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Our governance

Our executive

Daryl Quinlivan has been the Secretary of the department since June 2015. Mr Quinlivan 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
  • the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee.

Table 13 details of accountable authority during the reporting period 2018–19

Period as the accountable authority


Position title

Date of commencement

Date of cessation

Daryl Quinlivan


1 July 2018

30 June 2019

Deputy secretaries assist the Secretary across a range of issues and departmental functions and oversee the work of particular divisions. Our deputy secretaries are:

Cindy Briscoe—responsible for the Agricultural Policy Division, Agvet Chemicals, Fisheries and Forestry Division, and Rural Policy and Farm Performance Division.

Neal Mason (acting)—responsible for the Assurance and Legal Division, Corporate Strategy and Governance Division, Finance and Business Support Division, and Information Services Division.

Lyn O’Connell PSM—responsible for the Biosecurity divisions and the Compliance Division, and oversees the Australian Chief Veterinary, Chief Environmental Biosecurity and Chief Plant Protection Officers.

Malcolm Thompson—responsible for the Exports Division, Live Animal Exports Division, Trade and Market Access Division, Water Division and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES).

Governance framework

The Executive Management Committee (EMC) 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.

In 2018–19 the EMC was supported by 4 subcommittees (Table 14):

  • Business Transformation Committee
  • Information and Data Management Committee
  • People, Safety and Culture Committee
  • Security and Business Continuity Committee.

As part of building the department’s performance, capability and efficiency, the EMC and its subcommittees have focused on informed strategic discussion and streamlined decision-making. Each committee’s meeting agenda item links to the department’s Corporate Plan, enabling targeted strategic and operational discussion. Any risks associated with each proposal or item under discussion are also a standing item.

Governance committee memberships have been revised to ensure best practice arrangements are in place for effective decision-making. We have implemented a Governance module in our online Planning Hub system to produce, track and manage action item reports.

Table 14 Executive committees—roles and membership, 30 June 2019




Executive Management Committee (EMC)—met 25 times in 2018–19

The primary governance body supporting the Secretary. The committee makes decisions and provides guidance to:

  • ensure the department is achieving its purpose and objectives
  • build and maintain organisational capability
  • monitor performance against departmental objectives and priorities
  • set an appropriate risk appetite and risk tolerance for the department
  • monitor and respond to strategic risks, and risks that may materially impact the department achieving its objectives
  • allocate budgets and ensure financial sustainability
  • assure compliance with legislative, governance and administrative frameworks
  • communicate decisions and guidance in a timely manner to enable staff to make informed decisions.

Secretary (Chair)

Deputy secretaries (members)

First Assistant Secretary, Compliance (rotational member)

First Assistant Secretary, Rural Policy and Farm Performance (rotational member)

Chief Finance Officer (Advisor)

General Counsel (Advisor)

The chair of the Audit Committee attends meetings each quarter as an observer and may attend other scheduled EMC meetings as necessary.

Business Transformation Committee (BTC)—met 9 times in 2018–19

Oversees business improvements that have significant impact, including ICT projects. BTC responsibilities include:

  • identifying and articulating the investment priorities for business transformation, in alignment with strategic priorities and risks
  • requesting proposals from divisions for activities that meet the department’s strategic priorities or risk mitigation needs
  • approving (with Chief Finance Officer endorsement), seed funding for the development of business cases for complex programs and projects to a threshold of $200,000 per project
  • approving (with Chief Finance Officer endorsement) or declining project change requests
  • endorsing all program and project business cases prior to their consideration for funding by the EMC
  • advising the EMC on the prioritisation for funding of proposed program and projects and other initiatives
  • reviewing the status of the department’s current programs, projects and other major change activities on a regular basis
  • recommending to the EMC to pause, revise or cancel initiatives that are not expected to deliver the expected outcomes and/or benefits
  • overseeing the management of the impacts of change activities throughout the department including resourcing, consultation, communications and cost implications.

Deputy Secretary (Chair)

Deputy Secretary (Deputy Chair)

Chief Finance Officer

Chief Information Officer

First Assistant Secretary, Corporate Strategy and Governance

First Assistant Secretary, Compliance

First Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Operations

First Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Policy and Implementation

Executive Director, ABARES

Assistant Secretary, Productivity, Projects and Innovation

Chief Risk Officer and Assistant Secretary, Planning and Governance

Assistant Secretary, Modernising Agriculture and Trade Taskforce

Information and Data Management Committee (IDMC)—met 5 times in 2018–19

Provides strategic guidance and oversight of the department’s Information and Data Management Agenda. IDMC responsibilities include:

  • overseeing activities under the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy, and data management activities in line with the department’s Information and Data Management Agenda, business intelligence and analytic strategies and whole-of-government information initiatives
  • ensuring that information and data are managed and valued as strategic assets, maximising their use and reuse by enabling processes to share data internally and externally, and publishing non-sensitive data as ‘open by default’
  • ensuring information and data infrastructure meets business needs, and initiatives are consistent with endorsed information and data management guiding principles
  • ensuring the department’s information and data are managed for their entire life in accordance with risk (security, access, privacy, continuity and cost), including actively managing risk mitigation measures to minimise data leakage
  • advising and making recommendations to the EMC as necessary on information and data management issues, activities and reporting.

Chief Information Officer (Chair)

Executive Director ABARES (Deputy Chair)

General Counsel and First Assistant Secretary, Assurance and Legal

First Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Policy and Implementation

Assistant Secretary, Market Access Strategy and Bilateral

Assistant Secretary, Live Animal Exports

Assistant Secretary, Strategy Architecture and Strategic Projects

Assistant Secretary, Plant Sciences and Risk Assessment

Assistant Secretary, Farm Performance

People, Safety and Culture Committee (PSCC)—met 8 times in 2018–19

Addresses issues affecting the department’s people (including its external workforce), their safety and the organisation’s culture. PSCC responsibilities include:

  • making recommendations to the EMC on people strategies
  • monitoring workforce impacts and associated risks and overseeing the effective implementation of appropriate management actions
  • undertaking regular performance monitoring on work health and safety, rehabilitation, performance management, culture and unscheduled absence
  • overseeing the management of the department’s people systems
  • responding to strategic issues including work health and safety incidents, hazards and risks.

First Assistant Secretary, Corporate Strategy and Governance (Chair)

First Assistant Secretary, Exports (Deputy Chair)

Chief Risk Officer and Assistant Secretary, Planning and Governance

Assistant Secretary, Compliance Policy

Assistant Secretary, Workforce and HR Strategy

Assistant Secretary, Veterinary and Export Meat Services

Assistant Secretary, Bilateral Engagement

Assistant Secretary, Commercial Business

Assistant Secretary, HR People

Assistant Secretary, Farm Performance

Security and Business Continuity Committee (SBCC)—met 9 times in 2018–19

The key advisory body to the Secretary on security and business continuity management matters. SBCC responsibilities include:

  • specifying policies and standards with reference to government security policies
  • promoting and driving a positive security culture within the department
  • providing a cohesive and coordinated approach to risk, security and business continuity
  • establishing long-term security goals and objectives
  • monitoring security plans and identifying and managing risks
  • considering outcomes of security incidents and investigations
  • facilitating information sharing for security improvements
  • reviewing the department’s security policies, procedures and plans in accordance with the PSPF and the Information Security Manual, with consideration to the department’s service delivery and investment priorities

Deputy Secretary (Chief Security Officer, Chair)

Assistant Secretary, Assurance (Deputy Chair)

Deputy Secretary

Chief Finance Officer

General Counsel and First Assistant Secretary, Assurance and Legal

Chief Information Officer

First Assistant Secretary, Corporate Strategy and Governance

First Assistant Secretary, Trade and Market Access

Assistant Secretary, Operations Integration

Assistant Secretary, Commercial Business

Audit Committee

This 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.

Under its charter, the Audit Committee must include:

  • at least 3 people, who have appropriate qualifications, knowledge, skills or experience to assist the committee to perform its functions
  • a majority of members who are not officials of the department (Table 15).

The committee oversees an annual internal audit work program, undertaken by an independent internal audit team and contracted service providers. The work program is developed in consultation with senior management and is reviewed regularly to ensure it is relevant and responsive to changes and business risks. The program is approved by the Secretary.

Table 15 Audit Committee—role and membership, 30 June 2019




Audit Committee—

met 5 times in 2018–19

The Audit Committee provides independent assurance and advice to the Secretary on the department’s risk, finance, control and compliance framework.

Geoff Knuckey (Chair, Independent Member)

David Bryant (Independent Member)

Malcolm Thompson (Deputy Chair, Deputy Secretary, Department Member)

Managing our risk

Our Enterprise Risk Management Policy and Framework are administered in line with the requirements of the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy, and are approved by the Secretary. The Audit Committee reviews our systems of risk oversight and management. We take a risk-based approach to policy and program development, integrating risk management with governance, planning and performance management processes.

Our risk management includes identifying areas of strategic risk that, if realised, could affect our ability to achieve our organisational objectives. The EMC monitors these risks, including the effectiveness of identified controls and mitigation strategies. During the year, we reviewed the strategic risks to align them with the objectives and functions in the Corporate Plan 2018–19. We identified 8 areas of strategic risk to be monitored in 2019–20 (Figure 16).

Figure 16 Strategic risks 2019–20

 we do not identify or influence opportunities to open, improve or maintain export markets; we do not develop and implement policies and programs that effectively support profitable and productive primary industries while ensuring sustainable management of natural resources; we do not develop and implement policies and programs that account for the effects of climate change; we do not develop and implement effective regulatory frameworks and practice; our biosecurity programs fail to prevent, detect and/or manage pest and disease incursions; water programs fail to meet Murray-Darling Basin Plan objectives; we do not put in place the right capabilities (people, resources, processes, systems and culture) to deliver our objectives and respond to change; and we do not identify and adequately manage work health and safety risks.

We continued to review our risk appetite. This refers to the level of risk that we are willing to accept in carrying out our work. The department faces a range of risks that reflects its responsibilities, and we recognise that it is not possible, or necessarily desirable, to eliminate all of the risks inherent in our work.

Accepting some degree of risk in our business practices promotes efficiency and innovation. However, in other areas, such as the safety of our staff and biosecurity threats to human, animal and plant health and the environment, our risk appetite will always be very low.

We are committed to integrating climate risk management across the portfolio. We are embedding climate risk considerations in policy development and program delivery. This is vital to ensure we achieve our strategic objectives, given climate change is relevant across the breadth of departmental business. It is consistent with the Climate Compass framework, a whole-of-government approach to climate risk management. To support this, we are implementing a strategy for ongoing capacity building in climate risk identification and management.

We participate in the annual Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking Program survey. The survey measures the department’s risk management performance against the 9 elements of the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy and contemporary risk management best practice.

In the 2019 survey, we maintained our overall risk maturity rating of ‘Optimal’, which is the highest level in Comcover’s maturity model. In reporting the optimal rating, Comcover noted we had continued to make improvements in our risk management. Our benchmarked rating continues to be higher than the average maturity level of ‘Integrated’ across all 155 entities taking part in the survey.

Our department is also involved in the whole-of-government Chief Risk Officers Forum and the Commonwealth Risk Managers Forum. The forums provide an opportunity to discuss and share risk management approaches, issues, lessons learnt and best practices to improve risk management across the Commonwealth.

Strengthening integrity

Maintaining a strong 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 have continued to implement our integrity strategy to further strengthen our prevention, detection and response capabilities. This will enable us to maintain and support a strong integrity culture. A key component of this strategy has been the use of our existing employment framework and practices, with enhancements to support integrity checking. These are the foundations of the department’s integrity framework.

The integrity framework includes:

  • the APS Values, Employment Principles and Code of Conduct
  • integrity checking, using risk factors pertinent to different staff roles
  • declaration of interests (including conflicts of interest)
  • the Engaging in Outside Employment or Voluntary Work Policy
  • the Workplace Drug and Alcohol Policy.

The framework builds on the capabilities and approaches developed in 2017–18. It supports employee awareness and compliance through the development of clear and concise policies, training and easily accessible reporting mechanisms that reinforce a pro-integrity culture.

We are committed to actively promoting the standards of behaviour outlined in the:

  • APS Values, Employment Principles and Code of Conduct
  • Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013
  • Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

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 have invested in greater resourcing and capability to prevent and detect fraudulent behaviour. This includes increasing resourcing across our fraud, corruption and integrity functions to enable us to prioritise and direct resources to areas of highest impact. Our fraud, corruption and integrity teams work in conjunction with our enterprise risk management and internal audit teams to strengthen our control environment.

Figure 17 Integrity snapshot, 2018–19

This graphic shows the outcome of integrity activities in 2018-19. We finalised 157 conduct cases, received 151 reports and concluded 3 Performance Improvement Plans. The security team processed 1,404 change of circumstance forms, received 250 incident reports and provided 363 travel security risk assessments. The integrity team received 240 reports and completed 196 matters. 17 fraud and corruption matters were completed. In October 2018 the Australian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity published an investigation report on Operation Volker. This investigation related to the corrupt conduct of a former employee. The investigation resulted in their employment being terminated. The conduct team conducted 10 formal investigations that resulted in 6 people being found in breach of the APS Code of Conduct. Conduct, security, integrity and fraud and corruption statistics are not mutually exclusive and any one report, case, matter or individual may be present in another count.

Our security

The department’s commitment to a strong security culture is set out in our Protective Security Policy. The policy outlines our obligations to mitigate security risks to our people, information and assets in accordance with the Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework.

We evaluate the department’s maturity and compliance against the Protective Security Policy Framework through regular reporting to our Security and Business Continuity Committee, the Attorney-General’s Department and other key stakeholders.

In 2018–19 we increased the department’s capability and understanding of relevant vulnerabilities and delivered a program reflective of our risk profile and resourcing. Initiatives included:

  • appointing a Chief Security Officer and Departmental Security Advisors
  • consolidating our access systems and assets
  • improving the performance of security guarding and after hours monitoring services
  • establishing a national 24/7 security helpdesk
  • developing guidelines to address security risks, and delivering personal safety awareness training for our officers who travel overseas for work
  • developing the Protective Security Policy
  • rolling out a Security Month, where security awareness sessions were delivered nationally.

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 2018 to 30 June 2019.

During the reporting period, there were 16 written authorisations to disclose protected information under section 580(3) of the Act.


Information on grants awarded by the Department of Agriculture during 2018–19 is available on the GrantConnect website.