Management and accountability

Information on the AEC’s management
and accountability, including governance,
scrutiny and managing staff and assets

  • 90,000 people employed and trained for the federal election

Management and accountability

Corporate governance — principles and objectives

The AEC has the following structures in place to implement the principles and objectives of corporate governance:

  • an executive leadership team which monitors performance, ensures accountability and steers the agency
  • decision-making management committees. See appendix B for a list as well as functions and membership
Circular diagram of the AEC values of professionalism, quality and agility, with electoral integrity at the centre

Ethical standards

The AEC’s ethical standards are implicit in:

  • our values of electoral integrity through professionalism, agility and quality
  • our Enterprise Agreement 2016–2019, and staff conduct policies
  • the AEC’s strategic planning framework
  • the Australian Public Service ICARE values of impartiality, committed to service, accountable, respectful and ethical
  • the ethical standards of the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct

Internal audit

The Business Assurance Committee and the Internal Audit program oversee the AEC’s internal audit arrangements and approach.

The committee provides independent assurance that the AEC’s risk management, governance and internal control processes are operating effectively. The scope, responsibilities and independence requirements for audit functions are in the AEC audit charter endorsed by this committee.

Risk management

The AEC’s operating environment is complex. It requires a workforce that is capable of managing uncertainties that may impact the AEC’s ability to achieve its objectives. Considerable actions were undertaken throughout 2018–19 to further mature our risk capability including:

  • reviewing the AEC Risk Management Policy to better align with the nine elements of the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy
  • developing the AEC’s first Risk Appetite Statement
  • revising the risk matrix and consequence criteria for assessing risks
  • developing formal escalation rules
  • delivering workshops to enable risk communication and capability building

We continue to build capability, enhance and shape our risk culture, and support organisational priorities and objectives. To support these corporate requirements, the AEC manages its risk through the following governance committees:

  • Executive Leadership Team
  • Business Assurance Committee
  • Organisational Health Committee
  • Fraud Control Committee
  • National Election Delivery Committee
  • Capability Committee

More information on committees is in appendix B.

We assess risk maturity by participating in Comcover’s annual risk management benchmarking survey.

Fraud control

The AEC Fraud Control Plan highlights the low tolerance of fraud that is related to AEC operations and services. As required by section 10 of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, we have:

  • prepared fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans
  • appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation, recording and reporting mechanisms that meet the AEC’s specific needs
  • taken all reasonable measures to deal with fraud appropriately

The AEC Fraud Control Plan outlines strategies to prevent, detect and respond to fraud, including prevention strategies for both corporate and electoral fraud. The Fraud Control Committee (see appendix B) is responsible for monitoring AEC fraud controls.

The AEC examined all allegations of suspected fraud during the year, including complaints related to the 2019 federal election.

Information on reporting suspected fraud is available:

  • to staff through the intranet and mandatory fraud awareness training
  • for the public through the AEC website

Internal planning processes

The AEC’s corporate planning processes support corporate governance and are undertaken in line with the requirements of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). The corporate plan, available on the AEC website, informs operational planning and performance, and is reflected in the AEC’s business planning documents. Internal reporting and mid-term performance assessments help track progress against performance criteria. Information on how the corporate plan contributes to specified outcomes is in the performance statement.

Corporate planning documents—including internal monitoring and reporting mechanisms—are listed in appendix B.

External scrutiny

Judicial decisions

Industrial elections

In an inquiry relating to an Election for an Office in the Australian Education Union (SA Branch) [2018] FCA 2074, Justice White voided the election for the casual vacancy (branch executive officer) pursuant to section 206(4)(a) of the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009.

The Court found that the Roll of voters provided to the AEC to conduct the ballot included the names of people who weren’t eligible to take part in the election. As the election results (declared by the returning officer) included ballot papers from those who were not eligible, the judge voided the election and issued procedural orders for a fresh election.

Unfair dismissal

The matter of John Nemcic v Australian Electoral Commission [2018] FWC 5645 arose from an AEC investigation into alleged breaches of the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct by Mr John Nemcic. The Fair Work Commission found that the AEC's actions in dismissing Mr Nemcic did not amount to ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable’ under section 387 of the Fair Work Act 2009. While the Commission commented on some of the AEC’s investigating procedures, it concluded that Mr Nemcic had not been denied procedural fairness. The Commission also held that an employee's dishonesty in responding to allegations was a breach of the employee's duty of honesty and fidelity, and could in itself be a valid reason for termination.

Perth by-election rejection of candidate nomination

On 16 July 2018 the Federal Court dismissed an urgent application from Mr Mubarak seeking to challenge a decision to reject his candidate's nomination for the Perth by-election on 28 July 2018. The candidate’s nomination was rejected because he didn’t secure the mandatory 100 electors to endorse his nomination. This is required under section 166 of the Electoral Act. In reaching his decision, Justice Barker held that substantial compliance with the 100 nominator requirement was not enough. The case is reported as Mubarak v Australian Electoral Commission [2018] FCA 1089.

The 2019 federal election

On 2 April 2019 in the lead up to the 18 May federal election, Mr Clive Palmer and three other United Australia Party candidates issued proceedings in the High Court of Australia challenging the AEC's practice of publishing information about the ‘two-candidate preferred’ count on election night for seats on the eastern seaboard, before polls closed elsewhere in Australia. This was despite the specific authority to undertake the count under subsections 274(2A) to (2C) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Electoral Act). The High Court made a unanimous decision to dismiss the application on 7 May. This result allowed the AEC to publish progressive election results on election night.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal decisions

In the AEC’s 2017–18 Annual Report, it was mentioned that a matter before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) had not yet been set down for hearing: Watson v Australian Electoral Commission and Anor—AAT 2017/3419.

On 19 June 2017 the AAT notified the AEC of an application under the Electoral Act, to register the logo of the Australia First Party (NSW) Incorporated. This logo includes a representation of the Eureka flag. Objections to the logo registration were based on its reputed creation as a symbol of defiance.

On 20 December 2018 a Full Bench of the AAT handed down the decision in Watson and Australian Electoral Commission [2018] AATA 4914. The AAT dismissed the objection from Ms Watson finding that the Eureka flag is used widely and in many cultural contexts, and that its use in this logo was substantially different to the logo of the applicant. The AAT also held that the image of the Eureka flag used in this logo was not the logo of any other person.

Australian Information Commissioner decisions

The Australian Information Commissioner received three reports of privacy breaches during the reporting period. Two related to emails that contained the addresses of all recipients. One related to the inadvertent disclosure of some candidate contact details on the AEC website for a brief period on 25 April 2019. The AEC has acted to reinforce privacy awareness.

Australian Human Rights Commission

There were no complaints lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission alleging criminal record discrimination under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986.

In May 2018 the AEC was notified of an allegation of disability discrimination related to an employee redundancy offer. This complaint was the subject of conciliation and was resolved in September 2018.

The AEC has received notification of two other complaints of disability discrimination that are yet to be finalised.

Auditor-General Reports

There were no Auditor-General reports during the reporting period.

Parliamentary committees

The AEC works closely with the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) and the Department of Finance (DoF) to promote opportunities and risks in the electoral environment, and the need to modernise key election management systems.

In 2018–19 the AEC:

  • provided information and advice on electoral management and the delivery of electoral services to two parliamentary committees for four inquiries
  • made seven submissions and attended two public hearings
  • attended three Senate Estimates hearings and responded to 33 Senate Estimates Questions on Notice

Commonwealth Ombudsman investigations

There were no investigations undertaken by the Ombudsman into the AEC’s administration during the reporting period.

Freedom of information

Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, the AEC’s Freedom of Information Disclosure Log and Information Publication Scheme can be accessed on the AEC website.

Customer scrutiny

The AEC’s service charter outlines the agency’s role and purpose and the services the public can expect to receive.

Public engagement policies, procedures and tools are also available for staff. The AEC routinely examines enquiry trends to improve public information and services.

Managing and developing staff

The AEC effectively manages and develops employees to deliver electoral events and services through the AEC’s training and performance management programs.

Terms and conditions of employment

At 30 June 2019 the AEC had a regular workforce of 840 APS employees. Fourteen APS staff identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Employees are also engaged to work on election events. A breakdown of APS ongoing, non-ongoing and casual staff by classification and a list of statutory appointments is at appendix H.

Table 2: AEC APS workforce by employment type and classification (excluding statutory office holders), 30 June 2019
  Ongoing Non-Ongoing Casual
SE2 2
SE1 8 1
EL2 43 3
EL1 111 5 4
APS6 241 17 1
APS5 51 13
APS4 74 14 9
APS3 112 8
APS2 96 41
APS1 1400
TOTAL 738 102 1414

Detailed workforce statistics are available at appendix H.

Most AEC staff are covered by the AEC Enterprise Agreement 2016–2019 published on the AEC website. This outlines salaries and conditions of employment. Under the agreement, staff receive a range of non-salary benefits.

The AEC supports employees with caring responsibilities as outlined in the Carer Recognition Act 2010. Employees are eligible for paid personal leave (carer’s) under the agreement.

The Electoral Commissioner may agree to individual flexibility arrangements with employees, which can vary the effect of the terms of the AEC Enterprise Agreement 2016–2019. The Electoral Commissioner agreed to 16 new individual flexibility arrangements during the year, with 22 of these still active at 30 June 2019.

The AEC also has a collective determination for staff engaged under section 35(1) of the Electoral Act. Set by the Electoral Commissioner, this determination covers temporary staff such as polling officials (election period only), and was reviewed for the 2019 federal election.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were encouraged to apply for employment as part of the temporary election workforce. The AEC’s Indigenous Employment Strategy resulted in 1,922 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders filling positions at the 2019 federal election. This represents 1.94 per cent of the total number of polling official positions at the election, and is a modest increase of 0.17 per cent at the 2016 federal election.

Performance pay

The agreement requires all employees engaged under section 22(2) of the Public Service Act 1999 to participate in the AEC’s Performance Management Program. Eligible employees who meet the requirements receive salary advancement. The AEC does not provide performance bonuses.

Terms and conditions of SES employees

In 2018–19 the terms and conditions of employment of 11 employees— predominantly senior executive service officers—were set by individual determinations. Individual determinations are set by the Electoral Commissioner under section 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999.

The Remuneration Tribunal determines the remuneration of the Electoral Commissioner, Deputy Electoral Commissioner and Australian Electoral Officers under the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973. Details of executive remuneration are published on the AEC and Remuneration Tribunal websites. For full disclosure of remuneration see appendix H.

Disability reporting mechanisms

The AEC provides a variety of education and communication initiatives to meet the needs of Australians with disability. These are reported through the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 and the State of the Service report.

Since 1994 non-corporate Commonwealth entities 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 reports and the APS Statistical Bulletin. These reports are available at Australian Public Service Commission's website.

Entities have not been required to report on these functions since 2010–11.

The Commonwealth Disability Strategy has been overtaken by the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020. This sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level, two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy, and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. The first of these progress reports was published in 2014 and can be found at Department of Social Services website.

Workforce planning

The AEC develops workforce strategies to reduce identified risks for both day-to-day operations and delivery of electoral events.

Workforce planning is done at three levels—divisional, state and branch, and agency wide. It is informed by operational plans, business plans and the corporate plan.

To improve workforce planning the AEC increasingly uses business intelligence and data to support decision-making and service delivery.

Work health and safety

As part of its compliance obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 and the Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities 2012, the AEC has the following systems to monitor, evaluate and maintain health, safety and welfare:

  • our Rehabilitation Management System which meets Comcare’s Guidelines for Rehabilitation Authorities 2012 under section 41 of the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988
  • further refinement of our work health and safety management system AECsafety
  • an electronic incident management system
  • ongoing revision of the AEC risk management framework

There were 594 health and safety incidents reported this year, compared with 175 last year. A spike of 381 incidents of the total 594 reported occurred in May. This is attributed to the federal election on 18 May, and the engagement of a temporary election workforce—of around 90,000 people—for the federal election.

The AEC takes a proactive approach to workplace health, safety and rehabilitation. During the 2019 federal election extra systems were put in place to monitor, evaluate and maintain health, safety and welfare across the AEC, including:

  • a user-friendly system to encourage incident and hazard reporting
  • contacting employees with pre-existing injuries or illnesses and providing election readiness letters so their general practitioners could confirm staff fitness to work during the intensified electoral event environment

Ongoing initiatives to monitor, evaluate and maintain health, safety and welfare across the AEC include:

  • engaging workplace rehabilitation providers to help injured or ill employees to make a safe return to work
  • promoting:
    • free annual influenza vaccinations for staff
    • the AEC’s early intervention program which supports employees injured at work, and helps reduce injury-related absenteeism
    • the AEC’s employee assistance program
    • ergonomic workstation assessments to prevent injury and to ensure pre-existing injuries are not aggravated

Claims management

Injury and illness claims increased in 2018–19 which reflects the engagement of a temporary election workforce of 90,000 people to deliver the federal election.

Fifteen incidents were reported to Comcare during the year. Nine were notifiable for serious injury or illness, and one was notifiable for a dangerous occurrence. Nine incidences were referred to Comcare for investigation and there was one liaison inspection.

The AEC did not conduct any injury or illness investigations during 2018–19.

At 30 June 2019, injury and illness claims consisted of:

  • 37 continuing cases for compensation
  • 14 new cases for compensation including three submitted by APS employees and 11 by temporary employees who were employed under the Electoral Act. Of these, Comcare accepted two claims.
  • Comcare rejected five claims, two of which were re-submitted for reconsideration. One of these was subsequently rejected, while the other is pending determination. Four of the five claims were from employees engaged under the Electoral Act
  • Seven claims are still pending, with none withdrawn

For more information see Table 3.

Table 3: New claims for compensable and non-compensable injuries
Case management type 2014–15 2015–16 2016–17 2017–18 2018–19
Compensable 14 14 23 12 14
Non-compensable 19 41 42 41 58
Early intervention N/A N/A N/A 2 14
Total 33 55 65 55 86

Developing people

The National Training and Education Unit (NTEU) leads and coordinates AEC training and education to build:

  • critical operational and leadership capabilities that underpin election readiness
  • a culture of compliance, electoral integrity and professionalism

In addition, 98.3 per cent of identified* staff undertook mandatory AEC e-learning courses. Professional development programs include:

  • an Australian Electoral Office program—a targeted election induction and training initiative which focuses on the technical requirements for conducting elections in each state or territory. Twenty-five staff undertook this program
  • the Election Readiness Program—the AEC’s flagship professional development program for APS 6 and EL1 operational staff. Completed by 300 AEC staff, the 10-day residential program included simulation exercises to build critical operational and leadership capabilities
  • the Election Experience Program—which provides AEC staff with little or no election experience an opportunity to build their knowledge and understanding by participating in an electoral event. Over 100 AEC staff completed this program.

* AEC APS and identified labour-hire staff; excluding APS 1–6.

Assets management

Physical assets

The AEC’s physical assets are managed on an end-of-life or end-of-lease schedule. These include machines, equipment and office fit-outs. Asset management is not a significant aspect of the AEC’s strategic business, and service and maintenance agreements are used when they represent value for money

Environmental performance and sustainable development

In accordance with section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, the AEC reports on environmental performance and measures that minimise environmental impact, including:

  • recommendations of the Australian National Audit Office’s Performance Audit Report No.47 of 1998–99
  • the Department of Environment and Energy’s Energy Efficiency in Government Operations policy
  • fleet monitoring guidelines for use of ethanol

Our full environment management commitment is on the AEC website.

Standards, programs and innovative practices are in place to improve energy efficiency and minimise the effect of office operations on the environment. These include:

  • recycling paper, cardboard, plastics, aluminium, glass, and toner cartridges
  • applying double-sided default printer settings
  • using recyclable products where possible
  • conserving water
  • promoting E10 petrol for AEC vehicles and selecting vehicles in accordance with Department of Finance policy
  • considering environmental impacts in the design and layout of new and upgraded accommodation

For 2018–19 energy used across all AEC premises was 14,023.69 megajoules per person. This represents a 18.21 per cent increase on the previous year, due to extended office hours during by-elections and the 2019 federal election.

The National Electoral Education Centre in Canberra was accredited as an ACTSmart business for the 10th year.


The AEC’s approach to procuring goods and services is consistent with the:

  • Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013
  • Commonwealth Procurement Rules
  • Department of the Environment and Energy’s Sustainable Procurement Guide

The AEC applies these rules through its accountable authority instructions, supporting operational guidelines, and by continuing to develop procurement skills and processes to improve efficiency and value-for-money outcomes.

The AEC has centralised expertise to manage procurement and contracting, including panel arrangements. Tenders are evaluated for:

  • energy and consumption demand
  • unnecessary consumption
  • end-of-life disposal arrangements

Australian National Audit Office access clauses

All AEC contract templates include a standard clause to provide Auditor-General access to a contractor’s premises. The AEC did not execute any contracts in 2018–19 without the Australian National Audit Office access provisions.

Small business

The AEC supports small business participation in Commonwealth Government procurement. Small and medium enterprises and small enterprise participation statistics are on the Department of Finance website.

The AEC recognises the importance of ensuring small businesses are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on Treasury’s website.

Publication of contracts on AusTender

Information on the value of AEC contracts and consultancies—as well as expected procurements—is available on the AusTender website.

In 2018–19:

  • no contracts or standing offers greater than $10,000 (including GST) were exempt from publication on AusTender on the basis that they would disclose exempt information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
  • the AEC did not administer any discretionary grant programs
  • three open tender requests were published


Consultants are engaged to provide specialist expertise, independent research, or to review or assess electoral event matters. These decisions are made in accordance with section 35(2) of the Electoral Act, the PGPA Act and related Regulations (including the Commonwealth Procurement Rules), and relevant internal policies.

Table 4: Number and expenditure on new and ongoing consultants in current report period (2018–19)
Number of new contracts entered into during the period 9
Total actual expenditure during the period on new contracts (inc GST) $2,555,755
Number of ongoing contracts engaging consultants that were entered into during a previous period 5
Total actual expenditure* during the period on ongoing contracts (inc GST) $1,028,380

* Further information on consultancy expenditure is in the financial statements