Annual Report 2014–15

2About the AEC

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) operates as an independent statutory authority, responsible for maintaining an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters through active electoral roll management, efficient delivery of polling services and targeted education and public awareness programmes.

Role and functions

The AEC’s role is to deliver the franchise, being an Australian citizen’s right to vote, as established by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.

The functions of the AEC are to:

  • maintain the electoral roll
  • manage federal elections and referendums
  • conduct ballots for industrial and commercial organisations
  • conduct public awareness and education activities
  • undertake electoral research
  • support electoral redistributions
  • administer election funding, financial disclosure and party registration requirements
  • assist with overseas elections and referendums.

Values and principles

The AEC’s values of electoral integrity through quality, agility and professionalism inform the agency’s strategic planning and day-to-day operations.

The AEC is also guided by the Australian Public Service ICARE values of impartiality, committed to service, accountable, respectful and ethical. These values are applied by:

  • conducting business with fairness
  • maintaining high standards of integrity and ethical behaviour
  • respecting and upholding the law
  • embracing difference and being sensitive to the special needs of staff and voters
  • being open, transparent and accountable
  • showing respect to clients, stakeholders and colleagues.

The agency continues to strengthen its focus on electoral integrity. Over the last 12 months the agency has continued to concentrate on understanding and responding to the expectations of the public and the Parliament.

More information on the AEC’s ethics and values is provided in the chapter titled Governance and Compliance.

Outcome and programme structure

AEC performance reporting

The AEC has one outcome: maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters through active electoral roll management, efficient delivery of polling services and targeted education and public awareness programmes. This outcome is delivered via three programmes:

Programme 1.1 Electoral roll management


Provide Australian voters with access to their entitlement to vote and support for electoral events and redistributions through maintaining an accurate and up-to-date electoral roll.

  • Electoral roll management.
  • Support services for electoral redistributions.

Programme 1.2 Election management and support services


Access to an impartial and independent electoral system through the provision of electoral services, assistance and advice.

  • Election management: delivery of federal elections, by-elections and referendums.
  • Election support services: party registrations, funding and disclosure services, industrial elections and protected action ballots, Torres Strait Regional Authority elections, fee-for-service elections and ballots, advice and assistance for overseas elections and referendums.

Programme 1.3 Education and communication


Informed Australians through the provision of information services on electoral matters.

  • Electoral education.
  • Communication strategies and services.
  • Community strategies.

Organisational structure


National office

At 30 June 2015, the National Office, located in Canberra, consisted of nine key functional areas:

  • Education and Communications
  • Election Planning, Systems and Services
  • Election Reform Programme
  • Finance and Business Services
  • Funding and Disclosure
  • Information Technology
  • Legal and Procurement
  • People Services
  • Roll Management.

State/territory offices

The AEC’s state offices are located in each state capital city of Australia. The Northern Territory office is in Darwin. Divisional offices in the Australian Capital Territory office are managed by the New South Wales State Manager except during election periods, when an Australian Electoral Officer for the ACT is appointed.

Divisional offices and electoral divisions

Divisional offices of the AEC are responsible for electoral administration within each of the 150 electoral divisions. Each division is represented by a member of the House of Representatives. Divisional offices administer the conduct of electoral events, manage the electoral roll and carry out public awareness activities. Some divisional offices stand alone, while others are co-located in the same site. Figure 2 illustrates Australia’s electoral divisions as at 30 June 2015.


The Commission

The AEC has a three-person Commission comprising the Chairperson, who must be an active or retired judge of the Federal Court of Australia, the Electoral Commissioner and a non-judicial member.

As at 30 June 2015, the members of the Commission were:

  • Chairperson: the Hon. Dennis Cowdroy OAM QC
  • Electoral Commissioner: Tom Rogers
  • Non-judicial member: David Kalisch.

Executive management

Assisting the Electoral Commissioner are the Deputy Electoral Commissioner, two First Assistant Commissioners, six Assistant Commissioners, the Chief Finance Officer and the Chief Legal Officer. The First Assistant Commissioners are each responsible for a division. These are:

  • the Election Operations and Reform Division, consisting of three key functional areas (in addition, the First Assistant Commissioner, Election Operations and Reform Division, performs the role of National Election Manager (NEM))
  • the Capability Division consisting of five key functional areas.

State managers, who also hold a statutory appointment as Australian Electoral Officer, for the respective state or territory, are responsible for electoral activities within their state or territory. Figure 3 shows the AEC organisational structure and leadership.

Senior Executive Group 2014–15
Senior Executive Group 2014–15. Back row left to right: Jeff Pope, Emma Mason, Stephen Blackburn, Doug Orr, Claire Witham, Robert Pugsley, Mick Sherry, Marie Neilson, Anna Robinson, Sandra Riordan, Gabrielle Paten. Front row left to right: Andrew Gately, Lynn White, Stuart Oreo, Pablo Carpay, Kevin Kitson, Tom Rogers, Tim Courtney, Paul Pirani.

Figure 2: Australia’s 150 electoral divisions

Australia’s 150 electoral divisions

Figure 3: Organisation chart and leadership structure as at 30 June 2015

Organisation chart and leadership structure as at 30 June 2015

Guiding legislation

The Electoral Act establishes the roles and responsibilities of the AEC as an independent statutory authority. Table 1 sets out the legislative instruments which guide the functions of the AEC.

Table 1: Legislative framework
Legislative instrument AEC function

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Act 2005

Conduct Torres Strait Regional Authority elections

Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

Conduct federal elections

Maintain and update the Commonwealth electoral roll

Promote public awareness of electoral and parliamentary matters through information and education programs

Provide international electoral assistance in cases approved by the Minister for Foreign Affairs

Conduct and promote research into electoral matters and other matters that relate to AEC functions

Register political parties

Pay public funding to election candidates and parties and publish financial disclosure returns of political parties and others

Provide support to the independent redistribution process that determines representation entitlements.

Electoral and Referendum Regulations 1940

Conduct federal elections and referendums and provide voter information

Fair Work Act 2009

Conduct protected action ballots

Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009

Conduct industrial elections

Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013

Manage public money and property

Freedom of Information Act 1982

Hold and release documents

Privacy Act 1988

Store, use and disclose personal information

Public Service Act 1999

Ensure the effective and fair employment, management and leadership of AEC employees

Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984

Conduct federal referendums

Representation Act 1983

Set numbers for Senate elections