Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Outcome 1

Report on performance: Outcome 2

Report on performance: Outcome 3

Management and accountability



Financial statements

Corporate governance

Updated: 25 November 2010

The AEC's governance framework is based on clear lines of accountability, decision making and reporting, as well as well-defined planning and performance management. The AEC employs strategies that:

  • meet the objectives for which funding is appropriated
  • ensure accountability to the Parliament of Australia and other stakeholders
  • identify responsibility for the management of resources
  • develop, maintain and use information on the full accrual costs and values of producing deliverables.

Figure 11 Planning, operating and reporting framework

Figure 11: flowchart

Text description of Figure 11

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The AEC is an independent statutory agency governed by a Commission comprising:

  • a part-time chairperson, who is a judge or retired judge of the Federal Court of Australia
  • the Electoral Commissioner, who is the full-time head and Chief Executive Officer of the AEC under the Public Service Act 1999 (the Public Service Act) and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (the FMA Act)
  • a part-time, non-judicial member, who is an agency head as defined in the Public Service Act.

All three members of the Commission are engaged under the Electoral Act and are appointed by the Governor-General. The membership of the current Commission is noted in the 'Overview' section of this report.

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The Electoral Commissioner is assisted by a senior executive team comprising the Deputy Electoral Commissioner, two first assistant commissioners, six assistant commissioners, the Chief Finance Officer and the Chief Legal Officer. State managers, who hold the statutory appointment of Australian Electoral Officer for each state and the Northern Territory, assist the Electoral Commissioner to manage electoral activities in their respective jurisdictions.

The organisational structure is outlined in Figure 1 in the 'Overview' section.

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Senior management committees

The AEC's senior management committees are directly responsible to the Electoral Commissioner in his role as Chief Executive Officer. The leadership and management framework at 30 June 2010 is set out in Table 34.

Table 34 Leadership and management framework
Australian Electoral Commission
Electoral Commissioner
Accountable for corporate governance and overall performance
Executive Management Group Business Investment Committee Business Assurance Committee
Assists the Electoral Commissioner by providing high-level focus on emerging strategic issues and operational matters Prioritises the AEC's investment in projects and improves project delivery discipline Reviews risk and assurance issues
Electoral Commissioner (Chair) Deputy Electoral Commissioner (Chair) Deputy Electoral Commissioner (Chair)
Deputy Electoral Commissioner
Two first assistant commissioners
Assistant commissioners
State managers
Chief Legal Officer
Chief Finance Officer
Special Advisor Electoral Reform and International Services
Two first assistant commissioners
Assistant Commissioner Elections
Assistant Commissioner Roll Management
Assistant Commissioner Information Technology
State Manager Victoria
State Manager Queensland
Two first assistant commissioners
Assistant Commissioner Education and Communications
Assistant Commissioner People Services
Chief Finance Officer
State Manager Western Australia
State Manager Tasmania
External independent member

Executive Management Group

The Executive Management Group supports the Electoral Commissioner in:

  • setting the AEC's strategic directions and organisational priorities
  • ensuring objectives are achieved
  • assisting with the strategic leadership and operational management of the AEC
  • ensuring the AEC follows good corporate governance practices and manages risks appropriately.

During 2009–10, the group had two teleconference meetings to discuss operational matters, and six face-to-face meetings to discuss strategic issues and day-to-day business matters.

Business Investment Committee

The Business Investment Committee assists the Electoral Commissioner in:

  • prioritising the AEC's investment in projects which build long-term capability
  • improving discipline around project delivery, to ensure that projects are consistent with broad strategic direction and align with the AEC's future business architecture.

The Business Investment Committee met 12 times in 2009–10. It considered 24 project proposals, submitted using the AEC's Project Management Framework, and approved 20 to receive funding from the Investment Pool.

The AEC's project management templates continued to evolve to better align with the framework and ensure that templates were tailored appropriately for small projects. Project management training was delivered to key staff in the national office. During 2010–11, the AEC will focus on introducing e-learning to deliver the training to a broader pool of staff in a cost-effective manner.

The Project Management Office provides secretariat support to the Business Investment Committee. It also provides assurance on project proposals prior to consideration of the proposals by the committee. In 2009–10, the office organised external assurance on project proposals valued at over $500 000. Coaching services were provided by external firms to assist business areas to improve their project management capabilities.

Business Assurance Committee

The Business Assurance Committee assists the Electoral Commissioner in meeting his statutory responsibilities under s.46 of the FMA Act. The committee:

  • reviews and monitors the AEC's risk assurance, audit, fraud and internal controls functions
  • ensures the objectivity and reliability of the AEC's published financial information.

The Business Assurance Committee met four times in 2009–10.

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Corporate and business plans

The strategic themes that drive the AEC's performance are articulated in a five-year plan. The AEC Strategic Plan 2009–2014 focuses on:

  • modernisation
  • collaboration
  • investing in our people.

The strategic plan is published on the AEC's website.

In the last quarter of 2009–10, the AEC reviewed its performance against the first-year priorities and activities of the AEC Strategic Plan 2009–2014, to ensure progress was being made and to confirm priorities for the second year, 2010–11.

The strategic plan is complemented by a suite of plans that address specific business functions, as summarised in Table 35. Figure 11 illustrates the framework of relationships between the AEC's planning and accountability mechanisms. This framework underpins the business plans that are developed each year, at the national, branch, state and divisional levels, to achieve the AEC's outcomes.

Table 35 Corporate and business planning documents
Type Purpose Reviewed
Business continuity Applies risk management techniques and principles to the planning, administration and delivery of projects and policies Every three years
Corporate fraud control Identifies areas of corporate fraud risk and sets out strategies to prevent or minimise the incidence of corporate fraud Every two years
Corporate IT Provides direction for IT development Every three years
Disability action Assists the AEC to meet its responsibilities under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy Every three years
Election preparation Sets out and monitors the program of activity required to achieve election readiness Every three years
Electoral fraud control Sets out strategies to prevent or minimise electoral offences that may affect the result of elections Every two years
Health and safety action Sets out the activities that underpin the AEC's Health and Safety Management Arrangements Every three years
Property Provides direction for the long-term management of leased property Annually
Risk Identifies areas of business risk and specifies how risks will be managed Annually
Security Sets out strategies to protect staff and visitors, security classification of information, equipment and premises against harm, loss, interference and compromise Annually
Strategic internal audit Sets out the program of compliance and performance audits for the financial year Annually
Workplace diversity Sets out a program of activities to enable recognition and valuing of individual differences in the workplace Every four years

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Service charter

The AEC Service Charter includes information about the AEC's functions, values and commitment to electors. The charter may be accessed through the AEC website, and printed copies are available on request. Poster versions of the charter are displayed in all AEC offices.

The charter encourages members of the public to provide feedback to the organisation. The AEC listens carefully to customer feedback, and responds to suggestions to improve its services.

In 2009–10, the AEC commenced a review of the charter to ensure consistency with the Strategic Plan 2009–2014. Changes arising from the review will be implemented in 2010–11.

Customer satisfaction

The AEC takes many opportunities to engage with customers and seek their input on the delivery of services and the level of satisfaction with the AEC's services. Examples are included in the reports on performance for outcomes 1, 2 and 3.

Customer inquiries, issues and complaints

While most inquiries can be resolved by the receiver in the first instance, certain issues are escalated to the national office for resolution. The AEC follows an established protocol for the escalation of certain inquiries, issues and complaints, which includes the use of a central register to track the nature of matters being raised and address any emerging systemic issues.

A summary of escalated inquiries, issues and complaints handled by the national office in each of the past three reporting periods is shown in Table 36.

Table 36 Escalated inquiries, issues and complaints received by the national office, 2007–08 to 2009–10
Subject 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10
General inquiries 628 43 20
Alleged electoral offences 283 32 72
Total 911 75 92

Note: The total for 2007–08 reflects the increase in customer contacts that usually occurs in a federal election year.

The issues handled by the national office in 2009–10 included post-redistribution division information and voting processes.

Fifty percent of general escalated issues and complaints handled by national office were resolved within 10 days.

In relation to alleged electoral offences, the majority of the complaints related to the failure to comply with the authorisation requirements contained in s.328 of the Electoral Act. The by-elections in the divisions of Bradfield and Higgins resulted in a large number of complaints, particularly in relation to electoral advertising material, distributed by the Christian Democratic Party (Fred Nile Group) in New South Wales, which was alleged to be racist and in breach of discrimination laws. The AEC has no power under the Electoral Act to deal with contents of such electoral advertising. The South Australian and Tasmanian state elections also led to an increase in the number of complaints that were misdirected to the AEC, which has no power to deal with state electoral advertising material. There were a number of complaints about government building program signage that failed to contain the authorisation details.

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Internal audit

AEC internal audit is an independent function reporting directly to the Deputy Electoral Commissioner, who in turn reports on the audit program to the AEC's Business Assurance Committee.

As shown in Table 34, the Business Assurance Committee includes an external independent member with broad public sector experience of relevant functions. The inclusion of an external member strengthens the independence of the committee and provides the opportunity for the Electoral Commissioner to receive advice and assurance from a perspective unencumbered by management responsibilities.

During 2009–10, representatives of the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and the internal auditors attended meetings of the Business Assurance Committee to report on the AEC's external and internal audit programs and other relevant matters. Further information on the external audit program is in the 'External scrutiny' section of the annual report.

The AEC's internal audit program is conducted through an external service provider, KPMG. Internal audits for 2009–10 focused on providing assurance to the AEC on aspects of its preparedness for the federal election, and on reviewing the AEC's control structure in areas related to IT, financial management and human resources.

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Risk management and business continuity

In early 2010, the AEC commenced a review of its risk framework and resilience in order to more fully integrate risk management, business continuity and crisis management. Work commenced to address recommendations from the review. This work will conclude in 2010–11.

In 2009–10, the AEC's focus included:

  • developing an enterprise-wide risk management strategy, based on the new international risk management standard (ISO 31000–2009)
  • enhancing its strategic risk register
  • integrating business and risk planning, to deliver ownership of operational risks to individual business areas within the AEC.

In March 2010, the AEC engaged a consultant to review its current business continuity arrangements, including the framework and plans, and to identify gaps or areas for improvement. The review encompassed arrangements for the entire AEC network of offices and, given the AEC's dependence on IT systems, included disaster recovery arrangements.

Work has commenced on implementing the recommendations resulting from the review.

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Fraud control

The Electoral Commissioner's certification of the AEC's fraud control arrangements is at Appendix K.

The AEC maintains two fraud control plans: the electoral fraud control plan, which focuses on election and enrolment fraud; and the corporate fraud control plan, which deals with all other forms of fraud. Both fraud control plans were reviewed in 2009–10; the new plans will be implemented in 2010–11.

The AEC's Fraud Control Committee is a subcommittee of the Business Assurance Committee and is responsible for overseeing fraud prevention, detection and investigations. The Fraud Control Committee meets prior to each Business Assurance Committee meeting, and provides that committee with a report on matters considered and recommendations as required. During 2009–10, the Fraud Control Committee updated its terms of reference to better reflect its functions and responsibilities.

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Ethical standards

The AEC has in place policies and guidelines related to the standards of behaviour expected when working in the AEC and the consequences if these standards are not maintained. These are underpinned by the AEC's values, articulated in its strategic plan and further strengthened by the Australian Public Service (APS) Values and the Code of Conduct.

To further strengthen the AEC's commitment to maintaining high ethical standards within the organisation a statement of shared objectives contained in the AEC's Enterprise Agreement 2010–11 highlights a commitment to adhere to values and behaviours expected of AEC employees.

The AEC actively participates in the Australian Public Service Commission's Ethics Advisory Service which promotes and enhances ethical awareness in the APS.

The AEC's performance management program includes an assessment tool on values and behaviours, which contributes to the overall performance rating for each employee. Details on the AEC's performance management program, which was revised in 2009–10, can be found in the 'Human resources' section of this report.

Building on the success of a pilot program held in Tasmania in 2008–09, the AEC held 14 sessions of the People Management learning and development program, with a total of 188 staff participating around Australia, in 2009–10.

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Senior executive remuneration

Remuneration for the Electoral Commissioner is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal under the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973. Other statutory appointees are part of the Principal Executive Officer structure under that Act; remuneration and conditions for those appointees are determined by the Electoral Commissioner within parameters set by the Remuneration Tribunal.

The Electoral Commissioner also determines performance pay for the AEC's Principal Executive Officers and other senior executive staff, as described in the 'Human resources' section of this report.

Table 37 lists base salary bands for statutory appointees and senior executive staff of the AEC.

Table 37 Base salary bands for statutory appointees and senior executive staff, 30 June 2010
Staff (no.) Remuneration band ($)
3 180 000–299 999
8 140 000–179 999
7 100 000–139 999
0 0–99 999

Note: These bands do not represent total remuneration; that is, they include superannuable salary but do not include other components of salary packaging such as cars and superannuation. Performance pay information is provided in the section on human resources. This data includes staff acting in positions at 30 June 2010.

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Social justice and equity

The AEC embraces the challenge of ensuring that all eligible Australians are equally able to exercise their key democratic entitlement, the right to vote.

This includes delivering services and products to help Australians understand their rights and responsibilities as electors. In particular:

  • The AEC's National Electoral Education Centre and School and Community Visits Program provide electoral education and information in ways that cater for a wide range of Australians, including people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people of all ages, people in rural and remote areas, homeless people and people with disabilities.
  • The Indigenous Electoral Participation Program is a comprehensive strategy to improve the electoral enrolment and participation levels of Indigenous Australians in remote, rural and urban areas, based on education, consultation and cooperation with Indigenous communities.
  • The AEC delivers its information products in a variety of formats, including online, audio, large print and braille, and in a wide range of languages. The AEC also provides a free telephone inquiry service and access to an interpreter service.

The AEC also aims to remove practical barriers to participation in federal elections. For example:

  • In electoral divisions with significant numbers of Indigenous voters or voters who speak a language other than English at home, the AEC aims to recruit staff with relevant language skills to provide assistance on election day.
  • Informed by the advice of a reference group of service providers and representatives of voters who are blind or have low vision, the AEC has developed a telephone-based voting option that will be available to those voters in the 2010 federal election, and is investigating electronic voting options that may be possible in future.

See the 'Providing access for people with disabilities' section of this report for more details of the AEC's consultative process and activities to ensure equitable access to electoral information and services and voting entitlements during 2009–10.