4.16 As noted in the previous section of this background submission, the timely completion of high quality, well researched and well documented reports involves a complex interrelationship between time, scope and the team available. Where government wants a quicker turnaround, the scope of an inquiry needs to be much tighter and an appropriate team allocated—either from within existing staff or additional resources provided to support the particular inquiry. A quicker turnaround also has a necessary impact on the inquiry process and demands of stakeholders to respond. Some stakeholders—especially governments and government agencies—have limited flexibility themselves to produce a submission in a quicker time, given layers of internal review and approval.
4.17 In order for a shorter inquiry to be undertaken efficiently, a suitable team needs to be available. Where this is drawn from ALRC staff the timing for commencement of an inquiry needs to be factored in around the completion of any other inquiries.
Flexibility in Commissioner appointments
4.18 The government has suggested that flexibility in undertaking inquiry work can be achieved by a greater use of part-time and short-term Commissioners. There are practical issues in relation to such an aspiration that have to be navigated properly for this to generate desired efficiencies. For example, the lead-time in securing the appointment of an appropriate part-time or short-term Commissioner must be factored in to any proposed reference. If not, the opportunity for effective contribution and enhancement of the law reform process may be lost.
4.19 Flexibility needs to be balanced with timely planning for effective use of all staff resources.
4.20 A further challenge in the immediate future of the ALRC is the implementation of the Uhrig reforms, which place additional responsibilities on the President and corporate team.