External Security

Legal Action
Australian National Audit Office Activity in the Department
Inquiries by Parliamentary Committees and the Productivity Commission
Comments by the Ombudsman
Freedom of Information

Legal Action

Bruno Colombin v. Commonwealth of Australia
In January 2001 Mr Colombin, a former employee of the South Australian Railways between 1956 and 1964, sought compensation from the Commonwealth for an asbestos dust injury he incurred during his employment prior to the statutory transfer of the non-metropolitan railways of South Australia to the Commonwealth in 1978. The NSW Dust Diseases Tribunal held that the transfer included the transfer of all liabilities arising out of those operations.

DOTARS appealed this decision on the grounds that the transfer was distinguishable from the circumstances before the High Court in Crimmins v Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee [1999] HCA 59. On 7 March 2001 the Court of Appeal of the NSW Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

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Australian National Audit Office Activity in the Department

During 2000–01 the following Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) audit reports, which included recommendations on the operations of DOTARS, were tabled in Parliament.

Audit Report number 1—Commonwealth Assistance to the Agrifood Industry
This was an across-agency audit that included DOTARS. The ANAO made four recommendations directed at improving the planning, monitoring and reporting of Commonwealth assistance to the agrifood industry. DOTARS agreed with the three recommendations that related to more effective planning, evaluation and monitoring of performance and instituted appropriate action within the corporate and business planning process.

Audit Report number 9—Implementation of the Whole-of-Government Information Technology Infrastructure Consolidation and Outsourcing
This was an across-agency audit. The ANAO made recommendations identifying opportunities for improvement in the management and ongoing implementation of information technology (IT) outsourcing. Many of the recommendations related to the Office of Asset Sales and IT Outsourcing. DOTARS has noted recommendations, such as the use of probity auditing services for future tender processes.

Audit Report number 14—Benchmarking the Internal Audit Function
This was an across-agency audit which took place over three years and in which DOTARS participated. The ANAO made two broad-based recommendations related to reviewing the internal audit function, which DOTARS has implemented.

Audit Report number 15—Agencies Performance Monitoring of Commonwealth Government Business Enterprises
This was an across-agency audit, which referred to the Australian Rail Track Corporation Limited. The ANAO made three recommendations, two of which related to other agencies. The third proposed that all agencies review the adequacy of their oversight procedures. The recommendation resulted from a failure in another agency; nevertheless, DOTARS has taken measures to enhance its government business enterprise oversight practices.

Audit Report number 17—Administration of the Waterfront Redundancy Scheme
The report found that there was substantial compliance with the relevant legislation and that a high level of efficiency has been achieved in the design and implementation of administrative and financial controls governing the provisions of payments. The ANAO made some recommendations to enhance monitoring, which DOTARS is putting into effect.

Audit Report number 21—Management of the National Highways System
The report made a number of recommendations on the administration of the roads program. The administration of the roads program is being reviewed in light of the ANAO recommendations.

Audit Report number 23—Audits of Financial Statements of Commonwealth Entities for the Period ended 30 June 2000
The report raised some control issues in relation to DOTARS, and these have been resolved.

Audit Report number 53—Commonwealth Management of Leased Office Property
This was an across-agency audit. No issues were raised in relation to DOTARS.

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Inquiries by Parliamentary Committees and the Productivity Commission

During 2000–01 DOTARS provided submissions to the following committees and inquiries:

  • Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, Inquiry into Norfolk Island Electoral Matters
  • Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Australia's Relations with the Middle East, including the Gulf Region
  • Joint Standing Committee on Migration, Not the Hilton—Immigration Detention Centres: Inspection Report
  • House of Representatives Standing Committee on Family and Community Affairs, Inquiry into Substance Abuse in Australian Communities
  • Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, Christmas Island Casino Inquiry
  • Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, Submission in relation to the Rumah Baru project on Cocos (Keeling) Island
  • Joint Standing Committee on the National Capital and External Territories, Inquiry into Norfolk Island Health Services (the formal submission was lodged in the previous financial year.)
  • Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Trade Subcommittee, Inquiry into Enterprising Australia—Planning, Preparing and Profiting from Trade and Investment
  • House of Representatives Communications, Transport and the Arts Committee, Inquiry into Fatigue Management in the Transport Industry
  • Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, Inquiry on Civil Aviation Safety Authority Administration—Air Operator Maintenance, Regulation and Oversight
  • Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Defence and Trade, Inquiry into Australia's Relations with the Middle East
  • Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, Contract Management in the Australian Public Service
  • The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, Inquiry into the Sydney Airport Demand Management Amendment Bill 2001
  • Response of the Federal Government to the Report of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, Inquiry into the Development of the Brisbane Airport Corporation Master Plan
  • Productivity Commission's Review of Price Regulation of Airport Services

Reports Tabled by Parliamentary Committees on Matters Relating to DOTARS

  • House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts, Beyond the Midnight Oil—Managing Fatigue in Transport (tabled October 2000)
  • Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee, Administration of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority: Matters related to ARCAS Airways (tabled October 2000)
  • Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, Air Safety and Cabin Air Quality in the Bae 146 Aircraft (tabled October 2000)
  • Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee, Airspace 2000 and related issues (tabled April 2001)
  • House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Transport and the Arts, Back on Track (tabled April 2001)
  • Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation, Aviation Legislation Bill (No.1) 2001

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Comments by the Ombudsman

In 2000–01 the Ombudsman received 65 complaints about the Departments actions, with 71 separate issues identified. Of the 61 complaints addressed during the year with 63 separate issues identified, the Ombudsmans Office exercised its discretion not to investigate in 36 cases, and 4 cases were withdrawn by the complainant or lapsed. Of the 23 issues investigated, the Ombudsmans Office found an agency defect in 6 cases, no agency defect in 11 cases, and 6 cases indeterminate. There were no formal reports to the Minister under the provisions of the Ombudsman Act 1976.

DOTARS received no complaints under the Privacy Act 1988 in 2000–01.

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Freedom of Information

Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) requires Commonwealth Government agencies to make available information about their organisation, functions and operations, and about rules and practices used in making decisions that affect members of the public.

How to get information

Under section 15 of the FOI Act, any person is entitled to apply for access to documents that fall within its scope. If you need further information or wish to lodge a formal request for information under the FOI Act, please contact:

Freedom of Information Coordinator
Department of Transport and Regional Services
GPO Box 594
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Telephone: (02) 6274 7844
Fax: (02) 6274 6775
Email: foi@DOTARS.gov.au

A request under the FOI Act must be in writing (email is acceptable), accompanied by a $30 application fee, and stating an address in Australia to which notices under the FOI Act can be sent. In certain instances the fee is not required or can be remitted. For a quick response, provide as much information as possible about the document(s) you are seeking. It is advisable to include a telephone number in case clarification of your request is necessary.

For the purposes of the FOI Act, the records of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the Bureau of Transport Economics and the administrations of Jervis Bay Territory, Christmas Island, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island are records of DOTARS.

Table 3—Freedom of information statistics, 2000–01

Requests received No.
On hand at 1 July 2000 8
Received 1 July 2000–30 June 2001 64
Response time (days)
0–30 17
31–60 16
61–90 6
91+ 1
Withdrawn 17
On hand at 30 June 2001 15

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