25 September 2023

Audit cool on tropical cooperation

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A performance audit assessing the coordination arrangements among Australian Government entities operating in Torres Strait has found them to be largely effective but in need of some improvements.

In his report Coordination Arrangements of Australian Government Entities Operating in Torres Strait, Auditor-General, Grant Hehir found a large number of Government entities, at all levels, operated in the Torres Strait.

“The region is characterised by the operation of the Torres Strait Treaty, which defines the border between Australia and Papua New Guinea and provides a framework for the management of the common border area,” Mr Hehir said.

He found that the Federal Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA), part of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s portfolio, was responsible for a range of activities and management initiatives.

“The coordination arrangements of key Australian Government entities operating in the Torres Strait are largely effective in supporting Australian Government activities,” Mr Hehir said.

“The business rules are effective for the implementation of biosecurity and fisheries legislation,” he said, “(but) are not fully effective for the implementation of immigration and customs legislation.”

He said this impacted on the capacity of entities to coordinate their activities and to develop a shared understanding of immigration and customs rules applicable in the region.

“Key policy decisions made by the Torres Strait Joint Advisory Council are not adequately documented, and the risks associated with the impacts of a changing strategic and operational environment on the treaty operation have not been analysed,” Mr Hehir said.

The audit made four recommendations, two for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and one each for the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority, all of which were agreed.

The full Auditor-General’s report can be found on his website at this PS News link and a 77-page report accessed at this link.

The audit team was Isabelle Favre, Hugh Balgarnie, Yvonne Buresch and Deborah Jackson.

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