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External scrutiny

Parliamentary committees

Inquiry reports

Parliamentary committees tabled 5 reports relevant to the department’s operations (Table 18).

Table 18 Parliamentary committee reports tabled in 2018–19

Committee

Inquiry

Tabling date

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources

Super-charging Australian agriculture: an inquiry based on superannuation fund investment in agriculture

11 December 2018

Senate Standing Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee

Regulatory approaches to ensure the safety of pet food

16 October 2018

Integrity of the water market in the Murray–Darling Basin

29 November 2018

The independence of regulatory decisions made by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)

1 February 2018

Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Streamlining Regulation) Bill 2018

11 February 2019

Government responses to inquiry reports

The Australian Government responded to 4 parliamentary committee reports relevant to the department (Table 19).

Table 19 Government responses tabled in 2018–19

Committee

Inquiry

Response date

House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority regulatory reforms

26 November 2018

Senate Standing Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee

The effect of market consolidation on the red meat processing sector

17 December 2018

The independence of regulatory decisions made by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA)

5 April 2019

Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (Streamlining Regulation) Bill 2018

3 April 2019

Auditor-General

In 2018–19 the Auditor-General tabled 5 Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) reports on our activities.

Implementation of the Australian Government’s Workplace Bargaining Framework

Auditor-General report no. 16, 2018–19 examined the implementation of the Australian Government’s 2014 and 2015 workplace bargaining policies by the department and six other entities. The audit found that overall the department’s implementation of the bargaining framework was broadly effective and that appropriate governance arrangements were established.

The ANAO recommended that the department and all selected entities establish key governance arrangements such as implementation plans, communication plans and risk management documentation before commencing bargaining activities. They also suggested we actively use these arrangements throughout the process. We agreed with the recommendation.

Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy (NAQS)—Follow-on Audit

Auditor-General report no. 23, 2018–19 assessed the extent to which the department has addressed recommendations from a 2011–12 ANAO audit of the administration of the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy. The audit found the department is progressing but has not yet fully addressed the recommendations of the previous audit.

The ANAO made 3 recommendations covering the verification of scientific surveillance activities, documenting a risk-based approach to biosecurity inspections in the Torres Strait, and developing measures to assess our performance in managing biosecurity risks in northern Australia. We agreed with the recommendations.

Application of cost recovery principles

Auditor-General report no. 38, 2018–19 assessed whether the department, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the Therapeutic Goods Administration effectively apply the cost recovery principles of the Australian Government’s cost recovery framework. The audit found that the department and the other entities have been partially effective in implementing these principles, but that we had scope to improve the effectiveness of our cost recovery arrangements.

The ANAO made 3 recommendations relating to the department:

  • ensure our Cost Recovery Implementation Statements are fully compliant with the Cost Recovery Guidelines
  • align our fees and levies with the guidelines and develop an improved cost recovery model
  • implement ongoing stakeholder engagement strategies.

We agreed with the recommendations.

Coordination arrangements of Australian Government entities operating in Torres Strait

Auditor-General report no. 41, 2018–19 assessed the effectiveness of coordination arrangements of key entities operating in Torres Strait, including the department, the Torres Strait Regional Authority, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. The audit found the coordination arrangements are largely effective in supporting Australian Government activities.

The ANAO did not make any recommendations relating to the department. We noted other recommendations and committed to maintain awareness of initiatives to address the audit findings and to participate in those initiatives where appropriate.

Farm Management Deposits Scheme

Auditor-General report no. 51, 2018–19 assessed whether the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the department have effectively administered the Farm Management Deposits Scheme. The audit found risk identification and compliance arrangements administered by the ATO have not fully captured key elements of the scheme’s design, and that the department, as the policy owner, should work with the ATO to be satisfied that these processes are appropriate.

The ANAO made 3 recommendations relating to the department, including elements that should be included in a planned evaluation of the scheme. We agreed with the recommendations.

Inspector-General of Biosecurity

In April 2016 the Australian Government appointed Helen Scott-Orr as the inaugural Inspector-General of Biosecurity. Her role was to independently evaluate and verify the adequacy of the department’s pre-border, border and post-border biosecurity risk management programs. We provide administrative support to the Inspector-General, including staff, office space, travel and legal assistance required in relation to reviews.

Dr Scott-Orr completed her 3-year term on 24 July 2019. Rob Delane commenced in the role on 25 July 2019.

During 2018–19 the Inspector-General published reports on:

  • hitchhiker pest and contaminant biosecurity risk management in Australia
  • military biosecurity risk management in Australia
  • horse importation biosecurity risk management
  • implementation of Interim Inspector-General of Biosecurity recommendations
  • environmental biosecurity risk management in Australia
  • effectiveness of biosecurity measures to manage the risk of brown marmorated stink bugs entering Australia
  • pest and disease interceptions and incursions in Australia.

For more information see Current and completed reviews on the Inspector-General of Biosecurity website.

Interim Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports

In March 2019 the Australian Government appointed Ross Carter as the Interim Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports (IIGLAE). His role is to independently review the systems and processes that underpin our regulation of livestock exports. This oversight will give farmers, industry and the community more confidence in the regulation of livestock exports. The Interim Inspector-General position was established as part of the government’s response to the Review of the Regulatory Capability and Culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Regulation of Live Animal Exports.

For more information see the work program on the Interim Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports website.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

In 2018–19 the Commonwealth Ombudsman did not release any reports covering the department’s operations.

Freedom of information

Any agency subject to the FOI Act is required to publish information on its website as part of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS). This includes a plan showing what information the agency publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements. For more information see the Information Publication Scheme on our website.

We also publish corporate and operational information on our website, and reports on information accessed through FOI applications in a disclosure log.

In 2018–19 we received 117 requests for access under the FOI Act, 8 requests for internal review and 4 requests for external review. We finalised 117 requests and 7 internal reviews.

For more information on requests received and processed by all Commonwealth agencies see the FOI reports on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.