External scrutiny

​Parliamentary committees

Inquiry reports

During the year, parliamentary committees released 12 reports relevant to the Department of Agriculture:

  • Senate Environment and Communications References Committee
    • The effectiveness of threatened species and ecological communities' protection in Australia– 7 August 2013
    • Recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events–7 August 2013
    • Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area–15 May 2014
  • Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
    • Biosecurity Bill 2012 and the Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012–11 November 2013
    • Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2013 [No.2]–11 November 2013
    • Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals Legislation Amendment (removing Re-approval and
      Re-registration) Bill 2014–16 June 2014
  • Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee
    • Beef imports into Australia–11 November 2013
    • The ownership arrangements of grain handling–4 December 2013
    • Review of the Citrus Industry in Australia–16 December 2013
    • Effect on Australian ginger growers of importing fresh ginger from Fiji–31 March 2014
    • Proposed importation of potatoes from New Zealand–31 March 2014
    • Effect on Australian pineapple growers of importing fresh pineapple from Malaysia–31 March 2014

Government responses to inquiry reports

During the year, the Government responded to two reports from parliamentary committees relevant to the department:

  • House Standing Committee on Agriculture, Resources, Fisheries and Forestry
    • Report on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities Annual Reports 2011-12: Caring for our Country and Landcare–3 December 2013
  • Joint Standing Committee On Treaties
    • Australian Government Response To The Joint Standing Committee On Treaties' Report: 136, Treaties–13 February 2014

Independent review bodies

Reports by the Auditor-General

During 2013-14, the Auditor-General tabled five Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) reports on the department's activities. We agreed to all recommendations made in the reports.

ANAO reports are available on the ANAO website.

ANAO Audit Report No.11 2013-14: Delivery of the Filling the Research Gap under the Carbon Farming Futures Program

This audit assessed the effectiveness of the delivery of the first and second funding rounds of the Filling the Research Gap programme. The ANAO made four recommendations on grants assessment processes.

ANAO Audit Report No.18 2013-14: Screening of international mail

This cross-agency audit assessed arrangements in the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service and the Department of Agriculture for targeting and screening incoming international mail to identify prohibited and restricted goods. The ANAO made three recommendations on improving screening processes and measuring the effectiveness of intervention strategies.

ANAO Audit Report No.33 2013-14: Indigenous employment in Australian Government agencies

This cross-agency audit assessed whether selected Australian Government agencies were implementing effective strategies to support increased employment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The ANAO made two recommendations for the Australian Public Service Commission to more effectively achieve the Government's target.

ANAO Audit Report No.34 2013-14: Implementation of ANAO performance audit recommendations

This cross-agency audit assessed the effectiveness of agencies' governance arrangements for monitoring and implementing agreed ANAO performance audit recommendations. The ANAO made two recommendations on internal arrangements for implementing and signing off on recommendations.

ANAO Audit Report No.47 2013-14: Managing conflicts of interest in FMA agencies

This cross-agency audit assessed whether FMA agencies were implementing appropriate policies and processes to identify and manage conflicts of interest. The ANAO made one recommendation on giving specific consideration to conflicts of interest matters.

Reports by the Interim Inspector-General of Biosecurity

On 1 July 2013, Dr Michael Bond was appointed to the position of Interim Inspector-General of Biosecurity (IIGB). The IIGB reports to the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture and has a broad scope to audit and review the performance of biosecurity risk management systems that are the responsibility of biosecurity divisions within the department.

All IIGB reports are made publicly available, unless they contain information that is considered prejudicial to the public interest. The department provides administrative support to the IIGB.

In 2013-14, the IIGB completed audits and reviews of:

  • the undeclared importation of food from the Republic of Korea detected in December 2010
  • the approval of offshore pre-export quarantine facilities for importing horses to Australia
  • the effectiveness of Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry controls to manage biosecurity risks in the importation of freshwater and marine ornamental fish
  • the effectiveness of controls for imported, uncooked, cooked and cured pig meat
  • biosecurity controls associated with the export of live abalone to China and Hong Kong
  • the importation of untanned animal hides from Colombia in 2012-13
  • arrangements for the oversight of horse biosecurity risk management.

The IIGB's reports are available on the IIGB website.

Reports by the Australian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity

On 1 July 2013, the department came under the Australian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity's (ACLEI) jurisdiction for prescribed staff.

The ACLEI provides independent assurance to the Government on the integrity of prescribed law enforcement agencies and their staff members. It achieves this through investigating and reporting law enforcement-related corruption issues.

In 2013-14, the ACLEI released no reports into the activities of the department.

Other reports

No reports on the operations of the department were released by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, the Australian Information Commissioner or the Privacy Commissioner during 2013-14.

Tribunal and court decisions

Seafish Tasmania Pelagic Pty Ltd & Anor v The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities for the Commonwealth of Australia and two others (No. 2), [2014] FCA 117

In 2013, a commercial fishing operator launched legal proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia, challenging the decision and declarations of the Australian Government to temporarily prohibit large fishing vessels such as the FV 'Margiris/Abel Tasman' from operating in the Commonwealth Small Pelagic Fishery.

The then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry was named as a respondent in the case. On 21 February 2014, the Federal Court handed down its decision, dismissing the application and ordering the applicants to pay the cost of proceedings.

Sekhon v Director of Quarantine, [2013] FCA 1423

The Federal Court delivered judgment on 23 December 2013 finding that the decision of a quarantine officer to order a dog into quarantine on the basis that it had a quarantinable disease was within their power for the purposes of the Quarantine Act 1908.

Animals' Angels e.V v Secretary of Department of Agriculture [2014] FCA 398

The Federal Court delivered judgment on 24 April 2014, finding that the legislative power conferred on the secretary by section 23 of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 was a residual, non-obligatory power allowing the secretary to issue a show cause notice to a livestock export licence holder.

The applicant's grounds for review of a decision not to issue a show cause notice were not made out. The court found that the applicant lacked standing to challenge the decision.

Australian Rare Poultry Importation Syndicate Inc v Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Anor, No. SAD 184/2013

In April 2013, a consignment of fertile chicken eggs was imported and commenced quarantine at the Torrens Island Avian Quarantine Facility. In June 2013, recently hatched birds in the consignment tested positive to Salmonella pullorum. The department caused the birds to be destroyed after evaluating the quarantine risk as unacceptable.

In July 2013, the importer applied to the Federal Circuit Court of Adelaide for a judicial review of the decision. The court awarded an injunction until 18 July 2013 and an extension of the stay until 25 July 2013.

The department agreed to suspend the destruction notice to allow the importer to test more birds. After further testing, the importer conceded the decisions of the department were validly made and consented to court orders settling the matter. The flock was humanely euthanized.

Serana (WA) Pty Ltd v Mignaccu-Randazzo SM, [2014] FCA 120

In December 2013, the department applied for a search warrant under the Quarantine Act 1908. Acting pursuant to the search warrant, departmental officers entered the applicant's premises, seized documents and ordered biological products into quarantine.

On February 7 2014, the Federal Court made orders for the release from quarantine of the biological products. After further testing, the department released the remaining products that had been ordered into quarantine. The applicant and the department subsequently settled the matter.

Akiba on behalf of the Torres Strait Regional Seas Claim Group v Commonwealth of Australia [2013] HCA 33

The High Court delivered judgment on 7 August 2013 with respect to native title rights and interests in certain waters in the Torres Strait. Those rights included native title holders' rights to access, remain in and use the native title area, to access resources, and to take those resources for any purpose.

The High Court clarified that although successive Commonwealth and Queensland Acts had prohibited the taking of aquatic life for commercial purposes without a licence, this did not sever the native title holders' connection with the waters concerned.

Accordingly, while the exercise of native title rights and interests had been constrained, their continued existence had not been extinguished.

Freedom of information

The department makes records available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), either in response to requests for access to information or on 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. This requirement is in Part II of the FOI Act and has replaced the former requirement to publish a Section 8 statement in an annual report. 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 on the department's website.

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

Statistical data on FOI requests received and processed by the department in 2013-14 can be accessed from the website of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

More information is available on the department's website.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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