Chapter 1


1.1        The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee's (the committee) report on annual reports provides an overview of the committee's examination of annual reports for the 2013–14 financial year tabled by 31 October 2014. The committee is responsible for examining the annual reports of departments and agencies within the portfolios of:

1.2        This is the first of two reports on annual reports that the committee is required to produce this year.

Terms of reference

1.3        Under Senate Standing Order 25(20), annual reports of departments and agencies shall stand referred to the legislation committees in accordance with an allocation of departments and agencies in a resolution of the Senate. Each 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 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 that year.

(g) Draw to the attention of the Senate any significant matters relating to the operations and performance of the bodies furnishing the annual reports.

(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.

Purpose of annual reports

1.4        The tabling and scrutiny of annual reports by Senate committees under Standing Order 25(20) is an important element in the process of the government accountability to Parliament. The information provided in annual reports is placed on the public record and assists Parliament in its examination of the performance of departments and agencies and the administration of government programs.

Reports referred to the committee

1.5        In accordance with Standing Order 25(20)(f), this report examines annual reports tabled between 1 May 2014 and 31 October 2014. The committee examined the following reports:

Agriculture Portfolio

Infrastructure and Regional Development Portfolio

1.6        Appendix 1 sets out a complete list of reports referred to the committee during the period 1 May 2014 and 31 October 2014 (including those not examined). This appendix includes references to the relevant legislation, the letter of transmittal dates, the dates on which the annual reports were sent to, and received by, the relevant minister, and the dates on which the annual reports were tabled in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Reports not examined

1.7        The committee is not obliged to report on Acts, statements of corporate intent, surveys, corporate plans or errata. The following five documents were referred to the committee but have not been examined:

Method of assessment

1.8        Senate Standing Orders require the committee to examine the annual reports referred to it to determine whether they are timely and 'apparently satisfactory'. In forming its assessment, the committee considers whether the reports comply with the relevant legislation and guidelines for the preparation of annual reports:

Timeliness in tabling of annual reports

1.9        Standing Order 25(20)(c) requires the committee to report to the Senate on the late presentation of annual reports.

1.10      Annual reports must be tabled in Parliament by 31 October each year, except where an agency's own legislation specifies a timeframe for its annual report.[4] Those agencies reporting under the CAC Act are required to provide annual reports to the minister by the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of the financial year.[5] Where the financial year ends on 30 June, this deadline translates to 15 October.

1.11      If Senate Supplementary Budget Estimates hearings are scheduled to occur prior to 31 October, it is best practice for annual reports to be tabled prior to those hearings.[6] The Senate Supplementary Budget Estimates hearings in 2014 were scheduled for 20-21 October 2014.[7]

1.12      Where an agency's own legislation provides a timeframe for its annual report, an alternative timeframe applies.  However, the committee reminds such bodies that there is a requirement upon them to ensure that annual reports are tabled in Parliament by 31 October.[8]

1.13      The committee has observed that while many agencies and other relevant entities sent their report within the specified timeframes, a considerable number were not tabled by 31 October 2014. The committee will continue to monitor the matter of timeliness in future reports on annual reports.

1.14      Finally, the committee notes that the last annual report received from the Torres Strait Protected Zone Joint Authority (PZJA) was in October 2014 for the 2010-11 financial year. Under the relevant legislation, PZJA is required to prepare an annual report 'as soon as practicable after 30 June in each year'.[9] The committee strongly encourages PZJA to provide the outstanding reports for 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 as soon as possible and to complete all future reports in a more timely fashion.[10]

Comments on reports

1.15      The committee considers that the all reports received were 'apparently satisfactory'. The following chapter of this report examines selected annual reports in further detail.

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