Annual reports of agencies
The committee selected the annual reports of the following bodies for
Agriculture and Water Resources portfolio
Research and Development Corporation; and
- Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation; and
Research and Development Corporation.
Infrastructure and Regional
Rail Track Corporation.
The committee also examined the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator Annual
Report 2016–17. The committee found the report to be in compliance with
reporting requirements but did not examine the report in detail.
Agriculture and Water Resources Portfolio
Fisheries Research and Development Corporation
The 2016–17 Annual Report of the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation
(FRDC) was tabled in the Senate on 4 December 2017. The report provides an overview
of the activities and achievements of the agency over the previous year.
The Director's review of operations and future prospects outlined the
FRDC's key activities over the year in review. These included:
funding projects to support the prawn farming industry to respond
to the outbreak of White Spot Disease;
contributing funds to the Future Oysters Cooperative Research
introducing a new people's choice category as part of the
National Fish and Chip Awards;
monitoring the environmental impacts of Atlantic Salmon farming
in Tasmania; and
finalising the Success through innovation: The National
Fishing and Aquaculture Research Development and Extension Strategy 2016.
FRDC has five foundation programs: Environment, Industry, Communities,
People and Adoption.
The annual report details the agency's achievement of the performance
indicators, as well as key projects within each of these programs.
During 2016–17, FRDC contributed approximately 30.6 per cent ($7.46
million) of its total research and development (R&D) investment to this
One of the FRDC's key projects under the Environment program is the $15
million National Carp Control Plan (NCCP). The purpose of the plan is to
evaluate the benefit of biological control of carp through the use of a carp
virus (Cyprinid herpesvirus).
The FRDC provides further details about the program:
The first step is to evaluate whether the virus will
effectively deliver a significant reduction in carp impacts and achieve a 95
per cent reduction in carp by 2045, at an acceptable cost. The earliest
possible release date for carp virus, pending approvals, is late 2018. 
Another key project under FRDC's environment program is the tagging of
Patagonian Toothfish. The purpose of the tagging is to determine the nature of
the relationship between the Australian Heard Island and McDonald Islands
Patagonian Toothfish fishery and adjacent French Kerguelen Islands fishery.
In 2016–17, FRDC contributed $12.31 million to this program.
One of the three performance indicators for the program is the
development of processes and technologies to improve the efficiency of
governance and regulatory systems for fishing.
A key project under the program is that of the Deckhand reporting app
which enables fishers to fulfil their reporting requirements to government
digitally. FRDC funding to Deckhand enabled all 168 South Australia's Southern
Rock Lobster fishing vessels in the fishery's southern zone to record the
details of fishing sessions, from path and pots to catch, time and location
during the 2016–17 season.
FRDC contributed $0.98 million or approximately four per cent of its
R&D investment to its Communities program.
FRDC supported two research projects under this program. The first project,
conducted by researchers at CSIRO and James Cook University is titled Beyond
GVP: The value of inshore commercial fisheries to fishers and consumers in
regional communities on Queensland's east coast. Its researchers have found
that Queensland inshore fisheries have a substantial flow-on effect in
generating income for regional economies and in benefits to local consumers.
The second project, titled Beyond GVP: Social and economic
evaluation of New South Wales coastal commercial wild-catch fisheries was
conducted by the University of Technology, Sydney. This research highlighted
the importance of wild-catch fishing to the social and economic lives of NSW
During 2016–17, FRDC contributed approximately five per cent ($1.34
million) of R&D investment towards this program. The program had four
performance indicators, all of which are on track for completion. Key projects
of this program included:
delivery of the FRDC-sponsored award at the 2017 Science and
Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry;
sponsorship of two participants in the Australian Rural
Leadership Foundation's 23rd cohort; and
sponsorship of two Nuffield Australia Farming Scholars for 2017.
The fifth program is Adoption. This program made up ten per cent
($2.32 million) of total R&D investment. The key projects within this
sponsorship of the Electrolux Appetite for Excellence tour, which
seeks to teach young leaders in the hospitality industry about the seafood
development of a six-part pilot series called Seafood Escape, focused
on demonstrating how sustainable seafood is sourced and examining the ways in
which seafood has been incorporated into Australian cuisine.
In 2016–17, FRDC had an average of 20 staff positions spread amongst 24
people of whom seven worked part time. In addition to its core staff, more than
1000 people work on FRDC projects around the country. These include 250
principal investigators, 450 co-investigators, 200 project officers, 80
administration staff and 50 financial staff.
In 2016–17, FRDC's total expenditure amounted to $29.26 million, of
which $24.41 million was spent on research and development projects, and $4.85
million was spent on management and accountability.
FRDC's total income in 2016–17 was $37.32 million. Income sources
industry contributions: $8.18 million;
total government contributions: $21.76 million;
project funds from other parties: $5.63 million; and
other revenue: $1.75 million.
The committee considers FRDC's annual report to be compliant with
reporting requirements. The report details the activities and achievements of
The committee considers that the report could be enhanced by the
inclusion of a more detailed overview of the organisational structure,
including an organisational chart.
Murray-Darling Basin Authority
The 2016–17 Annual Report of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)
presented information on the performance and operations of the agency. The report
was tabled in the Senate on 29 November 2017.
Chief Executive's review
The Chief Executive's review outlined a number of the MDBA's key
achievements over the year in review.
As part of efforts to build better relationships with Basin communities,
the MDBA established three new regional offices over the year in Adelaide,
Albury-Wodonga and Toowoomba. It also created a Regional Engagement Officer
pilot program as part of its regionalisation efforts. Under this program, seven
part-time officers located within community, natural resource management or
local government organisations across the Basin were employed to serve as a
conduit between MDBA and Basin communities.
As part of MDBA efforts to progress the implementation of the Basin
Plan, the first state water resource plan, from the Warrego-Paroo-Nebine area
in Queensland, was accredited. In addition, the MDBA completed its Northern
Basin Review. During the review period, the MDBA met with or received evidence
from approximately 450 organisations and individuals. The MDBA proposed changes
to the Basin Plan based on the review findings.
The MDBA's performance is managed against a single outcome while its key
performance indicators are measured against five strategic goals.
All key performance indicators (KPIs) across the strategic priorities
Strategic goal one
This goal is to lead the implementation of the Basin Plan to achieve a
healthy working Murray-Darling Basin. The MDBA conducted a number of key
activities to progress the implementation of the Basin Plan including:
completion of the Northern Basin Review;
publication of the Basin Plan environmental watering priorities;
further development of the MDBA's compliance function, including
establishing a compliance committee with an independent expert panel; and
achieving Basin Plan salinity target values in four of five
Strategic goal two
Strategic goal two is to strengthen engagement with the community. Activities
undertaken to achieve this goal included:
engaging with more than 1000 stakeholders across the Basin
through the Basin Plan amendment consultation and submission process;
establishing a four-year funding agreement with the Murray Lower
Darling Indigenous Nations and the Northern Basin Aboriginal Nations; and
launching River Stories on its website to provide information on
the social, environmental and political history of water resource management
and collaboration in the Basin.
Strategic goal three
Strategic goal three is to evaluate and report the social, economic and
environmental outcomes of Basin water reforms. Some of the key activities over
the review period directed at achieving this goal included:
completing the third Basin Plan annual effectiveness report;
carrying out the River Murray Water Quality Monitoring Program in
conjunction with the Basin states; and
implementing the Basin Salinity Management 2030 Strategy,
including the production of a video which highlights successive salinity
management strategies in the Basin.
Strategic goal four
Strategic goal four is to operate the River Murray system efficiently
for partner governments. Key activities directed at achieving this goal
undertaken over the year in review include:
determining state water entitlements in accordance with the
Murray-Darling Basin Agreement;
constructing five new fishways at the Lower Lakes barrages; and
installing equipment to enable the refurbishment of the 50 tonne
Dartmouth Dam coaster gate.
Strategic goal five
Strategic goal five is to improve the knowledge base to support
sustainable water resource management. The report outlined key activities
within this goal, including:
completion of the Northern Basin Review and the publication of
supporting technical reports;
development of a modelling platform to estimate future floodplain
completion of the independent review of the Source Murray model;
working with the Arthur Rylah Institute to rebuild the Murray
Stand Condition Tool for Basin-wide application; and
commissioning the University of New South Wales to provide advice
and analysis on achieving waterbird targets in the Basin.
In order to strengthen workforce planning practices, in 2016–17, the MDBA
implemented initiatives contained in its Strategic Workforce Plan 2016–26. The
plan enables the MDBA to proactively manage risks associated with workforce
capacity, capability and flexibility. It guides recruitment, development and
retention strategies to deliver the MDBA's objectives.
As of 30 June 2017, the MDBA had a staff of 307 of whom 283 were
In December 2016, the MDBA launched a pilot Talent Management Program
for APS6 and EL1 level employees. The six-month program is focused on developing
the capacity of employees who have been identified with high potential.
Other initiatives include the 2016–17 Summer Employment pilot program
which offered undergraduate students the opportunity to gain insight into the
MDBA's operations and the Australian Public Service over a 10-week period.
There were eight positions offered under the program. The MDBA also ran a
graduate program and in February 2017, nine graduates joined the agency.
In May 2017, the MDBA launched a Gender Equality Strategy. Some of the
initiatives outlined in the strategy include support for women to enter
leadership positions, training for flexible work and unconscious bias,
mentoring, supporting staff on parental leave, and the establishment of a
Gender Officer. A review of the MDBA's data against APS data found that the
agency is performing strongly but that there is scope to improve the gender
balance at the Executive Level (EL) 2 level.
In 2016–17, the MDBA received eight freedom of information requests. According
to the annual report, all requests were processed in accordance with the
statutory timeframes, and all reporting obligations under the Freedom of
Information Act 1982 were met.
In 2016–17, the MDBA reported an operating surplus of $2.4 million,
compared to an approved operating deficit of $9.4 million. It noted that the
significant fluctuations in spending against the budget were due to the 'impact
of the complex nature of joint programs, which reflect a high level of inherent
risk associated with capital construction and environmental projects'.
Over the year in review, the MDBA delivered programs costing $151.8
million, and managed over $4.9 billion in assets (gross value), including River
Murray Operations infrastructure and water entitlements acquired under The
Living Murray Initiative.
The committee considers that the MDBA's annual report is compliant with
relevant legislation and provides a thorough explanation of the activities and
achievements of the agency over the review period.
Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
The 2016–17 Annual Report of the Rural Industries Research and
Development Corporation (RIRDC) details information on the performance and
operations of the agency. The report was presented to the Senate out-of-session
on 12 December 2017.
The Chair's report outlined the key achievements of the RIRDC over the
year in review. These included:
the management of 206 projects and 78 research agreements;
the allocation of more than $132 million in funding;
research into biocontrol of weeds, in cooperation with 25
partners, worth $13 million; and
a $3.5 million cross-sectoral seasonal forecasting project.
As part of its commitment to regional Australia, the RIRDC's
headquarters were relocated from Canberra, ACT to Wagga Wagga, NSW in September
2016. There were no substantial impacts on the level of service provided to
industries and stakeholders as a result of the relocation.
The purpose of the RIRDC is 'to increase knowledge and understanding
that fosters innovation, adaptive and valuable rural industries'. The RIRDC
measures its outcomes against three goals and four key performance indicators
All four key performance indicators were achieved. Details on the three
goals are provided below.
Goal one is to discover emerging opportunities and issues impacting
rural industries. The key strategies outlined in the report which are used to
achieve this goal include:
analysing priority issues and technologies that impact on the
value and resilience of Australian rural industries;
strategic research investments based on the feasibility, value
and potential competitiveness of plant and animal industry opportunities; and
facilitating the development and delivery of national
cross-sectoral initiatives that address priority issues.
These strategies have been pursued through research programs into new
and emerging animal industries, new and emerging plant industries, national
rural issues and cross–sectoral initiatives.
This goal is to deliver research that achieves value for rural
industries and for Australia. The following strategies are utilised to achieve this
working with industries and other stakeholders to prioritise and
efficiently administer research;
facilitating adoption and commercialisation customised to target
audience and industry preferences; and
developing customised tools, systems and partnerships to support
efficiently cross-sectoral research investment.
Programs aimed at achieving this goal are focused on research into
chicken meat, ginger, honey bees and pollination, rice and tea tree oil.
The RIRDC also focused on workplace health and safety under this goal
through the Primary Industries Health and Safety Partnership.
Goal three is to encourage diversity and advance the potential of people
in rural industries and their communities. The strategies used to achieve this
investment in leadership and capacity building programs;
encouraging the adoption of new practices and technologies in
rural industries; and
increasing the connectedness of people in the rural sector and
These strategies have been pursued through the Investing in People
program to develop leadership and meet future demand for skilled workers. The
program is focused on the provision of scholarships and other initiatives aimed
at building skills and leadership amongst people in the rural sector.
As at 30 June 2017, the RIRDC had 15 employees.
In addition to its staff, the RIRDC also used a number of consultancy
services during 2016–17. The sum cost of these services totaled $203,274.83.
Two of these consultancies continued beyond the year in review.
In 2016–17, the RIRDC's expenditure totaled $26.5 million. Of this,
$22.9 million was directed towards research programs. This represented an
increase of over $5 million on the previous year's research program expenditure.
The RIRDC's total income in 2016–17 was $23.3 million. Sources included:
Commonwealth appropriations: $9.2 million;
industry levies: $3.2 million;
Commonwealth matching contribution: $4 million;
interest: $600,000; and
other income: $6.2 million.
The deficit of $3.2 million was officially approved by the Department of
Finance during the reporting period.
The committee considers RIRDC's annual report to be compliant with
reporting requirements. The report details the research programs, achievements
and other activities of the agency.
The committee encourages the RIRDC to ensure attention to detail in
future reports. In particular, the page numbers referenced in the compliance
index are inconsistent with the actual page numbers (for example, the
compliance index directs the reader to page 142 for the organisation structure;
however it actually appears on page 158. This also differs from the online
version in which it appears on page 160).
Grains Research and Development Corporation
The 2016–17 Annual Report of the Grains Research and Development
Corporation (GRDC) was tabled in the Senate on 4 December 2017. The report
provides an overview of the performance and activities of the agency over the
year in review.
The report outlines the highlights of 2016–17 for the GDRC. These
$198 million invested in 700 research and development projects;
the commitment of $15 million to boost grains research
the commitment with the Cotton Research and Development
Corporation to jointly fund the Future Farm Program; and
84 percent of growers rating the GRDC's performance as an
investor in grain research as 'fairly high to very high'.
The report outlines GRDC's progress against six performance criteria
themes consisting of fifteen key performance indicators (KPIs). In 2016–17, the
GRDC achieved fourteen KPIs and almost achieved the final one.
The GRDC's revenue in 2016–17 totaled $242.4 million.
Sources of revenue included:
industry contributions: $139.3 million;
royalties: $11.6 million; and
grants income: $2.4 million.
Expenditure during the period in review totaled $227.7 million.
Sources of expenditure included:
research and development: $198.1 million;
employee benefits: $10.9 million; and
suppliers, depreciation and others: $18.7 million.
The GRDC recorded a surplus of $14.7 million in 2016–17.
The committee commends the GRDC for the comprehensive compliance and
The committee considers the 2016–17 Annual Report to be compliant with
reporting requirements and commends the GRDC for producing a clear,
Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities portfolio
Australian Rail Track Corporation
The 2016–17 Annual Report of the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC)
was presented to the Senate out-of-session on 1 November 2017. The report
provides an overview of the activities and operations of the agency.
Hunter Valley Network
A firming of coal prices saw business grow out of the Port of Newcastle,
leading to the Hunter Valley network delivering over 160 million tonnes of
export coal through the port during the year in review. The network also saw a
record year for grain exports.
Upgrades to tracks along the Central North West network and to the link
between Muswellbrook and Turrawan have resulted in heavier and faster trains operating
on this route. This resulted in a 30 per cent increase in payload on the
Central North West section.
Significant progress was made on the ARTC Network Control Optimisation
(ANCO). The project aims to use digital tools to optimise train paths and
make in-real-time adjustments. These changes to efficiency have the
potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars over the next ten years.
The interstate network saw a 5 per cent increase in volume in 2016–17,
driven mainly by an excellent harvest season. While the economic downturn in
Western Australia reduced demand on the East West corridor, this downturn was
offset by an increase in volume on the North South corridor.
The interstate team achieved the milestone of a year without any
injuries resulting in lost time. This was achieved through initiatives
including the Fatal and Severe Risk Program, quarterly Safety Awards, and
proactive safety reporting.
Projects commissioned or significantly progressed during 2016–17
the Adelaide–Tarcoola Re–Railing Acceleration Upgrade;
Wodonga Intermodal Park Project;
Bromelton Intermodal Facility and Quarry; and
Stage 3 of the Port Botany Rail Line Project.
The period in review has seen a progression of planning, land
acquisition and design as part of the Inland Rail pre-construction activities.
The ARTC has been working with shareholders on the funding strategy for
Inland Rail. The cornerstone of the strategy is an additional equity investment
of $8.4 billion over seven years from 2017–18. Additionally, the ARTC will
enter into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) for the Gowrie to Kagaru section.
Inland Rail offices were established in Sydney, Brisbane, Toowoomba and Melbourne
with 120 people employed across the four locations.
As of 30 June 2017, the ARTC employed over 1,200 people across the rail
Female representation increased by 20 percent during the year in review.
ARTC's ongoing commitment to women in the workforce was acknowledged by the
Australian Railway Association when it awarded the 2016 Rail Diversity Award to
the ARTC. The agency was also awarded the Australian Women in Resources
Alliance Award by the Australian Mines and Metals Association.
The ARTC conducted business acumen training across a range of roles.
This included a focus on improving team engagement skills and promoting
positive leadership behaviours.
In 2016–17, the ARTC reported a profit from operating activities of
The total revenue and other income over the period in review amounted to
$826.8 million. The primary source of income was access revenue totalling
Expenditure during 2016–17 totalled $646.5 million. Sources of
depreciation and amortisation: $188.6 million;
infrastructure maintenance: $148.8 million;
employee benefits: $165.3 million; and
infrastructure costs: $50.7 million.
The committee considers that the ARTC's annual report is compliant with
relevant legislation and provides a thorough explanation of the progress and
achievements of the agency over the review period.
Senator Barry O'Sullivan
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