Roles and expectations for advisory bodies
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The three advisory bodies, the Radiation Health and Safety Advisory Council (Council), Radiation Health Committee (RHC) and Nuclear Safety Committee (NSC), are established under sections 19, 22 and 25 of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act 1998 (the Act). The functions and operations of the advisory bodies are outlined under Part 4 of the Act and Part 3 of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Regulations 1999 (the Regulations). Over the years the advisory bodies have been of great value to ARPANSA, recognising that advice to the CEO of ARPANSA (the CEO) is an important function of all three bodies.
The aim of this document is to:
- explain the purpose and function of the advisory bodies
- define basic procedural arrangements
- facilitate the interaction between ARPANSA and the advisory bodies.
2.1 Functions and formal relationships
The functions of the Council and committees summarised in Appendix 1 and detailed in the Act are:
- The Radiation Health and Safety Advisory Council (Council) (Part 4, Section 20 of the Act) in relation to radiation protection and nuclear safety: identify emerging issues; examine matters of major concern to the community; consider the adoption of recommendations, policies, codes and standards; advise and report to the CEO, at the CEO’s request or as Council considers appropriate, on the above and any other matters.
- The Radiation Health Committee (RHC) (Part 4, Section 23 of the Act) in relation to radiation protection: advise the CEO and the Council; develop policies and to prepare draft publications for the promotion of uniform national standards; formulate draft national policies, codes and standards for consideration by the Commonwealth, the states and the territories; from time to time, to review national policies, codes and standards to ensure that they continue to substantially reflect world best practice; and consult publicly in the development and review of such policies, codes and standards.
- The Nuclear Safety Committee (NSC) (Part 4, Section 26 of the Act) in relation to nuclear safety and the safety of controlled facilities: advise the CEO and the Council; review and assess the effectiveness of standards, codes, practices and procedures; develop detailed policies and prepare draft publications to promote uniform national standards; and report to the CEO.
Whilst the Act establishes the Council as an advisory body to the CEO, the functions have also been formulated in a way that allows Council to define parts of its work program independently. Nevertheless, the recipient of the ‘products’ of the Council’s work and deliberations is the CEO; Council does not report to any other body and only reports to the Minister via the CEO (the Annual Report of the CEO of ARPANSA on performance and finances). The Act states that the RHC and NSC only perform their work at the request of the CEO. Both committees report to the Minister via the CEO, as part of the aforementioned annual report.
Members of all the advisory bodies are appointed for terms of up to three years. Members and Chairs can be reappointed. Although not required by the Act, appointments may be staggered so that there is a continuity of appropriate knowledge, skills and experience, as well as continuity on organisation issues. Members of Council (other than the CEO) are appointed by the relevant minister, and members of the committees are appointed by the CEO, all by written instruments.
The Act requires members to have the necessary expertise and knowledge to provide high quality advice to the CEO and be able to discharge all responsibilities associated with membership effectively and efficiently. The Act also requires the Council and each of the committees to include the CEO, and a person to represent the interests of the general public, as members.
For Council, broad representation from a wide range of professional backgrounds, skill sets and qualifications is sought in order to enable Council to generate independent, informed and objective advice of high quality on a broad range of issues. The Act stipulates (Part 4, Section 21 of the Act) that, in addition to the CEO and a person to represent the interests of the general public, one member should be nominated by the Chief Minister for the Northern Territory, and two should be radiation control officers. Nominations for appointments to Council for the two radiation control officers are made through the Australian Health Minister’s Advisory Council (AHMAC). Up to eight other members may be appointed to Council.
The RHC is comprised (Part 4, Section 24 of the Act), in addition to the CEO and a person to represent the interests of the general public, of radiation control officers to represent each of the states and territories, with the CEO of ARPANSA representing the Commonwealth. The Act also requires one member as a representative of the NSC, and allows up to two other members.
In the case of RHC, it is particularly important that members speak with the authority of their jurisdiction and have the authority to engage in the discussions and provide advice with a common goal of achieving national uniformity.
The NSC is comprised (Part 4, Section 27 of the Act), in addition to the CEO and a person to represent the interests of the general public, of a person to represent the local government or administration of an area affected by a matter related to the safety of a controlled facility. The Act also requires one member as a representative of the RHC, and allows up to eight other members. Under Section 27(5) of the Act, the expertise or knowledge required of NSC members must include nuclear safety, other industrial or safety-related regulation or a related area.
The recruitment process commences approximately six months prior to vacancies arising with an advertisement calling for expressions of interest for the Chair and members of the Council, public interests member of the RHC and members of the NSC.
At the conclusion of the advertising process, before appointing a member to RHC and NSC under Sections 24 and 27 of the Act respectively, the CEO must consult the Council as well as such consumer and environmental groups as the CEO considers appropriate. Likewise, before appointments to Council are made, the Minister must consult the CEO as well as such consumer and environmental groups as the Minister considers appropriate. The Minister must appoint a Chair for Council and the CEO must appoint a Chair for each of the committees.
2.3 The member to represent the interests of the general public
The member (one member in each advisory body) appointed to represent the interests of the general public has an important function supporting the interaction between the advisory bodies and the wider public. The member is expected to report, as a matter of routine at the meetings, on any specific contacts made from members of the public that concern matters discussed by the advisory body. ARPANSA is responsible for giving this function visibility on its website and for facilitating the function to be carried out.
The members appointed to represent the interests of the general public have greater public transparency via the ARPANSA website and as a consequence will receive correspondence from members of the general public and other stakeholders on issues of concern.
The member should reply to this correspondence as he/she thinks appropriate; seeking the advice of the Chair or ARPANSA as necessary. In all such correspondence the member should not purport to represent the views of the advisory body or of ARPANSA. The secretary of the relevant advisory body should be included in all such correspondence.
2.4 Code of Conduct and Conflicts of Interest
It is expected that members of the advisory bodies will comply with the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct as if they were statutory office holders to which section 13 of the Public Service Act 1999 applied.1
Where a member engages in conduct which would be considered to be a breach of the Code of Conduct, were it to apply, such conduct will be deemed to constitute ‘misbehaviour’ for the purposes of Regulation 16 (Council members) and Regulation 28 (Committee members) and may lead to the member’s appointment being terminated.
With regard to impartiality, it is important that, regardless of background and basis for nomination, members of all advisory bodies provide unbiased advice. Although the appointments have been based on the need for a diversity of competencies and backgrounds, members should not act as representatives or advocates for their profession or affiliation but use their competence, experience and background to provide best possible advice to ARPANSA, or to otherwise promote the objects of the ARPANS Act and to fulfil the functions of the advisory bodies as laid out in the Act. Under Regulation 15 (Council) and Regulation 27 (Committees) members are required to disclose all interests, pecuniary or otherwise, that the member has or acquires that might conflict with the proper performance of the member’s functions and expected to take reasonable steps to avoid any such conflict of interest (real or perceived).Members will be emailed a declaration form to complete at the beginning of their appointment and it is their duty to ensure that this declaration is updated if circumstances change during the term of appointment. Failure to comply with this requirement may lead to the appointment of the member being terminated.
The main function of all the advisory bodies is to provide advice to the CEO of ARPANSA. Any decisions resulting from such advice – or taken against such advice – are the CEO’s. The CEO will consider advice given, but is not bound by the advice.
Whilst ARPANSA considers it unlikely that legal liability could attach to any individual member as a result of a decision taken by the CEO, nevertheless where a member is a defendant in civil or criminal proceedings and the proceedings arose out of an incident that relates to the member performing their functions as a member of an advisory body and the member acted reasonably and responsibly, the Legal Services Directions 2017 provide for the Commonwealth to take over the conduct of the proceedings and indemnify the member against any costs or damages.
3.1 Meetings and work out of session
Membership of the advisory bodies requires members making it a priority to participate in the meetings. It is understandable if there are conflicting priorities for many members, but giving high priority to the meetings is a prerequisite for getting the ‘added value’ from the deliberations. To the extent possible, members should attend in person, but participation via video link from one of ARPANSA’s offices is an alternative.
Participation by proxy may be possible but should be decided on a case-by-case basis by the relevant Chair. Members that participate in their personal capacity (e.g. most members of Council and NSC) cannot be substituted.
The Chair should start planning the next meeting well in advance so that necessary arrangements can be made. For RHC this means that the Chair must monitor progress of the working groups involved in the drafting of new publications, so that the work proceeds according to plan.
The Chairs of each advisory body should consider a standing item on the agenda to discuss any issues identified by the person representing the interests of the general public. In addition, all members of the advisory bodies are encouraged to identify any emerging issues of concern.
Council meetings will make provision for representations from members of the general public. This opportunity is advertised on the ARPANSA website. The ability to accommodate requests to appear at Council depends on the number and nature of the requests. There may be constraints such as the amount of time available, room size, or availability of other relevant information or personnel to make best use of the opportunity. The final decision regarding whether such requests can be granted will be at the sole discretion of the Chair.
Council may also hold meetings or forums specifically to address or accommodate issues of particular interest. The exact format and arrangements for such meetings or forums will be determined according to the circumstances.
The Chair of each advisory body, the CEO and relevant ARPANSA staff should meet (by video link or conference call) about a week before the related advisory body meeting to carry out a ‘dry run’ of the agenda.
Meetings will normally be held at one of ARPANSA’s offices. The branch heads from ARPANSA’s Regulatory Services Branch, Radiation Health Services Branch and Medical Radiation Services Branch, and – in the case of Council – the Head of the Office of the CEO usually attend the meetings as observers. This is important for the deliberations during the meetings but also for the communication back to ARPANSA. Other ARPANSA staff will attend as necessary and with the agreement of the Chair.
Members need to be prepared to work out of session. Careful planning between ARPANSA and the advisory bodies will be essential to ensure that such work does not become unreasonable or unduly burdensome for members. Nevertheless, inter-sessional work is a necessity to achieve the expected outcomes.
Members are expected to engage freely and actively during the meetings. The Chair should encourage a free and constructive exchange of views and may use various methods to promote such exchange, at their discretion.
Decisions made at any Council, RHC or NSC meeting will be by a majority of the votes of the members present and voting is a decision of the Council, RHC or NSC as prescribed in the regulation 22 and 34 for the Council, and RHC and NSC respectively. With respect to amendments to the NDRP, ten of thirteen of the RHC members must endorse these amendments, and preferably all jurisdictions. Members can abstain from voting, and instances where an amendment is not endorsed by any RHC member the reason shall be recorded in the minutes.
3.2 Meeting papers
Meeting papers should be concise and to the point. Papers will follow a format in compliance with ARPANSA’s Quality Manual. The papers may be supplemented with supporting material as necessary. Papers to the advisory bodies will in the majority of cases seek advice, a recommendation, or an opinion.
Meeting papers will be circulated electronically to members at least a week before the meeting; papers will not be distributed in hard copy. Govdex, a web-based space that has been established to assist government agencies with project management and sharing of documents and information (http://www.govdex.gov.au/), is used to distribute papers and allow members to discuss particular issues and draft documents.
3.3 Minutes, confidentiality and transparency
Before being appointed, members are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. This requires members not to disclose information that is either designated as confidential or ought to be known as confidential. For in camera sessions, Chatham House Rule shall apply, namely that participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.
The meeting rules can be different for the three advisory bodies but the necessary and appropriate balance between transparency and confidentiality has to established, and may well vary between agenda items. This is especially the case when the NSC discusses documents and aspects related to licensing decisions. Under Section 47(1)c, the Freedom of Information Act 1982 outlines that a document is conditionally exempt if it relates to opinions, advice, or recommendations, or consultation or deliberation that has taken place, as part of the deliberative processes involved in the functions of an agency or minister. Thus, in many cases, material that has significance (for example, in terms of security, finances, privacy, commercial-in-confidence) will not be disclosed in the minutes of the NSC.
The meetings of the advisory bodies are minuted. Ideally, action items should be agreed and minuted at the end of the meeting. The minutes should be concise, factual and focus on the action items.
There should be no reference to interventions from members unless there is a disagreement that a member feels needs to be minuted. Minutes should be publicised on the ARPANSA website within a reasonable time of the meeting and following formal approval of the minutes by members inter session.
3.4 Correspondence, reports and statements
The advisory bodies may, as part of their work program, provide advice to the CEO in the form of correspondence, or provide reports. Unless confidential, such correspondence and reports will be posted on the ARPANSA website. The advisory bodies may also wish to publicise statements made to the CEO or on a certain regulatory or scientific issue. Such statements are by definition public and will be posted on ARPANSA’s website.
The Chair of Council, in cooperation with relevant ARPANSA staff, is required to prepare a report each year on the operations of the Council and committees for inclusion in the ARPANSA annual report that is tabled in parliament.
4.1 Cross-over advisory body membership and meeting participation
The CEO is a member of all advisory bodies. The Act requires that there be a cross-over member between the RHC and NSC (a member of the NSC is to be appointed to the RHC; and vice versa). There is no cross-over membership for Council (except for the CEO). The Council Chair can, when so convenient, participate in the RHC and NSC meetings in the capacity of observer.
The organisational units at ARPANSA responsible for the support to the advisory bodies are as follows:
- The Council is supported by the Government and Parliamentary Relations Section, Office of the CEO.
- RHC is supported by the Regulatory Assurance Section, Regulatory Services Branch.
- NSC is supported by the Continuous Improvement Section, Regulatory Services Branch.
‘Support’ means that designated ARPANSA officers liaise with the Chair and organise the work that needs to be done within ARPANSA – this may involve staff across the whole agency. The Chairs should be mindful of the need to run the advisory bodies with minimal administrative overheads.
Appendix 1: Overview of roles of ARPANSA and advisory bodies
|Role||CEO of ARPANSA||Radiation Health and Safety Council (Council)||Radiation Health Committee (RHC)||Nuclear Safety Committee (NSC)|
|General functions of relevance for the interaction||Statutory member of the advisory bodies
Promote nationally uniform radiation protection and nuclear safety
Provide services and accredit persons
Monitor and report on operations of ARPANSA and Committees
Report on activities of the advisory bodies
|To advise the CEO on emerging issues and matters of public concern in RP and NS
Advise on adoption of RPS publications; advise on matters the Council finds appropriate
Advise the CEO on request
|To advise the CEO and Council on matters relating to radiation protection
Prepare draft publications for the promotion of uniform radiation protection standards for consideration by the Commonwealth, and the states and the territories
To consult publically on such documents
|To advise the CEO and the Council on NS and safety of controlled facilities
Review effectiveness of standards and promote uniformity on the above matters
Report to the CEO on the above matters
|Responsible for initiation of work||CEO, in accordance with the ARPANS Act||Council plans and executes its work program independently, but must advise the CEO when the CEO so requests on RP and NS matters||The functions are to be performed only on the request of the CEO||The functions are to be performed only on the request of the CEO|
|Representation of jurisdictions||Commonwealth||Commonwealth (CEO ARPANSA), Northern Territory, plus two radiation control officers from jurisdictions||All jurisdictions||No representation of jurisdiction only representation from the RHC.|
|Interest of the general public||One member||One member||One member|
|Appointment||Appointed by Governor-General||Other than the CEO, appointed by the Minister after consultation with the CEO, and consumer groups and environmental groups (as the Minister considers appropriate)||Other than the CEO, appointed by the CEO after consultation with the Council, and consumer groups and environmental groups (as the CEO considers appropriate)||Other than the CEO, appointed by the CEO after consultation with the Council, and consumer groups and environmental groups (as the CEO considers appropriate)|
Appointed by the Minister
Appointed by the CEO
Appointed by the CEO
CEO (and may include radiation control officer if also a member of RHC)
CEO, NSC member
CEO, RHC member