Annual Report 2007-2008

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External scrutiny

Reports by the Australian National Audit Office

The Auditor-General tabled in Parliament the following audit reports related to the department’s operations.

Report No.18: Audits of the Financial Statements of Australian Government Entities for the period ended 30 June 2007
Financial statements audits are an independent examination of the financial accounting and reporting of Government entities. This report complements the interim phase report and provides a summary of the final audit results of the audits of the financial statements of all Australian Government entities, including the Consolidated Financial Statements for the Australian Government.

Report No.44: The Interim Phase of the Audit of Financial Statements of General Government Sector Agencies for the Year Ending 30 June 2008
This interim audit of government agencies is related to agencies’ financial reporting responsibilities, and examines relevant internal controls, including information technology system controls.

Courts and administrative tribunals

The department was involved in a number of legal matters during the year. There were no decisions that had a significant legal impact on our operations. Details of matters in which the department was involved are at Appendix 6.

Parliamentary committees

The department made submissions and/or gave evidence to five parliamentary committee inquiries. In addition, departmental staff appeared before the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties in relation to 23 proposed treaty actions (see Appendix 5 for further details).


The Commonwealth Ombudsman investigated 36 approaches/complaints with respect to the department’s activities in 2007–08, making seven negative findings. No formal reports under section 15 of the Ombudsman Act 1976 were issued.


No reports were served on the department under section 30 of the Privacy Act 1988 (the Privacy Act), nor were there any determinations made by the Privacy Commissioner relating to the actions of the department under sections 52 or 53. No public interest determinations were sought from the Privacy Commissioner under section 72 of the Privacy Act.

No complaints were made directly to the department this year. We concluded our investigations into three complaints made in the previous year, finding no breach of privacy occurred in relation to all three matters. We are continuing to investigate one privacy complaint made in the previous year.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC) is investigating two complaints where the department had found there had been no breach of privacy on investigation, including one investigation commenced by the OPC in the previous year. The OPC declined to investigate one complaint referred to it this year by a complainant where the department had found it had not interfered with the complainant’s privacy.

In January 2008, the department made a submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) in relation to its review of the Privacy Act. We highlighted the impact of the ALRC’s proposed amendments on our consular and passport services.

Privacy implications for other departmental projects and procedures are detailed in other parts of this report.


The process for all portfolio-related legislation has been managed effectively.

Amendments to the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1991 made by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Amendment Act 2007 commenced operation on 1 July 2007.

Amendments to the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Act 1982 made by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Amendment Act 2007 commenced operation on 1 July 2007.

Amendments to the Charter of the United Nations Act 1945 made by the International Trade Integrity Act 2007 commenced operation on 24 March 2008.

The department facilitated the enactment and amendment of a number of regulations and determinations, including regulations to implement Australia’s obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolutions to impose sanctions upon several countries and determinations to implement amendments to the Australian Passports Determination 2005.

We provided input to legislation managed by agencies within the portfolio and to legislation managed by other agencies that affected Foreign Affairs and Trade portfolio legislation.

Compensation for detriment caused by defective administration

Ten cases were lodged under the compensation scheme for detriment caused by defective administration. Ten cases were resolved (including three from the previous financial year), resulting in five payments made from administered funds. In five cases, compensation under the scheme was found not to be warranted. Four cases (including one from the previous financial year) remained in progress at the end of the financial year.

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