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Chapter 2 - 2011-12 snapshot

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2011-12 snapshot

Our role

The Attorney-General's Department serves the people of Australia by upholding the rule of law and by providing essential expert support to the Australian Government to maintain and improve Australia's system of law and justice, its national security and emergency management systems, and natural disaster relief.

Figure 2.1: Attorney-General's Department mission and outcomes structure, 2011-12

Figure 2.1: Attorney-General’s Department mission and outcomes structure, 2011–12 

Strategic Plan 2010-2012

The department's Strategic Plan 2010-2012 sets out its priorities in accomplishing its mission: achieving a just and secure society. The strategic plan consists of seven strategic aims supported by the planning, performance and governance frameworks and the leadership and value statements.

The department's strategic aims are:

  • improving access to justice
  • enhancing national security
  • combating organised crime
  • improving identity and technology security
  • protecting human rights and supporting Indigenous communities
  • strengthening emergency management and building resilience
  • enhancing productivity and service delivery.

The Strategic Plan can be viewed online at:
www.ag.gov.au/About/Pages/default.aspx.

Our financial performance

The total annual appropriation funding for the department for 2011-12 was $997.3 million, including $325.0 million for departmental outputs and $425.4 million for administered expenses (see Figure 2.2).

The department also received appropriation funding of $11.1 million in equity injections for capital projects, $89.3 million for administered assets and $86.0 million for special appropriations.

See Chapter 13 for information on the department's financial performance.

Figure 2.2: Financial performance, 2011-12

Figure 2.2: Financial performance, 2011–12
  % $m
Departmental outputs
(includes pervious years outputs)
33 324.966
Section 31 receipts 4 37.661
Administered expenses 43 425.448
Capital funding 1 11.063
Administered assets and liabilities 9 89.282
Special appropriations 9 86.025
Special accounts 2 22.853
Total 100 997.298

 

Our people

At 30 June 2012, the department's workforce comprised 1,503 employees. Of these, 1,420 were ongoing, 83 were non-ongoing, 89.9 per cent were working full-time, and 10.1 per cent were working part-time. Twenty-nine employees were also employed on a casual basis.

The department primarily operates from Canberra where 93.6 per cent of the workforce is located. The remainder of the department's staff work in New South Wales (2.7 per cent), Victoria (2.3 per cent), and regional locations throughout Australia (0.7 per cent), with the remainder located in Papua New Guinea (0.6 per cent).

The department employs a diverse workforce. Women account for 62.8 per cent of employees, which is slightly above the Australian Public Service average. The workforce age profile is comparatively younger than other public service agencies, with the majority of employees aged below forty.

The number of employees from non-English speaking backgrounds remains at 13 per cent of the workforce. The number of staff identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander has increased from 1.6 per cent to 1.9 per cent, while the number of staff identifying with a disability has decreased from 1.4 per cent to 1.3 per cent.

The rate of employee-initiated turnover (including resignations from the Australian Public Service, movements to other agencies, retirements and voluntary early cessations of non-ongoing contracts) in 2011-12 was 217, or 14.4 per cent, of employees. The average length of service has increased to 4.9 years, compared to 4.4 years in the previous year.

Chapter 14 discusses management of the department's human resources. A full staffing profile for the department, excluding casual employees, is provided at Appendix 6.

Highlights

Strategic Policy and Coordination Group

  • The department implemented its new online procurement and payments system designed to increase the department's operational efficiency and to ensure compliance with the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines. The system offers online approvals, a new contract register and automated accounts payable functions (invoice scanning and payment which eliminates the need for manual processing). Work has also commenced on implementation of a new centralised Grants Management System (GMS). This system includes online application forms, internal workflow processes and full integration with the financial system. The GMS will continue to be rolled out to grant programs managed by the department throughout 2012-13.

Civil Justice and Legal Services Group

  • The department delivered a number of initiatives to improve the family law system's response to family violence including the Family Law Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Act 2011 and the extension of the Coordinated Family Dispute Resolution pilot until April 2013. It has also commissioned the development of a common risk identification framework across the family law system to identify domestic and family violence.
  • The department continued its work on promoting effective operation of the federal courts and support for an independent judiciary. The Judicial Misbehaviour and Incapacity (Parliamentary Commissions) Bill 2012 and the Courts Legislation Amendment (Judicial Complaints) Bill 2012 were introduced into Parliament on 14 March 2012. These Bills will provide a clear, accountable and effective system for handling complaints against federal judicial officers.
  • The Military Court of Australia Bill 2012 and the Military Court of Australia. These Bills will establish the Military Court of Australia under Chapter III of the Constitution to provide a permanent, independent and transparent system of military justice for Australia's defence forces.
  • The department continued its role in leading Australia's case against Japan in the International Court of Justice, Whaling in the Antarctic (Australia v Japan), which seeks to end Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean. Japan filed its written submissions in March 2012 and the Court subsequently decided there would be no second round of written pleadings. Oral hearings are likely to take place in The Hague in the second half of 2013.
  • In December 2011 the department assumed responsibility for the government's defence of legal challenges to the plain packaging of tobacco products under the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011. The department was involved in the preparation of the Commonwealth's case in the two constitutional challenges to the plain packaging legislation heard by the High Court of Australia on 17-19 April 2012, and assisted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in the preparation for and conduct of World Trade Organization dispute consultations with Ukraine and Honduras.
  • In October 2011, the Office of International Law hosted the inaugural Attorney-General's Department International Law Colloquium with the theme 'Looking Ahead: Cross-Cutting Issues in International Law'. The Colloquium was to foster connections across the Australian international law community.
  • On 24 May 2012, Australia declared the outer limits of a considerable part of its continental shelf by Proclamation under the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973. The Proclamation covers approximately 11 million square kilometres of continental shelf including the 2.56 million square kilometres of extended continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles recommended by the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) in 2008. It is the culmination of nearly twenty years of persistent scientific, legal and diplomatic work by Geoscience Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Attorney-General's Department with the latter leading the Australian delegation to the CLCS.
  • The department led development of the Maritime Powers Bill, which was introduced into the House of Representatives on 30 May 2012. The Bill provides a single legislative framework for use by the Australian Government's on-water enforcement agencies. The Bill establishes a system of authorisations under which a maritime officer may exercise enforcement powers in the maritime domain. The powers under the Bill will be available to enforce a diverse range of Australia's maritime laws, including in relation to illegal foreign fishing, customs, migration, quarantine and drug trafficking, as well as international agreements and arrangements at sea.
  • The Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 commenced on 4 January 2012 and is a key component of Australia's Human Rights Framework. The Act is ground-breaking in establishing for the first time at the national level, a comprehensive regime for human rights scrutiny.

The department continues to implement the Human Rights Framework, including:

    • Consolidation of Anti-Discrimination Laws - a discussion paper was released in September 2011 to guide consultation on the project to consolidate Commonwealth anti-discrimination laws into a single Act. The department conducted three multi-stakeholder forums and a series of one-on-one meetings and received 240 submissions over a four-month consultation period. The department has developed policy options for government consideration based on the outcomes of this consultation.
    • National Human Rights Action Plan - an exposure draft Plan was released in December 2011 and includes a range of actions across Australian, state and territory governments to promote human rights. The Plan will include actions that implement the recommendations from Australia's most recent UN Universal Periodic Review of Human Rights.
    • Public Sector Education Program on Human Rights - the program provides the public sector with information about Australia's international human rights obligations and their role in respecting, protecting and fulfilling human rights. In 2011, training was delivered to over 700 public sector officials from thirty-five departments and agencies across the Commonwealth.
    • Education Grants - the department also provides small grants to community organisations to deliver grassroots human rights education projects for the community and vulnerable groups. In 2011, a total of $439,663 was awarded to fund fifteen human rights education projects including human rights workshops for Indigenous children in remote communities in the NT and self-advocacy training for people with disabilities in NSW.
    • In June 2012, the department led a high level Government delegation for Australia's appearance before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva. The appearance provided the Government with the opportunity to set out Australia's record and achievements in implementing our commitments under the Convention and its Optional Protocols on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
    • The Australian Human Rights Commission Amendment (National Children's Commissioner) Act 2012 commenced on 1 July 2012. The Act establishes a National Children's Commissioner within the Australian Human Rights Commission. The National Children's Commissioner will be the first dedicated advocate focused on the human rights of children and young people at the national level.
  • In January 2012 the department implemented one of the most significant micro-economic reforms in recent years with the commencement of the Personal Property Securities Register. The PPSR is the centrepiece of legislative reform that has been undertaken over many years culminating in the Personal Property Securities Act 2009. The law represents a significant change to laws on the way personal property is used as security in Australia. See page 6 for a case study on this project.
  • The Commonwealth appearance before the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry in 2011 was coordinated by the Office of Legal Services Coordination (OLSC). This included managing the Commonwealth legal representation and instructing senior counsel. As the terms of reference of the inquiry were broad, and the inquiry heard detailed technical evidence, liaison with a range of agencies was required.
  • The department progressed a number of reforms based on the recommendations of the Report of the review of Commonwealth legal services procurement by Anthony Blunn AO and Ms Sibylle Krieger and the Lateral Economics report, Learning from experience: purchasing legal services, including the implementation of the Legal Services Multi-Use List (LSMUL) which commenced on 1 June 2012. The LSMUL provides a single streamlined list for purchasing legal services, and provides an important portal for sharing information about legal services purchasing experiences at a whole-of-government level. From 1 June 2012, the LSMUL began to replace the existing system of individual panel arrangements established by departments and agencies. See page 18 for a case study on this project.
  • In support of the Australian Government's microeconomic reform agenda, the Attorney-General completed a public consultation on the scope to reform Australian contract law. The consultation process concluded on the 20 July 2012, and was facilitated by the release of a discussion paper seeking feedback on the performance of our contract law system, a series of twelve information leaflets (infolets) on current issues in the law, an online survey to capture data on experiences with contract law as well as stakeholder forums in Sydney and Melbourne. Information gathered through the consultation process is being used to determine the need for reform of contract law.
  • On 24 June 2012, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Diplomatic Conference on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances concluded the WIPO Audiovisual Performances Treaty, known as the Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances. The department is the lead agency for the negotiations. An officer from the department represented Australia and signed the Final Act of the Diplomatic Conference, concluding the final text of the treaty.
  • On 21 June 2012, the Australian Government issued final terms of reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) for a review of digital copyright exceptions. Draft terms of reference were made available for public consultation. The final terms of reference ask the ALRC to examine the adequacy and appropriateness of a broad range of exceptions in the Copyright Act and will allow the ALRC to address the key challenges to innovation and the digital economy in the copyright arena.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding on Legal Cooperation with China was signed providing a framework for promoting closer engagement and greater mutual understanding across the wider law and justice sectors of Australia and China.
  • During the reporting period the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (R18+ Computer Games) Bill 2012 was passed by both Houses of Parliament. The R18+ Computer Games Bill provides for an R18+ category for computer games in the National Classification Scheme (NCS). The Bill commences on 1 January 2013.
  • A number of reviews of the NCS were finalised during the reporting year, including a review by the ALRC. This review was important given the changes in technology, media convergence and the amount of classifiable content available to consumers. The ALRC provided its final report to the Attorney-General on 29 February 2012 and the report was tabled in Parliament on 1 March 2012. An independent Convergence Review Committee, established by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE), also completed its review of communications regulation in light of media convergence. The government is considering its response to the recommendations of both reviews.
  • The department completed its review of classification fees with new fees coming into effect when the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Regulations 2005 received Royal Assent on 1 September 2011. The fees were the result of lengthy development work and consultation with industry. A copy of the Cost Recovery Impact Statement is available on www.classification.gov.au.
  • The Classification Operations Branch Records Administration (COBRA) system is the workflow management system used by the department to support the Classification Board's processes. Development of COBRA continued through 2011-12 with a number of major items being completed including Authorised Assessor Module, Film Festival and Call-In modules. These modules will provide greater assistance in the management of workload including improving the provision of management information and automation of some processes.
  • On 16 September 2011 the former Minister for Justice, the Hon Brendan O'Connor, launched a new 2D and 3D Digital Cinema at the Classification Branch's Sydney premises. The digital cinema was the result of a complex procurement process and underlined the department's efforts at ensuring state of the art facilities for the Classification Board.
  • The department implemented a new workplace health and safety policy specific to the needs of members of the Classification Board(s) and APS staff exposed to high impact material while conducting or supporting the classification process.
  • The department supported the Attorney-General in developing changes to federal court fees for announcement in the 2012-13 Budget that would provide an overall increase in revenue of $72.7 million over four years. The department continues to progress the details of the final fees package, in close consultation with the federal courts.
  • In May 2012, the department engaged a German mediator training organisation to provide training to a select group of senior Family Dispute Resolution practitioners from key organisations around Australia, including Legal Aid Commissions and the Family Court of Australia. The training is a first step in building a properly qualified workforce as part of the department's aim to introduce mediation into Hague Convention abduction and access matters.
  • The department continued to promote the Access to Justice Framework which aims to improve access to justice for all Australians. The Access to Justice (Federal Jurisdiction) Bill 2011 was introduced into Parliament on 23 November 2011. The Bill implements a number of measures which will increase the flexibility of courts and tribunals to deliver access to justice. The department has also developed the Trans-Tasman Proceedings Regulation 2012 which, once it enters into force, will streamline procedures for legal proceedings and enforcement of orders and regulatory fines between Australia and New Zealand. In addition, the department has developed with the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council (NADRAC) a joint publication, Your guide to dispute resolution, which contains readily accessible, useful information about alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and gives practical tips on using ADR.
  • Following the department's commitment to remove discrimination, between late 2011 and early 2012 the department liaised with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to revise the policy on Certificates of No Impediment (CNI) for same-sex couples. The Attorney-General issued a media release on 27 January 2012 to the effect that Australians seeking to enter into a same-sex marriage overseas could apply for a CNI to marriage from 1 February.
  • The department continued to progress work to implement the Australian Government's 2011 Budget announcement to reform and improve the Marriage Celebrants Program through cost recovery. The department conducted seventeen national consultations in October and November 2011. Following the national consultations, and consideration of approximately 280 written submissions, a summary of the feedback provided to the department was made available on the department's website. New 'Guidelines on the Marriage Act 1961 for Marriage Celebrants' were developed and published in February 2012 as a key resource for all marriage celebrants. The first phase of the Marriage Celebrants Program 'MarCel' database was developed which will allow more efficient management and reporting of the marriage celebrants program. In support of our move toward a paperless office, the scanning of approximately 14,000 marriage celebrant files by Lexdata was completed, which means all marriage celebrant files are now managed electronically.
  • The department consolidated its existing legal financial assistance schemes to ensure a more effective and equitable distribution of limited funds. New guidelines provide a unifying set of grants administration processes across the schemes and establish the Disbursement Support Scheme to expand eligibility for financial assistance and to provide increased support for pro bono legal work.
  • Three-year funding agreements were put in place from 2011-12 with eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services. The new funding arrangements align with the National Indigenous Law and Justice Framework (2009-2015), the Access to Justice Framework (2009), the National Partnership Agreement on Legal Assistance Services (2010) and Closing the Gap (Safer Communities, 2008). The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services now have greater flexibility to deliver early intervention work and determine their own service footprint based on local knowledge of where the need is and what works in their respective communities. The new arrangements also streamline reporting and reduce red tape.
  • The department commissioned a review of Commonwealth funded legal assistance services, which will help to ensure the delivery of the most efficient and effective legal assistance services to those most in need. The review is a collaborative project between the Commonwealth, states and territories and will involve extensive consultation with service providers, namely legal aid commissions, community legal centres, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services, and family violence prevention legal services. The review is due for completion by 30 June 2013.
  • A National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum was established in 2011-12. The forum brings together family violence prevention legal service organisations and provides input to policy and service delivery issues.
  • The department commissioned two projects relating to the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program - a financial control audit and financial viability assessment of funded organisations, and an overall review of the program. Findings from both reports will be implemented and reported on in 2013. The findings of these reviews will feed into the review of Commonwealth legal assistance services.
  • In June 2012, additional one-off funding totalling $1.281 million was provided to
    twenty-four Commonwealth funded organisations under the Community Legal Services Program for a range of purposes, including sector support and helping to meet demand.
  • The department worked with other Australian Government departments to design the Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory initiative, which was subsequently announced in the 2012-13 Budget and for which legislation was enacted in June 2012.
  • The Attorney-General announced a range of legislative and institutional reforms during the year to expediate native title claim resolutions and improve outcomes for all stakeholders.
  • During the year, the Commonwealth was a party to ten consent determinations of native title.

National Security and Criminal Justice Group

  • The department has led the Australian Government's involvement in implementing the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience. There is a wide range of implementation activities currently underway across all jurisdictions to promote disaster resilience. Significant progress has been made across the Strategy's seven Strategic Priorities, including: reaching agreement on a nationally consistent methodology for disaster risk assessments; developing the National Work Program for Flood Mapping; revising the Volunteer Action Plan; developing a National Disaster Resilience Communications Plan; completing a review of the effectiveness of relief and recovery payments; and enhancements to the surge capacity of Triple Zero. See page 28 for a case study on the Triple Zero project.
  • Building on the success of the inaugural Critical Infrastructure Resilience (CIR) Conference in 2011, the second CIR Conference was held on 15 and 16 March 2012 in Sydney. Bringing together stakeholders from private and public sectors, the popular event addressed the theme 'CIR: Expect the unexpected', which explored the attributes of organisational resilience. Research Paper 1: CEO perspectives on organisational resilience was launched at the conference by the Secretary, Roger Wilkins AO. The first in a series of research papers on organisational resilience being developed under the CIR Strategy, it has received national and international interest and acclaim.
  • The final primary policy documents from the review of protective security policy were released in July 2011. The new policies covered information and physical security, and included the new security classification system. The new information security policy shifts the focus from document handling to information security management, while the physical security policy provides improved guidance on protecting aggregated data sets, including electronic systems, and cultural assets. Overall, the new Protective Security Policy Framework will deliver greater consistency in the use of protective security standards and terminology; and more active management of risk, focusing resources on the areas of greatest concern while at the same time increasing the flexibility and scalability needed in modern communications processes for government business and service delivery. Implementation of the new policies commences in August 2012, with agencies providing their first compliance report to their ministers in August 2013.
  • The department lead an inter-jurisdictional review of the National Identity Security Strategy. The work provides an assessment of progress in implementing the initial strategy and proposes a work plan for the Commonwealth and states and territories to progress to further implement the Strategies' objectives.
  • The use of the Document Verification Service continues to grow among Australian Government and state agencies and a number of government agencies are preparing to become users. The 2012 Budget decision to allow use of the system by the private sector has increased interest in use of the system.
  • 2011-12 was a year of consolidation for CERT Australia, the national computer emergency response team, as it sought to strengthen further its partnerships with industry and government partners and with international counterparts. The CERT engaged with a wide range of sectors on cyber security issues - notably the finance, mining and public utilities sectors. It again facilitated industrial control systems training in the United States of America for Australian industry representatives, in collaboration with the US Department of Homeland Security.
  • CERT Australia also continued to build its relationships with academic institutions, particularly Edith Cowan University and the Queensland University of Technology, and as a government partner in the inaugural Cyber Defence University Challenge. On the international front, CERT Australia achieved membership of two prominent CERT groupings - the Asia Pacific CERT (APCERT) and the Forum for Incident Response and Security Teams - and was elected to the Steering Committee of APCERT.
  • Most states in Australia were impacted by natural disasters during 2011-12. The department responded to forty-two natural disasters across Australia including severe storms and cyclones in many areas of Australia; flooding in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria; and bushfires in Western Australia. In response, the department coordinated whole-of-government crisis management support including coordinating the provision of physical assistance and the provision of information and crisis situational awareness nationwide.
  • The department also played a significant role in financially supporting impacted communities and jurisdictions through administration of the Commonwealth - State joint Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP) and ex gratia payments.
  • The department successfully coordinated whole-of-government security arrangements for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, including a visit by Her Majesty The Queen and a later visit to Australia by the President of the United States of America.
  • The department promoted the rule of law and effective governance in Asia-Pacific and Africa by building the capacity of law and justice officials in partner countries and supporting the development of effective laws and legal policy.
  • For the first time, the department posted an officer to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta to advance the department's work in Indonesia, particularly the rule of law aid program to counter terrorism.
  • The department continues to deploy officers to Papua New Guinea under the Strongim Gavman Program (SGP), in which the department has the largest contingent with twelve positions in the law and justice (nonpolicing) sector. In 2011-12, the department's SGP advisers in the Office of the Public Prosecutor assisted in the establishment of a family and sexual offences unit.
  • In 2011-12 the department led the review of Australia's compliance with Chapters 3 and 4 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. The review was conducted by a team of experts from the United States and Turkey and facilitated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The review found Australia has a comprehensive and proactive approach to combating corruption, and recommended continued progress on a range of important anti-corruption initiatives, such as the development of a National Anti-Corruption Plan.
  • Attorneys-General from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia agreed to an action plan to combat cyber crime at the 2011 meeting of the Quintet of Attorneys-General held in Sydney on 15 July. The department worked closely with officers from the other Quintet nations to develop the cyber crime agenda for the Quintet meeting.
  • The department, in consultation with nineteen other Australian Government agencies, led the development of a Commonwealth Organised Crime Compendium. The Compendium was a 2010 election commitment, and is a reference resource for policy and operational officers in Commonwealth agencies involved in combating organised crime, cataloguing the different tools at their disposal.
  • The department has been leading work across government and with industry stakeholders to develop and implement new measures to address organised crime in the maritime industry and the vulnerabilities identified by the multi-agency taskforce Operation Polaris. These measures include a proposal to use the Australian Crime Commission's criminal intelligence holdings when assessing individuals' suitability to retain Aviation and Maritime Security Identification Cards and customs broker, depot and warehouse licences.
  • The department developed the Crimes Legislation Amendment Act (No 2) 2011 to support the implementation of the recently established Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce by enabling the Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police to undertake proceeds of crime litigation on behalf of the Taskforce. The legislation also brought the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service within the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity on a whole-of-agency basis.
  • The Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers and Offences) Act 2012 implemented a series of reforms as part of the department's ongoing commitment to combating crime. These measures enable the Australian Crime Commission to more effectively share information with other Australian, state and territory government agencies, enhance international law enforcement cooperation on DNA, and enhance the Commonwealth's proceeds of crime regime to ensure the Criminal Assets Confiscation Taskforce can fully utilise specialist expertise.
  • In addition, schedule 7 of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Powers and Offences) Act 2012amended the provisions relating to the release and parole of federal offenders under Part 1B of the Crimes Act 1914. The amendments come into force on 4 October 2012. On that date, the release on parole of all federal offenders serving sentences of imprisonment in relation to which a nonparole period has been set will be discretionary (not automatic). In addition, the current five-year maximum parole period and the three-year maximum term for parole supervision will be abolished. Instead, the parole period will generally end on the day the offender's sentence expires and the supervision period may extend to the end of the parole period.
  • The department led negotiations on behalf of Australia with the US Department of Homeland Security on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Enhancing Cooperation in Preventing and Combating Crime. Under the MoU, both countries will be able to crosscheck biometric data such as fingerprints and DNA and, in the event of a match, request further information from the other country.
  • The department led negotiations on behalf of Australia with the New Zealand Ministry of Justice and New Zealand Police on an MoU for the exchange of criminal history information for employment vetting purposes. The MoU establishes a six month trial between Queensland and New Zealand in order to develop more streamlined and systematic processes for employers to obtain criminal history information on employees/potential employees. The trial commenced on 2 July 2012.
  • On 22 June 2012, the Australian Government released its response to the recommendations of the New South Wales Coroner following the inquest into the death of Ms Dianne Brimble. The department led the development of the government response and gave detailed consideration to the recommendations, including seeking input and advice from other Australian Government agencies with responsibility for, and expertise in, matters relating to the maritime sector.
  • The department took a leadership role in collaborating with states and territories to develop a national response to firearms crime. The response includes a range of activities to tackle the illicit use and trafficking of firearms and was agreed by the Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management in June 2012.
  • The department has taken a significant role in developing a national response to the issue of the new classes of synthetic drugs emerging onto Australian markets (known collectively as 'new psychoactive substances'). These include synthetic cannabis products such as 'spice'. The department produced a discussion paper outlining principles for responding to new psychoactive substances, and is currently developing a detailed options paper that will be considered by Australian governments late in 2012.
  • The department, working closely with the Department of Health and Ageing, successfully introduced a Resolution at the 55th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in March 2012. The Resolution raised international awareness of the issue and promoted a program of international cooperation in responding to new psychoactive substances.
  • The department continued to provide Secretariat support for the Precursor Advisory Group and the Precursor Industry Reference Group, to assist in their work of implementing the National Precursor Chemical Control Framework to promote national consistency in the control of precursor chemicals.
  • The department developed the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Slavery, Slavery-like Conditions and People Trafficking) Bill 2012. The Bill will ensure that the broadest range of exploitative behaviour is captured and criminalised, including by introducing new offences of forced labour, forced marriage, and harbouring a victim; and by clarifying existing offences and their definitions to enhance operational effectiveness. The Bill also increases the availability of reparation orders to individual victims of Commonwealth offences, including people trafficking. The Bill is currently before the Parliament.
  • In November 2011, the department coordinated a visit by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, especially women and children, Dr Joy Ngozi Ezeilo. In her report, tabled at the 20th session of the UN Human Rights Council in June 2012, the Special Rapporteur recognised Australia as a regional leader in combating trafficking, and our strong working relationship with civil society. In keeping with the Special Rapporteur's recommendations, the department will develop a formal action plan to support Australia's Strategy to Combat People Trafficking.
  • In response to legal challenges brought against the people smuggling offences, the department developed the Deterring People Smuggling Act 2011. The Act amended the Migration Act 1958 to clarify the meaning of the words 'no lawful right to come to Australia' contained in the people smuggling offences, commencing retrospectively from 16 December 1999 to ensure the continued effective operation of the offences. The Act received Royal Assent and came into force on 29 November 2011.
  • The department reviewed the cases of the twenty-eight persons convicted of people smuggling offences who raised age at some point prior to conviction. The review considered further information which was not available when those persons claimed to be minors. As a result of the review, fifteen persons were released early on licence on the basis that there was a doubt they may have been minors on arrival in Australia.
  • The department continued to progress review of counter-terrorism laws, including through engaging with the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, whose first report was tabled during the reporting period.
  • Legislation was passed to implement outstanding obligations under the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The passage of this legislation, and Australia's subsequent ratification of the Convention, was an important part of strengthening the legal framework to fight terrorism.
  • Legislation to provide for financial assistance to Australian victims of terrorism overseas was also passed by Parliament.
  • The Intelligence Services Legislation Amendment Act 2011 was passed by Parliament, continuing the work on achieving more seamless coordination and information sharing between agencies.
  • In consultation with intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies, the department developed further law reform proposals aimed at ensuring agencies are adequately equipped to perform their functions in a changing technological environment, with appropriate safeguards and accountabilities. The Attorney-General referred a package of proposals to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for public inquiry, which was in progress at the end of the reporting period.
  • In conjunction with state and territory and industry partners, the department made significant progress towards achieving the security outcomes agreed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) within the chemical security management framework. This included completion of an additional fifteen chemical security risk assessments and ongoing targeted engagement with governments and industry to build awareness of national security risks associated with chemicals. The department also undertook a regulation impact analysis process in relation to risk treatment measures to address national security risks associated with the eleven precursor chemicals to homemade explosives.
  • In October 2011 the department launched the Resilient Communities website, www.resilientcommunities.gov.au, which informs the public about what communities and the Australian Government are doing to reduce the risk of home-grown terrorism by addressing factors that make people vulnerable to extremist influences. It is a platform for sharing ideas and generating discussion about Australia's approach to countering violent extremism.
  • Twenty-nine community organisations across the country received funding to a total of $2.8 million through the Building Community Resilience grants program. The third round of the Building Community Resilience grants program was launched in February 2012 and is focused on empowering communities through education and capacity building to resist and challenge violent extremist influences.
  • The department worked across government to prepare a Discussion Paper for the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security to assist the Committee in its consideration of a package of national security ideas including reform of the telecommunications interception regime.
  • The department has worked closely with the national security community to achieve substantial progress in the development of the first National Security Capability Plan. The Plan is due to be finalised over coming months. This will present the first unified picture of the current capability that exists across the non-Defence national security community.

Our people

Implementation of the Legal Services Multi-Use List

greater collaboration and information sharing across whole of government

Following the release of the Blunn Krieger and Lateral Economics reports, the government committed to finding better and more efficient ways to manage the Commonwealth's legal services, including through the development of a new purchasing framework for legal services - the Legal Services Multi-Use List (LSMUL).

'The LSMUL aims to better leverage the Commonwealth's significant purchasing power, reducing barriers to entry in the legal market which exist by the nature of panel arrangements. Importantly, the LSMUL provides a portal for information sharing at a whole-of-government level,' says Emma White, who manages the Legal Services Reform Section within the Office of Legal Services Coordination.

'The framework has been designed in consultation with the General Counsel Working Group and we are grateful for the support of a wide range of officers both within the department and across government who have helped to bring the LSMUL to life.'

'We've developed a custom-designed information technology system which is currently supporting over 570 officers across government. Those officers now have access to information about 66 service providers appointed to the LSMUL. They can now draw on the experiences of their colleagues in other agencies when deciding which law firm is going to offer them the best value for their dollar'.

'Some departments and agencies, including the Attorney-General's Department, have started using the LSMUL. Others who have existing panel arrangements have a transition period of 12 months until they must use the LSMUL. Commonwealth companies and government business enterprises can also opt-in to the centralised framework.'

Emma sees enormous potential for greater collaboration and information sharing at a whole-of-government level both through the LSMUL, and through the Australian Government Legal Network being established in 2012-13. 'It's an exciting time to be an Australian Government lawyer'.


Areas for improvement

  • Information and communication technology efficiencies will be identified and implemented to support more effective achievement of the department's objectives.
  • Implementing the Australian Government's digital information and record management policy.
  • The department is redesigning its website to improve accessibility and useability.
  • The department continues to work with other Australian Government agencies to support better compliance with the Legal Services Directions 2005.
  • Work will continue to identify and promote measures to improve Commonwealth legal assistance service delivery. This includes measures for better delivery of information and services, early intervention to prevent escalation and the promotion and use of alternative dispute resolution.
  • The risk assessment approach to the administration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services will be further refined as funded organisations start to fully utilise the Indigenous specific legal services portal.
  • On completion of the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program review, the department will work with funded organisations to develop and implement strategies to address the review's recommendations. The findings of these reviews will feed into the review of Commonwealth legal assistance services.
  • The department will continue to work towards progressing the reforms to strengthen the services delivered to and regulation of Commonwealth-registered marriage celebrants and improve the professionalism of marriage celebrants.
  • The department will continue to work closely with state and territory human and community services departments, the National Intercountry Adoption Advisory Group, overseas program partners and other stakeholders to respond to the changing global context of intercountry adoptions. Key challenges include changes in the numbers and characteristics of children referred for intercountry adoption and the need to ensure that Australia's intercountry adoption programs operate in an ethical and sustainable manner.
  • Consideration is being given to ways in which the Commonwealth's serious drug offences framework could be updated and better adapted to respond to threats in the illicit drug market.
  • The department will continue to work on enhancements to law enforcement integrity, including through the introduction of legislation to allow targeted integrity testing within the Australian Crime Commission, Australian Federal Police and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, and the extension of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity's jurisdiction to encompass AUSTRAC, CrimTrac and Biosecurity staff within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.
  • The department will continue to lead Commonwealth policy on fraud control arrangements, which is particularly important in a climate of growing fraud and corruption risk.
  • Consideration is being given to whether Australia's regime to combat foreign bribery regimes can be enhanced. The department will continue to work with industry to progress this goal.
  • In consultation with stakeholders, the department will lead the development of a formal action plan to support Australia's Strategy to Combat People Trafficking.
  • The department continues to implement the CIR Strategy in partnership with owners and operators of CI through a range of initiatives and activities to assist in building resilient critical infrastructure and greater assurance in the continuity of essential services.
  • The department will continue to support and provide advice to protective security policy stakeholders as they adopt the new policies. The department will also continue its work with state and territory first ministers' departments to promote the Protective Security Policy Framework as a better practice framework.
  • The review of the National Identity Security Strategy showed that there is still considerable work to be done with Australian Government agencies and states and territories to improve identity security and reduce identity crime and misuse.
  • The department continues to improve whole-of-government cooperation in the delivery of security arrangements for Australian high office holders, visiting foreign dignitaries, the foreign diplomatic community in Australia and for major events. In its capacity as the lead agency for these matters, the department, in conjunction with the Australian Federal Police, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, is working to reform the Commonwealth's approach to risk management as a key tool for the provision of security arrangements.
  • The department will continue to work with states and territories to ensure the NDRRA is targeted appropriately. Two areas of focus for the NDRRA will be Category C measures which support communities and sectors severely impacted by a natural disaster, and betterment - improving the disaster resilience for an essential public asset.
  • The department continues to work on improving the national capacity and capability to respond to crises. This includes through improvements to information sharing arrangements, revision of National Plans, and streamlining the processes for rapidly concentrating and deploying elements of emergency capability in response to disasters, both domestically and internationally.
  • The department will develop and implement a Rule of Law Aid Strategy to advance and facilitate coordinated and effective delivery of Australia's Rule of Law aid priorities.
  • The department will develop and implement a Departmental International Strategy to advance its work internationally in line with whole-of-government priorities.
  • The department is continuing to conduct chemical security risk assessments for the remaining chemicals of security concern under an agreed streamlined process, which acknowledges the need to continue to work with industry stakeholders more efficiently.
  • The Chemical Security Website will be redeveloped to provide industry and the community with greater resources to address national security risks associated with precursor chemicals to homemade explosives.
  • The existing industry and community awareness campaign for chemicals of security concern is to be refreshed and updated to reflect developments in the chemical security work to date.
  • Australia is continuing its steps in its proposed accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.
  • The department will support the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security's inquiry into potential reforms of national security legislation.
  • The department will continue to progress options for the development of a National Security Fusion Capability to ensure all relevant information is captured, fused, analysed and disseminated in a timely way across border security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies to help combat organised crime and terrorism.

 

Our people

Improving Triple Zero surge capacity

improving the capacity to handle call surges during disasters

Triple Zero (000) is in its fifty-first year of operation as Australia's primary national emergency number for police, fire and ambulance.

'I commenced work on Triple Zero (000) in the Emergency Management Policy Branch in January 2011, during the height of the devastating Queensland floods', said Bettina Collins, Assistant Director of Emergency Communications and Recovery Policy Section.

Following the 2009 Victorian bushfires, ministers considered the operation of Triple Zero in disasters. The Emergency Management Policy Branch established a national Triple Zero Working Group in 2009. 'Our task was to take forward resolutions from the now Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management, with the goal of improving the capacity of Triple Zero to handle the surge in calls during disasters', said Bettina.

The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission concluded that, in part, there was a bottleneck created as a result of Telstra Triple Zero operators being unable to put through calls to state and territory emergency service organisations. Bettina said, 'We have learnt that there may never be enough call takers to handle all the calls in a major bushfire disaster, so innovative ways to ensure greatest efficiency needed to be identified'.

Longer term interoperability across emergency service operators has been a key focus of the work, given the increasing trend toward more extreme weather events that affect multiple jurisdictions simultaneously. 'An essential component of my work has been close collaboration with the states and territories to ensure greater commonality of practices and equipment', said Bettina. 'This will ideally lead to interoperability within and between jurisdictions, providing an opportunity in the future to share increased call loads during disasters, leading to greater resilience of Triple Zero nationally.'

'Another essential component of the work has been around raising community awareness on the appropriate use of Triple Zero and the availability of information sources that the public can access in disasters. A key body of work has been the adoption of national State Emergency Services (SES) 132 500 and Police Assistance 131 444 numbers', Bettina said.

'I have really enjoyed engaging with the range of stakeholders from the Commonwealth, states and territories, together with Telstra, in policy development for such a nationally significant service', said Bettina. 'The work has been really varied and included managing a consultancy to identify current and best practices, and creating online surveys for jurisdictions to provide their technical and operational information.'

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