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Appendix B: The FRDC’s legislative foundation and the exercise of ministerial powers

The FRDC was formed as a statutory corporation on 2 July 1991 under the provisions of the PIRD Act. It also operates under the provisions of the PGPA Act, which applies high standards of accountability while providing for the independence required by the Corporation’s role as a statutory authority.

The FRDC’s objects, deriving from section 3 of the PIRD Act and shown in Appendix C, are incorporated in the FRDC’s vision and planned outcomes. As reflected in Figure 2 on pages 24–25, the FRDC’s five RD&E programs mirror the industry development, natural resources sustainability and people development themes of, respectively, sub-sections 3(a), (b) and (c) of the Act. This alignment has brought simplicity and robustness to the FRDC’s RD&E planning, implementation and reporting, and to many of the organisations with which it does business. Importantly, the alignment ensures the RD&E outputs resulting from the FRDC’s investments fully address the legislative objects.

More information about the FRDC’s legislative foundations can be found in Appendix C.

Enabling legislation

The FRDC’s enabling legislation is the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989 (PIRD Act).

The FRDC board is responsible to the Minister for Agriculture and, through him, to the Parliament of Australia.

The objects, functions and statutory powers of R&D corporations are specified in the PIRD Act, the text of which is available via the FRDC website.

In the interests of clarity, the following statements of the FRDC’s objects, functions and statutory powers mirror the wording of the PIRD Act but are specific to the FRDC and its business environment. Similarly, the statements of the FRDC’s functions and statutory powers have been made shorter and simpler than the wording of the Act.


The objects of the FRDC, deriving from section 3 of the PIRD Act, are to:

  1. make provision for the funding and administration of research and development relating to primary industries with a view to:
    1. increasing the economic, environmental and social benefits to members of primary industries and to the community in general by improving the production, processing, storage, transport or marketing of the products of primary industries, and
    2. achieving the sustainable use and sustainable management of natural resources, and
    3. making more effective use of the resources and skills of the community in general and the scientific community in particular, and
    4. supporting the development of scientific and technical capacity, and
    5. developing the adoptive capacity of primary producers, and
    6. improving accountability for expenditure on research and development activities in relation to primary industries, and
  2. make provision for the funding and administration of marketing relating to products of primary industries.


The functions of the FRDC, deriving from section 11 of the PIRD Act, are to:

  • investigate and evaluate the requirements for fisheries research and development and, on that basis, prepare a five-year R&D plan, review it annually and revise it if required,
  • prepare an annual operational plan for each financial year,
  • coordinate or fund the carrying out of R&D activities that are consistent with the annual operational plan,
  • monitor and evaluate fisheries RD&E activities that are funded and report on them to the Parliament; the Minister for Agriculture, statutory levy payers and the FRDC representative organisations, and
  • facilitate the dissemination, adoption and commercialisation of the results of fisheries R&D.

Statutory powers

Subject to the PIRD Act, the FRDC is empowered under section 12 of the Act to do all things necessary or convenient to be done for, or in connection with, the performance of its functions, which may include:

  • entering into agreements for the carrying out of R&D activities by other persons,
  • entering into agreements for the carrying out of R&D activities by the FRDC and other persons,
  • making applications, including joint applications for patents,
  • dealing with patents vested in the FRDC and other persons,
  • making charges for work done, services rendered, and goods and information supplied by it,
  • accepting gifts, grants, bequests and devices made to it, and acting as trustee of money and other property vested in it on trust,
  • acquiring, holding and disposing of real and personal property,
  • joining in the formation of a company, and
  • doing anything incidental to any of its powers.

The description of ministerial powers that follows has been drawn from several sections of the PIRD Act and has been condensed from the original in the interests of clarity.

Ministerial powers

Ministerial powers under the enabling legislation may be exercised by the Minister for Agriculture. They relate to:

  • directing the FRDC in writing as to the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers,
  • approving the RD&E plan and the annual operational plan,
  • requesting and approving variation to the RD&E plan and the annual operational plan,
  • requesting the establishment of a selection committee and determining certain conditions relating to the selection committee,
  • appointing the presiding member and members of a committee for the selection of directors,
  • determining the number of directors,
  • determining the terms and conditions of appointment of directors (other than the Managing Director) in relation to matters not provided for by the PIRD Act,
  • appointing the Chairperson,
  • appointing directors, other than the Chairperson and Managing Director, from persons nominated by a selection committee,
  • declaring one or more specified organisations to be representative organisations in relation to the FRDC,
  • determining the gross value of production of the fishing industry for the purposes of establishing the maximum payments by the Australian Government to the FRDC,
  • establishing written guidelines covering the payment by the FRDC to an eligible industry body, or member of an eligible industry body, for expenses reasonably incurred in connection with consultation with the FRDC,
  • causing, at least once in each financial year, a coordination meeting to be held of all R&D corporations,
  • granting leave of absence to the Chairperson, and
  • terminating the appointment of the Chairperson or a director other than the Managing Director.

Additional powers under the PGPA Act relating to corporate governance and reporting are available from the Minister for Agriculture.

Exercise of ministerial powers are described on page 113.