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Thursday, 16 August 2012
Page: 5578


Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (15:34): I present three government’s responses to committee reports as listed at item 13 on today's Order of Business. In accordance with the usual practice, I seek leave to have the documents incorporated in Hansard and to move a motion in relation to the document.

Leave granted.

The documents read as follows—

Government response to Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee report

Combating the Financing of People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill 2011

Introduction

On 3 March 2011 the Senate referred the Combating the Financing of People Smuggling and Other Measures Bill 2011, for inquiry and report.

The Committee held a public hearing on 16 March 2011 taking evidence from officers of the Department and AUSTRAC. The Committee tabled its report on 21 March 2011 with three recommendations.

Recommendation 1: The committee recommends that, as a matter of priority, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre establish appropriate memoranda of understanding for the sharing of intelligence with the new designated agencies outlined in the Bill.

Recommendation 2: The committee recommends that the Attorney-General's Department review relevant options with a view to introducing an appropriate oversight mechanism to monitor the handling of credit information for the electronic verification of identity pursuant to the Bill.

Recommendation 3: The committee recommends that the Senate pass the Bill, noting recommendations 1 and 2.

The Bill was subsequently passed by both Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent on 28 June 2011.

As the recommendations were not addressed during the debate of legislation, a response has not been provided to the Committee about the Government's position in relation to its recommendations. This document forms the Government's response.

Government response to Recommendations

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that, as a matter of priority, the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) establish appropriate memoranda of understanding for the sharing of intelligence with the new designated agencies outlined in the Bill.

The Government supports this recommendation and has taken steps to implement it.

Memoranda of understanding (MOUs) have been finalised with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation and the Office of National Assessments, and MOUs with the Defence Signals Directorate and Defence Intelligence Organisation are close to finalisation.

Recommendation 2

The committee recommends that the Attorney-General's Department (AGD) review relevant options with a view to introducing an appropriate oversight mechanism to monitor the handling of credit information for the electronic verification of identity pursuant to the Bill.

AGD has reviewed relevant options for an oversight mechanism to monitor the handling of credit information pursuant to Recommendation 2.

A breach of the verification of identity provisions contained in the Bill will constitute an interference with privacy and a person affected by an alleged breach may complain to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988.

The Privacy Act 1988 has specific mechanisms in place to regulate the use of credit reporting data by credit reporting agencies. AGD does not consider that the Anti Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Act 2006 is the appropriate vehicle to further expand on the current obligations of credit reporting agencies.

Accordingly, AGD considers that no further action is necessary.

Recommendation 3

The committee recommends that the Senate pass the Bill, noting recommendations 1 and 2.

The Bill was passed by the Senate on 16 June 2011 and received Royal Assent on 28 June 2011.

 

Government response to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee Inquiry into the National Classification Scheme

At the time of the Senate Committee undertaking its Inquiry, and prior to its report being finalised, the Government referred the National Classification Scheme (NCS) to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) for review. Recommendation 30 of the Committee's report is that the ALRC be directed to consider the findings, proposals and recommendations of the Committee's report.

The ALRC review was considered necessary to modernise the system of classification in Australia and allow it to keep pace with developments in technology now and into the future. When the current NCS commenced in 1995, classifiable content and the way it was delivered to consumers was relatively static.

The ALRC review was designed to consider not only classification categories, but the whole classification system including the legislative framework to ensure it continues to be effective in the 21st century.

The ALRC was considered the most appropriate body to conduct the review as it had previously conducted an inquiry into laws relating to classification and censorship in 1991. The ALRC's 1991 Report established the basis for the current NCS.

The terms of reference for the ALRC's 2011-12 review (which were subject to public consultation prior to being finalised) stated:

Having regard to:

it being twenty years since the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) was last given a reference relating to Censorship and Classification

the rapid pace of technological change in media available to, and consumed by, the Australian community

the needs of the community in this evolving technological environment

the need to improve classification information available to the community and enhance public understanding of the content that is regulated

the desirability of a strong content and distribution industry in Australia, and minimising the regulatory burden

the impact of media on children and the increased exposure of children to a wider variety of media including television, music and advertising as well as films and computer games

the size of the industries that generate potentially classifiable content and potential for growth

a communications convergence review, and

a statutory review of Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 and other sections relevant to the classification of content

I refer to the ALRC for inquiry and report pursuant to subsection 20(1) of the Australian Law Reform Commission Act 1996, matters relating to the extent to which the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), State and Territory Enforcement legislation, Schedules 5 and 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, and the Intergovernmental Agreement on Censorship and related laws continue to provide an effective framework for the classification of media content in Australia.

Given the likelihood of concurrent Commonwealth reviews covering related matters as outlined above, the Commission will refer relevant issues to those reviews where it would be appropriate to do so. It will likewise accept referral from other reviews that fall within these terms of reference.

Such referrals will be agreed between the relevant reviewers.

1. In performing its functions in relation to this reference, the Commission will consider:

i. relevant existing Commonwealth, State and Territory laws and practices

ii. classification schemes in other jurisdictions

iii. the classification categories contained in the Classification Act, National Classification Code and Classification Guidelines

iv. any relevant constitutional issues, and

v. any other related matter.

2. The Commission will identify and consult with relevant stakeholders, including the community and industry, through widespread public consultation. Other stakeholders include the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the Classification Board and Classification Review Board as well as the States and Territories.

The ALRC reported to Government on 29 February 2012 and the Government released, via tabling in the Parliament, the final report on 1 March, 2012.

The current NCS is a cooperative scheme between the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments. Under the Intergovernmental Agreement that underpins the scheme, the Commonwealth has agreed to consult states and territories about any meaningful changes to the scheme. Indeed, the current Commonwealth legislation has unanimous agreement requirements in relation to certain aspects of the scheme such as proposed changes to the classification categories and Classification Guidelines.

Consequently, the Commonwealth has sought the views of all States and Territories about the ALRC Report. Once those comments are received, the Commonwealth will be able to further develop its position on the ALRC recommendations (incorporating consideration of Senate Committee recommendations where appropriate) and, in due course, finalise the Government response to the ALRC Report.

In developing its response, the Government will also give consideration to how the ALRC recommendations interact with those of the Convergence Review. Although there are discrete components of each report, there is also substantial overlap in some key respects.

Since the tabling of the ALRC Report, the Government has been able to consider how the Senate Committee's recommendations might interact with those of the ALRC. The comments in relation to each recommendation below are made in that context.

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that an express statement should be included in the National Classification Code which clarifies that the key principles to be applied to classification decisions must be given equal consideration and must be appropriately balanced against one another in all cases. Currently, these principles are:

adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want;

minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;

everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive;

community concerns should be taken into account in relation to:

depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and

the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

Government Response - noted

The National Classification Code (the Code) states that classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the four guiding principles that the Committee outlines in Recommendation 1. This requires the Classification Board to give equal consideration to the principles in the Code to the extent possible in each decision-making circumstance. What principles should underpin classification legislation, and whether those considerations should be weighted, or not, will be considered in the context of the Government's response to the ALRC Review of the NCS.

Recommendation 2

Further to Recommendation 1, the committee recommends that the fourth key principle in the National Classification Code should be expanded to take into account community concerns about the sexualisation of society, and the objectification of women.

Government Response - noted

See response to Recommendation 1.

Recommendation 3

The committee notes that there has been no further consideration by the Senate of the Senate Environment, Communications and the Arts Committee's 2008 report, Sexualisation of children in the contemporary media. The committee recommends that the Senate should, as a matter of urgency, establish an inquiry to consider the progress made by industry bodies and others in addressing the issue of sexualisation of children in the contemporary media; and, specifically, the progress which has been made in consideration and implementation of the

recommendations made in the Sexualisation of children in the contemporary media report.

Government Response - noted

This recommendation is directed at the Senate.

Recommendation 4

The committee recommends that the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games and the Guidelines for the Classification of Publications 2005 should be revised so that the preamble to both sets of guidelines expressly states that the methodology and manner of decision-making should be based on a strict interpretation of the words in the respective guidelines.

Government Response - not agree

The Classification Guidelines (the Guidelines) are not 'self-standing' but are part of a package of legislation consisting of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act), the Code and the Guidelines. In Adultshop.Com Ltd v Members of the Classification Review Board (2008) the Court discussed the relationship between the Act, the Code and the Guidelines and confirmed this view noting that the Guidelines need to be read in conjunction with the Code.

Section 9 of the Classification Act provides that publications, films and computer games are to be classified in accordance with the Code and the Guidelines. The Act contains certain matters that the Board must also take into account in making decisions on the classification of a publication, film or computer game, including those set out in s11.

The ALRC has made recommendations about future classification instruments, recommendation 9-3 in particular.

Recommendation 5

The committee recommends that the emphasis on context and the assessment of impact should be removed as principles underlying the use and application of the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games.

Government Response - not agree

Consideration of context and impact are crucial to the making of classification decisions. In the media classification environment, context refers to the circumstances that surround a particular event or situation and impact is the influence or effect upon an audience (for the purpose of determining whether content should be classified at a lower or higher classification). A classifiable element such as nudity in the context of a documentary about the anatomy of the human body would warrant an entirely different classification rating to nudity in a film mainly concerned with sex. Similarly, a classifiable element such as drug use will have a different impact, and warrant a different classification, depending on the type of drug and whether the depiction is discreet or explicit.

See also response to Recommendation 4.

Recommendation 6

The committee recommends that the Australian Government introduce Standing Community Assessment Panels to assist in the determination of community standards for the purpose of classification decision-making.

Government Response - noted

Classification Board Members are appointed to be broadly representative of the Australian Community. They are appointed in consultation with participating Ministers in the NCS and must not hold office for a total of more than 7 years.

Historically, Community Assessment Panels (CAPs) are people from the community taking part in focus group sessions who are recruited to represent a range of characteristics, across such criteria as age, gender, family status and ethnicity. They view media content and carry out classification exercises by the same methods and using the same decision-making tools as the Classification Board. CAPs have been engaged periodically to test the degree to which the decisions of the Classification Board are in line with community standards.

As part of its review, the ALRC undertook an exercise involving members of the community viewing content and reacting to it. The report of that aspect of the review can be found at: http://www.alrc.gov.au/publications/community-attitudes-higher-level-media-content-community-and-reference-group-forums-con.

The ALRC made recommendations about research and community standards, namely Recommendation 9-4 (a) to (e). The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 7

The committee recommends that the classification of artworks should be exempt from application fees.

Government Response - noted

The ALRC made the following relevant recommendations:

The National Classification Scheme should be based on a new Act, the Classification of Media Content Act. The Act should provide, among other things, for:

(a) what types of media content may or must be classified;

(b) who should classify different types of media content;

(c) a single set of statutory classification categories and criteria applicable to all media content;

(d) access restrictions on adult content;

(e) the development and operation of industry classification codes; and

(f) the enforcement of the National Classification Scheme, including through criminal, civil and administrative penalties for breach of classification laws (Recommendation 5-2)

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide a definition of 'exempt content' that captures all media content that is exempt from the laws relating to what must be classified. The definition of exempt content should capture the traditional exemptions, such as for news and current affairs programs. The definition should also provide that films and computer games shown at film festivals, art galleries and other cultural institutions are exempt. Providers of this content should not be exempt from obligations to take reasonable steps to restrict access to adult content (Recommendation 6-3)

Beyond these, the ALRC did not specifically recommend that artworks be classified.

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 8

The committee recommends that the Australian Government, through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, pursue with relevant states the removal of the artistic merit defence for the offences of production, dissemination and possession of child pornography.

Government Response - agree

The Attorney-General's Department understands that artistic merit is no longer a defence to child pornography in NSW. The defence was removed in NSW from s 91G of the Crimes Act 1900.

The change aligned NSW child pornography laws with the Commonwealth, but means that NSW is inconsistent with other states and territories. This could be problematic where charges are laid for offences taking place in various jurisdictions.

The Commonwealth will raise the inconsistency issue with the Standing Committee of Law and Justice.

Recommendation 9

The committee recommends that provision be made in the Classification Act 1995 for an exemption for cultural institutions, including the National Film and Sound Archive, to allow them to exhibit unclassified films. This exemption should be subject to relevant institutions self-classifying the material they exhibit and the Classification Review Board providing oversight of any decisions in that regard.

Government Response - noted

Section 5B of the Classification Act already allows for films to be exempt from classification if they are of a community or cultural type. There is also a film festival exemption scheme that allows festivals to screen unclassified films under certain conditions, however, exemptions are generally granted under the condition that each film is to be screened a maximum of four times during the course of a film festival/event and that audiences are restricted to age 18+.

The ALRC made a recommendation about exempting from classification films and computer games screened or demonstrated by certain entities including cultural institutions, namely Recommendation 6-3.

The ALRC also recommended that, under the proposed new NCS, the Classification Review Board cease to operate (Recommendation 7-9).

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

See also response to Recommendation 7.

Recommendation 10

The committee recommends that the Australian Government take a leadership role through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in requesting the referral of relevant powers by states and territories to the Australian Government to enable it to legislate for a truly national classification scheme.

Government Response - noted

The ALRC made the following relevant recommendations:

The Classification of Media Content Act should be enacted pursuant to the legislative powers of the Parliament of Australia (Recommendation 15-1).

The Classification of Media Content Act should express an intention that it cover the field, so that any state legislation operating in the same field ceases to operate, pursuant to s 109 of the Constitution (Recommendation 15-2).

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 11

In the event that a satisfactory transfer of powers by all states and territories is not able to be negotiated within the next 12 months, the committee recommends that the Australian Government prepare options for the expansion of the Australian Government's power to legislate for a new national classification scheme.

Government Response - noted

See response to Recommendation 10.

Recommendation 12

The committee recommends that, as a matter of priority, the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General should consider the development of uniform standards for the display and sale of material with a Restricted classification.

Government Response - noted

Consistency across jurisdiction is desirable for the consumer, industry and for compliance monitoring.

The ALRC made recommendations that are relevant to sale, display and restriction of access to content, in particular: recommendations 5-2, 8-5, 10-1 to 10-4 and 13-2. Consistency of laws and classification obligations nationally was also a key consideration for the ALRC in making recommendations 15-1 and 15-2 for a Commonwealth-only NCS.

The ALRC also recommended renaming the 'Refused Classification' category of content 'Prohibited' (Recommendation 11-1).

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 13

The committee recommends that:

Category 1 and 2 Restricted publications, and R18+ films, where displayed and sold in general retail outlets, should only be available in a separate, secure area which cannot be accessed by children; and

the exhibition, sale, possession and supply of X18+ films should be prohibited in all Australian jurisdictions.

Government response - noted

In relation to the first bullet point of this recommendation, see response to Recommendation 12.

In relation to the second bullet point of this recommendation, the ALRC made the following recommendations:

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide that content providers should take reasonable steps to restrict access to adult content that is sold, screened, provided online or otherwise distributed to the Australian public. Adult content is:

(a) content that has been classified R 18+ or X 18+; or

(b) unclassified content that, if classified, would be likely to be classified R 18+ or X 18+.

The Classification of Media Content Act should not mandate that all adult content must be classified (Recommendation 10-1)

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide the Regulator with the power to issue 'restrict access notices' to providers of adult content. For the purpose of issuing these notices, the Regulator should be empowered to determine whether the content is adult content (Recommendation 10-2).

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide that the reasonable steps that content providers must take to restrict access to adult content may be set out in:

(a) industry codes, approved and enforced by the Regulator; and

(b) standards, issued and enforced by the Regulator.

These codes and declarations may be developed for different types of content, content providers and industries, but could include:

(a) how and where to advertise, package and display hardcopy adult content;

(b) the promotion of parental locks and user-based computer filters;

(c) how to confirm the age of persons accessing adult content online; and

(d) how to provide warnings online (Recommendation 10-3).

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 14

The committee recommends that, as a matter of priority, the Commonwealth and the states and territories should establish a centralised database to provide for information-sharing on classification enforcement actions.

Government Response - noted

In February 2011, the then Minister for Justice wrote to Police Ministers and the Minister for Employment and Economic Development in Queensland requesting bi-annual reports on compliance and enforcement action taken in relation to classification laws. This initiative was agreed to by the Commonwealth, States and Territories at the Classification Enforcement Contacts Forum 2010.

These reports are now being compiled by the Classification Liaison Scheme (CLS) which is administered by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department and is responsible for collating and sharing the information received.

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the response to the ALRC recommendations and, in particular, in relation to the role of the states and territories under a new NCS.

Recommendation 15

The committee recommends that the Classification Liaison Scheme should substantially increase its compliance and audit-checking activities in relation to, for example, compliance with serial classification declaration requirements.

Government Response - noted

The Classification Board currently has responsibility for conducting audits of serial declarations. All serial declarations are audited during the term of the declaration.

CLS compliance checks have increased from 701 in 2007/08 to 917 in 2010/11.

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the response to the ALRC recommendations and, in particular, in relation to the role and size of the CLS under a new NCS.

Recommendation 16

The committee recommends that the Classification Liaison Scheme should have at least one representative in each state and territory.

Government response - noted

The ALRC envisages a new approach to compliance and enforcement in relation to classification matters. In particular it makes the following recommendations:

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide for enforcement of classification laws under Commonwealth law. (Recommendation 16-1)

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide a flexible range of compliance and enforcement mechanisms allowing the Regulator, depending on the circumstances, to:

(a) issue notices to comply with provisions of the Act, industry codes or standards;

(b) accept enforceable undertakings;

(c) pursue civil penalty orders;

(d) refer matters for criminal prosecution; and

(e) issue infringement notices. (Recommendation 16-2)

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide for the imposition of criminal, civil and administrative penalties in relation to failing to comply with:

(a) notices of the Regulator;

(b) an industry code or standard;

(c) restrictions on the sale, screening, online provision and distribution of media content;

(d) statutory obligations to restrict access to media content; and

(e) statutory obligations to classify and mark media content. (Recommendation 16-3)

The Classification of Media Content Act should require the Regulator to issue enforcement guidelines outlining the factors it will take into account and the principles it will apply in exercising its enforcement powers. (Recommendation 16-4)

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 17

The committee recommends that the Classification Liaison Scheme should be charged with responsibility for establishing and maintaining the centralised database to provide for information-sharing on classification enforcement actions, as proposed in Recommendation 14.

Government Response - noted

See response to Recommendations 14 and 16.

Recommendation 18

The committee recommends that the Classification Liaison Scheme should provide assistance to state and territory law enforcement agencies in relation to enforcement actions for failure to respond to call-in notices issued by the Director of the Classification Board.

Government Response - agree

This recommendation is already implemented. CLS officers currently provide assistance to law enforcement agencies in relation to referrals from the Director of the Classification Board of non-compliance with a call-in notice, or any other classification matter. Currently, CLS officers request the relevant State and Territory police to enforce breaches of call-in notices. All of the evidence establishing an offence will be presented by CLS. Such CLS assistance is prioritised and can also include presentations on content, offences and evidentiary certificates, as well as provision of witness statements, on site assistance and any other help requested.

Generally, CLS Officers meet with the nominated Classification Enforcement Contact in each law enforcement agency when conducting compliance checks in their jurisdiction.

Recommendation 19

The committee recommends that more detailed information should be included in the Attorney-General's annual report about the operations of the Classification Liaison Scheme.

Government Response - agree

Currently the annual report of the Attorney-General's Department provides information about the number of compliance checks conducted by CLS Officers.

It would be possible to include more detailed information about CLS. Further information about the activities undertaken by CLS can be included such as presentations delivered, meetings held and referrals. This will be included in future annual reports.Recommendation 20

The committee recommends that the Australian Government should increase the size of, and commensurate funding to, the Classification Liaison Scheme as a matter of priority.

Government Response - noted

See response to Recommendation 16.

Recommendation 21

The committee recommends that the Australian Government should, through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, signal its intention to make enforcement actions for failing to respond to call-in notices a matter of priority.

Government Response - agree

Under the current Scheme, each individual jurisdiction determines its own enforcement priorities. Enforcement of failure to comply with a call-in is not a matter for the Commonwealth but is a matter for States and Territories. The Commonwealth refers any non-compliance to States and Territories as a matter of course.

The then Minister for Justice wrote to States and Territories in February 2009 seeking their cooperation in addressing the low levels of compliance with classification enforcement laws.

The Government will raise this issue through the Standing Council on Law and Justice.

See also response to Recommendation 16.

Recommendation 22

The committee recommends that, to the extent possible, the National Classification Scheme should apply equally to all content, regardless of the medium of delivery.

Government Response - agree

The ALRC and the Convergence Reviews have considered these issues as central to future regulation of media content. In particular, recommendation 5-1 and 5-2 of the ALRC Report and recommendation 1(a) of the Convergence Review which states:

1 a) Parliament should avoid enacting legislation that either favours or disadvantages any particular communications technology, business model or delivery method for content services.

The Government agrees in principle but will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 23

The committee recommends that industry codes of practice under current self-regulatory and co-regulatory schemes, including those under the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, the ARIA/AMRA Labelling Code and the advertising industry, should be required to incorporate the classification principles, categories, content, labelling, markings and warnings of the National Classification Scheme. The adoption of these measures by industry should be legally enforceable and subject to sanctions.

Government Response - noted

In chapter 6 of the report on the review of the NCS, the ALRC makes recommendations about the content (irrespective of its method of deliver or access) that should be classified under a new NCS as follows:

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide that feature films and television programs that are:

(a) likely to have a significant Australian audience, and

(b) made and distributed on a commercial basis,

should be classified before content providers sell, screen, provide online, or otherwise distribute them to the Australian public. The Act should provide for platform-neutral definitions of 'feature film' and 'television program' and illustrative examples. Examples of television programs may include situation comedies, documentaries, children's programs, drama and factual content. (Recommendation 6-1)

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide that computer games that are:

(a) likely to be classified MA 15+ or higher; and

(b) likely to have a significant Australian audience; and

(c) made and distributed on a commercial basis,

should be classified before content providers sell, screen, provide online, or otherwise distribute them to the Australian public.

The Act should provide for platform-neutral definitions of 'computer game' and illustrative examples. (Recommendation 6-2)

In chapter 8 of its report on the review of the NCS, the ALRC discusses advertising and concludes that advertising should not be brought within the scope of the NCS. It makes a specific recommendation for advertisements for classifiable content to be managed under the existing self-regulatory arrangements for advertising and amendments to advertising codes.

Beyond these recommendations, the ALRC does not specifically recommend that self-regulated media content be required to adopt the classification and other related obligations of the NCS.

Instead, the ALRC made the following suggestion:

The Classification of Media Content Act should enable the Regulator to approve industry codes that provide for the voluntary classification and marking of content that is not required to be classified. The Regulator should encourage the development of such codes for:

(a) computer games likely to be classified below MA 15+;

(b) magazines likely to be classified R 18+ or X 18+; and

(c) music with a strong impact. (Recommendation 6-4)

Chapter 13 of the ALRC Report further deals with possible industry Codes of Practice making the following recommendations:

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide for the development of industry classification codes by sections of industry or persons involved in the production and distribution of media content; and for the Regulator to request that a body or association representing a particular section of industry develop a code. (Recommendation 13-1)

Industry classification codes may include provisions relating to:

(a) methods of restricting access to certain content;

(b) the use of classification markings;

(c) methods of classifying media content, including by authorised industry classifiers;

(d) guidance on the application of statutory classification criteria;

(e) maintaining records, reporting classification decisions and quality assurance;

(f) protecting children from certain content;

(g) providing consumer information in a timely and clear manner;

(h) providing a responsive and effective means of addressing community concerns, including complaints handling; and

(i) reporting to the Regulator on the administration of the code. (Recommendation 13-2)

The Classification of Media Content Act should enable the Regulator to approve an industry classification code if satisfied that:

(a) the code is consistent with statutory obligations to classify and restrict access to media content and statutory classification categories and criteria;

(b) the body or association developing the code represents a particular section of the media content industry; and

(c) there has been adequate public and industry consultation on the code. (Recommendation 13-3)

The Classification of Media Content Act should enable the Regulator to determine an industry standard if:

(a) there is no appropriate body or association representing a relevant section of industry; or

(b) a request to develop an industry code is not complied with. (Recommendation 13-4)

The Classification of Media Content Act should enable the Regulator to enforce compliance with a code against any participant in the relevant section of the media content industry, where an industry classification code relates to media content that must be classified or to which access must be restricted. (Recommendation 13-5)

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 24

The committee recommends that industry bodies wishing to exercise classification decision-making functions should be required to be accredited by the Australian Government.

Government Response - noted

In the ALRC Report, the following recommendations are relevant to the Committee's recommendation:

The Classification of Media Content Act should enable the Regulator to determine, of the content that must be classified, what content must be classified by the Classification Board. The determination should be set out in a legislative instrument. (Recommendation 7-1)

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide that, other than media content that must be classified by the Classification Board, media content may be:

(a) classified by the Classification Board;

(b) classified by an authorised industry classifier; or

(c) deemed to be classified because it has been classified under an authorised classification system. (Recommendation 7-4)

The Classification of Media Content Act should provide that industry classifiers must have completed training approved by the Regulator and be authorised by the Regulator to classify media content. (Recommendation 7-5)

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 25

The committee recommends that the Classification Board should be responsible for the development of a content assessor's accreditation, including formalised training courses for all industries covered under the National Classification Scheme.

Government Response - agree

The Classification Act already provides that the Director of the Classification Board may authorise individuals to assess and make recommendations on the classification and consumer advice for certain material. This includes the additional content for a previously classified film or exempt film (s 22D); television series and series related content (s14B); and computer games (s17 (3-5)). These are known as the Additional Content Assessor scheme (ACA); the Authorised Television Series Assessor scheme (ATSA); and the Authorised Assessor Computer Games scheme (AACG). Section 31(3)(a) of the Act provides that the Director of the Classification Board may authorise a person to make assessments of the likely classification of unclassified films or computer games for advertising purposes. This is the Authorised Advertising Assessor (AAA) scheme.

In order to become an authorised assessor, a person must complete the relevant training course. Courses are devised by the Attorney-General's Department in consultation with the Classification Board and must be approved by the Director. Courses are conducted by training officers from the Attorney-General's Department experienced in assessing material and making classification recommendations to the Classification Board.

Once training has been satisfactorily completed, trainees receive a certificate signed by the Director granting them Authorised Assessor status.

The Department also runs courses for distributors of telecommunications media to become Trained Content Assessors as provided for under Schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992.

ALRC Recommendation 7-5 is also relevant here.

Although the Committee's recommendation is already implemented, the Government will consider the underlying policy considerations when developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 26

The committee recommends that the accreditation of content assessors should be subject to disqualification as a result of poor performance.

Government Response - agree

Under the current authorised assessor schemes, individuals can have their authorisation revoked. For example, under s 5 of the Classification (Authorised Television Series Assessor Scheme) Determination 2008, the Director may revoke an authorisation of a person as an

ATSA if that person submits an assessment that is misleading, incorrect or grossly inadequate.

The ALRC recommends that the Regulator should be enabled to, amongst other things, revoke the authorisation of industry classifiers (Recommendation 7-12).

Although the Committee's recommendation is already implemented, the Government will consider the underlying policy considerations when developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 27

The committee recommends that transgressions of classification requirements within codes of practice by industry participants should, if verified by the Classification Board, be punishable by substantial monetary fines.

Government Response - noted

See response to Recommendation 16.

Recommendation 28

The committee recommends that the terms of appointment for members of the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board should be for a maximum period of five years, with no option for reappointment.

Government Response - noted

Appointments to the Classification Board are currently made on the basis of a broad cross-section of community representation. This must be balanced with the needs of industry by ensuring consistent standards are maintained irrespective of the makeup of the Board. The 1991 ALRC Review of the classification scheme recommended that Classification Board member terms be limited to a maximum of 7 years.

The ALRC has recommended the retention of an independent classification board but is silent about the appropriate length of term for members.

The ALRC makes a number of recommendations about the role of the Classification Board in relation to decision-making and benchmarking (for example, Recommendations 7-2 and 7-3). It also recommends that the Classification Review Board cease to operate in the new NCS (Recommendation 7-9).

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 29

The committee recommends that the Australian Government should establish a 'Classification Complaints' clearinghouse where complaints in relation to matters of classification can be directed. The clearinghouse would be responsible for:

• receiving complaints and forwarding them to the appropriate body for consideration;

• advising complainants that their complaint has been forwarded to a particular organisation for consideration; and

• giving complainants direct contact details and an outline of the processes of the organisation to which the complaint has been forwarded.

Government Response - noted

Recommendations 13-2, 14-1 and 14-2 of the ALRC Report are relevant to this recommendation.

The Government will consider the Committee's recommendation in developing the Government response to the ALRC recommendations.

Recommendation 30

The committee recommends that the Attorney-General should specifically direct the ALRC to consider, as part of its current review of the National Classification Scheme, all the findings, proposals and recommendations put forward in this report.

Government Response - agree

This was done by the then Minister for Justice on 12 September 2011, and the Committee was advised at this time.

 

Australian Government Response to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit Report No. 427 Inquiry into National Funding Agreements

August 2012

General Comments

The Australian Government agrees with the broad thrust of the report. The Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations (IGA FFR), which commenced in 2009 and establishes the framework for the Commonwealth's financial relations with the States and Territories (the States), represents the single most significant shift in Commonwealth-State financial arrangements in decades.

Previously, federal financial relations were characterised by the Commonwealth placing a high degree of prescription on a large number of payments to the States, which constrained flexibility and innovation in service delivery. The new federal financial relations framework (FFR framework) provides States with flexibility to deliver quality services where they are most needed. It also increases governments' accountability to the public through a focus on the achievement of outcomes, clearer specification of roles and responsibilities, and enhanced public performance reporting. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council's 2011 report on the progress of the COAG reform agenda found that governments have made significant progress in realising many of the institutional features of the IGA FFR.

The Commonwealth has taken a range of steps to support the realisation of the IGA FFR. In 2010 the Commonwealth led, in conjunction with the States, a major review of agreements under the IGA FFR (the 'Heads of Treasuries Review'). Following the review, the Commonwealth has led work to improve performance frameworks in the National Agreements, to ensure that progress is measured and all jurisdictions are clearly accountable to the public and COAG for their efforts. To ensure the necessary cultural change to embed the FFR framework occurs across Commonwealth agencies, Commonwealth central agencies developed comprehensive guidance material (the 'Drafters' Toolkit') to assist portfolio agencies in drafting new agreements under the IGA FFR.

Further information is provided in response to the recommendations.

Response to the Recommendations

Recommendation No. 1

The Committee recommends that the Department of Finance and Deregulation examine the interaction between the new grants framework and grant payments delivered under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations. The report should propose options to remove inconsistencies and improve governance arrangements for all grants provided to States and Territories (States).

A copy of the report should be provided to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit (JCPAA), with the Government's Response to this recommendation—and both should be made publicly available.

Response

The Government disagrees with the recommendation. The interaction between the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) and the IGA FFR has already been examined as part of the Heads of Treasuries (HoTs) Review, in consultation with the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and the Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Treasury has used this Review to develop and disseminate new guidance to Commonwealth line agencies.

Both frameworks contain accountability requirements which reflect the nature of the funding provided. The IGA FFR framework is focussed on giving the States flexibility in the achievement of outcomes for which funding is provided by the Commonwealth. On the other hand, the range of programs that fall under the Commonwealth grants framework is diverse and their administration requires the careful exercise of judgement in applying the key principles for grants administration, as articulated in the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines (CGGs). This results in different accountability requirements depending on the nature, size and purpose of the granting activity.

The Commonwealth grants policy framework is underpinned by the CGGs, which were introduced from 1 July 2009. The CGGs contain mandatory requirements and better practice guidance designed to promote transparency and establish a robust accountability framework around grants administration in the Commonwealth. Payments made under the IGA FFR have been specifically excluded from the definition of "grant" under the Financial Management and Accountability Regulations 1997 and, as a result, from the CGGs, on the basis that separate accountability mechanisms exist under that framework to manage those payments effectively in the context of Commonwealth-State relations.

Where States obtain Commonwealth grant funding through programs that are not covered by the IGA FFR, for example, through competitive or targeted grant processes, it is appropriate that they are subject to the same accountability requirements as other grant recipients. While this may result in different accountability requirements for the States depending on whether funding is received through the IGA FFR process or from grant programs covered by the CGGs, this appropriately reflects the different nature of program funding and the level of autonomy and discretion involved.

The Department of Finance and Deregulation is currently undertaking the Commonwealth Financial Accountability Review (CFAR), a multi-year review of the operation of the Commonwealth's financial framework from first principles. A discussion paper was released publicly on 27 March 2012 and is available at http://cfar.finance.gov.au. The objective of the discussion paper was to facilitate consultation and broad public discussion on the Commonwealth financial framework. The discussion paper noted the interaction of the CGGs with the Federal Financial Relations Act 2009 and sought feedback from stakeholders to assist in determining what reforms might be considered when the Department of Finance and Deregulation puts forward options to the Government later in 2012.

Recommendation No. 2

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government makes the recommendations and a summary of the findings of the Heads of Treasuries Review public, along with the associated Government response and implementation strategies.

Response

The Government notes the recommendation.

The Government also notes that in response to the review, COAG established in February 2011 a steering group, led by Senior Officials from First Ministers' and Treasury agencies, to take forward the key and related recommendations arising from the HoTs Review, to consider improvements to the governance and performance reporting framework and to tackle deficiencies in the design of current agreements identified by the HoTs Review and reports of the COAG Reform Council (CRC), to reinforce COAG's commitment to performance and public accountability.

As part of this process, the performance frameworks of each of the six National Agreements (NAs) and select National Partnership (NP) Agreements were reviewed to ensure that progress is being measured and that all jurisdictions are clearly accountable to the public and COAG for their efforts. The reviews were conducted by working groups comprising officials from Commonwealth, State and Territory treasuries, First Ministers' departments and portfolio agencies. The reviews were conducted in consultation with Standing Council data groups, the CRC and the Secretariat to the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision.

The reviews addressed aspects of the performance reporting frameworks identified as requiring attention in the HoTs Review and in reports by the CRC and the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision. The outcomes of the reviews provided the basis of recommendations to COAG on improvements to each agreement's performance framework. All reviews have now been completed. COAG agreed on 13 April 2012 to a revised National Agreement on Skills and Workforce Development and a revised NP on Homelessness. COAG also endorsed a report on the completion of improvements to the NP on Indigenous Economic Participation. On 25 July 2012, COAG agreed a revised National Disability Agreement (NDA), National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA), National Education Agreement and National Healthcare Agreement. COAG also agreed the review of the performance framework of the National Indigenous Reform Agreement out-of-session. These documents are available from the COAG website: www.coag.gov.au. Further work will be done in 2012 to develop provisional benchmarks with quantifiable targets for the NDA and NAHA.

Recommendation No. 3

The Committee recommends that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and central agencies investigate whether additional measures are needed to encourage and enforce the application of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations' principles and associated guidelines, and that the findings of the investigation be publicly released and provided to the Committee.

Response

The Government notes the recommendation. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and other central agencies continue to pursue a range of measures to promote the application of the IGA FFR principles and associated guidelines. This includes the development and promulgation of the Drafters' Toolkit which incorporates:

an updated Federal Finances Circular on Developing National Partnership (NP) Agreements under the FFR framework, and an updated NP template;

a new Federal Finances Circular on the Processes for drafting, negotiating and varying agreements, and related estimates and payments processes;

a new Federal Finances Circular on Developing Implementation Plans (IPs) for NPs, and an updated IP template;

a Conceptual Framework for performance reporting; and

two short guides: one on the IGA FFR and another on payments that fall within the FFR framework.

This information is available on the website of the Standing Council on Federal Financial Relations: www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au

The Drafters' Toolkit and other aspects of HoTs Review implementation were the subject of correspondence from the Secretary of the Commonwealth Treasury to relevant portfolio agency secretaries on 23 December 2011, which was later copied to relevant departmental Chief Financial Officers.

Recommendation No. 4

The Committee recommends that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and central agencies, in consultation with appropriate experts, develop a set of agreed definitions for assurance requirements to be used in NAs, NPs and IPs.

Response

The Government notes the recommendation. The IGA FFR and the Drafters' Toolkit set out the requirements for NAs, NPs and IPs.

The IGA FFR specifies that NPs must focus on outcomes and outputs rather than inputs. Consequently, it provides for a reduction in Commonwealth prescriptions on service delivery by the States, and states that agreements will not include financial or other input controls, giving the States more flexibility in how services are provided to achieve the outcomes for which they are responsible.

Recommendation No. 5

The Committee recommends that a structured approach be developed and implemented by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and other central agencies to ensure relevant staff receive specific training to enhance understanding of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations and develop the skills required to meet outcomes focused performance reporting requirements.

Response

The Government agrees with the recommendation. In addition to the development and dissemination of the Drafters' Toolkit (see response to Recommendation 3), Commonwealth central agencies continue to pursue a range of measures to enhance understanding of the IGA FFR and develop the skills required to meet outcomes-focussed performance reporting requirements.

Following COAG's agreement to the HoTs Review, Treasury held two forums to discuss the findings and recommendations of the review with officials of all relevant portfolio agencies. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet holds regular meetings with other Commonwealth central agencies and relevant portfolio agencies to discuss COAG and IGA FFR related issues. Commonwealth central agencies also engage with relevant portfolio agencies on a routine basis, providing advice on IGA FFR matters and draft agreements, as well as overseeing formal clearance processes for the development and agreement of NPs, IPs and Project Agreements (PAs). The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is also developing a presentation on the IGA FFR and how to develop agreements under the FFR framework. The presentation will be delivered jointly with Treasury to Commonwealth portfolio agencies on a targeted basis.

The Department of Finance and Deregulation is currently reviewing its financial management education strategy including the most effective way to meet education needs across the Commonwealth. This includes working with the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) to develop and deliver base level financial management framework training to officers new to the Senior Executive Service. Commonwealth central agencies are exploring opportunities to leverage the Department of Finance and Deregulation's work in this area to develop and deliver education products to enhance the awareness and understanding of the requirements of the FFR framework.

Recommendation No. 6

The Committee recommends that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in consultation with other central agencies, establish processes to ensure that there is clarity of the outcomes to be achieved and these are clearly reflected in national funding agreements. The committee asserts that to underpin the achievement of outcomes, mutual understanding of the end goal must drive the cultural change, the training and skill development, and the quality and timeliness of data collection and publication. At all times, outcomes should be the focus in the development of all NAs.

Response

The Government notes the recommendation. As outlined in the response to Recommendation 2, on 13 February 2011 COAG agreed, in response to the HoTs Review, to review the performance frameworks of each of the six NAs and select NPs to ensure that progress is being measured and that all jurisdictions are clearly accountable to the public and COAG for their efforts.

In addition to the work to implement the HoTs Review, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Treasury work continuously with relevant portfolio agencies to develop NPs and IPs under the IGA FFR that have a strong focus on specifying outcomes and identifying robust performance measures and data to assess progress in achieving outcomes over time.

Recommendation No. 7

The Committee recommends that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in collaboration with agencies such as the Australian Public Service Commission, should lead a process to provide training across the broader Australian Public Service which incorporates information on the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations to explain the importance of the Agreement and its principles.

Response

The Government agrees with the recommendation. As mentioned in response to Recommendation 3, guidance materials have been developed for relevant staff in affected agencies. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet is developing a presentation on the IGA FFR and how to develop agreements under the FFR framework. The presentation will be delivered jointly with Treasury to Commonwealth portfolio agencies on a targeted basis. An improved COAG website has also been launched.

As mentioned in response to Recommendation 5, Commonwealth central agencies are also exploring opportunities to leverage the Department of Finance and Deregulation's work with the APSC, to develop and deliver education products to enhance the awareness and understanding of the requirements of the FFR framework.

Recommendation No. 8

The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth works through the Council of Australian Governments to ensure that States develop and implement a similarly structured approach to foster cultural change throughout departments and agencies and ensure all staff receive relevant training to enhance understanding of the framework and develop the skills required to meet outcomes focused performance reporting requirements.

Response

The Government notes the recommendation. The Drafters' Toolkit (see response to Recommendation 3) was developed and agreed in consultation with State and Territory central agencies. At their meeting of 9 December 2011, HoTs agreed to disseminate and promote the Drafters' Toolkit to its respective portfolio agency secretaries or equivalents. The Secretary of the Commonwealth Treasury wrote to relevant portfolio agency secretaries on 23 December 2011.

States have also undertaken a range of measures to foster cultural change to ensure all staff receive relevant training to understand the IGA FFR and to develop the skills required to meet outcomes-focussed performance reporting requirements. More information provided by the States is available at Attachment A.

Recommendation No. 9

The Committee recommends that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and central agencies report back to the Committee within six months on work undertaken to move towards the 'single report to multiple agencies' ideal and the potential to develop a set of standard data requirements for areas of national interest.

Response

The Government agrees with the recommendation. The Government supports streamlining reporting requirements and consolidating data collections wherever possible to reduce the reporting burden. This objective will always be balanced with the need to have data that are fit-for-purpose, timely and robust.

In response to the Committee's request to report back, significant progress has already been made to move towards the 'single report to multiple agencies' ideal. In particular, agencies like the Productivity Commission and the CRC already draw almost entirely on secondary information sources rather than approaching providers and States directly for the same information. There are several areas of work underway to consolidate data collections, including:

(a)   the development of National Minimum datasets to improve performance reporting against NAs and NPs;

(b)   the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) data collations;

(c)   Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) and National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) data collections; and

(d)   the Australian Bureau of Statistics 'Measuring Wellbeing' framework.

Additionally, METeOR, the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare's (AIHW's) Metadata Online Registry, is a repository for national metadata standards for health, housing and community services statistics and information. The catalogue of holdings of AIHW data is an online searchable catalogue of a selection of data held by the Institute for statistical purposes.

Recommendation No. 10

The Committee recommends that the Prime Minister through the Council of Australian Governments, take steps to respond to the reports and recommendations of the Council of Australian Governments' Reform Council within three months.

Response

The Government agrees with the recommendation. COAG has already undertaken to respond to CRC reports and recommendations within three months.

Recommendation No. 11

The Committee recommends that the Prime Minister table COAG Reform Council reports in the Commonwealth Parliament one month after submission to COAG, and that relevant Productivity Commission reports are tabled as soon as practical. Once tabled, these reports should be automatically referred to an appropriate Joint Standing Committee for review.

Response

The Government notes the recommendation. The CRC releases publicly its NA performance and NP assessment reports, and Productivity Commission reports are already tabled in Parliament within 25 sitting days of being received by the Treasurer. However, in some instances neither the CRC nor COAG release certain reports. This occurs, for example, when the contents are commercial-in-confidence. Consequently, COAG reserves the right to withhold certain reports if there is a compelling reason to do so.

Recommendation No. 12

The Committee recommends that signed National Partnerships are tabled in Parliament, along with a complementary Ministerial Statement.

Response

The Government disagrees with the recommendation. All agreements under the IGA FFR are available publicly on the website of the Standing Council on Federal Financial Relations.

Recommendation No. 13

The Committee recommends that the Prime Minister deliver an annual Statement to the House:

- outlining the Commonwealth Government's perspective on the contribution of national funding agreements to the improvement of the well-being of Australians; and

- summarising the number of current, new, upcoming and expired NAs and NPs.

Response

The Government notes the recommendation, but considers that the recommendation's objective is delivered through other existing avenues. COAG's contribution to the improved well-being of Australians is already canvassed by a range of agencies through a number of different reports by the CRC, the Productivity Commission and indirectly through the measures of Australia's wellbeing reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

For example, the CRC produces an annual report, COAG Reform Agenda: Report on Progress, and a number of reports on progress under the NAs and certain NPs. Similarly, the Productivity Commission reports on the 'Impacts and Benefits of COAG reforms' and provides COAG with information on progress through its Report on Government Services. Finally, COAG itself reports on its progress through the communiqué published after each meeting and published on its website.

All NAs, NPs, IPs and PAs are available publicly on the SCFFR website which is updated regularly. Information on upcoming and expired agreements is published in Budget Paper 3 and Part 3, Attachment D of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, which are public documents tabled in Parliament.

Recommendation No. 14

The Committee recommends that the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and central agencies investigate steps so that Portfolio Budget Statements and annual reporting requirements provide a more comprehensive picture of the performance and outcomes of programs under National Partnerships across government.

Response

The Government notes the recommendation. The CRC already reports on progress against those NPs that support the objectives of an NA, much of which is summarised in its annual COAG Reform Agenda: Report on Progress and in its annual NA performance reports. The CRC also reports on whether performance benchmarks have been achieved in NPs with reward payments. For other NPs, Commonwealth agencies may publish progress or final program reports on their websites.

The Department of Finance and Deregulation is already taking steps to improve the guidance it provides to agencies on performance reporting in the Portfolio Budget Statements as part of its response to a recent ANAO Performance Audit Report (No.5) 2011-12: Development and Implementation of Key Performance Indicators to Support the Outcomes and Programs Framework. The Department is also considering the inclusion of further guidance on how to reference performance reporting for programs delivered through NAs.

States and Territories are responsible for delivering the majority of outcomes and outputs under NPs. The primary purpose of Commonwealth agency annual reports, on the other hand, is to report on the performance of the Commonwealth agency in relation to services provided.

Recommendation No. 15

The Committee recommends that, in light of the range of review activity currently underway, the Commonwealth Government take this opportunity to institute and deliver on the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations' full potential. With these changes Australia will be well positioned to continue on the reform pathway in the coming decade.

Response

The Government agrees with the recommendation.

 

Attachment A

STATE AND TERRITORY ACTIVITIES TO FOSTER CULTURE CHANGE WITH RESPECT TO THE INTERGOVERNMENTAL AGREEMENT ON FEDERAL FINANCIAL RELATIONS

Jurisdiction

Activity

Departments and agencies targeted

Aims of activity

NSW

Development and dissemination of explanatory documentation such as Premier's Memorandum M2011-19 and the related NSW Protocol for the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations.

All agencies

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR's principles and aspirations including a focus on outcomes with flexibility for States to determine their own priorities and tailor programs to their own contexts.

Regular contact between DPC policy officers, Treasury and line agency officers.

All agencies

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Dissemination of information relevant to COAG and national reform to intergovernmental contact officers in line agencies.

All agencies

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR and issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Using the templates and guidance material developed by the HoTs Review Implementation Working Group, NSW DPC will consider a further strategy for the implementation of the IGAFFR.

All agencies

To improve NSW agencies' understanding of the IGAFFR and their roles in its implementation.

Victoria

Following the 2008-2009 reform implementation period, in 2010 DPC and DTF developed a strategic communications plan (based on external expert advice) that incorporates both:

mechanisms for ongoing leadership and engagement from the Victorian Government and senior public servants, through regular items on the agendas of relevant decision-making and coordination/oversight fora (including the State Coordination and Management Council of heads of departments, a dedicated intergovernmental relations network for senior executives and a FFR manager-level group); and

a proactive capability-building program for relevant departmental managers and officers (including "principles and processes" guidance material, "basic training" and "FFR expert" workshops, and a dedicated VPS intranet resources page).

All departments

To promote high-level VPS awareness and ongoing implementation of the federal financial relations (FFR) framework, including an appreciation of how underlying reform principles are consistent with both good strategic policy disciplines and the Government's own innovation and accountability agenda.

 

Implementation of this plan is ongoing.

Ongoing inter-departmental forum on performance reporting issues.

All departments

Share experience and insights on current issues in performance reporting and related developments in outcomes-based performance reporting.

Central agency co-ordination of Victoria's engagement with CRC reporting processes.

Portfolio departments with associated performance reporting responsibilities.

To assist Victorian portfolio departments in providing high-quality and robust information to the public through the CRC reporting process; this outward-looking work reinforces the importance of underlying reform principles such as enhanced outcomes-based public accountability, clearer roles and responsibilities and reduced administration and compliance overheads.

Queensland

Information sessions on the IGAFFR, its intent and implementation, conducted in 2010.

Agencies most affected by national reform agenda

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Monthly meetings between DPC, Treasury and line agencies.

Key agencies e.g. Health, Education, Communities, Public Works

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Periodic cross-agency meetings to discuss COAG related matters generally and IGAFFR related matters specifically.

Agencies most affected by national reform agenda (e.g. health, education, transport, housing, Indigenous affairs, business regulation, disability services)

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Regular contact between DPC and Treasury officials and line agencies.

All

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Under Treasurer advice to key stakeholders of changes to the IGAFFR.

All

To ensure that key stakeholders have a current understanding of IGAFFR issues.

Western Australia

Monthly meetings between DPC, Treasury and line agencies.

Key agencies e.g. health, education

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Periodic cross-agency meetings to discuss COAG related matters generally and IGAFFR related matters specifically.

Agencies most affected by national reform agenda e.g. health, education, transport, child protection, housing, Indigenous affairs, commerce, disability services

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Regular daily contact between DPC and Treasury officials and line agencies.

All

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Information sessions on the IGAFFR, its intent and implementation, conducted in 2010.

Agencies most affected by national reform agenda

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Meetings with Deputy Directors General immediately prior to COAG meetings.

Key agencies e.g. health, education

To discuss issues on COAG agenda including issues relating to negotiating and/or implementing NAs, NPs and IPs.

South Australia

Meetings of the chief-executives level COAG Implementation, Reporting and Evaluation Group (CIREG), chaired by the chief executive of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet.

Treasury and agencies relevant to key COAG areas: health; education; further education, employment, skills and training; and communities and social inclusion.

CIREG provides oversight of South Australia's implementation of its obligations under NAs and NPs.

In particular, CIREG discusses issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs; the implications for South Australia of the performance reports that are published by the CRC; and oversees an internal system of monitoring South Australia's progress with NPs.

Meetings of Policy Reference Groups, comprised of officers from Cabinet Office, Treasury and relevant line agencies.

Agencies relevant to key COAG areas

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Regular contact between Cabinet policy officers, Treasury and line agency officers.

All agencies

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Development and dissemination of explanatory documentation such as South Australian Guidelines for Developing NPs.

All agencies

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR and issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NPs.

 

Dissemination of information relevant to COAG and national reform to intergovernmental contact officers in line agencies.

All agencies

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR and issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs.

Tasmania

Cabinet agreed a process for line agencies to consult with Treasury and the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPAC) early in the development of NAs, NPs, IPs and PAs. All prospective NPs must go through the Cabinet process.

Cabinet/All Departments

To promote an understanding of the IGA FFR such that NPs and IPs align with the principles of the IGA FFR.

Information sessions on the IGAFFR, its intent, implementation and agency responsibilities conducted regularly beginning 2009.

Most affected departments

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs

Regular contact between DPAC, Treasury and line agencies in relation to individual agreements.

All Departments

To promote understanding of the IGAFFR, discuss issues arising from the negotiation and/or implementation of NAs, NPs and IPs

Joint letters from Treasury and DPAC advising/updating all agencies of relevant guidance material for developing NPs and IPs such as the HoTs Review circulars and the Toolkit for Drafters of New Agreements.

All Departments

To promote an understanding of the IGA FFR such that NPs and IPs align with the principles of the IGA FFR.

Treasury and DPAC to submit a Cabinet Briefing advising of relevant guidance material for developing NP agreements.

Cabinet

To promote Cabinet's understanding of the IGA FFR and the potential implications of tied funding on the State Budget.

Maintaining Treasury and DPAC's involvement in developing and negotiating intergovernmental agreements, providing advice and education to agencies as required.

All Departments

To promote an understanding of the IGA FFR such that NPs and IPs align with the principles of the IGA FFR and streamline negotiations involving intergovernmental agreements.

ACT

Chief Minister and Cabinet Directorate took a paper to Strategic Board, the meeting of all heads of ACT agencies, highlighting the need for close co-operation between line agencies and central agencies in the development and implementation of NPs, and seeking senior contact points in those agencies.

All agencies

To communicate the roles of line and central agencies in development and implementation of partnership agreements

In late 2011, CMCD held meetings with middle managers from all agencies to explain the IGA FFR and protocols for its implementation.

All agencies

To raise awareness with middle managers of protocols for the implementation of the IGA on FFR.

Now that templates and guidance material for the IGA on FFR have been finalised, ACT Government will now develop a further strategy for the implementation of the IGA.

All agencies

To improve ACT agencies' understanding of the IGA and their roles in its implementation

Northern Territory

Issuing of a Treasurers Direction on NPs, PAs and IPs. Treasurers Directions provide Accountable Officers with the principles, practices and procedures to be observed in the administration of the financial affairs of the Territory and Agencies.

All Agencies

To provide direction to Northern Territory agencies in the development, negotiation and implementation of agreements established under the IGA, including ensuring the focus of the agreements remains on the achievement of the agreed outcomes and outputs, adequacy of funding arrangements and streamlined performance reporting.

 

Agency information sessions

All relevant Agencies

To provide agencies with advice as to the design and negotiation of NPs, PAs and IPs to enable consistency of agreements with IGA principles and Northern Territory Government policy and appropriate performance reporting.

Networking with State and Commonwealth colleagues to promulgate effective implementation of the IGA including the use of the drafters' tool kit resources and identification of key cultural change issues and solutions.

Central Agencies

To enhance compliance with IGA including the development of appropriate resource materials.