, 2008)
Secrecy Final Report
Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia (Report 112, 2009)
Royal Commissions Final Report
Making Inquiries: A New Statutory Framework (Report 111, 2009)
Family Violence Consultation Paper
Family Violence: Improving Legal Frameworks (CP 1, 2010)
Another feature of the interest identified this year is the range of formats of publications recognising ALRC work, including social networks, such as blogs, as well as traditional refereed journals. The 393 media mentions, when broken down by format, had a heavy concentration on online pieces (189, or 48%)—‘online’ includes such forms as blogs, law firm or other organisations’ websites, and journals published only online. Another 80 (20%) were newspaper pieces, whether found online or in print. Journal articles numbered 70 (18% of all media reported), both online or in print versions. Journal titles included all the major Australian legal journals, as well as a smattering of overseas journals. The remaining formats were radio and TV interviews (20) and mentions in Parliamentary proceedings (19).
The ALRC issues media releases and briefing documents at key stages in each inquiry. Media releases are distributed to general and specialised media outlets, as well as to individuals and organisations that have expressed a specific interest in receiving information from the ALRC. They are also available on the ALRC’s website.
In 2009–10, the ALRC distributed 10 media releases. A full list of media releases and briefing papers is provided at Appendix J.
The ALRC was also mentioned in a number of other articles which are listed in Appendix J.
Distribution of community consultation documents
Consultation lies at the heart of the ALRC’s inquiry process and is one of the key mechanisms that the ALRC uses to inform the identification and critical analysis of key issues in each inquiry. The number of consultation papers released in the course of an inquiry is dependent on both the nature of that inquiry and the inquiry timeframe that is set by the Attorney-General. In the past, ALRC inquiries have most usually followed a two stage consultation process that included production and distribution of an issues paper, followed by a call for submissions, release of a discussion paper followed by a further call for submissions, and then release of a final report.
The ALRC has been trialling new methodologies of consultation this past year, including preparing a combination issues/discussion paper in the form of a consultation paper. It asks the questions usually found in an issues paper while offering preliminary proposals that would have been in a discussion paper. As well, the ALRC has produced document summaries, for both the Secrecy Inquiry and the Family Violence Inquiry, to assist stakeholders to access more easily the key information contained in the larger documents. All ALRC consultation documents are provided at no charge through the ALRC’s website in both HTML and PDF versions. The ALRC prints a number of hard copy documents and distributes them to key stakeholders for each inquiry. The number of consultation papers printed and distributed in hard copy is dependent on the nature of each inquiry, and the interest and engagement of stakeholders. Therefore the number of documents printed and distributed each year will vary and is difficult to predict, prior to knowing the nature of upcoming inquiries.
The target for the hard copy distribution of final reports for 2009–10 was 800 hard copies distributed. The ALRC distributed 977 final reports in this reporting period. The target for the hard copy distribution of consultation papers for 2009–10 was 600 hard copies distributed. The ALRC distributed 832 consultation papers in this reporting period.
Table 5: Distribution Figures for Reports and Papers
|Document||Date released||Hard copy distribution||Accessed online (see note)|
Royal Commissions and Official Inquiries (DP 75)
|18 August 2009||207||Not available|
Making Inquiries: A New Statutory Framework (Report 111)
|4 February 2010||514||Not available|
Secrecy Laws and Open Government in Australia (Report 112)
|11 March 2010||463||Not available|
Family Violence: Improving Legal Frameworks (CP 1)
|29 April 2010||200||Not available|
Consultation Paper Summary
Family Violence: Improving Legal Frameworks (CPS 1)
|29 April 2010||425||Not available|
Note: During 2009–10 the ALRC changed its web hosting and the way its reports are provided online. Previously all ALRC reports and consultation papers were only provided online through AustLII. Midway through this reporting period, the ALRC began providing access to its reports on its own website and this, coupled with a new statistical tool for measuring visits to the ALRC website, has rendered statistical comparisons with previous years and targets unreliable and incomplete. For the next reporting period, the ALRC anticipates being able to provide accurate measurement of reports and documents accessed via our website.
The number of submissions received by the ALRC is also a measure of the public’s engagement with its work and the extent to which the consultation papers have stimulated debate and discussion. However, the number of submissions received for any inquiry is also a function of the subject matter of the inquiry. Some inquiries are of great interest and relevance to many diverse stakeholder and community groups (for example, the Family Violence Inquiry). Other inquiries are of more specific interest to a specialist group of stakeholders and elicit a smaller number of submissions (for example, the Royal Commissions Inquiry).
Table 6: Number of Submissions Received 2009–10
|Document||Submissions due date||Submissions received|
Review of Secrecy Laws (DP 74)
|7 August 2009||38*|
Royal Commissions and Official Inquiries (DP 75)
|22 September 2009||16**|
Family Violence: Improving Legal Frameworks (CP 1)
|25 June 2010||219|
|Total Submissions Received||273|
During the inquiry process, the ALRC holds meetings with relevant stakeholders, both individuals and organisations, nationally, to assist the ALRC to identify the key issues involved, to shape the research questions and to contribute to the ALRC’s policy analysis and considerations. During 2009–10, the ALRC conducted a total of 136 consultations around the country—Secrecy Inquiry (11), Royal Commissions Inquiry (6) and Family Violence Inquiry (119).
* Total number of submissions received over the course of the Secrecy Inquiry was 89 submissions.
** Total number of submissions received over the course of the Royal Commissions Inquiry was 32 submissions.