AEC Annual Report 2016–17
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Performance against the agency purpose and agency directions

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This section reports on the AEC’s performance against the agency purpose, five agency directions and corporate performance indicators set out in the AEC Corporate Plan 2016–20.

The agency directions are long-term strategic objectives designed to ensure the AEC meets its purpose and promotes agency-wide continuous improvement. The directions are supported by corporate performance indicators that are reviewed annually. Many of the corporate performance indicators are ongoing, but indicators that relate to election delivery evolve according to the phases of the AEC’s own election readiness framework.

The Corporate Plan agency directions both draw from and contribute to the AEC performance criteria set out for 2016–17 under ‘AEC Program 1.1 – Deliver electoral events’, available in the Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) on the Department of Finance website.

A matrix chart mapping the PBS performance criteria to the Corporate Plan agency directions is shown at Table 2.

Table 2: Mapping of PBS performance criteria for 2016–17 to Corporate Plan agency directions 2016–20

PBS PERFORMANCE CRITERIA AEC CORPORATE PLAN AGENCY DIRECTIONS
Deliver a changed model for elections and referenda Govern the organisation for quality and assurance Professionalise the workforce Re‑establish the reputation of the AEC Build an agile and responsive organisation

Federal elections, by-elections and referendums

  • Federal electoral events are successfully delivered.
  • Maintain ability to conduct a federal electoral event within a timeframe as assessed by the Electoral Commissioner.
  • Timely conduct of redistribution activities.
  • Industrial elections, Protected Action Ballots, and Torres Strait Regional Authority elections are delivered in accordance with relevant legislation and rules.
Yes Yes Yes  N/A Yes

Electoral Roll Management

  • High level of confidence in the electoral roll.
 N/A Yes  N/A Yes Yes

Party Registrations and Financial Disclosure

  • Party registration processed in accordance with the Electoral Act.
  • Financial disclosures obtained and placed on the public record in accordance with the Electoral Act.
 N/A Yes Yes  N/A  N/A

Public Awareness

  • Deliver communication, education and public awareness activities to inform all Australians of electoral matters.
  • Information is timely and accurate, uses appropriate technology and channels, and meets accessibility standards.
 N/A  N/A Yes Yes Yes

Statement by the Electoral Commissioner

I, as the accountable authority of the Australian Electoral Commission, present the 2016–17 annual performance statements of the Australian Electoral Commission, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). In my opinion, these annual performance statements are based on properly maintained records, accurately reflect the performance of the entity, and comply with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

Tom Rogers
Electoral Commissioner
28 September 2017

Annual performance statement

Reporting tables against agency directions and linked to aspects of the agency purpose/outcome.

Figure 3: Performance of corporate performance indicators under each agency direction

Figure 3: Performance of corporate performance indicators under each agency direction

AGENCY DIRECTION 1

Deliver a changed model for electoral events

Performance criteria Link to purpose Source Result
1.1 Federal electoral events are successfully delivered Efficient delivery of polling services AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 8 Partly met (9/10)
1.2 Maintain ability to conduct a federal electoral event within a timeframe as assessed by the Electoral Commissioner Efficient delivery of polling services AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 8 Partly met (9/10)
1.3 Evaluation and reform of election practices is implemented according to election readiness phases Efficient delivery of polling services AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 8 Met
1.4 Industrial elections, protected action ballots and Torres Strait Regional Authority elections are delivered in accordance with the relevant legislation and rules Efficient delivery of polling services AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 8 Partly met (8/10)
Explanation
Criterion 1.1 was met with the delivery of the 2016 federal election in accordance with the Federal Election Service Plan. Four service standards are outlined in the Service Plan. Some performance indicators under the standards fell just short of their 100 per cent targets but this result did not materially affect election delivery.
Criterion 1.2 was partly met with the AEC’s election readiness framework refined and a new iteration of the Election Ready Road Map developed following the 2016 election. Two road map activities did not meet specified timeframes in 2016–17 due to the introduction of 2017 work priorities flowing from the election evaluation, and changes to the agency’s learning and development approach.
Criterion 1.3 was met with the AEC comprehensively evaluating its delivery of the 2016 election and communicating key findings to staff in early 2017. The evaluation identified key insights and lessons to be learned. We defined four areas for further enhancement, along with a series of work priorities to be implemented in time for the next election.
Criterion 1.4 was partly met with a review of the AEC’s delivery of industrial and commercial elections under consideration. We continue to implement improvements to the Industrial and Commercial Elections program to ensure consistent delivery of services in accordance with legislation, rules and AEC quality standards. In 2016–17, 812 industrial elections, fee-for-service elections/ballots and protected action ballots were delivered.

What we did

The focus of agency direction one is to evolve and enhance the model for delivering electoral events within both the legislative framework defined under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 and resources available to the AEC.

The 2016 federal election was the largest ever undertaken by the AEC, involving a high degree of complexity. This included a double dissolution election being conducted against a backdrop of Senate voting changes and the AEC’s own reform agenda. The AEC successfully delivered this election within the parameters defined by the 2016 Federal Election Service Plan. The majority of performance indicators under the four service standards were met. The election writ was returned on time and there were no challenges submitted to the Court of Disputed Returns concerning AEC conduct.

The Commonwealth Electoral Act turns 100 in 2018

An election evaluation began immediately after the 2016 election with a brief to review the agency’s election delivery and recommend future enhancements. Staff observations and debriefs on AEC processes, systems, materials and policies assisted the evaluation. We identified four areas as a focus for targeted enhancements prior to the next federal election:

  • consolidation and coordination
  • planning
  • recruitment and training
  • communication and information management.

These have been translated into a series of work priorities that will be implemented in 2017–18.

In 2016–17, the AEC moved through the ‘evaluate and learn’ phase of election readiness and into the ‘implement change phase’. At 30 June 2017, the agency was largely on track with election readiness.

Areas for further improvement

With election delivery it can be difficult to anticipate areas for further improvement until after the event. Immediately following the 2016 federal election, the AEC identified a number of areas of focus for the evaluation, including analysing the voter experience and where the AEC can further improve its service delivery. Heading into the next federal electoral event the AEC is focused on analysing key data and ensuring plans are in place to improve queuing times and ballot paper supply.

AGENCY DIRECTION 2

Govern the organisation for quality and assurance

Performance criteria Link to purpose Source Result
2.1 The governance framework is effective in supporting the AEC to meet its objectives Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 8 Met
2.2 High level of confidence in the electoral roll Active electoral roll management AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 8 Met
2.3 Timely conduct of redistributions Active electoral roll management AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 8 Met
2.4 The organisation is structured to support the achievement of the agency directions Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 8 Partly met (6/10)
Explanation
Criterion 2.1 was met with the AEC’s governance framework implemented and agency policies and frameworks up to date. In 2016–17, the AEC reviewed and strengthened the purpose, decision-making and oversight role of AEC governance committees. The agency’s assurance and performance reporting frameworks continued to meet agency and Commonwealth accountability requirements and support continuous improvement.
Criterion 2.2 was met with the completeness of the electoral roll maintained and a sustained enrolment rate above 95 per cent reported throughout 2016–17. Increased use of the AEC’s Online Enrolment Service, delivery of the Federal Direct Enrolment and Update (FDEU) program and a federal election during the period, were important factors in achieving this outcome. In the 12 months to 30 June 2017, 29.7 per cent of all enrolments were completed online and 38.6 per cent resulted from FDEU.
Criterion 2.3 was met with the AEC providing assistance for the redistribution or ‘redrawing’ of electoral divisions in the Northern Territory in accordance with the Electoral Act. With the Northern Territory redistribution completed, a further two redistributions are underway in Queensland and Tasmania and due to be finalised in 2017–18.
Criterion 2.4 was partly met with the AEC commencing planning on a new organisational design to respond over the medium term to increasingly complex electoral operations and future agency demands. The agency was allocated funding through the Public Service Modernisation Fund in the Portfolio Budget Statements to implement the organisational design during 2017–18.

What we did

The AEC’s governance framework was further supported in 2016–17. A program of assurance, audit and fraud control activities provided appropriate assurance and oversight over agency activities, including through the 2016 federal election and post-election period. Significant milestones achieved during the year included formal closure of outstanding Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) and Keelty review recommendations relating to the 2013 federal election, and full compliance with fraud control requirements under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Commonwealth Fraud Control Policy. Similarly, the AEC’s performance reporting framework continued to evolve, with the link between internal business planning and reporting, and external performance reporting continuing to be strengthened. The reporting framework also supported regular senior level discussion on agency performance.

Maintaining a high level of confidence in the electoral roll is a cornerstone for the successful delivery of electoral events. The completeness of the Commonwealth electoral roll, reflected in the enrolment rate, was maintained at or above 95 per cent across the financial year. Strategies to significantly reduce divergent enrolments between the Commonwealth electoral and State electoral rolls are also showing results, with a 45 per cent decrease in these enrolments between the end of 2015 and June 2017. Importantly, results for enrolments processed in the year ending 31 March 2017, indicate that 97.5 per cent of enrolments were processed without essential field errors (just short of the 100 per cent target) and 92.8 per cent were processed without error in supporting fields.

Following an ANAO recommendation, the AEC also commenced quarterly publishing of divisional enrolment rates and performance against key enrolment indicators on the AEC website, increasing the integrity and transparency of enrolment performance.

In 2016–17, the AEC applied a range of integrity measures following the 2016 federal election to uphold and enforce the compulsory voting system. Following the 2016 election, instances of possible multiple or non-voting were identified. In September 2016, the AEC sent 969,586 notices to apparent non-voters, a 46 per cent increase from the 2013 election.

Areas for further improvement

Maintaining a complete and accurate electoral roll is an ongoing challenge, but directing as many electors to the Online Enrolment Service as possible throughout the electoral cycle enables the AEC to continue to ensure a high level of confidence in the roll.

In 2017–18, the agency will progress implementation of a new organisational design to ensure the AEC’s workforce is more proficient across operational and strategic activities, and capable of responding quickly and effectively to change.

AGENCY DIRECTION 3

Professionalise the workforce

Performance criteria Link to purpose Source Result
3.1 Staff understand their roles, expectations and accountabilities Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 9 Partly met (7/10)
3.2 Management capability of key cohorts addressed in development plans and delivered with 90% participating in courses where appropriate Active electoral roll management AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 9 Partly met (5/10)
Explanation
Criterion 3.1 was partly met with a new iteration of the Election Ready Road Map following the 2016 election and the start of the ‘implement change phase’ of electoral readiness. Compliance with the road map and accountability for activities and timeframes, were regularly communicated to staff and reported on monthly to the AEC’s National Election Delivery Committee.
Criterion 3.2 was partly met. Opportunities to develop management capability were provided to select AEC staff. Analysis and planning were also undertaken in this area through a review of the agency’s learning and development approach. In 2017–18, the AEC will pursue further options for building the leadership and management capability of supervisors to support individuals and teams.

What we did

The evaluation of the 2016 federal election and the outcomes of a recent high level review of learning and development have identified areas where improvements can be made in the short term, and organisational learning enhanced over the long term. In response to the key findings from the review, the AEC has implemented changes to strengthen the governance and coordination of learning and development within the agency under the direction of the Deputy Electoral Commissioner, and through establishing a Learning Governance Committee.

The AEC introduced a new approach to mandatory training with all new and existing Australian Public Service (APS) staff required to complete five mandatory eLearning courses:

  • work health and safety
  • workplace security
  • procurement and contract management (updated for 2017)
  • fraud awareness (updated for 2017)
  • positive workplace.

Approximately 98 per cent of AEC staff completed the mandatory training. The selected eLearning courses provided staff with corporate training appropriate and relevant to their roles and helped the AEC comply with broader legislative and government policy requirements.

In 2017, the AEC’s organisational design review commenced assessing role descriptions, and collecting metadata for all positions according to core function. This work, once completed, will identify staff responsibilities and accountabilities, and will support the transition to a new organisational structure commencing in 2017–18.

Opportunities to develop management capability were provided to select AEC staff – a senior executive development day was held in 2016 and some states conducted courses with a management focus for identified staff. In addition, the AEC is supporting executive coaching initiatives for Senior Executive Service (SES) and Executive Level 2 managers.

Further enhancements to election-specific training activities for the AEC’s temporary and APS staff are underway in preparation for the next federal election. This includes reviewing all content and modes of delivery. A series of exercises and rehearsals are also being developed and incorporated into training that will ensure staff understand and have an opportunity to practise key election processes.

Areas for further improvement

The AEC will continue to work on ensuring staff understand their roles, expectations and accountabilities, and will review and align its approach to developing management capability in line with the findings from key reviews undertaken in 2016–17.

The recently established Learning Coordination Unit will drive and coordinate a whole-of-agency approach to learning and development, in consultation with key internal stakeholders. This is to ensure learning and development activities remain relevant, focused on business outcomes and build capability. The Learning Coordination Unit will also work with the Learning Governance Committee to ensure effective governance of the whole-of-agency approach to learning and development. The Committee oversees the development, allocation of funding and implementation of learning and development initiatives that best support the agency’s priorities and strategic direction.

AGENCY DIRECTION 4

Govern the organisation for quality and assurance

Performance criteria Link to purpose Source Result
4.1 Productive relationships are maintained with the Minister, Parliament, key agencies and other stakeholders Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 9 Met
4.2 High-quality services delivered with effective management of issues in line with relevant legislation and agreements Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 9 Met
4.3 Information is timely and accurate, uses appropriate technology and channels, and meets accessibility standards Targeted education and public awareness programs AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 9 Met
Explanation
Criterion 4.1 was met with the AEC continuing to maintain productive relationships and meet obligations to the Special Minister of State, Parliament and other key stakeholders through the delivery of high-quality electoral information and advice.
Criterion 4.2 was met with the AEC providing a wide range of roll products and services to:
  1. State and territory electoral authorities
  2. Other government departments and agencies
  3. Federal parliamentarians
  4. Political parties
  5. Medical and electoral researchers
  6. Private sector organisations in accordance with the Electoral Act.
Criterion 4.3 was met with a continued focus by the AEC on providing a wide range of accessible information to the Australian public about their voting obligations and electoral services. The AEC’s public awareness approach included delivery of an extensive advertising campaign up to the 2016 federal election and support for the third National Indigenous Youth Parliament in May 2017.

What we did

Maintaining productive working relationships with Ministers, Parliament, key agencies and other stakeholders was a priority for the AEC throughout the year. Relevant electoral information and briefings were provided to the Special Minister of State, keeping the Minister appropriately informed. The Minister referred 131 letters to the AEC for the provision of input or advice. Following the 2016 federal election, the AEC provided one primary submission and 18 supplementary submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2016 Federal Election. The AEC’s submissions focused on the agency’s performance in delivering the 2016 federal election and future changes required to ensure Australia continues to enjoy modern, safe, high-integrity elections.

The AEC delivered an extensive communication campaign on the election and changes to Senate voting requirements right up to election day on 2 July 2016. The AEC’s campaign won a Public Relations Institute of Australia ACT award and was highly commended at the national awards. On election day, 1.8 million users visited the AEC website, generating 4.4 million page views. The online tally room is the official record of federal election results and provided progressive tallies from election night through to the finalisation of counting. On election night, more than 200,000 users generated 3.7 million page views of the online tally room.

Throughout the year, the agency continued to provide a range of education information and products to the public, students and teachers. The website ‘AEC for schools’ hosts a range of education materials for classroom use and averaged 9,000 visits a month in 2016–17. The new publication Voting in Australia remains the most requested resource. There were also a further 87,564 visitors to the National Electoral Education Centre at Old Parliament House.

The AEC’s Indigenous Electoral Participation Program delivered a range of culturally appropriate strategies to support Indigenous electoral participation at the 2016 federal election. The AEC reviewed its approach following the election, with a range of recommendations being built into the program at a national and state level to continue to improve services to Indigenous electors. The AEC’s efforts to support Indigenous engagement in the electoral system were also advanced by the third National Indigenous Youth Parliament held in May 2017. The AEC, in conjunction with the YMCA and the Museum of Australian Democracy, supported a week-long program for 50 young Indigenous participants from across Australia and the Torres Strait. The program culminated in a two-day parliament held at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Areas for further improvement

The AEC will continue its focus on upholding the agency’s reputation through actively engaging with the Minister and the Parliament, as well as building a strong and effective relationship with the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

We will also work to improve services to assist the Australian public meet their enrolment and voting obligations, including a renewed focus on the delivery of high-quality electoral services. This will include an ongoing focus on public awareness, electoral education and information activities ahead of the next election.

AGENCY DIRECTION 5

Build an agile and responsive organisation

Performance criteria Link to purpose Source Result
5.1 Create an environment to encourage innovative practices to support the AEC and the conduct of electoral events Maintain an impartial and independent electoral system for eligible voters AEC 2016–20 Corporate Plan, p. 9 Partly met (5/10)
Explanation
Criterion 5.1 was partly met through the AEC seeking to leverage technology where possible, to deliver high-quality electoral services. The agency successfully implemented Senate voting reforms at the 2016 federal election through innovative use of scanning technology. The AEC conducted several trials using SMS text and email contact channels to remind electors to update their enrolment, with an estimated 1.2 million emails and 1.6 million SMS messages sent in 2016–17. Activities also encouraged electors to interact online, with 29.7 per cent of all enrolments throughout the year occurring through the AEC’s Online Enrolment Service.

What we did

The amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 to introduce Senate voting reforms were the most significant change to the federal voting system in 30 years. Over a 12-week period before the 2016 election, the AEC mobilised new technology and modified electoral systems and processes to scan Senate ballot papers and streamline counting. This solution was successfully delivered and the AEC won an award at the 2016 Australian Information Industry Association’s Awards ACT. Current legislative and resource constraints within which the AEC operates, restrict our ability to drive and lead innovation in the delivery of electoral events.

The AEC information technology system is critical for the efficient delivery of federal elections and electoral services. Some key IT infrastructure was refreshed and the agency moved to cloud hosting for our public-facing websites. This ensures the AEC can deliver scalable services that allow for expansion when required during an election, and meet relevant Commonwealth information technology security requirements.

The AEC maintained strong relationships with Australian and international electoral management bodies throughout the year. While there are unique characteristics to the Australian electoral system, many electoral management bodies are going through a period of change, and international engagement offers the opportunity to exchange ideas and examine issues of mutual concern.

Areas for further improvement

In 2017–18, the AEC will increase its use of technology and data analysis to improve the voter experience and provide better support for our temporary election workforce. Data analysis currently underway for the next election, will enable the AEC to make more informed decisions regarding resourcing for polling day. We are working with experts in time and motion studies and modelling from Deakin University, to better understand and reduce the likelihood of queuing issues, and determine whether we can optimise polling and post-polling activities.

The AEC will also continue to engage with the Electoral Council of Australia and New Zealand (ECANZ). ECANZ provides a forum three times a year for Australian and New Zealand electoral commissions to discuss all aspects of electoral administration.

The AEC recognises community expectations regarding the delivery of electoral services have shifted in recent years. In response, the agency has modernised some key processes and procedures by leveraging technology to meet these expectations where possible. However, the AEC enrolment and election management systems are ageing, increasing risk for the agency and its delivery of electoral services. With this in mind, the AEC identified a range of areas for future innovation in electoral management and delivery as part of its submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters Inquiry into the Conduct of the 2016 Federal Election.

Directed level of election readiness for the next election

To prepare for the next federal election, the AEC relies on the election readiness framework and the supporting strategic plan called the Election Ready Road Map. Pivotal to these is a date determined by the Electoral Commissioner, known as the Directed Level of Election Readiness (DLER).

The DLER is the date we must be ready for a writ to be issued to initiate the electoral process and start the next election. The timing of the DLER can be any time the Electoral Commissioner considers an election likely or it can be used to test how ready we are to deliver an election at any point during the electoral cycle. Other factors influencing the choice of DLER include the convention that elections for the House of Representatives and Senate will be held simultaneously, and act-prescribed limits around issuing and returning writs and parliamentary terms.

The DLER allows us to effectively balance the appropriate level of election readiness, cost and risks. It gives us clear milestones in our preparation for the next federal election and helps us manage our work priorities and activities in a coordinated and uniform way. The DLER also informs the time available to implement change, especially improvements to processes informed by evaluations, legislative change and our modernisation agenda.

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