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Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters - 13/11/2014 - Conduct of the 2013 federal election and matters related thereto

CARPAY, Mr Pablo, First Assistant Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission

GATELY, Mr Andrew, Assistant Commissioner, Roll Management, Australian Electoral Commission

KITSON, Mr Kevin, Acting Deputy Electoral Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission

MITCHELL, Ms Kathy, Assistant Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission

PIRANI, Mr Paul, Chief Legal Officer, Australian Electoral Commission

ROGERS, Mr Thomas, Acting Electoral Commissioner, Australian Electoral Commission

Committee met at 10:08

CHAIR ( Mr Tony Smith ): I declare open today's public hearing of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiring into the 2013 federal election. The inquiry was referred by the Special Minister of State on 5 December last year to look at all aspects of the 2013 federal election, and we are now going to hear again from the Australian Electoral Commission. As you have heard many times, the committee does not require you to give evidence under oath, although the hearing is a legal proceeding of the parliament and therefore has the same standing as proceedings in the respective houses. Mr Rogers, I invite you to make an opening statement and then we will proceed to questions.

Mr Rogers : Thank you, Chair and members. It is now over a year since the well-publicised failures that occurred at the 2013 federal election. As I have said each time I have appeared before this committee, the AEC continues on a comprehensive reform journey. As I have also indicated, that journey is likely to be a long one. The AEC has commenced a series of steps that are designed to rectify systemic issues which became evident through the incident in WA. With that in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to address some of the issues that were raised at the committee yesterday.

During the hearing, the ANAO pointed to inadequacies in the planning and conduct of electoral events up to and including 2013, a point I have acknowledged to this committee and, indeed, to our own staff on a very regular basis. The ANAO has indicated that previous implementation of recommendations has not been in line with its expectations. In recognition of this, the AEC has engaged with the ANAO outside of the usual framework in an effort to ensure that future implementation reflects the intent of recommendations. We are grateful to the ANAO for their ongoing involvement; indeed, I see their reports and their continued engagement with us as a key input to the reform process. That reform is broader than just the implementation of the Keelty and ANAO reports; it encompasses all aspects of our programs and services. This includes the fact that I have also directed the commencement of three separate projects with external specialist organisations in the area of secure transport of ballots, secure storage of materials and the planning processes and performance reporting of large-scale operational events.

Some committee members expressed concern in the hearing yesterday that the task force had ceased operating. In fact, the task force has now been formalised into the agency's structure and embedded as the reform team within our elections branch, and has been tasked with implementing the recommendations from this year's ANAO reports as well as the Keelty report and other inputs, such as the three key projects I just referred to. I continuously assess the adequacy of the team's resources to ensure that they have what is required to ensure effective implementation of those reports.

As the ANAO indicated yesterday, a critical part of our reform journey relates to the AEC's assurance processes around the successful implementation of agreed recommendations. To that end, I announced on 29 August a new governance structure for the AEC, including a new committee, the Operational Compliance Group, which has a remit to ensure compliance in all aspects of AEC's operations. I have a pictorial representation of this governance framework that I would like to table, and I think it has been included in the pack that was handed up before we started.

I note the discussion yesterday on the documentation around the implementation of the Keelty recommendations. I did want to remind the committee that I have provided a number of updates on our approach to implementing those recommendations. These have included an initial letter from me to this committee, dated 4 February 2014, providing a summary of the measures we intend to implement. In March, I tabled a document that outlined what we were doing to address each recommendation and a comprehensive folio of supporting documentation. I provided an updated copy of that document on 25 July. We continue to use this as our prime implementation tool, and I would also like to table a further update of that document today. I acknowledge that this suite of documentation did not meet the ANAO's expectation of a better practice implementation plan. Accordingly, in late August I allocated an additional project management specialist to the reform team. I would also like to table the governance chronology of the work of the reform team, which shows their extensive work and coordination and outcomes against an extraordinarily pressured time frame.

I would also like to make brief comments in relation to the meetings of the Keelty Implementation Taskforce and the reference group, which was another area of discussion for the committee yesterday. The Keelty Implementation Taskforce were in daily contact with each other. They held weekly informal meetings, including daily discussions up to and during the Griffith and WA Senate events, including 11 more formal minuted meetings up to the end of May. Since the end of May, the team has met formally 13 times, with an additional five minuted teleconferences and ongoing daily contact, and, in essence, Chair and members, they are a work team that work closely together on a daily basis where necessary.

It became clear as the implementation journey went on that the Keelty Implementation Reference Group, known as KIRG, was duplicating the clearance and consultation process already in place. It made sense to us to adapt our own processes—something that we had, indeed, put in place ourselves—where it became clear that they were not functioning efficiently. Accordingly, we convened the reference group instead prior to the conduct of the electoral events in Griffith and WA, as a check on new initiatives.

One of the key areas of focus yesterday was how training completion was monitored by the AEC up to and including the 2013 election. I can assure you that the national election management team meetings—and they are conducted every day from the issue of writ through to election day, and most days thereafter—looked particularly closely at rates of recruitment and training completion. State managers were then asked to address situations where these matters were not satisfactory. I have here an example of the daily dashboard report that I am going to table to demonstrate to the committee the datasets used to track progress across a range of metrics. This is a highlight report, and at the meetings we were able to drill down into the detail on a more granular level.

I will also table a policy document that outlines which polling officials receive which level of training. It is important to note that, as part of a layered approach, all polling officials are sent, by post, comprehensive information regarding their specific role and their duties, and this is known as the election procedures handbook, or the EPH. Between 2010 and 2013, the AEC spent considerable time on polling official training, reworking the material to ensure it resonated with the polling staff. The AEC also conducted user-acceptance testing; developed, for the first time, a professionally-produced training DVD, which, again, was sent to all polling officials; and reworked aids such as role-specific task badges and task cards which were available in the polling place. Additionally, specific senior polling officials completed either online training or a workbook based on the EPH, the election procedures handbook, depending on the individual's preference and their ability to use web based training—again, a variable issue in itself: some individuals start the training journey online, then transfer to a workbook when they realise that they have issues with their own computer or web connection or their own technical ability. And finally, in 2013, over 30,000 senior polling officials received face-to-face training in accordance with the policy. This included OICs, 2ICs, polling place liaison officers and declaration vote issuing officers.

The administration of that face-to-face training is complex. The training is delivered locally, and is therefore managed locally, with completion recorded manually by divisional staff. Of course, individual circumstances change. People become unavailable to work on polling day. Allocated roles change to deal with those variations. And a limited amount of the training, mostly in remote areas, needs to be delivered over the phone. As you are aware, there are inevitably incidents where staff do not front on polling day, and they then need to be replaced on the spot, leading to complexities in training and then recording that training completion. Against this backdrop, the AEC acknowledges that we may have inadvertently, as the ANAO points out, reported incorrect completion rates of certain types of training by conflating data from some of these categories that I have mentioned above, and I apologise unreservedly for this.

We are working to completely overhaul our training of permanent and temporary staff. I can report that we began procurement of a new learning management system in April, and we are now in the process of implementing that system. That will provide us with better reporting capability, enabling us to monitor successful training completion at a national level and, thereby, address the very issues that were the subject of the adverse finding in the ANAO report.

We are also in the very final stages of a comprehensive request for tender process to engage a specialist provider to assist with the redesign of all of our elections training. This work was due to commence last week, although that has been a long process—we have not just started that recently; it has been a long process to get us to that point.

I also note that our analysis and use of data was highlighted by the ANAO in their report and at this committee yesterday. We acknowledge that we must be better in our approach in this key area. That said, listening to the evidence of the ANAO on the use of data to better predict voting patterns, I did have some reservations about the potential impact on the community should there be large-scale reductions in static polling places, and I would be happy to explore this further with the committee if you wish.

We are also reviewing our approach to identifying and addressing areas of risk. As part of this new approach, in June of this year, and on the advice of the chair of our Business Assurance Committee, I approved an AEC assurance plan aimed at addressing existing and emerging risks in a way not previously undertaken by the AEC. This framework will allow the operations of the AEC to be subjected to regular and forensic examination by the Business Assurance Committee, which is chaired by an external member.

There are three final unrelated issues that I would also like to use this opportunity to bring to the committee's attention. Following concerns raised by the chair of the JSCEM directly with the AEC, I asked for a review of the AEC policy on the display of the enrolled federal division of registered silent electors. I have now directed the suppression of the enrolled division of those silent electors on public copies of the electoral roll, and this change will be in effect from late next week. I have also written to all state and territory electoral commissions to advise them of these changes and also to seek their positions on this matter.

Yesterday the committee asked the New South Wales state manager, Mr Orr, for information on roll divergence in New South Wales. I have with me information by state on the divergence, and I am happy to discuss this with this committee. But, as an example, in New South Wales as at 30 September there were 139,898 more electors on the New South Wales state roll than the federal roll. And there were also 102,427 electors enrolled at different addresses. As you can see from this example, the divergence is a very significant issue, and I am indeed concerned about the potential confusion amongst voters about their entitlements.

Finally, I would like to advise the committee that, in accordance with the provisions of the electoral act, I will make a determination later today as to the numbers of people in the Commonwealth, states and territories based on statistics supplied by the Acting Australian Statistician. I will then use this to make a determination as to the number of members of the House of Representatives to which each state and territory is entitled. The results of these determinations will be made public shortly thereafter. That concludes my statement and I am happy to take any questions from the committee.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Mr Rogers. Thanks for the comprehensive nature of your opening statement and for the documents you have provided to us. I will just kick off with a couple of specific questions and I will allow my colleagues the time to sift through them. I will just take you to one specific issue which occupied a bit of our time yesterday—it is probably easier for us if we kick off where we left off—and that is on this issue of training that the Auditor-General highlighted in his report and that you have addressed in your opening statement. We have spent a bit of time going from page 79 through their analysis. What you told us today in your statement is that you made an error in your earlier evidence, and you have provided us with a document on training. Is that your dashboard report? Is that what you call it?

Mr Rogers : There are several documents I have provided that relate to that. The dashboard is an example of the data that we looked at on a daily basis at the national executive management team meeting. I hope I have also provided you with a policy document on training. I have also provided you with this document—

CHAIR: I have that.

Mr Rogers : which explains the detail of what occurred in 2013. So there are three documents that I have provided which go to explain that process. But every day at the national executive management team meeting we spent a large amount of time looking at recruitment—that is, filling positions—and training completion.

CHAIR: Why don't I go to where we were asking questions yesterday, because we are interested in what happened with training at the 2013 election because, as Senator Faulkner pointed out, that is what we are inquiring into. It does not mean we are disinterested in what is going to happen at the next election—we will come to questions on that—but first we just want to get the facts clear on training for the 2013 election. The document you have provided to us, at a certain point in time—I am looking at the second table: it looks like it says, 'Training by location'—has percentage figures for each state and the total for the nation of 78 per cent. Is that—

Mr Rogers : No, that was a snapshot on 6 September. We looked at that on the morning of 6 September and, as you know, the last day before the election—

CHAIR: I remember it well.

Mr Rogers : A lot of activity occurs on that very last day. In fact, I am happy to be corrected, but a lot of the training itself might occur on that very last day as well, because there are last-minute changes to the process. I have given you that document to explain to the committee that it was an area we looked at on a daily basis. We then examined those areas where there were deficiencies. We sought explanations from the state managers, where there was a variation, or about whether there was a problem, and tried to take corrective action where we could. That was done on a daily basis leading up to the election. On the day itself, that would be a different figure. This was a snapshot of the dashboard report.

CHAIR: Did you have a figure for the Monday or the Tuesday? Did you get a final outcome?

Mr Rogers : That is why I have tried to provide you with that flow diagram, which records the actual amount of training that we have done. If you do not mind, I want to point out a couple of key issues. All of our face-to-face training and other training is based on the information in the election procedures handbook. That handbook is posted to every polling official. Every polling official who is going to participate in the election—obviously, not people who turn up on the day as a last-minute thing, but those who have registered for duty—is sent the election procedures handbook, and that is specific to their role. So they are actually sent the training material. It is not just general—there is some general information, but it is targeted to their role.

We spent a lot of time working on that between 2010 and 2013, and, to make that more simple again, we also provided them with a training DVD. So every individual was sent training material. As it then said, our policy was that not every individual receives face-to-face training. To have ordinary issuing officers receiving face-to-face training would be expensive and, given the numbers involved, very difficult to achieve. Key individuals—OICs, 2ICs, Declaration Vote Issuing Officers, Polling Place Liaison Officers, and those in a couple of other categories—then undertake home based training online or with workbooks. I think that is where we started to go adrift yesterday; I have provided some stats there: 26,000 of those individuals were recorded as having completed online training in the LMS.

Senator FAULKNER : I would just like to get the stats clear. The election procedures handbook and the DVD were sent to 68,834 polling officials—that is correct?

Mr Rogers : That is correct.

CHAIR: That is your total workforce—

Senator FAULKNER: That is the issue. How many polling officials were there as a starting point?

Mr Rogers : I have taken that figure from the ANAO figure. I am using their—

Senator FAULKNER: But I am asking you and the AEC—

Mr Rogers : I am agreeing with their figure. That is the figure of polling staff that we are working on, on the day. Some of the difficulties locally might be that someone might turn up in the morning and then leave. We are talking about 70,000 workers.

Senator FAULKNER: I want to ask you—forget the ANAO: according to the AEC, how many polling officials were there in the 2013 federal election?

Mr Rogers : 68,834—to the best of my knowledge. I have deliberately used that figure from the ANAO; I agree with their figure. I am not trying to obscure anything here. I am deliberately trying to clarify it.

Senator FAULKNER: Righto. So every single polling official got both an election procedures handbook and a DVD? We are totally confident of that?

Mr Rogers : To the best of my knowledge, yes. However, on the morning of polling, if a local arrangement had to be put in place, that person may not have been given the DVD.

CHAIR: We can come to that later. What we are trying to get to, which we were trying to do yesterday, is this. In your earlier submission—and you have been very up-front in your opening statement; it said you inadvertently misled us—we were told that 100 per cent of people had got training, either by manual or online. The audit commission says, 'No way,' and it has figures in the tables for each category, from the most junior up to the most senior. We are interested in what percentage did not receive training. The other thing we are interested in—which I will float now and will start asking some questions on—is while you are getting the daily data and you have provided some to us, to what extent do you know what is going on in each division and each polling place? If there is a certain percentage not receiving training, that is obviously a concern and that is why we are pursuing that. How does a state manager know that in a particular division there might be a very high percentage not receiving the training, because of a failure there or even at a particular polling place? How is that monitored? In other words, what figures and details do you get?

Mr Rogers : The snapshot of the national executive management team that I have given you is clearly the high-level data. At each meeting, the assistant commissioner of elections will then break open that data and we would look at allocations to roll, which is the critical thing for us, about how many staff we have allocated. Clearly, on the first day the number is low and we built up towards the election. We monitor down to the divisional level. You would be aware that there are demographic issues that make each division slightly different in terms of the polling place work, getting workers and ensuring that you have got the key tasks filled. A separate part of that, which we look at occasionally at the divisional level, was down to training completion. If it looked like in a particular division there may have been an issue, we ask questions of the state manager about the state—

CHAIR: What information do you get on the division?

Mr Rogers : The data can be broken down by division.

CH AIR: Right. We are interested in that.

Senator FAULKNER: Where does the data come from? You are saying the 68,834 figure is in ANAO figure, not an AEC figure.

Mr Rogers : We have our election management system, which is where our processes rest and where we put our data.

Senator FAULKNER: This document is created by the AEC. It is not created by the ANAO, is it?

Mr Rogers : That is correct. Our system is intensely manual. I think the ANAO data is accurate. Let me be specific: the system that we were using up to 2013 was a very manual process and ANAO have reported on our data.

Senator FAULKNER: Where do they get the data from?

Mr Rogers : From us and from our election management system.

Senator FAULKNER : Point out to me which particular paragraph in the ANAO report it is. You have lifted that figure of 68,834 from the ANAO and they had lifted it from you. That is what you are saying?

Mr Rogers : That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER: Where in the ANAO report can I find that figure?

Mr Rogers : We are just looking for that now.

Senator FAULKNER: If you are able to, because you did not have this document yesterday and so I was not able to ask the ANAO, I would appreciate understanding—if you can assist me—where the ANAO found that figure.

Mr Rogers : I can go further in that regard: we monitor this at the national election management team meeting by state level. Where there was an issue down to the divisional level, that data comes from our election management system.

Senator FAULKNER: Fine, but I am not asking that. I am asking where the figure come from.

Mr Rogers : From our election management system. That is what I have just said. We are using the data. I am not trying to obscure this. I am trying to be helpful. We have an election management system where the divisional returning officers enter data as they put staff against places where they allocate positions.

Senator FAULKNER: When was that system interrogated to get the 68,834 figure?

Mr Rogers : I am now looking at paragraph 429 on page 75 of the ANAO report. They interrogated our data to get that figure. That is our data. They are reporting on our data and I am agreeing with that data.

CHAIR: This is the 68,834 who are employed to fill—

Senator FAULKNER: Which paragraph are you on?

CHAIR: Paragraph 429 on page 75. For the benefit of everyone who does not have the report, it says that 68,834 were employed to fill 72,224 election roles.

Senator FAULKNER: It is footnoted there.

CHAIR: Correct. I was about to say that.

Senator FAULKNER: They interrogated your data.

Mr Rogers : Corrected. We provided the ANAO with all of our data for them to come up with those figures.

Senator FAULKNER: The 68,834 polling officials who received the election procedures handbook and the DVD are the same people?

Mr Rogers : I want to be specific. We sent that to them. I am just being very specific with the language, given there are so many people.

Senator FAULKNER: What we do not know is how many received it. That is the point you are making?

Mr Rogers : That is correct.

Senator FAULKNER: You have got absolutely no idea how many people read the election procedures handbook, have you?

Mr Rogers : That is correct.

Sen ator FAULKNER: It could be naught out of the 68,834 that have actually read it. It will not be, but—

Mr Rogers : That is absolutely true.

Senator FAULKNER: You have got absolutely no idea how many of the 68,834 polling officials actually watched the DVD.

Mr Rogers : I don't have an idea. I might just tell you that we did do a survey after the 2013 election about this specific issue. We sent a survey out over 20,000 of our polling officials, received 7,000 responses and—as in the ANAO report at paragraph 5.8 on page 78—95 per cent recall receiving a copy of the handbook. This is the ANAO's own survey. They did an additional survey, with most respondents receiving the handbook between two and four weeks in advance of the election. Satisfaction with the handbook was strongly positive, with 93 per cent of the respondents being very satisfied or satisfied that the handbook helped them prepare to perform their assigned role. I think that largely mirrored our own experience with our own internal survey with our own staff.

Senator FAULKNER: If we are going to depend on the ANAO's statistics, we then get to table 5.1 on page 80. That is the completion of home-based training by election officials where training is required. The statistics there are the statistics of what the roles are and what roles are completed, are partially completed, have no record of completion and have no record of being assigned to training.

Mr Rogers : I agree with that.

Senator FAULKNER: You agree with those statistics too?

Mr Rogers : Yes.

CHAIR: What they say is that, on the information available, we can be sure that the figure of full completion is 80 per cent. Those other categories Senator Faulkner mentioned make up 20 per cent: partial completion, no record of completion or no record of being assigned to training.

Mr Rogers : That is correct. Then, as I have said there, on top of that process senior staff are paid training component for their training. My understanding is that over 30,000 of the staff then attended face-to-face training. Again, so that we are not either overstating or understating this, that face-to-face training is based on the election procedures handbook.

Senator FAULKNER: Has the AEC satisfied itself that all those polling officials are receiving that training component? That is fair enough.

Mr Rogers : The division returning officer certifies that, because the face-to-face training is delivered locally. They certify that they have conducted the training and the individuals have completed the training. The way I measuring that is through payment of the training bonus.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, I know it is being measured through payment. But the critical step before payment is the authorisation by the DRO. Is that correct?

Mr Rogers : That is correct. The training has to be delivered locally, as you would understand.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes.

Mr Rogers : So it is managed locally and recorded locally.

Senator FAULKNER: It does not have to be delivered locally if it is online, does it?

Mr Rogers : The face-to-face component?

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, the face-to-face component. But is the training component only paid for those who have received face-to-face training?

Mr Rogers : As I understand it, the training component is paid for a mixture of the face-to-face and the other training—

Senator FAULKNER: You do understand it. I am trying to understand it. The question is—

Mr Rogers : The training is completed to the satisfaction of the DRO. Staff sign an attendance sheet for the face-to-face training.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but do you only receive a training component if you receive face-to-face training—that is the question—or do some people receive that if they undertake online training?

Mr Rogers : Actually, Senator, for some individuals in remote and rural areas, their face-to-face training is over the phone; that will count as attendance for face-to-face training even though it is not. That is why we put in the policy that it is to the satisfaction of the DRO. Our expectation is the vast majority of that is face-to-face training, except where it can't be done for those circumstances—over the phone. I would presume that it would not even be for emergency training on the morning; it would be for face to face or where face to face cannot be delivered and so over the phone or some sort of exigent circumstance like that, but to the satisfaction to the DRO.

Senator FAULKNER: Anyway, the checking mechanism is the satisfaction of DRO.

Mr Rogers : That is correct.

CHAIR: Clearly you are here in Canberra with your team and you have the state managers in each state who are managing all the divisional returning officers who are managing all the officers in charge. You have that pyramid structure. In terms of what is going on in each division, you said you have got a capacity to drill down into all of that.

Mr Rogers : That is correct, Chair.

CHAIR: When does the red light start flashing? Let's pluck an example from the air in Mr Gray's electorate. It is the Thursday before the Saturday and, whilst the figure in Western Australia at this point is getting up towards 70 per cent, which it was on the Friday before, there is a bit of chaos going on in that electorate because only 30 per cent of people have got the training. You know where I am going.

Mr GRAY: Or 30 people who have been well trained do not turn up, and so we have to make do.

CHAIR: So what happens in that situation?

Mr Rogers : That is one of the reasons we occasionally need to drill down by division because the demographics of a particular division might be that division is an outlier with much less training completed or people allocated against tasks. For example, I was the state manager for New South Wales in 2007 but we had two divisions where we could not get polling staff and that became a great concern to the state management team—Wentworth and Bennelong. So we did extra tasks in Wentworth and Bennelong to try and get addition staff; we started that probably a week and half out. That is a task that the state managers do on a regular basis: monitor down to division level, work with the divisional staff and try to take corrective action. Sometimes it just does not work—you just cannot get the staff for particular areas, and that is why you occasionally carry vacancies. We also rely on the DROs to let us know how they are going with their implementation. There are sometimes occasionally seats where it is difficult to get workers, and that is historic. In other seats where there is never an issue in getting workers and we fill that pretty quickly. But, particularly in that last week, the flags are up if we are not filling those positions—noting that a lot of the training occurs in the last two days on the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of that final week before polling—but we are actively managing that through that process.

CHAIR: From yesterday and today it would be useful if we could get the figures by electorate.

Mr GRAY: Mr Rogers, thank you for all the work that the commission has done to provide all this knowledge, understanding and process. We have 68,834 as the number of people who receive material or have been on the list to receive material. Do we have any idea of the number of people who went through training who then did not front for duties—due to a virus or the car breaking down?

Mr Rogers : Who did not front for duty?

Mr GRAY: Yes. Do we have an idea of the number of people who were actually in position on the day who did not receive training? The reason I ask this question is that, as we know, as the period of the election unfolds, events occur and it becomes apparent to us that that event occurred because the officer employed by the AEC did not know the correct protocol, either in sealing a ballot box or reaching inside a box of ballot papers or calling a candidate to seek instructions on how to deal with a particular conundrum. Stuff-ups happen.

I am curious to know not simply how many people were trained but how many people were trained and did not make it into the line on the day, and how many people who did not have training were in the line on the day, and then how we interpret events such as those I have just described: ballots being inappropriately handled; a ballot box being inappropriately sealed; an event on the day that gets reported to the AEC. Can you help me with that information?

Mr Rogers : Certainly. The issues that occurred in 2013, and in fact at every election where incidents occur, in my view, are actually failures of training or assessment—the incidents that Mr Orr referred to yesterday, where ballot boxes were opened. It does not matter what systems we put in place or what training we provided. That failed at that point. The systems that we had in place did not work. I have said previously, both at Senate estimates and at this committee, that I think our training methodology is at the very end of its life span. It is not working the way that it should work, which is why we are moving forward with a different set of training for the future. What I can provide you on notice is that detail: people who turned up at a polling place because of exigent circumstances and who had not done the full suite of training—because I think that is the question that you are asking. They would still be briefed when they arrived there. There would be no-one who was just thrown in without some sort of information about how to conduct themselves. But I will find out who did not complete any—

Mr GRAY: I just want to come back to that point. I accept that we would like that to be the case, but I do not believe it is the case.

Mr Rogers : And I am going to get that data for you.

Mr GRAY: I presented evidence earlier this year, from Ms Anderson, of the under-age, very helpful polling place staff who were working at the Calista Primary School, who provided advice on ballot handling and handled ballot papers but who were not supposed to be touching ballot papers. We know these problems occur.

Mr Rogers : Absolutely.

Mr GRAY: We do not want to make more of this other than to understand what is happening, to have our processes as good as they can be, and to make the culture change that is required to underwrite that better practice on the day and through the election campaign itself.

Mr Rogers : I will provide those statistics for you, as you have asked. We will break them down by division for you. I am trying to be very open here: the system of training that we were using up to 2013 was clearly inadequate. It led to a number of issues.

Senator FAULKNER: What I have been driving at here, yesterday and today, is that there are two issues. You acknowledge the inadequacy of the AEC's training and the fact that it needs to be significantly improved and revamped. I understand that. You also say that that led to certain issues, certain problems, in the 2013 election. What I am grappling with is understanding the extent to which the fact that certain polling officials did not receive any training was a factor. It may not be possible to make this differentiation, but there are, if you like, two separate issues. There is the inadequacy of the training, on the one hand, and the fact that—as you do accept—some polling officials received no training. That is probably inevitable in any electoral event. But you acknowledge that?

Mr Rogers : Yes, I would—although the training might be: 'Sit here; do this.' That is not adequate training, but it might be the level that they get.

Senator FAULKNER: If you are able to assist, when you respond to Mr Gray's question, that would also be helpful, because the ANAO effectively have as an additional issue, beyond the inadequacy of training, the fact that either certain polling officials did not receive training or there is no record that they received training—this is another factor.

Mr Rogers : Can I agree with you, Senator, and go further and pick up on your last point. It is quite clear, as you have said, that there is an issue around the training and we are addressing that—it is clearly not right. The second issue, as you correctly pointed out and the ANAO have pointed out, is the way in which our data is being compiled; it is impossible to know to 100 per cent satisfaction. This is a real problem for us. It is not just the data that we have, but the processes around how we have entered that data previously have not been good enough. That may well have led to issues in the polling place. As you are quite rightly point out, we do not know. I am giving you figures that we are about 99 per cent sure, and 99 per cent is not 100 per cent. I am acknowledging that, essentially, the point that Mr Gray has made is correct. There are issues with the training that we are trying to address; there are previous issues with the way in which we have compiled that data. I wish it was other than it was but it is not. These may well have had a contribution to issues in the polling place.

Could I table one other thing. For each of the positions at the table—even for people that do not have the training, or an exigent circumstance arises and they are thrown in the deep end—on the back of their nameplate is actually a list of what to do, how to do it and key tasks. What we did for this election, to try to cope with this, was develop new badges for each of them with their role descriptions on the back—

Mr GRAY: Could you pass those around so we could have a look at them. Is there an online capacity for those who are in polling places in mobile telephone areas where they can get immediate thoughts and advice?

Mr Rogers : I am sorry, I missed the last part of the question.

Mr GRAY: Is there capacity, on the day or during the event, for a polling staffer to jump online through their telephone, tablet or the like, and get real-time advice? Is there an app that they can interpret to get that information?

Mr Rogers : At the moment there is not. I know my staff are now sucking air through teeth and becoming very nervous because I have actually indicated that I would like to develop that very facility. I think it is the way to try to cover this situation where people are thrown in at the last minute. We have actually done some initial examination of this and it could even be as simple as making the DVD available on YouTube, for example.

Mr Kitson : Which it is.

Mr Rogers : So that people could view it if they have the appropriate connection. But I would actually like to be more comprehensive than that and provide a better online training experience. It is also one of the things that we are hoping to achieve through the introduction of our new learning management system. So I agree with you, Mr Gray, that would be a very useful part of that.

Mr GRAY: Also, we have very different configurations of the AEC delivery model in different jurisdictions. It is necessarily different in the ACT to what it is in the Northern Territory; profoundly different in South Australia to what it is in New South Wales and Victoria. Is there an observed difference in training, or the penetration of training, with those different models for distributing the capacity of the AEC? In South Australia we have a much more centralised model: three AEC officers serving, I think, 11 federal divisions; in Western Australia we have, I think, six AEC officers serving 15 divisions; in New South Wales we have 50 divisions and probably 20 officers. Do we see an observed difference in penetration of training and execution on the day that might tell us which of those models is the better model to have? I want to find out if we have broken something, by my obsession, in the efficiency of the AEC—and my preferred personal model is the South Australian delivery system—by shifting the AEC officers out of individual divisions themselves. Have we lost something in that transition?

Mr Rogers : That has been subject to a lot of internal debate as I am sure you are aware, Mr Gray; many staff have different views. I will give you my view: the coordination of the provision of that training is easier and simpler in the model that we have in places like South Australia. There is also greater fallback and greater redundancy from that model. From my perspective—

CHAIR: And more consistency.

Mr Rogers : And more consistency. There are also other variations, though. I do not have the figure, but I imagine there would be quite a duplication between the staff that we use and the staff that then work at a state electoral event or local council event, using different systems. We also have got to factor that into our training as well, because people go on with the particular mindset. If they have worked every state election for the last 15 years, procedures are different. We need to make sure that they understand where those differences are. There has got to be some tailoring at the state level as well for that very circumstance. That is, from my perspective, something that we need to look at as part of our new training package.

CHAIR: I will wrap this section up. We will ask some more questions on notice in terms of the breakdown by division and also by polling places within the division. I think that would be useful for the committee. You have said here in your opening statement, and I give you credit for acknowledging that the system at the moment is inadequate, that you are working to completely overhaul it and you are working on that now. Next March is basically the midpoint of the term. What features do you seen in the new system? You have had Griffith election and you have had the Western Australian re-run. It has got to be scalable to a full federal election: 150 simultaneous House of Representatives elections and all the Senate elections. How is the system going to be different? I appreciate that you have not got all of the new training components fully settled at this point, but how is the system going to be different?

Mr Rogers : I was listening yesterday when that question was asked and I think it is reasonable. I wanted to reflect on the fact that our systems were such that for Griffith and WA we actually went to the point of recording all training completion manually. We took it out of our system and took someone offline to actually record all training completion manually, because the system that we were using was simply not good enough. That process is not scalable. That process with spreadsheets is not going to happen for a federal election.

CHAIR: You just made a judgement that the system was not going to be good enough and you could not create a new one—

Mr Rogers : For the very reasons that the members of the committee have raised today. Back in April, we provided all of our procurement documentation for a new learning management system to the Australian Public Service Commission. We have selected the new provider for the learning management system. Janison is the new system that we are implementing. We are implementing that right now and that will be done in time for the next election. That will enable us to record training completion at a local level, manage it nationally, have greater fidelity of training and have greater flexibility with how we provide that training.

The second part of that is the training itself. I am saving a final bit to address some of the issues that Senator Faulkner raised this morning. The next bit is the training itself. I do not think we publicly announced it, but we have selected providers to assist us with completely overhauling what I am calling all of our technical training. That is the training that we provide to the polling officials. They are due to start work on that next week. You will understand that that is a really comprehensive body of work and we have put them on a tight time frame. It is important for us to have as much of that done as possible before the next electoral event.

The third point is to pick up on the thrust of Senator Faulkner's comments and Mr Gray's comment earlier on. That in itself will not address all of the issues. There is also a cultural issue. Some of the points that we are making here today about recording training completion is a cultural issue for our staff. We are also working to fix that element. That is because we could have the best systems in the world but if they not used properly we will be back at this committee with a similar issue next time, and we cannot have that. Those three elements are moving forward now.

CHAIR: On that third one—partial completion, no record completion and no record of being assigned to training—what you are saying is that within that 20 per cent, it is very likely that people have completed that training but it has just not been recorded.

Mr Rogers : And we do not know—possibly.

CHAIR: That is the key point that Senator Faulkner was making yesterday. You do not know and you cannot know, and your system will not tell you and there is no way you will find out now.

Mr Rogers : That is correct.

C HAIR: I know that colleagues have questions on other issues, but if we just stick with the Keelty report for a time. The Auditor-General's report makes mention in the final chapter that, at the time of publication, there was still no formal documented implementation plan, and we spent a bit of time on that yesterday. We should invite you to give us your perspective on that, and if colleagues have questions on Keelty generally, now is probably the time to ask them.

Mr Rogers : Thank you. You will be aware that the Keelty recommendations were endorsed by the previous commissioner in December, prior to his departure. We had a very short—and I mean very short—period of time to implement as many of those recommendations as possible before the Griffith by-election and then the WA election. I said in my opening statement that I tabled what I am calling an implementation schedule to this committee; I think I said in my opening statement in March—

CHAIR: Was that our hearing on 12 March?

Mr Rogers : I think it was. That was a very comprehensive document that we were using as an implementation plan. We knew we had to have that straight up, and we have built on that document and that remains our prime source document.

Senator FAULKNER: What was that date?

Mr Rogers : 12 March. Just let me check my opening statement.

Senator FAULKNER: I know you canvassed it; I am just looking for the date, that is all.

Mr Rogers : I said in the opening statement:

These have included an initial letter from me to this committee, dated 4 February 2014, providing a summary of the measures we intend to implement. In March, I tabled a document that outlined what we were doing to address each recommendation …

and we also handed over a folio of what I remember was called a folio of interim measures. That was all the documentation we had changed and how we were going to use that at the Griffith by-election.

CHAIR: Yes, it was all those A3 documents, and we spent a bit of time on it—

Senator FAULKNER: But what happened in August this year when the ANAO asked you, the AEC, for a copy of the detailed implementation plan?

Mr Rogers : We provided the document that I had provided this committee and updated. And as I said in my opening statement, the ANAO pointed out, as essentially they have said in their report, that they felt that the document that we gave them, that we tabled to this committee, was not sufficient as an implementation plan. It was certainly an implementation guide that we were using, and very comprehensive, but not an implementation plan.

Senator FAULKNER: But, accordingly to the ANAO, they say they requested the detailed implementation plan in August 2014. They quote AEC advice to them:

The detailed plan referred to on 4 February 2014 has not been finalised as the Griffith by‐election was called immediately after this submission went to JSCEM and was followed by the WA half Senate Election. Both these events are being thoroughly evaluated and the issues of legislative requirements and costings will be dealt with.

CHAIR: This is on page 100.

Mr Rogers : Yes, I have that, Chair.

Senator FAULKNER: So I am not sure how this all fits together.

Mr Rogers : Perhaps I can provide some further information.

Senator FAULKNER: That is a quote—I assume it is an accurate quotation—of AEC advice to the ANAO about the implementation plan in August 2014, which really does not fit with what is being said about what was provided in February and March 2014, on the face of it.

Mr Rogers : I take that, Senator.

Senat or FAULKNER: We remember the documents in March; we are just wanting clarity on them.

Mr Rogers : The documents that I tabled here in February, the letter and then this table—that is the table that we update on a daily basis. We are still using it. I think I have just tabled an update. I have redacted some information from that updated table because there are some commercial issues in that process. That is the document that we are using as our implementation schedule on a daily basis. That is what I tabled. My understanding is when we provided this to the ANAO—and I am happy to be corrected—they said, 'We acknowledge that, but that is not an implementation plan; it does not represent a best practice implementation plan. Nor do you have the other documentation that would normally go towards making a project, including governance documentation and other issues.'

That is the explanation, Senator. I am very comfortable with what I have tabled; I am comfortable with the progress we have made. That is where we are at the moment. I also said in my opening statement that I appointed an additional project management specialist to the Keelty team in late August, on 29 August, to assist in further producing some of the documents that you see there today. So, Senator, I think that is where that issue occurred. I am still comfortable with what we have done. You will see yourself in the detail of what I have given you there that it is a very detailed plan —as it was back in March when I tabled it—of how we were to attack the Keelty recommendations. I might also say that that is changing on a weekly basis as more information comes to hand.

Senator FAULKNER: It led the ANAO to say, as at mid-September 2014: 'The AEC had not yet finalised the detailed implementation plan.' Are you saying that this is a nomenclature issue?

Mr Rogers : In my view, yes. I have just been told that the table that we provided the ANAO in August did not have the costing information at that stage. It may well be that they were referring to that as well, but I have lived and breathed Keelty now since December of last year. It is in my interest to implement this—which is why we are implementing it with this table in detail and talking about it on an almost daily basis. I am comfortable with what we have done. I take on board the ANAO's comments.

Senator FAULKNER: Have you sent this to the ANAO?

Mr Rogers : We sent the version we had on the day that we sent it—which was in August. It did not have costing information. We have since told—

Senator FAULKNER: The Auditor-General points out that it did not have estimated costings. He also pointed out—and I think this is critical for an implementation plan—that it did not have any indicative deadlines.

Mr Rogers : I am now reading the note I have been handed. We acknowledged that the table that we provided to the ANAO in August did not contain final costings or deadlines. I know—

Senator FAULKNER: So a plan contains costings and deadlines, does it?

Mr Rogers : Yes, which it now does, but we were still evaluating some of the measures that occurred in WA to see whether or not we were going to implement them. We had already achieved much of what we were going to achieve in any case. We were monitoring this on a daily basis.

CHAIR: What you are now saying is: whatever the argument was there, it is now done. What we are saying, or getting to: the Auditor-General is going to follow up again. They have indicated that, and you would expect that, given the notice of it. Now that it is done, are you going to send it to them? It would not be ideal if we are back here in six months or so and they have not had a look at it. That is our question and your choice.

Mr Rogers : Yes is the answer.

Senator FAULKNER: This has just been tabled, and I appreciate you tabling it. Thank you very much for it. I can assure you I have not read it and I am not even certain that I can—the print is so small.

CHAIR: We need those magnifying plastic sheets from the Senate election.

Senator FAULKNER: But does this document, entitled 'Electoral reform program implementation plan progress at 6/11/2014, version 3', contain costings and time lines?

Mr Rogers : Yes, Senator.

Senator FAULKNER: Which column would I find that in?

Mr Rogers : Where it says 'redacted'—particularly the costings because some of those relate to commercial projects that we are now involved with. I mentioned at the start that there are three specific projects: one with ballot paper security; one with the secure transport of ballot papers, which potentially could fundamentally reshape the way in which we distribute and use ballot papers; and one with the secure storage of ballot papers. These were the two key recommendations that came out of Keelty. The third one is with our overall planning.

Senator FAULKNER: Yes, but the two columns that are redacted here—one is contributors, and I appreciate why you might do that—

Mr Rogers : The time frame is there. Between the two redacted columns is the time frame. I know it is a bit hard to read.

Senator FAULKNER: It is, yes.

Mr Rogers : In the interests of being helpful, may I go further. The column that is redacted with costings is going to be an issue for the AEC, and indeed for government, because our initial take on this is that the next election, if it is to be delivered in a Keelty-like manner, will cost significantly more than any election that has yet been conducted. That is an issue that we are working on at the moment.

Senator FAULKNER: When it says V3, does that mean version 3—up the top, in the title?

Mr Carpay : Yes.

Mr Rogers : I cannot quite see that, but let me say it is there and yes, that would be the issue.

Senator FAULKNER: Just read the first line of the thing: 'Electoral reform program implementation plan—progress at 06.11.2014 V3'. Is that version 3? What does that V stand for?

Mr Carpay : It is a version control system.

Mr Rogers : The reason I am questioning that is that the copy I have does not have version 3 on it.

Senator FAULKNER: The copy that you have tabled has the V3. That means that there were a V1 and a V2.

Mr Rogers : Like the bomb.

Senator FAULKNER: It sounds a bit Second World War, but anyway.

CHAIR: Ours are all V3.

Senator FAULKNER: What are the dates of V1 and V2?

Mr Rogers : As I said in my opening statement, I have tabled the earlier versions of this particular document at this committee, both in committee and by update in writing. This committee has the earlier versions of this document.

Senator FAULKNER: Both V1 and V2?

Mr Rogers : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: Well, we have that in our committee records. We can hook it out.

CHAIR: Yes, we will need to.

Senator FAULKNER: Was the document entitled, at that time, 'Electoral reform program implementation program'?

Mr Rogers : No. I will have to check the exact—

Senator FAULKNER: You do not get an implementation plan by just getting a document and whacking that terminology on it.

Mr Rogers : No. But, as I have also said, the original documentation did not have costings or time lines. Once it has costings, time lines and the detail, in my mind that is an implementation plan. And that is what you have in front of you.

CHAIR: Not unless you are going to send this to the Auditor-General so they can assess it.

Mr Rogers : I think the original documents were entitled 'Keelty progress against recommendations'. They were the ones I referred to in my opening statements.

CHAIR: We might come back to this, because we have a lot of material. I am going to give Senator Rhiannon the floor for some questions, and then there are a couple of other subjects we want to raise, as well.

Senator RHIANNON: You just made the comment that the next election will be significantly more expensive. Can you just remind us how much the 2013 election cost, please?

Mr Rogers : Yes, I can. Approximately $120 million. That does not include party funding, by the way.

Senator RHIANNON: $120 million? When you said it does not include—

Mr Rogers : The party funding figure.

Senator RHIANNON: You mean the money that is paid to the parties?

Mr Rogers : I will come back to you on the party funding figure. It is about $120 million of election costs.

Senator RHIANNON: So $120 million to run the election.

Mr Pirani : The public funding component, which is the election funding that we pay to parties, was in the order of about $54 million.

Senator RHIANNON: Going back to your comment, Mr Rogers. I understood that you said that the next election will be significantly more. Can you give us an order of increase?

Mr Rogers : I can give a very rough estimate at this stage, and I am loath to provide that. I am conscious that, once you say something, you are then held to it. I have an indicator at this stage. I am using this based on a projection from what occurred in WA, but the additional costs could be in the order of $40 million.

Senator RHIANNON: On top of those two figures?

Mr Rogers : That is correct. It could be in the order. I am conscious that I have not formally provided that figure yet to government. That is a planning figure, and we are confirming that planning figure as we extrapolate forward from what occurred in Western Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: In your report and in your opening remarks, and you touched on it in response to some of the questions we have just gone through, you talked about the reform program and some of the separate projects. What you have got down here are the external specialist organisations in the area; the transport of the ballot, secure storage and materials, the planning processes, and performance reporting of large-scale operational events. Does that all involve tendering out of the AEC to undertake that work?

Mr Rogers : That is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: Where is that up to?

Mr Rog ers : All of those tender processes have been completed. In the case of the first two projects that you mentioned; secure transport and secure storage of materials, those reports have now been completed. We have those reports, and we are looking at the implementation of those. The third of those projects which essentially speaks to our planning culture is underway at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: Has the tender process gone out and have the companies been signed up?

Mr Rogers : Yes. The first two projects have completed the task, and on the third one, the company is with us now actually doing the project that we tendered them to do.

Senator RHIANNON: Previously, have you had private companies undertaking this work, or is that again one of the changes that have come in—that you have made the judgement that the AEC could not do this, and you have had to go outside?

Mr Rogers : I made the judgement that we needed to go outside. I might just point out that the Keelty recommendations themselves make a comment somewhere that I think that logistics in particular is a specialised task, and we do not necessarily have that skill internally within the AEC.

Senator RHIANNON: So that is with the logistics with regard to the transport and the storage?

Mr Roge rs : That is correct.

Senator RHIANNON: On both of them?

Mr Rogers : Yes. Also, I have previously been on record here as saying that the long-term storage of ballot papers is an area where there are a large number of organisations in Australia that do that commercially to a very high standard, who are trained to do it. I wonder if that is a piece of business that we need to be in. That is why we are trying to seek better ways of doing that.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say that you may be able to bring it in-house—

Mr Rogers : No, the reverse. We currently have long-term storage—

Senator RHIANNON: You mean for what you have, that you move more out. Okay. Did I understand correctly that you will have an outside provider doing the training?

Mr Rogers : Working with us to produce the training, yes. Clearly it is a very specialised area. We have brought in expertise in training more broadly, but the detail of the content, we will need to work collaboratively with the provider on that process.

Senator RHIANNON: I am asking this because it does seem to be this enormous tendency in government that you get outside expertise when we have so much knowledge that has built up within our government departments. That was one area that I was surprised at. I can see that the transport and storage, but the training—what we are talking about is so specialised. Why did you rule out that you could not do it within the AEC?

Mr Rogers : There are a number of components with training. One is the content of the training. The second is the impact of that training and how it is received. It is a highly specialised area; learning and development and training more broadly. We have some good general learning and development expertise in-house, but given the Keelty report in particular mentioned the fact that the culture of some parts of the organisation needed to be amended, training is a critical part of that and we wanted to make sure that the training we were delivering is best practice. We do not have that ability inside the AEC, and that is why we made the decision to go externally to get innovative solutions to deliver this training.

As we have heard today, we have had issues with the way the training has been received. We have had issues with mistakes being made in the polling place, and I wanted to ensure that the training system that we have in place for our polling officials is modern, effective, and results in an impact on the ground. My judgment was that this was best done by those with contemporary expertise, which is why we went down that path.

Senator RHIANNON: You have gone down that path. Is it a view that that is the path that you will continue to go down, or that you would be looking for your people to gain that innovative approach to the training, because you cannot get away from the fact that people who have experience are often the best teachers? Have you just decided you are going down the private path or are you open to making an assessment if you can bring it back inside?

Mr Rogers : Every decision we make about things like learning and development is a snapshot in time. Given the problems we had in 2013, it was my assessment that we needed to radically change our training approach, and we are doing that at the moment. In the future, it may well be that we are more able to update that training or change that training using the resources that we have within the agency. I do reflect, though, that learning and development in particular is a key part of culture—

Senator RHIANNON: Key part of the culture?

Mr Rogers : Yes, and impacting the culture, and it needs to be right, and it needs to be contemporary. Generally speaking, organisations like the AEC are not able to keep up with every development that is occurring in the field, and it is quite often best to be able to access whatever external expertise is out there.

Senator RHIANNON: How hands-on are your people with the training? You bring in this company and it has got the modern language and it is innovative—though they have probably pulled a template off the shelf, but anyway; I am sure you look to get the best company that will really do a good job. How hands-on are your people working with them or do you just hand over and say: 'These are the materials. Can you turn this into training?'

Mr Rogers : Just to be clear, they have not yet started. We have just concluded that part of the process. The learning management system, that is being implemented—we are on track. We have only just completed the tender process for the technical training, and they are due to start next week, but the content will come from us. The AEC staff will be very involved in the provision of the content for that training.

Senator RHIANNON: That is exactly my question. You supply the content. Are your people working with them at every step of the way or do you just hand over the content and say, 'Turn this into training'?

Mr Rogers : No, our staff will be working with them.

Senator RHIANNON: Integrated at all stages?

Mr Rogers : Very closely.

Senator RHIANNON: You gave the interesting figures about the number of people on the roll in New South Wales compared to federally. I am assuming that discrepancy is only in New South Wales because of the different way the roll is managed—is that correct?

CHAIR: That is the subject I was going to raise with respect to Victoria.

Mr Rogers : No, that divergence is not just in New South Wales.

Senator RHIANNON: What other states do we have that difference and can you supply the figures?

Mr Rogers : Yes. There is divergence in most states. I might get Mr Andrew Gately, our assistant commissioner roll management, to come and talk about this issue. It is an important part of the process.

Mr Gately : Roll divergence has been something that has been in existence eternally, from our perspective, in the sense that there are always variations between the law and practice across federal and state jurisdictions. At the moment, as the commissioner has talked about, New South Wales is one of the areas, and Victoria also has a degree of roll divergence which at present is, just to give you stats in the similar form as we have talked about with New South Wales, in Victoria as at the end of September there were 53,664 federal-only electors on the roll and 41,754 state-only electors on the roll.

CHAIR: Sorry, could you just repeat that, the time and as at what date?

Mr Gately : This is 30 September. There were 53,664 federal-only electors and 41,754 State-only electors. In addition to that, there were approximately 128,000 electors with different addresses between federal and state enrolments in Victoria at that point.

CHAIR: 128,000 different addresses?

Mr Gately : That is correct. In addition, the other state to speak about that has levels of divergence at present is Western Australia. That is fundamentally a result of differences in law between the federal and state legislation at present. And that number at 30 September was 30,769 federal-only electors, and 51,654 electors who were enrolled at different addresses for federal and state purposes.

The other states and territories have very small numbers of variations at the moment, varying from one in the Northern Territory, through to 1,789 in South Australia.

CHAIR: Senator Rhiannon and I are both interested in this. I would be interested if you could provide all of the figures. I will let her continue her questioning. I would also be interested in the figures going back to see whether that divergence is growing. And certainly in the case of Victoria, they have now closed the rolls—

Mr Gately : They have closed the rolls.

CHAIR: If you can get an update that would be useful?

Mr Gately : Yes, we can do that. In terms of the historical commentary, there have certainly been a range of measures, from a legislative perspective, that have changed—for example, in South Australia and Western Australia—over the last couple of years in relation to state law, that brought their laws around evidence of identity into line with the federal law. Those measures assisted in aligning the roll.

CHAIR: Where was that?

Mr Gately : That was South Australia and Western Australia.

CHAIR: So there is not a growing divergence in South Australia, based on that issue?

Mr Gately : No, there are 1,789 at the end of September, which is a result of some other aspects of the law that are still different. But certainly, after the last few years in New South Wales and Victoria, and in WA in the last 18 months, divergence has grown. On notice we will provide some detail about that.

Mr Rogers : It is an increasing problem.

CHAIR: Could you elaborate?

Mr Rogers : The figures speak for themselves.

CHAIR: Sometimes we help best by not talking and letting you talk.

Mr Rogers : There have been some changes to process, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, that have led to a greater divergence than what was there previously. I am now looking to the assistant commissioner roll management. We have been to trying to work productively with our colleagues at the New South Wales Electoral Commission and the Victorian Electoral Commission. Anything that I say here is absolutely not a criticism of those individuals; they are making decisions that they feel that they need to make to make sure that their roll is in the state that it needs to be. But they have adopted slightly different processes and we have slightly different business rules. A lot of this is around the issue of direct enrolment that has led to—in New South Wales's case—the state roll growing more quickly than the federal roll. In Victoria that appears to be the case as well.

The issue in Western Australia is in some ways the reverse of that. Western Australian state law does not recognise the direct enrolment processes that we have in place federally. I do not want to criticise anybody, but I guess the statement I would make is that within the parameters, the legislative parameters that we are operating, I am comfortable with the standard of the Commonwealth roll.

CHAIR: Tell me whether this is your view, and leave Western Australia to one side, because I accept that that is a separate issue: you have direct enrolment federally, direct enrolment at the state level—in my home state of Victoria, for example—and there are certain data sources that you use and there are certain data sources that Victoria is using that you are not comfortable using?

Mr Rogers : Or we do not use. For example, I am looking at Victoria and New South Wales. New South Wales uses Board of Studies data and Victoria uses year 12 students from the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, which is used once a year. New South Wales have also used other data at times. They have previously used New South Wales TAFE data and First Home Owner Grant information, and I think they are investigating other data sources that they might include in the dataset.

From my perspective, I have got to be sure that I am entirely comfortable with every aspect of their data before I use that as part of the input into our own dataset. To be very honest, at the moment we are not using that data as an input into our dataset because I have to assure myself 100 per cent of the integrity and, at this stage, I have not done so. I have, as you know, established the electoral integrity unit in July of this year and one of their tasks is to make sure that our own processes, with a direct enrolment and update, are 100 per cent the way that I would like them to be. And we are continuing to work with New South Wales and Victoria but, at the moment, that divergence is going to be an increasing problem.

Mr GRAY: I want to do the related number, which is the need for a person who is on the roll in the state of New South Wales. For New South Wales electoral purposes to reasonably feel that when they turn up for a federal election, they are on the roll. And when we look at these numbers, they are very big numbers. Take the case of Western Australian, for instance. The federal election we could reasonably expect to be in the third quarter of 2016. The state event will be in the first quarter of 2017. So, within the matter of 100 days, it is entirely possible that a person could feel that they were properly and reasonably enrolled in one jurisdiction and then discover that they are not enrolled at all in the other.

Mr Rogers : I think it would be safe to assume that, quite rightly, many electors would turn up at a polling place in any of the states thinking that, in fact, there was only one electoral roll or one electoral authority that was managing this process. We see frequent statements in the media about that very issue. So there is, I think, certainly a risk of elector confusion. We do try to minimise that my communicating with the elector. But, of course, you can imagine the reception that that is going to get in any case if an elector is getting a letter from the Western Australian Electoral Commission and from us saying that you have got slightly different entitlements. It is difficult for people to process that. It is likely—I am not saying will—to lead to some form of elector confusion.

Mr GRAY: In the case of Western Australia, the Western Australian government did come about 60 per cent of the way in 2012. But it still does leave that gap in definition. Western Australians did not embrace the automated enrolment systems, but they brought harmonisation in in a range of other ways to. The differential in the roll is of real concern, but of even greater concern is the possibility that state jurisdictions might decide to go it alone and create entirely own enrolment processes, practices and management outside of the national roll.

CHAIR: On that issue, if we go back to New South Wales and Victoria, you are talking about a growing divergence. The figures, I think you have indicated, will demonstrate that, but we appreciate you do not have them all at your fingertips. That is a growing problem. We have got an election on in Victoria at the moment, New South Wales—

Senator RHIANNON: March.

CHAIR: March. We notice you have raised that in the opening statement. What might be useful is if you provide all of the information, otherwise we are going to have a circular conversation. If there is anything else specific you want—

Senator RHIANNON: Could I just—

CHAIR: I do want to come back to the material that has been tabled—

Senator RHIANNON: Just to understand the figures, if I understood them correctly: 139,898 more on the New South Wales than the federal roll. That just seems much greater than the figures for Victoria. If I understand correctly, it is of an order of about 12,000 difference. Am I reading the figures correctly?

Mr Gatel y : You are, and there is a range of reasons for that.

Senator RHIANNON: That is huge.

Mr Rogers : Maybe the issue is that New South Wales and Victoria are running separate processes. They are not running exactly the same systems themselves. So there is a difference in approach between those two states and between the AEC. I think I should acknowledge, Chair, that if the New South Wales commissioner was sitting here, or the Victorian Electoral Commissioner, they would be putting this to you in a slightly different way. They would have their own view of the issue of divergence, and I want to put that on the table. But, from my perspective, I have to make sure that I am comfortable with the quality of our role. That is the process we are putting in place at the moment.

CHAIR: Your point is you would like to have, as near as possible, an identical roll, but that you cannot do that at any price.

Mr Rogers : You made a comment before that there is a risk that they may go it alone. To an extent, that is the effect of what is occurring. Victoria have set up their own online enrolment portal rather than using the Commonwealth online enrolment portal—which they used to use. They have set up their own now. So there are some issues in this space for us to work on. It is quite a significant issue.

CHAIR: Would it help if we requested a supplementary submission on this with all the detail? We will certainly come back to it. We will need to.

Senator RHIANNON: It is not just detail about numbers; it is also what is being done about it—and what level of priority is for you, Mr Rogers. We totally understand that you have to make an assessment that you are confident in the integrity of the role, but the numbers are extraordinary. I think having you respond to that in detail would be very useful.

Mr GRAY: Commissioner, could you please also cover the relationship between the answers to the questions Senator Rhiannon has asked and the Electoral Integrity Unit you have discussed—how that relates to the AEC and to other government instruments, how it is driven and what its agenda is?

Mr Rogers : We can table the work plan for the Electoral Integrity Unit. That might provide some additional information in that regard.

CHAIR: Please also cover the processes you undertake with all of your state colleagues.

Mr Rogers : We will cover that. We will also talk about the meetings we have held with them. You would understand that this is a sensitive area between the Commonwealth and the states. There have been a long series of negotiations.

CHAIR: This is really just the beginning of a discussion on the area. It is one of the areas we would naturally look at. In the time remaining, there are just two issues I wanted to raise—and I want to give time for colleagues as well. I have been able to have a very brief look at the implementation plan you have given us. It is in very small print. When you look at the time frame—and this is without having gone to any of the detail, which committee members will do in our private meetings—you have listed a group of completion dates. I think there are 32 separate tasks you have given yourself. You have said that two have been completed. I will not go through what they all are. For two you are, essentially, relying on our report. They are important but not the biggest issues there. You are saying you are going to complete eight by 19 December. You are going to complete a further 11 in either February or by 27 March. There is another one in May and then there is a whole group—eight in fact—to be completed by 26 June. So it would be timely for us to have another meeting with you on these issues early next year to see how that is all tracking—to see that you have got over 14 December and that you are still on track for those other completion dates.

Mr Rogers : I agree.

Senator FAULKNER: I note that version 1 and version 2—now that I have them—were not called an 'electoral reform program implementation plan'.

Mr Rogers : No. As I said earlier, they were called 'progress against Keelty recommendations'.

Senator FAULKNER: The document that was provided to the committee does not have any title or working title at all. One has a date. It is hardly surprising that the ANAO might not have thought they had an electoral reform implementation plan.

Mr Rogers : I agree.

Senator FAULKNER: Because it was not called an implementation plan.

Mr Rogers : Correct.

Senator FAULKNER: I assume it got the title 'implementation plan' on 6 November, just a few days ago. Is that right?

Mr Rogers : It has always had the status of an implementation plan, but, as I said earlier, until it had the costings and the time lines—as the ANAO has said—this was not an implementation plan. But, you might remember, this is the document that we walked through in detail with this committee. Back in March we went through each of these recommendations and how we need to approach them.

Senator FAULKNER: If it always had the status of an implementation plan, why did it not get called an implementation plan?

Mr Rogers : It just did not. As we were working through this process, the ANAO have pointed out, quite rightly, that we need to be better with our documentation. As I have mentioned, in late August I allocated a project management specialist to support the team to address some of these issues.

Senator FAULKNER: In fact these earlier two versions—in one case almost exclusively and in the other case largely—focused on the Griffith by-election and the West Australian Senate—

Mr Rogers : Which you would understand, at that point. And you will see in the plan that you have in front of you, it has far more detail than that. I might also point out that August was when I made the decision to change the Keelty Implementation Taskforce to make it the reform team, to give it a broader remit and to also embed it within our elections branch to make sure we could better track their progress against these recommendations.

I do not resile from anything the ANAO have said, but I think you would also acknowledge that we delivered the Griffith and WA by-elections in a short space of time with an extraordinary amount of work using the documentation and team that we had in place. I am very comfortable with the progress we have achieved to date. I would endorse the comments the Chair made earlier. We have a long journey to ensure these are implemented in time for the next election, and that body of work is ongoing and is comprehensive.

Senator FAULKNER: There is no Keelty Implementation Reference Group, or KIRG, as people who might like to use acronyms—

Mr Rogers : It is a bit Star Wars.

CHAIR: Everything has an acronym.

Senator FAULKNER: That does not exist anymore. Is that right?

Mr Rogers : That is correct. But, as I mentioned in my opening statement, I made the decision again in August to fundamentally reshape the organisation's governance structure. I have given you a copy of that. The Operational Compliance Group will be the group monitoring the performance of the Keelty recommendations, and there will be regular reporting to that group on a whole range of issues. That is chaired by the acting Deputy Commissioner.

Senator FAULKNER: You said, in relation to the KIRG, the Keelty Implementation Reference Group—I am reading from the bottom of the second page of your opening statement—that

It made sense to us to adapt our own processes … where it became clear that they were not functioning efficiently.

Is this in the context of the reference group?

Mr Rogers : Yes.

Senator FAULKNER: What was not functioning efficiently?

Mr Rogers : It was a duplication, in my view. We had set up the Keelty Implementation Taskforce, but because—if I can be colloquial—it was the main game in town, the entire executive were working very closely with the implementation team, in any case. The KIRG was another group of executives. We had set up the KIRG—I hate to use that—

Senator FAULKNER: Call it a reference group.

Mr Rogers : Reference group. We had set up that group, so I made the decision that it was our group to amend it. In the end I think it met three times: once prior to each of the electoral events, as a sort of clearing house, and once before that. Again, it is also the reason I have set of the Operational Compliance Group.

Senator FAULKNER: But the reference group was an oversight body effectively, wasn't it? As opposed to the taskforce, which was—

Mr Rogers : Not an oversight body. That is why it was called the reference group. It really was another group of executives to ensure there were enough eyes and enough ideas being put into the team—like a third umpire. We became very firmly of the opinion that it was not adding value—and that is no reflection on those individuals in the KIRG—I think I was in the KIRG as well.

Senator FAULKNER: It had state and territory representation, did it not?

Mr Rogers : Yes, as does the implementation team itself. So we felt that we were doing enough to get that information in. Senator, you will be aware that, as you have noted previously, a lot of what occurred originally with the Keelty team was focused on Griffith and Western Australia, and we worked closely with those states in implementing the Keelty recommendations at that point. In fact, the Keelty Implementation Team travelled to Griffith and travelled to Western Australia to work with the state staff at that point. So we felt we were getting enough state input. In fact, I think, Chair, you may have made the statement at a previous committee that your assumption would be that the rerun of the Western Australian election would be the most resourced election the AEC had ever run, and that was absolutely the case.

Senator FAULKNER: So the reference group has been disbanded, effectively. That is a fair comment. What about the KIT, the Keelty Implementation Taskforce? What is its current status, if any?

Mr Rogers : It is still going. In fact, if I looked around the room there would be some members of that Keelty Implementation Team right here. But I made the decision to rename it the reform team and to throw it into the elections branch. One of the reasons I wanted to do that is I wanted to give it responsibility not only for the Keelty recommendations but for the broader reform program that the AEC is currently running, including, once we have operationalised them, the ANAO recommendations and any recommendations that might come from this committee.

Senator FAULKNER: So, as you have said, it is formalised in the AEC's structure and embedded as the reform team. But does it meet as a reform team?

Mr Rogers : Yes, absolutely. It is, in fact, the same people, different name, now embedded within the structure of the elections branch so that we have got a greater reporting capacity. But it is the same group of people still meeting, and they are the ones that are driving this process.

Senator FAULKNER: Who heads up the reform team?

Mr Carpay : I am the chair of that. The deputy chair is Mr Steve Kennedy and there are two other members of the reform team with us.

Senator FAULKNER: So it is a four-person team.

Mr Rogers : No. There are more than that as well. In fact, I put additional resources against that when I moved it into elections branch. So the current status of the team is six.

Senator FAULKNER: It is a six-person team, all senior AEC officials.

Mr Rogers : Correct.

Mr Carpay : And ones with long operational experience. So there is a mixture of state people. They also have access to a wider group. We form reference groups for them to consult with on subject matter experts so they have a wider group of people, and during the Western Australia event we had the Keelty Implementation Team Extended. We still have access to that group for consultation as well, and they are a group from across the country.

Mr Rogers : I want to clarify an answer. They are all senior AEC officials. They have been selected because of their experience and performance. But there is one relatively junior member who is a graduate, who is not obviously a senior member but is performing a very valuable function as part of that team.

Senator FAULKNER: Fair enough. And does the reform team formally report to the acting commissioner or the commission? What is the situation there?

Mr Rogers : First of all, because the first assistant commissioner is the chair, he reports personally to me. I am invested in this, as you can imagine. I do not want to be sitting here again for a similar reason.

Senator FAULKNER: I appreciate that.

Mr Rogers : I have set up the operational compliance group to be chaired by the deputy commissioner. The reform team progress will be reported to the operational compliance group who, in turn, as you can see in the diagram that I have provided to the committee, report to me so that I am across the progress of this issue in detail.

Mr Carpay : And there are formalised highlight reports on a regular basis as part of our reformed governance structure, in addition to the very frequent dialogue and meetings that we have.

Senator FAULKNER: Mr Rogers, very briefly, what are the three separate projects or the three key projects, as you described them, in your opening statement? They are the same projects, obviously.

Mr Rogers : Yes, certainly.

Senator FAULKNER: Without going into detail, just so the committee is clear, can you outline very briefly what the three projects are?

Mr Rogers : Certainly. You will be aware that a lot of the Keelty report focused on what I would refer to as materials management and the fact that we were not able to say with any certainty whether ballot papers were lost. There are some assumptions about how that may have occurred. We contracted a group of logistics experts to help us with that issue, to look at, first of all, how we transport ballot papers. This is a significant issue for the AEC. As you know, Senator, this is a very complex issue at election time, both before polling and after polling, particularly from remote locations, and there is a such a large number of logistics. GRA Consultants have already provided us with the first report on options for better ways of moving ballot papers, particularly with regard to secure transportation and what is out there in industry that might assist the AEC to lift its game in this regard and to use modern technology to help move and, probably more importantly, track the movement of ballot papers.

Senator FAULKNER: That is one special project.

Mr Rogers : That is one special project. We then used that same group of consultants to assist us with the second report, about the storage of ballot material. I am not talking about the storage of cardboard equipment but specifically about the secure storage of ballot papers, both used and unused: how we could do that, what options might be available and whether or not that is something that the AEC could realistically pursue. The third of those projects that I mentioned has only started in the last month, and that is a project to help us look at our planning processes overall. In some ways they are helping us develop our electoral doctrine—how we as an agency plan for, prepare and then report against success for each electoral event. I was concerned, reading the Keelty report and the ANAO reports, that we have got to get that aspect right. We have been relying on our own systems and culture for a long period of time—that we thought served us well, but I think the events of 2013 have clearly indicated that there are issues with the way in which we prepare for elections and report against that preparation.

Senator FAULKNER: Is that outsourced too?

Mr Rogers : It is outsourced as well.

Senator FAUL KNER: Who is doing that for you?

Mr Rogers : Noetic consultants, a Canberra based consultancy, are providing support on that, but I might go back to Senator Rhiannon's comment. They are providing the framework; we are providing the content. In many ways—if I could wax lyrical about this for a moment—it is possibly the most important project we are doing. This is the bit that is going to assist us to understand how better to prepare, in a holistic way, for electoral events; how we make sure that we prepare consistently; and how that understanding of consistent preparation is spread throughout the organisation. You will be aware of the difficulties of a vastly geographically dispersed organisation and the complexities involved in preparing for that electoral event.

Senator FAULKNER: So, if we sum it up: one special project is storage, one is transport—

Mr Rogers : Transport and tracking, I would call it—

Senator FAULKNER: Transport and tracking. Fair enough. And the other one is planning and electoral doctrine.

Mr Rogers : That is correct. And I want to be accurate with the topics of those. You are correct. Report No. 1 is the secure storage and transport of ballot papers. Report No. 2 is materials handling in addition to storage, and the third one is the Noetic body of work. I am conscious that this is a lot of work all at once, because we are potentially fundamentally changing the nature of the way in which we prepare for elections—

CHAIR: This is an important set of questions that is being asked. What I think might be useful—I do not want to cut you off but I am just conscious of time. You have got two reports in and another one coming—

Mr Rogers : I am happy to provide that detail to the committee.

CHAIR: And perhaps we could have a briefing on another day.

Senator FAULKNER: Chair, it might be useful for the committee, when they are available—it sounds like one or two of them are available—to receive copies of the report.

CHAIR: Yes, that is what I am proposing.

Mr Rogers : I will provide whatever information in those reports that does not have a commercial sensitivity. I am more than happy to do that. As I have indicated, potentially it will fundamentally change the way in which ballot papers are distributed, tracked and stored.

CHAIR: What would probably be best is if you would come and give us a briefing in our private meeting.

Mr Rogers : We are more than happy to do that.

CHAIR: We have not seen them.

Mr Carpay : They will form the basis of what is going to market, so we have to be a little bit careful.

CHAIR: That is why I said there is no problem coming in a private meeting. Lots of committees deal with lots of confidential documents safely.

Senator FAULKNER: We can follow those issues through at a later stage. That is fine. I wanted to ask about one other issue arising out of your opening statement, Mr Rogers. It goes to your engagement with the ANAO outside of the usual framework. What do you actually mean by that?

Mr Rogers : When I met personally with the Auditor-General, as one does when the draft report is issued, we asked, given the level of criticism in the report and what had occurred to the AEC, whether the ANAO would be prepared to meet with us outside the framework of the report to offer us additional advice on implementation and assurance of implementation. Clearly, if I look back to the report on the 2007 election, we did not implement stuff that we said that we were going to do. I want to make sure that never happens again. The auditor-general was kind enough to say that they would do that. We had the first meeting—

Mr Carpay : On Tuesday morning of this week, and, I think, Mr Brian Boyd yesterday referenced that we had had a productive dialogue.

Senator FAULKNER: He had mentioned it, yes.

Mr Carpay : So we had that dialogue on Tuesday morning with myself and a couple of members of the reform team to talk about how you go about assuring yourself that you are complying—what are some of the methodologies, what are some of the frameworks within which you might do that, how do you design surveys, how to design some of those sorts of tools? They were kind enough to give us some general advice.

Senator FAULKNER: In that engagement with the ANAO outside the usual framework, are you a going to take up the issue that the Auditor-General raised with us yesterday about the AEC's narrow interpretation of the recommendations in the Keelty report? And, to be fair, the Auditor-General made the comment to this committee—and you may have heard it—that this is not something unique to the AEC. This is, if you like, a service-wide or agency-wide issue. It is not unique to your agency at all—but, of course, a narrow interpretation. It is always difficult, and I do not want to put words in his mouth, but I think it is fair to say that his comment was, 'With a narrow interpretation, you obviously can lead to inadequate action in response to important recommendations.'

Mr Rogers : I think his statement was entirely accurate. That is one of the reasons why we do wish to engage with them out of session—for that very reason. I also noticed yesterday that he said that he had, on request, given a couple of presentations to departments about the issue of risk management. Whatever we can do with the ANAO to make sure we are never in this position again, I intend to pursue, which is why we are doing exactly what we are doing. It is critical. Whenever someone shines a spotlight on your failings, it is not comfortable. But the ANAO have been accurate in what they have said. They have pointed out to us that we have had a narrow implementation. Their report is a vital input to us. I welcome their reports and their ongoing interest in the AEC. It is only through that and our own internal audit that we will be able to move forward. So I am very keen on impressing that.

Senator FAULKNER: I hope that those more informal arrangements—or what you have described as engagement outside the usual framework—do include some discussion about that issue. Effectively, what the Auditor-General is saying—and this is, of course, not unique to your agency, the AEC, at all—the risk being you do not see the wood for the trees.

Mr Carpay : When we met on Tuesday, we did, in fact, talk about at least one of the historic recommendations for which they said we had interpreted narrowly around access to other government facilities. We have, in fact, in recent weeks engaged with other agencies specifically on that and talked further with the ANAO about that. So we are engaging on some of the historic ones that we have narrowly interpreted and we are learning from that, as well.

Mr Rogers : I do wish to make sure that, if the Auditor-General is watching this, he is not choking on his lemon tea. He is not responsible for implementing these measures. I want to make that very clear. This is our responsibility. So I do not want it to be seen here that we are outsourcing our grief to the ANAO. They have quite rightly and quite properly agreed to give us additional advice outside the normal framework.

Senator FAULKNER: The issue here is the very narrow interpretation of a recommendation, so you can effectively tick a box and say that you have done that, leading to an inadequate response. That is an issue obviously for your own agency. But in time if there is an inadequate response, it will end up back with the Auditor-General as well—whether he is drinking lemon tea or not.

Mr Rog ers : I want it indicated that it is our responsibility to sort this out. We are grateful to him for agreeing to give us additional information and I see that as a very important input to that process.

CHAIR: That is right. That is why we have suggested passing on the implementation plan, which you have agreed to.

Mr Rogers : There was one issue I put in my opening statement about that. We have agreed with all of the recommendations without qualification, but I made a statement that there is an issue with our use of data. We have not been good enough with how we have analysed our own data. I am nervous about the general implication that we could drastically reduced the number of static polling places. That deserves further examination by us.

Senator R HIANNON: Yes, can we come back to that? That was flagged.

CHAIR: That was flagged in the Auditor-General's report. It was not a big focus of our questioning yesterday. We have got time to consider that in our final report.

Senator RHIANNON: I will put some questions on notice. How many companies have been contracted by the AEC and what are the names of the companies? Did you check if these companies, their subsidiaries or their parent companies have donated to any political party, group, candidates, third parties or associated entities? If so, what did you find with respect to the donations? Did you check on possible donations before or after the contract was entered into?

Mr Rogers : We will take that on notice. But I will tell you that we followed every requirement under the Commonwealth procurement guidelines to procure these companies.

Mr Pirani : In addition, all of our contracts and requests for tender have a political neutrality clause in them. We are requiring disclosure to take place when we do the evaluation of any tender bids.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much. If you can take it on notice about the donations.

Mr Rogers : Certainly.

CHAIR: The last issue I wanted to raise: you have got in your opening statement about the issue with the silent electors. A few of us have obviously heard evidence about that back in Melbourne. On behalf the committee, I just wanted to thank you for your work on that over many months. I need a member to authorise the evidence for publication.

Sena tor RHIANNON: So moved.

CHAIR: I declare today's hearing closed.

Committee adjourned at 12 : 03