ALRC accountability and governance requirements are met through its Accountable Authority Instructions. These provide the framework to ensure that the ALRC meets its obligations and responsibilities with regard to governance, reporting and accountability of Commonwealth entities and for their use and management of public resources, in line with the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act).
The Minister responsible for the ALRC is the Attorney-General of Australia.
The ALRC is a statutory agency under the PGPA Act and an employer subject to the Public Service Act 1999.
The ALRC is constituted under the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (the ALRC Act). Section 20 of the ALRC Act states that the Attorney-General may refer matters to the ALRC for review.
Members of the Commission
The President is the CEO of the ALRC. During 2015–16 there was one part-time Commissioner, in addition to the President, appointed to the Freedoms Inquiry, and two other part-time Commissioners. Table 4 lists members of the ALRC during 2015–16 and their terms of appointment. On 30 June 2016, there were three members of the ALRC—one full-time member and two part-time members.
Table 4: Members 2015–16
Term of appointment
Professor Rosalind Croucher AM
BA (Hons), LLB (Syd), PhD (UNSW), AMusA (AMEB), FRSA, FACLM (Hon), FAAL, TEP
Reappointed President from 14 December 2014–13 December 2018.
14 December 2009–13 December 2014 as President.
5 February 2007–4 February 2010 as Commisioner.
The Hon Justice Nye Perram SC
BA, LLB (Hons) (Syd), BCL (Dist) (Oxon)
Reappointed 28 November 2015–27 November 2016.
12 December 2012–11 December 2015.
The Hon Justice John Middleton QC
LLB (Hons) (Melb), BCL (Oxon)
Reappointed 28 November 2015–27 November 2016.
12 December 2012–11 December 2015.
Emeritus Professor Anura Surindra (Suri) Ratnapala
LLB (Sri Lanka), LLM (Macq), PhD (Qld)
9 July 2015–19 January 2016.
Professor Rosalind Croucher AM, President
Before her appointment as ALRC Commissioner and President, Professor Croucher was Dean of Law at Macquarie University (from 1999). Prior to this she was a member of the law faculties 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. She is an Honorary Fellow of the Australian College of Legal Medicine and a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law.
On 26 January 2015, Professor Croucher was conferred the award of Member of the Order of Australia for “significant service to the law as an academic, to legal reform and education, to professional development, and to the arts”.
Professor Croucher is an Adjunct Professor of Macquarie University.
The Hon Justice Nye Perram, Part-time Commissioner
Justice Nye Perram was appointed a part-time Commissioner of the ALRC for a term of three years on 12 December 2012. He graduated from the University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Laws and from the University of Oxford with a Bachelor of Civil Law.
Justice Perram practised as a barrister in New South Wales from 1993 and was appointed senior counsel in 2006. He was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia in 2008. At the time of his appointment to the Federal Court he was a member of the Law and Justice Foundation and the New South Wales Bar Council.
Justice Perram has specialised in constitutional law, administrative law, commercial law and equity. In 2005, he was a Director of the Public Interest Law Clearing House, an independent, not-for-profit legal referral service. He is currently Deputy President of the Copyright Tribunal.
The Hon Justice John Middleton, Part-time Commissioner
Justice Middleton was appointed a part-time Commissioner of the ALRC for a term of three years on 12 December 2012. He was appointed to the Federal Court of Australia effective from 31 July 2006, is currently President of the Australian Competition Tribunal and was appointed a presidential member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal effective from 24 November 2010.
Justice Middleton graduated from the University of Melbourne as Bachelor of Laws (First Class Honors) and from the University of Oxford as Bachelor of Civil Law (First Class Honors). He was the Winter Williams Scholar (University of Oxford (1976)). He was admitted to practise as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Victoria in 1976. After serving as Associate to Sir Ninian Stephen, then Justice of the High Court of Australia, he was called to the Bar in 1979 where he practised predominantly in constitutional and administrative law, resources law and commercial law.
Justice Middleton was appointed one of Her Majesty’s Counsel for the State of Victoria in 1991 and subsequently became Chairman of the Victorian Bar Council. He was awarded the Centenary Medal in 2003 for services, as a former Chairman of the Bar Council, to the community and to education.
Emeritus Professor Anura Surindra (Suri) Ratnapala
Professor Ratnapala was appointed as a part-time Commissioner to assist the ALRC with its Freedoms Inquiry. Suri Ratnapala is an Emeritus Professor of Law at The University of Queensland. He held the position of Professor of Public Law at the University of Queensland until his retirement at the end of 2014. Prior to this he was Senior State Counsel in Sri Lanka. Professor Ratnapala has been a consultant with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and AusAid in institutional capacity building projects in Asia. He was elected to the membership of the Mont Pelerin Society in 1998 and served on its Board from 2008 to 2014. He is currently a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, having been elected to the Academy in 2012.
Professor Ratnapala is the author of many books including Welfare State or Constitutional State?, Australian Constitutional Law: Foundations and Theory, and Australian Constitutional Law: Commentary and Cases. He is co-author and co-editor of Jurisprudence of Liberty. His latest book Jurisprudence 2nd ed, was published by the Cambridge University Press in June 2013.
Professor Ratnapala has received fellowships from prestigious international research centres and is a recipient of several awards including the Sir Anthony Fisher International Memorial Prize, a John Templeton Foundation Award for his teaching in constitutional law and theory, a Centenary of Australian Federation Medal for his contribution to Australian society through research in law and economics and an Alan McGregor Fellowship of the Centre for Independent Studies.
The Commonwealth Remuneration Tribunal determines the remuneration for all ALRC Commissioners.
The Accountable Authority Instructions and the ALRC Policy Manual contain 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 President.
New policies developed and implemented or updated during 2015–16 include:
Corporate Plan 2016–20
Flextime and Time Off In Lieu Policy
Performance Appraisal and Development Scheme
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 ALRC policies via the intranet.
The ALRC Corporate Plan 2015–19 is reproduced in Appendix A. The Corporate Plan was updated in June 2016 to reflect the requirements for accountability and reporting in the PGPA Act. The ALRC Corporate Plan 2016–20 is available on the ALRC website. https://www.alrc.gov.au/about/corporate-information/corporate-plan
Financial management and audit
The audit of the 2014–15 financial statements was performed by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO). The Auditor’s opinion was that the financial statements of the ALRC were prepared in accordance with all relevant legislation and Finance Minister’s Orders and give a true and fair view of the ALRC’s financial position and performance. The ANAO conducted an interim audit of the ALRC 2015–16 financial accounts and provided an interim report to the Audit Committee on 15 June 2016. No material issues were identified at this time.
The ALRC Audit Committee is established in compliance with section 45 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and section 17 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014 (PGPA Rule). The objective of the Audit Committee is to provide independent assurance and assistance to the President on the ALRC’s risk, control and compliance framework, and its financial and performance reporting responsibilities.
The ALRC President authorises the Audit Committee, within its responsibilities, to:
obtain any information it requires from any employee or external party (subject to any legal obligation to protect information);
discuss any matters with the external auditor, or other external parties (subject to confidentiality considerations);
request the attendance of any employee, including the President, at Audit Committee meetings; and
obtain legal or other professional advice, as considered necessary to meet its responsibilities, with the prior approval of the President.
Section 17 of the PGPA Rule provides that the Audit Committee must consist of at least three persons who have appropriate qualifications, knowledge, skills or experience to assist the committee to perform its functions. The members of the ALRC Audit Committee, taken collectively, have a broad range of skills and experience relevant to the operations of the ALRC. This section also requires that the majority of the members of the Audit Committee of a non-corporate Commonwealth entity must be persons who are not officials of the entity.
The ALRC Audit Committee comprises three members, appointed by the President, as follows:
Part-time Commissioner: Justice Nye Perram (Chair)
External Member: Peter Bowen, Chief Financial Officer, Federal Court
External Member: Darrell Yesberg, A/g Chief Financial Officer, Australian Human Rights Commission
A representative of the ANAO is also invited to attend meetings of the Audit Committee.
The ALRC’s Audit Forward Plan sets a meeting schedule and outlines the activities of the Audit Committee over the next financial year. The Audit Committee met on 11 September 2015, 14 April 2016 and 15 June 2016.
Fraud control and risk management
The ALRC’s Accountable Authority certifies that the ALRC has prepared Fraud Risk Assessments and a Fraud Control Plan for 2014–16. The ALRC has a commitment to fraud control and for promoting efficient, effective and ethical use of Commonwealth resources. The ALRC Fraud Control Plan (FCP) was reviewed in May 2016. The FCP is a strategic document drawing together all fraud prevention, detection, minimisation and reporting initiatives adopted by the ALRC to control fraud. The FCP provides the ALRC with appropriate mechanisms for preventing, detecting incidences of, investigating or otherwise dealing with, and recording or reporting fraud that meet the specific requirements of the ALRC. The FCP was developed from a risk assessment and is an integral part of the ALRC Assurance and Governance Framework. The ALRC also has a Fraud Policy Statement that sits alongside the FCP.
Fraud against the ALRC is defined as dishonestly obtaining a benefit, or causing a loss, by deception or other means. The President has responsibility for the corporate governance of the ALRC and for ensuring compliance with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines. The ALRC Audit Committee is responsible for the ongoing monitoring and review of the fraud control framework, including the actions agreed to in the ALRC FCP. The Executive Director is the Fraud Control Officerand is responsible for ensuring that the appropriate processes are in place to manage the risk of fraud.
During 2015–16, the ALRC has taken all reasonable measures to minimise the incidence of fraud and has raised awareness of fraud control among employees to foster an environment that encourages employee involvement in the strategies to prevent fraud.
Overall, the ALRC has a low to negligible residual fraud risk profile, with an effective control environment. 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 and the Australian Federal Police annually. No fraudulent activity was detected in 2015–16.
Enterprise risk management
Enterprise risk management is a vital component of public sector management and is consistent with the obligations under the PGPA Act. The ALRC Enterprise Risk Management Plan (ERMP) 2014–16 was updated in May 2015 by an independent consultant, Oakton Consultancy. The ERMP was revised again in May 2016 overseen by the Audit Committee. The objective of the ERMP is to identify and articulate any organisational risks and to develop a mechanism to track and report on controls in place, and treatments required, to mitigate these risks.
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 work health and safety, based on preventative strategies, flexible return to work arrangements 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
updated administrative policies aimed at preventing fraud and managing risk, through a Fraud Control Plan and Business Continuity Plan.
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.
Employees of the ALRC are Australian public servants and must follow the APS Values andAPS Code of Conduct, whicharticulate the culture and operating ethos of the ALRC and provide the framework within which employment powers will be exercised by the President. ALRC employees are expected to comply with ALRC policies, and with any lawful direction given by the President and/or their supervisor.
Any suspected or real breaches of the APS Code of Conduct will be dealt with in accordance with the ALRC’s Procedures for Determining Breaches of the Code of Conduct, established in accordance with s 15(3) of the Public Service Act 1999. During 2015–16, there were no suspected or actual breaches of the APS Code of Conduct.
The ALRC has developed a Public Interest Disclosure Policy in accordance with the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013. This Policy is available on the ALRC website and intranet. During 2015–16 there were no public interest disclosures.
Conflict of interest
The ALRC Conflict of Interest Policy has been developed to protect the ALRC’s reputation and integrity; to ensure that employees understand what a conflict of interest is, and how to recognise and avoid a conflict of interest; and to outline the ALRC process for disclosing an actual or potential conflict of interest. This Policy applies to Commissioners, employees, contractors and consultants engaged or employed by the ALRC.
Section 39 of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996 (ALRC Act) requires members to disclose any material personal interest in a matter under consideration by the Commission. Section 13(7) of the Public Service Act 1999, which contains the APS Code of Conduct, requires that an APS employee must disclose and take reasonable steps to avoid any conflict of interest (real or perceived) in connection with APS employment. In addition, s 10 of the Act requires that the Australian Public Service performs its functions in an impartial and professional manner.
ALRC employees are required to disclose a potential or actual conflict of interest in advance. Failing to disclose appropriately may be regarded as misconduct. The Executive Director maintains a Conflict of Interest Register that records any reported conflict of interest within the ALRC, for the purpose of monitoring and managing the conflict.
During 2015–16 there were no conflict of interest disclosures.
Full-time Commissioners (members) of the ALRC and the Executive Director make annual declarations of private interests, which are provided to the Attorney-General in August of each year.
The ALRC carries directors’ liability insurance for all Commissioners of the ALRC and members of the Advisory Committee.
Nature of liability
The ALRC insures against 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’ liability insurance.