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Performance statement – agency direction five

Uphold the reputation of the AEC

Our intended state:

  • we have productive and valued relationships with our stakeholders. They understand our role and our values, and uphold our reputation as an electoral management body
  • our relationships with the Minister, Parliament, and key agencies help us shape expectations and increase understanding of our operating environment – both our opportunities and risks

Intended result and
performance criteria in AEC corporate plan*

Link to purpose

Result

Explanation of result

5.1 Timely, accurate information and advice on electoral administration that supports the direction of the AEC.

Assessment of timeliness and quality of information and advice provided to relevant Ministers, Secretaries, Senate Estimates, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, other Parliamentary committees and key agencies

Engage and coordinate with relevant agencies and stakeholders to monitor and mitigate threats to electoral integrity

Maintain and increase engagement with other electoral management bodies

Enabling

Met

During the year we maintained productive working relationships with portfolio ministers, parliamentary committees and federal government agencies. This included:

  • contributing to four parliamentary inquiries undertaken by three committees, making eight public submissions and attending one public hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.
  • providing portfolio ministers with 23 submissions and 101 items of ministerial correspondence
  • preparing 33 Question Time Briefs, attending two Senate Estimates hearings and responding to 26 Senate Estimates Questions on Notice
  • responding to requests for information made by various federal government agencies, including contributions to portfolio and policy activities led by the Department of Finance

The AEC’s parliamentary service delivery met quality standards, with no adverse feedback.

In response to changes in the operating environment, and in line with the Commonwealth’s Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF), we:

  • have been monitoring, assessing, and refining systems and processes to protect the security of our people, and physical, cyber and information assets
  • are maintaining compliance with the Australian Signals Directorate’s ‘Essential Eight’ strategies to mitigate cyber security incidents

The AEC administered the authorisation of electoral communications under the Electoral Act, including managing complaints (see Customer Scrutiny and appendix I).

The AEC maintained engagement with Australian and international electoral management bodies to collaborate on a range of electoral issues, and to share expertise and best-practice on:

  • electoral integrity and security
  • procedures to incorporate health and safety guidance to deliver electoral events during COVID-19

*Source: AEC Corporate Plan 2019–2023, p.15.

What we did in 2019–20

During the year we provided timely, accurate information and advice on electoral administration and operations to a range of stakeholders. We also increased awareness of the opportunities and challenges for electoral administration and practice through significant engagement with:

  • the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters
  • Department of Finance
  • other Commonwealth agencies
  • state and territory electoral commissions

We provided submissions to parliamentary inquiries, including the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into the conduct of the 2019 federal election.

The AEC provided a comprehensive overarching submission which was supported by senior AEC representatives at private meetings and at a public hearing, and responded to questions on notice.

Submissions were provided to a further three parliamentary inquiries including the:

  • Inquiry into Foreign Interference through Social Media
  • Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Lowering the Donation Disclosure Threshold) Bill 2019
  • Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Donation Reform and Other Measures) Bill 2020

We maintained engagement through the Electoral Council of Australia and New Zealand (ECANZ) and attended four meetings throughout the year. This included two extraordinary meetings in May and June 2020 on COVID-19 to share information on incorporating health and safety directives into election operations and service delivery. Other engagement included:

  • Deputy Electoral Commissioner involvement in a sub-group reporting to ECANZ. This included a focus on developing a national polling place accessibility standard and secondment opportunities between electoral commissions
  • participating in the Inter-jurisdictional Working Group on Electoral Integrity and Security chaired by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • chairing working groups on the:
    • National Enrolment Forum
    • Temporary Election Staffing Working Group (now a community of practice)
    • Indigenous Electoral Participation Group

We participated in the Four Countries Conference, along with counterparts from Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand. In July 2019 Australia hosted the event at the Australian High Commission in London, UK. The conference meets every second year to discuss shared challenges— such as cyber security—and to promote best practice in electoral administration. Regular contact has been maintained throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

We worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to connect with democracies and developing nations in our region, and to engage them on electoral administration cooperation. The AEC’s international assistance and engagement concentrates on providing technical assistance and training, and capacity building programs. This includes engagement through:

  • DFAT schedules of support with the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tokelau, the Kingdom of Tonga and the Republic of Vanuatu
  • the Pacific Islands, Australia and New Zealand Electoral Administrators (PIANZEA) Network
  • Building Resources in Governance, Democracy and Elections (BRIDGE)
  • support for international delegations and study tours from 33 nations

The AEC’s international services were impacted by COVID-19. Travel restrictions caused many activities to be rescheduled or delivered remotely. Despite this, the AEC and DFAT continued to deliver support and activities appropriate to local contexts and consistent with agreed schedules.