External scrutiny

​​Parliamentary committee reports

Parliamentary committees tabled 21 reports relevant to the department as shown in Table 20.

Table 20 Government responses tabled in 2015–16

Committee

Inquiry

Tabling date

Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

Inquiry into the jurisdiction of the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity

5 May 2016

Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit

Inquiry into development of the Commonwealth Performance Framework

5 May 2016

Joint Select Committee on Northern Australia

Inquiry into opportunities for expanding aquaculture in Northern Australia

22 February 2016

Joint Select Committee on Trade and Investment Growth

Inquiry into business utilisation of Australia’s Free Trade Agreements

15 October 2015

Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

Inquiry into Australia’s trade and investment relationships with countries of the Middle East

4 May 2016

Joint Standing Committee on Migration

Inquiry into the Seasonal Worker Program

5 May 2016

House Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry

Smart farming: Inquiry into agricultural innovation

4 May 2016

Senate Economics References Committee

Inquiry into third party certification of food

1 December 2015

Senate Economics References Committee

Inquiry into the forestry managed investment schemes

11 March 2016

Senate Economics References Committee

Inquiry into the foreign investment review framework

8 April 2016

Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee

Inquiry into the Landholders Rights to Refuse (Gas and Coal) Bill 2015

30 September 2015

Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee

Inquiry into the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Prohibition of Live Imports of Primates for Research) Bill 2015

15 March 2016

Senate Environment and Communications References Committee

Inquiry into regulation of the fin-fish aquaculture industry in Tasmania

21 August 2015

Senate Environment and Communications References Committee

Inquiry into stormwater management in Australia

2 December 2015

Senate Environment and Communications References Committee

Inquiry into the threat of marine plastic pollution in Australia

20 April 2016

Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee

Inquiry into the handling of a letter sent by Mr Man Haron Monis to the
Attorney-General

16 September 2015

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee

Inquiry into the Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015

15 October 2015

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee

Inquiry into the Water Amendment (Review Implementation and Other Measures) Bill 2015 [Provisions]

10 March 2016

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee

Inquiry into the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Amendment Bill 2016 [Provisions]

22 April 2016

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee

Australian grape and wine industry

12 February 2016

Government responses to inquiry reports

The Australian Government responded to five parliamentary committee reports relevant to the department, shown in Table 21.

Table 21 Government responses tabled in 2015–16

Committee

Inquiry

Tabling date

House Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry

Inquiry into the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Annual Report 2011–12

25 February 2016

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee

Inquiry into Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2015

5 May 2016

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee

Inquiry into Industry structures and systems governing levies on grass-fed cattle

15 July 2015

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee

Inquiry into: the effect on Australian pineapple growers of importing fresh pineapples from Malaysia; effects on Australian ginger growers of importing fresh ginger from Fiji; proposed importation of potatoes from New Zealand

20 August 2015

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee

Inquiry into the industry structures and systems governing the imposition of and disbursement of marketing and research and development levies in the agricultural sector

5 May 2016

Reports by the Auditor-General

The Auditor-General tabled two Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) reports on the department’s activities.

ANAO Audit Report No.28 2015–16: Administration of Concessional Loans Programs

This audit assessed the department’s establishment and administration of the Farm Finance and Drought Concessional Loans schemes. The ANAO made four recommendations to increase assurance that agreements under the schemes are met, to strengthen governance arrangements, and to improve accountability and support effective program management. The department agreed to all of the recommendations.

ANAO Audit Report No.37 2015–16: Cyber Resilience

This audit assessed the effectiveness of activities by the department and other entities to implement the four mandatory ICT strategies in the Australian Government Information Security Manual. The report found the department had achieved compliance with the mandated strategies. The ANAO made three recommendations aimed at achieving compliance with the mandated strategies. The department agreed to all of the recommendations.

ANAO reports are available at anao.gov.au.

Reports by the Interim Inspector-General of Biosecurity

In 2008, the Australian Government agreed in principle to establish a statutory office of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity. In 2009, pending enabling legislation, the government appointed Dr Kevin Dunn as the Interim Inspector-General of Biosecurity. Dr Michael Bond became the Interim Inspector-General on 1 July 2013.

The Interim Inspector-General reported to the minister and had a broad scope to audit and review the performance of biosecurity risk management systems that are the department’s responsibility. Key findings and recommendations were made available publicly unless prejudicial to the public interest. The department provided administrative support and research support to the Interim Inspector-General.

In 2015–16, the Interim Inspector-General released audits or reviews of the management of biosecurity risks for:

  • importation of natural sausage casings
  • horse imports in 2015
  • timber packaging and dunnage
  • transhipped ships stores
  • importation of tomato and carrot seeds for sowing.

Reports are available at igb.gov.au​.

On 25 July 2016, Dr Helen Scott-Orr commenced as the Inspector-General of Biosecurity under the new Biosecurity Act 2015.

Reports by the Australian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity

Since 1 July 2013, some of the department’s functions have fallen under the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity’s (ACLEI) jurisdiction for prescribed staff. Regional managers, officers involved in assessment, control and clearance of vessels and cargo imported into Australia, and officers with access to the Integrated Cargo System are under the ACLEI’s jurisdiction.

In 2015–16, the ACLEI did not release any reports on the activities of the department.

Other reports

In 2015–16, the Commonwealth Ombudsman did not release any reports on the activities of the department.

Freedom of information

The department makes documents available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), either in response to requests for access to information, or through its websites, in accordance with the government’s Information Publication Scheme (IPS).

Agencies subject to the FOI Act are required to publish information to the public as part of the IPS, in accordance with part II of the Act. Each agency must display on its website a plan showing what information it publishes in accordance with the IPS requirements. The department’s plan is available at agriculture.gov.au/about/reporting/ips/agency-plan.

The department also publishes corporate and operational information on its website, and reports on information accessed through FOI applications in a disclosure log.

In 2015–16, the department received 72 requests for access under the FOI Act, five requests for internal review and two requests for external review. The department finalised 80 requests and four internal reviews. All requests were processed in accordance with the statutory timeframes. Further statistical data on FOI requests received and processed by the department in 2015–16 are published by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

In 2015–16, the Australian Information Commissioner reviewed two decisions by the department to refuse access to a document requested under the FOI Act. The department has applied to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of the Information Commissioner’s decisions that the document was not exempt under section 47C of the FOI Act regarding deliberative processes. The tribunal is yet to decide this matter.​

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