The AEC’s operating assets such as office fit-outs, machinery and equipment are managed on an end-of-life or end-of-lease schedule. Office fit-outs are the largest component of this asset base. Asset management is not a significant aspect of the AEC’s strategic business, so service and maintenance agreements are used. The AEC uses outsourced providers to ensure value for money is achieved.
Working through COVID-19
A key part of the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was ensuring staff could keep working in a safe environment. The AEC installed physical shields in client focused areas, established social distancing protocols and enhanced preventative cleaning regimes.
Information communications and technology — responding to COVID-19
The AEC responded quickly to COVID-19 and established home-based operations for employees. We used agile processes and the AEC’s scalable ICT infrastructure to:
- prepare and deploy laptops across our national and state offices
- introduce digital mail delivery
- boost telephony and remote-access capacity to support the increased demand of network activity
- provide teleconferencing to support an increase in use
- support staff to work from home through the AEC network.
Environmental performance and sustainable development
In accordance with section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the AEC is required to report on environmental performance and measures that minimise environmental impact.
Plain cardboard and an increased focus on re-use
A federal election is an intensely manual exercise with an audience of nearly 17 million Australians voting at approximately 8,000 voting venues across Australia. This kind of logistical challenge always involves a lot of materials, but the AEC is continually striving to minimise our environmental impact as part of the broader conduct of the event.
Much of 2020–21 was spent preparing to conduct the next federal election. Part of this preparation has been arranging the use of plain ‘raw’ brown cardboard for the first time at a full federal election – replacing the previous ‘wrapped’ cardboard with AEC branding.
The new raw cardboard products are used in polling places for queuing equipment, ballot paper issuing tables, voting screens, ballot boxes and even recycling bins. Not only are the new products easier to recycle, they are also sturdier. The generic plain cardboard makes them more likely to be shared with state or territory electoral management bodies. This financial year they were used in the 2020 Groom federal by-election and shared with Elections ACT to use at the 2020 ACT Legislative Assembly election. The Northern Territory Electoral Commission also took delivery of products for their 2021 local government elections.
The AEC is investigating ways to donate election equipment that cannot be used again for future elections. Materials such as first aid kits and stationery were donated to communities in need following the 2019 federal election. Planning in 2020–21 explored how this might be realised following the next federal election.
Some properties in the agency’s office portfolio maintain a base building rating of 4.5 stars under the National Australian Built Environment Rating System. Some of these buildings contain lighting movement sensors, which turn lighting off in office areas after hours.
The department participates in the Australian Public Service Demand Reduction Initiative – an effort across government agencies to reduce energy consumption. The initiative calls for agencies in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales to lead by example. This includes reducing electricity demand when called upon during an energy emergency such as a supply shortfall during a heatwave.
In 2020–21 energy used across all AEC premises was 10,111.65 megajoules per person, which was a 24.57 per cent decrease on the previous year. This reduction is a consequence of the AEC’s reduced office hours, as staff worked from home during the response to COVID-19.
The AEC provides ready access to segregated waste streams in the office environment. Recycling bins are located throughout all Canberra office buildings in kitchens and common areas. We provide bins for general waste, organic waste and commingled recycling.
During the next federal election, we will monitor the amount of paper and cardboard waste generated. This will help us develop strategies to improve the agency’s waste footprint.
The AEC has 11 vehicles in its fleet. Usage and kilometres travelled are monitored and we plan to replace our vehicles with efficient hybrid vehicles. Drivers are also encouraged to purchase ethanol-blended fuel (E10).