Budget 2011–12: Australian Law Reform Commission
The governance and resourcing of the Australian Law Reform Commission has been the subject of recent parliamentary interest.
In April 2011, the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs tabled the report of its inquiry into the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC). The inquiry's Terms of Reference included consideration of 'the adequacy of [the ALRC's] staffing and resources to meet its objectives', arising from reductions to its budget in the 2009–10 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook of $0.242 million and $0.495 million per annum in the forward estimates. The majority report recommended, among other things, that these budget cuts be reversed. The dissenting report by Government senators, however, concluded that the ALRC was adequately resourced to fulfil its functions.
In contrast to the 2009–10 Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, the 2011–12 Budget indicates that the ALRC's funding from Government has been reduced by $0.31 million for 2011–12 and by $0.11 million for 2012–13, and then increased by $0.24 million for 2013–14 with a further increase of $0.27 in 2014–15.
The President of the ALRC remains concerned about the impact of these cuts; and the Portfolio Budget Statement notes that the ALRC will need to find 'additional productivity savings and new methodologies to ensure that [its] ability to provide timely, straightforward and sound advice to government is not compromised.'
In 2009–10 the ALRC completed three inquiries. Currently, in 2010–11 the ALRC has completed one inquiry and has two in progress: Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws (due to be completed by 30 November 2011) and National Classification Scheme Review (due to be completed by 30 January 2012). It should be noted that the Attorney-General's Department is apparently assisting with the costs of a second full time Commissioner, Mr Terry Flew, appointed in April 2011for the latter review; and it will be interesting to see if similar funding support is available for future inquiries.