Program 1: Conducting inquiries into aspects of Australian laws and related processes for the purposes of law reform

The objective of this program is to produce, for each Inquiry, a Report that contains the evidence base—including in-depth research and analysis of relevant laws, legal frameworks and processes, and community consultation and feedback—and recommendations that will assist the government to make informed decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes.

In undertaking this program during 2012–13, the ALRC has:

  • worked on two Inquiries referred by the Attorney-General and completed one;

  • conducted consultations with relevant stakeholders and experts interested in each area of law under review and reported on the consultation process;

  • produced consultation documents for each Inquiry;

  • called for submissions in response to consultation documents, seeking information and responses to the questions and proposals to inform final recommendations;

  • provided online consultation and communication strategies to increase public awareness and access to ALRC activities; and

  • presented at 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.

Table 2: Program 1—Deliverables


2012–13 budget

2012–13 actual







Consultation meetings



Consultation papers



The law reform process

The exact procedure for each law reform Inquiry may differ according to its scope, the range of key stakeholders, the complexity of the laws under review, and the period of time allotted. However, the ALRC has a well-tested framework for developing recommendations for reform. This consists of receiving Terms of Reference, producing an Issues Paper, consulting stakeholders and receiving submissions, producing a Discussion Paper followed by further consultations and submissions and then producing a Report. A full description of the ALRC law reform process is included in the Special Features section.

‘The ALRC always starts an inquiry with an open mind, full of questions and in search of answers.’ Prof Rosalind Croucher, ALRC President


During 2012–13, the ALRC worked on three inquiries.

Commonwealth legal barriers to older persons participating in the workforce or other productive work (Ages Barriers to Work Inquiry)

Following a general announcement in February 2012 by the then Attorney-General, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, the ALRC received Terms of Reference on 12 March 2012 for an Inquiry into Commonwealth legal barriers to older persons participating in the workforce or other productive work.

Under the Terms of Reference, the ALRC was asked to identify any barriers in Commonwealth laws and propose reforms to address them, including in the areas of social security, superannuation, insurance, compensation and employment. The Terms of Reference are at Appendix C.

ALRC President, Professor Rosalind Croucher, was the lead Commissioner and on 7 February 2012, the Attorney-General announced the appointment of the Hon Susan Ryan AO, Age Discrimination Commissioner, as a part-time Commissioner for this Inquiry.

This Inquiry forms part of the Australian Government response to population ageing and the Government’s overarching objective to encourage longer workforce participation by mature aged people (defined as people aged over 45 years).

On 1 May 2012, the ALRC released an Issues Paper, Grey Areas—Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws (IP 41) and on 2 October 2012 released a Discussion Paper, Grey Areas—Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws (DP 78). The ALRC also produced a short summary of the Discussion Paper to provide quick access to the ALRC’s thinking, framing principles and key proposals.

Over the course of the Inquiry, the ALRC conducted 101 consultations in Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Tasmania and Sydney and received 101 submissions. The ALRC convened an Advisory Committee that met twice during the Inquiry, on 9 August 2012 and 6 December 2012. A full list of Advisory Committee Members and Expert Readers can be found at Appendix D. The ALRC produced six Inquiry e-newsletters and produced two podcasts, as part of the ALRC’s online communication strategy. At the completion of the Inquiry, the ALRC also produced community fact sheets, outlining the key recommendations in the report that specifically concerned people with disability, Indigenous people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

The ALRC Report, Access All Ages—Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws(ALRC Report 120) was tabled on 30 May 2013 following a launch at Parliament House by the Attorney-General, the Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP. Also attending were the Hon Bill Shorten MP, at that time Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Financial Services and Superannuation, and the Hon Mark Butler MP, at that time Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Minister for Social Inclusion, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Mental Health Reform, and Minister for Housing and Homelessness.

Photo -see caption

ALRC Report 120 launch: (left to right) Professor Rosalind Croucher, ALRC President; The Hon Mark Butler MP; The Hon Bill Shorten MP; The Hon Susan Ryan, Age Discrimination Commissioner

The Report makes 36 recommendations that address the areas of recruitment and employment, work health and safety, workers’ compensation, insurance, social security and superannuation. The keystone recommendation in the Report is for a National Mature Age Workforce Participation Plan to provide a coordinated policy response to address barriers to participation by mature age people in the Australian labour market. The ALRC suggests that a combination of legislative and regulatory reform is needed, together with measures to increase education and awareness and address perceptions and stereotypes surrounding mature age workers.

The ALRC considers that the recommendations in the Report, taken together, will provide:

  • a coordinated policy response to enabling mature age workforce participation;

  • consistency across Commonwealth laws and between Commonwealth and state and territory laws to support mature age workforce participation;

  • a reduction in age discrimination;

  • a greater awareness of mature age workers’ rights and entitlements;

  • support for maintaining attachment to the workforce for mature age people; and

  • work environments, practices and processes that are appropriate for mature age workers.

‘In just 12 months the Commission has delivered a high quality and accessible report, with a clear set of recommendations to government. The Government knows that the Commission thinks deeply and consults widely before making recommendations and for that reason, its reports are persuasive, and demand proper and detailed policy consideration…’  The Hon Mark Dreyfus, Attorney-General

Copyright and the digital economy

On 29 June 2012, the ALRC received Terms of Reference for an Inquiry into copyright and the digital economy. The ALRC was asked to consider whether exceptions and statutory licences in the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) are adequate and appropriate in the digital environment and whether further exceptions should be recommended. The Terms of Reference are at Appendix C.

On 8 February 2012, the then Attorney-General Nicola Roxon MP appointed Professor Jill McKeough as Commissioner in charge of the Inquiry. An Advisory Committee was constituted and has met twice, to date, on 19 July 2012 and on 11 April 2013.

The ALRC released an Issues Paper, Copyright and the Digital Economy (IP 42), on 20 August 2012 and a Discussion Paper, Copyright and the Digital Economy (DP 79), on 5 June 2013.

During the reporting period the ALRC conducted 49 consultations in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra including three stakeholder roundtables:

  • Culture (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) sector roundtable on 12 April 2013;
  • Content Owners roundtable on 19 April 2013; and
  • Creators roundtable on 2 May 2013.

To date the ALRC has received 319 submissions to the Inquiry. The Report is due to be presented to the Attorney-General by 30 November 2013.

‘The ALRC is ideally placed to conduct this wide-ranging Inquiry into whether our Copyright Act is serving the needs of Australian business, consumers and creators in the digital environment.’  Professor Jill McKeough, Commissioner in charge, Copyright inquiry

Serious invasions of privacy in the digital era.

On 12 June 2013, the Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus QC MP referred to the ALRC an Inquiry into the protection of privacy in the digital era. The Inquiry will address both prevention and remedies for serious invasions of privacy. The Terms of Reference are at Appendix C.

The ALRC will provide its Report to the Attorney-General by June 2014.

Consultation meetings

Consultation lies at the heart of the ALRC inquiry process and the ALRC meets with relevant stakeholders around the country, as appropriate to each inquiry. These consultations assist the ALRC to identify key issues, shape research questions, and contribute to the ALRC’s policy analysis and considerations in formulating proposals and recommendations for reform.

During 2012–13, the ALRC conducted a total of 97 consultations around the country, with respect to the following inquiries:

  • Age Barriers to Work—48
  • Copyright and the Digital Economy—49

National distribution of consultation meetings 2012–13

‘The ALRC’s engagement with the community has continued to be a hallmark of our inquiry process and to provide us with the evidence base on which our research relies.’  Prof Rosalind Croucher, ALRC President

Diversity consultation strategy

The ALRC has a formal consultation strategy for engaging with groups who often find their voices are not heard—Indigenous peoples, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people with disability and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex community. These strategies act as a guide for ALRC legal teams at the beginning of each new Inquiry to ensure that these groups are targeted for consultation and that our methods of consultation are appropriate. These strategies have already positively influenced ALRC engagement with these communities. For example, at the end of the Age Barriers to Work Inquiry, the ALRC produced a podcast and three community information sheets which outlined the key recommendations affecting each group to provide better access to the ALRC’s findings. The ALRC reviews these strategies annually as part of its Agency Multicultural Plan (AMP) and Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP). For more information about the ALRC’s AMP and RAP see the Special Features section.

Consultation papers and reports

Consultation papers are one of the key mechanisms the ALRC uses to identify and analyse the important issues in each Inquiry. The number of consultation papers released in the course of an Inquiry depends on the nature of that Inquiry and the timeframe set by the Attorney-General. Generally, ALRC Inquiries follow a two-stage consultation process that includes the release of an Issues Paper accompanied by a call for submissions, followed later in the Inquiry by a Discussion Paper and a second call for submissions, and then the release of a Report.

All ALRC consultation papers and reports are published on the ALRC website in both HTML and PDF versions. Reports are also produced in hard copy for tabling purposes and for sale.

Table 3: Distribution of ALRC publications 2012–13


Hard copy printed

Online access

Copyright and the Digital Economy (IP 42)


35,464 page views

12,630 unique views

Grey Ares—Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws (DP 78)


7,370 page views

2,295 unique views

Grey Ares—Age Barriers to Work in Commonwealth Laws (DP 78 Summary)


2,014 page views

819 unique views

Access All Ages—Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws (ALRC Report 120)

500 copies

3,739 page views

1,181 unique views

Access All Ages—Older Workers and Commonwealth Laws (ALRC Report 120 Summary)

500 copies

2,726 page views

853 unique views

Copyright and the Digital Economy (DP 79)


12,375 page views

4,481 unique views