Online version of the 2012-13 Department of Health and Ageing Annual Report

3.2: External Liaison and Scrutiny

Page last updated: 29 October 2013

We value transparency and accountability

In 2012-13, the Department, through the Audit and Fraud Control Branch, worked with the Australian National Audit Office providing responses to proposed audit findings and recommendations prior to the Auditor-General presenting his reports in Parliament.

The Department also liaised with the Commonwealth Ombudsman on complaints relating to aspects of the Department’s administrative activities.

Information on the Auditor-General’s reports and the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s complaints is set out below.

Australian National Audit Office

In 2012-13, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) tabled several reports in Parliament on audits involving the Department. Included were audits specific to the Department, cross-agency audits where the Department was involved and other audits where the Department was not directly involved but where recommendations were targeted at all agencies.

Audits Specific to the Department

  • Managing Aged Care Complaints (Audit Report No.10 of 2012-13, tabled 13 November 2012).

The objective of the audit was to assess the Department’s implementation and ongoing management of the Aged Care Complaints Scheme and the effectiveness of the Department’s complaints management systems in supporting service delivery and regulatory outcomes. The Scheme was introduced in response to the Walton Review (an external review of the then Aged Care Complaints Investigation Scheme conducted in 2009), with the Government providing $50.6 million from 2010-11 to 2013-14 to reform the management of aged care complaints. Implementation of the Scheme was planned over four years and four phases.

The ANAO found that the Department made good progress to July 2012 in the implementation and ongoing management of the Scheme, with Phases 1 and 2 completed largely in line with the deliverables and timing agreed by the Australian Government in response to the Walton Review.

The ANAO issued two recommendations. The first was aimed at improving access to the Scheme for isolated care recipients and the second at increasing the level of confidence in feedback obtained from surveys of customer satisfaction with the complaints process. The Department agreed with these recommendations.

  • Administration of Commonwealth Responsibilities under the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health (Audit Report No.12 of 2012-13, tabled 5 December 2012).

The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the Department and the Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) in implementing the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health. The Agreement’s aims include supporting all Australians to reduce their risk of chronic disease.

The ANAO found the Department and ANPHA had commenced all Australian Government initiatives under the Agreement, with some well underway. In particular, the agencies had: contributed to planning for the implementation of the Agreement; commissioned social marketing campaigns to encourage Australians to reduce the incidence of smoking and obesity; provided grants to organisations to deliver community-based healthy lifestyle programs; liaised with, and entered partnerships with, industry sectors to promote a healthy living agenda; and helped fund and arrange the expansion of the Australian Health Survey.

The ANAO issued two recommendations. The first was directed at the Department, to give priority to progressing performance measurement against the benchmarks in the Agreement. The second, directed at ANPHA, to more clearly demonstrate the factual basis for statements appearing in campaign advertisements. The Department and the ANPHA agreed with these recommendations.

  • Administration of the GP Super Clinics Program (Audit Report No.50 of 2012-13, tabled 20 June 2013).

The objective of the audit was to assess the effectiveness of the Department’s administration of the GP Super Clinics program to support improved community access to integrated GP and primary health care services. The audit examined the Department’s compliance with the mandatory requirements of the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines (CGGs) and the extent to which the Department adopted sound practices in relation to the key principles for grants administration in the CGGs.

The GP Super Clinics program is one of several health infrastructure grant programs administered by the Department in recent years. At the time of the audit, two funding rounds had been held and funding of $418.7 million had been announced.

The ANAO found that the Department’s administration of the GP Super Clinics program was generally effective and consistent with government policy. The Department’s first round program guidelines (April 2008), addressed the key elements of the program’s operation and formed the basis for a generally sound grants application and assessment process.

The ANAO issued four recommendations. One related to providing Ministerial advice on implementation risks in the establishment phase of grant activities, one addressed better practice assessment of value for money for health infrastructure projects and two proposed improvements to the framework for reporting on program performance. The Department agreed with these recommendations.

Cross Agency Audits where the Department was Involved

  • The Australian Government Performance Measurement and Reporting Framework – Pilot Project to Audit Key Performance Indicators (Audit Report No.28, tabled 23 April 2013).
  • Administration of Government Advertising Arrangements: August 2011 to March 2013 (Audit Report No.54 of 2012-13, tabled 26 June 2013).

Other Audits where the Department was not Directly Involved but where Recommendations were Targeted at all Agencies

  • Confidentiality in Government Contracts: Senate Order for Departmental and Agency Contracts (Calendar Year 2011 Compliance) - (Audit Report No.4 of 2012-13, tabled 20 September 2012).
  • Control of Credit Card Use (Audit Report No.35 of 2012-13, tabled 16 May 2013).
  • Agencies’ Implementation of Performance Audit Recommendations (Audit Report No.53 of 2012-13, tabled 25 June 2013).

Details of the Auditor-General’s reports, including responses to the recommendations where the Department was involved in the audits, can be found at the Australian National Audit Office website . Other enquiries regarding the reports should be directed to the Assistant Secretary, Audit and Fraud Control Branch, in the Department.

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Other Parliamentary Scrutiny

The Department appeared before the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee (Senate Estimates) on three occasions during 2012-13 for a total of 7 days:

  • Supplementary Budget Estimates – 17 and 19 October 2012;
  • Additional Budget Estimates – 13 and 15 February 2013; and
  • Budget Estimates – 5, 6 and 7 June 2013.

The Department also gave evidence and/or made submissions to a number of Parliamentary Committee inquiries.

Senate Community Affairs Committee

Legislation Committee

  • Inquiry into the Private Health Insurance Legislation Amendment (Base Premium) Bill 2013.
  • Inquiry into the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Bill 2013 and associated legislation.
  • Inquiry into the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (2013 Measures No. 1) Bill 2013.
  • Inquiry into the Private Health Insurance Amendment (Lifetime Health Cover Loading and Other Measures) Bill 2012.

References Committee

  • Inquiry into supply of chemotherapy drugs such as Docataxel.
  • Inquiry into the care and management of younger and older Australians living with dementia and behavioural and psychiatric symptoms of dementia.
  • Inquiry into Australia’s domestic response to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Commission on Social Determinants of Health.
  • Inquiry into Palliative Care in Australia.
  • Inquiry into the factors affecting the supply of health services and medical professionals in rural areas.

Senate Environment and Communications Committee

Legislation Committee

  • Renewable Energy (Electricity) Amendment (Excessive Noise from Wind Farms) Bill 2012.

References Committee

  • Inquiry into recent trends in and preparedness for extreme weather events.

Senate Finance and Public Administration Committee

Legislation Committee

  • Inquiry into the Therapeutic Goods Amendment (Pharmaceutical Transparency) Bill 2013.

References Committee

  • Inquiry into progress in the implementation of the recommendations of the 1999 Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (JETACAR).
  • Inquiry into the Implementation of the National Health Reform Agreement.
  • Inquiry into Medicare Funding for Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment.

Senate Rural and Regional Affairs Transport Committee

Legislation Committee

  • Biosecurity Bill 2012 and the Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012.

References Committee

  • Inquiry into Beef Imports in Australia.

Standing Committee on Health and Ageing

  • Inquiry into Dementia: early diagnosis and intervention.
  • Inquiry into skin cancer in Australia.
  • Inquiry into adult dental services.
  • Inquiry into health issues across international borders.
  • Private briefing on issues related to the use of synthetic marijuana and other synthetic drugs.
  • Roundtable into adhesive Arachnoiditis.

Standing Committee on Petitions


  • 642 – Restoration of the extended Medicare Safety-Net for Obstetrics.
  • 696 – Advanced radiotherapy treatments for Medicare Rebates.
  • 566 – National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs

  • Inquiry into the prevention, diagnosis and management of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit

  • Audit Report No. 45 (2011-12), Administration of Health and Hospitals Fund.

In addition, the Department had a significant workload of Parliamentary Questions with a combined total of 117 questions received on notice from the House of Representatives and the Senate, and a total of 901 questions from the three Senate Estimates hearings.

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Judicial Decisions and Decisions of Administrative Appeals Tribunals

During 2012-13, the Department was involved in:

  • 4 matters in the High Court;
  • 2 matters in the Full Federal Court;
  • 25 matters in the Federal Court;
  • 2 matters in the Federal Circuit Court;
  • 53 matters in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal; and
  • 1 matter in the South Australian Equal Opportunity Tribunal.

Significant issue

JT International SA v Commonwealth of Australia, British American Tobacco Australasia Limited & Ors v Commonwealth of Australia.

On 5 October 2012, the High Court handed down its decision upholding the constitutional validity of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011. The Court found that the Act did not result in an acquisition of the intellectual property of the plaintiffs otherwise than on just terms of a kind to which Section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution applies.

The tobacco companies argued that the Act’s restrictions would render them unable to exploit their claimed property, especially their trademarks and product getup, on tobacco packaging and tobacco products in any meaningful or substantive way. Further, they argued that the restrictions would extinguish their proprietary rights as chattel owners to place whatever they wish on their tobacco packaging and tobacco products. The Court found that the restrictions did not operate so as to effect an acquisition of any proprietary right or interest by the Commonwealth.

Freedom of Information

The Information Publication Scheme is a requirement under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) that requires all agencies subject to the FOI Act to publish information about what is available to the public. The Department’s plan showing the information published in accordance with this requirement. Documents that the Department has released in response to FOI requests can be found on the Disclosure Log.

Decisions of the Australian Information Commissioner

The Australian Information Commissioner made seven decisions on applications for review of FOI decisions by the Department. Three decisions were affirmed, three were set aside and substituted with new decisions and one decision was varied.

Commonwealth Ombudsman

Anyone with concerns about the Department’s actions or decision-making is entitled to make a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman, to determine whether the Department was wrong, unjust, discriminatory or unfair. Further information on the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

During 2012-13, the Commonwealth Ombudsman investigated 36 complaints against the Department’s administrative practices, 12 of which had carried over from 2011-12. Of the 24 new complaints investigations commenced in 2012-13, seven remain open at 30 June 2013.