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



Support services

Updated: 18 October 2011

Parliamentary and ministerial support

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.

Legal services

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:

  • providing advice in relation to procurement exercises and contracts, particularly in relation to procurements relating to the federal election,
  • providing advice and updating training material and publications in readiness for the federal election,
  • responding to requests for input to Cabinet submissions, particularly those that affect electoral matters,
  • assisting in the task force reviewing responses to the two green papers on electoral reform issued by the government,
  • responding to requests from, and preparing submissions to, the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM),
  • providing advice in relation to the AEC's administrative and other responsibilities under the Electoral Act, the Public Service Act 1999, the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009,
  • instructing external solicitors and counsel in relation to a wide range of matters involving electoral laws and the conduct of industrial elections,
  • responding to subpoenas, notices to produce and other requirements for the release of information and documents,
  • instructing the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and preparing a wide range of supporting material for the various pieces of electoral and referendum legislation that were placed before the parliament in 2010–11,
  • instructing the Office of Legislative Drafting and Publication on the preparation of regulations to amend the Electoral and Referendum Regulations 1940,
  • investigating alleged breaches of electoral laws and, where appropriate, referring matters to the Australian Federal Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions,
  • dealing with requests for access to the Commonwealth electoral roll from a wide range of people and organisations, including the police, medical researchers and the courts,
  • providing advice and training to assist the AEC to meet its obligations under the Privacy Act 1988, the Freedom of Information Act 1982, the Ombudsman Act 1986 and the Archives Act 1983, and
  • providing advice on a wide range of other legal matters that affect the operations of the AEC.

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:

  • Rowe v Electoral Commissioner [2010] HCA 46 (Rowe), decided on 6 August 2010 with reasons published on 15 December 2010, which concerned the process following the calling of an election through the formal issue of a writ, and the period of time allowed for relevant voters to either ensure that they are on the electoral roll or update their enrolment details (close of rolls), and
  • Roach v Electoral Commissioner [2007] HCA 43 (Roach), decided on 30 August 2007 with reasons published on 26 September 2007, which concerned the franchise for relevant people who may be serving a sentence of imprisonment.

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:

  • implemented the government's response to Recommendation 47 of the JSCEM's Report on the conduct of the 2007 federal election and matters related thereto – the amendments ensured that, while prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment of three years or longer will be disqualified from voting, they may remain on the electoral roll or be added to it;
  • included an interpretative provision to ensure that certain references in the Electoral Act to 'an election for a Division', or similar expressions, can operate in the event of a half-Senate election held independently from an election of the House of Representatives – this addressed an anomaly in the Electoral Act;
  • restored the close of rolls period to seven days after the date of the issuing of the writ for an election, and
  • reinstated the previous disqualification, for prisoners serving a sentence of imprisonment for three years or longer, from voting at a federal election.

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.

Library services

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.

Performance analysis

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.

Information and communications technology

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:

  • implemented a new, externally provided infrastructure platform to deliver election results in real time through the AEC's Virtual Tally Room system,
  • delivered the information and communications technology infrastructure for the National Tally Room,
  • implemented
    • RollMap, a mapping service used in processing enrolment transactions,
    • eReturns, which allows clients to prepare and lodge their financial disclosure returns online, and
    • AEC Employment, an online tool to support the recruitment and management of temporary staff for federal elections,
  • refined its information and communications technology sourcing strategy to align with various whole-of-government policies and panel arrangements, and
  • collaborated with the New South Wales Electoral Commission to host the Virtual Tally Room for the 2011 New South Wales state election on the AEC's IT infrastructure.

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.

Internal communications

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:

  • the election diary – a workbook containing day-by-day instructions for divisional offices, with provision for staff to include their own planning notes and comments;
  • the election bulletin – an intranet-based daily bulletin to provide notification of procedural changes not covered by the election diary, highlight key activities and events, and convey urgent instructions and messages; and
  • a 'help' tool – an intranet page to answer frequently asked questions arising during the course of the election.

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.

Project Management

The Project Management Office, established in July 2009 within the Strategic Capability Branch, has three primary functions:

  • portfolio management – provide advice to the Investment and Strategies Committee on the AEC investment portfolio and on any conflicting priorities, including business as usual, risks and issues;
  • delivery – support the delivery of programs and projects from implementation through to closure; and
  • centre of excellence – in the context of project management, refine standards and promote the benefits of project management within the AEC, provide skills and training, manage knowledge and provide independent assurance.

The AEC benefits from the operations of the office in the following ways:

  • The portfolio of projects is more focused, balanced and aligned to the AEC's strategy.
  • Progress on projects is more visible.
  • The costs and timelines of projects are more predictable.
  • The time needed to start projects is reduced.
  • Resources are better utilised and outcomes are clearer across a portfolio of projects.

During 2010–11, the Project Management Office:

  • managed the 2010 Election Evaluation project, Stage 1 of which was completed in February 2011,
  • coordinated the work of the 2009 JSCEM Program Board and the Business Review project,
  • provided the secretariat service for the Investment and Strategies Committee (previously known as the Business Investment Committee),
  • provided the Online Postal Vote Application and Electronic Certified Lists projects with project managers,
  • established the Prince2 Foundation and Practitioner courses for AEC staff (many AEC staff have obtained formal project management qualifications as a result),
  • developed a project management framework, guidelines and templates for effective project management at the AEC, released the Managing a project handbook and revised the Project Mandates, Highlight and Project Brief templates, and
  • completed the Capability Improvement Plan and associated Portfolio Programme Project Management Maturity Model (P3M3TM) assessment and provided them to the Australian Government Information Management Office in June 2011.