The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) is an independent statutory authority established under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918.
The AEC’s purpose is to maintain an impartial and independent electoral system through active electoral roll management, efficient delivery of polling services and targeted education and public awareness programs.
This policy sets outs the principles and processes that the AEC will follow in managing complaints. In this policy we refer to a person or organisation that makes a complaint as a ‘complainant’. The policy explains:
This policy document is for both internal and external use and is available on the AEC website.
Receiving feedback, including complaints, is a valuable part of the AEC’s process for continuously improving our services. The AEC welcomes your feedback to improve the way we work.
We are committed to making the complaints process accessible and transparent, to be responsive within our stated service levels, and to treat complaints fairly whilst maintaining confidentiality of personal information.
Complainants have a right to request an internal review if they are unhappy with the decision made.
For the purpose of this policy, a complaint is where an individual or organisation has expressed dissatisfaction to the AEC in relation to an AEC service, process or program, or where they view the AEC has not met its expected quality or timeliness of service.
Complaints can be made by any individual, group or organisation. The complaints the AEC will respond to can be categorised into the following:
|Complaints about the AEC||Complaints which relate to our products, services, programs, or the conduct of a staff member.|
|Complaints of a legal nature||Complaints which refer to possible breaches of, or offences under, the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 or Fair Work Act 2009.|
|Complaints regarding fraud||Complaints which relate to suspected instances where the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 is intentionally breached to obtain a benefit or cause detriment are considered electoral fraud.|
|Complaints regarding breach of privacy||Complaints which relate to the suspected interference of an individual’s personal privacy by the AEC regarding an alleged breach of the Privacy Act 1988 or the Australian Privacy Principles.|
|Complaints of a procurement nature||Complaints which relate to a procurement activity being undertaken by the AEC and complaints relating to the application of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules or the Government Procurement (Judicial Review) Act 2018.|
A complaint that is not part of the AEC’s areas of responsibilities will not be considered by the AEC. This notably includes the provision of legal or constitutional advice, as well as complaints relating to electoral events run by other election management bodies.
If you have a complaint about services provided by another federal, state or territory government, agency or body, please contact the responsible organisation in the first instance.
The AEC’s complaints management process is guided by the following principles:
We are committed to being responsive to complaints by actively listening, monitoring timeframes for resolution, and communicating about progress. Staff should attempt to resolve a complaint at the time that it is received.
We are committed to managing complaints fairly and with integrity. We will maintain impartiality and treat all complainants with respect.
We are committed to making our complaints management process accessible to all. Complaints are able to be made in a range of ways and include services for individuals with specific needs.
The AEC will be clear in the complaints process and can explain the assessments made, actions taken, and the decision reached.
We are committed to identifying complaint trends (where possible) and using feedback to improve our products, services, training, and information.
We are committed to the wellbeing of our staff, which includes protecting staff from hostile or abusive content, and from personal attacks. We therefore reserve the right to cease communicating with individuals who do not treat our staff with courtesy and respect.
Both complainants and the AEC have rights and responsibilities in complaints management:
Personal information collected during the complaint process may be disclosed to AEC business areas. Where we are obliged to report details of the complaint or internal review to another agency, details may be disclosed as part of a report to that agency.
Personal information collected about a complainant or third party in relation to alleged breaches of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918, Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Act 1984 or the Fair Work Act 2009 may also be disclosed to the Australian Federal Police or to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for the purpose of investigating or prosecution.
The complaint management process includes five steps:
* The AEC aims to provide a response to all complaints within 10business days of receipt unless the matter is complex, there are particular sensitivities or legal constraints, or there are resource constraints. When we cannot provide a response within that timeframe, we aim to send an acknowledgement with a likely timeframe.
If the complainant has requested that they not be contacted regarding the outcome of their complaint, they will not be provided a response.
The AEC takes threats of violence very seriously. Complaints that threaten violence or harm will be immediately referred to the police. Complaints that are abusive, obscene, or discriminatory will not be addressed.
The AEC may choose not to respond to complaints that fall outside of its legislative authority, administrative remit, or that the AEC deems to be frivolous and/or vexatious. Complaints that are outside the AEC’s remit include:
Frivolous or vexatious complaints include complaints which meet the following criteria:
In most instances the AEC will address a complaint when it is in doubt as to whether a complaint meets one or more of these criteria.
Any staff member uncomfortable with an interaction with a complainant should refer the matter to a supervisor, or when this is not possible terminate the communication after attempting to inform the complainant of why this is being done.
To assess your complaint about an AEC service, product, or staff member we ask you to:
If the complainant is a silent elector, the complaint capture system should prompt them to consider whether or not they wish to advise the AEC of this status and note that they are not required to provide contact details or an address. All systems for complaints management should be able to process complaints without a requirement for contact details.
Social media platforms provide for rapid public commentary with other people and organisations. While the social media accounts of the AEC are official communication channels for the agency, they are not platforms for the lodgement of official complaints. If a social media user wants to lodge an official complaint, they must do so via other avenues such as the AEC’s online complaints form.
For matters relating to, or involving, a person’s private details, users are to be encouraged to contact the AEC through channels that are not publicly visible.
Complainants may withdraw their complaints at any stage during the process. However, the AEC may continue to investigate the complaint. This should be made clear to complainants who withdraw their complaints.
A complainant has the right to seek an internal review of the response to their complaint if they are dissatisfied with the process used to investigate their complaint or with our response.
General complaints do not have a time limit for requesting a review of their case, however, complaints of a legal nature, or those regarding fraud, or a breach of privacy may have specific time limits imposed by legislation.
Requests for internal review should be made in writing and addressed to Complaints Management, or as otherwise advised in responses provided. Members of the AEC’s Senior Executive Service will determine whether an internal review is to be granted.
A complainant has the right to seek an external review; however, we recommend that complainants use our internal review process before seeking an external review.
In the case of some external review mechanisms, such as with the Commonwealth Ombudsman, an external review cannot be conducted until an internal review has been undertaken. Details of external review options can be provided on request.
This policy has been informed by the following regulatory and policy standards: