Report to the Senate
By virtue of Senate Standing Order 25(20) and Senate orders of 12 May 2010
and 29 September 2010,
the Senate refers to this committee for examination and report the annual
reports of departments and agencies of the following three portfolios:
Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy;
- Climate Change and Energy Efficiency; and
- Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
(formerly Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts).
Standing Order 25(20) requires that the committee shall:
(a) Examine each annual report referred to it and report
to the Senate whether the report is apparently satisfactory.
(b) Consider in more detail, and report to the Senate on,
each annual report which is not apparently satisfactory, and on the other
annual reports which it selects for more detailed consideration.
(c) Investigate and report to the Senate on any lateness
in the presentation of annual reports.
(d) In considering an annual report, take into account
any relevant remarks about the report made in debate in the Senate.
(e) If the committee so determines, consider annual
reports of departments and budget-related agencies in conjunction with
examination of estimates.
(f) Report on annual reports tabled by 31 October each
year by the tenth sitting day of the following year, and on annual reports
tabled by 30 April each year by the tenth sitting day after 30 June of
(g) Draw to the attention of the Senate any significant
matters relating to the operations and performance of the bodies furnishing the
(h) Report to the Senate each year whether there are any
bodies which do not present annual reports to the Senate and which should
present such reports.
This report deals with reports tabled in the Senate during the period
from 1 November 2009 to 30 April 2010 as required by standing order
Annual reporting requirements
On 17 June 2009 the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit agreed
to revised Requirements for Annual Reports for Department, Executive
Agencies and FMA Act Bodies put forward by the Department of the Prime
Minister and Cabinet. The Requirements apply to annual reports for departments of state pursuant to subsection 63(2) and executive agencies pursuant to subsection 70(2)
of the Public Service Act 1999. They also apply to prescribed agencies
under section 5 of the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA
Under the Requirements, annual reports of departments and executive and
prescribed agencies must be tabled by 31 October. If a department is unable to
meet this deadline, an extension of time to report can be sought under
subsections 34C(4)–(7) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901. These
provisions provide for the secretary to advise the responsible minister of the
reasons for the slippage. The responsible minister is to table this explanation
in the Parliament on the next available sitting day.
Under section 48 of the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act
1997 (the CAC Act), the Minister for Finance outlines the annual reporting
requirements for Commonwealth authorities and companies in the Commonwealth
Authorities and Companies (Report of Operations) Orders 2002. Section 9 of
the CAC Act applies to Commonwealth authorities and specifies the deadline for
the presentation of an annual report to the responsible minister. Section 36 of
the CAC Act outlines the reporting obligations of Commonwealth companies.
Some statutory authorities are required to follow the Requirements if
their head has the powers of a secretary as defined under the Public Service
Requirements for the annual reports of non-statutory bodies are set out
in the Government Response to recommendations of the then Senate Standing
Committee on Finance and Government Operations in its report entitled, Reporting
Requirements for the Annual Reports of Non-Statutory Bodies. The response
was incorporated into the Senate Hansard of 8 December 1987.
Purpose of annual reports
As stated in the Requirements, the primary purpose of annual reports is
accountability, in particular to the Parliament. They inform the Parliament,
other stakeholders, education and research institutions, the media and the
general public about departments' performance in providing services. They are a
key reference as well as an internal management document and form part of the
Reports referred to the Committee
This report reviews six reports from the Broadband, Communications and
the Digital Economy portfolio, and six reports from the former Environment,
Water, Heritage and the Arts portfolio.
The following reports have been referred to the committee:
Department of the Environment, Water,
Heritage and the Arts
of the Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity
Conservation Act 1999, October 2009
use in the Australian Government's operations
Authority, including final report of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission
Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2009
Protection Council – Annual Report 2008–2009
Australia Annual Report 2008–2009
Reports on the operation of Acts/Agreements
and Diversity Annual Report 1 September 2008 to 31 August 2009
Communications and Media Authority
Competition & Consumer Commission
compliance with the price control arrangements 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009
Postal Corporation (Australia Post)
employment opportunity program – Report for 2008–2009
of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
of Research and Consumer Representation in relation to Telecommunications – Annual
on Digital Television Transmission and Reception, February 2010
Appendix 1 provides an alphabetical record in more detail, including:
- the basis under which the organisation operates, for example,
department or statutory authority;
- dates indicating the progressive stages in presentation of the
annual reports; and
- the date each report was tabled in, or deemed to be presented to,
Remarks made in the Senate
As required under the terms of Standing Order 25(20)(d), the committee
notes that none of the annual reports dealt with in this report were the
subject of comment in the Senate.
However, the committee notes that two annual reports, which were dealt
with in the committee's Report No. 1 of 2010, were the subject of comment in
Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Senators Farrell, Fierravanti-Wells
- the NBN Co: Senators Macdonald, Polley and Fisher.
As noted above, the annual report requirements state that if a
department is unable to meet the tabling deadline, the secretary may seek an
extension of time to report by advising the responsible minister of the reasons
for the slippage. The responsible minister is to table this explanation in the
Parliament on the next available sitting day.
All reports reviewed in this report were tabled after the 31 October
deadline. The terms of section 9 of the CAC Act, require that annual reports be
given to the responsible Minister by 15 October. As a matter of policy, they
also apply to prescribed agencies under section 5 of the FMA Act. Under section
36 of the CAC Act, the content of annual reports of Commonwealth companies
is based on reporting requirements under the Corporation Act 2001.
The committee notes that the first annual report of the Murray-Darling
Basin Authority did not meet all the reporting deadlines. The report was tabled
in the House of Representatives on 23 November 2009 and in the Senate on 24
November 2009, thereby missing the 31 October tabling deadline. The report was
submitted to and received by the Minister on 22 October 2009.
In previous reports on annual reports, the committee has acknowledged
advice from the National Environment Council that its enabling legislation
requires it to include reports by each member of the Council (ie Commonwealth,
State and Territory ministers) in its annual report which leads to its report
being tabled after 31 October each year.
The Requirements state that 'where an agency's own legislation
provides a timeframe for its annual report...that timeframe applies... However, it
remains the Government's policy that all annual reports should be tabled by 31
The committee encourages agencies to table annual reports in a timely manner.
Comments on annual reports
Murray-Darling Basin Authority
This is the first annual report of the Authority which was established
on 8 September 2008. On 15 December 2008, the Authority subsumed the
functions of the former Murray-Darling Basin Commission which then ceased to
exist. This report also contains the final report of that Commission.
The reporting period therefore covers the transition from the former
agency to the Authority; the development of its first Corporate Plan to cover
the period 2009‑13; and the appointment in May 2009 of the Chair and
members of the Authority who held the first meeting in June 2009.
The report notes that the centrepiece of the Authority's activities is
the development of a Basin Plan to manage the Basin's surface water and
groundwater resources and set sustainable diversion limits based 'on the best
scientific, social, cultural and economic knowledge, evidence and analysis'.
The report flags a number of developments to be undertaken including:
- stakeholder engagement and community consultation processes
during development of the Basin Plan;
- developing a program for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness
of the plan, including reporting requirements for the Commonwealth and Basin
- further consolidation and streamlining of the Authority's systems
and processes; and
- assessing the most effective ways of delivering reliable water
resources to users dependent on the Basin.
Bodies not presenting annual reports to the Senate
Standing Order 25(20)(h) requires the committee to report to the Senate
each year whether there are any bodies which do not present annual reports to
the Senate which should present such reports. The committee is aware of no such
Standing Order 25(20)(a) requires the committee to report to the Senate
on whether annual reports are apparently satisfactory. In making this
assessment, the committee considers such aspects as timeliness of presentation
and compliance with relevant reporting requirements.
The committee finds that the annual reports referred to it have provided
an appropriately comprehensive description of the activities of the reporting
bodies and were of a commendably high standard of presentation. They generally
met the requirements of the various guidelines that apply to them and were
timely in their presentation to the Parliament, except where noted above.
Accordingly, the committee reports its finding that the annual reports
referred to it for examination and tabled in the period under examination were
Senator Doug Cameron
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