Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Outcome 1

Report on performance: Outcome 2

Report on performance: Outcome 3

Management and accountability

Financial performance and future operations



Output 3.1.3 — Communication strategies and services (AEC Annual Report 2008-09)

Updated: 22 December 2010

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The AEC gives timely and accurate electoral information to a range of target audiences to encourage enrolment for, and participation in, electoral events.


The AEC conducts public awareness campaigns to promote knowledge of, and participation in, the electoral process, as required by the Electoral Act. The AEC also provides various information services, including the AEC website, telephone and email inquiry services, translating and interpreting services, publications, and the federal election call centre and virtual tally room.

Table 25 summarises the AEC's results against the performance information set out for Output 3.1.3 in the 2008–09 Portfolio Budget Statements.

Table 25 Output 3.1.3 – Communication strategies and services: performance results
Key performance indicators Targets Results
Audience feedback on effectiveness of specific advertising campaigns and public awareness activities through surveys, market research, and stakeholder consultation Response from audiences is positive No quantitative research was commissioned during the reporting period.


The AEC continued to provide electoral information in various formats during 2008–09 to ensure the public had ongoing access to accurate and timely information about the electoral process and participation in electoral events.

The AEC also continued its preparations in developing the communication activities required for the next federal election.

Quality control improvements

Following the distribution of the 2007 Electoral Pocketbook to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the AEC was informed that the pocketbook contained some typographical and historical errors.

The AEC immediately ceased distribution of the pocketbook and undertook a thorough review of its content. A revised edition was subsequently produced and published on the AEC website, together with a limited print run of hardcopies and supplementary PDF versions on disc. The AEC has introduced additional quality control measures to minimise the chance of errors in future publications.

Communication strategies

Coordinated public relations activities were undertaken to support a major targeted enrolment stimulation mail-out conducted in most states and territories across Australia in April 2009. The activities also focused on raising awareness of the estimated 1.2 million missing Australians who are eligible to enrol but are not on the electoral roll. These activities included media releases, radio release grabs, stakeholder communications and dedicated website content. The strategy was successful in achieving significant media coverage for the mail-out and the issue of 'missing electors' outside of an election context.

The AEC also developed and implemented a comprehensive communication strategy for the by-elections held in the divisions of Lyne and Mayo on 6 September 2008. The activities included state-wide and local advertising, public relations activities, publications and an election website, including a virtual tally room.


A 'call-to-action campaign' targeted at South-Eastern Queenslanders encouraged eligible electors to call the AEC's 13 23 26 number and have their enrolment form partially completed over the phone for them. These forms were then sent with an enclosed reply paid envelope to be signed and returned to the AEC. A total of 1 152 inquiries were received resulting in 910 completed enrolme forms (79 percent) being returned.


In late 2008, the AEC started the modernisation of its intranet to improve the quality, accessibility and timeliness of information and communication. An external specialist was engaged to provide advice on a recommended strategic direction for the redevelopment and, to ensure a user-centred design, undertake the user consultation and information gathering phase with management and staff.

The AEC now has a vision and direction for the intranet redevelopment, and a roadmap outlining the key tasks to achieve it. This is underpinned by a content governance framework and a high-level infrastructure that supports a single entry point for all staff to access corporate and operational information.

In 2009–10, the AEC will build on work undertaken during 2008–09 to deliver a more effective and user-friendly intranet system.


The AEC website was an important medium for providing electoral information in various formats. The website operated efficiently, handling approximately one million users, in excess of 76 million hits and 14 million page views during 2008–09.

No significant changes were made to the AEC website ( during 2008–09; however, website usage increased by around 25 percent as compared to usage in the last non-election financial year, 2006–07.

In Figure 10, a significant increase in website usage can be seen during the election years of 2004–05 and 2007–08.

Figure 10: Uses of the AEC website, 2002–03 to 2008–09

Figure 10: Uses of the AEC website, 2002-03 to 2008-09

General inquiry services

The range of information services and products the AEC provides ensures the public has access to accurate and timely electoral information. These services and products include:

  • a national telephone and email inquiry service
  • a telephone interpreter service
  • a website
  • digital products
  • a range of publications.

During non-election periods, telephone calls to the national inquiries number (13 23 26) are diverted to the caller's nearest divisional office through an automated facility based on postcodes. During state and territory electoral events, call diversion facilities are provided to automatically direct callers to the appropriate service. In 2008–09, diversions were used for the Western Australian state election and referendum, New South Wales local council elections, Queensland state election and the by-elections in Lyne and Mayo, as well as Enrol to Vote Week.

During election periods, the AEC operates a dedicated national election call centre and fulfilment service. Following the successful partnership with Centrelink in 2004 and 2007, the AEC has commenced preparations to collaborate with Centrelink again for the next federal election.

The general customer inquiry email service ( was well used, receiving almost 17 000 requests for information, including more than 6000 overseas elector inquiries in 2008–09. A number of clients continued to choose to email scanned enrolment forms to the AEC for processing.

The AEC's telephone interpreter service (provided by VITS LanguageLink) delivered 16 dedicated language lines. Mandarin, Cantonese and Arabic were the three most commonly used languages for AEC enquiries. More than 5300 interpreter calls were received, with a peak during July 2008 of 1200 calls – well in excess of the monthly average of 447 calls. This peak was due to the large increase in the number of Continuous Roll Update letters mailed.

During 2008–09, the AEC started directing public inquiries to divisional office email inboxes. This enabled electors to communicate directly with their divisional offices, without national office acting as intermediary.

Publications and resources

During 2008–09, the AEC continued to work on a suite of post-election and pre-election publications.

In late 2008, production methods were carefully reviewed to ensure the quality, timeliness and accuracy of all non-campaign material. The outcome was a rigorous new framework of quality control procedures which formed a comprehensive user manual called The Toolkit. This user manual was implemented in early 2009.

The Toolkit is easily accessible, and acts as both reference guide and induction manual to support AEC communications staff. This is particularly effective as a risk management tool during phases of staff transition.

To support the AEC's communication strategies, the style guide was enhanced to build on the corporate branding implemented in 2007–08. This provided a more sophisticated brand management system which, when fully implemented, will support the integration of a range of AEC communication materials. This part of the style guide demonstrates the visual characteristics and intended audiences of each product. The guide will assist staff to achieve consistency and quality in official AEC publications and to brand new products or re-brand existing products in preparation for the next federal election.

In addition, the style guide encourages a more contemporary use of language and provides guidance on writing for, and publishing material on, AEC websites. The revised corporate style guide is due for release early in 2009–10.

Other communication activities

In 2008–09, the AEC's communication activities focused on supporting its other business functions of managing and growing the electoral roll, providing administrative support for electoral redistributions, and conducting by-elections.

The Continuous Roll Update letters were redrafted and distributed in a trial to potential electors in Queensland and South Australia. Three new letters replaced numerous outdated versions and focused on streamlining messages to maximise public response. The new letters were more compelling and audiences were more specifically targeted. By 30 June 2009, insufficient time had elapsed to collect statistics relating to this project.

The AEC's virtual tally room and online election results services were used to communicate the results of the Lyne and Mayo by-elections to members of the public, the media and political parties.

The AEC met its commitment to helping other Australian Government agencies by providing advice and sharing experience in call centre services, applications and logistics. For example, the AEC assisted the Australian Bureau of Statistics preparations for the 2011 Census.

During 2008–09, a range of communication activities, including advertising, public and media relations, online content and publications, were undertaken to advise electors of the final steps in, and the outcomes of, the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Western Australia and Tasmania. In early 2009, redistributions of electoral boundaries commenced in Queensland and New South Wales, and a media strategy was developed to support the processes.