Part 4: Management of the Court
Federal Court of Australia Annual Report 2010-2011
Federal Court Governance
Since 1990 the Court has been self-administering, with a separate budget appropriation and reporting arrangement to the Parliament. Under the Federal Court of Australia Act, the Chief Justice of the Court is responsible for managing the administrative affairs of the Court. The Chief Justice is assisted by the Registrar/Chief Executive Officer of the Court. The Act also provides that the Chief Justice may delegate any of his or her administrative powers to judges, and that the Registrar may exercise powers on behalf of the Chief Justice in relation to the Court's administrative affairs.
In practice, the Court's governance involves two distinct structures: the management of the Court through its registry structure; and the judges' committee structure which facilitates the collegiate involvement of the judges of the Court. Judges also participate in the management of the Court through formal meetings of all judges. The registries and the judges' committees are discussed in more detail below.
Federal Court registry management structure
As outlined in Part 1 of this report, the Court's administration is supported by a national registry structure, with a Principal Registry responsible for managing national issues and supporting the corporate services functions of the Court, and a District Registry in each State and Territory which supports the work of the Court at a local level. A diagram of the management structure of the Court is set out in Appendix 3 on page 75.
There are a number of committees of judges of the Court, which assist with the administration of the Court and play an integral role in managing issues related to the Court's administration, as well as its rules and practice.
An overarching Policy and Planning Committee provides advice to the Chief Justice on policy aspects of the administration of the Court. It is assisted by standing committees that focus on a number of specific issues in this area. In addition, other ad hoc committees and working parties are established from time to time to deal with particular issues.
An overarching National Practice Committee provides advice on practice and procedure to the Chief Justice and judges. There are also a small number of standing committees that focus on specific issues within the framework of the Court's practice and procedure.
All of the committees are supported by registry staff. The committees provide advice to the Chief Justice and to all judges at the bi-annual judges' meetings.
There were two meetings of all judges of the Court during the year, which dealt with matters such as reforms of the Court's practice and procedure and amendments to the Rules of Court.
The Corporate Services Branch in the Principal Registry is responsible for supporting the national corporate functions of the Court. The following outlines the major corporate services issues during the reporting year.
The Finance Committee, which is made up of judges from each of the registries, as well as the Registrar, oversees the financial management of the Court. The Corporate Services Branch supports the Committee. During 2010-11 the Committee met on three occasions.
The net operating result from ordinary activities for 2010-11 was an operating deficit of $8.367 million. The operating deficit is primarily a result of the revaluation and write off of non-current assets. Equity decreased from $35.011 million in 2009-10 to $33.545 million in 2010-11.
During 2010-11 revenues from ordinary activities totalled $106.660 million. Total revenue, in the main, comprised:
• An appropriation from Government of $88.374 million
• $5.999 million of resources received free of charge, including for accommodation occupied by the Court in Sydney
• $9.755 million of liabilities assumed by other government agencies, representing the notional value of employer superannuation payments for the Court's judges
• $2.532 million from the sale of goods and services.
Total expenses of $115.027 million in 2010-11 comprised: $58.877 million in judges' and employees' salaries and related expenses; $31.696 million in property related expenses; $13.545 million in other administrative expenses; $2.845 million in depreciation expenses; $5.116 million write-down of non-current assets; and $2.948 million paid to the Federal Magistrates Court.
Table 4.1 - Outcome and Program Statement
|Outcome 1: Through its jurisdiction, the Court will apply and uphold the rule of law to deliver remedies and enforce rights and in so doing, contribute to the social and economic development and well-being of all Australians|
|Program 1.1 - Federal Court Business||Departmental outputs||89.959||88.374||1.585|
|Revenues from other sources (s. 31) for Federal Court||1.562||2.532||-0.970|
|Subtotal for Program 1.1||91.521||90.906||0.615|
|Total for Outcome 1||91.521||90.906||0.615|
|Average staffing level (number)||309|
The Court's agency resource statement can be found at Appendix 2 on page 74.
Audit and risk management
The Audit Committee met four times during 2009-10. The Committee comprises an independent chairperson, three judges, the Registrar, and the NSW District Registrar. The Court's Executive Director, Corporate Services and Chief Financial Officer and representatives from the audit service provider and the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) attend committee meetings as observers.
The Court appointed new internal Auditors, O'Connor Marsden and Associates, in May 2011. The new internal auditors commenced an 'organisational and financial health check' during 2010-11. The Court's previous internal auditors, Deloitte, conducted a payroll and travel services audit; completed a risk assessment and physical security review; and prepared the Court's 2011-13 Fraud Control Plan during 2010-11.
In June 2011 the Registrar informed all court staff about the Fraud Control Plan. An information sheet was prepared and distributed to all registries with a request that it be displayed in staff common areas. All registries provided staff with short information sessions in June and July 2011 about fraud prevention and control with a focus on the Court's Fraud Control Plan. A short eLearning module on 'Fraud Prevention and Control' was developed and placed on the Court's intranet to be used as part of the induction process for new Court staff.
Staff of the ANAO inspected the Court's 2010-11 financial statements and provided an unqualified audit certificate.
The Chief Executive Officer is satisfied that:
- Fraud control plans and fraud risk assessments have been prepared that comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.
- Appropriate fraud prevention, detection, investigation and reporting procedures and practices that comply with the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines are in place.
- There have been no cases of fraud during 2010-11 to be reported to the Australian Institute of Criminology.
The Court was not the subject of any reports by a Parliamentary committee or the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Court was not the subject of any judicial decisions or decisions of administrative tribunals.
The Court's procurement policies and procedures, expressed in the Court's Chief Executive Instructions, are based on the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines and best practice guidance documents published by the Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Court achieves a high level of performance against the core principles of achieving value for money through efficient, effective and appropriately competitive procurement processes.
During 2010-11, twelve new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $297 278. In addition, five ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the 2010-11 year, involving total actual expenditure of $193 359. Table 4.2 below outlines expenditure trends for consultancy contracts over the three most recent financial years.
Table 4.2 - Expenditure trend: Consultancy Contracts
|2010-11||297 278||193 359|
|2009-10||231 659||95 656|
|2008-09||232 253||129 328|
Table 11.1 at Appendix 11 provides more detailed information on consultancy contracts entered into during 2010-11.
This report contains information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website www.tenders.gov.au.
Competitive tendering and contracting
During 2010-11, there were no contracts let to the value of $100 000 or more that did not provide for the Auditor General to have access to the contractor's premises.
During 2010-11, there were no contracts or standing offers exempted by the Chief Executive Officer from publication in the contract reporting section on AusTender.
Advertising and marketing services
A total of $33 704 was paid for recruitment advertising services throughout the reporting period.
The Court did not undertake any advertising campaigns or use market research, polling or direct mail organisations or media advertising agencies in 2010-11.
During the reporting year, the Court's Human Resources Section continued to provide strategic, policy and operational support to the Federal Court's registries.
Human Resources staff supported the Court by providing advice on the full range of human resource activities including: managing organisational changes and the implementation of organisational reviews; recruitment and selection activities; workforce planning and organisation development; learning and development; workplace diversity; workplace relations; policy development; remuneration policy; payroll services; and occupational health and safety.
The Court's approach to human resources issues is characterised by transparency and consultation and, to this end, the National Consultative Committee (NCC) continued to operate effectively through the year. The Court's other consultative forums such as Regional Consultative Committees and the Occupational Health and Safety Committee also continued to operate, reporting to the NCC. Minutes from all committees are placed on the Court's intranet where they can be readily accessed by staff.
Significant developments during the reporting period included the successful negotiation of a new Enterprise Agreement 2010-2014 (to commence 6 July 2011), replacing the 2010- 2011 Enterprise Agreement.
At 30 June 2011, the Court employed 358 employees under the Public Service Act 1999, comprising 208 ongoing full time employees, twenty ongoing part time employees and 130 non-ongoing employees. The high number of non-ongoing employees is due to the nature of the employment of judges' associates, who are generally employed for twelve months, as well as casual court officers. The Court had an average staffing level of 309 during the reporting period.
The following table provides an overview of the Court's staffing by location at 30 June 2011. More detailed staffing statistics can be found in Appendix 10 on page 141.
Table 4.3 - Staffing overview by location (actual occupancy at 30 June 2011 - includes full-time and part-time staff)
Note: The Registrar, who is a holder of public office, is not included in this table.
PR Principal Registry
SES Senior Executive Service officer
FCS Federal Court Staff
CCO Casual Court Officer
CM Federal Court Manager
FCL Federal Court Legal
Includes the following staff:
- National Native Title
- Chambers of Chief Justice
Table 4.4 - Salary ranges by classification level under Certified Agreement, AWA or Determination (as at 30 June 2011)
Australian Public Service (APS) Classification
|Clerical Administrative Positions|
|Federal Court Staff Level 1||APS Level 1||$39 450|
|Federal Court Staff Level 2||APS Level 2||$44 646|
|Federal Court Staff Level 3||APS Level 3||$50 853|
|Federal Court Staff Level 4||APS Level 4||$56 681|
|Federal Court Staff Level 5||APS Level 5||$63 218|
|Federal Court Staff Level 6||APS Level 6||$68 279|
|Federal Court Manager Level 1||Executive Level 1||$87 390|
|Federal Court Manager Level 2||Executive Level 2||$100 746|
|Federal Court Legal 1||From APS Level 3||$57 095|
|To Executive Level 1||$110 992|
|Federal Court Legal 2||Executive Level 2||$128 581|
|Senior Executive Positions|
|Senior Executive Service Band 1||SES Band 1||$166 957|
|Senior Executive Service Band 2||SES Band 2||$237 770|
Note: The above salary rates will increase by three per cent from 6 July 2011.
Table 4.5 Senior Executive Service (SES) as at 30 June 2011
|Executive Director, Corporate Services Branch||Gordon Foster||Senior Executive Band 2|
|Deputy Registrar||John Mathieson||Senior Executive Band 1|
|Deputy Registrar, eServices/Native Title||Louise Anderson||Senior Executive Band 1|
|New South Wales District Registry|
|District Registrar||Michael Wall||Senior Executive Band 2|
|Deputy District Registrar||Jennifer Hedge||Senior Executive Band 1|
|Victoria District Registry|
|District Registrar||Sia Lagos||Senior Executive Band 2|
|Deputy District Registrar||Daniel Caporale||Senior Executive Band 1|
|Queensland District Registry|
|District Registrar||Heather Baldwin||Senior Executive Band 1|
|South Australia District Registry|
|District Registrar||Patricia Christie||Senior Executive Band 1|
|Western Australia District Registry|
|District Registrar||Martin Jan PSM||Senior Executive Band 1|
Negotiations for the Court's 2011-14 Enterprise Agreement commenced and were completed during the reporting period. The new Agreement is for three years as provided under the APS Bargaining Framework.
During the reporting period, the Court has relied on determinations under s 24 of the Public Service Act 1999 for new SES staff and other employment arrangements not covered by the Court's Enterprise Agreement.
The Court has fifteen employees who remain on AWA's (nine SES and six non-SES) and four employees on individual s 24 determinations (one SES and three non-SES).
The Court is aiming to move non-SES staff to flexibility agreements under the Enterprise Agreement in 2011-12. Similarly, the Court will be looking to move existing SES staff on AWA's to common law contracts and s 24 determinations in the coming year.
There were no performance pay arrangements in 2010-11.
Occupational Health and Safety
The Court's health and safety practices continued to ensure that its ability to meet business objectives was not compromised by workplace health issues. In addition, the Court continued to pursue a range of proactive workplace heath measures as detailed below. Average days of unplanned leave per staff member for 2010-11 was 7.41, compared with 7.80 in 2009-10. There were four claims for workers compensation in 2010-11 compared with five in 2009-10. More generally, Court management actively worked with the Court's Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Committee to maintain and where possible improve health and safety in the workplace. Specific measures included:
- Arranging regular meetings of the National OHS Committee and other consultative forums such as the National Consultative Committee and Regional Consultative Committees, all of which have a significant OHS focus.
- Continuing to conduct regular workplace inspections during 2010-11 in accordance with a check-list developed in consultation with the OHS Committee.
- Making available annual health checks and flu shots for all staff, provided for in the Enterprise Agreement (currently used by thirty-five per cent of staff).
- Providing OHS representative training (for four staff).
- Providing access to eyesight testing and reimbursement for spectacles where needed for screen-based work.
- Continuing to provide access to the Court's Employee Assistance Program.
- Encouraging health and fitness-related activities by providing funding via the Court's Health and Fitness policy.
During the reporting year, no provisional improvement notices were issued under s 29 of the OHS Act. No directions or notices under s 46 and s 47 of the OHS Act were served on the Court prohibiting the use of any workplace, plant or substance. There were no accidents or dangerous occurrences that required the giving of notice under s 68 of the OHS Act.
The Court continued to manage its workers compensation cases proactively throughout the reporting period.
The Court remains strongly committed to diversity in the workplace and has developed a wide range of flexible employment conditions with the aim of accommodating the needs of a diverse range of staff. These conditions have assisted the Court in competing with private sector, and other public sector, employers in attracting and retaining employees in key areas, for example legal staff.
The Court's human resource policies actively foster a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment and is characterised by high levels of employee engagement and consultation. Further training sessions on workplace harassment and bullying are currently being developed for presentation through 2011-12.
The Court also continued to build upon strategies in its Workplace Diversity plan. This included developing a draft Indigenous Employment Strategy, with the aim of increasing the number of indigenous employees in the Court.
The Court also continued to actively participate in the Employers Disability Network's 'Stepping Into Law' program via the engagement of disabled legal interns. Feedback from interns has been very positive with most reporting they believe the placement will improve their prospects of pursuing a career in the law. The Court will continue the program with funding for up to three interns in 2011-12.
During 2010-11, Human Resources staff continued to work actively on workforce planning and organisation development projects. Specific workforce planning issues include ensuring that Court employees, such as casual court officers, have the technological skills needed to work in an eCourt environment. Another challenge is to ensure that the Court's organisational structures and work practices are developed in a way that complements its eServices initiatives.
To this end Human Resources staff worked closely with the Court's eServices team to assist with the identification of future workforce requirements, and organisational structures, to support proposed changes to work practices.
As outlined in more detail under 'Training and Development', Human Resources staff also worked with registries to develop three capability streams: excellence in customer service; legislation and practice; and technical skills and innovation. These capability streams now underpin the Court's learning and development activities and will also be the focus of new performance management and recruitment and selection policies to be developed in 2011-12.
The Court has a range of strategies in place to attract and retain staff including flexible employment conditions and flexibility agreements under the Enterprise Agreement. The Court continued to refine these through 2010-11 and modify them as required to meet specific issues and cases. Some issues that were addressed included the attraction and retention of legal staff and measures to address the needs of skilled staff approaching retirement.
Work life balance
As noted already, the Court's Enterprise Agreement 2010-11 and a range of other human resources policies provide flexible working arrangements to help employees balance their work and other responsibilities, including young families and ageing parents. The conditions available include access to part-time work, job sharing, flexible leave arrangements and purchased leave.
The Court also provides a wide range of other family-friendly initiatives including improved parental and adoption leave arrangements and 'homework' rooms or similar appropriate facilities for staff with school aged children.
Reward and recognition
The Court encourages and recognises exceptional performance through its annual National Excellence Service Award. This was redesigned in 2010-11 to better reflect the Court's capability streams and will be further refined in the coming year to that end. The Award is used to recognise the work of both individual staff and teams. The Chief Justice presented the National Excellence Service Award at a ceremony held at the Queensland Registry on 7 February 2011. The award ceremony coincided with the 34th anniversary of the Court's Foundation Day, 7 February 1977.
The Court also introduced a program for recognising staff as they reach ten, fifteen, twenty and more years of employment in the Court.
Training and development undertaken and its impact
During 2010-11 the Court offered a range of options to assist employees develop and improve their knowledge and skills, ensuring they have the capabilities needed now and for the future.
The Organisational Development team continued to work closely with the eServices section to support staff with the roll-out of the eLodgment platform across the Court's registries. This work will continue in 2011-12 with the development of a capability framework to reflect the skills required by staff as eServices initiatives are implemented.
Registry managers were surveyed during the reporting year to determine the Court's national training priorities. These priorities then became projects within the three capability streams that form the Court's National Training Initiative. A training program focusing on the priorities identified in each of these three streams is being developed.
In 2010-11 the Organisational Development team developed and conducted a national workshop for Executive Assistants and coordinated a rollout of MS Windows Outlook training for all staff. Other in-house training developed and delivered by Court staff included: comprehensive training to support the implementation of the revised Court Rules; refresher training on the use of the Court's case management, eLodgment and videoconferencing systems; and training for the Court's Assisted Dispute Resolution practitioners.
More generally, training was carefully targeted towards the development of essential core skills and the Court spent $35 641 on external training during the reporting period.
The Court's Study Assistance policy continued to operate and provided staff with leave and financial assistance to pursue approved tertiary studies. During the reporting period $48 070 was reimbursed to staff undertaking studies under the policy.
The Court occupies law court buildings in every Australian capital city. The buildings are all shared with other jurisdictions and are all owned by governments.
- Court buildings in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth are leased from the Commonwealth through the Department of Finance and Deregulation. The Court, along with other occupying jurisdictions, contributes funding to cover rent, maintenance, operation and utility costs. These arrangements are currently under review by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
- In Sydney, the Law Courts Building at Queens Square is owned by a private company - Law Courts Limited. In turn, that company is jointly owned by the Commonwealth and NSW State governments. In contrast to the Commonwealth owned buildings, the Court does not pay rent, outgoings or utility costs.
- The Court also leases a small area in the Northern Territory Supreme Court Building in Darwin.
The Court's Property Section contributes to the management of the buildings and also manages construction projects with the Court's tenancies. Achievements during the year include:
- Queens Square - completion of levels 16, 19 and 20. These complete the refurbishment of the Court's space in the building and provide an additional five courts, new judicial facilities and office space. The floors were occupied in December 2010 and January 2011. Temporary court and office facilities in nearby buildings, leased to facilitate the construction program, were vacated at the same time. For the first time in many years all New South Wales judges and staff are located in the same building. Works will continue for some years on floors occupied by other jurisdictions.
- Melbourne - Completion of a new jury courtroom and jury deliberation room. A new large courtroom has been provided by combining two smaller courts. Both the new court and jury room are designed to be 'multi purpose' facilities to maximise return on investment.
- Melbourne - Mediation Facility, Stage 2. These works, on level 6, complete a two stage project that has provided new specially designed facilities to support Assisted Dispute Resolution - an important and very busy aspect of the Court's operations in Victoria.
- Brisbane - Registry Counter. The new facility replaces a stand up 'post office counter' and provides a new lower counter where both members of the public and staff are seated and conduct their business in a comfortable and professional environment. Other Registry counters will be similarly upgraded as funds permit.
The Court is committed to ensuring that its facilities are accessible to all members of the community and that people with a disability do not face access problems in their contact with the Court. Building works on existing and proposed buildings continue to take into account the needs of people with disabilities.
In other developments, a Property Management Plan was prepared which examines the Court's current and future property needs. The plan was prepared in accordance with the Commonwealth Property Management Guidelines and was approved in December 2010.
During the year work continued to complete and fully commission a new national access control system that is linked to all Commonwealth-owned law court buildings. The new system is part of an ongoing national program to progressively upgrade security infrastructure. The program will proceed as funds permit.
The Court continues to develop security policies and other documents in accordance with its obligations under the Government's Protective Security Policy Framework. In addition a National Risk Review was completed and physical security was reviewed as part of the Court's internal audit program. The recommendations of both reviews are currently under consideration.
The Court provides the following information as required under s 516A of the Environmental Protections and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The Court, together with other jurisdictions in shared premises, seeks to reduce the impact of its operations on the environment through the following measures:
- Environmental Management Systems are in place in all buildings to minimise the consumption of energy, water and waste.
- The Court has established a National Environment Committee with sub-committees in most registries. The committee seeks to raise staff awareness of workplace environment issues.
- The Court has developed a National Environmental Initiatives Policy which encourages staff to adopt water and energy savings practices.
All Court property upgrade projects comply with the Building Code of Australia, which includes energy efficient light fittings, programmable lighting (which turns off automatically when not required) and efficient air conditioning and power supply systems. The completion of the Court's floors in the Queens Square refurbishment project means that a significant proportion of the Court's accommodation has been upgraded with the latest and most efficient fittings and building services.
The judges' Information Technology (IT) Committee oversees the Court's technology services. During 2010-11 the key projects in this area included the following.
Deployment of new personal computers
During the reporting period the Court rolled out new laptop and desktop computers running the Windows 7 platform. Through this project the overall number of computers was reduced by twenty-five per cent.
Deployment of new multi functional devices and printers
In 2010-11, under the Attorney-General's Department's contract with Lexmark, the Court replaced its photocopiers and printers. The deployment of new multi-function devices resulted in the overall number of printers and copiers falling by approximately thirty per cent.
Revised IT security policy
The IT Committee approved a revised IT Security Policy during the reporting year. Rollout of the new policy has commenced with the implementation of more robust passwords.
Replacement of Private Automatic Branch Exchanges (PABX's)
During the course of the reporting year the Court commenced the replacement of ageing PABX's in all registries under a joint contract with the Family Court of Australia and VOIP Pty Ltd. When completed, the Court will implement a national voice network enabling substantially reduced call costs.
In addition to the information provided in Part 3, the following outlines the progress during the year on the various components of the Court's eServices Strategy.
The primary focus of the eService Strategy during 2010-11 has been the launch of eLodgment and the integration of the existing eCourtroom application with eLodgment and the Court's case management application, Casetrack.
This integration work involved reviewing the effectiveness of the different applications in managing on-line hearings and meeting the requirements of the judges, the legal community and the general public.
Using funds received under the Commonwealth Government's Information and Communications Technology Business as Usual (ICT BAU) Reinvestment Fund, the Court worked with the developers of the original eCourtroom and the developers of eLodgment to integrate the two applications providing both a single sign-on facility for the external user so they can navigate seamlessly between the different applications as required, and through integration with Casetrack reducing the need for Court staff to enter data in multiple applications.
Document Management System
An increasing amount of information about cases is being created electronically and provided to the Court in electronic form. This trend towards the use of electronic material and the generation of electronic documents is welcomed and will continue to escalate into the future. Without the right document management policies, practices and tools, it is acknowledged that the Court will be challenged to manage both electronic and paper based documents and information.
In 2010-11 a report was received from specialist consultants which has assisted the Court to identify its document management requirements and an implementation strategy. The report identified a number of key drivers for the Court to implement a document management system:
- The need to effectively and consistently manage the increasing volume of email correspondence that relates to cases before the Court.
- The pressing need to improve the management of network traffic generated by ad-hoc distribution of documents via email and other mechanisms.
- The impact of eLodgment, since it is anticipated that the bulk of court file documents will be lodged electronically in the near future.
The first phase of implementation will focus on the Court's highest current priority - that is, a system for the management of electronically filed material.
Library and information services
The Court continued to maintain a national library network, which provides a comprehensive library service to judges and staff of the Court. In Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne and Perth library access was also available to the legal profession and self represented litigants.
A series of three separate but related reviews that focused directly or indirectly on the Court's library services were completed in August 2010. As a result the following recommendations were implemented:
- The integration of Principal Registry library and information staff undertaking work that has an 'electronic information services' focus into the eServices Business Unit.
- The incorporation of the management and oversight of national library services from the Corporate Services Branch of Principal Registry into the role of the Manager, Library and Information Services in the Victorian Registry.
- A reduction of full-time equivalent library staff in the Court's Principal, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia registries.
A contract was signed to upgrade the current library databases and move to external hosting and maintenance of the library management system.