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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New governance and administration with amended legislation including:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
||2010-11 $ million
||2011-12 $ million
||2012-13 $ million
||2013-14 $ million
|Total of R&D projects*
|R&D Program 1 (Environment) *
|R&D Program 2 (Industry)*
|R&D Program 3 (Communities)*
|R&D Program 4 ( People development)*
|R&D Program 5 (Extension and adoption)*
|Management and accountability
|Total income to the FRDC
|Maximum matchable (government) contribution 1
|Actual government matched
|Total government contributions 2
|Project funds from other parties
* 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.