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Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 415. Updated Tuesday, 24 June 2014

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News in brief

Seniors Health Card change

Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders will soon be able to travel overseas temporarily for an extra 13 weeks before having their card cancelled.

Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews said currently CSHC holders had their card cancelled if they went overseas temporarily for more than six weeks.

"This is good news for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card holders as it means they can travel outside of Australia for 19 weeks before they need to reapply," he said.

Mr Andrews said it also meant that those with superannuation income streams did not lose their Grandfathered status unless they went away for more than 19 weeks.

He said the change to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card was due to take effect on 1 January 2015.

Mobile complaints fall

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has reported that mobile coverage complaints have dropped as excess data charges rise.

According to TIO Talks, the Ombudsman received 36,256 new complaints in January-March 2014, 9.4 per cent fewer than at the same time in 2013.

For the third quarter in a row, the TIO has received fewer than 20,000 complaints about mobile services.

However, an emerging issue in mobile complaints is excess data usage charges.

As faults problems such as slow data speeds have decreased 67 per cent compared to the same time last year, disputes over excess data charges have increased 30 per cent.

Tax disputes review begins

The Inspector-General of Taxation , Ali Noroozi, has started a review into the Australian Taxation Office's management of tax disputes involving large businesses and high wealth individuals.

The review is part of the Parliamentary Tax and Revenue Committee's broader inquiry into Tax Disputes.

Mr Noroozi said the ATO's statistics indicated that there was a much higher level of disputation within the large business and HWI market segments than all other market segments.

He said stakeholders were invited to make submissions to the review.

For terms of reference and submission guidelines visit this PS News link.

Black Spot program broadened

The Government is broadening the eligibility criteria of the national Black Spot Program to make it easier for regional communities to compete for additional funding for vital road safety projects.

In 2015-16 and 2016-17 the Government will almost triple its investment in the Black Spot Programme to $160 million a year.

At least 50 per cent of the funding in this period will be dedicated to fixing roads in regional Australia.

The minimum required benefit cost ratio for funded projects will be reduced from 2:1 to 1:1, making more projects eligible and the crash history requirement for black spots will also be reduced from three to two casualty crashes in five years.

Nomination forms for Black Spot Projects are available at this PS News link.

Hamster breached Code

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that an ABC television broadcast of The Hamster Decides, which contained a manipulated image of journalist Chris Kenny, breached Standard 7.1 of the ABC Code of Practice 2011.

Standard 7.1 requires that content that is likely to cause harm or offence must be justified by its editorial context.

ACMA found that the 11 September 2013 broadcast was intrinsically likely to have caused a high level of offence and that despite the satirical nature of the program and other related considerations the broadcast was not justified by the program's editorial context .

'As a consequence of the complexities associated with the construction of the ABC's Code, the ACMA has suggested that the ABC Board reflect on whether its code is operating effectively and as intended in the context of dealing with harm and offence,'' the Authority said.

ACMA also found that the broadcast did not breach Standards 7.2 and 7.3 of the ABC Code, which require appropriate classification and adequate classification labels, warnings and consumer advice.

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