Research, analysis and reporting

3.19 The typical approach has been for the ALRC to release three key papers for each inquiry: an issues paper, a discussion or consultation paper, and a final report. For two recent inquiries, where the timeframe and resources did not permit it, the ALRC decided not to release an issues paper and published instead a single Consultation Paper—in the Family Violence Inquiry and the Discovery Inquiry.

3.20 The issues and discussion papers are substantial works in their own right, and feature considerable research and analysis. Discrete sections are generally structured as follows:

  • an exposition of the law, practice and policy issues concerning a specific matter, with references to the relevant literature;

  • an analysis of literature concerning the relevant law, including any law reform and government consideration of the area under review;

  • a synthesis of ideas and the expression of ‘ALRC’s views’ on the matter, engaging with current thinking and discussion of contrasting views; and

  • questions and proposals are then featured in highlighted text; the ALRC particularly seeks stakeholder views on these questions and proposals.

3.21 For the final report, the research is refined and clarified. Importantly, each section of the final report features thematic summaries of submissions and consultations. The ALRC ensures the final report engages with all significant submissions made on each matter. The final report also includes the ALRC’s recommendations.

3.22 Final reports include Executive Summaries, providing a high level analysis of the policy framework and recommendations in the report. In the Family Violence Inquiry the ALRC developed the approach to reporting by providing a summary in the form of a separate Summary Report, to provide an accessible overview of the two-volume Final Report. The full Report, on the other hand, sets out in detail the issues raised by the Terms of Reference, and the research and evidence base upon which the Commissions’ recommendations were formulated, including a thorough discussion of stakeholder views and the Commissions’ conclusions.

3.23 The ALRC drafted legislation for some of its earlier reports as the focus of its law reform effort, where this was required by the Terms of Reference. For example, for its 2001 review of the Marine Insurance Act 1909 (Cth), the ALRC drafted a Marine Insurance Amendment Bill and a draft explanatory memorandum, and the ALRC’s 1983 report on privacy contained draft legislation which formed the basis of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). The ALRC’s practice has changed, however, and draft bills are not produced unless specifically called for by the terms of reference. This is partly because drafting is a specialised function better left to the parliamentary experts and partly because the ALRC’s time and resources are better directed towards determining the policy that will shape any resulting legislation.