In December 2018, Australia’s environment ministers and the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) agreed to the 2018 National Waste Policy, updating the 2009 National Waste Policy. The policy was updated in response to changing global trends and international markets, including increasing import restrictions for waste and recyclable materials in China.

The National Waste Policy Action Plan 2019 (NWPAP) was developed to implement the 2018 National Waste Policy. The NWPAP was agreed by Australia’s environment ministers and ALGA in November 2019.

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) was the Australian government entity leading the implementation and coordination of the actions under the NWPAP. Machinery of government changes that took effect on 1 July 2022 transferred the responsibility to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW).

Parliamentary reviews of Australia’s waste management activities identified shortcomings in the implementation of the policy initiatives agreed and committed to by the Australian government. These reviews emphasised the importance of regularly monitoring and reporting on progress of implementation. This audit examined the effectiveness of the department’s implementation of the NWPAP. It provides assurance over the department’s planning and governance frameworks, progress of implementation, and monitoring and reporting arrangements.

Key findings:

  • Australian government implementation of the NWPAP is partly effective. While progress has been made since the implementation of the previous National Waste Policy in establishing an action plan to guide the achievement of outcomes, the department’s implementation has not yet met the intent of the action plan. Risk management is not effective and the effectiveness of implementation and coordination of NWPAP actions is limited by the lack of defined scope and deliverables for each action.
  • The planning and governance arrangements established for the implementation of the NWPAP are largely fit-for-purpose. The development of the NWPAP was partly evidence-based.
  • The implementation and coordination of the NWPAP is partly effective. The department is unable to demonstrate that it is effectively supporting the management of risk to the implementation of the NWPAP and is not effectively managing or overseeing risk for the implementation of Australian Government-led actions.
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Auditor-General Report No.4 2022–23