On 1 February 2020 Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO commenced as the secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. Mr Metcalfe is the department's accountable authority and is responsible for its efficient and effective operation. His other roles include chairing the:
- National Biosecurity Committee
- National Management Group for nationally coordinated emergency responses to pest and disease incursions
- Agriculture Senior Officials Committee
- Environment Senior Officials Committee.
Table 17 provides details of the accountable authorities for the current and former departments in 2019–20.
Table 17 Accountable authorities, 2019–20
Period as the accountable Authority
Date of commencement
Date of cessation
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
1 February 2020
30 June 2020
Department of Agriculture a
1 July 2019
31 January 2019
Department of the Environment and Energy a
12 October 2019
31 January 2020
1 July 2019
11 October 2019
The Executive Board oversees the implementation and improvement of our governance structures and business operations, shares responsibility for building capability and promotes collaboration between business areas, other agencies and our stakeholders.
Following the establishment of the new department the Executive Board approved a revised governance structure, comprising the following committees:
- People and Culture Committee
- Work Health and Safety Committee
- Security Committee
- Investment Committee.
As part of building the department's performance and capability, the Executive Board and its sub-committees have focused on strategic considerations, including key risks to the achievement of the department's purpose and objectives, particularly in response to the COVID–19 pandemic. Committee meeting agendas are aligned to the department's business priorities, ensuring structured and integrated delivery of governance functions.
Governance committee memberships have been revised to ensure best practice arrangements are in place for effective decision–making and optimal tracking of action items reporting (Table 18).
Table 18 Executive committee – roles and membership as at 30 June 2020
Executive Board – met 23 times in 2019–20
The Executive Board is responsible for:
- setting, and overseeing implementation of, the department's strategic priorities and direction
- shaping organisational culture and building a shared understanding of policy and delivery priorities
- monitoring progress and performance of major projects and strategic priorities
- ensuring effective governance, operations, use of resources (financial and non-financial)
- monitoring and responding to strategic risks, and risks which may materially impact the achievement of objectives
- ensuring the department's capacity to provide reliable, evidence-based advice
- ensuring the department is operating in accordance with legislative and regulatory requirements.
- Deputy secretaries
- Deputy secretary (reviewer on secondment)
- Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff
- Two SES Band 1 officers on 12-month rotation (selected via secretary's call for an expression of interest, including regional SES officer)
- Chief Security Officer (role held by deputy secretary and Chief Operating Officer)
- Chief Finance Officer
- Chief People Officer
- Chief Counsel
- Communications Officer
Portfolio Audit Committee
The Portfolio Audit Committee provides independent advice to the secretary (as the accountable authority) on the department's risk, finance, control and compliance frameworks and its external accountability responsibilities.
The committee met 5 times in 2019–20, covering operations in the department and the former Department of the Environment and Energy. In addition, the former Department of Agriculture's Audit Committee met 3 times in 2019–20 prior to the establishment of the new department on 1 February 2020.
The committee oversees an annual internal audit work program, undertaken by an internal audit team and contracted service providers. The work program is developed in consultation with senior management and is reviewed regularly to ensure that it is relevant and responsive to changes and business risks. The secretary approves the work program.
The Portfolio Audit Committee's charter is available on our website.
In accordance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014, the Portfolio Audit Committee has a majority of independent members. Following the establishment of the new department the committee updated its membership to include members of the former Department of Agriculture Audit Committee.
Table 19 provides information about the Portfolio Audit Committee members, their qualifications, knowledge, skills or experience, their attendance during 2019–20 and their remuneration.
Table 19 Portfolio Audit Committee and former Department of Agriculture Audit Committee membership, 2019–20
Qualifications, knowledge, skills or experience (include formal and informal as relevant)
Number of committee meetings attended a
Total annual remuneration (GST Incl.)
Mr Geoff Knuckey
Independent member and chair
Former Department of Agriculture Audit Committee independent member and chair
Financial Statements Sub-Committee member
Performance Reporting Sub-Committee attendee
Mr Knuckey's career has included 32 years with Ernst and Young specialising in the areas of financial statements auditing and reporting, internal audit, corporate governance and risk management. In 2009 Mr Knuckey commenced his current full-time role as a professional director comprising board non-executive director roles and audit and risk committee positions in the private and public sectors.
Ms Jenny Morison
Financial Statements Sub-Committee chair
Performance Reporting Sub-Committee attendee
Ms Morison FCA, B.Ec (Sydney University) has 38 years of broad experience in accounting, commerce and government.
She was a National Board Member of the Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand for 4 years, Chief Finance Officer of a public company and has held senior positions in major international accounting firms.
Ms Morison founded Morison Consulting in 1996, specialising in government financial reforms, governance and consulting. She was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2000 for services to women and accounting.
Ms Morison brings a wealth of experience having held roles as an independent member and chair of Commonwealth audit and risk committees and financial statement subcommittees for large and small government entities for the past 17 years.
Mr Michael Roche
Performance Reporting Sub-Committee chair
Mr Roche is an independent management consultant. He has a wide range of experience at senior levels in the Australian Government in both central and operational departments. His background includes corporate and financial management, program management and policy development. Since leaving the public sector, he has consulted widely on strategic management issues, and has been a member of private sector boards and public sector advisory boards. He has been a member of, and chaired, both private sector and public sector audit committees. His qualifications include BA (Accounting), FCPA and MACS (senior).
Dr David Bryant
Former Department of Agriculture Audit Committee independent member
Dr Bryant has 35 years of experience in delivering IT/Business alignment and project management consultancy services across the Australian Public Service. He currently lectures on accounting information systems at the Australian National University. Dr Bryant's expertise in ICT and business management has enabled him to provide valuable advice and assurance to a range of government departments through consultancy and audit committee services. Dr Bryant has experience in delivering audit committee services to the Department of Human Services, IP Australia, Department of Education and the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science and Resources.
Mr Dean Knudson
Mr Knudson is a deputy secretary in the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment with responsibility for overseeing the Australian Government's efforts to protect Australia's biodiversity and heritage – ranging from the Murray– Darling Basin to the Great Barrier Reef. Prior to moving to Australia in 2012, Mr Knudson worked for 20 years with the Canadian Government. He led a range of key economic and environmental reforms, in the Prime Minister's department, the Treasury, and the Environment and Industry departments. Mr Knudson has a Master's degree in Economics from Queen's University in Canada and is certified in conflict resolution.
Ms Kristin Tilley
Ms Tilley is the First Assistant Secretary in the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment with responsibility for the Environment Protection Division. Ms Tilley commenced in this role in August 2019. In this role, she has responsibility for the National Waste and Recycling Taskforce, Waste Management Branch, Ozone Protection and Air Quality Branch and the Chemicals Management Branch. Ms Tilley has more than 12 years' experience working on climate change issues in the Australian Public Service, including 2 years as a senior advisor to the Climate Change Minister. Prior to joining the public service, Ms Tilley worked for an environmental law non-government organisation in Brisbane.
Mr Malcolm Thompson
Former Department of Agriculture Audit Committee internal member
Mr Thompson joined the Department of Agriculture in July 2017 and was responsible for the Water, ABARES, Exports, and Trade and Market Access divisions. Mr Thompson was previously a Deputy Secretary with the Department of the Environment and Energy where he oversaw work on environment policy, environmental regulation, and managed the National Reserves System, Australia's Antarctic program, and corporate and strategic functions. Mr Thompson has more than 30 years' experience in the Australian Government. He studied economics at the University of Queensland before beginning his career in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He has also worked in the Treasury, the Assistant Treasurer's office and the Department of Transport and Regional Services.
Managing our risk
Our Enterprise Risk Management Framework is administered in line with the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) and the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy (CRMP). While each of the former departments had mature risk management frameworks in place, we are working to further develop and strengthen these frameworks to meet the complex operating environment of our new entity.
The Enterprise Risk Management Framework is overseen by the Executive Board and the Portfolio Audit Committee. The framework sets out the department's risk management approach, including how risks are identified, assessed and managed, and how risk management performance is monitored, measured and improved. The framework also articulates risk roles and responsibilities, including shared risk, and how risk management practices will be embedded into existing business operations.
Our approach to risk management includes identifying areas of strategic risk that, if realised, could affect our ability to achieve our purpose and objectives.
We aim to raise the profile and significance of risk management in the department. Both former departments participated in the Comcover Awards for Excellence in Risk Management in 2019:
The former Department of the Environment and Energy's Climate Compass Project received a Highly Commended award in the Risk Initiative category. The Climate Adaption, Risk and Science Section, in partnership with CSIRO, developed a climate risk management framework for Commonwealth entities to consider when identifying the impact of climate risk on policies, programs and assets. This initiative will help entities consider and manage the risks and opportunities arising from the changing climate.
The former Department of Agriculture received a Highly Commended award in the Enterprise-Wide Risk Management category. This award recognised the department's mature approach to managing risk as evidenced by:
- the commencement of a risk culture program
- supporting the development of a comprehensive risk management plan for the implementation of the proposed new Export Control Act
- facilitating workshops to identify and review risks relating to the department's new Live Animal Exports processing schedule.
The former Department of Agriculture's Grain Import Risk Assessment Project received an Honourable Mention for its contemporary risk management approach to the importing of bulk grain for stock feed and milling. The drought in eastern Australia has led to certain classes of grain being in short supply, potentially requiring importation. This could have broader economic and biosecurity risks that could impact our agriculture and livestock industries. To address these risks, the department adopted a highly consultative and collaborative approach with industry to develop a regulated grain import system.
The former departments have also performed well in Comcover's risk management benchmarking program, which is compulsory for all entities subject to the PGPA Act. This program is being restructured and has changed from an annual survey to one conducted every 2 years. The last survey was conducted in February 2019. Comcover rated the enterprise risk frameworks of both departments as Mature. The next survey is scheduled for early 2021 and will adopt a new maturity model.
We are a key contributor to initiatives to strengthen risk management across the Australian Public Service. The department is currently the chair of the whole-of-government Commonwealth Risk Managers Forum. This forum provides an avenue for public sector risk practitioners to discuss and share risk management approaches, issues, lessons learned and best practices to improve risk management across the Commonwealth.
Enhancing our pro-integrity culture
Maintaining and enhancing our pro-integrity culture is essential to meet our legislative and parliamentary requirements, and to maintain the trust of the Australian Government, the public and our business partners.
We are committed to actively promoting the standards of behaviour and obligations outlined in the:
- APS Values, Employment Principles and Code of Conduct
- Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013
- Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013
- Australian Government's Protective Security Policy Framework.
Building a holistic integrity framework supports our priority to shape an integrated, inclusive and high-performing culture, aligned with broader APS reforms.
The Integrity Framework provides the department and our people with the tools to navigate integrity and personnel security risks in a simple and transparent manner, and to satisfy employee suitability obligations across the employment lifecycle.
Aligning the existing employment frameworks and practices for the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment has been critical. The new framework includes an overarching Integrity Policy and a Drug and Alcohol Policy framework. We are also implementing guidelines on:
- conflict of interest
- secondary employment
- receiving gifts and benefits
- assessing disclosable criminal outcomes.
The framework is founded on clear and concise policies, updated and contemporary training and easily accessible reporting mechanisms that reinforce a pro-integrity culture.
Our Fraud and Corruption Control Plan is informed by independent fraud and corruption risk assessments. These assessments evaluate existing and emerging fraud and corruption risk, and detail controls and treatment strategies to address these risks.
We are investing in capability to better detect indicators and investigate incidences of wrongdoing, fraud and corruption. Our fraud, corruption and integrity teams partner across the portfolio to strengthen our controls.
The department's commitment to a strong security culture is outlined in our Agency Security Plan and Security Governance Framework. The plan details our obligations to mitigate security risks to our people, information and assets, in accordance with the PSPF.
We continually identify and address security concerns and risks through our security governance processes and implement mitigations to enhance our security maturity. We report regularly on security maturity development and capabilities to our Security Committee and Chief Security Officer, and annually in our PSPF Maturity Assessment Reports to the Attorney-General's Department.
In 2019–20 we embarked on a range of security-focused enhancement projects to further strengthen our protective security maturity and capability. These projects included:
- migrating electronic access control systems and CCTV from our regional offices, including Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Carrington, Darwin and Perth, onto the national security network
- establishing a 24/7 security monitoring capability in Canberra to monitor the security systems of our major regional offices
- developing a new security awareness training package, delivered through our online learning platform
- implementing the Security Breach Policy and breach program to identify and manage information security vulnerabilities
- undertaking a range of electronic security upgrades to our John Gorton Building offices in Canberra to change-out end-of-life security systems.
Snapshot: Improving protective security
Our protective security protects our people, information and assets. Protective security enables the business of government and supports the efficient and effective delivery of services. In 2019–20 we undertook a security reform project to continue to improve our security maturity and address aspects highlighted in the 2018–19 Protective Security Policy Framework assessments of our former departments.
We conducted a personnel security risk assessment across key divisions to understand where high-value aspects of the department and the performance of its functions were at risk. The report highlighted several security risk events and made recommendations to mitigate those risks. The Security Committee supported the recommendations and we will implement them in 2020–21.
The project also examined our security governance arrangements. As a result we have developed a Security Governance Framework that includes an agency security plan, a security risk framework and a range of supporting policies and procedures. The project team collaborated with our Integrity Coordination and Security sections to develop the framework, and consulted subject matter experts across the department. The framework sets a well-defined approach for the management of protective security for the department and provides clarity for all staff on their security responsibilities.
Finally, we conducted research to understand the department's requirements for systems to support security incident reporting and the eligibility and suitability assessments of new employees. We have implemented an enterprise Security Register and are considering several systems to address these requirements. We expect to roll out new systems in 2020–21.
Disclosure of protected information under the Biosecurity Act
Section 590 of the Biosecurity Act 2015 requires the Director of Biosecurity to prepare a report on the use of protected information for the period from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.
During the reporting period, there were 13 written authorisations to disclose protected information under section 580(3) of the Act.
Information on grants awarded by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment during 2019–20 is available on the GrantConnect website.