In 2010–11, the AEC continued to provide support services to the parliament and the Special Minister of State in relation to the administration of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984.
During the year, the minister referred 72 letters on electoral matters to the AEC for input or the preparation of draft responses. The major themes of the correspondence related to the conduct of the 2010 federal election, proposed electoral reform measures, and voting by people who are blind or have low vision. There were also significant briefings on matters relating to allegations of breaching the electoral advertising requirements and how-to-vote cards. The feedback provided to the AEC indicates that the briefings and proposed correspondence consistently met the minister's requirements for timeliness and quality.
The Legal Services Section is part of the Legal and Compliance Branch and provides a full range of legal services to the AEC.
The section's activities in 2010–11 focused on:
The AEC was involved with the carriage of a large legislation program in 2010–11 to respond to matters raised by the JSCEM of the 42nd parliament and to address government initiatives arising from the two green papers on electoral reform.
The Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2009 lapsed at the dissolution of the parliament prior to the 21 August 2010 federal election. On 20 October 2010, the government introduced those measures into the parliament as the Commonwealth Electoral Amendment (Political Donations and Other Measures) Bill 2010, with some minor amendments relating to the commencement date. That Bill passed the House of Representatives on 17 November 2010 and was introduced into the Senate on the same date.
The AEC worked on two other Bills introduced into the parliament during 2010–11: the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment and Prisoner Voting) Bill 2010 and the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Provisional Voting) Bill 2011. Both Bills passed through the parliament on 11 May 2011; they received royal assent on 25 and 26 May 2011, respectively.
The primary purpose of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment and Prisoner Voting) Act 2011 was to amend the Referendum Act to give effect to two decisions of the High Court of Australia:
Consequential amendments were made to the Referendum Act to ensure consistency between the two acts.
The Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Enrolment and Prisoner Voting) Act 2011:
The primary purpose of the Electoral and Referendum Amendment (Provisional Voting) Act 2011 was to amend the Electoral Act and the Referendum Act by repealing the requirement for provisional voters to provide evidence of identity before their votes are admitted to preliminary scrutiny. Provisional votes are a type of declaration vote that can be cast by an elector on polling day. A provisional vote (like all declaration votes) is a vote that is sealed inside an envelope. Written on the outside of the envelope are the voter's details, including name, address, date of birth and signature.
The Electoral Act previously specified that an elector who casts a provisional vote at a polling place on polling day must provide a polling official with evidence of identity at the time of voting or provide it to an AEC officer by the first Friday following polling day. Failure to do so results in the envelope containing the ballot papers being excluded from preliminary scrutiny.
Under the Electoral Act as amended, if an AEC official has reason to doubt that the signature on a provisional vote envelope is that of the elector claiming to vote, the official is required to check the signature against the most recent record of the elector's signature (which would usually be the enrolment claim form). If the official is still not satisfied after making that check, they are required to make all reasonable attempts to contact the elector within three days of the polling day to require the elector to produce evidence of identity. If the official remains unsatisfied that the signature on the provisional vote envelope is that of the elector, the vote must be excluded from further scrutiny and not included in the count.
The AEC expended $497 823 on external legal services in 2010–11. This included fees to firms on the panel of legal service providers, counsels' fees, court costs and miscellaneous charges. This was an increase from the $205 266 expended in 2009–10. The increase was mainly due to legal proceedings relating to the 2010 federal election and other election activities under the Electoral Act and under the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.
The AEC Library, which is located in the National Office, offers a wide range of information services to all AEC staff. It seeks to be a proactive library service that supports the operational, informational and research needs and activities of all staff, and to optimise access to information resources for its decentralised client base.
The library policy, including the collection development policy, was reviewed and updated during 2010–11 and is available on the intranet.
Over the past year, in response to growing demand for reference services, the library extended research support services by providing a personalised service for literature and subject-based searches for research in AEC core subjects. Supporting improvements to services are collections of print and online resources that are relevant and of high quality. Electronic journals and electronic resources have changed book usage patterns, so extending accessibility to electronic resources to assist staff with their research is a continuing focus.
The library continues to provide a limited range of hard copy reference materials, including books, historical publications, reports, a wide range of journals, and links to services which provide relevant and reliable information. Interlibrary loan and document delivery services also provide a necessary resource for the AEC; demand for those services increased during 2010–11.
The library software was upgraded this year to improve access to information through the OPAC library catalogue. This includes information on all resources that the library holds, including the print collection, the historical collection, web content, loose-leaf materials, books, journals and articles. User accounts allow staff to request resources, track loan history and renew loans. The OPAC interface is also a platform to promote new purchases and library news.
Records management staff and library staff collaborate to ensure that appropriate resources are preserved, and have worked together to preserve items of historical interest.
The AEC's Balanced Scorecard reporting method, which was introduced in July 2009, continues to provide performance information on a monthly basis, across a range of business activities. The reports assist the Executive Management Group to identify and analyse trends, and highlight any areas of concern. The monthly reports also facilitate the monitoring of agency risks and allow timely remedial actions to be implemented across key service delivery areas. The Balanced Scorecard is continually being refined to reflect the evolving information needs of the executive.
The AEC's information and communications technology services are delivered through a hybrid sourcing model that leverages a combination of in-house and external resources.
During 2010–11, IT activities focused on providing a stable and robust environment for the 2010 federal election. In particular, the AEC:
In addition, the AEC implemented video-conferencing facilities to support the dispersed network of offices. Facilities are currently available in the national, state and some divisional offices, and further equipment is to be rolled out to provide access for all divisions. These facilities are an important tool to encourage communication and collaboration between the AEC's various offices.
In 2010, the AEC developed and implemented an internal communication strategy for the federal election. The aim was to ensure nationally consistent, coordinated and timely communication to all staff during the federal election period.
The strategy included three primary communication tools:
A revised and improved strategy has been developed for the next election, taking account of post-election evaluation, staff feedback and IT developments.
Other key internal communications activities during 2010–11 included the implementation of changes to electoral legislation and election reform initiatives, and reinforcement of the Investing in Our People program for AEC employees.
The Project Management Office, established in July 2009 within the Strategic Capability Branch, has three primary functions:
The AEC benefits from the operations of the office in the following ways:
During 2010–11, the Project Management Office: