Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 401. Updated Tuesday, 18 March 2014

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News in brief

A day for harmony

Harmony Day, a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home, is being celebrated across the nation today (21 March).

There are more than 6,500 events taking place all around the country on - from art exhibitions and film festivals to morning teas and sporting games.

More information is available at this PS News link.


New drugs listed on PBS

Minister for Health, Peter Dutton has announced 10 new medicines will be listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from 1 April.

A drug to treat arthritis in children - tocilzumab (sold as Actemera) - will be listed as will tobramycin (sold as Tobi®Podhaler ®), which can be used in an inhaler for the treatment of bacterial lung issues that commonly affect cystic fibrosis patients.

Other new drugs are Temozolomide (Temodal®), Denosumab (sold as Xgeva®), Dolutegravir (sold as Tivicay®) for the treatment of HIV, Panitumumab (sold as Vectibix®) for colorectal cancer, psoriasis drugs Clobetasol propionate (sold as Clobex ®) and betamethasone calcipotriol (Daivobet®), and Infliximab (Remicade®) for ulcerative colitis.


Comcare award nominations open

Nominations are open for the 2014 Comcare Work Health and Safety Awards which will be presented in Melbourne in September as part of the Comcare National Conference.

The awards recognise and reward excellence in workplace health and safety, rehabilitation and return to work achieved by individuals and organisations within the Comcare scheme.

Nominations close on 24 April 2014.


Questacon launches Japan tour

The National Science and Technology Centre in Canberra has announced it will conduct a five-week tour to tsunami-recovering communities in north-eastern Japan.

The Questacon tour in April will involve a team of six Australian and Japanese science communicators taking 30 interactive science exhibits to four communities in the Tōhoku region.

The tour is collaboration between Questacon and Japan's National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Australia-Japan Foundation.


Audit of Early Years Quality Fund

Auditor-General, Ian McPhee is to examine the $300 million Early Years Quality Fund, Assistant Minister for Education, Sussan Ley has announced.

The audit follows a PricewaterhouseCoopers report late last year that raised concerns about the processes used to create and administer the fund.

The PwC report is available at this PS News link.


ATO adds small business panel

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is expanding its skill base with a small business panel.

Small business owes the ATO $10.6 billion, making up 60 per cent of the ATO's collectable debt, according to SmartCompany.

The ATO has invited small business owners to apply to join its new small business consultation panel to help cut red tape and boost the Agency's small business expertise.


Earlier this week

Royal Commission into unions established

The Governor-General has issued Letters Patent to establish the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption and appoint former High Court judge Dyson Heydon AC QC as Royal Commissioner.

The establishment of the Royal Commission is a step closer to establishing a judicial inquiry into the Australian Workers' Union slush fund scandal.

The Governor-General has directed the Commission to inquire into and report on: governance arrangements and alleged financial irregularities; matters relating to the activities of entities or funds; allegations involving union officials establishing and benefitting from funds or accounts; and the conduct of officers of relevant entities.

The Royal Commission proposes to hold its first hearing on 9 April 2014, and is due to provide its final report to the Government by 31 December 2014.


Skills and training workshops

A series of consultation workshops around the nation by the Department of Industry are providing a basis for improving skills and training.

Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane said these workshops were the next step in ongoing consultation with the sector to build on the strengths of the national system, as well as identifying areas where it can be improved.

A series of workshops have already been held last month with industry, registered training organisations (RTOs), Industry Skills Councils and Australian Apprenticeships Centres.

The new round of workshops will be held at Brisbane on 21 March; Hobart on 27 March; and Melbourne on 28 March.


ACCC can arbitrate disputes

A recent Federal Court decision involving disputes between Telstra and three of its customers has affirmed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) power to arbitrate.

Telstra sought review of the ACCC's jurisdiction to arbitrate three disputes that were notified by Vocus Fibre Pty Ltd, Adam Internet Pty Ltd and Chime Communications Pty Ltd.

The Court rejected Telstra's argument that there was no failure to agree between Telstra and each of the access seekers, and accordingly found that there was a dispute which could be arbitrated by the ACCC.

ACCC Chairman, Rod Sims said the ACCC welcomed this clarification of its jurisdiction to arbitrate access disputes notified to it.


New format for News 24

ABC News 24 will broadcast extended news programs across the day, and introduce a two presenter format to afternoons and evenings as part of a revamp of the channel.

Changes included Joe O'Brien presenting extended coverage from 9am; at noon Ros Childs will host an extended three-hour news program with a focus on business and politics; and Tony Eastley and Kim Landers will host the afternoons from 3pm to 5.30pm.

Scott Bevan and Kumi Taguchi will host evenings from 7pm to 8.30pm, and later in the evening a new-look version of The World will be hosted by Jim Middleton and Zoe Daniel.


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