Collective achievements through investment

Changes to legislation during the past year are making way for new challenges and opportunities for the FRDC and its stakeholders

By Julie Haldane

In 2013-14 the FRDC enjoyed continued support from the Australian Government and industry stakeholders across three diverse sectors – commercial, recreational and Indigenous. Government and industry have high regard for the FRDC and this support plays a vital role in ensuring high quality research priorities are identified and turned into outcomes.

Key achievements in 2013-14

  • Seafood partnerships in schools expand
  • Program develops new group of leaders
  • Community perception of fisheries improves
  • New subprograms for recreational and Indigenous sectors
  • First year of national prawn campaign completed
  • Flake fish name developed and implemented
  • New products for sardines and other underutilised species
  • Southern Bluefin Tuna fluke management measure adopted
  • Australian Wild Abalone brand developed and registered
  • Solutions to Pacific Oyster mortality syndrome (POMS) progressed by collaboration with New Zealand
  • Production improvements for Yellowtail Kingfish adopted

The marine environment

Generally, Australian fish stocks are in good health. This view is supported by the FRDC-funded Status of Key Australian Fish Stocks Reports, which are recognised as a primary source of independent science on fisheries performance. In 2013-14 major strides were taken to develop the second edition of these reports and improve the framework for national reporting.

Pie charts showing active FRDC projects under management at 30 June 2014 Figure 1 Active FRDC projects under management at 30 June 2014.
Source: FRDC annual report 2013-14

These improvements saw more species added, along with a new web interface that will eventually allow for more specific views of data at state, territory or Commonwealth levels. In addition, researchers are investigating how to integrate social and economic data and other key issues such as bycatch into future reports.

Working with a new government

The new federal government announced a range of changes it plans to deliver during its term in office. In 2013-14 the FRDC worked with its stakeholders to achieve outcomes in areas where there was a research, development and extension (RD&E) component to government plans.

The government also announced an additional contestable $100 million of funding over four years for the 15 rural research and development corporations (RDCs), which are the principal recipients of this funding. The FRDC worked closely with all state and territory governments to maximise their plans in regard to R&D within the fisheries under their jurisdictions.

Representative organisations

The FRDC is accountable under the Primary Industries Research and Development Act 1989 (PIRD Act) to representative bodies declared by the responsible Minister. The FRDC’s four representative bodies are the National Seafood Industry Alliance, Recfish Australia, the Commonwealth Fisheries Association and the National Aquaculture Council.

These four bodies meet with the FRDC Board annually and provide regular advice on research priorities. All four have nominated improved community perception as one of their top priorities for RD&E.

Changes to the FRDC’s enabling legislation

The Rural Research and Development Legislation Amendment Act 2013 made substantial changes to the former Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989 (PIERD Act), which is now known as the PIRD Act.

The key changes are as follows.

  • improved business capability including:
  • support for the development of scientific and technical capacity;
  • development of the adoptive capacity of primary producers; and
  • provision for the funding and administration of marketing of products of primary industries.

New governance and administration with amended legislation including:

  • a Statutory Funding Agreement is to be introduced from 1 July 2015 that will increase governance, reporting and performance evaluation requirements;
  • FRDC Board selection – a reserve list of candidates will be included with the recommendations from the Selection Committee to the Minister; and
  • the FRDC Annual Operational Plan (AOP) no longer needs Ministerial approval, but needs to be provided to the Minister and the FRDC’s four representative organisations before it comes into operation.


The Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act) replaced the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 on 1 July 2014. The FRDC Board (through its Finance Audit and Risk Management Committee), has worked with FRDC management to ensure the Corporation was ready for the changes.

The PGPA Act will increase the level of governance and reporting the Corporation undertakes. Ensuring this is done cost-effectively and efficiently has been a key driver in the Board’s approach to implementation of the PGPA Act.
Federal budget changes

The 2014-15 federal budget imposed the cost of the Commonwealth’s memberships of regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs), estimated at around $1.1 million a year, from the matching funding provided to the FRDC. The RFMOs are:

  • Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna;
  • Indian Ocean Tuna Commission;
  • Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission;
  • Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement;
  • South Pacific Regional Fisheries and Management Organisation; and
  • Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia–Pacific.

This change will result in fewer funds being available for fisheries and aquaculture RD&E.

The FRDC Board agreed to the following principles to guide how these reduced funds would be implemented:

  1. The industry contribution to the FRDC is not to be impacted as this dollar figure must be returned to the industry sector as per the PIRD Act.
  2. The 2014-15 budget-imposed cost would come from government contributions to the FRDC (which include the 0.5 per cent farm gate value of production (GVP) public good contribution and 0.25 per cent GVP funds provided to match the industry contribution).
  3. Distribute the budget cut pro rata across all government public good funds received.
  4. Continue to invest on a priority basis.
  5. Administration to ensure the budget cost will be efficient and cost-effective.

Development and implementation of new information and technology

The FRDC Board approved the development of a new management system for projects, records and customer relations information. Effective 1 July 2014, the new platform will be more responsive to change and cheaper to maintain. It will leverage existing technologies with ‘off-the-shelf’ functionality.

New subprograms established

Historically, the FRDC Board has established ‘subprograms’ or ‘coordination’ programs to improve performance in an area of need. Subprograms are allocated a budget for RD&E investment, as well as an administration budget. The FRDC Board approved two new ‘subprograms’: the first focusing on Indigenous and the second on recreational fishing RD&E.

The Indigenous Reference Group has been a coordination group since 2011 and Recfishing Research since 2007. From their inception, both have provided the FRDC with advice, engagement, prioritisation, communication and management services.

A total life-of-project budget of $500,000 will be allocated to each subprogram in each annual competitive round to invest in RD&E.

The FRDC Board has implemented a new Indigenous Reconciliation Policy to ensure that all FRDC business takes into account the needs of Australia’s first people.

Seafood CRC

The FRDC has been the largest investor in the Seafood Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) since its inception. The centre has had a combined investment (industry, government and FRDC) of about $31 million over the past seven years.

Significant achievements for the Seafood CRC in 2013-14 were:

  • implementation of the national prawn marketing strategy through the ‘Love Australian Prawns’ campaign;
  • establishment of the Australian Wild Abalone brand for direct marketing into China, which has complemented the research on improving market access and price;
  • establishment of the national Seafood Trade and Market Access Group to provide a single forum for research-based advice on trade; and
  • ongoing success of the SafeFish program and its role, with FRDC support, in reviewing the biotoxin event that closed Tasmania’s east coast fishery in October 2012.

The Seafood CRC will finish its tenure in June 2015. It is intended that during the final year of operation the FRDC will assist the Seafood CRC in the transition of activities and projects for ongoing management to completion. 

Table 1: Financial indicators of research and development (R&D) investment
2010-11 $ million
2011-12 $ million
2012-13 $ million
2013-14 $ million
Total expenditure
25.69 27.56
Total of R&D projects*
21.56 25.98 22.14 22.89
R&D Program 1 (Environment) *
10.14 11.80 8.25 10.21
R&D Program 2 (Industry)*
8.34 9.47 9.57 8.34
R&D Program 3 (Communities)*
0.16 0.47
0.74 0.75
R&D Program 4 ( People development)*
1.90 2.12 1.80 1.94
R&D Program 5 (Extension and adoption)*
1.02 2.12 1.78 1.65
Management and accountability
3.40 3.71 3.55 4.67*
Total income to the FRDC
30.27 26.70 25.40 26.89
Industry contributions
8.46 7.70 7.98 8.17
Maximum matchable (government) contribution 1
5.50 5.56 5.83 5.99
Actual government matched
5.50 5.51 5.57 5.96
Government unmatched
11.03 11.22 11.66 11.97
Total government contributions 2
16.53 16.63 17.23 17.93
Project funds from other parties
1.12 0.46
0.48 0.49*

* The FRDC had an increase in $1.2 million dollar write down of assets which increased the cost of Management and
accountability in 2013–14.
1 ‘Maximum matchable contribution’ is the maximum amount to which the Australian Government will match industry
contributions in accordance with the criteria detailed on page 136 of the FRDC’s Annual Report 2013-14.
2 The contribution figures are accrual based. Contributions come from the commercial and recreational sectors, research
partners, government and project-specific contributions.

A complete copy of the FRDC’s Annual Report 2013-14 is available from the FRDC’s website.

More information

Fisheries Research and Development Corporation