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Chief Executive Officer's review


Leaner, more focused, more solution-oriented. After a year of planning and discussion in the agency, this is the vision that has emerged that will set FSANZ on a course for a sustainable future.

In October 2013, the Executive began a program of activities leading to this vision—a program that gave staff an opportunity to identify options for enabling FSANZ to live within its means and to meet the expectations of governments, the food industry, public health bodies and consumers. More than 80 options were put forward, grouped into themes and further refined into areas that improved efficiencies (cost cutting) and changed the way we go about our business (process re-design).

In March 2014, the Executive considered our financial situation in the context of the Australian Government's policies for the future of the Australian Public Service (APS), including possible outcomes from the Government's Commission of Audit. This analysis resulted in a decision to review the FSANZ work plan for 2014–15, conduct a voluntary redundancy program, change the organisational structure and launch a number of reviews aimed at re-designing FSANZ work practices.

A Change Management Taskforce was appointed to ensure staff were provided with information about the organisational reforms and to act as a contact point for staff feedback. The taskforce is also helping managers identify any issues connected to the change process and has helped implement change management training.

A leaner agency has become a necessity largely because of efficiency dividends applied to the FSANZ budget over a number of years, but accelerated by recent cuts to APS employment. Seven years ago, FSANZ had more than 150 staff. We are planning for a workforce of just over 100 for 2014–15.

Fiscal constraints mean that FSANZ will need to be more selective in the projects we undertake and explore alternative and more cost-effective ways of meeting these obligations.

As a result, the Executive has deferred starting a number projects for 2014–15, prioritising projects that are near completion, requested by Ministers or have public health and safety implications. The scope of other projects has been curtailed or deferred (e.g. an infant formula review). And, regrettably, we will have to be more selective in the assistance that we provide other government agencies.

In being more solution-oriented, we intend to build on our recent experiences of managing public health and safety without necessarily amending the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. By making more use of non-regulatory risk management measures, we expect to ease the regulatory burden on industry, as required in the current deregulatory environment.

Proposed changes to work practices include examining the way we define the ‘real world problem' when we justify regulatory change to the Office of Best Practice Regulation, using graduated risk analysis models in analysing proposed changes to standards and food safety issues; examining how we link with and partner with overseas and domestic agencies and the way we engage with industry and other stakeholders.

These organisational reforms will put FSANZ onto a sustainable pathway and are expected to take effect progressively throughout 2014–15.

Organisational structure

Ms Melanie Fisher, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Executive Manager Food Standards (Canberra), retired from FSANZ on 27 June 2014. During Ms Fisher's 10 years with FSANZ, she was instrumental in establishing FSANZ's social science capability. Our social science work—particularly consumer behavioural science and regulatory economic analysis—is now seen as one of the pillars of our contribution to the food regulatory system.

FSANZ's Chief Scientist Dr Paul Brent also left the agency at the end of the financial year, after a 15-year career at FSANZ, Dr Brent not only brought outstanding scientific expertise to the agency and the management of its programs, but also the astuteness needed to represent FSANZ (and Australia) successfully in international forums, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

I, along with other staff members and the Board, will miss their sound counsel and their commitment to the ideals and work of FSANZ.

The departure of my Executive colleagues, combined with a workforce one-third less than that at the time of establishing the present organisational structure, has led to a decision to reduce the number of branches for 2014–15, from five to three. This restructure is in the process of being implemented and will be reported more fully in next year's annual report.

Regulatory and non-regulatory highlights

The end of 2013–14 was something of a milestone for FSANZ with the ministers responsible for food regulation agreeing to a proposed new primary production and processing standard for meat and meat products. This signalled the end of a long and complex process, first requested by ministers in 2002, to develop primary production and processing standards for the front end of the food supply chain.

The aim of this work was to improve public health and safety by managing food safety through all parts of the food supply chain, i.e. from paddock to plate, and in doing so ensuring Australian consumers could continue to have the highest confidence in the safety of the food they consume. Primary production and processing standards have now been developed for eggs and egg products, seafood, dairy, poultry meat and seed sprouts.

Ministers also agreed to changes to microbiological limits for listeria in the Food Standards Code.

One of the major pieces of work progressed during 2013–14 was a review of the Code. This work, which will continue in the coming year, has involved extensive stakeholder consultations, particularly with jurisdictions and industry. During this work, we continued to demonstrate a strong commitment to excellence in stakeholder consultation and communication.

Concluding remarks

I am pleased to report that Emeritus Professor Mary Barton AO, Ms Lyn Bentley, Dr Martin Cole and Professor Lynne Daniels joined the Board on 1 July 2013. They have already made a valued contribution to Board deliberations and I look forward to working with them during their appointment.

We have also been fortunate that five existing members have been re-appointed to the Board: Ms Jenni Mack, Mr Tony Nowell CNZM and Dr Dave Roberts for a further four-year term from 1 July 2013 and Dr Andrew McKenzie QSO and Mr Neil Walker JP for another four and two years, respectively, from 1 July 2014. The governance of FSANZ is complex and sometimes very technical, so this continuity is most welcome.

I also welcome the continued support of the Board chair, Ms Philippa Smith AM. Some of the challenges faced by FSANZ during the year have been difficult. Throughout this period, Ms Smith has been unwavering in her support of management and astute in her guidance of Board deliberations on food issues.

This annual report can only provide an overview of the work of FSANZ. However, I believe that it describes an agency that has met its statutory obligations and has continued its role as a professional and effective part of the food regulatory system.

Steve McCutcheon
Chief Executive Officer


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