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Annual performance statements

Introductory statement

The ALRC annual performance statement is prepared for paragraph 39(1)(a) and (b) of the PGPA Act for the 2020–21 financial year and, in the opinion of the President as the Accountable Authority, complies with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

Our purpose

This annual performance statement provides information about ALRC’s performance in achieving its purpose. The purpose as set out in the Portfolio Budget Statement 2021–22 is to contribute to informed government decisions about law reform that will lead to a fair, equitable and accessible system of federal justice that contributes to a just and secure society.

Our outcome

The intended outcome of the ALRC's activities is:

Informed government decisions about the development, reform and harmonisation of Australian laws and related processes through research, analysis, reports and community consultation and education (Outcome 1).

The ALRC has one program to achieve its outcome — conducting inquiries into aspects of Australian law and related processes for the purpose of law reform (Program 1). It is through the Inquiry process that the ALRC undertakes rigorous research and analysis that underpin recommendations for law reform.

Environment

The ALRC strives to be a law reform agency at the leading edge of internationally recognised best practice. Within the current budget, the ALRC maintains an average staffing level of 10 and has the capacity to work on two inquiries at any one time.

The ALRC will work on two inquiries in 2021–22, the first on Judicial Impartiality and the second on Financial Services. The former will be completed by 30 September 2021, or two months from delivery of the High Court of Australia’s judgment in Charisteas v Charisteas and Ors (Case P6/2021), whichever is later. The inquiry into principled based regulation of financial services will be completed in financial year 2023–24 (30 November 2023). In August 2019, the ALRC’s Religious Exemptions Inquiry was placed in abeyance by the Attorney-General whilst the Government pursued its Religious Freedoms Bill. The timing of the ALRC’s active engagement in this Inquiry is therefore dependent on the Government’s legislative program.

In light of this, the ALRC will continue to work closely with the Attorney-General’s Department to ensure appropriate lead time for planning and managing resources when new inquiries are referred to the ALRC.

Performance criteria for 2020–21

The ALRC measures its success through the following key performance indicators (KPIs):

  • the number of consultation papers and the number of reports to government;
  • the percentage of inquiries completed on time in accordance with the terms of reference set by the Attorney-General;
  • the number of citations or references to ALRC consultation documents, reports and recommendations in Parliamentary debates and committee reports, in court and tribunal decisions, and in academic and other publications;
  • the number of submissions received for each Inquiry;
  • the number of consultations held for each Inquiry;
  • the breadth of community engagement in the work of the ALRC through the number of subscribers to the ALRC's E-news, visitors to the website, and public attendees at ALRC seminars; and
  • the number of publications, presentations, and speaking engagements of ALRC staff.

The ALRC Performance Criteria are sourced from the ALRC Corporate Plan 2021–25

Result against performance criteria

Table 2: KPI performance 2020-21

Performance measure

2020–21

target

2020-21 actual

Number of reports

4

1

Judicial Impartiality: Consultation Paper (CP 1, April 2021)

Timeliness of report

100%

N/A

(No Inquiries had a reporting date during 2020-21)

Citations or references

100

477

● 90 – court and tribunal decisions

● 233 – academic publications

● 154 – Parliamentary debates and committee reports

Submissions received per Inquiry

50

● 30 – Judicial Impartiality

● 0 – Financial Services

● 0 – Religious Exemptions

Consultations held per Inquiry

25

● 56 – Judicial Impartiality

● 74 – Financial Services

● 0 – Religious Exemptions

Presentations, articles and speaking engagements

25

52

Broader Community Engagement

E-news subscribers

1350

37934

● 2199 – ALRC Brief

● 553 – Religious Exemptions

● 573 – Financial Services

● 468 – Judicial Impartiality

Visitors to website

500,000

● Visits: 1,694,766

● Page views: 2,564,428

● Unique visitors: 1,163,547

Public Attendance at ALRC seminars

250

1706

4This total figure includes people who have subscribed to multiple E-news feeds.

Analysis of performance

Number of reports

The core output of the ALRC comprises consultation papers and reports to government with recommendations for law reform.

The ALRC published one consultation paper in 2020–21: Judicial Impartiality: Consultation Paper (CP 1, April 2021).

The ALRC did not meet its target for number of reports in 2020–21 due to a delay in requests to undertake Inquiries.

In conjunction with the Judicial Impartiality Consultation Paper (CP 1, April 2021), the ALRC published seven background papers as part of the Review of Judicial Impartiality in 2020–21.

Timeliness of reports

The timeliness of reports is an indicator of the effectiveness of the ALRC in meeting the terms of reference for inquiries established by the Attorney-General, which include a reporting date. No Inquiry had a reporting date during the period 2020–21.

Court citations

Past ALRC reports are a source of accurate and informative material on the law that is the subject of each Inquiry.

The ALRC identified 90 mentions of ALRC reports in the judgments of Australian courts and tribunals during 2020–21. This included six citations by the High Court of Australia and 33 citations by the Federal Court of Australia. Frequently cited reports include:

  • Evidence (Interim) (ALRC Report 26, 1985), Evidence (ALRC Report 38, 1987) and Uniform Evidence Law (ALRC Report 102, 2006);
  • Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws (ALRC Report 31, 1986);
  • Elder Abuse—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 131, 2017); and
  • Integrity, Fairness and Efficiency—An Inquiry into Class Action Proceedings and Third-Party Litigation Funders (ALRC Report 134, 2018).

Encouragingly, both older and newer reports by the ALRC have been considered substantive evidence-based reports worthy of citation in the superior courts of Australia.

Mentions in Parliament

The number of mentions of ALRC reports in Parliament provides an indication of Parliament’s engagement with the ALRC’s work and the esteem in which it is held.

There were 154 references to ALRC reports and recommendations in second reading speeches and other Parliamentary proceedings during 2020–21. Examples include references to:

  • Integrity, Fairness and Efficiency—An Inquiry into Class Action Proceedings and Third-Party Litigation Funders (ALRC Report 134, 2017) in relation to the Corporations Amendment (Litigation Funding) Regulations 2020 under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).
  • Connection to Country: Review of the Native Title Act (ALRC Report , 2015) in relation to the Native Title Legislation Amendment Bill 2020 to amend the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth).

References in academic publications

The work of the ALRC has long been a resource for academics studying law as well as social; policy. The ALRC strives for its published reports to be authoritative and accurate. In 2020–21, the ALRC was cited in at least 233 academic publications, including journal articles, research papers and textbooks.

Frequently cited reports include:

  • Pathways to Justice—Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Peoples (ALRC Report 133, 2017);
  • Family Violence—A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 114, 2010);
  • Corporate Criminal Responsibility (ALRC Report 136, 2020);
  • Grouped Proceedings in the Federal Court (ALRC Report 46, 1998);
  • The Law on Judicial Bias: A Primer (ALRC JI1, 2021); and
  • Equality, Capacity and Disability in Commonwealth Laws (ALRC Report 124, 2014).

Submissions

The number of submissions received by the ALRC is a measure of public engagement with its work and the extent to which the consultation papers have stimulated debate and discussion. However, the number of submissions received for any Inquiry is also influenced by its subject matter — particular inquiries are likely to generate a greater, broader degree of public interest and participation than others.

The ALRC received 30 submissions in 2020–21. All of the submissions related to the Judicial Impartiality Inquiry.

The ALRC did not call for submissions in relation to the Financial Services Inquiry or the Religious Exemptions Inquiry. Accordingly, no submission were received.

Table 3: Submissions received in 2020–21

Consultation paper

Submission closing date

Submissions received

during reporting period

Judicial Impartiality:

Consultation Paper

(CP 1, 2021)

30 June 2021

30

Consultations

For each Inquiry the ALRC seeks to consult with people who have expertise and experience in the laws under review, as well as people likely to be affected by the laws in question. The number of consultations held is one indicator of the breadth of the evidence base that underpins the ALRC’s recommendations and of community engagement with the ALRC’s law reform process. In 2020–21, the ALRC conducted 130 consultations with stakeholders and experts across Australia and overseas.5 No consultations were held for the Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation Inquiry as it is currently on hold.

Table 4: Consultations held in 2020–21

Inquiry

Number of consultations held during reporting period

Judicial Impartiality

56

Financial Services

74

Religious Exemption

0

Total consultations

130

5 A consultation may involve multiple individuals. Therefore the number of individuals directly consulted is necessarily higher than the number of consultations recorded.

Presentations, articles and speaking engagements

Presenting at public conferences, seminars and Parliamentary inquiries, and contributing articles to journals and publications ensures that the work of the ALRC is publicly debated and discussed. In total there were 52 presentations, articles, and speaking engagements by ALRC Commissioners and staff in 2020–21.

Highlights of ALRC presentations and speaking engagements in 2020–21 included:

  • Publication of the 4th edition of Australian Maritime Law – co-authored by Justice S C Derrington.
  • Presentation at the Conexus Financial Summit in the Blue Mountains by Justice S C Derrington and Christopher Ash.
  • Presentation of the Financial Regulation Ecosystem by Nicholas Simoes da Silva.

E-news subscribers

The ALRC maintains a general mailing list — the ALRC Brief — to provide regular updates on the ALRC’s work, as well as Inquiry‑specific mailing lists. Subscriptions to the E‑news reflect sustained engagement with a specific Inquiry or the ALRC’s work generally.

Table 5: E-news subscribers at 30 June 2021

Audience

Number of subscribers

ALRC Brief

2199

Religious Exemptions in Anti-Discrimination Legislation E-News

553

Financial Services Legislation E-News

573

Judicial Impartiality E-News

468

ALRC Website

The ALRC website is a pivotal communication tool for the ALRC and a law reform resource for the wider public. The ALRC strives to continually build value into the website, both in terms of providing useful and accessible content for stakeholders and researchers, and utilising its functionality as an online consultation tool.

Key website metrics from Google Analytics for 2020–21 include:

  • visits = 1,694,766;
  • page views = 2,564,428; and
  • unique visitors = 1,163,547.

These metrics represent, compared to the 2019–20 reporting period:

  • 6.0% decrease in visits;
  • 8.1% decrease in page views; and
  • 5.6% decrease in unique visitors.

These metrics represent, compared to the 2018–19 reporting period:

  • 3.1% increase in visits;
  • 4.2% decrease in page views; and
  • 2.6% increase in unique visitors.

Comparison of website traffic: July–June in 2018–19, 2019–20 and 2020–21  July–June in 2018–19, 2019–20 and 2020–21

ALRC website statistics indicate that it is not just through implementation of its recommendations that the ALRC makes a significant contribution to the discussion of laws and legal frameworks in Australia.

In 2020–21, the top four ALRC reports downloaded via the website were as follows:

  • Pathways to Justice—Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ALRC Report 133)
  • Corporate Criminal Responsibility (ALRC Report 136)
  • Family Law for the Future— An Inquiry into the Family Law System (ALRC Report 135)
  • Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws (ALRC Report 31)

The reporting metric for access to ALRC reports changed in the 2020–21 period, with downloads determined as the most accurate measurement. Older reports are also accessed via html pages which are not included in the download report. In 2020–21, the top four ALRC reports accessed through the website were as follows:

  • Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws (ALRC Report 31)
  • For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice (ALRC Report 108)
  • Family Violence— A National Legal Response (ALRC Report 114)
  • Pathways to Justice—Inquiry into the Incarceration Rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (ALRC Report 133)

The continued inclusion in both lists of the Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws Report from 1986 illustrates the enduring value of the ideas, discussion and research contained in this landmark report.

ALRC Seminars

The ALRC held seven seminars or webinars in the reporting period which were attended by a total of 1706 people. The recordings of these events are available for online viewing. The events were:

  • Four parts of a webinar series for the Future of Law Reform project.
  • One seminar for the Judicial Impartiality Inquiry.
  • Two online webinars for the Financial Services Inquiry.