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Operations of the Gene Technology Regulator Annual Report 2009-2010

Management and accountability

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The OGTR’s management and accountability practices encompass human resources, occupational health and safety, and the Commonwealth Disability Strategy. The OGTR also adheres to Australian Government purchasing and assets management, contracting, consultancy policies as well as advertising and market research policies, and ecologically sustainable development. The Regulator reports to the Parliament annually as well as quarterly, as required by legislation.

Human resources

The OGTR has a workforce of 56 employees that includes 12 part-time staff. Of these, 54 were ongoing employees and two were non-ongoing employees (see Appendix 4).

OGTR staff are covered by the Department of Health and Ageing’s Collective Agreement 5 2007–11, which was made under section 328 of the Workplace Relations Act 1996. Collective Agreement 5 is designed to ensure OGTR has a tailored employment framework that promotes innovation and flexibility, and supports staff in achieving OGTR’s corporate and business goals. It has been developed to build on the significant cultural changes initiated under previous certified agreements.

The objectives of Collective Agreement 5 are to:

  • deliver a flexible and competitive employment framework
  • maintain a strong commitment to staff health, safety and wellbeing
  • foster an environment of quality, high performing and innovative individuals and teams
  • build and support effective systems and a diverse and skilled workforce to enable successful delivery of Australian Government priorities
  • support the Departmental Corporate Plan and values.

The OGTR continued to build a strong team culture in its ninth year of operation; all-staff Friday morning tea was a successful way of keeping staff up-to-date on major issues, and allowed opportunities for input, participation and feedback. Friday was also promoted as casual day and staff were encouraged to contribute a gold coin for donations to:
  • Cancer Council Australia
  • Children’s Medical Research Institute – ‘Jeans for Genes’
  • National Breast Cancer Foundation
  • Ovarian Cancer Australia
  • The Salvation Army – Red Shield Appeal
  • The Movember Foundation.

OGTR staff also participated in ‘Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea’ in support of cancer research, prevention and support services for all Australians.

The OGTR endeavoured to maintain staff skills and motivation through appropriate training and development, and ensure that recruitment was conducted in a timely manner.

Staff undertook 227 days (217 days in 2008–09 and 213 days in 2007–08) of formal training during the year, in addition to orientation and induction training for all new starters.

OGTR staff are able to access professional development opportunities through the Department’s Performance Development Scheme. At the beginning of each 12-month cycle, each employee and manager agrees on the key commitments the employee will undertake, and the performance measures and development requirements needed to complete the commitment.

In 2009–10 refresher training for the OGTR emergency control team consisting of one floor warden, two fire wardens and two first aid officers was conducted. Members of the emergency control team are self-nominated and on completion of the required training receive an allowance in accordance with Collective Agreement 5.

The OGTR also organised on-site training on ‘Decision Making in Action APS’. The course is designed to guide participants through a typical day in the department, where teams of participants work through a range of issues, making decisions and exercising judgement in accordance with the legislation, policies and guidelines that dictate how we work. Staff also received group training in organisational skills and time management for improved personal efficiency.

In keeping with OGTR’s objective of providing a supportive working environment, staff are provided with access to departmental assistance measures. The measures include financial support for eyesight testing, occupational health and safety workstation assessments, problem resolution procedures, and an employee assistance program. The assistance program is a free short-term professional, confidential counselling and advice service currently provided by Davidson Trahaire Corpsych. OGTR staff and/or members of their immediate family can use the program.

As a family-friendly organisation the OGTR has endeavoured to be responsive to employee needs and circumstances through provision of flexible working arrangements in recognition of the importance of work–life balance. The OGTR has a high proportion of part-time employees (see Appendix 4). Staff have also accessed extended maternity leave on half pay and the 48/52 provision that allows for additional unpaid leave while averaging salary payments over the year.

Occupational health and safety

Occupational health and safety inspections were undertaken at the OGTR’s premises in Barton during 2009–10 and no major health or safety issues were identified. Electrical equipment safety testing and air quality testing were among the tests conducted.

Occupational health and safety seminars were presented to staff throughout the year and the ergonomic requirements of all staff were met

Other occupational health and safety support included provision of training in first aid, emergency evacuation systems and fire safety systems. Monitoring and compliance staff, who are often required to travel to rural and remote locations, were also provided with defensive driver training. All staff were offered the opportunity to receive an influenza vaccination, which the department made available at low cost. Staff who are likely to inspect contained facilities were also offered appropriate immunisations.

Freedom of information

The OGTR is required under Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to publish in its annual report information about functions and its decision-making powers that affect the public. The OGTR is also required to comment on arrangements for public participation in the formulation of policy, the categories of documents that are held by the OGTR, and how the public can access these documents.

Decision-making powers

The Regulator exercised decision-making powers under the Gene Technology Act 2000 and the corresponding state and territory laws1.

No requests for access were received during the reporting period.

Categories of documents the OGTR maintains

The OGTR maintains records relating to the functions of the Regulator and OGTR as part of the Health and Ageing portfolio in various forms and locations. Records are retained for varying periods, depending on their administrative and historical value; and are disposed of in accordance with standards and practices approved by the National Archives of Australia. The following categories of documents were common in 2009–10:

  • briefing papers and minutes prepared for the Ministers, the Parliamentary Secretary and senior departmental officers
  • Cabinet documents, including Cabinet submissions/memoranda and documents submitted to Cabinet
  • documents prepared for the Executive Council
  • documents relating to development of, and explanatory memoranda to the Acts, Regulations and other legislative instruments
  • internal administration documents relating to staff management and the OGTR’s organisation and operation, including personnel records, organisational and staffing records, financial and resource management records, audit records, internal operating procedures, requests for tender, instructions and indexes
  • instruments of appointment
  • ministerial and departmental responses to correspondence and parliamentary questions
  • interdepartmental and general correspondence and papers
  • policy documents, including those used in implementing government and office policy, recommendations and decisions
  • agreements, memoranda of understanding between the Commonwealth, government and other bodies and organisations
  • legal documents, including legislation, contracts, leases, instruments of delegation and legal advices
  • requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and files and papers relevant to consideration of those requests
  • standard operating procedures and fact sheets
  • correspondence with non-government parties
  • records of meetings and teleconferences both internal and with external stakeholders, including agendas and minutes
  • financial reports, expenditure estimates and expenditure reports
  • maps, charts, photographs, technical drawings, specifications and technical manuals
  • statistics and databases
  • documents prepared by international agencies
  • reports prepared by other government agencies and consultants relevant to the OGTR
  • documents submitted by third parties
  • OGTR publications and occasional papers
  • training materials
  • media releases
  • committee records
  • mailing lists.

In addition, a large number of OGTR publications were available free of charge to the public. A list of these publications can be accessed at OGTR, where many are available for download.

Facilities for public access to OGTR documents

The OGTR provides appropriate facilities for inspecting documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

OGTR manuals

In accordance with section 9 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, the OGTR has compiled a list of unpublished manuals and other documents provided to officers to help make decisions or recommendations that affect the public. The list, as at July 2010, is available on request from the Freedom of Information Coordinator or any office of the National Archives of Australia.

Freedom of information procedures

A request for access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 must be made in writing and be accompanied by a $30 application fee and an address in Australia to which notices can be sent. In certain circumstances the fee is not required or can be remitted. To enable a prompt response and to help the OGTR to meet its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 1982, applicants should provide as much information as possible about the documents they are seeking. A telephone number or an email address should also be included in case OGTR officers need clarification. Applicants may be liable to pay charges at rates prescribed by the Freedom of Information (Fees and Charges) Regulations.

Contact details

Enquiries about submission of a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 should initially be directed to the Freedom of Information Coordinator on 1800 181 030.

Formal requests should be sent to:

Freedom of Information Coordinator
Office of the Gene Technology Regulator
MDP 54
GPO Box 9848
Canberra ACT 2601

In accordance with the Electronic Transactions Act 1999, freedom of information requests may be emailed to ogtr@health.gov.au. However, as an application fee must accompany requests, in most cases no action will be taken until the application fee is received or a request has been made for the remission of the application fee.

No freedom of information requests were received during the reporting period.

No freedom of information requests were received during the reporting period.

Purchasing

In 2009–10 the OGTR complied with the Australian Government’s purchasing policies as articulated in the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines.

Assets management

The OGTR applies a whole-of-life asset management strategy, which is consistent with the Department’s asset management program. In May 2010 the OGTR undertook a stocktake of fixed and intangible assets, in accordance with Australian Accounting Standard 136 Impairment of Assets. This confirmed the location and condition of OGTR’s assets and ensured the assets are carried at a value above the recoverable amount.

Exempt contracts

No exempt contracts were awarded in 2009–10.

Consultancies

The OGTR did not engage any consultants in 2009–10.

Advertising and market research

The OGTR incurred $83,032 in advertising costs during 2009–10 ($48,580 in 2008–09) primarily to invite the public to comment on risk assessment and risk management plans for DIR licence applications (see Table 19).

Table 19: Media advertising organisations engaged, 2009–10

Organisation Service provided Amount paid
2009–10 2008–09
ADCORP Australia Ltd Placing advertisements regarding regulatory activities $46,369 $32,483
ADCORP Australia Ltd Placing advertisements for recruitment of staff $36,663 $16,097
Total $83,032 $48,580


Note: Amounts listed are inclusive of GST

Annual reporting requirements

Section 136 of the Act requires the Regulator to prepare and provide an annual report to the Minister on the Regulator’s operations during that year for tabling in the Australian Parliament.

The Annual Report on the Operations of the Gene Technology Regulator 2008–09 was tabled in Parliament on 23 October 20092.

Quarterly reporting requirements

Section 136A(2) of the Act requires the Regulator to prepare and provide a quarterly report to the Minister on the operations of the Regulator during that quarter for tabling in the Australian Parliament. The Act requires the report to include information on:

  • GMO licences issued during the quarter
  • any breaches of conditions of a GMO licence that have come to the Regulator’s attention during the quarter
  • auditing and monitoring of dealings with GMOs under the Act by the Regulator or an inspector during the quarter.

Quarterly reports the OGTR published in 2009–10 are listed in Appendix 53.

Commonwealth Disability Strategy

The OGTR continues to be committed to the principles of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy.

In its employer role, OGTR’s employment policies, procedures and practices comply with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Recruitment information is available in electronic formats and OGTR encourages and welcomes applications from people with a disability. OGTR continues to make the organisation accessible to people with disabilities by:

  • advertising all vacancies in alternative media and on the Internet
  • allowing potential applicants to apply for positions using email
  • ensuring applicants short-listed for interview have an opportunity to indicate any needs they may have.

In 2009–10 the OGTR regularly updated its website with information on its regulatory functions and activities. This included licences issued, RARMPs prepared for applications to release GMOs into the environment, quarterly and annual reports, legislative amendments and revised guidelines. The OGTR also maintained a free call 1800 number to respond to enquiries. Callers to this number were able to access hard copies of all publicly available material.

The OGTR website contains public information about the Scheme and meets the Government Online minimum standards with regard to accessible formats for people with disabilities.

Ecologically sustainable development

The OGTR supports the Australian Government’s commitment to ecologically sustainable development principles and reports here on its operations during 2009–10 against section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

The OGTR has reduced its level of waste production by introducing a secure GovDex website for providing information to all members of the two Gene Technology Advisory Committees. This has significantly reduced the amount of paper waste produced by removing the need to print copies of all documents for all committee members. Meeting papers, information documents and relevant updates are all provided to members electronically via the GovDex website.

Section 516A(6)(a): Legislation administered by the Regulator during 2009–10 which accords with ecologically sustainable development principles

The Regulator administers the Act, which aims to protect the health and safety of people and the environment by identifying risks posed by gene technology and managing those risks through regulating dealings with GMOs.

Section 516(6)(b): How the OGTR outcomes have contributed to ecologically sustainable development during 2009–10

In 2009–10, the OGTR continued to support the Regulator in regulating activities involving live and viable GMOs. These activities ranged from contained work in certified laboratories to releases of GMOs into the environment. The Regulator imposed licence conditions to protect the environment, and had extensive powers to monitor and enforce those conditions.

In 2009–10, the Regulator received 35 licence applications; 10 were for DIRs and 25 were for DNIRs. In addition, the Regulator issued 26 licences to deal with GMOs, comprising eight DIRs and 18 DNIRs (see Chapter 4).

The OGTR submits a nil response to sections 516A(6)(c), (d) and (e).



1See the OGTR website.

2The report is available from the OGTR Information Officer or at OGTR website.

3These are also available at the OGTR website or as hard copy by contacting the OGTR Information Officer.

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