The ALRC annual performance statement is prepared for paragraph 39(1)(a) of the PGPA Act for the 2016–17 financial year and accurately presents ALRC performance in accordance with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.
The ALRC purpose is to review Commonwealth laws as referred to it by the Attorney-General for the purpose of making recommendations about law reform that will contribute to a fair, equitable and accessible system of federal justice and a just and secure society.
The ALRC has one outcome:
Informed government decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes through research, analysis, reports and community consultation and education (Outcome 1).
In delivering this outcome, the ALRC provides evidence-based reports that outline recommendations for law reform to contribute to an equitable and accessible system of federal justice and the harmonisation of Australia’s laws and practices. In this way the ALRC contributes to the Attorney-General’s mission—achieving a just and secure society.
The ALRC has one program to achieve its outcome:
Conducting inquiries into aspects of Australian law and related processes for the purpose of law reform (Program 1).
It is through the inquiry process that the ALRC is able to undertake the research and analysis that underpins recommendations for law reform and provides the basis for informed government decisions.
During 2016–17, the ALRC conducted two inquiries; held 194 stakeholder consultations; received 451 submissions; produced one consultation paper and one report; and presented at 34 conferences and seminars.
The ALRC tracks the implementation of its recommendations over time. The rate of implementation provides evidence of ALRC success in facilitating informed decision making by government, leading to development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes.
The number of citations of ALRC reports provides an indication of the relevance of ALRC work to legal proceedings and judgements.
Visitors to website
The number of visitors to the ALRC website is an indicator of the community’s engagement with the work (past and present) of the ALRC. This engagement underpins and gives confidence to informed government decision making.
The number of submissions received is one indicator of the breadth of the evidence base that underpins ALRC recommendations and of community engagement with law reform.
Presentations and speaking engagements
Presenting at public conferences, seminars and Parliamentary inquiries ensures that the work of the ALRC is publicly debated and discussed.
The number of media mentions provides an indicator of community engagement in the ALRC’s work and contributes to the community’s knowledge about the Government’s law reform agenda.
The ALRC Performance Criteria are sourced from the ALRC Corporate Plan 2016–20 and Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18 p 164.
Result against performance criteria
Table 2: KPI performance 2016–17
Implementation of reports
Citations or references
Visitors to website
Presentations and speaking engagements
Analysis of performance
The ALRC can only undertake inquiries that are referred to it by the Attorney-General. Therefore, the ALRC’s performance from year to year will be affected by the government’s law reform agenda and the number of inquiries referred to the ALRC and the prescribed timeframe as indicated in the Terms of Reference.
It is usual for the ALRC to work on two inquiries at any one time, as indicated in our Corporate Plan and Portfolio Budget Statements. However, in some years, the Attorney-General may refer more than two inquiries to us, or less, and this will affect performance against our targets.
The subject matter of an inquiry may also have an impact on performance against our targets. Some inquiries concern issues of broad general interest in the community, or are highly contentious, or attract a specific industry’s focus and the community’s engagement with the inquiry is high. This may result in many submissions being received and more consultations being undertaken. Other inquiries attract a smaller community response, with fewer submissions received, but are nonetheless still significant. Therefore, the ALRC’s performance will be affected from year to year by circumstances outside of its control.
During 2016–17, the ALRC worked on the Elder Abuse Inquiry and the Inquiry into the Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
A report on ALRC Inquiries is at Appendix C.
Implementation of reports
The ALRC has no direct role in implementing its recommendations. There is no statutory requirement for the Australian Government to respond formally to ALRC reports. However, 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 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 term ‘awaiting response’ refers to reports that have been completed within the past 10 years in relation to which the ALRC is yet to receive a formal response from government. The term ‘not implemented’ refers to reports that were completed more than 10 years ago and for which there has been no response from government.
The levels of implementation of all ALRC reports are as follows:
- 60% are substantially implemented;
- 26% are partially implemented;
- 5% are awaiting response; and
- 9% have not been implemented.
Implementation status of ALRC reports as at 30 June 2017
These figures represent an overall implementation rate for ALRC reports of 86%. Government has yet to respond to a number of recently completed ALRC reports, including: Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era (ALRC Report 123, 2014); Connection to Country: Review of the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) (ALRC Report 126, 2015); Traditional Rights and Freedoms—Encroachments by Commonwealth Laws (ALRC Report 129, 2016); and Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 131, 2017).
Appendix D provides a detailed update on action in relation to implementation of ALRC reports during 2016–17.
A brief overview of the implementation status of all 88 inquiry-related ALRC reports can be found on the ALRC website at www.alrc.gov.au/implementation-final-reports.
Past ALRC reports are cited by Australian courts and tribunals as well as in numerous academic articles and other publications.
During 2016–17, there were at least 66 mentions of ALRC reports in the judgments of Australian courts and tribunals.
These included citation in two cases in the High Court of Australia, 17 cases in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Federal Court of Australia or the Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia, four in the Family Court of Australia and 39 in state and territory Supreme Courts or Courts of Appeal, as well as four in the decisions of other courts and tribunals, such as the South Australian Industrial Court, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal of Australia and state civil and administrative tribunals.
The ALRC report most often cited across Australian courts, is Evidence (Interim) (ALRC Report 26, 1985) as it assists the judiciary by informing them of the background of the Evidence Act 1995 (Cth) and state and territory uniform Evidence Acts. Later ALRC reports on evidence, Evidence (ALRC Report 38, 1987) and Uniform Evidence Law (ALRC Report 102, 2006), are also cited frequently. For example, in Hughes v The Queen  HCA 20, the High Court referred to ALRC Reports 26, 38 and 102 when considering the tendency rule.
A number of early ALRC reports continue to be cited by the courts, including ALRC Report 4, Alcohol, Drugs and Driving, cited by the ACT Supreme Court in Atmore v Milner  ACTSC 260. Other reports of enduring interest to litigants and courts are Insurance Agents, Brokers and Contracts (ALRC Report 20, 1982); General Insolvency Inquiry (ALRC Report 45, 1988); Grouped Proceedings in the Federal Court (ALRC Report 46, 1988); and Collective Investments: Other People’s Money (ALRC Report 65, 1992).
A list of court and tribunal citations can be found in Appendix E.
Mentions in Parliament
During 2016–17, ALRC reports and recommendations were referred to in second reading speeches and other Parliamentary proceedings on the following Commonwealth Bills:
- Native Title Amendment (Indigenous Land Use Agreements) Bill 2017;
- Copyright Amendment (Disability Access and Other Measures) Bill 2017;
- Privacy Amendment (Notifiable Data Breaches) Bill 2016;
- Migration Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2016;
- Racial Discrimination Amendment Bill 2016.
The ALRC website is a pivotal communication tool for the ALRC and a law reform resource for the wider public. The ALRC strives to continually build value into the website, both in terms of providing useful and accessible content relevant to stakeholders and researchers, and utilising its functionality as an online consultation tool.
Key website metrics for 2016–17:
- visits = 1,643,767;
- page views = 2,682,870; and
- unique visitors = 1,166,131.
These metrics represent, compared to the 2015–16 reporting period:
- 3% increase in visits;
- 1% increase in page views;
- 2% increase in unique visitors.
Comparison of website traffic: July–June in 2015–16 and 2016–17
ALRC website statistics indicate that it is not just in implementation that the ALRC makes a significant contribution to the discussion of laws and legal frameworks in Australia.
In 2016–17, the top five reports accessed by PDF downloads were:
- Elder Abuse (DP 83)
- Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws (ALRC Report 31)
- Elder Abuse (IP 47)
- Uniform Evidence Law (ALRC Report 102)
- Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era (ALRC Report 123).
The inclusion in this list of the Uniform Evidence Report from 2006 and Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws Report from 1986 illustrates the enduring value of the ideas, discussion and research contained in these landmark reports.
The number of submissions received by the ALRC is a measure of public 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 influenced by its subject matter—particular inquiries are likely to generate a greater, broader degree of public interest and participation than others.
Table 3: Submissions received 2016–17
Submission closing date
Submissions received during reporting period
Elder Abuse (IP 47)
18 August 2016
Elder Abuse (DP83)
27 February 2017
Total submissions received
Presentations and speaking engagements
Presenting at public conferences, seminars and Parliamentary inquiries ensures that the work of the ALRC is publicly debated and discussed. During 2016–17, ALRC Commissioners and staff made 28 presentations at a range of events around the country. They also contributed six articles to a range of journals and publications. A full list of presentations and articles is at Appendix F.
The ALRC actively promotes public debate on issues raised by its current and past inquiries, and on law reform generally.
During 2016–17, the ALRC identified 317 mentions of its work across a range of media. This represents an increase of 30% from the previous reporting period.
The Elder Abuse Inquiry attracted most media attention (41%), due to the intense public and media interest in the subject.
In 2016–17 privacy law reform continued to rate highly in the public interest, with the recent Inquiry into Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era and the ALRC’s 2008 Privacy Inquiry together garnering 9% of media attention.
The Freedoms Report, tabled late in the previous reporting period, attracted 8% of media mentions.
The 2012 Copyright Report attracted 5% of media mentions, due to the implementation of some recommendations, and ongoing debate about ‘fair use’.
The ALRC conducts its own media monitoring. An archive of 2016–17 online media mentions is available on the ALRC website at www.alrc.gov.au/news-media.
Media mentions per inquiry 2016–17
Significant developments and challenges for 2017–18
During 2017–18, the ALRC will complete its Inquiry into the Incarceration Rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and will work on any further inquiry referred to it by the Commonwealth Attorney-General.
The ALRC’s current lease expires in October 2018 and new premises will need to be sourced.
One challenge for the ALRC is that it does not set its own work program but is reliant on the Attorney-General’s referrals. Therefore it is the government’s reform agenda and timelines which determine the number and scope of inquiries that are referred to the ALRC, and this affects the ALRC’s ability to meet its performance expectations. The ALRC would normally work on two inquiries concurrently.
In addition, the government’s own program and priorities determine both when and how it considers completed ALRC inquiries, and the schedule for any implementation. This means that the rate of implementation of ALRC reports is in the hands of government, and there are many factors outside the ALRC’s control that influence the government’s ability and disposition to implement recommendations.