Authorised Officers (AO) frequently asked questions

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What is an AO?

  • Authorised Officers (AOs) are trained and assessed individuals who are appointed under the Export Control Act 1982 to perform specific export inspection functions. When undertaking these functions, AOs are regarded as Australian Government officials.
  • AOs may conduct a range of functions for a number of commodities, based on the training and assessment they have participated in.
  • An AO applicant may be any of the following:
    • A Department of Agriculture and Water Resources employee
    • A company employee linked to a specific registered establishment
    • A third party provider not linked to a particular registered establishment who plans to carry out functions at one or more registered establishments

Is an AO a government official?

When undertaking the functions they are appointed for under the Export Control Act 1982, AOs are regarded as Australian Government officials, but are not considered employees of the Australian Government.

How do I become an AO?

To become an AO you must complete an application form that can be found on the department’s website. You must be found suitable for the role and competent at an assessment to be become an AO.

You must satisfactorily complete any plant export eLearning and facilitated training required by the department prior to undergoing a competency assessment.

To undertake this training, you must have basic computer skills and have access to a computer connected to the internet.

To undertake a competency assessment, you must have access to a registered export premises.

What conditions apply to an AO?

An AO must:

  • have no unresolved conflicts of interest that would affect their ability to carry out their work as an AO
  • sign a legally binding Deed of Obligations that will details their responsibilities
  • only carry out the specific export functions they are appointed for.
  • pay all required fees and charges.
  • comply with the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct when acting as an AO

have ongoing monitoring of their performance as an AO to ensure they maintain their competency.

All job functions the AO is appointed to perform must be carried out in accordance with their Instrument of Appointment and the department’s Plant export operations manual.

Am I required to be an Australian citizen to become an AO?

It is no longer a requirement to be an Australian citizen to become an AO, however, you must be able to obtain an Australian Federal Police - National Police Check.

What does a ‘fit and proper person’ mean?

A fit and proper person is someone who can demonstrate to the department that they are suitable to act as an AO on behalf of the Australian Government. A fit and proper person assessment will include but is not limited to an analysis of your national police check.

What are the costs involved with becoming an AO?

Charges apply to becoming an AO. All costs must be settled prior to your appointment being granted. For more information on the fees and charges visit Plant exports: authorised officers cost recovery design.

What is a conflict of interest and how does it affect me?

A conflict of interest occurs when an individual or organisation is involved in multiple interests, one of which could negatively influence the motivation for an action or decision in the other.

There are a number of provisions in the APS Code of Conduct that are relevant to understanding conflict of interest and are relevant to AOs. An AO must:

  • behave honestly and with integrity in the course of their appointment
  • disclose, and take reasonable steps to avoid any conflict of interest, real or apparent, in connection with their appointment
  • not make improper use of:
    1. inside information
    2. their duties, status, power or authority, in order to gain, or seek to gain, a benefit or advantage for themselves or for any other person.

How can I manage real and apparent conflicts of interest?

During an assessment process, you may be asked to declare any real or apparent conflict of interest that may affect the performance of your duties as an AO.

A number of approaches are available for managing real and apparent conflicts of interest. The first step is to:

  • Notify the department about real or apparent conflicts of interest. This can be done while applying to become an AO or by filling in an AO update details form PDF Icon PDF [136 KB]

The department will then decide whether:

  • there is, or could be, a conflict of interest
  • to ask the person to dissociate themselves from the interest
  • to change the person's duties or to transfer the person to another position
  • to allow the person to continue with their duties,  where there is no conflict.

While avoiding a conflict is best, it is not always practical. In some cases, processes may be implemented to ensure that any conflicts are managed. Such processes may outline how:

  • the conflict is declared
  • the conflict will be managed
  • stakeholders are informed about the conflict.

What is a third party AO?

A third party AO is an AO that is not linked to a registered establishment and is able to provide services to any registered establishment within the export industry.

A third party AO will determine their own charges when undertaking an inspection.

Can people employed in a management or control position in a registered establishment apply to be an AO?

  • Yes, as the department will make an assessment of their character based on its past dealings with them, or other evidence such as their National Police Check.
  • If they are then authorised as an AO, their performance may be subject to more intensive scrutiny under the department’s audit regime.

If an AO applicant has a criminal record will they be automatically ineligible?

A criminal conviction or pending charge will not automatically exclude an applicant from being appointed as an AO. Nonetheless, the department may be concerned that a particular charge or conviction reflects on that applicant’s fitness to perform the services required or may affect the integrity and reputation of the department.

What are the required competencies of an AO?

All AO candidates must have general competencies which will be covered in a number of eLearning programs, these include:

  • Plant export legislation
  • Defensible decision making
  • Work health and safety
  • Treatments
  • Communication

In addition to those listed above, AO candidates will need to learn the particular competencies needed for the job function(s) they intend to carry out. For example, an AO applying to inspect grain will need to complete the core programs and the grain inspection programs.

Some job functions have mandatory facilitated training, but depending on their past skills and experience, an AO may request facilitated training all job functions.

Are there any set timelines for completion of the process?

There are no set time frames for completion of the process.

Is there prior learning recognition for an applicant that has been working as an inspector for a number of years?

There is no prior learning recognition. Every AO candidate, including current departmental staff, will need to complete the training.

There are three parts to the training and assessment process to become an AO:

  • Online eLearning programs through the Department’s Learning Management System
  • Facilitated training (mandatory for some job functions)
  • Competency based assessment.

How do I arrange facilitated training?

If you require facilitated training you will need to email your request to the department at Plant Export Training.

Your eligibility to undergo training will be assessed. Once this is complete, you will be contacted by a plant export assessor to organise a time for training specific to your needs.

It will be your responsibility to organise an appropriate establishment at which to have your training delivered.

How will I be assessed?

Once you are ready to undertake an assessment you will need to email the department at Plant Export Training. The department will then assess your eligibility to undergo an assessment.

You will be assessed by a plant export assessor who will determine your competency.

It is your responsibility to organise an appropriate establishment at which to have your assessment.

When will I be able to undertake Inspections?

When you have completed and been found competent at an assessment, you will receive a Deed of Obligations. You must sign, date and email this deed back to the department. Within 10 business days of the department receiving your completed deed, you will receive your Instrument of Appointment.

Once you have received the Instrument of Appointment, you will be authorised as a plant export authorised officer and be able to perform inspections that you are appointed for.

How do I maintain my appointment once it is granted?

All AOs are subject to a rigorous audit regime.

To maintain your appointment you will be required to undergo an audit once a year. An audit can only be undertaken if you have conducted inspections. Failing to conduct inspections may result in your appointment expiring after two years of inactivity.

What are my responsibilities as an AO?

As an AO, you will have delegations under the Export Control Act 1982 and the Export Control (Plants and Plant Products) Order 2011 and your Instrument of Appointment will detail your specific delegations under the legislation. When working as an AO, you must not exceed your powers under the legislation.
As an AO, depending on your powers under the legislation, you may be legally required to make sure that:

  • Empty containers and/or vessel holds meet required standards.
  • Prescribed goods (plants and plant products) exported from Australia comply with the requirements of the Export Control Act 1982 and subordinate legislation (Export Control (Prescribed Goods – General) Order 2005, and Export Control (Plants and Plant Products) Order 2011.

When will I be able to undertake Inspections?

When an AO candidate has completed all the assessment the candidate will receive a Deed of Obligations. The candidate will need to sign, date and email this deed back to the department. Within 10 business days of the department receiving your signed and dated deed, the candidate will receive their Instrument of Appointment.

Once you have received the Instrument of Appointment, you will be authorised as a plant export authorised officer and be able to perform inspections that you are appointed for.

What are the minimum computer requirements to run the eLearning LMS system?

To run the eLearning LMS system you need the following:

  • Desktop requirements — Supported operating systems Windows 2000+
  • Supported browsers — Internet Explorer IE 7 + or Firefox 2.0 + JavaScript enabled
  • Software required — Acrobat Reader 8.x + Flash Player 9 Update 3 (9,0,115,0) or higher