Year in review

AEC overview

Report on performance: Program 1.1 Electoral roll management

Report on performance: Program 1.2 Election management and support services

Report on performance: Program 1.3 Education and communication

Management and accountability

Financial statements



Corporate governance

Updated: 20 October 2011

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, and
  • develop, maintain and use information on the full accrual costs and values of producing deliverables.


The AEC's leadership and management framework at 30 June 2011 is set out in Figure 13.

Figure 13 Leadership and management framework
Australian Electoral Commission
Governing body as established by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918
Down arrow
Electoral Commissioner
Chief Executive Officer under the Public Service Act 1999 and the FMA Act.
Arrow - down left Down arrow Arrow - down left
Executive Management Group Business Assurance Committee Investment and Strategies Committeea
Role and responsibilities
Supports the Electoral Commissioner in determining the AEC's strategic directions and organisational priorities, by:
  • working together to ensure that organisational objectives are achieved,
  • contributing to the strategic leadership and operational management of the AEC,
  • ensuring that the AEC follows good corporate governance practices, and
  • managing risk appropriately.

Members are responsible for the leadership, management and sound governance of the AEC, and for shaping its future in line with the three strategic themes of modernisation, collaboration and investing in our people. Collectively, they are responsible for defining high-level priorities, while more detailed contributions are made at other planning levels.

Electoral Commissioner (Chairperson)
Deputy Electoral Commissioner (Deputy Chairperson)
First assistant commissioners
Assistant commissioners
State and territory managers
Chief Legal Officer
Chief Finance Officer
Special Adviser Electoral Reform and International Services
Director Operations Representative

Meetings held in 2010–11
Six, held at two-monthly intervals.

Role and responsibilities
Assists the Electoral Commissioner in meeting his statutory responsibilities under s.46 of the FMA Act, including by:
  • reviewing and monitoring the AEC's risk assurance, audit, fraud and internal controls function, and
  • ensuring the objectivity and reliability of the AEC's published financial information.
Deputy Electoral Commissioner (Chairperson)
First assistant commissioners
Assistant Commissioner Education and Communications
Assistant Commissioner People Services
State Manager Victoria
State Manager Queensland
Independent external member

Meetings held in 2010–11
Role and responsibilities
Assists the Electoral Commissioner in:
  • articulating the AEC's strategic objectives, research and planning activities along with its innovation priorities, challenges and timeframes,
  • assuring the overall integrity and coherence of the AEC portfolio, and ensuring that the portfolio delivers the AEC's strategic objectives, contributes to the AEC's bottom line and drives value in all programs and projects,
  • allocating funding from the AEC's investment pool to proposals that fit the AEC's agreed strategic objectives, business priorities, budget, workforce capability, IT architecture and risk management framework, and
  • monitoring programs and project performance against indicators, including budget, expenditure and performance against milestones and indicators.
Deputy Electoral Commissioner (Chairperson)
First assistant commissioners
Assistant Commissioner Strategic Capability
State Manager New South Wales
State Manager Western Australia
State Manager South Australia

Meetings held in 2010–11

Eight meetings, 14 proposals considered, 11 projects approved.

FMA Act = Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.

a Formerly known as the Business Investment Committee.


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 and the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (the FMA Act), and
  • a part-time, non-judicial member, who is an agency head as defined in the Public Service Act.

The members of the Commission are engaged under the Electoral Act and appointed by the Governor-General. The current members are named in the 'AEC overview' section of this report.


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 3 in the 'AEC overview' section.

Senior management committees

The AEC's senior management committees are directly responsible to the Electoral Commissioner in his role as Chief Executive Officer. Figure 13 provides details of the committees and their activities in 2010–11.

Planning and accountability

Figure 14 illustrates the framework of relationships between the AEC's planning and accountability mechanisms.

Figure 14 Planning, operating and reporting framework

Figure 14 Planning, operating and reporting framework

Text description of Figure 14

Strategic 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, which is published on the AEC's website, underpins the business plans that are developed each year at the national, branch, state and divisional levels.

In order to ensure that progress was being made and confirm the priorities for the third year of the AEC Strategic Plan 2009–2014, the AEC reviewed its performance against the second-year priorities and activities during 2010–11.

Operational plans

The strategic plan is complemented by a suite of plans that address specific business functions, as summarised in Table 33.

Table 33 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 National Disability Strategy Every three years
Election preparation Sets out and monitors the program of activity required to achieve election readiness Every election cycle
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, visitors, 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

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 Figure 13, the Business Assurance Committee includes an external independent member. The inclusion of an external member, who has broad, relevant public sector experience, 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.

Representatives of the Australian National Audit Office and the internal auditors attend meetings of the Business Assurance Committee to report on the AEC's external and internal audit programs and other relevant matters. The AEC's internal audit program is conducted through an external services provider, KPMG. Further information on the external audit program is in the 'External scrutiny' section of this report.

The AEC carries out independent and objective audit activities in accordance with its Internal Audit and Assurance Strategy and its Internal Audit Plan. The current Internal Audit Plan is a planning document covering 2010–11, with suggestions for subsequent years. It sets out the scope of audit activity and the manner in which resources will be allocated. It was developed in consultation with senior management and addresses the core control systems of the AEC.

As 20100–11 was an election year, audit coverage was limited to allow for the high workload in business areas. Audits undertaken focused on completing a review of AEC's methodology for building IT systems, satisfying mandatory requirements for FMA Act compliance, and ensuring the accuracy of payments made to temporary employees employed for the 2010 federal election.

Risk management and business continuity

A culture of risk management is essential to the AEC's success in achieving its outcomes.

During 2010–11, the AEC revised its risk management framework, policy and risk assessment and treatment workbook to reflect current principles, guidelines, practices and processes. The revised framework and policy are the foundation for effective risk management within the AEC. The workbook outlines the key elements for identifying and managing risks and requires risk analysis to be undertaken in relation to strategic objectives, major projects and contracts, business planning, and fraud control.

In addition, the AEC tracks and monitors election preparation and delivery activities, ensuring a state of continuing election readiness and managing and monitoring areas of significant risk.

The AEC enhanced risk awareness within the agency by including a risk management module in its induction program. The module can be used by all staff to increase their awareness of risk within the AEC.

During the year, the AEC continued planning for business continuity. Business continuity plans are being reviewed and updated to ensure that they are current, reflect changes to business priorities and address potential risks. In addition, the IT Branch updated its business continuity plans to cover potential election events and has undertaken active testing of its failover between the AEC's data centres.

In May 2010, the AEC participated in the annual Comcover Risk Management Benchmarking program and was awarded a 6 per cent discount (out of a possible 10 per cent) on the 2010–11 insurance premium.

Fraud control

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.

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 2010–11, the AEC reviewed its corporate fraud control framework and updated its Corporate Fraud Control Plan and assessments of fraud risks.

To maintain the integrity of the electoral roll, regular election-specific integrity checks occurred prior to the close of rolls for the 2010 federal election.

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

Ethical standards

The AEC has in place policies and guidelines on the standards of behaviour expected when working in the AEC, and the consequences if those standards are not maintained. The policies and guidelines are underpinned by the AEC's values, articulated in its strategic plan and reinforced by the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct.

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

The AEC uses the Australian Public Service Commission's Ethics Advisory Service, which promotes and enhances ethical awareness in the Australian Public Service.

A new facilitator-led training program on ethical decision making was piloted during 2010–11. The course aims to establish a framework for decision making and provide an introduction to ethics. It has been designed to ensure that employees understand the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct, recognise the impact and limitations of making decisions, know and use the APS REFLECT model, and familiarise themselves with resources that are available in the broader Australian Public Service, such as the Ethics Advisory Service. The pilot is being evaluated and will be rolled out to more AEC staff in 2011–12.

Details of the AEC's performance management program are in the 'Human resources' section of this report.

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.

Table 34 lists base salary bands for statutory appointees and senior executive staff of the AEC.

Table 34 Base salary bands for statutory appointees and senior executive staff, 30 June 2011
Staff (no.) Remuneration band ($)
5 180 000 – 299 999
8 140 000 – 179 999
6 100 000 – 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. This data includes staff acting in positions at 30 June 2010.

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 AEC offices.

The charter encourages members of the public to provide feedback about their experiences with the AEC. The AEC listens carefully and responds to suggestions to improve its services.

Customer satisfaction

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

Customer enquiries, issues and complaints

While most enquiries, issues and complaints can be handled promptly and satisfactorily in the first instance by AEC call centre operators, some issues and complaints need to be escalated for consideration by a team in the National Office.

The AEC protocol for the handling of certain enquiries, issues and complaints by the National Office covers complaints of alleged electoral offences, complex phone and email enquiries escalated by AEC call centre operators, and some referrals from state and territory offices raising complex issues. A central register is used to track the nature of the matters being raised, completions of responses, and any emerging systemic issues.

A summary of escalated enquiries, issues and complaints handled by the National Office in each of the past four reporting periods is shown in Table 35.

Table 35 Escalated enquiries, issues and complaints received by the National Office, 2007–08 to 2010–11
Subject 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11
General enquiries 628 43 20 313
Alleged electoral offences 283 32 72 160
Total 911 75 92 473

Note: The totals for 2007–08 and 2010–11 reflect the increase in customer contacts that usually occurs in a federal election year.

Issues handled by the National Office in 2010–11 included enrolment, party material with postal vote applications, the voting system, and electoral/political advertising. The enquiries were answered quickly, and electors were directed to or provided with relevant AEC information. For 45 per cent (140) of the escalated matters, AEC staff researched and provided text to AEC call centre operators for responses to the relevant clients. AEC staff replied directly to 42 per cent (133) of the escalated matters by email or letter. The remaining 13 per cent (40) either required no further action or were referred to other areas of the AEC for appropriate action.

Most enquiries or complaints received by the National Office were responded to within five working days. Thirty-eight per cent of the general escalated matters handled by the National Office in the lead-up to and on election day were finalised within 24 hours, and a further 38 per cent were resolved within two to five days.

Of the alleged electoral offences, approximately 25 per cent concerned possible breaches of the authorisation requirements in s.328 and s.328A of the Electoral Act. Another 25 per cent concerned possible breaches of s.329 of the Act, relating to misleading and deceptive publications. The remaining enquiries or complaints raised matters concerning other provisions of the Act, matters to do with s.44 of the Australian Constitution (relating to the disqualification of persons seeking to be candidates), or matters which the Act does not regulate.

For most complaints alleging an electoral offence, the AEC considered that there was no breach of the Act and informed the complainant of that assessment, and no further action was taken. In approximately 13 per cent of complaints, a breach was substantiated. Most of the substantiated breaches were 'technical breaches' of s.328 of the Act, which occur when the author of a document is known but the authorisation details are not all provided. In such circumstances, the AEC asks the relevant person, in writing or by telephone, to cease the action and remedy the advertising to ensure compliance. The AEC generally received good cooperation from political parties and candidates during 2010–11.

One complaint was referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, who advised that it was not possible to establish, from the material provided, whether any offence had been disclosed.

Social inclusion for electors

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 fits well with the principles of the Australian Government's social inclusion agenda, which include:

  • reducing disadvantage,
  • increasing social, civic and economic participation, and
  • developing a greater voice, combined with greater responsibility.

One of the priorities of the social inclusion agenda is to bridge the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. 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, and is part of a cross-agency initiative to bridge the gap.

Other ways the AEC promotes social inclusion are by delivering services and products to help Australians understand their rights and responsibilities as electors. For example:

  • 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 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 enquiry service and access to a telephone interpreter service.

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

  • 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 developed a telephone-based voting option for those voters to use in the 2010 federal election, and is investigating electronic voting options that may be possible in future.

Changes to disability reporting in annual reports

Since 1994, Australian Government departments and agencies have reported on their performance as policy adviser, purchaser, employer, regulator and provider under the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. In 2007–08, reporting on the employer role was transferred to the Australian Public Service Commission's State of the service report and the Australian Public Service Statistical Bulletin. Those reports are available at From 2010–11, departments and agencies are no longer required to report on these functions in their annual reports.