SearchArchives for April 200724 April, 2007
Union Bites Ballot On ALP IR laws
The Community and Public Sector Union is asking its members to comment on the Australian Labor Party’s proposals for a revised industrial relations system.
In its call for members to say what they thought about the ALP’s plans, the CPSU summarised them as abolishing AWA’s, outlawing strikes without secret ballots and reintroducing streamlined unfair dismissal laws.
The union said there had been a mixed reaction to the Labor Party’s proposals: The ACTU said it was “a good start’, Workplace Relations Minister,Joe Hockey called it a “donkey” and business groups had remained “luke-warm”.
It wanted members to post their comments on the CPSU website.
In announcing the new IR laws, ALP leader Kevin Rudd said there could be no going back to the “industrial culture of an earlier age”.
“Existing arrangements for the public sector and local government will continue,” he said, “with many of these workers regulated by State industrial relations jurisdictions.”
But Mr Rudd said Public Servants should be “under no illusions” that the Government could force teachers, nurses, and police off enterprise agreements and onto Australian Workplace Agreements by using Commonwealth’s financial arrangements as leverage as had been done with universities.
The CPSU website address is http://cpsuweb.blogspot.com/
24 April, 2007
Unemployed Targeted In Defence Job Hunt
The Australian Government has unveiled a pilot initiative to help unemployed Australians sign up for a Defence Force career.
Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson and Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stoned said one of the key aims of the a $1 billion overhaul of Defence Force retention and recruitment rates was to extend the reach of the ADF to a broader recruitment market and create more pathways to military careers through linkages with other organisations.
The Ministers said the pilot trial would see the Government funded employment service provider Job Network work closely with Defence to allow its members to inform job seekers about the many and varied ADF career and training opportunities .
“The six-month trial will be undertaken in a number of regions throughout Australia,” Dr Nelson said.
“This initiative will result in more young Australians making an informed choice about the 213 different ADF career options.”
He said the arrangement would also give Defence Force Recruiting a greater reach into the Australian community.
Job Network members were currently being trained on the ADF career eligibility assessment process so that suitable candidates may be referred to Defence Force Recruiting Centres.
Dr Stone said the Defence Forces offered people great career opportunities.
“By linking Job Network members with their Defence Force Recruiters we hope to see more young Australians being made aware of an ADF career,” Dr Stone said
She said applicants referred through the Job Network would still need to meet the standard ADF entry requirements and that enlistment in the full-time or Reserve elements of the Navy, Army or Air Force would remain entirely voluntary.
24 April, 2007
Police Lose Leader
Assistant Federal Police Commissioner and Chief Police Officer of the Australian Capital Territory, Audrey Fagan has died while on holiday in Queensland.
Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, announced Ms Fagan’s death saying there appeared to be no suspicious circumsatances.
Commissioner Keelty said Assistant Commissioner Fagan had been a police officer for 26 years, the last two as Chief Police Offcer of the ACT.
He said Assistant Commissoner Fagan awas a greatly respected figure in ACT policing and in the wider AFP.
“We have today lost one of our most respected and thoughtful members of the AFP,” Commissioner Keelty said.
“Audrey was both an accomplished and honoured police officer who will be sorely missed by all her colleagues.”
He said Queensland police were investigting the death and would prepare a report for the Coroner.
“Our thoughts are with Audrey’s family and friends and all those in the AFP and the Canberra community who will be deeply affected by her passing,” Commissioner Keelty said.
ACT Police Minister Simon Corbell paid tribute to Ms Fagan and said he was shocked and deeply saddened by her death.
“Canberra has lost an outstanding police officer whose commitment to building a new approach to community policing in the ACT will be greatly missed,” Mr Corbell said.
He said Deputy ACT Chief Police Officer, Shane Connelly would act in Assistant Commissioner Fagan’s position until it was filled.
24 April, 2007
Ombudsman Taxes ATO in Power Play
An Ombudsman’s report into the Australian Tax Office’s administration of garnishee action has found no major problems but some areas for potential improvement.
Acting Commonwealth and Taxation Ombudsman, Dr Vivienne Thom said her office had had looked at the ATO’s administration of garnishee action because it “involved the use of significant ATO powers to seize funds from third parties to discharge taxpayer debts.”
“Due to the potentially adverse impact of garnishee action on taxpayers, we also considered what checks and balances existed to protect taxpayers’ interests,” Dr Thom said.
“A further consideration was our interest in taxpayers’ understanding of garnishee action and how it can be used by the ATO.”
She said the Ombudsman’s review of complaints received and the ATO’s administrative systems governing the use of garnishee action did not disclose any major concerns or systemic issues. However, the review did highlight some areas for potential improvement, particularly those relating to taxpayer awareness and understanding, and recording and providing reasons for a decision.
In responding to the Ombudsman’s report, the ATO confirmed its commitment to working with taxpayers and tax practitioners to explore how to better communicate the consequences of ignoring tax debts, including the possibility of garnishee action.
The ATO welcomed the Ombudsman’s suggestions and would consider them as part of its ongoing commitment to listen and respond to community feedback.
The ATO has arranged to review its administration of garnishee action including communication activities.
24 April, 2007
Careers Careering Under Control
Better career information and advice, as well as more resources for Career Counselors, are at the heart of a new program to boost career development across the nation.
Parliamentary Secretary for Education, Science and Training, Pat Farmer announced the new program, saying the initiatives were designed to help young people “get excited and involved in their career development and help career advisers to broaden their knowledge and skills”.
He said despite record low national unemployment figures of 4.5 per cent the Government wasn’t resting on its achievements.
“Globalisation, competition, skills shortages and an ageing population present all of us with new and urgent challenges,” Mr Framer said.
He said the Commonwealth would commit $1.86 million to the program which would enable:
new occupational videos to be broadcast on the ABC network;
radio segments on the ABC Triple J network showcasing young peoples’ entrepreneurial skills;
new scholarships for TAFE and university career practitioners to participate in further study and industry placements;
an update and expansion to resources for career practitioners;
state-based conferences to bring together the Career Advice Australia network; and
a contribution to the International Centre for Career Development and Public Policy for evidence based research on career related policies.
“The Australian Government has funded the National Career Development Week from 4 to 10 June, to help everyday Australians understand the importance of career development,” Mr Framer said, “and to show them how they can get the skills that they need to achieve the life that they want to live.”
He said the Government would spend more than $98 million on career development initiatives in 2007.
24 April, 2007
Police in Trial Run For Olympics
The Australian Federal Police has conducted an offshore counter terrorism exercise with its counterparts in the People’s Republic of China as part of security preparations for next year’s Beijing Olympic Games.
The desktop exercise brought counter-terrorism experts from the AFP and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security together for the first time to coordinate a response to a major hypothetical crisis, linked to the 2008 Olympics.
The AFP’s National Manager, Counter Terrorism, Frank Prendergast said the exercise would help both agencies work more closely to counter the threat of terrorism to major events held in the Asian Pacific Region.
Assistant Commissioner Prendergast said the desktop exercise provided an excellent examination of the AFP’s and MPS’s counter-terrorism interoperability.
“This exercise will also strengthen our relationship, which is increasingly important as Australia’s broader interactions with China grow, and China becomes more important as a law enforcement partner in our region,” Assistant Commissioner Prendergast said.
The offshore exercise was funded by the Australian Government under the Regional Law Enforcement Counter Terrorism Liaison and Capacity Building Initiative in the 2006-07 budget process.
24 April, 2007
Job Fund Account is Good Job: Auditor
The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has won the Auditor-General’s approval for its management of its Job Seeker Account.
The Job Seeker Account (JSKA) is a quarantined pool of funds that can be used by Job Network members to help job seekers gain employment. It focuses on getting the most disadvantaged job seekers into work. Job Network Members are reimbursed by DEWR for goods and services purchased for individual job seekers to help them secure or maintain employment.
From July 2003 to June 2006, DEWR’s total JSKA expenditure was $648 million.
The Auditor General found that the overall approach taken by DEWR to administer the JSKA was sound and the Department had put in place a risk management framework and a post-claim monitoring regime and an evaluation strategy.
But the Auditor also found three areas where he believed DEWR could strengthen its administration of the JSKA.
It said the Department could:
Better identify, assess and monitor the specific risks relating to the JSKA (including the potential for fraud) presented by particular Job Network Member organisations and sites;
place greater reliance on existing controls around the processes and procedures undertaken by Job Network Members that take effect prior to reimbursement of JSKA claims; and
implement and report on DEWR’s evaluation strategy.
The Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone, welcomed the recommendations in the Auditor General’s report.
“The Report recognises the considerable priority that DEWR gives to monitoring usage of the Job Seeker Account, the structured approach it has to risk management and to providing guidance to Job Network Members in the use of Job Seeker Account,” Dr Stone said.
She said in the 12 months to the end of February 2007, more than 650,900 job placements were recorded and more than 182,800 long-term jobs were achieved for disadvantaged job seekers and those unemployed more than three months.
24 April, 2007
New Safety Website Has Chemistry
An updated website with information on hazardous materials has been launched by the Australian Safety and Compensation Council.
The ASCC said the new Hazardous Substances Information System website was easier to navigate, looked better and was more flexible than the old one, but remained compliant with the IT requirements of the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations.
Although the basic structure and operation of the HSIS would be very similar to the first version, ASCC said a number of new features had been introduced.
New features included:
Simplified search screens that can be expanded to “advanced search” when required
Ability to enter CAS numbers with or without dashes
Improved searching where chemical names have a prefix (for example “3-” or “tert-”). The previous system was unable to search directly for a prefix.
Ability to search for records that were amended within a specified date range
A guide to abbreviations and notes used within a particular column of results can be accessed by clicking on the column heading
Access to pdf documents that contained all the hazardous substance records in the database. The consolidated lists would be updated each time there was a change to the records in the searchable database.
Ability to specify the number of search results displayed on the screen
Ability to print search results in pdf format
The new version would be supported by a revised User Instruction Manual and updated guidance material. A dedicated email box for providing feedback on HSIS would also be available at feedback.HSIS@dewr.gov.au
24 April, 2007
Defence Shifts Into Reserve
The Department of Defence plans to conduct a major review of legislation to protect Reservists, at the same time recognising that there should not be an excessive burden on employers.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Peter Lindsay said the Defence Reserve Service (Protection) Act 2001 was designed to allow the men and women who serve in Australia’s Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves to enjoy protection of their civilian occupations without loading up employers with unnecessary compliance.
The Act made it an offence to dismiss, disadvantage or discriminate against a Reservist in their civilian job, as well as provide protection for partners, contractors and students undertaking Defence service.
Mr Lindsay has asked the Head of Reserve Policy, Major General Neil Wilson, to conduct a review of the Defence Reserve Service Protection Act.
“The support provided to Reservists under this legislation is unique in the world,” Mr Lindsay said.
“None of our major allies provide a level of support and protection equal to that provided to Australia’s Defence Reservists.”
He said while he was confident that the legislation was working to protect the rights of Australian Reservists in their civilian occupations, “we need to make sure that it achieves these objectives without placing an excessive burden on employers, business or universities.”
Mr Lindsay said while Major General Wilson would oversee the review, he expected that Defence would seek comments on the operation of the Act from all interested parties.
24 April, 2007
Yards, Feet, Inches Cut Off Red tape
The latest reform to reduce red tape for business and industry is to see Australia’s system of trade measurement administered by the Commonwealth through the National Measurement Institute.
From 1 July, 2010, the Australian Government will assume responsibility from the States and Territories for all trade measurement. It follows a decision by the Council of Australian Governments to create a national system.
According to the Minister for Industry and Resources, Ian Macfarlane, an effective trade measurement system was necessary to ensure the accurate measurement of around $400 billion of traded goods in Australia every year.
“Replacing eight State and Territory systems with a national system is a logical step,” Mr Macfarlane said, “which will remove regulation inconsistencies and unnecessary costs on business.”
He said the national system would facilitate the adoption of newer and more efficient technologies; respond more quickly to new infrastructure demands by industry; and maintain a viable skills base in the trade measurement workforce.
NMI, which comes under the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, is responsible for Australia’s national infrastructure in physical, chemical, biological and legal measurements.
“During the three-year transition period, the States and Territories will be responsible for ensuring continuity of service and the maintenance of existing service standards for trade measurement,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“NMI officials will work closely with the States and Territories to ensure a smooth transition.”
24 April, 2007
Young Go For Doctor Over Privacy Issues
The privacy of medical information - and whether it should be kept confidential from parents - was one of the key concerns raised by young people during a major inquiry into privacy laws being conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
ALRC President, Professor David Weisbrot said research indicated that young people had attitudes to privacy that differed significantly from those of their parents, grandparents and even older siblings.
“We’ve been holding a series of youth workshops - and have set up a special ‘Talking Privacy’ website aimed at young people - to test this theory,” Professor Weisbrot said.
So far, the youth workshops - aimed at 12 to 25-year-olds - had been held in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Hobart. They explored a range of issues, seeking experiences and opinions about how the privacy laws were working, and what changes should be made for the future.
Privacy in cyberspace - particularly in online spaces such as YouTube and MySpace - was another major issue raised by young people.
“While sites such as YouTube and MySpace might seem like a ‘fad’ to older people, for many young people, that has become the normal, everyday way of communicating with friends, relatives, and people they are just meeting for the first time,” Professor Weisbrot said.
“Laws designed to protect privacy in the outside world struggle to cope with the issues raised by online communities.”
He said, for example, that the online publication of photographs - which may be sensitive and revealing - raised new challenges in relation to consent.
He said however that the issue that raised the most concern in workshops was the way in which personal health information was handled.
“While there is no consensus on the age at which young people are entitled to confidentiality, most of the young people we have spoken to seem clear that at some stage in adolescence, they should have the right to consult a doctor in complete confidence, and expect that this will be kept private, even from well-meaning parents,” he said.
Professor Weisbrot said that young people from all over Australia had a chance to contribute to the ALRC’s Privacy Inquiry.
“By logging on to the ALRC’s ‘Talking Privacy’ website, you can ‘Have Your Say’ online. This could be a story about an experience with a privacy issue, or a suggestion for change.
“You might just want to alert the ALRC to an issue that has caused you some concern. Or you can respond to the questions in the case studies available on the website.”
24 April, 2007
Nuclear Launch Gets Positive Reaction
Australia’s new $400 million nuclear research reactor, OPAL, has been officially opened at Lucas Heights in Sydney, representing the largest single scientific investment the nation had ever made.
Head of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Dr Ian Smith said the day of the opening was an historic day for Australia and a major step forward for Australian science.
“OPAL is the jewel in the crown of Australian nuclear science,” Dr Smith said. “It is destined to be one of the top three reactors in the world for scientific research.
He said OPAL’s nuclear tools would help scientists better understand a number of issues such as the essential biological processes in the body, genetics and diseases like cancer and obesity.
Dr Smith said OPAL would contribute to a variety of areas including helping to improve food processing and storage, contributing to the development of a more sustainable energy industry and providing detailed analysis of the earth’s geological structure.
“The facility will also allow ANSTO to continue supplying nuclear medicines to about half a million Australians each year, with a capacity to view to increase this number in the future,” said Dr Smith. “Many research opportunities also lie on the horizon in the areas of nuclear medicine diagnosis and treatments for major diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.”
He said ANSTO’s silicon irradiation production business would grow thanks to OPAL, and the semiconductor industry which used irradiated silicon to produce chips for computers, cameras, washing machines and other electronic equipment would increasingly look to ANSTO for this service.
Dr Rob Robinson, head of ANSTO’s Bragg Institute – which manages and operates ANSTO’s seven new neutron beam instruments – said, the OPAL facility was already attracting major interest from local and international scientific researchers and will allow ANSTO’s science to dramatically expand.
“These instruments are very sophisticated and are designed to measure and understand materials, including biological substances, at the atomic level,” Dr Robinson said.
He explained that a sample could be placed under various influences such as pressure, heat or chemicals, so scientists could find out how it would react in certain environments.
“This way we can understand, for example, what happens during a manufacturing process, or how a molecule reacts when it interacts with a drug, thereby providing information about how that drug works in the human body.”
OPAL replaces ANSTO’s previous reactor HIFAR2, which was shut down at the end of January.
OPAL was designed by Argentine reactor designers, INVAP, who also manufactured the “nuclear” components. The building was constructed by John Holland Construction and Engineering Pty Ltd and Evans Deakin Industries Limited. The neutron beam instruments were designed by ANSTO scientists and engineers in collaboration with other scientific and engineering organisations.
24 April, 2007
University Success Not a Class Act
Research from the Australian Council for Educational Research has revealed that socio-economic background is no indicator of university success.
The report Completing University: Characteristics and Outcomes of Completing and Non-Completing Students examined completion rates among young people who had commenced a university course in the period 18 to 2001.
The report was based on data from more than 3400 university commencing students from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth still in the survey in 2004 when they were aged 23 years.
The report estimated the expected completion rate of young Australians from a university course was around 80 per cent. However, the expected completion rates ranged from 73 per cent, for those with tertiary entry scores of 60-69, to 94 per cent for those with scores of 90 and more.
“This report showed that the tertiary entry score is the strongest influence on completion, followed by gender,” said the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop.
“It also showed that course completion is not affected by students’ socio-economic background and school sector or, generally, by the field of study of their course.”
Ms Bishop said while attending university but not completing did have benefits in terms of very low unemployment amongst university non-completers, they tended to be in lower status jobs than other Year 12 completers at the same age. She said this was related to their later entry into careers.
“Information from this report will be important to career advisers and to supporting agencies associated with Career Advice Australia,” Ms Bishop said.
Career Advice Australia was established in 2006 and is funded at $143.2 million from 2005-06 to 2008-09.
24 April, 2007
Cash Agency Lends Hand to Indonesia
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC, is to play a prominent role in assisting its Indonesian counterpart win the war against money laundering and terrorism.
Neil Jensen, the head of Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, is to address a national seminar in Jakarta to mark the fifth anniversary of the establishment of Indonesia’s financial intelligence unit (PPATK).
Mr Jensen would address the seminar on Building an Effective Anti-Money Laundering Regime to Support Law Enforcement, being hosted by the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
“AUSTRAC continues to work closely with international financial intelligence units to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism,” Mr Jensen said. “I am very pleased to be able to participate in the seminar to support Indonesia’s anti-money laundering reform.”
Mr Jensen would also meet with the Head of PPATK, Pak Yunus Husein, and participate in a nationally-televised program to promote anti-money laundering reforms in Indonesia.
“AUSTRAC and PPATK have a good rapport and an excellent working relationship that is strengthened by working in partnership towards regional reform and security,” Mr Jensen said.
He said AUSTRAC had worked closely with PPATK to facilitate the development of an effective anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regime, with the support of other Australian Government agencies.
To further this relationship, AUSTRAC and PPATK established a Memorandum of Understanding for the bilateral exchange of financial intelligence in February 2004. Mr Jensen said this had resulted in valuable exchanges of financial intelligence between the agencies.
AUSTRAC has also hosted visits from a number of PPATK staff and provided ongoing assistance in the development of PPATK’s information technology capabilities as well as providing operational and technical assistance.
Mr Jensen said AUSTRAC continued to work in partnership with PPATK to strengthen the regional approach to anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing.
24 April, 2007
CSIRO Flies Flag For Climate Change
CSIRO’s role in measuring, forecasting and adapting to climate change has been expanded with the announcement of $43.6 million in funding over four years for the establishment of a Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship.
The new Flagship, to be developed in collaboration with partners such as the Bureau of Meteorology and the Australian Greenhouse Office, would complement and add to the extensive atmospheric, climate and environmental research carried out by CSIRO.
CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Geoff Garrett said the new Flagship was crucial to providing a coordinated effort to delivering timely scientific solutions which would enable Australia to adapt more effectively to the impact of climate change.
“Climate change is creating not only critical national challenges, but also opportunities, and we must continue to develop the technological infrastructure and solutions necessary to adapt to it,” Dr Garrett said.
“The ability to accurately predict climate change variations and the resultant effects, risks and costs at local, regional and national levels is essential if Australia is to build a coherent and appropriate response to climate change.”
Dr Garrett said that with the increased modelling capacity and scientific understanding that the new Flagship would bring, Australia would be better able to make informed national planning, regulation and investment decisions.
One of the main areas of work for the Climate Adaptation Flagship would be the development, with the Bureau of Meteorology, of the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS) which would integrate climate and water knowledge. With better knowledge of the impact of climate change, the aim was to reduce the costs associated with adaptation and to identify new opportunities.
Dr Garrett said CSIRO, working in partnership with a range of other organisations, was uniquely positioned to help address the problems of climate change prediction in order to enable better land management, improve the management of the impacts of climate change, and better predict and understand extreme events.
He said CSIRO’s National Research Flagships were launched in 2003 to address major national challenges in areas such as energy, water and health and also opportunities for industry development and job creation. This would be the seventh Flagship.
Last year’s independent review of the Flagships Program, chaired by former Government Chief Scientist, Dr Robin Batterham, highlighted the fact that the Flagships were delivering powerful scientific solutions to national problems, successfully driving large-scale activity addressing Australia’s National Research Priorities in a collaborative, cooperative, and intensively managed manner.
24 April, 2007
Navy Cadets Sail In For CDF Challenge
The Navy has won this year’s Chief of Defence Challenge.
The challenge, which pits young cadets from the three services against each other, gives them the chance to show off their training, leadership and physical fitness skills.
Chief of the Defence Force, Air Marshal Angus Houston, congratulated the Navy saying the event was both exciting and mentally and physically demanding.
“Three teams of 10 15-20 year olds from Navy, Army and Air Force cadets took part in a week-long challenge from 10 to 14 April that tested their leadership, teamwork, quick thinking, endurance and physical fitness abilities,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
“This is the second CDF challenge to be held and it gives cadets the chance to put all their training to the test”
During the challenge, each team:
Conducted a search and rescue exercise for a downed and injured aircrew
Traversed a series of ropes, nets, tyres and beams three metres above a pool
Participated in a drill competition
Took part in a military history test at the Australian War Memorial
Packed up camp in quick time
Toured the Australian Defence Force Academy and Duntroon to hear about recruitment opportunities
Attended a formal dinner in the Officers’ Mess at the Australian Defence Force Academy for the presentation of trophies and prizes
The cadets were selected from units and squadrons in all parts of Australia.
The Australian Defence Force Cadets is a youth development organisation where 12½ to 20 year olds take part in adventurous, military-like activities, while learning about leadership, team building and themselves
17 April, 2007
Auditor Focuses On The Write Stuff
The Australian National Audit Office has published the latest in its series of newsletters Audit Focus, highlighting lessons learnt from recent audits that may be of interest to the broader Public Service.
In the latest edition, the Office discusses the Financial Management Framework, environmental sustainability in Government Agencies, the better practice guide Developing and Managing Contracts and Online Service Delivery
In its discussion of the Financial Management Framework, the ANAO refers readers to two recent reports of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Public Administration. The first looked at Agency reporting requirements and moves to ease the administrative burden by beefing up AusTender and the second, at strengthening of Parliementary control over the appropriations process by a series of improvements to Budget documents.
The newsltter also reports that a number of recent audits had revealed that many Agencies were still to come to grips with the Outcomes/Outputs Framework that was introduced in 19 to improve Budgeting and reporting.
“Seven years on, ongoing application of the framework represents a challenge in many Agencies,” the ANAO says. “Increased attention to various elements of the framework is warranted.”
The newsletter also notes that audits of 2006-07 financial statements were under way in many Agencies and it takes the chance to revisit the collective results of last year’s audits as a guide to what may be expected this year.
The newsletter points out that in 2005-06 key reconciliations were often late, that IT security was an issue, business continuity plans weee problematic and many organisations had trouble meeting ther reporting deadlines.
The ANAO referred Deparmnets and others to its better practice guide Preparation of Financial Statements by Public Sector Agencies as a useful tool for keeping processes under control.
Credit cards also rate a mention in the newsletter, the ANOA drawing on two recently completeted audits that “serve as a timely reminder” that managers need to be vigilant to ensure thay are not muisuesed.
Audit Focus can be downmloaded from the ANAO website www.anao.gov.au.
17 April, 2007
Medicare Banks on NAB for Easyclaim
The National Australia Bank has joined with Medicare to support the new electronic claiming initiative called Medicare Easyclaim.
The Minister for Human Services, Senator Chris Ellison welcomed the move which sees the NAB join the Commonwealth Bank and MoneySwitch as the third banking institution to take part in operating this new service.
Medicare Easyclaim would be available through doctors surgeries from later this year.
Senator Ellison said Medicare Easyclaim would offer new levels of customer convenience and make it easier and quicker to receive Medicare rebates direct into their bank account.
“Patients will be able to lodge their Medicare claims by swiping their Medicare card, together with their bank debit card, through the EFTPOS terminal in their doctor’s office,” Senator Ellison said.
“Medicare rebates will then be deposited directly into bank accounts.”
Senator Ellison said with two major banks already signed on, the majority of doctors with EFTPOS would have the opportunity to offer Medicare Easyclaim to their patients.
MoneySwitch was a banking business focused on payment solutions that plans to integrate electronic Medicare claiming into practice management systems.
Senator Ellison said Medicare Easyclaim represented a big step forward in the delivery of Medicare benefits to Australians.
“Having your Medicare rebate paid directly in your bank account while still at the doctor’s surgery means no more inconvenient trips to a Medicare office or the delay experienced when lodging claims through the post,” Senator Ellison said.
“It will be quick, convenient and secure, utilising existing EFTPOS technology,” Senator Ellison said.
“I certainly encourage other financial institutions to follow the lead of the Commonwealth Bank, NAB and Moneyswitch - and I look forward to announcing further new partnerships as we move closer to implementing Medicare Easyclaim.”
17 April, 2007
Telstra Engaged in Call Centre Call
The Community and Public Sector Union has called for a full independent inquiry into what it called unfair work targets in Telstra call-centres following the suicide of 21-year old worker.
Over the past 18 months, CPSU members in Telstra had been campaigning against unfair targets because of their impact on the mental and physical health of workers.
After surveying Telstra staff on the impacts of the work practices, the CPSU wrote to Telstra CEO, Sol Trujillo last December outlining many staff concerns about targets and calling for immediate action to address health and safety issues.
The union claims it is still waiting for a response.
According to the CPSU, many Telstra call-centre staff were employed under AWAs and up to a third of their pay packet could be at risk if “unfair and unrealistic” targets were not met.
In the letter to Mr Trujillo, the CPSU said the survey showed the concerns were widely and deeply felt within Telstra.
“The apparently deliberate practice of continually raising sales targets (so they become impossible for many workers to achieve) and then placing these staff under a performance/disciplinary process is seen by your workers as both unfair and counterproductive to retaining good staff in the company and providing quality customer service,” the union wrote.
The CPSU said the survey of 10 sites found:
More than 70 per cent of respondents believed targets should be set so that they were achievable by at least 80 per cent of workers
per cent indicated some time out of the phone queue for customer follow up and reading time would be beneficial to deliver improved client service, and
many respondents indicated that an unfair distribution of sales calls was making it impossible for workers to meet targets no matter how hard they worked.
The CPSU also found that in a health survey conducted at a number of the sites:
More than 70 per cent of respondents said they were looking for another job due to the work targets and work practices being imposed.
77 per cent of respondents indicated they had low stress levels away from the workplace but 92 per cent said they had high stress levels in the workplace and
Just under half of the respondents had received verbal or written warnings.
The CPSU said that while none of the findings suggested Telstra should not put in place fair and reasonable performance management processes.
“The problem is that based on the evidence we have collected, these processes are being abused and this is leading to a decline in worker’s health, increasing worker disenchantment with the company and a reduction in service levels to Telstra clients,” the union said.
17 April, 2007
$10M Payday For Jobs Watchdog
The Office of Workplace Services found that more than 6300 workers were being underpaid in its first year of operation and recovered over $10 million in pay for them.
OWS Director, Nicholas Wilson said the results stemmed from investigations and targeted audits since the Office commenced operations as an independent agency on 27 March 2006.
“It is a basic right of all workers in Australia to be paid correctly for their hours worked, rates of pay, leave entitlements and employment status,” Mr Wilson said.
“OWS will act on all justified claims regardless of the amount, with no minimum threshold.”
He said while most employers did the right thing by their employees and were aware of their obligations, it was easy for the OWS to follow up.
“OWS publishes fact sheets and time and wages record keeping templates, which help prove the amounts paid are correct,” Mr Wilson said.
“Employers who want tailored arrangements for their workplaces can easily set up agreements that give absolute certainty about wages and conditions.”
He said while the OWS sought voluntary compliance it would not hesitate to pursue cases through the courts, where severe penalties of up to $33 000 per offence can be applied, in addition to recovery of any unpaid entitlements.
Mr Wilson urged any worker concerned that he or she was not being paid their full entitlements to contact OWS immediately.
He said the Office had installed a helpline - 1300 724 200 – that provided information on how to lodge a claim or contact could be made through the OWS website at www.ows.gov.au.
Employers were also encouraged to contact OWS to access the range of resources available to avoid the potential risks of underpayment.
“The central role of OWS is to ensure that the rights and obligations of workers and employers under workplace law are protected, understood and enforced fairly,” Mr Wilson said.
17 April, 2007
Radio Awards Easy as ABC
The ABC has announced the finalists in its 2007 Local Radio Awards which recognise the talent and dedication of ABC Local Radio staff who deliver radio services to local communities around Australia.
Open to all broadcasters and producers from the ABC’s nine metropolitan and 51 regional radio stations across the country, the categories recognise individual and station excellence and include metropolitan and regional broadcaster and station of the year, sports and rural broadcasting and website production, as well as coverage of significant local community events and outside broadcasts.
Director of ABC Radio and Regional Content, Sue Howard, who was on the Awards judging panel, said she was impressed with both the experienced nominees as well as the performance of finalists who were nominated this year for the first time.
“There are a number of new names and faces in contention for the Awards this year, and that is a reflection of the calibre of new talent emerging across the Local Radio network,” she said.
The winners of the 2007 ABC Local Radio Awards would be announced in Newcastle on Thursday 3 May at a ceremony hosted by 702 ABC Sydney Evenings and ABC TV New Inventors presenter James O’Loghlin.
The Awards would be complemented by a two-day Forum for finalists and Local Radio delegates to discuss a wide range of topics including the future of the ABC over the next five years, building strong local communities and maintaining creativity and energy in the work environment.
17 April, 2007
Efficiency At APRA Means Form Reversal
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority plans to make its data collection more efficient by streamlining the number of forms that need to be completed.
APRA plans to update the data specifications and improve the technology used to transfer data to APRA. The reporting standards, to be made under the Financial Sector (Collection of Data) Act 2001, would also be more consistent with those used for authorised deposit-taking institutions, general insurers and superannuation funds.
APRA uses the data to assist in the prudential supervision of life companies. It also publishes information based on these data to help industry and observers understand life insurance trends and identify emerging issues.
Currently there were 53 data collection forms for life insurers and 31 forms for friendly societies. APRA proposes to replace these with 15 forms for all life companies and friendly societies.
APRA Member, John Trowbridge said the new standards were being developed in consultation with the life insurance and friendly society industries, which support improved data collection processes.
APRA was also seeking public comment on the proposal.
“Both the life insurance industry and the friendly society industry have changed substantially over the past 10 years,” Mr Trowbridge said.
“But the structure of data collections has remained static. The proposed new process will be a significant step forward.”
He said the existing processes for data collection from life companies were more than 10 years old and were inherited from APRA’s predecessor organisations, the Australian Financial Institutions Commission and the Insurance and Superannuation Commission.
17 April, 2007
Diggers Go Digital In WW1 Archive
The Prime Minister, John Howard, has launched A Gift to the Nation, a project that gives Australians online access to the files of 376,000 men and women who served during World War I.
The three-year project by the National Archives of Australia has digitised 12.3 million individual pages. The gift was twofold: free online access to the service files for all Australians, and their preservation for future generations.
Mr Howard said that while most Australians had relatives who served during World War I, many had never had the opportunity to discover their details. He said they could now download entire service files, which sometimes included personal letters.
Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, Ross Gibbs said with the records online, people could use them at a time and place of their own choosing.
“Our World War I records are among the most requested documents in the National Archives collection,” Mr Gibbs said.
“To protect and preserve them, we made a decision to digitise them so that access is primarily online.”
He said as the digitised records have gradually become available online, family and historical researchers had expressed their appreciation.
He said from isolated Australians who said “you are a Godsend to us bushies” to family historians who labeled the information “very emotive stuff ,” and to professors of history who said the collection contained “very useful and important information”, many people had welcomed the project.
Mr Gibbs said the NAA project included three steps: cataloguing unregistered service files, storing them in archivally-sound folders and scanning the individual pages.
The National Archives collection preserves the history of interaction between the Australian Government and the Australian people for future generations. It is committed to making its records as accessible as possible.
17 April, 2007
English Test Leaves Migrants Speechless
Reforms to the General Skilled Migration program will require migrants wishing to come to Australia to meet higher standards of English.
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Kevin Andrews and Minister for Education and Training, Julie Bishop, have announced details of the reforms.
“These important reforms, which take effect from 1 September 2007, will ensure higher standards of English are attained by students coming to Australia to study,” Ms Bishop said.
“Students wishing to apply for a GSM visa will now be required to have a good understanding of the English language and undertake relevant work experience,” Mr Andrews said.
They said the English language threshold requirement for all GSM visas would increase.
A points test would be adjusted to benefit applicants with advanced Australian tertiary qualifications, Australian skilled work experience and strong English language skills.
“The changes are important for students and our education providers as they create greater certainty that international students will have the language proficiency to gain the full benefit of their studies,” Ms Bishop said.
“This also assists in maintaining the strong reputation of our education sector as a provider of high quality education to international students.”
The changes also included major structural reforms to the GSM which would see the 11 skilled migration visa categories reduced to four and the 15 skilled migration visa subclasses cut to nine. The Ministers said these changes, plus allowing all GSM visas to be lodged through the internet. would create a more efficient visa system.
A temporary visa would be created to enable overseas students already studying in Australia to remain in the country while gaining skilled work experience, improving their English language or undertaking a professional year. A new temporary visa would also be created for recent graduates from recognised overseas institutions with key skills in demand in Australia.
“The changes would lead to better labour market outcomes for all General Skilled Migration applicants and help deliver the skills Australian employers need,” Mr Andrews said.
17 April, 2007
Election Critics Ticked Off
Recent criticism of changes to the Electoral Act was nothing more than misinformation and lies according to Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn.
“Last year, the Howard Government moved to improve the integrity of our electoral system and reduce the opportunity for electoral fraud by implementing changes to the close of rolls period for Federal elections and introducing proof of identity as a requirement for electoral enrolment,” Mr Nairn said.
He said the critics claim that the roll would close as soon as an election was called was not true.
“This is not true,” he said.
“The changes mean that those people who are currently enrolled, who need to change their address, will have three working days from the issue of the writs to update their details. People enrolling for the first time or re-enrolments will have to enrol by 8pm on the day the writs are issued.
“The day the writ is issued is not the day the election is called.”
Mr Nairn said that at every election since 16, the writs had been issued in the days after the announcement of the election, so people would still have enough time to enrol or change their enrolment details between the election being called and the close of rolls - up to three days for new enrolments and six days for enrolment updates.
“These changes will provide further time for the AEC to go through the due process required to identify and discount fraudulent enrolments before polling day, after which time it is too late to discount the vote,” Mr Nairn said.
He said he believed the new requirement for proof of identity had also been misinterpreted.
“The only time ID will be needed on polling day is when someone wants to cast a provisional vote because their name does not appear on the electoral roll.
“This is for the very simple reason that we want to remove the possibility of provisional votes being cast by people with assumed identities.”
Mr Nairn described as “ridiculous” the assertion that asking young people to provide ID when enrolling was too onerous a burden, and would serve to disenfranchise young first time voters.
“They are wrong.
“Any young person who has a birth certificate, gets a drivers licence, uses ID to go to the pub, has opened a bank account, has a student ID card or uses Medicare will already have the information they need to get enrolled.”
He said claims that the Government “moved by stealth” to rush the laws through the Parliament couldn’t be further from the truth.
“These laws were debated for more than 29 hours in the Parliament. No fewer than 20 Opposition Members spoke on the Bill in the House of Representatives. The Bill was then debated for more than 17 hours in the Senate. At no point did the Government move to restrict this important debate,” Mr Nairn said.
“When any Australian goes into a polling booth to cast their vote, they rightly expect that their vote will not be undermined by an illegitimate vote cast by a person who is fraudulently enrolled. These laws will protect the fundamental right to vote.”
17 April, 2007
Pollies Face Up To Portrait Display
An exhibition of portraits of politicians, Parliamentarians and their associates is on display in the Fountain Court Foyer of the NSW Parliament House in Sydney.
Based on the concept of “Power in the House”, the exhibition brings together the images of such notable subjects as Senator Helen Coonan, former Olympic Sports Minister Warwick Smith, Dr. Meredith Burgman, Michael Costa, Tanya Plibersek, Andrew Tink, David Parr, Peter Pierce, Anthony Roberts, John Aquilina, Gladys Berejiklan, Linda Burney and many others and is made up from works by members of the group Portrait Artists Australia.
Formal and informal portraits are displayed in a range of differing media, styles and treatments, all derived from the central theme.
Many of the subjects are expected to attend the exhibition and provide informal photo opportunities and politically correct commentary on the quality of the images.
Portrait Artists Australia is a non-for-profit association of professional artists with a reputation as one of the nation’s leading group of Portrait Artists. Membership is by invitation.
The Exhibition will run until 27 April.
17 April, 2007
Minister Sees Green Over Land Policies
Planning policies of the 1980s and 10s that had led to mega-fires had been a “a complete failure” according to the Minister for Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz.
Senator Abetz has called for the “lock-up and forget” approach to land management to be thrown out.
“We need to abandon the now discredited ‘lock up and forget’ approach of the 1980s and 10s, which has only resulted in an increasing frequency of mega-fires,” Senator Abetz said.
He said state-based land management agencies needed to adopt a new land management approach if they were to avoid increasing numbers of “mega fires” over coming bushfire seasons.
“In addition to the devastating social and economic damage caused by recent mega fires, such as the 2002/03 and 2006/07 Victorian mega fires, this strategy has had the perverse environmental outcome of destroying forests and their ecosystems, rather than conserving them as their proponents claimed they would, he said.
As a result and for example, some of the magnificent Alpine Ash forests of the Victorian Alps had been destroyed forever, and three endangered Victorian species – the Spotted Tree Frog, the Long-footed Potoroo and the Pygmy Possum had all been pushed closer to extinction by th e recent summer’s fires.
The Minister highlighted the fact that prescribed burning had fallen and/or not reached targets over recent years as evidence that the “lock-up and forget” mentality was still dominant.
“In NSW, prescribed burning in National Parks has fallen by one third over the past four years, while in Victoria last year only a little over a third of the prescribed burning target was reached,” he said.
“Rural communities don’t want excuses, they want to know that State Governments and their various departments and agencies have taken all humanly available action to try and prevent mega fires taking place.”
17 April, 2007
Radio Broadcast Makes Waves
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that the licensee of commercial radio 2GB Sydney had breached the Commercial Radio Codes of Practice by broadcasting material that was likely to encourage violence.
ACMA also found that the licensee broadcast material on its Breakfast with Alan Jones show that was likely to vilify people of Lebanese background and of Middle-Eastern background on the basis of their ethnicity.
While ACMA found that the material was presented for a purpose that was in the public interest – i.e. a discussion of factors contributing to unrest in the Cronulla area of southern Sydney in December 2005 – I also found that the relevant comments were not presented reasonably and in good faith.
Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan has called on the commercial radio industry to review the code.
“Under the co-regulatory regime, the code was developed by industry in consultation with ACMA,” Senator Coonan said.
“. The regulator applies the guidelines set out under the code.”
She said she was particularly mindful of the talkback radio format which had been the subject of complaints under the Code recently.
“In my view, effective Codes of Practice would apply standards no higher than those which are contained in comparable legislation.”
She called on the industry and ACMA to bring forward a review planned for later this year to allow interested parties to have a voice and ensure good quality broadcasting and programming could continue.
“A review will give the public and the commercial radio industry an opportunity to comment on the Code, and in particular on those parts of it which have been the subject of most recent concern.”
During the investigation, 2GB submitted that ACMA’s analysis of the code and findings raised significant practical problems for commercial radio licensees, especially those that provide talk-back services.
ACMA noted this was the third time that the licensee has been found in breach of the vilification provision of the code in the last six months for broadcasts that occurred in the past two years.
In addition to the breaches relating to Breakfast with Alan Jones, ACMA had also found the licensee to have breached the Code in its Your Sydney Weekend and The Open-Line Show.
In light of the repeated failings, ACMA has indicated it would move to pursue significantly heightened compliance measures in relation to the potential for future breaches.
17 April, 2007
Bigger Hooks For Seafood Campaign
Tougher measures are to be taken to uncover retailers mislabelling seafood, the Seafood 1800 Hotline being strengthened by the launch of new promotional material and the addition of an online service.
Launching the new service, Minister for Fisheries, Senator Eric Abetz, said that Australians were eating more and more seafood each year, so it was increasingly important that fish available for purchase was accurately labelled with both its origin and its species.
He said the hotline, set up in 2005, allowed seafood consumers to report incidents of retailers mislabelling their seafood.
“Consumers want to know they’re getting what they paid for,” Senator Abetz said.
“If they chose to buy Australian barramundi for example, they should be getting Australian barramundi, not a cheaper substitute.
He said the majority of seafood retailers were honest and hardworking people who supported the Hotline initiative to stamp out the handful of disreputable retailers dishonestly trying to make a quick buck at the expense of Australian consumers and fishermen.
He said since 2005, the 1800 Hotline had received more than 300 calls and had raised awareness of consumers and retailers of the importance of accurate labelling.
Senator Abetz said that the ramped-up 1800 Hotline was further evidence of the Government’s commitment to ensuring consistency and accuracy in seafood labelling, and supported other initiatives including the development of an Australian Fish Names Standard and new Country of Origin labelling requirements.
“The Australian Fish Names Standard ensures consistency of labelling around the country and prevents cheaper species of fish being passed off as more expensive species,” Senator Abetz said.
“In addition, the new Country of Origin labelling requirements, which came into effect in June 2006, mean that consumers get to know exactly where the seafood in retail outlets was produced, and makes it easier to buy Australian and support local fishermen and aquaculturists should they choose to.”
He said he was confident the beefed-up Seafood Hotline service would strengthen and support compliance with the Fish Names List and the Country of Origin Labelling requirements, helping consumers to make confident and informed decisions about the fish they eat.
17 April, 2007
Chemical Control Close to Solution
A discussion paper on how best to control chemicals that could pose security risks has received widespread public comment over the past three months.
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock and Minister for Agriculture, Peter McGauran, said that more than 90 submissions had been received in the consultative period to 1 March 2007 as part of the Council of Australian Government’s Review of Hazardous Materials.
The Ministers said the discussion paper was the first part of a review of the use and supply of chemicals of security concern to prevent their possible use in a terrorist incident.
They said Australia was moving towards arrangements that accounted for the potential risks of some chemicals, however, the key objective was to strike a balance between national security needs and the legitimate access to chemicals by farmers for their day-to-day business.
Submissions were received from a range of stakeholders including:
State and national peak bodies representing different sectors with an interest in chemicals
Australian Government and State government departments
importers and exporters
chemical distributors and suppliers
transport and maritime industries
education and research institutions, and
The review process was being further informed through an Industry Consultation Group, that provided advice to all Governments on workable solutions that achieve the security outcome.
The concerns of farmers, in particular, had been taken on board and they, along with other stakeholders, would be encouraged to take part in a second round of consultations later this year. A report to COAG would then follow.
Implementation of the report’s recommendations was not expected to commence until 2008 at the earliest.
17 April, 2007
Cool Runnings In Defence Snow Games
A 14-member squad from the Australian Defence Force has taken on Britain’s top athletes in the British National Interservice and Army Biathlon and Cross Country Ski Championships in Ruhpolding Germany and were “surprisingly” competitive.
Major Filip Likar, Army Nordic Skiing and Biathlon Association President, said the team had done very well with some athletes finishing races in the top 15-20 per cent of the field.
“Sapper Emily Dutton skied and shot exceptionally well considering that she really only spent six weeks on snow before competing in the championships,” Major Likar told Army News.
The females dominated the events as Sapper Dutton finished 11th in the women’s 10km classic event, and Captain Kathy Zimmerman was ranked 18th in the ladies 7.5km freestyle.
Major Likar achieved a good result in the men’s 15km classic coming in 27th position. The ADF ladies placed fourth in the team event and the men’s team came in 28th position.
Selection for the national team was based on individual skier strength and results from the inter-service competition conducted in August last year.
The team was up against some tough competition as the standard of skiing and shooting was of a high level.
Many of the UK’s top winter athletes are servicemen and women, with the British military so far producing 106 Winter Olympic athletes.
This year was particularly significant as it was the 60th anniversary of the British and Army Cross Country Championships and the 10th anniversary of the exercise’s conduct in Ruhpolding.
17 April, 2007
Arts Minister Paints Pretty Tax Picture
The total number of organisations that offer tax benefits for arts donations has reached 1091, with the addition of 14 more in the past month.
Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis said interest in arts philanthropy was growing in Australia as donors realised there were “twin benefits” involved.
“A donation to one of the organisations listed on the Register of Cultural Organisations provides a tax benefit for the giver as well as real and much-appreciated support for the cultural sector in Australia,” Senator Brandis said.
He said the listed organisations represented an extremely wide range of arts and cultural activities and donors could target their support extremely effectively.
“The ROCO program aims to encourage the cultural sector to seek private sector support that supplements government and other sources of financial assistance,” he said.
Organisations on the Register augmented their revenue with income from private sources through the program by around $40 million in the 2005–06 financial year. Donors have provided approximately $323 million to cultural organisations on the Register since the program began in 11.
ROCO is administered by the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and operates under Subdivision 30-B of the Income Tax Assessment Act 17
10 April, 2007
Retirees' Anger Over Future Fund’s Past
The Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association has leapt to the defence of Commonwealth Public Servants dragged into the recent political controversy over the creation and purpose of the Government’s Future Fund.
Federal President of the SCOA, Ewan Hazell reacted strongly to press criticism, rejecting media claims that the Future Fund was set up to pay billions of dollars in “unfunded liabilities” as pensions for retired Public Servants
“That the Future Fund was established to pay for /Defence pensions is understandable,” Mr Hazell said, “because that is what the Government often says.”
“The truth is that these Commonwealth Defence pensions have historically been paid from annual revenue collections.”
He said there was ample evidence to show that the Commonwealth would continue to pay the superannuation entitlements of its staff from collections into the future without the need for the Future Fund.
Government documents supported this view, he said, with at least two reporting “that such expenditure will fall significantly as a percentage of gross domestic product.”
He said the true purpose of the Future Fund s was to meet the future costs of an ageing population.
“The Future Fund was established to fund the escalating cost of health and aged care due to Australia’s ageing population,” Mr Hazell said.
He dismissed claims in the newspapers that Commonwealth Public Service pensions were “over-inflated,” pointing out that the average Commonwealth and Defence superannuation pension was $20,649 a year, which was $1200 less than the combined married rate of the aged pension.
“That modest (PS) pension usually supports both members of a couple and is linked to the Consumer Price Index, unlike other Government-funded pensions that go by a more realistic and fairer wage-based index,” he said.
Mr Hazell also made the point that the majority of Commonwealth and Defence superannuants who belonged to untaxed superannuation schemes would receive little or no benefit from the new superannuation taxation arrangements due to be introduced on 1 July.
He said if the Future Fund money was there to pay unfunded superannuation obligations it would be wisest for the Government to invest it in a superannuation scheme.
10 April, 2007
Auditor Puts Records Back in the Groove
The Auditor-General has urged Agencies to improve their recordkeeping practices, saying recently that not all were fulfilling their recordkeeping responsibilities.
Auditor-General, Ian Mcphee told the Check-up: Audit Issues and Electronic Records Solutions seminar at the National Archives of Australia that recent audits had revealed many Agencies were relying on multiple methods of recordkeeping which made the process inefficient and information difficult to find.
He said Agencies needed to be aware of their recordkeeping responsibilities and many were not investing properly to improve systems.
He said an issue of relevance for the Public Service was the proliferation of systems where records were created, stored and managed.
“In large agencies in particular, these systems can be counted in the hundreds,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the large number of different storage systems meant there was no unified area to submit or access stored information.
“The real challenge for many Agencies is to identify cost effective ways that multiple systems can be integrated or linked to help facilitate access to records and information.”
He said an important step would be to do a thorough stock-take of all systems and applications currently used for record creation and storage.
Mr McPhee said many Agencies did not see their recordkeeping failures as an issue because there had not been any problems.
“One of the factors that can make this difficult is that Agencies can often continue to ‘get by’, even though their recordkeeping practices are far from ideal.”
“Inbuilt inefficiencies,” he said, “can simply be accepted as part of ‘that’s just the way things are done here’.”
He urged Agencies to embrace new technology and electronic formats which could introduce a clearer structure for the classification and storage of records.
“Increasing the importance and priority on recordkeeping will require changes to Agencies’ culture and business practices,” he said.
He said that improving the recordkeeping culture of an organisation would require the input of all staff from the Chief Executive down.
“Strategies to improve recordkeeping practices must recognise that all staff will be affected,” he said.
Mr Mcphee said his message was not all bad news and that some Agencies were aware of the issue and were looking to improve recordkeeping standards.
“Many Agencies are making recordkeeping a higher priority and almost all APS Agencies had taken measures to improve recordkeeping during 2005-2006,” Mr Mchpee said.
“The large majority of APS employees considered good recordkeeping practices to be very important.”
10 April, 2007
MPs Investigate Electoral Office
The Federal Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters is to examine the Australian Electoral Commission’s Divisional office structure and report to the Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn.
Mr Nairn requested the Committee enquire into the AEC offices, in particular exploring the advantages and disadvantages of co-locating Divisional Offices, the numbers and levels of staff in Divisional Offices and whether their career prospects where affected.
In the terms of reference the Minister gave the Committee he also asked it to examine:
whether current arrangements met community expectations for the appropriate use of staffing resources;
the level of staffing required to meet ongoing habitation reviews;
whether current APS staffing levels were appropriate for the work of Divisional Offices; and
other issues relating to the staffing of divisional and central offices
The Committee has been asked to respond to the Minister on or before 17 September 2007:
Committee Chair, Sophie Mirabella MP said the enquiry would provide a valuable opportunity to review the adequacy and effectiveness of some aspects of AEC’s administration.
“In particular,’ Ms Mirabella said, “the Committee will scrutinise the adequacy of co-location of Divisional Offices.
She said in its 2001 Federal Election report, the Committee questioned the effectiveness of co-locating Divisional offices.
She said in 2003 the committee was also unconvinced that the AEC had addressed its concerns about co-location, which included the possible loss of local electoral knowledge; the impact that could have on the accuracy of electoral rolls; the possibility of a reduced service to electors, Members of Parliament and candidates; the possibility that electoral education and similar functions would be reduced, and that there could be a reduced number of permanent staff conducting elections.
The Committee would accept written submissions from the public which could be sent to JSCEM, PO Box 6021, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2601, by Friday, 5 May 2007.
10 April, 2007
Defence Aims High Following Review
The Department of Defence had made significant progress in policy and a range of Public Sector reforms over the past decade during an unprecedented period of high operational activity.
The Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson has released the final report of the Defence Management Review Team that acknowledged the success of the Department but at the same time identified the stress the Department was under to deliver administratively when its main focus was on supporting military operations in deployments around the world.
“I commissioned this review in August 2006 in consultation with the Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Force,” Dr Nelson said, “to examine organisational efficiency and effectiveness across the Defence organisation.
“Since the 2000 White Paper, over $85 billion worth of projects have been approved and planned.”
He said the Departmnet had implemented major procurement reforms including the establishment of the Defence Materiel Organisation as a prescribed agency and command and control arrangements had become progressively refined to reflect the joint nature of modern warfare.
“Defence has become a better place to work, with the introduction of programs to emphasise organisational values and extensive reform of the military justice system,” Dr Nelson said.
The report makes 53 recommendations in four key areas:
Accountability and governance
Support to Ministers and Government
Business system reform
Dr Nelson said he and senior management recognised that further improvements to the way the organisation carried out its business were necessary to position it better to meet future challenges.
The Department has agreed to implement in full 50 of the report’s recommendations, to implement two in part, but has rejected one.
Dr Nelson said the Department was already planning the following:
It would ensure accountabilities were clearly defined and devolved in every case to the lowest appropriate level;
It would reform top level committees to make them more efficient and effective;
It would improve the ability of its workforce to support Ministers;
It would appoint an expert to head a strategic HR function focused on policy, planning and evaluation to support better decision-making; and
It would ensure leaders at every level had the policies and tools they needed to lead, manage and develop their workforce.
The Minister said work had already commenced to define better the Defence business model, and review business processes and systems which would ensure a focus on efficient and effective delivery of outcomes.
He said the Department would engage an expert Chief Information Officer to drive a substantial information technology reform agenda. The new CIO would focus on improved customer support, better information management systems and options for further rationalising current Defence systems.
The recommendation not agreed by the Department relates to altered definitions of the roles of the Secretary and CDF under the Defence diarchy.
“The Secretary and CDF have advised me they are of the strong view that the diarchy works best when the two leaders work jointly across Defence responsibilities,” Dr Nelson said.
“I accept and agree with their advice.”
10 April, 2007
Water Talk Makes Waves at Treasury
Treasury Secretary, Ken Henry, has rejected media claims that an internal address to staff in March was critical of the Federal Government
“Contrary to media reporting,” Dr Henry said in a statement, “this speech did not deliver ‘a scathing assessment of the Federal Government’s water and climate-change policies,’ nor does it criticise Government policy or processes”
Dr Henry posted a copy of his speech on the internet.
He said the theme of his speech was Treasury’s Effectiveness in the Current Environment and was aimed at assisting staff in fulfilling the Department’s mission of “improving the wellbeing of the Australian people by providing sound and timely advice to the Government, based on objective and thorough analysis of options…”
He said the speech drew on examples where Treasury had been very effective, including the Intergenerational Report, the national reform agenda and superannuation, and the greater challenge of being effective in non-Treasury portfolio areas such as water and the environment.
“My point was that to be effective, Treasury needs not only to provide deep analytical rigour and economy-wide thinking but also to be persuasive in communicating its views.”
In his speech, Dr Henry addressed the role of Treasury staff in the lead-up to the Federal election this year, saying it would bring “challenges, opportunities and obligations.”
“2007 will test our mettle as apolitical public servants,” Dr Henry said.
“We need to be even more acutely aware of our role and our identity as part of an apolitical APS.”
He said the Public Service values made it clear that the Public Service was essentially non-political, but it still needed to be responsive to the Government of the day.
“In a pre-election period, we need to be particularly vigilant in balancing our duty to be responsive to our ministers with the need to be non-partisan, non-political, in the advice that we provide.”
He said when the election was called, the Department would take on additional responsibilities including the costing of Government and Opposition election promises and the preparation of briefings for the incoming Government – a ‘red book’ addressed to a Labor Government and a ‘blue book’ addressed to a Coalition Government.
In a comment that triggered responses from Ministers, Dr Henry also pointed out the Department’s position on water and climate change.
“All of us would wish that we had been listened to more attentively over the past several years in both of these areas,” he said. “There is no doubt that policy outcomes would have been far superior had our views been more influential.”
He said the Department had an obligation to ensure its policy advice to Government was well thought-out and convincing.
“The quality of our relationship with Treasury Ministers is of vital importance for very obvious reasons,” he said.
“We need to be responsive to our Ministers, tailoring our advice to the current economic and political environment, but at the same time safeguarding the integrity of our advice.”
Dr Henry said staff needed to remember that they didn’t have the power to determine policy - “And nor should we.”
“We have to try to make the case so compelling that they not only listen, but also act,” he said.
10 April, 2007
Capital Injection For Capital Staff
Staff of the ACT Public Service have negotiated a 12 per cent payrise, a three-year deal expected to be finalised soon.
The new salary agreement will cover about 10,000 Australian Capital Territory staff and replaces an agreement that expired earlier this month.
The Community and Public Sector Union, which has been negotiating the deal with the ACT Government since last October, was confident of signing off on the increase shortly.
The union said it had struck the in-principle arrangement during a meeting with Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope.
Based on current salaries the agreement could add $90 million to the Territory’s wages bill.
Opposition leader Bill Stefaniak said he hoped the deal would include productivity gains, and asked whether the increase had been budgeted for.
“That’s a hell of a lot of money,” he said.
Mr Stefaniak said the pending agreement contrasted sharply with last year’s long-running teachers’ dispute which sparked 18 months of disputes, strikes and five rejected offers. An independent arbitrator eventually awarded Canberra teachers an 11.5 per cent pay rise over 2.5 years.
The CPSU’s ACT region director, Vince McDevitt, said the new PS agreement had already received “unanimous support” from those public servants who had seen it.
The deal would be the first the ACT Government had negotiated under the WorkChoices legislation.
Mr McDevitt said the three-year agreement included annual pay rises of 4 per cent.
“There's no less of conditions and some enhancements, and no delay,” Mr McDevitt said.
“We think it’s a really good outcome, given that we started our negotiations in October during the post-Budget nightmare, when money was tight.”
Staff included in the deal are Departmental administration, policy and support staff, but not professionals such as nurses and firefighters.
10 April, 2007
ABC Tunes Up For Birthday Concerts
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is to hold a series of concerts and community events across Australia to commemorate its 75th anniversary this year.
ABC Chairman Maurice Newman launched the program of birthday celebrations at a reception in Parliament House attended by Ministers, Senators and Members of the House of Representatives.
The ABC’s official birthday is Sunday 1 July – 75 years to the day from when Prime Minister Joseph Lyons proclaimed the launch of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
“For 75 years the ABC has been a distinctive part of the Australian way of life,” Mr Newman said.
“As Australia’s only national broadcaster, the ABC has shared its history and development with the growth of our nation – becoming an important part of Australia’s heritage while reflecting the nation’s cultural diversity.”
He said the ABC would open its doors to local communities around the country this year in a program of community Open Days to celebrate the historic occasion. The ABC would host a birthday concert in 14 locations around Australia – in capital cities and regional Australia.
“Celebrations will include studio presentations, classical and jazz concerts, studio tours and visits, and talks from local television and radio presenters, both old and new,” Mr Newman said/
Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott said the Corporation expected to celebrate with more than a million Australians as the Open Day program rolled out over the coming months.
“This is a chance for people to celebrate the history of the ABC and to experience their ABC in a unique way,” Mr Scott said.
“With 60 Local ABC Radio stations across the nation, from Broome to Hobart, Cairns to Albany – the ABC is at the heart of many local communities, whether it’s listening to one of our 4 national radio networks, 3 internet radio stations, watching ABC TV or ABC2, or downloading content from ABC Online – the ABC is there informing and entertaining local audiences.”
10 April, 2007
PS Marching to Union Tune
Public Sector employees were more likely to be trade union members than employees in the private sector according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Bureau has reported that 43 per cent of PS staff were union members compared with 15 per cent of those in the private workforce.
Overall, the Bureau said there had been a fall in the number of trade union members with one in five employees (1.8 million people) signed up to a union for their main job in August 2006, which was a fall of 6.6 per cent from the 1.9 million members recorded in August 2005.
The proportion of total employees who were trade union members also decreased over the 12-month period, from 22 per cent to 20 per cent.
Other findings of the ABS on trade union membership last August 2006 included:
full-time employees were more likely to be trade union members than part-time employees – 22 per cent of full-time employees compared with 16 per cent of part-time employees.
male employees were more likely to be union members than female employees (21 per cent and 19 per cent respectively).
the occupation group with the highest proportion of employees who were in their union was “machinery operators and drivers” (35 per cent).
the industries with the highest proportion of employees who were trade union members were “electricity, gas, water and waste services” and “education and training” (both 39 per cent).
Tasmania boasted the highest proportion of unionised employees (27 per cent) of any State or Territory.
In August 2006, the Bureau said the mean weekly earnings of employees in all jobs was $862, an increase of $55 (6.8 per cent) over the previous 12 months. Mean weekly earnings of employees in their main job was $851. Full-time employees earned on average $1045 per week in their main job, compared with $388 for part-time employees. The mean weekly earnings for full-time male employees was $1122 and for full-time female employees it was $908.
Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of employees had paid leave entitlements in August 2006.
The proportion of full-time employees with paid leave entitlements was 86 per cent, compared with 43 per cent of part-time employees. A higher proportion of male employees had paid leave entitlements than female employees (76 per cent compared with 70 per cent).
10 April, 2007
Aviation Taskforce Cleared to Take Off
An industry taskforce has been established to assist the Minister for Transport, Mark Vaile and the Chief Executive of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, Bruce Byron, to set key directions and priorities for aviation regulatory reform for the next five years.
Mr Vaile announced the move, saying the taskforce would be chaired by the former Secretary of Transport and Regional Services, Dr Allan Hawke and include Mr Byron; prominent aviation identity, Dick Smith; Jeff Boyd from Brindabella Airlines; and Rob Graham, an aviation industry consultant.
The taskforce announcement follows the Australian Transport Safety Bureau’s final report on a fatal aviation accident at Lockhart River in North Queensland on 7 May 2005 where 15 people lost their lives.
Mr Vaile said every Australian had a right to expect that they would be safe on Australian airlines.
“In Australia, we have one of the world’s safest flying environments and the Australian Government is committed to ensuring that this remains the case,” Mr Vaile said.
He said since 2004 CASA had been introducing major organisational changes under a new framework which gave top priority to the safe operation of passenger carrying services.
“We need to expedite the regulatory reform program to ensure we have up-to-date, effective safety regulatory and management systems in place,” Mr Vaile said. “This is also timely as CASA will, from 1 July, be the airspace regulator with the transfer of airspace regulatory functions to the new Office of Airspace Regulation.”
Mr Vaile said the Government’s objective was for Australia to have a world-class safety regulatory environment, including regulations that were outcome-based and simple to follow and reflected world’s best practice.
“This will permit the safe, orderly operation and growth of the Australian aviation industry,” he said.
The new Taskforce would work closely with the aviation industry and provide advice on matters including:
the best practice safety regulatory model for Australia;
priorities for the Government’s future regulatory reform program, including the development of the timetable prioritising regulatory reforms and key performance measures;
the consultation arrangements between the Government's aviation agencies and the industry; and
the change management and education and training requirements in implementing regulatory changes.
10 April, 2007
Managers The Key To Start-Up Funds
Four new venture capital managers have been shortlisted for appointment as fund managers under the third round of the Innovation Investment Fund.
According to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Ian Macfarlane, the venture capital sector plays a crucial role in the commercialisation of research and development and the $200 million IIF3 program will be an important part of stimulating investment.
Mr Macfarlane said the IIF3 provided venture capital to businesses at the seed, start-up or early-expansion stage through fund managers. It also aimed to develop new fund managers in early-stage, venture capital investment.
The Government is to license two new fund managers every year for the next five years to sustain the development of the venture capital sector.
The two successful fund managers would be licensed to establish funds with $20 million each of Australian Government funds. This would be matched by a minimum dollar-for-dollar investment by the private sector.
Mr Macfarlane announced that Accede Capital Venture Partners, Brandon Capital Management, Jagen Pty Ltd, and Cleantech Ventures Pty Ltd would move to the second stage in the assessment process from a strong field of 21 applications.
Each shortlisted fund has proposed a specific focus:
The Accede Capital IIF would specialise in investing in Australian early-stage internet and communications opportunities;
Brandon Biosciences Fund No 1 would focus on life sciences companies;
Jagen’s Prescient Ventures would invest in a range of companies including Information Communications Technology (ICT) and clean energy technology companies; and
Cleantech Australia Fund would target investments in companies commercialising clean technologies such as renewables and waste water treatment.
“I expect to announce the two successful fund managers in May,” Mr Macfarlane said.
10 April, 2007
Army Fires Off New TV Ad Campaign
The Australian Army has launched an advertising campaign to attract members of “Generation Y” into the fighting force.
Focusing on the core values of courage, initiative and teamwork while highlighting the fun and social aspects of an Army lifestyle, the campaign was launched at the Royal Military College Duntroon in Canberra, by the Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy.
“This campaign aims to articulate the core values of the Army in Courage, Initiative and Teamwork,” Lt Gen Leahy said. “In a contemporary way that is relevant to our potential recruits – Generation Y.”
He said the new television commercials featured an interactive component, urging potential recruits to send an SMS to order a copy of the Army Officer CD-Rom which had significant focus on the RMC experience.
“Army values have been at the heart of every Australian soldier for the past 100 years, no matter where they have served,” Lt-Gen Leahy said.
“What this new campaign does is clearly demonstrate these values through imagery depicting the various periods of military history.”
The Army values-lifestyle television campaign is to go to air nationally in all major metropolitan and regional areas.
10 April, 2007
Currency Exchange Child’s Play at CSA
The Child Support Agency’s International Branch has delivered a record $24.5million in child support in the past year, an increase of $6 million, or 32 per cent, on 2005 figures.
Of that amount, CSA collected $14 million for overseas children where the paying parent was in Australia, and received $10.5 million from overseas parents on behalf of children in Australia.
Assistant General Manager at CSA, David Mole said the Agency was at the forefront of international child support collection.
“Our positive results are achieved through active participation in several international agreements - Hague, UNCRAM and Commonwealth,” Mr Mole said.
“Direct agreements with New Zealand and the United States are great examples of how much can be achieved through international cooperation.
He said that over the past six years the International Branch, based in Hobart, had grown from five people dealing with 2700 cases, to more than 150 people responsible for about 33,000 cases.
He said the significant results came as CSA announced the first stage release of its International online service.
“This new service has been developed to support international customers, who may reside in any one of more than 90 jurisdictions,” Mr Mole said.
“CSAonline International is part of our commitment to improving service delivery to our customers.”
He said CSA continued working to improve relationships with other jurisdictions.
It plans to host an International Heads of Agency meeting this month in Melbourne with New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States to progress improvements in child support administration and services.
The meeting would also aim to expand international co-operation on child support cases.
10 April, 2007
Designer Power For Magistrates’ Court
The jurisdiction of the Federal Magistrates Court has been extended to hear Trade Mark and Design matters.
The Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, announced the Court’s new powers change saying they will benefit owners of trade mark and design rights by giving them the option to pursue any dispute through a quicker and less costly Court.
Mr Macfarlane said the announcement was part of the Government’s response to the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property report Should the Jurisdiction of the Federal Magistrates Service be Extended to Include Patent, Trade Mark and Design Matters?
“About 50,000 new trade marks and approximately 6000 new designs are registered each year, and a high percentage of these are owned by Australian SMEs,” Mr Macfarlane said.
“These businesses need to be able to benefit from their innovations, so it’s important that they have access to effective, timely and affordable mechanisms to enforce their intellectual property rights.”
He said the Government response would further streamline practices and procedures in the Federal Court and the Federal Magistrates Court.
It would also encourage the Courts to take a more proactive approach to case management and to increase usage of Alternate Dispute Resolution procedures to resolve IP matters.
Mr Macfarlane said that as patent disputes tended to be more complex, the Government had at this stage not agreed to a recommendation to extend the jurisdiction of the Federal Magistrates Court to Patent matters.
He said the Government would reconsider the matter in two years time however, after the experiences gained from the transfer of Trade Mark and Design matters to the Federal Magistrates Court had been assessed.
10 April, 2007
Navy to Sail Into Football Glory
The Navy fancies itself in the Australian Services Australian Football Association National Carnival, with its men’s side hoping for a “three peat” after winning in 2005 and 2006.
The Carnival, to be held in Canberra at Ainslie Oval from 12 to 20 April, features sides from Navy, Army and Air Force, and Navy are odds on favourites to win the Jim Smail Cup for men and the Geoff Ledger Trophy in the women’s competition.
“The boys are training hard around the country and ready to defend the cup with all their might,” men’s coach Petty Officer Michael Oleksyn told the Navy News newspaper. “The teamwork and professionalism of the players is what is keeping the title in Navy’s hands – where it belongs.”
Chief Petty Officer Rohan Jennings, the coach of the Navy women’s side, was also confident.
“I saw the determination of the girls last year – it was inspirational,” CPO Jennings said.
“The improvement from 2005 was great to see and there is no reason why the standard won’t be even better in 2007.”
The push to keep Navy at the top of the services football ladder has been steered by Commodore Clint Thomas as President of the Royal Australian Navy Football Association. Commodore Thomas helped reinvigorate the Cerberus Football Club when he was Commanding Officer of the base.
“I am keen to get as many people involved as possible. The stronger the support base, the better the team,” Commodore Thomas said..
“Navy will be tough to beat again this carnival,” he said.
10 April, 2007
Funding Pitch for Black Spots
Extra funding worth $345 million over six years has been announced in an effort to fix about 2300 dangerous black spot traffic accident locations nationwide.
The Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile, said the Government would provide the extra funding under the AusLink Black Spot program, which was originally scheduled to end in June 2008. As a result of this latest announcement, the program would continue until at least June 2014, with a 33 per cent increase in funding from 2009-10.
Mr Vaile said the Government was spending $45 million a year under the Black Spot program to fund safety works such as roundabouts, crash barriers, and street lights at places where there had been serious crashes or where serious crashes were likely.
He said the program was reintroduced in 16 and by June 2008, would have fixed 4200 road hazards around Australia.
“We estimate that it will have saved at least 130 lives and prevented around 6000 serious crashes,” Mr Vaile said.
He said the initial allocation of $45 million would fund the Black Spot program at its present level until June 2009, when the current stage of the national land transport plan, AusLink, would come to an end.
“We will then increase the Black Spot program’s funding to $60 million a year from 2009-10 to 2013-14 under AusLink 2, the next stage of our national plan,” Mr Vaile said.
“About half the total funding will be allocated to regional areas because of the large number of accidents on country roads.”
Funding under the Black Spot program was allocated to the States and Territories based on their population and number of casualty crashes. These funding shares were last calculated in 2002.
Mr Vaile said they would be recalculated at the start of 2009-10 in a bid to use the most up to date figures available and all States and Territories would be better off because of the 33 per cent increase in the overall funding for the program.
Black Spot funding is available for projects on State, Territory and Local Government roads. The Government funded projects on the AusLink national network separately, in conjunction with the State and Territory Governments.
10 April, 2007
ASIC Calculator For Super Sums
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has launched a new superannuation calculator to help consumers plan their savings in the lead-up to retirement.
ASIC’s Executive Director, Consumer Protection, Greg Tanzer hailed the new calculator as “one of Australia’s most powerful free superannuation calculators for consumers.”
He said it incorporated the new rules about super contributions that take effect from 1 July 2007, under the ‘simpler super’ initiatives and also showed how to take some of the guesswork out of super, and test the long term impact of important choices.
He said the superannuation calculator, together with a comprehensive User Guide, was available from ASIC on its consumer website “FIDO”.
“Ask FIDO to show you the long term effects of making extra contributions within the limits that will be imposed from 1 July 2007,” Mr Tanzer suggested.
“If you enter contributions that exceed the limits, the calculator will automatically adjust them,” Mr Tanzer said.
He said visitors could also work out the long term effects of:
the most common fees charged by various funds
receiving Government co-contributions if eligible
breaking or reducing contributions as a result of time out of the workforce
switching investment strategies or changing funds.
“The calculator brings the future impact of possible choices back to today’s dollars, so you can make comparisons in the light of today’s conditions,” Mr tanzer said.
“That involves some assumptions, which are explained in the accompanying Guide,” he said.
3 April, 2007
Compo Cutbacks Are Judged Fit To Work
Changes to Public Sector workers compensation entitlements have been passed by the Senate.
Passage of the new laws follows changes to the occupational health and safety legislation which came into effect on 15 March and coincide with the first anniversary of the WorkChoices industrial relations scheme.
The Community and Public Sector Union has expressed concern at the new workers compensation rules claiming they are “unfair and unworkable” and would erode the compensation safety net for Commonwealth and ACT Government employees.
The new laws that passed the Senate include:
removal of compensation protection for injuries sustained while travelling to and from work
removal of coverage for accidents during lunch and other breaks including lunch-time sporting activities
tighter claim assessment for workers suffering from psychological and stress related conditions
expansion of the list of management actions that would be excluded from future claims.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Stephen Jones said the changes had been made to cut costs rather than to ensure public sector workers enjoyed a safe and healthy work environment.
He said the changes would shift the cost of injuries sustained through the course of employment away from the employer and onto the employee.
Mr Jones said his view was supported by a Parliamentary Library report which found that the changes were likely to result in significant savings to Comcare at the expense of denying genuine claims.
The Union said this was despite evidence that Comcare was already one of the most cost effective rehabilitation and compensation schemes in the country, with high return to work rates and low premiums.
In the CPSU’s submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Workplace Relations and Education it argued that the changes eroded employees’ entitlements to rehabilitation and “may result in delays in them returning to work and increasing medical costs both for the employee individually and for taxpayer funded health and other social service costs”.
A survey of 600 PS staff undertaken by the union found a high level of concern at the changes, particularly as they could impact on healthy lifestyle options such as cycling to work or taking a walk at lunchtime.
The CPSU informed its members that until the Safety, Rehabilitation, Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill received Royal Assent, Public Sector employees were still covered by the current workers compensation legislation and could continue to lodge applications for compensation.
Even after the changes come into effect, staff have been advised to talk to the union about lodging a claim for compensation.
3 April, 2007
Jail Shrill Prospect For Whistleblower
A former Customs Officer who leaked a classified report is facing up to two years in jail.
Allan Robert Kessing, 59, was found guilty by a Sydney jury of the unlawful disclosure of information by a former Commonwealth officer. Judge James Bennett bailed Mr Kessing to appear on May 25 for sentencing.
Mr Kessing - who had left Customs by the time the report was leaked – sparked a major enquiry into airport security by leaking the report and his legal representative planned to use that as evidence his actions were justified. Sweeping improvements were made to airport security arrangements following an enquiry into the reports claims by English expert Sir John Wheeler.
The leaked report was seized on by journalists from The Australian newspaper to blow the whistle on airport security but the journalists have not revealed their sources and were not called to give evidence.
Mr Kessing’s lawyer said the case was a matter of public importance but it had attracted little attention.
“One of the things that will be very important will be how beneficial the leak of the information was about security for Sydney airport and everyone who travels through it,” the lawyer told the newspaper.
“The Wheeler report will vindicate in a substantial degree the fact that the leak itself, the contents of the reports that were leaked, had a very significant beneficial effect.”
The enquiry led to the expenditure of $200 million establishing airport police commands and boosting Customs surveillance. A number number of arrests for cocaine smuggling had also resulted.
The editor of The Australian, Paul Whittaker, said there was an urgent need for a public interest defence for Public Service whistleblowers at the Federal level.
“Rather than prosecuting people such as this, they should be giving them a medal,” he said.
Crown prosecutor, Lincoln Crowley, said a prison term for Mr Kessing was “on the cards”.
3 April, 2007
New Checks Agency Is On The Money
A new Agency has been established to coordinate the conduct of background checks.
AusCheck is a Division of the Attorney-General’s Department and will be responsible for coordinating the conduct of background criminal and security checks on applicants for Aviation Security Identification Cards and Maritime Security Identification Cards. It will also be responsible for notifying the relevant issuing authority of the outcome of the background checks.
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, said AusCheck would apply a more consistent approach to the statutory requirements set for each scheme and to notifying the relevant bodies of the outcome of background checks.
“It will use state-of-the art-technology,” Mr Ruddock said, “to reduce the risk of duplication and create potential for significant efficiencies in the transport sector.”
He said the creation of AusCheck as the centralised background checking service for the aviation and maritime sectors was in keeping with a public expectation that leading edge security arrangements were in place.
He said the agency would commence operations of 1 July with the aim of enhancing national security by establishing greater and conspicuous control by Government of security arrangements at air and sea ports.
Background checks for ASIC and MSIC applicants were currently processed and coordinated by the Background Checking Unit of the Department of Transport and Regional Services. These functions would be transferred to AusCheck.
AusCheck will maintain a database of up-to-date information on persons who apply for and are ultimately issued with an ASIC and/or MSIC as well as mitigate the risk of ASIC and MSIC cards going to ineligible persons, by preventing the use of fraudulent proof of identity documents to support the issue of an ASIC or MSIC.
The agency would also reduce duplication and improve the consistency and response time of background checking in the aviation and maritime industries and provide capacity to be used for other background checking purposes.
Mr Ruddock said that when it was established, AusCheck would operate on a cost recovery basis.
AusCheck would help the aviation and maritime industries to identify individuals who should not be eligible for an ASIC or MSIC and provide a recommendation to the relevant issuing body.
3 April, 2007
Report Says Gallery Is Picture of Health
The National Gallery of Australia has welcomed the draft findings of an independent investigation into a reported cluster of cancer cases.
Details of the first stage of the investigation, which considered past and present exposure to carcinogens at the Gallery, have been made available to a meeting of all staff.
Conducted by Dr Tim Driscoll, a specialist in occupational medicine and public health medicine, and Gary Foster, a consultant occupational hygienist, the eight-month investigation involved face-to-face meetings with current and former staff and numerous site inspections both inside and outside the Gallery building.
All work areas considered to have had exposure to hazardous substances were formally inspected.
Deputy Director of the Gallery, Alan Froud, said the first stage findings were comprehensive and encouraging.
He said while the investigation had identified a number of potential exposures to definite or suspected carcinogens, it had also concluded that “none of these exposures seem likely to have been high enough to have meaningfully increased the risk of Gallery staff members, or members of the public, developing cancer.”
Such findings were in line with the conclusions of an earlier investigation undertaken by Health Services Australia in 2002 which stated that it was “… exceedingly unlikely that there is any occupational cancer-causing agent responsible for this cluster of illnesses”.
The draft report was unveiled to Gallery staff by the investigating team with an offer to clarify issues and provide further information.
Mr Froud said the investigation included a number of recommendations for greater protection against known and suspected carcinogens and that Gallery had implemented or was in the process of implementing them.
Dr Driscoll said exposures to known or possible carcinogens at the Gallery were at a level commonly experienced in everyday life but he accepted employers had a duty of care to ensure that even incidental exposures in the workplace were minimised or eliminated.
Stage two of the investigation, which involves an epidemiological assessment of data held by State and Territory cancer registries, was expected to be completed later this year.
3 April, 2007
Creative Report a Great Idea
A new report examining arts education and its connection to the workplace has been released.
The report, Educating for the Creative Workforce: Rethinking Arts and Education, is the first output of a three-year partnership between the Australia Council for the Arts and the Queensland University of Technology’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI).
It was released at the recent symposium: Digital Literacy and Creative Innovation in a Knowledge Economy.
According to the Director of Strategy at the Australia Council for the Arts, Claire Duffy, the report includes a review of published arts education literature and has been designed to inform policy, present evidence, and identify major gaps in research.
“It outlines how the literature needs to connect to contemporary approaches to education for a creative workforce and creative entrepreneurship,” Ms Duffy said.
The Director of CCI, Professor Stuart Cunningham, said a large amount of both business literature and economic policy was calling for enhanced “creativity” in the workplace.
“Schools have been the most intensive site of research in this area, but this had led to an over concentration on the supply side,” Professor Cunningham said.
“To understand the needs and operations of the creative workforce, we need to switch our attention to the workplace as a site for research.
He said while there were studies of creativity in the workplace we know very little about whether the ‘creativity’ of those trained in arts disciplines differed from those trained in other disciplines.
Ms Duffy said the Australia Council’s support for CCI was part of its commitment to education and the arts, which involved investing resources in projects with potential for strong impact.
3 April, 2007
Compo Diploma Is Just the Ticket
Comcare is to further develop its regulatory capability by launching a diploma course for its occupational health and safety investigators and enforcement staff.
Chief Executive, Barbara Bennett opened the first course recently, saying the program was a significant milestone for Comcare .
“This further refinement of Comcare’s investigative skills base and capability is a natural progression in line with the growth of our regulatory responsibility,” Ms Bennett said
The course was developed by KPS and Associates Compliance Management in Melbourne
Ms Bennett said recent changes to the Commonwealth OHS Act extended coverage to current self-insured organisations, increasing the size of Comcare’s OHS jurisdiction.
“While the expanding jurisdiction provides us with some new challenges, Comcare is experienced in regulating hazardous work environments and we are more than capable of meeting our expanded regulatory responsibility,” she said.
“We have a history of working collaboratively with our State counterparts, and, we are continuing to work cooperatively, recognising that we have a common aim – safe workplaces.”
The Diploma of Government (Investigations) course would be commensurate with the nationally-agreed Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities training standard for OHS investigators and inspectors.
Ms Bennett said the program would ensure Comcare’s investigators attained an equivalent qualification to that being sought by all State and Territory Workplace Safety Authorities for their investigators and inspectors, in line with the requirements of the National OHS Strategy 2002-2012.
The diploma course consists of an initial five days face-to-face instruction, after which participants undertake 11 units, incorporating three elective units over a 44-week period.
Comcare would run at least four courses during 2007 with all to be completed by early 2008.
3 April, 2007
AIS Wheels Out Hub In Bid For Beijing Gold
A new facility at the Australian Institute of Sport is expected to play a major part in preparing Australian athletes for success at the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games and beyond.
According to the Minister for Sport, Senator George Brandis “The Hub” would provide a tremendous boost to the Institute’s ability to service and support Australian athletes and teams.
“The Hub is a key element of the Australian Government’s $74 million commitment to the redevelopment of the AIS to ensure our athletes and teams gain access to state-of-the-art training facilities, coaching expertise and support in sport science and medicine,” Senator Brandis said.
He said the AIS Hub integrated a range of sports science specialists under one roof including sports medicine, physiology, physical therapies, nutrition, psychology, skills acquisition, biomechanics and performance analysis.
He said together with AIS coaches and sport programs staff, the facility would provide an enhanced collaborative environment to help maximise Australian high performance sport.
There was also provision for national coach and athlete career and education services.
Senator Brandis said the AIS Hub boasted new improved training facilities
“The AIS hub features a 110-metre indoor running track (with jumping pit), new physiology laboratories and an enhanced strength and conditioning gymnasium,” he said.
“In an increasingly competitive international environment, the AIS Hub provides a much-needed boost to Australian athletes and teams preparing for success on the international stage.”
3 April, 2007
David is Army’s New Poster Boy
A poster featuring an image of a World War One veteran superimposed over a photo of a contemporary soldier on duty in the Middle East has won the Army recruiting poster competition.
Army Private David Eason designed the poster featuring WWI veteran Marcel Caux resting before the ANZAC Day march in 2004 and a modern-day soldier.
Private Eason was presented with his award by the Minister for Defence, Brendan Nelson, and the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy.
The competition was Lt-Gen Leahy’s initiative and encouraged soldiers to bring new and original ideas to the Army’s recruiting campaign to boost numbers.
Private Eason is an Army Reserve supply operator at 8 Combat Services Support Battalion, Sydney. He also works as a lifeguard at the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre in Homebush.
“My design aimed to bridge the gap between the ‘old digger’ and the modern soldier deployed on operations in the modern day warfare environment,” said Private Eason.
“I am grateful that I was given this opportunity to utilise my skills, and express the pride I have in the Army”.
Dr Nelson said the poster also reflected the respect and honour that was due to Australia’s returned Servicemen and women.
“The timeless nature of military service and the military values of courage, teamwork and initiative are captured by Private Eason’s entry,” Dr Nelson said.
Lt-Gen Leahy said the entries in the poster competition showed the breadth of talent and ingenuity of Army personnel.
“I’m particularly proud of the enthusiasm our soldiers displayed in showcasing their Army and shaping future recruiting ideas,” he said.
3 April, 2007
IPAA On Course for 2007 Conference
The Institute of Public Administration Australia has issued a call for papers for its 2007 conference to be held in Perth in September.
Called Western Reflections: Conversations on the Place of Australian Public Services in a Changing World, the conference has been designed to provide different views on Australian identity and the Australian Public Sector.
It will do this by exploring four themes:
The State of the Nation: Where is our Federation Going?
Customers or Citizens?
Investing in our people; and
Shaping the Agenda.
The first theme will focus on Governance and issues of political decision-making and the role of public servants while the second will look at service delivery and cross-agency co-operation; machinery of government changes; best practice examples of community involvement; e-government and breaking down barriers.
The third theme will examine the role Public Servants play in developing and assisting the country and the final theme was introduced to explore different approaches to thinking about the future and where the Public Sector will fit.
The IPAA Conference provides an opportunity to address key issues in public management; facilitate networking opportunities between practitioners, academics and others and demonstrate key factors surrounding the Public Sector.
This year’s event will be held at the Burswood Entertainment Complex in Perth from 18 to 20 September and for more information, contact IPAA on 07 3228 2800, or visit its website at www.ipaa.org.au.
3 April, 2007
PS Fails Science Test Says Commission
The private sector was usually better placed than the public sector to fund research and development, according to a report from the Productivity Commission.
“The most important functions of publicly-supported science and innovation are nurturing a highly skilled and creative workforce and generating knowledge that is broadly and publicly useful,” said Commissioner Mike Woods.
“Increasingly, public support has focused on commercialising R&D, but in most instances the private sector is best placed to fund this activity.”
The Commission said the objectives of Cooperative Research Centres should be re-aligned to the broad attainment of economic, social and environmental goals, not just commercial ones.
It said strong public funding support was justified for rural R&D corporations that had a significant public good orientation but the Commission considered that the level of public co-funding for some of the more industry-focused corporations could be too high and should be reassessed.
It also found that there would be a better chance of stimulating R&D in the business sector if there were changes to the design and scope of the $600 million R&D tax concession.
“We need to increase the likelihood that businesses getting these subsidies use them for R&D they wouldn’t otherwise undertake,” Commissioner Woods said.
The Commission also identified a need for more nimble R&D collaborative arrangements between business and universities, and proposed a complement to the CRC program that could achieve this, as well as a “proof of concept” program that would help Universities transfer developed ideas to businesses
The Commission canvassed options that might increase the possibility of net benefits from the recent Government decision to adopt the Research Quality Framework.
The Commission favoured a scheme that was more strongly weighted against the poorest research performers than currently envisaged, but as the RQF evolves, it suggested the use of a lower cost, risk-minimisation approach that only applied to poor performing areas in Universities.
The report, entitled Public Support for Science and Innovation can be accessed on the Productivity Commission website at www.pc.gov.au
3 April, 2007
ASIC Red Hot On Cold Call Scheme
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has joined forces with Singaporean and US authorities to combat an international cold calling scheme targeting Australians
ASIC is working with the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force and the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission to deal with the scheme and has issued a a strong warning urging people to be wary of. any information they receive in relation to a business called Metrofinancials, also known as Metro Financials.
It says the scheme has defrauded people around the world out of millions of dollars, the US CFTC charging nine entities over the creation of allegedly fictitious US futures exchanges, brokers and a US futures regulator.
According to ASIC, cold callers posing as overseas brokers and investment managers have made contact with Australians claiming to work for an options brokering firm based in the US called Metrofinancials.
These callers, with authentic sounding American and British accents, say they can offer commodity and currency options traded on an options exchange, based in the US, named the American Futures And Options Exchange (AFOEX). However the AFOEX does not exist.
In turn, they say the American Futures And Options Trading Commission – which is also non-existent - regulates the AFOEX.
ASIC said the fraudsters direct investors to what appear to be genuine web pages of Metrofinancials, the AFOEX and AFOTC and once the investor has indicated a willingness to purchase currency options, he or she is told to deposit money to clearing houses, associated with Metrofinacials, by the names of Alexander Musgrave Pte Ltd, Granville Watts & Partners and Dallas Trading.
Executive Director of Consumer Protection at ASIC, Greg Tanzer strongly urged any investor caught up in the fraud not to hand over any further money and to contact ASIC.
“Metrofinancials is not a registered company and does not hold an Australian financial services licence,” Mr Tanzer saiod.
“Consequently, it cannot legally provide financial services in Australia.
He said once the money invested in the cold calling investment scams goes offshore, it was difficult to trace and there were significant barriers making it very difficult in the majority of cases for the money to be recovered.
3 April, 2007
Dad’s the Word In Child Support Trend
New figures from the Child Support Agency show a significant increase in the number of fathers taking on the role of primary carer after separation.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Chris Ellison revealed the figures saying the role of fathers in separated families was being redefined, CSA’s experience showing the number of fathers registering to receive child support increasing substantially in the past 10 years.
In June 17 just 7.5 per cent of cases had a father as the primary carer but by December last year that figure had jumped to about 21 per cent.
“There’s also a positive trend towards parents who pay child support having more contact with their children,” Senator Ellison said.
“In December 2006, 9.5 per cent of paying parents had child-contact for 30 per cent or more nights in the year compared with only 4.4 per cent in June 19.”
“While no one wants relationships to fail, many families in Australia manage to go forward positively with their lives after separation and increasingly children are benefiting from more contact with both parents.”
Senator Ellison said that more than 52 per cent of separated parents transferred their child support payments between themselves with little or no involvement from the Child Support Agency.
“These trends suggest that parents are increasingly working together after separation for the benefit of their children,” he said.
Senator Ellison encouraged separated parents having difficulty with their relationship to pick up a copy of CSA’s Me, My Kids and My Ex, a free booklet full of tips and hints on how to develop a good relationship with the other parent for the sake of the children.
CSA’s free booklets can be ordered from www.csa.gov.au or by phoning 1800 040 972.
“Separation can be a time of significant disappointment and emotional pain for parents but our society values the needs of children who benefit from the ongoing love and support of both their parents,” Senator Ellison said.
3 April, 2007
High Praise for RAAF at 86
The Royal Australian Air Force has turned 86, celebrating its birthday with a series of activities at RAAF bases across Australia, and at deployed Air Force elements overseas.
In that time, according to the Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd the RAAF had evolved into a world class air force providing air power for Australia’s security, contributing to coalition operations and helping Australians and our regional neighbours in disaster relief.
“The anniversary of RAAF’s formation is a time to reflect on the tireless dedication and sacrifice of Air Force personnel in times of periods of conflict and peace in the last eight decades,” Air Marshal Shepherd, said.
“Today is a time to recognise the hard work of current Air Force personnel, both in Australia and on overseas operations, including the Middle East and Timor Leste.
“I am proud of what they’re achieving.”
Air Marshal Shepherd said it was time to look ahead to the Air Force of the future, adding that in the next decade, almost every Air Force air capability would be updated.
“It will be an exciting and challenging time,” he said.
“These new capabilities will ensure that Air Force remains ready to carry out tasks for the Australian Government and people.
“But our key capability will remain our great people performing great work.”
The Australian Air Force was officially created on 31 March 1921 (with approval to use the prefix Royal on 13 August 1921). The RAAF was initially comprised of 21 Officers, 128 Airmen and 153 aircraft. It was the only time in RAAF history that it had more aircraft than people.
By April 1945, the RAAF consisted of more than 18,000 personnel and 20 operational squadrons making it the world’s fourth largest Air Force at the time.
Since then, Air Marshal Shepherd said, the men and women of the RAAF had continued to distinguish themselves in the many theatres of war or conflict in which Australia has been involved including Korea, South-East Asia, Vietnam, East Timor, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
3 April, 2007
Athletes on Drugs To Get Tanked
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has launched a deep storage facility for the freezing of athletes’ blood and urine samples as another weapon in the war against sports drug use.
Known as “The Tank” the facility would be based at the National Measurement Institute laboratory in Sydney, and would remove the advantage athletes thought they might have by using currently undetectable methods of doping.
According to ASADA Chairman, Richard Ings, many substances that were undetectable only two years ago are now detectable due to advances in technology.
“For example, Erythropoietin (EPO) and Tetrahydragestrinone (THG) are substances that have only been detectable in recent years,” Mr Ings said.
“With the advent of The Tank, athletes using non-detectable substances today will have no peace knowing they may be detected and sanctioned for up to eight years after their sample has been collected.”
He said the message was now clear; “the net has closed on athletes using undetectable prohibited substances. The Tank will help ensure that athletes who compete clean can be assured of a level playing field both now and into the future.”
Mr Ings said this latest initiative joined the Stamp Out Doping hotline and ASADA’s investigative powers as another weapon in ASADA’s armoury to eliminate doping from Australian Sport.
ASADA is Australia’s peak anti-doping authority with wide-ranging powers established under legislation to deter, detect and present cases at tribunal against athletes and their support personnel found in breach of Australia’s anti-doping rules.
PS News readers with information about an athlete or their support personnel involved in doping are urged to call the Stamp Out Doping hotline on 1800 645 700.
3 April, 2007
Anti-Crime Service Draws Line OnLine
An on-line information service that helps computer users protect themselves and their computers has been unveiled by the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and the Australian Institute of Criminology.
Designed to protect businesses and home users against malicious computer attacks, the service contains useful information and advice on how to avoid child exploitation, phishing, hacking, money mules and malware attacks.
According to the AHTCC and AIC the estimated cost of computer related crimes was upwards of $140 billion per year globally - more than the projected profit from the global narcotics trade.
Director of the AHTCC, Federal Agent Kevin Zuccato, emphasised the importance of providing information to help protect consumers against the threats posed by on-line crime.
“As our dependence on technology grows, so does the opportunity for people to exploit it for criminal purposes,” Agent Zuccato said.
“We are now seeing services such as SMS being used to send spam, known as spim, which contains pornography and other unsolicited communications.”
He said the online environment was constantly evolving as technology became more available and sophisticated.
“It is critical that we use a range of techniques to combat criminal activities,” Agent Zucchato said.
“The AHTCC has been working with the AIC for some time now to conduct research which is then used to develop strategies to address technology enabled crime.”
He said telecommunication and computer users needed to be vigilant for new forms of attack, and the online service provided a useful tool in that process.
The reports can be found at www.aic.gov.au/publications/htcb/
Malware refers to malicious software such as a virus or Trojan horse designed specifically to disrupt software systems.
3 April, 2007
Cooking the Essays Wins History Prize
The winners of the inaugural Captain Cook Essay Competition have been announced by the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull.
Students from Years 4 to 12 from across Australia took part in the competition, which was funded by the Government and required entrants to compose essays exploring Lieutenant James Cook’s arrival at Botany Bay.
The competition was divided into three divisions, with prizes including a trip to England (Cook’s birthplace), and educational vouchers for school libraries.
The winners were:
Division A (Years 4-6): -All Saints Catholic Primary School, Seaford, South Australia; Bunker’s Hill State School, Westbrook, Queensland and; St Joseph’s Primary School, Moora, Western Australia (Joint winners)
Division B (Years 7-10) -Philip Liberatore, Wheelers Hill, Victoria.
Division C (Years 11-12) -Erin Stewart, Eltham, Victoria.
“As Prime Minister John Howard said at the History Summit last year, the Australian Government is committed to bringing about ‘a renaissance of both interest in and understanding of Australian history’,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The Captain Cook Essay Competition is an exciting way of encouraging school children to look deep into our past and imagine the world which Cook inhabited.”
He said the competition gave students an added dimension to their current studies and offered the opportunity to practice their research and writing skills.
“The 2007 competition has already been well received, with the Department of Environment and Water Resources receiving hundreds of requests for competition resource kits from both teachers and students.
“I encourage those who have not yet signed up to do so.”
The 2007 Australian Government Captain Cook Essay Competition closes on Friday 22 June, 2007.
A comprehensive Teachers’ Resource Kit, including lesson plans, curriculum links and competition posters can be ordered from the Australian Heritage website at www.heritage.gov.au or by emailing email@example.com.