IP Australia management and accountability

The side of the IP Australia building next to a road with the setting sun.

Corporate governance

IP Australia has a well-defined governance framework in place. This structured framework serves to foster strategic decision-making and accountability. The Executive Board is the key governing body and is supported by a number of operational committees and project boards. Examination staff operate under a range of legislative powers as delegated to them by the Commissioner of Patents and the Registrars of Trade Marks, Designs and Plant Breeder’s Rights.

IP Australia’s governance structure at 30 June 2016 included the following committees that provided advice and assurance to the Director General and fostered strategic decision-making and accountability:

  • Executive Board
  • Business Investment Committee
  • Corporate Projects Board
  • RIO Program Board
  • Finance and Planning Committee
  • People and Communication Committee
  • Audit Committee.

IP Australia’s Audit Committee provides independent advice to the Director General (IP Australia’s accountable authority) on key aspects of IP Australia’s operations, including in the areas of financial and performance reports, risk oversight and internal control frameworks. The Audit Committee is chaired independently and includes three other independent members and three internal senior managers.

IP Australia has in place a robust risk management framework that protects its customers, employees and assets, and ensures it meets statutory obligations. An overarching risk management policy outlines IP Australia’s approach to managing risk and articulates the agency’s appetite for risk across various areas of operation. IP Australia uses risk management as a key decision-making tool. This work includes quarterly reviews of the corporate risk register and treatment strategies by the Executive Board and the Audit Committee to ensure the appropriate management of high-risk areas. A key focus in 2015–16 was strengthening the use of risk management across the agency by improving the linkage of risk registers to operational plans and increasing risk management knowledge through regular staff forums. IP Australia also reviewed the business continuity plan and the disaster recovery plan to ensure better alignment of critical functions.

Fraud control

IP Australia is committed to minimising the incidence of fraud against its operations. IP Australia’s fraud control framework includes prevention, detection, investigation and reporting strategies as required by the Public Governance Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Commonwealth Fraud Control Framework.

Significant issues reported to ministers

There were no significant issues of non-compliance reported to portfolio ministers as part of IP Australia’s internal compliance reporting process in 2015–16.

External scrutiny

IP Australia is subject to external scrutiny in the form of appeals or applications for judicial review of decisions made by the Commissioner of Patents and the Registrars of Trade Marks, Designs and Plant Breeder’s Rights and their delegates. The Federal Court of Australia generally has jurisdiction over appeals; however, in some cases, an application for review to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is available. Decisions of the Registrars of Trade Marks and Designs are also appealable in the Federal Circuit Court.

A list of appeals and applications for judicial review received in 2015–16 is in Appendix C1.

Management of human resources

In 2015–16, IP Australia continued to implement activities under its 10-point capability action plan, culminating in an evaluation of the activities to determine the ongoing areas of focus. The evaluation report will be finalised in 2016–17. Key recommendations of the evaluation will be considered to determine future organisational reform activities. Achievements during the reporting period included delivery of a new strategic plan, IP Australia’s first strategic workforce plan, and a new learning and development strategy.

A new performance management framework was developed and implemented, complete with a comprehensive capability development campaign to ensure managers and staff were prepared and able to participate effectively in the new system. The agency continues to build and consolidate leadership capability and will focus on identifying and building talent through a formal programme over the next 12 months.

IP Australia’s Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 nominally expired on 30 June 2014. Negotiations on a new enterprise agreement formally commenced in May 2014 and are continuing. The terms and conditions prescribed in the 2011–2014 agreement will continue to apply until a new agreement is established.

IP Australia’s workforce statistics are in Appendix C4.

Work health and safety

In 2015–16, IP Australia continued to prioritise matters related to work health and safety (WHS) and remained committed to providing a safe working environment for all workers (employees, contactors and others) and visitors. The agency has a strong commitment to meeting its obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988.

The First Aid Officers Committee, the Health and Safety Representative Committee and the WHS Committee facilitated effective communication on WHS matters. Recommendations from the WHS management system audit conducted in 2014–15 were a focus for WHS in 2015–16. To ensure the WHS management system continues to improve, IP Australia conducted an internal review using the Comcare National Audit Tool. The results from the review will set the WHS programme for 2016–17.

The agency delivered a number of health and wellbeing initiatives, including annual flu vaccinations, annual skin checks, annual health assessments, lunchtime health and wellbeing seminars, and awareness campaigns that aligned with national awareness days.

IP Australia continued to contribute to eye testing and optical correction services for eligible employees who perform significant screen-based work. Administration of the subsidy was in accordance with the agency’s guide to allowances.

IP Australia also offered free counselling services to all employees and their immediate families through the Employee Assistance Programme. This service was also available to managers to assist them in supporting their employees.

Disability reporting mechanisms

The National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 sets out a 10-year national policy framework to improve the lives of people with disability, promote participation and create a more inclusive society. A high-level two-yearly report will track progress against each of the six outcome areas of the strategy and present a picture of how people with disability are faring. These reports are available on the Department of Social Services website (www.dss.gov.au).


During 2015–16, IP Australia’s centralised procurement and contracts team continued to ensure that all commitments entered into were consistent with the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and represented value for money for the Australian Government.

IP Australia’s Accountable Authority Instructions require the use of purchase orders for all purchases of more than $10 000. This assists in tracking commitments and meeting accountability requirements.

IP Australia’s annual procurement plan is published on AusTender to provide prospective suppliers with advance knowledge of anticipated procurement opportunities for the next 12 months.

IP Australia supports small business participation in the Australian Government procurement market. Participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance website (www.finance.gov.au/procurement/statistics-on-commonwealth-purchasing-contracts/).

From 2015–16, the information contained in the Senate Order report is available on AusTender (www.tenders.gov.au). The Senate Order report includes a list of all contracts valued at $100 000 and above that were not fully performed or were entered into in the previous 12 months. All non-procurement contracts entered into during the relevant 12-month reporting period are published on the IP Australia website (www.ipaustralia.gov.au).


During 2015–16, IP Australia entered into 38 new consultancy contracts with a total expenditure of $3.4m (GST inclusive), and six ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the period with a total expenditure value of $0.4m (GST inclusive).

IP Australia’s policy on selecting and engaging consultants and approving expenditure takes into account all relevant legislation, the Commonwealth Procurement Rules and IP Australia’s Accountable Authority Instructions. The procurement method is determined having regard to the cost, value for money and nature of the work involved.

Annual reports contain 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).

The Director General did not exempt any contract let during 2015–16 from publication on AusTender on the basis that it would disclose exempt matters under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

Grant programmes

Information on grants made by IP Australia during 2015–16 is available on the agency’s website (www.ipaustralia.gov.au/about-us/accountability-and-reporting).

Information Publication Scheme

Under Part II of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, IP Australia is required to publish information to the public as part of the Information Publication Scheme. A plan showing the information IP Australia publishes in accordance with the scheme is available on the agency’s website (www.ipaustralia.gov.au/about-us/accountability-and-reporting/freedom-information/information-publication-scheme).

Advertising and market research

IP Australia commissioned user research to inform the redevelopment of the agency’s corporate website. This research sought to better understand the tasks and information searches that customers were undertaking via the IP Australia website and identify barriers or improvement opportunities. The research was conducted by Wunderman Bienalto from July to December 2015, and the payment was $93 500 (GST inclusive).

To inform the development of the annual customer satisfaction survey, IP Australia commissioned qualitative research to better understand the drivers of satisfaction of its customers. The research was conducted by Colmar Brunton from April to May 2016, and the payment was $49 258 (GST inclusive).

During 2015–16, IP Australia did not conduct any advertising campaigns.

Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

In accordance with section 516A of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, a detailed report on how IP Australia’s activities accord with and contribute to the principles of ecologically sustainable development is in Appendix C5.