SearchArchives for April 2008
29 April, 2008
not open and shut
The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin has registered her concern at delays within her Department in investigating high levels of formaldehyde found in shipping containers being used for temporary housing in the Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER). The discovery of the chemical led to the staff living in the containers being evacuated.
Ms Macklin said a report from the Secretary of her Department, Dr Jeff harmer, documented events from the date when concerns were first raised by staff in early November 2007 to 10 April 2008 when the presence of the chemical was confirmed by the supplier.
“The report reveals there were concerning delays within FaHCSIA responding to this issue,” Ms Macklin said.
“As a result of the report, Dr Harmer has instigated an independent review which will recommend measures to ensure a rapid response to occupational health and safety issues in the future.”
She said FaHCSIA was currently putting additional measures in place to ensure the safety of staff involved in the NTER.
“The safety and wellbeing of my staff are my highest priority,” she said again.
“I want to reassure all staff and their families that all possible steps are being taken to protect staff health and safety.”
Ms Macklin said FaHCSIA had received advice from National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) that the formaldehyde detected in the containers was unlikely to cause long-term health effects.
“Notwithstanding this advice, I encourage all staff to undertake health checks as a precautionary measure,” she said. “These health checks will be conducted at the expense of the Australian Government.
“I also encourage any community members who have spent time inside the containers and have any health concerns to contact FaHCSIA.”
Ms Macklin said FaHCSIA had contracted a firm of experts in property and environmental pollutants to test the ontainers and this was being done as a matter of urgency.
She expected it to be completed in a few weeks.
She said all 26 affected staff were now housed in alternative accommodation and the departmental report as available on the Department’s website at www.fahcsia.gov.au. The names of staff affected had been removed for privacy reasons.
29 April, 2008
TFN number’s up
in audit tax call
An audit of the Australian Taxation Office’s use of data matching procedures to improve taxpayer compliance has led the Auditor-General to recommend widening the use of personal Tax File Numbers.
The Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, found the Tax Office was using its data-matching skills in a more corporate and strategic way and that in turn had led to improved taxpayer compliance, better services and more efficient and effective use of resources.
“It has also enabled the Tax Office to better understand risks,” the Auditor- General said.
He found that the ATO’s emerging practice of ‘pre-filling’ income tax returns with information gathered from data matching, represented a “paradigm shift” in the use of the information, but that it could only reach its full potential if TFNs could be used more widely.
“The longer term success of pre-filling depends on the continued assistance by the suppliers of legislated data,” the Auditor said.
“The Tax office’s use of third party data, necessary for improved administration and achieving a higher integrity tax system would be improved if legislation enabled attachment of the TFN to the data in a manner similar to the arrangements that apply to legislated data.”
The Auditor accepted that there were privacy implications in his advice.
“The legislative development of the TFN reflects the tension of maintaining an appropriate balance between individual privacy and improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public administration,” he said,
“Given that the determination of where the balance of this tension lies is a matter for the Government and the Parliament, the ANAO has proposed that the Tax Office develop options for legislative amendment for discussion with the Treasury in the first instance.”
The Auditor found that while the ATO was achieving positive results with its data matching activities, there was still some scope for improvement.
“There is scope to improve the design and use of the Tax Office’s identity matching systems especially in two areas,” he said.
“One concerns non-individual identity matching, particularly in relation to companies, trusts and superannuation funds. The other concerns the implementation of a negative search facility in relation.”
He said a negative search facility could match and report a ‘No Match’ as a success.
The Auditor made six recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Tax Office.
29 April, 2008
has public lining up
The Australian Government Information Management Office has found that a quarter of all Australians now conduct their dealings with the Government on-line.
The report, Australians’ Use of and Satisfaction with e-Government Services – 2007 measured the uptake of Government services provided through the internet and other channels in Australia and was released by Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner.
Mr Tanner said the report provided an insight into Australians’ views and use of online Government services.
“It shows how indispensable the Internet has become for the delivery of those services to the Australian public,” he said.
“Use of the Internet to access Government services has changed significantly since these reports began in 2005. By measuring how citizens use Government services in different ways, we can identify trends and analyse the experiences, preferences and evolving expectations of those citizens.”
The report showed that 25 per cent of people now conducted all or most of their dealings with Government over the Internet, up from 14 per cent in 2004-05. Three in five people (59 per cent) used the Internet to access Government services in 2007, a 20 per cent increase compared with 2004-05 usage rates.
Mr Tanner said the report was based on a study of Australians over the age of 18 who had some form of contact with Government in the previous 12 months.
He said it also highlighted the continuing challenges facing Government administration in delivering services to the Australian public.
“Citizens are telling us they value convenience in their interactions with Government agencies. Some prefer the Internet, while some prefer dealing directly with real people face-to-face or by telephone,” he said.
“However people prefer to access Government services, this report provides a solid foundation for Governments and agencies at every level to improve how their services are delivered.
Mr Tanner said the report would form part of the information supplied to Sir Peter Gershon, who is to conduct an independent review of the Government’s use of Information and Communication Technology.
Sir Peter is to report to the Minister by September 2008 on options to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of ICT within Government. The review is part of the broader ongoing reform agenda to improve the efficiency of government spending and deliver better value for money.
29 April, 2008
sets out PS No-How
The Australian Public Service Commission has issued a Circular explaining the extent to which PS Agencies should go when explaining the outcome of complaints.
The Circular says that while complainants have a right to have their complaints taken seriously and that PS staff found to be wanting are dealt with, it was important that the privacy of individual Public Servants be respected.
“Agencies can provide general information to complainants about the outcome of investigations,” the Circular says.
“However, personal information about the employee who is subject to the investigation should only be provided where certain conditions are met.”
It says this requires a balance between the complainant’s and employee’s rights.
“When considering what information to provide to complainants to ensure they retain their confidence in public administration, Agencies need to balance:
* individual employees’ right to privacy, the protection of personal information about individual employees and the agencies’ obligations in regard to this information under the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act); and
* the need to take reasonable steps to be transparent and accountable to other parties involved.”
It says consideration should be given to the circumstances in each individual case when deciding if, and to whom, personal information might be released. “Deliberations about any disclosure of personal information about an employee will be informed by the
* nature and seriousness of the misconduct
* likelihood of consequences to the person about whom the information relates
* agency’s context (such as the type of information the agency or employee deals with).”
The APSC said the Circular was developed in consultation with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and provided guidance on the provisions of the Public Service Act 1999 and the processes Agencies should follow to ensure they complied. It also canvassed the issues that might be considered when responding to complainants.
The Circular is available on the APSC website at www.apsc.gov.au
29 April, 2008
Refugees cash in on
A charitable trust run by the employees of Centrelink is to help pay for an information day for refugee women in Sydney.
Centrelink’s Ross Divett Foundation has joined the Fairfield Multicultural Health Service, the Assyrian Resource Centre, the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors, Fairfield Community Counselling Service and Karitane, to host the day which is aimed at engaging Assyrian women refugees.
Centrelink staff donate more than $3000 a fortnight to the Foundation via payroll donations and raise additional funds from other activities.
Cabramatta Centrelink Multicultural Services Officer, Audrey Lai, said Centrelink, through the Foundation, was proud to be part of the information day for the Assyrian women refugees.
“Information days such as this are an important first step in assimilating Assyrian refugee women into Australian society,” Ms Lai said.
“One can only imagine the barriers these women have had to overcome just to be here today.”
She said many of the women had been subject to torture and trauma.
“So an information day like this where they can get information on the important support services available to them will go a long way to overcoming the feeling of isolation often associated with refugee women.”
Ms Lai said raising money for the Ross Divett Foundation in order to help organisations like the Fairfield Multicultural Health Service contributed positively to the community.
“The staff themselves raised the money for the Ross Divett Foundation - a trust through which Centrelink employees can contribute financially to charities and the Australian community,” she said.
“The Foundation has given around $80 000 to different organisations across Australia in 2007, including a $2735 donation to the Fairfield Multicultural Health Service to assist them in their work with refugees and newly arrived migrants.”
She said funding from The Ross Divett Foundation enabled community organisations such as the Fairfield Multicultural Health Service to continue to provide assistance and support to one of the most culturally diverse areas in Australia.
29 April, 2008
Ombudsman ties up
parcel damage probe
A study by the Ombudsman into the damage suffered by incoming international mail has found three areas of improvement he believed Australia Post should address.
In his role as the Postal Industry Ombudsman, Commonwealth Ombudsman Professor John McMillan released a report of his examination, saying the Australian Customs Service and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service may also be involved.
The principal areas for improvement were identifying and recording damage; resealing items opened for inspection; and informing addressees about how to claim compensation for loss or damage.
In each of those areas, the Ombudsman recommended changes to agency processes, including:
* taking further steps to ensure comprehensive recording of damage to items, and improving processes to identify the stage at which damage is observed or caused, and emphasising accurate maintenance of damage registers;
* establishing and adhering to clear standards for re-sealing items opened as part of the inspection process; and
* putting in place national procedures for informing addressees of damage caused to items, and for processing and assessing compensation claims.
“Each year my office receives complaints about damage to inbound international mail items,” Professor McMiIllan said.
“The damage may have been caused while the item was in the mail stream either inside or outside Australia, or during border inspection.”
He said given the increase in ordering goods from overseas via online services, he decided to conduct an investigation to clarify the responsibilities of the three Agencies involved in the processing of inbound international mail.
He said that while Australia Post had overall responsibility for inbound international items being carried in the mail between the time they arrived in Australia and the time they were delivered, the Australian Customs Service and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service also had a role to play as inbound international postal items were subject to inspection.
He said in some cases there was agreement over which Agency was liable for the loss or damage to items but in many cases the responsibility liability was unclear.
Professor McMillan said that the three Agencies involved should work collaboratively to assist claimants to lodge claims with the appropriate liable authority.
“When implemented, these changes should make it easier for customers to pursue legitimate claims for compensation when international postal items are damaged,” he said.
“This in turn should increase customer satisfaction, and reduce the time that both Agencies and the Ombudsman’s office spend in dealing with complaints arising out of the process.”
29 April, 2008
Uniform accounts get
bright new look
A new guide to improving the clarity and transparency of Government financial statements has been issued by the Treasury.
The 2008 version of the Uniform Presentation Framework aims to harmonise Government Finance Statistics and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and stemmed from a review prompted by the release of the Australian Accounting Standards Board’s new accounting standard for the public sector in October 2007.
The revised Framework incorporates revisions to the Uniform Presentation Framework agreed by the Australian Loan Council in March 2002, March 2003 and March 2008 and is to be implemented across all jurisdictions prior to the 2009-10 Budgets.
According to Treasury, the revisions to the Framework in 2002 and 2003 were also aimed at improving transparency and included more detailed reporting in the operating statement and of expenses by function as well as the inclusion of extra detail on purchases of assets.
“The reviews of the UPF in 2002 and 2003, and more recently to consider the impact of the new accounting standard AASB 1049 Whole of Government and General Government Sector Financial Reporting (AASB 1049) were undertaken by the UPF Committee, convened by Heads of Treasuries for these tasks,” it said.
“The Committee comprised representatives from Australian, State and Territory Treasuries and the Australian Department of Finance and Deregulation.”
It consulted with the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Commonwealth Grants Commission.
The new Framework can be downloaded from the Treasury website www.treasury.gov.au
29 April, 2008
to pull up breaches
The Privacy Commissioner has urged Government Agencies, businesses and the public to comment on a draft Voluntary Information Security Breach Notification Guide.
The Commissioner, Karen Curtis said while there were presently no specific requirements under the Privacy Act for Agencies and organisations to notify individuals of an information security breach, the Australian Law Reform Commission, in its Review of Privacy, was considering a proposal to make notification of information security breaches mandatory.
“While Agencies and organisations are required to safeguard the personal information they hold, unfortunately and despite their best efforts, sometimes an information security breach occurs,” Commissioner Curtis said.
“Not all breaches result from malicious, intentional behaviour such as computer hacking for example - they can occur because of human error, from a failure to follow established protocols, or from information going missing.”
She said recognising that this was the current reality of the modern information handling environment, the Guide aimed not only to assist Agencies and organisations to minimise the possibility of a breach occurring, but also to prepare for and respond effectively to any breaches if and when they did occur.
“The development of a voluntary guide offers a timely opportunity for stakeholders to comment on this important issue and we look forward to hearing their views,” Commissioner Curtis said.
She said the draft Guide drew upon voluntary guidelines developed by the Privacy Commissioners of Canada and New Zealand. It, and details of the consultation process, can be viewed at www.privacy.gov.au.
Commissioner Curtis Submissions on the draft Guide would be received until 16 June 2008.
29 April, 2008
flows to new Office
Responsibility for the Northern Land and Water Taskforce is to be transferred to the newly-created Office of Northern Australia.
In a move announced jointly by the Ministers for Regional Development and Water and the Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia, the $20 million Taskforce would also have its terms of reference expanded.
Minister for Regional Development, Anthony Albanese said the fresh approach was part of a stronger commitment to Northern Australia.
“We want to encourage development in Northern Australia,” Mr Albanese said.
“The continuing economic development of the north is essential, not only for those that live in the region, but also for the country’s future prosperity.”
He said however that protecting the region’s unique natural environment and its many social and cultural assets would need to be assured.
Minister for Water, Senator Penny Wong announced in January that the Taskforce membership and terms of reference would be revised to increase independence and broaden scope.
She said some members would be removed from the Taskforce and new members with local expertise appointed.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Northern Australia, Gary Gray said moving the Taskforce to the new Office was an indication of just how serious the Government was about attracting and encouraging development opportunities across the country’s north.
“The future of the north is more than just irrigation,” Mr Gray said.
“The Taskforce will now identify sustainable development opportunities across a broader range of sectors.”
The Northern Land and Water Taskforce was formerly located within the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
The Northern Australia Water Futures Assessment would continue to be delivered by DEWHA and the National Water Commission.
The Ministers and Parliamentary Secretary said that over the coming weeks the Government would take advice from stakeholders and the State and Territory Governments in order to finalise the Taskforce’s new terms of reference and membership.
29 April, 2008
on right track
The Australian and Papua New Guinean Governments have entered a “joint understanding” on the preservation of the historic Kokoda track
The two countries have agreed to preserve the historic values of the Track and maintain its integrity and the special qualities of the trekking experience.
Completing the 96km track has become a rite of passage for many young Australians.
“The Kokoda Track has a special place in Australian history and is a powerful symbol of the bond forged in wartime between our two countries,” the Minister for Heritage, Peter Garrett said.
“The Australian Government is committed to following through with real resources and real action to assist the Government and people of PNG in their efforts to protect the Kokoda Track and Owen Stanley Ranges.”
Mr Garrett said the newly-signed understanding recognised the history as well as the rich natural heritage and environmental values of the site, with the two Government’s agreeing to work cooperatively to care for the Track and surrounding Owen Stanley Ranges, while improving the livelihoods of local landowners and communities.
“The Owen Stanley Ranges, through which the Kokoda Track passes, is one of the most biologically important areas in the Asia Pacific,” Mr Garrett said.
“The Kokoda Track is also Papua New Guinea’s most significant land-based tourism attraction, drawing over 5000 trekkers ….last year.”
Mr Garrett said projects involved in preserving the Track included:
* sustainable development for the communities along the Kokoda Track through the provision of basic services, including water, sanitation, health, education and transport;
* preservation of the historic values of the Kokoda Track;
* protection of the water catchment in the Owen Stanley Ranges for future power and water supply for Port Moresby;
* maximising the potential forest carbon benefits; and
* international recognition of the special cultural and biodiversity values of the area.
Mr Garrett said the Australian Government had committed $14.9 million to assisting the PNG Government in its efforts to improve the livelihoods of local communities along the Track and to establish effective management arrangements so that the Track was protected and delivered increasing benefits to local people. He said those funds would also be used to conduct a feasibility study into a World Heritage nomination.
In addition, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs would administer $1 million of funding to develop educational materials to increase awareness of the special importance of the Track.
“This is an important agreement which symbolises the strengthening relationship between Australia and PNG,” Mr Garrett said.
29 April, 2008
An audit of the Department of Defence’s compliance with the Public Works Committee’s requirements on financial commitments for public works has found the Department met the requirements, but had room for improvement.
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, said Defence complied with the requirements of the Public Works Committee Act 1969.
Mr McPhee made one recommendation that was supported by the Department.
He recommended Defence develop processes to present feedback to the Public Works Committee on any recommendations made in the Committee’s reports to Parliament, when requested.
The Auditor-General reviewed 13 projects which represented 78 per cent of the total estimated costs of 22 Defence projects referred to the Committee in the past three years.
He said Defence used two methods for financing these projects – direct procurement and Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).
He said the Department only had clear and accessible policy guidelines for direct procurement.
“Defence does not currently have available equally comprehensive policy and procedural information to guide project officers in developing and delivering PPP projects,” the Auditor said.
He said there were opportunities for improvements to help Defence prepare for Committee requirements, including using standard templates, clearer cost specifications and more feedback to the Committee.
Despite the Auditor’s soft criticisms, he said Defence had certain advantages that enabled it to successfully meet its requirements.
“Defence’s ability to manage building works projects successfully is influenced by relatively stable staffing, leading to corporate knowledge being retained, and a mechanism for maintaining in one easy to navigate system, key project management information,” he said.
The Auditor said a second audit was underway to assess the planning and delivery of capital works projects.
29 April, 2008
DIAC duo pin down
Two officers of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have been awarded the Australian Federal Police Operations Medal for their contribution to a significant overseas operation.
Forensic document examiners John McGinn and Justin Watts were honoured with the prestigious award for their work in helping identify victims of the 2002 Bali bombings.
Mr McGinn and Mr Watts were both members of the Western Australia Police Force at the time of the bombings. They volunteered to work as part of the AFP’s Disaster Victim Identification teams in Bali, known as “Operation Alliance”, in the weeks immediately following the attacks.
Working under the continued threat of further violence, Operation Alliance had the grim task of identifying victims of the bombings, often from incomplete remains.
DIAC’s Western Australian State Director, Paul Farrell said the Department was extremely fortunate to have such experienced forensic officers running its WA document examination unit.
“The Australian Federal Police Operations Medal is among the highest honours to be bestowed on members of the policing community and I am delighted John and Justin’s dedication has been recognised,” Mr Farrell said.
“The work they do here at DIAC in fraud detection is exemplary and is an essential part of maintaining the integrity of Australia’s border security.”
29 April, 2008
offer sea change
The Australian Customs Service is looking for fit new staff to join its Customs Marine Unit and work on patrol vessels protecting Australia’s 36,000 kilometres of coastline and offshore Territories.
Successful applicants may work on a fleet of eight patrol vessels that protect Australia’s coastline.
“Working with CMU means you experience a variety of situations that challenge you mentally, physically and emotionally,” said the CMU’s Andrew Frugtniet.
“In addition to these challenges, we operate in extreme environments, from the tropical north to the freezing south.”
He said the Southern Ocean was a particularly unique environment.
“It’s isolated and it can be difficult to stay in touch with home. You really have to be a team player, and at the same time, enjoy your own company.”
The positions on offer include maritime enforcement officers, marine engineers, commanding officers, watch keepers-in-charge and general purpose crew.
They well serve on bay-class and sea-going vessels such as the Oceanic Viking, Triton and the Ashmore Guardian.
Once accepted, applicants faced intensive training to prepare them for the important tasks they would be involved in.
Mr Frugtniet said these could include boarding vessels found fishing illegally or carrying illegal immigrants, drugs or other prohibited items and investigating possible or confirmed incursions into Australian maritime territory.
He said applicants were encouraged to undertake a self-assessment questionnaire to determine if they were suited to the challenge.
He said they would also undergo a rigorous assessment process, including psychometric and physical fitness testing, and detailed medical and security checks.
There are also two traineeships for Torres Strait Islanders on offer.
“Competition for traineeships is traditionally fierce, but I would encourage anyone considering a Customs marine career to think seriously about these entry-level roles,” Mr Frugtniet said.
He said CMU officers were required to have the highest level of fitness and were trained and regularly re-qualified in the law enforcement, personal defence and maritime skills essential for effective operation in a challenging environment.
Applications close on 15 May 2008 and to find out more, or to apply, visit www.customs.gov.au
29 April, 2008
a sure winner
The Australian Institute of Sport has opened a new exhibition in Canberra paying tribute to the accomplishments of the Australian Sports Commission’s Indigenous sports ambassadors.
Athletes featured in the exhibit include Sydney Swans premiership player and dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes; NRL Brisbane Bronco, Sam Thaiday; Olympic sprinter Patrick Johnson and national netballer Bianca Franklin.
Highlights include Goodes’s 2003 and 2006 Brownlow medals, his winning 2005 AFL Premiership medallion and signed Grand Final jumper; Thaiday’s 2006 NRL preliminary final jumper: Franklin’s bronze medal won at the 2005 World Youth Championships; and a signed uniform and running suit worn by AIS sprinter Patrick Johnson.
The exhibit also includes a rare set of commemorative cards depicting profiles and bowling and batting averages of 15 Indigenous players including 13 Aboriginal cricketers who took part in the first Australian Cricket Team to tour England in 1868.
According to the Manager of the ASC’s Indigenous Sport Program, Carl Currey, the exhibit showed how Indigenous athletes had helped shape Australia’s rich and strong sporting culture.
He said this included representing Australia at the Olympic and Commonwealth Games, world championships and various other sporting codes.
Mr Currey said Goodes, Thaiday, Johnson and Franklin were working with the ASC as ambassadors to improve the participation of Indigenous people in sport at all levels.
“The ASC ambassadors help to promote a number of broad, inclusive programs to improve the participation of Indigenous people in organised sport and physical activity and to increase opportunities for Indigenous people to learn the skills needed to organise, deliver and manage community based sport,” Mr Currey said.
“This includes financial support for talented Indigenous sports people, Sport Leadership Grants for Indigenous women, the Sports Ability program for Indigenous Australians with a disability, a traditional Indigenous games resource and an Indigenous specific cross-cultural awareness training package.”
29 April, 2008
Crime pays for
The Australian Crime Commission has marked the first anniversary of its National Graduate Program with 11 staff members successfully completing the 12-month Diploma of Government program
University graduates, with qualifications in criminology, political studies, social sciences, law, business management, ICT, communications, computer science and strategic intelligence, have been based in diverse areas within the ACC including intelligence, HR, ICT, surveillance, policy and communications.
According to the Chief Executive Officer at the ACC, Alastair Milroy the Graduate Program was a significant investment in the future of the organisation.
“I have been impressed by the calibre of the graduates,” Mr Milroy said.
“The agency looks forward to working with the graduates to develop them into efficient and effective ACC officers.”
Supervisors of the course said the quality of graduates represented a significant return on the investment of the ACC while graduates found the work extremely rewarding.
Enquiries about the ACC’s National Graduate Program can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
29 April, 2008
goes for broke
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has released the findings of a study into Australian consumers’ understanding of investments and financial management.
The study of 1200 Australian investors and several focus groups showed that fewer than half the investors (47 per cent) had a long-term financial goal and a plan to reach that goal. Over a third, (37 per cent) had neither a plan nor a goal.
About half of the investors (49 per cent) had only one type of investment, for example shares only. The mean number of investment types was 2.19.
Rather than following a proactive plan to become an investor, most people began investing due to external, life-stage pressures such as divorce, inheritance, redundancy or retirement.
The research also found that while the concepts of risk and return were among the most important factors investors considered, only half of those surveyed (51 per cent) were able to select correctly from a multiple choice list the “reasonable” rate of return to expect from a fixed interest product over a 10-year period. Even fewer investors were able to do this for other asset classes (46 per cent for shares and 35 per cent for property and growth super).
Similarly, while most investors (78 per cent) had heard of “diversification,” more than a third had difficulty applying the concept, with 36 per cent saying that investing 100 per cent of their money in Government bonds was good diversification.
The research also found gender differences in investing with women more likely to be at risk of underinvestment; high-interest savings accounts the only investment type that women were more likely to choose than men; and men over-represented among those attracted to risky investments.
ASIC plans to use the findings to inform its thinking on retail investor issues.
29 April, 2008
Tax finds a home
The Australian Taxation Office has officially opened its new headquarters in Canberra, six months after moving in.
Treasurer, Wayne Swan performed the official opening congratulating the ATO on its green construction policies.
The three adjoining Offices cost almost $70 million to fit out and bring staff from six different sites together.
The move will save the tax Office $26 million a year.
Jade goes gold at Centrelink
Jade Howard, from Newcastle, has been judged the best and brightest of 1800 Centrelink employees under 25, winning the prestigious Centrelink National Youth Award.
The Awards recognise the valuable contribution the Agency’s young employees make to the community they work and serve in.
The awards also highlighted the outstanding achievements of young employees over the past year.
Museum wins cup
The National Museum of Australia has acquired the 1934 Melbourne Cup won by the great chestnut champion Peter Pan.
Peter Pan was one of only five horses to have won the Melbourne Cup twice and had a record of 22 wins from 38 starts.
The 1934 Melbourne Cup is scheduled to go on display next to the huge heart of Phar Lap, the most popular object in the National Museum of Australia’s collection.
New page for Library
The refurbished Papua New Guinea National Library was opened by the Autralian Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan,30 years after its official opening in 1978.
The National Library was Australia’s gift to PNG on independence in 1975.
In 2005, Australia announced it would fund the refurbishment of the Library to mark 30 years of independence.
Touring for ads
Tourism Australia has selected seven advertising agencies and two media agencies to manage its $180 million advertising program.
Advertising Agency, M&C Saatchi, which was behind the Laura Bingle “So where the bloody hell are you” campaign is on the list, as well as the incumbent media management agency, Carat.
Decommission petrol paper
The Department of Resources and Energy is calling for public comment on a Discussion Paper exploring issues involved with decommissioning offshore petroleum production facilities.
The Paper is a first step towards developing principles and guidelines to govern future decommissioning activities.
It is available at www.ret.gov.au
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has received an increasing number of complaints from members of the Australian Chinese community who have lost money to bogus cash lottery wins and other fake prizes claims.
The ACCC has advised them and their families and friends to be alert to scammers.
Researchers share $23M
Fourteen outstanding researchers have been awarded Australian Research Council Federation Fellowships worth more than $23 million over five years.
They successful scientists are:
Dr Christopher Carilli, CSIRO - Australia Telescope National Facility; Professor Dr Peter Teunissen, Curtin University of Technology;
Professor Frances Baum, Flinders University;
Professor Michael Bird, James Cook University;
Associate Professor Trevor Lithgow, Monash University;
Dr James Whisstock , Monash University;
Professor John Dryzek, Australian National University;
Professor Michael Eastwood, Australian National University;
Professor Tanya Monro, University of Adelaide;
Professor Brett Neilan, University of New South Wales;
Professor Michelle Simmons, University of New South Wales;
Professor Aibing Yu, University of New South Wales;
Professor Gaoqing (Max) Lu, University of Queensland;
Professor Peter Robinson, University of Sydney.
Foreigners get more time
The Government plans to change its foreign investment policy to extend the timeframe for the development of vacant commercial land from 12 months to five years.
Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen said the change would increase competition in the economy.
He said the current time limit on foreign investors discouraged new competitors from entering the market and prevented some existing competitors from expanding their business because they could not secure forward purchases of land in growth areas.
Wheat waves at experts
The Government has called for interested experts to apply to serve on the new independent regulator for bulk wheat export marketing, Wheat Exports Australia.
The aim is to appoint members to the regulator with a broad skills base, including expertise in international trade and marketing, commodity trading, foreign exchange trading, finance, economics, regulation, public policy, business, law, grains production and grains handling.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is establishing a selection committee to produce a list of names for the Government to consider.
22 April, 2008
Government by blog
is still on the line
An official Government Consultation Blog should be supplementary to existing consultation mechanisms - not a replacement for them - according to submissions received on a discussion paper circulated last year by the Department of Finance and Deregulation’s Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).
AGIMO opened the issue to public discussion to gauge community views on setting up a formal Government blog and sought views on a range of related issues including the features the blog might have, the expectations of users, participation rules, censorship and control as well as privacy and security issues.
The Office has now published a summary of the 20 submissions it received and will use the on-line comments along with others including surveys and focus groups, to assess public interest in a Government consultation website.
According to AGIMO, three Government Agencies made submissions on the proposal: Centrelink, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and one other that did not want to be named.
“Overall, respondents indicated support for an Australian Government Consultation Blog, noting it would be a welcome step in public policy development in Australia,” the AGIMO summary says.
“Many respondents acknowledged that online consultations are an effective way to encourage the free and frank expression of opinion across social and economic divides.”
It said the website could encourage the internet savvy members of generations X and Y to consult with the Government, as well as those in generation “V” who were people preferring to communicate through digital methods, regardless of age.
It said that because online discussion forums provided exposure to the views of others, respondents believed the posted submissions would be likely to be thoughtful and include a broad range of perspectives.
“Online consultation approaches however, raise issues about credibility and representation, which are critical to participation,” the report said.
It said many respondents also said the site should be moderated to avoid offensive language and racial vilification.
“The overall success of a Government discussion forum will depend on the skill and expertise of the people managing and contributing to discussion,” it said.
“The concept of a ‘one-stop-shop’ for consultation is important and has the potential to facilitate much greater citizen engagement.”
AGIMO is to continue evaluating the proposal.
22 April, 2008
safe from Auditor
An audit of the Commonwealth’s emergency management arrangements has found the Agency charged with the responses has done so in a timely and appropriate manner, but there was room for improvement.
The Auditor-General’s examination of Emergency Management Australia (EMA) made five recommendations, all of which were agreed to by the Agency.
According to Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, EMA has a coordinating role when disasters occurred that were too big for individual States or Territories to deal with or when a national response was required.
The Agency is a Division within the Attorney-General’s Department and employs 140 staff and services a Budget of $23.5 million.
“EMA is not an emergency response Agency,” the Auditor said, “but rather is the coordinator of the Australian Government’s response when a request for assistance comes from a State or Territory.”
While finding that its core activities were dealt with in a “timely and responsive” manner, the Auditor found the Agency could define its roles and responsibilities more clearly, review its approach to delivering individual training courses and improve the structure and content of its website to make it more useful to the emergency management sector.
It also found that shortcomings in the financial reporting model used by the Attorney-General’s Department meant EMA could not estimate the costs of its activities and attempts to overcome the problem and develop a usable costing system had “stalled.”
“Given the increasing demands being placed upon EMA, the Australian National Audit Office considers that EMA’s monitoring of performance would be strengthened by a capacity to estimate the costs of its key emergency management activities and outcomes,” the report says.
It also found there had been friction with other Agencies when EMA had responded to emergencies overseas.
Among the five recommendations made by the Auditor were suggestions that EMA monitor the progress of projects better and that it make clear its broad principles of operation when called on to assist with responses overseas.
22 April, 2008
Fuel scheme to blow
lid off price hikes
Federal Cabinet has approved the establishment of a National FuelWatch Scheme.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said the Scheme would promote competition and transparency in the petrol market.
“The National FuelWatch Scheme will help motorists buy the cheapest petrol, at the cheapest petrol stations, at the cheapest times,” Mr Rudd said.
He said FuelWatch had been introduced in Western Australia six years ago and had been a welcome tool for WA motorists looking to save money.
“Analysis undertaken by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission last year concluded that under the WA FuelWatch scheme the relevant weekly average price margin was around 1.9 cents per litre less on average,” Mr Rudd said.
He said under the national Scheme, petrol stations in all metropolitan and major regional Centres would have to notify the ACCC of their future prices in advance; maintain the advised price for 24 hours; and apply the scheme to a wide variety of fuels.
Mr Rudd said consumers would be able to access petrol price information through an email and SMS alert service, a toll free number and a National FuelWatch website.
“By giving motorists highly detailed and up to date information about local petrol prices, FuelWatch will help motorists avoid being ripped off.”
He said although the restrictions included in the FuelWatch Scheme meant there would be less flexibility for temporary upward and downward movements in prices, the ACCC said the effect of the scheme was to force retailers to post their most competitive prices every day.
The Prime Minister warned consumers the Government could not monitor price rises due to fluctuations in international oil markets.
“The National FuelWatch Scheme is not a silver bullet that breaks this nexus,” he said. “No Government policy can guarantee that petrol prices will always go down.
“FuelWatch will ensure that drivers don’t pay one cent more than they have to when filling up at the bowser.”
Mr Rudd said the scheme was a part of the Government’s response to the ACCC report into the price of unleaded petrol.
He said it would cost $20.9 million over four years and would commence on 15 December this year, with a review to be undertaken in December 2009.
22 April, 2008
takes to the skies
The Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese has announced that a White Paper to guide the future of the aviation industry would be developed by the Government.
Mr Albanese said the Paper would be the first national policy statement to bring together all aspects of aviation policy into a single statement.
He said the aim of the White Paper would be simple: “to provide greater planning and investment certainty for the industry as well as address the wider community and environmental impacts associated with air transport and airport development.”
He said, as the first step on the road to the White Paper, an Issues Paper would be released to stimulate public debate.
“The Government is asking all those with an interest in the future of the Australian aviation industry to consider the questions posed by the Issues Paper,” Mr Albanese said.
He requested that all input and ideas be submitted by the end of June.
When comments on the Issues Paper had been received, Mr Albanese said a ‘Green Paper’ would be released outlining possible policy directions, settings and reforms.
He said this Green Paper would provide another opportunity for public input before the White Paper was finally developed.
“Following this second round of consultation, the Government will finalise the White Paper, addressing each of the key short, medium and long term challenges identified,” Mr Albanese said.
He said the White Paper would be completed by the middle of next year.
Mr Albanese said the aviation industry underpinned domestic economic growth and provided an essential gateway to the global economy.
“At present, the aviation industry directly supports nearly 50,000 jobs and contributes $6.8 billion to Australia's GDP,” he said.
Mr Albanese said the Issues Paper was available at www.infrastructure.gov.au
22 April, 2008
Iraqi supporters to
call Australia home
The Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzibbon has announced that Iraqi citizens employed by the Australian armed forces in their country are to be eligible for permanent resettlement in Australia.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the locally-engaged staff included translators and interpreters and the resettlement policy recognised the personal security situation they would face when Australia withdrew its Overwatch Battle Group from southern Iraq later this year.
He said people working with Australian troops and other forces in Iraq had been targeted in the past.
Mr Fitzgibbon and the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans said a new visa policy would be adopted to allow the permanent resettlement in Australia of the local people and their families who would otherwise be at risk because of their links to the Australian troops.
“The policy will apply only to Locally Employed Employees (LEEs) and their families specifically designated by the Government as eligible for a humanitarian visa,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
He expected it would apply to about 600 applicants.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the first group of LEEs to benefit from the policy would be a select group of Iraqis who had worked with, or for, the withdrawing elements of the Australian Defence Force.
He said these people had repeatedly shown their commitment to the security of Australians in Iraq and the reconstruction operations they were undertaking.
Senator Evans said the LEEs and their families would be granted permanent humanitarian visas after undergoing health, character and national security checks.
He said they would be settled throughout Australia and those with relatives already living in Australia would be settled in the same State or Territory as their families, if that was possible.
22 April, 2008
The Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service, Senator John Faulkner, has proposed that a Commission be set up to reform of the Australian Constitution.
Speaking before the recent 2020 ideas summit in Canberra, Senator Faulkner described the Constitution as “creaking” and said it was struggling to cope with the demands of 21st century Government.
“Today, the body that comes closest to making the Australian Federation workis the Council of Australian Governments,” he said.
“Dig down into COAG and you find a complex web of inter-Governmental agreements and Ministerial Councils – a superstructure built around the Federation inconceivable to the framers of our Constitution.”
He said a mature democracy should strive for better solutions.
“A mature democracy should have a Constitution that reflects the realityof the body politic.
“The nineteenth century structure of our Federation is creaking, if not being stretched to breaking point, to meet twenty-first century demands.”
Senator Faulkner said a vital aspect of modern public administration was not even part of the debate.
“Governance is the Cinderella of discussions about our polity,” he said.
“Governance is not just about choosing a Government - nor determining what that Government will do. It is also about the nitty-gritty, the nuts and bolts, the often boring detail of how a Government goes about its work, implementing policies and delivering programs.
“It is the concrete steps we take after announcing our purpose.”
He said to achieve real reform in governance, the idea that there was a division of purpose and process, of ends and means must be overcome.
He said the problems with the Constitution and the way Governments approached it showed the need for reform.
“Governments are reluctant to press for structural change,” he said.
“They expect rebuff from citizens - and with reason: 36 of 44 referenda for constitutional change have been defeated.
“This leads to impasse, not balance - stagnation, not equilibrium”
Senator Faulkner said the result was that the integrity of governance was compromised.
“We have seen a period when the apolitical nature of the Public Service has been tested and Public Servants’ role in policy development constrained,” he said.
“We have seen increased emphasis on security and secrecy undermining openness and transparency.
“And we have seen new laws restricting rights and freedoms pass without a yardstick to measure or restrain them.”
He said the way to resolve these issues was for:
“But these reforms, important and necessary as they are, treat symptoms – not the underlying causes,” he said.
- Greater transparency in the electoral system;
- Tough codes of conduct for everyone in the political system;
- Guidelines to keep partisan politics out of Government advertising;
- A ‘pro-disclosure’ culture in Government; and
- Government appointments made on merit.
22 April, 2008
Police IT service cops
The Government Agency, CrimTrac, has won an award for its innovative ICT solutions.
CrimTrac took out the award from the Australian Information Industry Association for its National Police Reference System.
CimTrac was set up in 2000 by an inter-Governmental agreement to act as a central information repository for Australia’s law enforcement agencies.
It won the iAward in the category of e-Government and Services for the ACT, which recognised the most innovative system to support electronic Government initiatives and service delivery.
Chief Executive of CrimTrac, Ben McDevitt said the win was a positive endorsement for the Agency’s newest ICT project.
“The NPRS allows Police across Australia to exchange information, enabling them to access information about people in various jurisdictions,” Mr McDevitt said.
“Police use this information to identify whether individuals are a threat to the public, of interest to Police or wanted by Police.”
He said the NPRS would be distributed across the country and would have more than 50,000 users by early 2009.
“It provides information critical to the day to day duties of community policing across the country,” Mr McDevitt said.
He said the new system would provide more in-depth data on people of interest than was previously available.
“Traditionally, Police have maintained information within jurisdictional boundaries and although these are relatively mature systems, they are disparate,” he said.
“NPRS allows each organisation to determine its own rules for providing and querying data.
“Jurisdictions collectively determine what data should be shared, the minimum set of data that makes each record sensible, and who can access the data.”
Mr McDevitt said CrimTrac’s NPRS would also be considered for a national iAward which would be announced in Melbourne at the end of May.
22 April, 2008
shows how we lie
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released information to help assess developments to the economy, the environment and society.
The publication - Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators gives a snapshot of national progress over the last decade.
According to the ABS, the report found Australians were richer on average, with the real net disposable income per person growing by an average of 2.9 per cent each year between 1996-97 and 2006-07.
The Bureau said fewer people were unemployed and more were living longer.
It said more Australians were better educated, with almost 60 per cent of 25 to 64 year-olds having a non-school qualification in 2007, up from 46 per cent in 1997.
Despite people being smarter and healthier, the Bureau said some crime rates were up and some down, with increases in personal crimes such as assault contrasting with decreases in household crimes such as break-ins.
It found Australians were more productive than previously, with multifactor productivity (growth in output that can't be explained by growth in labour, capital or other inputs) rising by an average of 1.1 per cent per year during 1996–97 to 2006-07.
The report said there were more threatened species, and that data suggested some decline in Australia’s biodiversity.
It said between 2000 and 2007 the number of bird and animal species which were extinct, endangered or vulnerable rose from 153 to 174.
22 April, 2008
Money watchdog backs
A series of new publications interpreting the legislation underpinning Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism funding reforms have been launched by financial payments watchdog, AUSTRAC.
AUSTRAC’s Chief Executive Officer, Neil Jensen said as Australia’s anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism funding (CTF) regulator, AUSTRAC had views on the legal meaning and effect of various provisions of the legislation it administered, which also included the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988.
“We will publish these interpretations in this new series to help address some of the more complex questions that are arising for reporting entities,” Mr Jensen said.
He said the Public Legal Interpretation series would complement other resources developed for reporting entities by the Agency, including the AUSTRAC Regulatory Guide, Self Assessment Questionnaire, online learning materials, guidance notes and frequently asked questions.
“Together, these resources form an important part of the education program we have been providing since the AML/CTF program was introduced,” Mr Jensen said. “AUSTRAC is committed to working together with reporting entities as the AML/CTF Act is implemented. By providing practical tools such as these interpretations, we hope to encourage a spirit of voluntary compliance for reporting entities.”
Public Legal Interpretations (Public Legal Interpretation No. 1) introduces the publication series and outlines its purpose and legal authority.
A further six publications will be released throughout 2008 covering topics:
Mr Jensen said topics for the 2009 Public Legal Interpretation series will be finalised following consultation with key stakeholder groups later on in the year.
- Registration as an “alternative remittance” provider
- Australian financial services licence holders
- What constitutes a reporting entity
- Access to AUSTRAC information
- Suspect transactions and suspicious matter reports
- Threshold transactions.
More information about the Public Legal Interpretation, including release dates, is available on the website: www.austrac.gov.au/pli.html
22 April, 2008
is fine and settled
The Bureau of Meteorology has celebrated 100 years of science and service with a speech by the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett.
Mr Garrett delivered the speech in Melbourne, saying the Bureau was one of those rare national institutions which all Australians had a day-to-day relationship with.
“It affects our life in many ways like whether to take an umbrella to work,” Mr Garrett said.
“But it also plays a pivotal role in monitoring, recording, analysing, researching and predicting our climate - a task made more difficult as we deal with the ongoing impacts of climate change.”
Mr Garrett said this year’s World Meteorological Day theme ‘Observing our planet for a better future’ would provide an excellent opportunity for the community to look at the important role the Bureau would play in the future of climate change.
“Over the last 100 years the Bureau has, through establishing a comprehensive record of weather observations across the nation, laid the essential building blocks which will help us in this challenge. By understanding the past, we are better armed to predict the future.”
He said the Government understood that responding to the impacts of climate change offered a range of new possibilities which the Bureau would help investigate.
“After 100 years, The Bureau of Meteorology has emerged an accomplished organisation whose service better equips Australia to respond to the many challenges we face. I am sure the next 100 years will build on this success,” Mr Garret said.
22 April, 2008
making big noise
A photographic exhibition highlighting the reality of landmines for people living in Cambodia has been launched to mark the AusAID-funded Landmine Survivor Assistance Program.
The program, which is managed by the Red Cross, works with the Cambodian Government to reduce the vulnerability of landmine survivors, their families and affected communities in Cambodia.
Cambodia Program Officer for the Australian Red Cross, Anna Rasalingam said the photographic exhibition entitled Survivors depicted the tragedy of landmine injuries in affected areas of Cambodia.
Ms Rasalingam said exhibition photographer, Somira Sao fled to America after escaping from a Cambodian labour camp with her parents when she was three.
Ms Sao returned to Cambodia for the first time 26 years later, where locals began to call her ‘Child Pol Pot’.
“When I told people my story, they expressed genuine happiness that I had returned to understand their lives and my native country,” Ms Sao said.
She said she travelled to remote Cambodian villages in October last year to capture images for the exhibition.
“The landmine projects were painful and sad to witness.
“In Pailin, it was so disturbing to see how innocent people continue to be affected day-to-day by a war that is supposed to be over,” she said.
Ms Rasalingam said the exhibition was first shown in Cambodia last year as a part of the launch of the Landmine Survivor Assistance Program, which coincided with the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty.
The Australian exhibition was opened by the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, and the Chief Executive of Australian Red Cross, Robert Tickner at the High Court of Australia.
The exhibition would be on display at the High Court in Canberra until 24 April and was free for all viewers. It would move to Perth for World Red Cross day on 8 May.
22 April, 2008
Hard, cold facts in
A new edition of a first aid manual specially prepared for Antarctica has been released, this time in pocket-size format.
The seventh edition of the Australian Antarctic First Aid Manual, provides a comprehensive guide to managing most conditions encountered in Antarctica, including frostbite, broken bones, altitude sickness and appendicitis.
Two years in the making, the new edition of the manual was put together by former Senior Medical Officer, Dr Peter Gormly (now retired) of the Australian Antarctic Division’s Polar Medicine Unit, with contributions from past and present medical officers.
Due to the remote and hostile nature of Antarctica, the manual includes advice and procedures beyond the usual limits of first aid, such as stitching up wounds and administering injections and oxygen.
For this reason the managers of Australia’s Antarctic program believe the manual may also be of interest to those exploring other remote and isolated parts of the world.
The manual builds on and updates medical advice incorporated in previous editions – the first of which was published in 1979 as the ANARE First Aid Manual.
The new edition takes into consideration new Australian Resuscitation Council Guidelines, updated cold injury management guidelines, changes in AAp medical support kits and includes new chapters on mental health, first aid and recognition of altitude illness in the deep field.
The principles of first aid are reinforced by several informative diagrams and a first aid observation sheet and a report form is included.
22 April, 2008
Queens birthday gets
stamp of approval
Australia Post has announced details of the 2008 Queen’s Birthday stamps, issued to celebrate Her Majesty’s 82nd birthday.
This year marked the 28th year Australia Post had commemorated the occasion.
According to Australia Post’s Philatelic Group Manager, Noel Leahy, the stamp, released in April, paid tribute to Her Majesty’s Badge as Sovereign Head of the Order of Australia, a symbolic adornment worn by the Queen exclusively when in Australia.
Mr Leahy said the 2008 Queen’s Birthday series featured one stamp with a photographic depiction of the Queen’s Badge and one stamp with a photo of the Queen in formal regalia at an official dinner held at Parliament House in Canberra during her most recent visit in 2006.
He said the series was traditionally popular.
“The Queen’s Birthday stamps resonate with many Australians. This year’s focus on the Queen’s Badge has particular relevance to Australia,” Mr Leahy said.
“We believe this series will hold particular value and relevance as it not only commemorates the Queen’s 82nd birthday, but also honours the Order of Australia award.”
He said the Order of Australia was established by the Queen in 1975.
“The Order of Australia is an inclusive community based awards system and works on the premise of nominations by the community, for the community.”
He said the 2008 Queen’s Birthday stamps were available from Australia Post outlets and via mail order on 1800 331 794 while stocks lasted.
He said overseas collectors could place orders online at www.auspost.com.au
22 April, 2008
ACMA study shows
new TV out of tune
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has published research showing only two out of five Australian households have converted to digital television.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said that while take-up of digital free-to-air TV had risen steadily since its introduction in 2001, significant numbers of the community had yet to make the switch from analog.
“This research gives us an insight into the reasons for the adoption and non-adoption of digital television, which will help guide the Federal Government, ACMA and broadcasters to effectively manage the transition from analog to digital,” Mr Chapman said.
ACMA’s research suggested that even when viewers of digital subscription television services were combined with those watching over the airwaves, only just more than half of households – 54 per cent – were receiving digital free-to-air television services.
The research also indicated that digital-capable TV sets now accounted for a quarter (25.7 per cent) of overall stock of televisions.
The findings were among the key results of the Digital television in Australian homes 2007 report, the third in a series of ACMA studies into household adoption of digital TV.
For the first time, differences in adoption rates by State and Territory and between metropolitan and regional areas have been measured, including two case studies in Mildura and Broken Hill. The highest adoption rates were in Mildura (70.3 per cent) and Tasmania (64 per cent), and the lowest rates in South Australia (37.1 per cent) and Queensland (37.2 per cent).
“While better picture quality continues to be the key reason for digital uptake nationally, access to extra channels and new content has led the unusually strong growth evident in areas such as Tasmania and Mildura,” Mr Chapman said.
He said despite the growth in digital take-up, more than half of Australian households still needed to make the switch to digital free-to-air television, and close to a quarter (24 per cent) were not interested in switching over.
Many in this core group indicated they were not interested in TV, while others saw no compelling need to change or were put off by cost.
National awareness of the future switch-off of the analog signal by 2013 was unchanged from 2006 at 67 per cent.
The key survey results are available on ACMA’s website at www.acma.gov.au
22 April, 2008
CASA panel to
check air quality
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is seeking expressions of interest from health professionals to chair an expert panel to review potential crew and passenger health issues related to aircraft cabin air quality.
The successful chairperson will be required to review file material including expert reports, invite submissions and conduct meetings such that all parties have a fair opportunity to present their case, whist ensuring that the panel operated in accordance with the established terms of reference.
Membership of the panel is to include experts in occupational and/or public health, epidemiology, immunology, toxicology, chemical risk assessment, aircraft operations and airworthiness.
According to CASA, the Expert Panel on Aircraft Air Quality will critically appraise national and international scientific research into cabin air quality in relation to potential health and safety risks from the quality of air onboard commercial aircraft.
It will recommend whether current international research initiatives are sufficient and whether additional research is required in the Australian context.
Expressions of interest for positions on the panel should be directed to CASA’s Principal Medical Officer, Dr Ian Hosegood at email@example.com
22 April, 2008
is a sure bet
A program conducted by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to train Indonesian aviation inspectors in safety skills has begun producing results according to the Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese.
Mr Albanese said under the program, CASA was providing training for up to 40 Indonesian inspectors every year.
He said the first group of Indonesian inspectors had completed their training in Australia in March, and returned home to apply their new skills and expertise to Indonesia’s transport sector.
He said a second group had already arrived and started their training.
“The presence of the inspectors is part of Australia's ongoing work with Indonesian Government agencies to improve overall transport safety in Indonesia,” Mr Albanese said.
He said Australia’s cooperative relationship with Indonesia was beneficial.
“I am confident the inspectors from the Indonesian Directorate General of Civil Aviation will benefit enormously from the intensive mentoring they received while in Australia,” he said.
Mr Albanese said despite the seemingly small number of inspectors being trained, the program would make a significant contribution to lifting safety standards in Indonesia which had only 116 inspectors for a population of over 230 million people.
“The inspectors entering the program will have their competencies assessed before and after their training in Australia,” he said.
“Each will be assigned to a mentor who will monitor their progress on their return to Jakarta, including the transfer of skills to other staff.”
Mr Albanese said the project was one of a broader range of activities being developed under the Indonesian Transport Safety Assistance Package (ITSAP), and would cost around $24 million over three years.
He said other activities under ITSAP included improving air traffic management in Indonesia; providing expertise and guidance on accident investigation; and marine safety training including search and rescue.
22 April, 2008
The Australia Bureau of Statistics has found that public sector employees were more likely to be members of a trade union than private sector employees.
The ABS said 41 per cent of employees in the public sector (to August last year) were trade union members compared to 14 per cent in the private sector.
The ABS said membership levels had decreased over the 12 month period.
SBS in modern upgrade
The Special Broadcasting Service is to launch a new channel logo and reintroduce its slogan ‘six billion stories and counting’.
The change, to be introduced on May 7, followed audience research on the need to modernise the SBS image.
No-one called on Do Not Call
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has confirmed that no telemarketing companies had been fined for breaching the Do Not Call Register which ais approaching its first birthday.
ACMA’s Grant Simons said, however that investigations into some companies were under way.
Launched last year, the Register makes phone calls by telemarketers to registered numbers illegal. Fines could range from $1,000 to $1.1 million.
Auditor in print
The Australian National Audit Office has published three new information leaflets detailing its functions, operations and financial and performance audits.
The colourful publications explain the role of the ANAO, with an introduction to each one written by Auditor-General, Ian McPhee.
Mr McPhee says the ANAO aims to add value to public sector performance by helping improve the efficiency and administrative effectiveness of the APS and by providing an independent assurance of its financial reporting, administration, control and accountability.
The National Safe Work Australia Awards are to be held on 28 April at Parliament House, Canberra.
The awards are to recognise Occupational Health and Safety excellence in the Public and Private sectors, and would be presented by Bill Scales and the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard.
For more information visit www.ascc.gov.au
ABARE abuzz with bee study
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics is to undertake an Australia-wide survey of Australia beekeepers.
The survey, to be conducted on behalf of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation’s Honeybee program would explore the characteristics of honeybee businesses in a bid to develop strategies to improve the industry.
Results were expected to be released in July.
ACMA in spectrum call
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has invited comments and feedback on the recommendations made in the Final Report of the Independent Review of Government Spectrum Holdings and the Commission’s response paper.
The review addressed achieving a balance between Government and community use of the radiofrequency spectrum.
For further inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.acma.gov.au
Airservices expands trial
15 April, 2008
Airservices Australia has announced it would expand the aviation safety trial of the Universal Communications Frequency to Port Macquarie, Hervey Bay and Karratha.
Chief executive of the Agency, Greg Russell, said the move came as the regional airports were experiencing growth in passenger movements and expansion of the mining and tourism industries.
He said Airservices would fund the trial.
Chemical scare lifts lid on containers
APS staff working in the Northern Territory as part of the emergency response and living in converted shipping containers have been evacuated due to a chemical scare.
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Jenny Macklin ordered the evacuation when she learned the containers may have had unacceptable levels of formaldehyde.
Affected staff are employed by FaHCSIA, the Department of Employment Education and Workplace Relations and Centrelink.
“We don't know yet if the converted containers which our people have been living in actually have high levels of formaldehyde or what the health risks are if they do,” Ms Macklin said.
“However, we are not prepared to take any risks with the health and safety of our staff.”
The Government contacted all 26 affected staff and directed them to seek alternative accommodation.
Ms Macklin said if alternative accommodation was not possible, they were directed to sleep in the “breezeway” - a well-ventilated part of the complex outside the containers.
She said a FaHCSIA social worker was contacting staff and would continue to monitor them.
“If necessary, staff will be moved to regional centres and fly in/fly out arrangements will be put in place,” Ms Macklin said.
“Alternative options such as mobile homes, caravans are being explored.”
The Minister said the containers were acquired by FaHCSIA from September 2007 and seen as an effective means of getting cyclone-proof temporary accommodation into communities to ensure the Northern Territory Emergency Response was mobilised quickly. They were occupied by staff from late October.
She said staff began reporting the odours in November and lodged a complaint in December.
The supplier was contacted and undertook tests until last month when the cause was traced to a combination of factors including formaldehyde used in the construction of the containers’ furniture.
Ms Macklin said the Commonwealth Medical Officer had been contacted and his advice about the possible risks and health checks was awaited.
“I understand that this is a difficult time for affected staff and their families and we will be providing them with more information as soon as we can,” Ms Macklin said.
“Their wellbeing, health and safety is my top priority. I want to reassure them that every possible measure will be taken to protect their health and ensure their safety.”
15 April, 2008
PS in line for
An independent review of the management of information and communication technology across the Australian Public Service has been announced by Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner.
The review is to be conducted by the former Chief Executive of the United Kingdom Treasury’s Office of Government Commerce, Sir Peter Gershon.
Mr Tanner said the review would be aimed at identifying ways to strengthen the whole-of-Government management of ICT and maximise efficiency while providing better services. He said the review would examine the way Agencies manage their ICT investments, including maintenance, intra-agency links, development and staffing.
“The Australian Government has approximately $10 billion in ICT assets,” Mr Tanner said, “and spends around $6 billion per annum on ICT encompassing procurement, maintenance, development and staff costs.”
He said the expenditure had been uncoordinated in the past, leading to serious inefficiencies and cost blowouts.
"There are clear opportunities for efficiency gains in information and communication technology.
“But we also want to use this review to ensure Australians can access convenient and high quality Government services.”
Mr Tanner said Sir Peter Gershon had undertaken several major strategic reviews for the UK Government on procurement including one that examined ICT and public sector efficiency. He said those reviews achieved an estimated £23 billion in budget savings.
"Sir Peter’s track record at the most senior levels of both industry and government in the UK speaks for itself," Mr Tanner said.
"His expertise as an industry leader, strategist and highly effective reviewer of public administration makes him a compelling candidate to review the way in which the Australian Government manages its use of ICT."
Sir Peter is to be supported by the Department of Finance and Deregulation and is to report to the Minister by September 2008.
Mr Tanner said the review was part of a broader ongoing reform agenda to improve the efficiency of Government spending and deliver better value for money.
15 April, 2008
PS ticked off in
A survey by an employment company has shown that Australia’s Public Servants enjoy their working hours and conditions, are continuously on the lookout for another job but don’t particularly like their bosses.
The study, by internet placement agency SEEK, highlighted mixed feelings among Public Servants when it came to their jobs.
There was strong support for flexible working hours and family-friendly working hours but more than half the staff surveyed felt unappreciated at work and 28 per cent were unhappy with the quality of overall management.
SEEK surveyed 5159 jobseekers and found that despite the perceived difficulties in the profession, Public Servants were the workers most likely to plan another decade or more with the same employer. Flexible conditions were the highlights of the job, with one in five Government workers saying they loved that part of their deal.
The National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Stephen Jones warned that the impact of cuts to the Public Service, widely expected as part of the Government’s first budget, could result in a loss of talent from the Australian Public Service.
“Public servants will play a crucial role in implementing the Government’s election promises, so ensuring the APS is adequately resourced will be an early test,” Mr Jones said.
“While there’s been plenty of early enthusiasm, commitment and long hours from Public Servants, the realities of a tight labour market, unsustainable workloads and insufficient resources could mean our best and brightest start to look elsewhere.”
Mr Jones said that while the CPSU was opposed to the “blunt instrument” of the blanket 2 per cent efficiency dividend, the union recognised that the Government had announced the measure during the election campaign and accepted that it would be implemented over the coming year.
However there was a need to “develop more sophisticated, comprehensive and innovative strategies to deliver sustained efficiencies and build the productive capacity of the Public Service, similar to the challenges faced by other sectors of the economy.”
SEEK sales director Joe Powell said while Government work might be the last bastion of the job-for-life, it had a downside for job placement agencies.
“The public sector has set the benchmark for flexible working conditions, however, there comes a point where conditions can become so comfortable that it is difficult for staff to move on,” he said.
15 April, 2008
APSC gives jobs
website more work
The Australian Public Service Commission has improved the service offered by the website www.APSjobs.gov.au, announcing a series of changes and enhancements in an APS Circular.
The website, launched in August 2007, provides a single entry point for Australian Public Service employment opportunities and some of the features now available include:
• an improved search function allowing job seekers to look for jobs in a specified category, classification or location enhanced facilities for both job seekers and agencies. It includes:
• an improved search function allowing job seekers to look for jobs in a specified category, classification or location
• a service that allows a job seeker to save selected notices from their search results for future reference
• an improved search function for promotions
• a facility for job seekers to receive weekly email alerts of job vacancies
• a new page for Agencies to advertise mobility and movement opportunities across the APS and for current APS employees to register their interest in mobility
• another page for Agencies to advertise upcoming large scale recruitment initiatives
• a new section bringing together all Senior Executive Service and other senior vacancies, promotions, engagements, and other employment actions
• a gazette download page that allowed access to 12 months of Gazettes
Other changes include:
• Reducing Agency deadlines from seven to two days for lodging notices in the electronic APS Employment
• New selection arrangements for Agency Head and Statutory Officeholder positions.
• Improved reporting services for Agencies including:
* Hits per notice;
* Allowing agencies to view the number of employment decisions related to an original employment opportunity;
* Announcements usage; and
* User reports.
The Circular says some other features of the site included an improved search function allowing job seekers to look for jobs in a specified category, classification or location; and Ready Now, a register of former APS employees ready for short term work
15 April, 2008
told not to bite
Centrelink has been called on to stop chasing clients to repay small debts that had been forgiven by the previous Federal Government.
Shadow Minister for Human Services, and Minister in the former Government, Senator, Helen Coonan, made the call, saying Centrelink had referred written-off debts to debt collectors who were “hounding” people unable to pay.
“I have received numerous complaints from distraught Centrelink customers about the unfair treatment they are receiving,” Senator Coonan said.
“Many people have moved and have not received the debt collection letter at all. Others are in no position to pay with just seven days notice.”
She described the process as a Government ‘back-flip.’
“I am calling on the Minister for Human Services Joe Ludwig to show some commonsense and stop persecuting hardworking Australian families over minor debts that have been waived by the previous Government.”
Senator Coonan said it would cost more to pursue the minor amounts involved than would be realised in the likely recovery.
“There is a serious question whether there is any legal basis to pursue debts that have been forgiven,” she said.
“Any person who receives a claim for a debt that they believe had been waived should seek legal advice as to their position.”
Senator Coonan directed people affected to Community Legal Centres.
“Centrelink has an obligation only to recover what was lawfully owed,” she said.
15 April, 2008
APSC and Archives
in old records duet
The Australian Public Service Commission and the National Archives of Australia have signed a “Records Authority” which allows the APSC to decide what happens to the records it created and manages.
Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner, announced the deal which passes both a legal authority and a framework to the APSC to officially deal with its own records.
Senator Faulkner encouraged other Departments and Agencies to negotiate their own Records Authorities with the Archives, saying it was necessary to identify important Commonwealth records so they could be preserved.
“The process can also free up a lot of expensive storage space that’s housing material that the Archives could class as disposable,” Senator Faulkner said.
He said the APSC Records Authority was one of 10 entered with the Archives since a new, streamlined approach to record keeping was introduced last August.
He said other Departments and Agencies to enter Records Authorities included the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the (former) Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Department of Parliamentary Services.
Director-General of the Archives, Ross Gibbs welcomed the arrangement with the APSC saying it would lead to an ongoing culling exercise and could lead to “nine out of ten” documents being done away with.
“The Archives takes only about nine per cent of Agencies’ materials for the national record,” Mr Gibbs told the Canberra Times.
“Most of what they’ve got, once it’s time-expired, can be removed and destroyed,” he said.
15 April, 2008
Horse doctors past
post on Equine Flu
International animal health authorities have been officially informed that Australia is free of equine influenza.
Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Andy Carroll said formal notifications had been sent to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the Animal Health Trust and ProMED.
“On 14 March 2008 horses were again able to move freely within Australia,” Dr Carroll said. “This is a significant animal health achievement.”
He said the outcome of the program highlighted Australia’s capacity to identify, diagnose and manage animal disease incursions, as well as the nation’s highly developed and effective emergency management systems.
Dr Carroll said assuming no evidence of active EI infection was found, on 30 June Australia would confirm that the EI virus was no longer present.
He said monitoring and surveillance for EI would continue, consistent with OIE requirements and as part of Australia’s ongoing surveillance for exotic disease.
“Since December 2007 over 32,000 horses have been tested with negative results,” he said.
“The multi-faceted surveillance program has included epidemiological, clinical and laboratory investigations.”
Dr Carroll said following the diagnosis of EI in late August 2007, Australia implemented a rigorous control and eradication program.
He said the response included an initial national horse standstill, movement controls, trace-forward and trace-back, strict biosecurity measures and strategic vaccination in buffer zones and infected areas and extensive surveillance was also undertaken in both affected and unaffected regions.
15 April, 2008
Posties to put their
stamp on Olympics
Three posties from Australia Post have been chosen to carry the good wishes of Australians to their favourite Olympians at this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing.
The winning trio is Malcolm Richmond, 54, a postal manager at WA’s Perth GPO; Kevin Ruddell, 51, a postal delivery officer at Victoria’s Ferntree Gully Delivery Centre; and Sue Merrett, 43, the licensee of Highgate Licensed Post Office in South Australia.
The three were chosen from the nation-wide Olympic Postie competition conducted by Australia Post among its nearly 35,000 employees.
National Sponsorship Manager at Australia Post, Terry Hearity said it was the fourth time since 1992 that the corporation had sent a team of posties to the Olympics.
“We have been a long-time supporter of the Australian Olympic team and the Olympic movement,” Mr Hearity said.
“We believe the posties make a significant contribution to the morale of the team when you consider they could be delivering more than 10,000 letters a day to the athletes.”
He said during the Beijing Olympic Games - to be held from 8 to 24 August – the posties would l each spend one week sorting and delivering mail from families, friends and supporters of Australia’s Olympians.
He said they would also deliver letters from children involved in the Australia Post Letter Link program which encouraged children to write to members of the Australian Olympic team and express their support and well wishes. The program involves more than 12,000 primary, secondary and special schools throughout Australia and aimed at encouraging literacy and letter writing by children.
“The stint of the posties in Beijing will be no holiday,” Mr Hearity said.
“The trio will be under immense pressure every day to sort and deliver a mountain of mail which peaks when our team’s medal tallying gets underway.”
Australia Post first provided Olympic Games’ posties for Australian athletes in Atlanta in 1996.
15 April, 2008
Film body gives
profits the flick
The Australian Film Commission has overhauled its terms of trade in a bid to ensure Australian film producers benefit more from the long-term use and exploitation of their projects.
Chief Executive of the AFC, Chris Fitchett said the new arrangements would return more money to film producers and make their film businesses more viable.
“The AFC is thrilled to announce these changes and is committed to assisting producers develop sustainable screen businesses,” Mr Fitchett said.
“We hope that the revisions to our terms of trade will allow producers to benefit financially from further commercialization of their projects.”
He said the AFC would now revert its share of revenue to the producer seven years after completion of AFC-funded projects. This reversion of revenue would apply to revenue generated by the project after 1 April 2008.
Mr Fitchett said the completion date would be taken as the date of the final AFC payment made to the production and the AFC would also remain the disbursement agent unless the producer obtained written permission from all investors that permitted the producer to take on this responsibility.
He said the AFC would retain its copyright share and credit and reporting obligations to the AFC would continue.
He said these terms were in addition to the changes announced in January 2008 which abolished the 10 per cent reassignment premium, payable when the AFC’s share of copyright was reassigned; allowing the producer to retain the AFC’s share of Screenrights royalties; and making investments in short films, short animation films and digital media projects in the form of a grant with the AFC’s share of revenue assigned to the producer.
Mr Fitchett said the AFC was able to rollover its development investment into an equity investment on projects that were greenlit for production by the Film Finance Corporation Film Australia and contracted for production between 1 January and 30 June 2008.
15 April, 2008
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has inaugurated an annual awards scheme to reward individuals who show outstanding commitments in the field of privacy.
The Commissioner, Karen Curtis, has called on businesses, community organisations and Government Agencies to support the awards by making a nomination for the Australian Privacy Medal 2008.
“Organisations’ good privacy practices, systems and projects demonstrate that our society is one that is generally committed to protecting and respecting people’s privacy,” Ms Curtis said.
“In order to recognise and reward organisations for their positive contribution to privacy, I urge businesses, community bodies and Government Agencies to enter the Australian Privacy Awards program.”
The Australian Privacy Awards and Australian Privacy Medal were launched by Senator John Faulkner, Special Minister of State and Cabinet Secretary.
“The most effective protection of Australians’ privacy is in the day-to-day decisions and actions of both public and private institutions and organisations,” Senator Faulkner said.
“Over the past 20 years of the Privacy Act there have been many individuals, businesses and community groups who have made substantial contributions to the role of privacy in Australia. These awards will provide the chance to recognise these achievements.”
Commissioner Curtis said the Awards would be presented in four categories:
* Large Business Award - for businesses with more than 100 employees.
* Microsoft Small-Medium Business Award - for businesses with fewer than 100 employees.
* Community and NGO Award - for not-for-profit organisations, such as charities, NGOs, industry bodies, advocacy organisations, and social, cultural, sporting or community groups.
* Symantec Government Award - for any Government Agency at a local, state or national level.
She said a Grand Award will be presented to the most outstanding entrant.
The Australian Privacy Medal is open to any individual who has exhibited an outstanding level of achievement in advancing privacy in Australia.
Commissioner Curtis said the deadline for nominations for the Awards and Medal was 9 July and the presentation to the winners would take place at a gala dinner on 27 August.
15 April, 2008
ACCC to suck and see
on water markets
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has called for public comment on an issues paper exploring options for the development of water market rules.
The water market rules form a key component of the Water Act 2007, which creates new institutional and governance arrangements to address the sustainability and management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin.
The rules will ensure that policies or administrative requirements of operators of irrigation infrastructure who hold a group water access entitlement on behalf of their member irrigators, do not unreasonably prevent or delay trade.
“The purpose of the water market rules is to free up the trade of water within the Murray-Darling Basin,” the Chairman of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel said.
“A well-functioning water market will contribute to improved water use efficiency as well as send clearer signals about efficient investment in water infrastructure assets.
“Reducing restrictions on the trade of water provides irrigators with greater flexibility in managing their water rights.”
Minister for Water, Senator Penny Wong said Government policy was to free up water trade across the Murray Darling Basin.
“These regulations will help ensure stakeholders have a clear role as the ACCC develops water charging and market rules,” Senator Wong said.
She said the ACCC was expected to report on water market rules later this year, with water charging rules to be developed by early 2009.
“I encourage community involvement in the process, and call for comments from the Basin States along with key water stakeholders and the public,” Senator Wong said.
She said the agreement forged recently with the States to secure the sustainable future of the Basin included a commitment to further strengthen the role of the ACCC in the Basin’s water market.
The ACCC will accept submissions until 9 May 2008 and details of how to make a submission can be found in the issues paper, which will be available from the ACCC website.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC intended to release a suite of issues papers covering bulk water charges, charges of irrigation infrastructure operators and charges levied to recover the costs of water planning and management activities in due course.
15 April, 2008
Film ushers in
A special documentary on the history of the Australian nuclear industry is to be screened in Sydney to mark 50 years of nuclear science.
Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum will show the documentary about the history of the Australian nuclear industry and the contribution Australia’s first nuclear research reactor, HIFAR (High Flux Australian Reactor) made to Australian science.
Commissioned by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, (ANSTO) to record HIFAR’s historical role and achievements through the voices of some of the staff who worked there and scientists who used the facility, the documentary is said to give an entertaining and educational insight into what HIFAR delivered for Australia and how it touched peoples lives.
During its lifetime, HIFAR - which has now been shut down and in the process of decommissioning - supplied millions of patient doses of nuclear medicines to Australia, New Zealand and Asia, and allowed cutting-edge nuclear science to take place.
The date of the screening – 18 April – also marks the exact date that HIFAR was officially opened 50 years ago by Prime Minister, Robert Menzies.
The Powerhouse Museum’s permanent exhibition, Nuclear Matters, gives people the chance to really understand what nuclear is all about.
The exhibition is divided into five areas: nuclear basics; nuclear in our lives, including nuclear medicines and internal body scanning; nuclear sciences; nuclear power generation; and nuclear perspectives which includes changes in social attitudes over the last century.
The documentary will screen on between 10am and 3pm with a guided tour of the permanent exhibition at 11am, 1pm and 2pm.
15 April, 2008
Agencies up front
on leader training
A number of Government Departments and Agencies have been successful in winning grants to host future leaders form the Asia-Pacific region under AusAID’s Australian Leadership Awards -Fellowships program.
Eighteen organisations, including Government departments, universities, courts, research, and planning bodies, have been given grants to host 173 Australian Leadership Awards Fellows from 13 countries across the Asia-Pacific region.
AusAID is providing funding of more than $4 million for Fellows to undertake professional development placements to help strengthen Australia’s ties with the Asia-Pacific region and advance regional reform.
The program allows Fellows earmarked as current and future leaders in their fields, gain access to Australian ideas and expertise across a broad range of development areas including pandemics, climate change, international trade, regional security and governance.
The Fellows will be able to use the knowledge and experience gained to drive social and economic reform in their own countries and enhance links with Australia.
According to AusAID, the Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships program continues to engage with a wide cross-section of the Australian community on aid delivery issues and priorities for development in the region.
Fellows will gain valuable experience through placements with organisations across the Australian Government, university, research and private industry sectors.
Fellows have been selected from countries as diverse as China, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Bhutan and East Timor.
15 April, 2008
Librarians plug in
to internet info
An international gathering of librarians and archivists in Canberra has warned that the explosion of internet communications was threatening the worldwide loss of irreplaceable information about human history, commerce, political movements and its creative life.
Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Jan Fullerton, said at the second General Assembly of the International Internet Preservation Consortium that the world risked losing its digital memory and that libraries around the world were working together to try to save it.
“Capturing and ensuring access to content on the Web for future generations – not just as an historical and cultural record but also as raw material for research and creativity – is a challenge gaining momentum across the world,” Ms Fullerton said.
“The National Library is a world leader in this area and has saved many notable Australian websites since 1996, including the Sydney Olympic Games and election campaign sites, but much more needs to be done.”
She said more could be done with greater resources and copyright changes to ensure ongoing access to online materials.
“But without adequate recognition, policy development, planning and investment in research and infrastructure development, much of Australia’s ever-increasing digital memory will be lost,” Ms Fullerton said.
The NLA’s Director of Web Archiving and Digital Preservation, Colin Webb, compared the situation around the world to book-burning on a grand scale.
“If this loss of information was deliberate we would all be appalled,” Mr Webb said.
“It will only be in the future that it is realised how much we have lost accidentally and how important it was.”
The General Assembly brought together experts from around the world to share and discuss policies, methods and standards for web archiving, strategies for preservation and ongoing access, and to collaboratively develop the open-source software tools needed to achieve these objectives.
Organisations represented at the meeting include the US Library of Congress, the British Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Japan’s National Diet Library and the Internet Archive.
15 April, 2008
Study of exit fees
worth banking on
The findings of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s review of mortgage entry and exit fees have been released.
According to Treasurer, Wayne Swan the review reveals that exit fees varied dramatically, thereby highlighting the importance of ensuring banks and other lenders faced as much competitive pressure as possible.
“The Government asked ASIC to undertake this review as part of our efforts to foster a more competitive banking system that works for Australian families, not against them,” Mr Swan said.
“We want the banking system to offer families a real choice of financial products, including on the important issue of the level of fees and the services provided.”
Mr Swan said the Government understood there was widespread concern in the community about various aspects of the mortgage industry – including the conduct of mortgage brokers and the level of fees charged on mortgages.
He said that was why the Commonwealth and States had reached an historic agreement to develop a national regulatory framework for mortgage lending, to be overseen by the Commonwealth.
He said the framework would be informed by the ASIC report which shone a light on high exit fees, and would help ensure full disclosure of fees and boost competition in the banking sector.
Mr Swan said he had been encouraged to see that one major bank had already offered a new mortgage product free of exit fees and he noted the ASIC report showed various other lenders also offered products free of exit fees.
He said by increasing competitive pressure on the banks, the Government was helping to ensure that those banks and other lenders which offered the best value would be rewarded.
15 April, 2008
Art attack brings
The Australia Council for the Arts and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have entered a strategic partnership to deliver more and better arts services to the Australian community.
The arrangement will see more arts programs on ABC TV presented on a wider selection of digital delivery platforms.
Australia Council Chairman, James Strong and ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott explained the benefits of the partnership.
Mr Strong said, “Each year the Australia Council invests more than $150 million in the creation of high quality works by Australian artists and arts organisations, and we are continually looking for ways to access new and bigger audiences for this work.
“This partnership with ABC TV will help us grow and diversify our support for Australian artists and give more Australians the opportunity to experience and enjoy Australia’s arts in new and more accessible ways.”
He said ABC TV, through ABC2, the ABC’s strong presence on the internet, as well as its new internet channels, could provide a digital platform for Australia’s artists and arts organisations to reach audiences nationwide. He said it could also lead to artists and arts organisations exploring issues around rights’ management and business models in the digital era.
Mr Scott said the national broadcaster looked forward to an enhanced engagement with Australia’s creative communities.
“Through this groundbreaking venture, the ABC will be able to play a key role in supporting the creation and distribution of contemporary artwork via all its digital platforms,” Mr Scott said.
He said under the partnership, the Australia Council and ABC TV would develop a number of initiatives spanning the breadth of arts genres and practice, in a range of formats, including live performance.
He said ABC TV would present the arts programming across the schedules of ABC1, ABC2, ABC online, Second Life, internet channels, and through mobiles, vodcasts and user-generated content.
The first project in the partnership was a live broadcast of Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake, performed by The Australian Ballet at Sydney Opera House which was screened live on ABC2.
It was also beamed direct to the Australian Film Commission’s digital cinemas around Australia and to Federation Square in Melbourne.
The next project would be My Favourite Australian, an initiative with the National Portrait Gallery, which would see the production of film and video art portraits of much-loved Australians.
Mr Strong and Mr Scott said other initiatives in the pipeline included other musical, performance and digital art events.
15 April, 2008
IGOT makes tax return
The office of the Inspector-General of Taxation is to been retained as a separate independent statutory office.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Chris Bowen announced the decision, which he said was taken after consultation with the accounting and legal professions.
The Government had decided to consider the transfer of the IGOT’s functions as a cost-saving measure.
Former Minister for Industry, John Button has died of pancreatic cancer.
Following a career as an industrial lawyer during the 1960s, Mr Button entered the Senate in 1974, serving Victorians in this capacity for nearly 20 years.
He was a Minister in both the Hawke and Keating Governments, retiring as Industry Minister in 1993.
He was 74.
Visas to be looked at
Industrial Relations Commissioner, Barbara Deegan has been asked to examine the integrity of the temporary skilled migration program.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans said Commissioner Deegan would look into concerns about the exploitation of migrant workers, salary levels and English language requirements under the section 457 scheme.
She is to report by 1 October.
Navy to be capable
The Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal has approved the introduction of a Navy Capability Allowance in a bid to retain workers.
It is the first time a Capability Allowance has been sought by the Defence Force but has the backing of the Commonwealth Government and the Returned Services League.
The Allowance would be short-term and its effectiveness evaluated.
AEC chases youth vote
The Australian Electoral Commission has used the opportunity of National Youth Week, to encourage all young Australians to enrol to vote and to make sure their enrolment was up to date. Electoral Commissioner Ian Campbell said enrolling to vote was an important step for young people as it meant they could have their say in federal, state and local government elections.
Youth week ran from 5 to 13 April.
Literary Chair a good read
The Government is to fund a new Chair in Australian Literature to be established at the University of Western Australia.
$1.5 million is to be provided towards the initiative which is aimed at re-invigorating the study of Australian literature at university, in schools and throughout the community.
The funding decision follows a competitive process which was open to all Australian universities and was drawn from the Diversity and Structural Adjustment Fund.
Air Force lands recruit centre
The Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Shepherd, has opened a new recruit training precinct at RAAF Wagga Wagga in NSW.
The new facilities for 1RTU were part of the RAAF College Relocation project which attracted about $60 million in funding. The project has been delivered on time and on budget.
According to Air Marshal Shepherd, the new state-of-the-art facilities include a new headquarters building, multi-storey living-in accommodation buildings, training facilities, a physical fitness centre, medical and dental facilities, weapon and field training areas, improved mess facilities and a recruit recreation facility.
Sub wins second cup
Rockingham-based Collins Class submarine HMAS Rankin has won the Gloucester Cup for a second time.
The Cup, which was instituted in 1947, acknowledges excellence against a range of performance criteria including operational efficiency; seamanship; supply and administration; officer and sailor training; maintenance and resourcefulness.
Every RAN ship undergoes thorough evaluation and assessment in the selection process for the prestigious award.
8 April, 2008
Faulkner relates on relationship with PS
The Minister responsible for the Australian Public Service Commission, Senator John Faulkner, has detailed the Government’s attitude to the APS, saying there was a lot of work to do to restore it to its former position of trust and integrity in the Australian community.
Addressing the Governing Council of the Community and Public Sector Union, Senator Faulkner said he was concerned that there was a perception that elements of the traditional Westminster approach to the appropriate relationship between Government and the Public Service have been watered down in recent years.
“It is of course a favourite accusation for those opposed to a Government’s policies: that the Public Servants charged with carrying out those policies are ‘politicised’,” he said.
“However, I think there is evidence that in recent years there have been instances when ‘politicised’ is the only appropriate word.”
He said the re-establishment of the relationship would be underpinned by a comprehensive framework of ethics, professionalism and transparency.
“For the Public Service, this means frank, comprehensive, impartial and evidence-based advice to Government from Public Servants,” Senator Faulkner said.
“It means maintaining open, merit-based processes for appointments and promotions, including at senior level.
“It means leaders who model probity and lead by example.
“It also means fair and equitable employment decisions and adequate protections for Public Servants whose professionalism is under pressure or being threatened.”
He said without these standards, the APS could not hope to retain the skilled and experienced staff that were central to the Government’s programs of reform - or attract candidates of similar calibre.
He said the relationship between the Public Service and the Government was unique.
“The Government is not only their Government, but also their employer,” he said. “Governments too are dependent on the Public Service - on your competency, capability and professionalism. The best policies in the world would be judged failures by the public if poorly delivered.”
Senator Faulkner said a healthy relationship between the Public Service and the Government was one based on respect and co-operation.
“The Government must respect the independence and professionalism of the Public Service, and must not expect or pressure Public Servants to become servants of the political needs of the Government.”
He said Australia needed a strong, unified, professional and apolitical career Public Service that was able to respond to changing needs.
He said the Government was aware the PS had been going though “a time of uncertainty” since the election and said Ministers and MPs were aware not only of that trepidation but of increased workloads as well.
“The Public Service will play a crucial role as we continue to move to implement our policies,” he said.
“The enthusiasm and professionalism with which our requests have been met has been fantastic.”
The Minister warned, however that would continue to be change and adjustment in the Australian Public Service.
“As priorities and agendas change, the structure and organisation of the APS must change in response,” he said.
“This is an ongoing part of Public Service administration but inevitably it is more intense when a change in Government brings a more pressing adjustment to policy orientation.”
In concluding his address, Senator Faulkner said he hoped he would continue to have “fruitful dialogue” with the CPSU during his time as Minister but acknowledged they might not always agree.
“I will always take your views into account,” he said.
8 April, 2008
Razor Gang sharpens
its focus onto IT
Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner has launched phase two of his razor gang’s cost-saving blitz, taking aim at Public Service information technology.
According to Mr Tanner, the PS could do better in procurement and fighting duplication in its IT services and stood to save tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Clearly there is a problem,” Mr Tanner told ABC radio,
“We’ve got 164 different IT systems across the Commonwealth for processing individual grant applications.
“We’ve got 800-odd websites. We’ve got eight different secure networks for all kinds of national security and defence and policing arrangements.”
He said in recent years Agencies had been able to buy and install IT systems that suited their needs without regard for cross-agency integration.
“Information technology in particular was $6 billion a year spent in a very haphazard and fragmented way.
“And every time somebody wants to do something fractionally different from the Agency down the road, instead of being able to use the same system… they have their own.”
He said the Government was looking for “very large” additional savings by tightening up on IT, well beyond the savings to be identified in the Budget.
“I would certainly hope that in net terms we can get very substantial savings and that over time they’ll end up being in the hundreds of millions a year, not the tens of millions,” Mr Tanner said.
“This is part of the second stage of the razor gang.”
He denied new IT purchasing and management arrangements would be centralised, saying he had a hybrid model in mind.
“We don’t want to go to a centralised arrangement because that will just produce a different set of inefficiencies and waste.”
He said there was a lot of work to be done on the new arrangements.
“We‘ve just got to get the model right so that we get some of these disasters completely out of the system.”
8 April, 2008
Principles to teach
The Australian Public Service Commission has released the eight principles to be observed by Agencies when managing staff reductions at an Agency level.
Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner directed the APSC to issue the principles when he announced the establishment of the APS Career Transition and Support Centre recently.
“These principles will provide consistency and transparency in the management of excess staff across the Public Service as well as a continued focus on skills building within Agencies,” Senator Faulkner said.
“The Government is determined that Public Servants and their families are not put under undue stress during this transition period.”
The eight principles are:
- Agencies are to explore redeployment options for excess staff both internally and, if no suitable positions are available, within the wider APS.
- Agencies with excess (or potentially excess) staff will need to consider them for appointment before undertaking external advertising.
- Agencies recruiting employees should give consideration to staff seeking redeployment opportunities from other Agencies.
- Downsizing processes will need to be clear and transparent, with strong communication and consultation with employees and their representatives.
- Agencies should make every effort to continue training and skills development.
- Care will need to be taken to ensure that downsizing does not unreasonably reduce the diversity in Agency workplaces.
- Targeted Voluntary Retrenchment packages may be offered if it means retaining highly valued employees.
- Compulsory retrenchments are to be avoided.
Among the points made in elaborating on the principles are that there is to be no recruitment freeze, redeployed staff are to move into new positions as early soon as possible, (4 weeks is a guide) and redeployment should not be used to unload underperforming staff
More details on the principles can be found on the APSC website www.apsc.gov.au
8 April, 2008
Union action to
strike out threats
The Community and Public Sector Union has resolved to launch a new industrial campaign to deal with immediate and on-going threats to public sector jobs and quality public services. It will also try to prevent forced redundancies.
A recent meeting of the Union’s 60-member Governing Council in Canberra decided to strongly support a recommendation that it fight against the threats over the next 12 months and campaign for abolition of arbitrary efficiency dividends from future budgets.
According to CPSU National Secretary Stephen Jones, Australia has not automatically become a “workers’ nirvana” since the November Federal election.
“The CPSU makes no apology for campaigning for a change of Government. However the election outcome will not change the way the union operates,” Mr Jones said.
“We will still need to stand up and fight for the things we believe in under this Government, just as we did under 11½ years of Coalition Government.
He said the CPSU would do all it could to secure decent workplace rights into the future and ensure Australian workers’ rights were never again threatened as they were by WorkChoices.
“There remains plenty of unfinished business around existing agreements made under WorkChoices, transitional issues and fixing the previous Government’s changes to health and safety rights, workers’ compensation and superannuation,” he said.
The Governing Council endorsed a plan to improve paid maternity leave in the APS to 14 weeks by 2008, 20 weeks by 2011 and 26 weeks by 2013.
This was just one of the issues outlined in the detailed report Next Steps, which covered the CPSU’s agenda for the next five years and beyond. Other issues the Union will seek to have a significant influence on include:
• transition to retirement;
• professional and career development;
• environmentally friendly workplaces;
• a modern and equitable superannuation system for all members, including bringing super in the ACT and NT Public Services up to 15 per cent;
• engaging members as volunteers around issues and beyond workplace activism; and
• building union capacity.
Mr Jones said there would be a comprehensive consultation process to get members’ input into all of the above beginning in May-June with section councils and issue groups. There would also be externally provided focus groups, polling and research on these plans.
This would be followed in August by regional delegates’ conferences before presenting the results for endorsement at the next Governing Council in September.
A number of changes to the CPSU Executive Committee were also announced with Louise Persse taking over as National President, former President Mark Gepp becoming Assistant National Secretary, and Michael Tull and Lisa Newman Deputy National Presidents with Rupert Evans and Nadine Flood Deputy Secretaries.
8 April, 2008
is award job winner
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has been asked to overhaul and modernise Australia’s industrial awards system.
Minister for Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard officially requested the AIRC to take on the project following passage of the Transition to Forward with Fairness Act 2008.
The request was developed in consultation with members of the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council.
“The Government understands that modernising and simplifying our award system is a huge job, but it is a job that needs doing to ensure this nation moves forward with fairness,” Ms Gillard said.
She said together with the 10 National Employment Standards, modern awards would ensure a fair and simple minimum safety net for all employees when the Government’s new workplace relations system commences full operation in January 2010.
She said modern awards would:
• build on the 10 National Employment Standards with industry-specific detail;
• protect a further 10 important conditions for employees such as minimum wages, penalty rates, overtime and allowances;
• promote flexible modern work practices and the efficient and productive performance of work; and
• be simple to understand and easy to apply and reduce the regulatory burden on business.
Ms Gillard said the AIRC would develop the modern awards in consultation with key stakeholders including unions and employer groups.
In addition there will be open and transparent consultation on exposure drafts of modern awards so members of the public can have their say.
The Commission has been asked to complete the award modernisation process by 31 December 2009.
8 April, 2008
puts young to work
The Workplace Ombudsman has issued a warning to tertiary and vocational students to take care that they don’t get ripped off in the workplace.
The Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson used the occasion of National Youth Week, which runs until 13 April, to urge part-time and casual workers to take the trouble to get to know their workplace rights.
“For most students, undertaking part-time or casual work is essential in order to support their lifestyle and supplement living and study expenses,” Mr Wilson said.
“This doesn’t mean employers should see this is an opportunity to exploit young workers.”
He said as many students would be securing new working arrangements over the coming months, it was a timely announcement of the protections that existed in the workplace.
He said a new young workers fact sheet, Don’t Get Ripped Off, had been released and could be accessed via the Workplace Ombudsman website at www.wo.gov.au
Topics covered include information on workplace agreements, correct rate of pay, holiday entitlements and tips on what to expect when finishing up with a particular employer.
He said younger workers needed to pay particular attention to:
• correct rates of pay;
• accurate time and wages record-keeping and issue of timely pay slips;
• avoidance of unfair workplace practices such as delayed starts and unpaid training; and
• steps to resolving workplace disputes and issues.
Mr Wilson said in his experience, most employers wanted to do the right thing by their employees but there was still a need to equip young working Australians with information about their workplace rights.
He wrote to all Universities and TAFE colleges across Australia to inform students about their rights and obligations in the workplace. Each institution was provided with copies of the fact sheet for use within student careers/employment resource Centres.
“Often starting formal study and training is the first time a young person lives independently [from their family] and the transition can be very stressful,” Mr Wilson said.
8 April, 2008
RAAF joins jetset on
The Royal Australian Air Force has launched its own Facebook and YouTube websites to communicate more effectively with its widely dispersed personnel.
Accepting that not all RAAF members have access to the internet at work but almost all do at home, the RAAF is to use the popular websites to provide and update important information on topical issues and events and encourage communications between staff.
According to Air Force News, Facebook allows photographs and video clips to be posted as well as facilitates networking and group discussions between members on line.
It also allows news to be disseminated and noticeboards set up for important personnel issues.
RAAF management make clear that the new sites will not replace existing formal communications channels but will provide a less formal method for sharing information.
Director -General of Air Force Personnel, Air Commodore John Hewitson said the move would drive personnel management into the future.
“It is important for members of the Air Force family to keep in touch,” Air Commodore Hewitson said.
“That is something that can be difficult with a workforce that is so mobile and dispersed.”
He said the new sites would allow Air Force families to communicate with one another all over the world as well as share photos and videos.
He said the new initiative could also grow into a useful recruiting tool.
8 April, 2008
Immigration paid off
on detainee debt
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has found that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship was dealing with bad debts from immigration detainees properly.
In his report into detention debt waiver and write-off at DIAC, the Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan found that the Department was acting in accordance with legislative and policy requirements but there was scope for improvement.
Under the law, non-citizens detained by immigration authorities are liable to repay the Australian Government’s costs of detention, including transportation and a daily maintenance allowance.
During the year to 30 June 2007, DIAC raised debts of over $28 million for the detention of unlawful non-citizens and although it had the power to write off a debt, only the Department of Finance could waive it.
The Ombudsman said DIAC had an obligation to be particularly careful in the way it handled these debts.
“The Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s administration of detention debt needs to be of a high standard because a detention debt can have significant consequences for an individual,” Professor McMillan said.
“We examined this issue because complaints to my office highlighted some areas of concern.”
He said his office investigated whether DIAC’s administrative processes and procedures were appropriate and whether they were applied reasonably and consistently across the Department to individuals.
“We found that overall DIAC is administering detention debt waiver and write-off according to legislative and policy requirements,” Professor McMillan said.
“However, we also found scope for improvement in the timeliness and prioritisation in processing cases, the consistency and reasonableness of decisions on debt waiver and write-off, and in record keeping and communication with clients.”
He called for DIAC to provide clear and consistent information about a person’s options and regular updates on the amount of their debt while in detention.
He made six recommendations, including that DIAC change its policies and practice on both the management of debt waiver and debt write-off; that it review the circumstances of people in detention awaiting removal from Australia; and that it update relevant information systems in a timely manner.
The Secretary of DIAC, Andrew Mertcalfe, accepted all the Ombudsman’s recommendations.
8 April, 2008
OH&S review is a
call for the doctor
A national review into Model Occupational Health and Safety Laws has been announced by Workplace Relations Minister, Julia Gillard.
Ms Gillard said the Government had committed to work cooperatively with State and Territory Governments to harmonise OHS legislation within five years of coming to office. She said harmonising OHS laws would cut red tape, boost business efficiency and provide greater certainty and protections for all workplace parties.
Ms Gillard said three eminent panel members had been appointed to conduct the review, including Robin Stewart-Crompton who will chair the panel and Barry Sherriff and Stephanie Mayman.
Mr Stewart-Crompton is a former Chief Executive Officer of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission and has continued to work in the OHS field as a consultant.
Mr Sherriff is the lead partner of Freehills’ OHS law practice and has extensive experience in advising on OHS issues with a focus on proactive strategies for compliance and accident prevention.
Ms Mayman is a Commissioner in the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission and Chairperson of the Occupational Safety and Health Tribunal appointed under Western Australia’s OHS legislation.
Ms Gillard said the team will review OHS legislation in each State, Territory and Commonwealth jurisdiction for the purpose of making recommendations on the optimal structure and content of a model OHS Act to apply nationally.
She said the panel would consult with a broad range of stakeholders and submit its final report to the Workplace Relations Ministers’ Council by the end of January 2009.
Terms of Reference for the Revieware available on the National OHS Review website at www.nationalohsreview.gov.au
8 April, 2008
right on the money
The Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek, has launched a series of fact sheets for women who want to learn how to manage their money better.
The Women Understanding Money fact sheets, which have been published online, are designed to help women of all ages and income levels improve their financial security, especially as they approach retirement.
Ms Plibersek said there were 14 topics detailing real life stories that would provide women with essential and practical information on important financial issues, making the fact sheets relevant and easy to understand.
“The Australian Government recognises the barriers women face in ensuring their long-term financial security,” Ms Plibersek said, “and these fact sheets provide a simple way for women to access the practical information they need.”
She said women often made the day-to-day spending decisions in families as well as important decisions about their financial future.
She said while women now had more choices than ever before about how they managed their money, they were still more likely to have time outside the paid workforce, have lower incomes and live longer than men, and these factors could limit their ability to accumulate adequate superannuation.
She said figures released recently by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that women were less financially independent in retirement.
ABS Retirement and Retirement Intentions figures showed that in 2006-07, almost half (47 per cent) of women at retirement rely on their partner’s income as their main source of income, followed by a government pension or allowance (33 per cent) and superannuation or annuity (7 per cent).
By comparison, men relied predominantly on a government pension (52 per cent) and on superannuation or annuity (22 per cent).
Ms Plibersek said topics covered by the factsheets included managing on a low income, superannuation, understanding financial terms, managing money when a relationship ends and the financial considerations when starting a family.
She said the Women Understanding Money fact sheets were available for free online at www.ofw.facsia.gov.au and www.understandingmoney.gov.au
8 April, 2008
to track tax
Planned changes to consumer protection laws would ensure consumers know how much they pay in tax and Government charges when making a purchase at an advertised price.
Minister for Consumer Affairs, Chris Bowen has announced that amendments to the Trade Practices Act 1974 would ensure consumers knew the total price they would have to pay for goods and services.
He said the practice of Component Pricing would be dealt with by the law changes.
“Component pricing is the practice of advertising prices as the sum of separate components,” Mr Bowen said.
“For example, advertising an airfare as $100 plus $48 tax, fees and charges.
“No longer will consumers feel ripped off when they suddenly discover that what they thought they were paying doesn’t take into account hidden taxes and charges.”
Mr Bowen said without this information, consumers could not easily compare prices and so it made it even more difficult for consumers to shop around.
He said the Government was serious about empowering consumers and strengthening the consumer’s right to know the total price of a good or service.
“We are taking on reform in an area where the previous Government acknowledged there was a problem and talked about changes but never got around to doing anything about it.”
He said the legislation would require that where a business advertised the price of a good or service to consumers, it would be required to display it as a single figure, the total price of the product, to the extent that it was quantifiable at the time of making the representation.
Mr Bowen said he’d reviewed the previous Government’s draft legislation and had made some key changes, including:
• removing postage and handling charges from the scope of the changes;
• ruling out applying the rules to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act 2001 meaning that financial services would be exempt; and
• clarifying that the changes would only apply to business to consumer transactions.
“The Government is not interested in placing an undue burden on business or trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” Mr Bowen said.
“These changes are sensible and achieve a commonsense balance between addressing the concern of consumers who quite rightly want to know what they are paying before they buy a product or service without placing an unnecessary burden on business,” he said.
8 April, 2008
Rare films shown
light at Archive
The National Film and Sound Archive has uncovered rare films of former Australian leaders, believed never to have been screened before.
Rare colour film of Prime Minister John Curtin visiting London, Washington and Ottawa in 1944 was one of the many collection items brought to light in a project undertaken by the NFSA.
For more than three months NFSA staff have been identifying all existing film and sound records relevant to Australia’s 26 Prime Ministers, as a project with the support of the Australian Prime Ministers Centre.
More than 6700 film and sound items have been confirmed with footage of all the PMs except John Watson and recorded sound of all but five (Barton, Deakin, Watson, Reid and Fisher).
Director of the NFSA, Paolo Cherchi Usai said some very rare material had been identified.
“The colour film of Curtin from 1944 is quite breath-taking,” Mr Cherchi Usai said.
“It is unedited and shows, among other things, Curtin walking in discussion with Winston Churchill in a garden setting and other activity from the Conference of Dominion Prime Ministers.”
He said the NFSA was indebted to the John Curtin Library for bringing the footage to light.
Mr Cherchi Usai said NFSA’s holdings included many records of momentous historical events such as the declaration of the Commonwealth in 1901 involving Edmund Barton and Alfred Deakin; Robert Menzies’ declaration of war in 1939; and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to members of the stolen generation earlier this year.
He said what was probably the first televised political debate in this country, featuring Harold Holt, H.V. Evatt, William McMahon, Arthur Calwell and chairman Angus Maude, the Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald from 1958, was also in the NFSA collection. A 1935 recorded sound item of Joseph Cook recalling how he drove uptake of the telephone is fascinating, Mr Cherchi Usai said.
Lighter moments are also in the collection including footage of Bob Hawke aged seven; the recording of a teenage John Howard on the Jack Davey radio show; and out-takes of Gough Whitlam appearing in a Bazza McKenzie film.
“The film and sound media have documented Australia’s political journey since Federation in 1901 and the National Film and Sound Archive’s role is to preserve these records for all to research and enjoy,” Mr Cherchi Usai said.
“We will build on the results of this project in the future and welcome feedback from the public on the work completed to date.
8 April, 2008
Public to have say
in health diagnosis
Public input is to be welcomed in the quest to design a new national health system.
The recently established National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission is seeking input from the public, frontline health workers, professional and consumer groups, and other interested people and organizations and has set up a dedicated website and an 1800 number collect ideas, innovations and suggestions to make the Australian health system better.
Chair of the NHHRC, Dr Christine Bennett, said the Commission would engage with the community and health professionals as it worked to design a health system that provided what people and families needed and, importantly, was geared to serve the Australian community well into the future.
“We need to hear from the people who use the health system and the people who work in it,” Dr Bennett said.
“There are great ideas out there and we would like to know about them.”
She said the Commission had developed draft principles for the Australian health system and was also inviting comment on these. The draft principles are available on the Commission’s website.
Dr Bennett said there would be several stages of the NHHRC engagement program over the life of the Commission to link with key reporting dates.
The NHHRC intended submitting an interim report in November 2008 with the final report completed in mid 2009.
Individuals and organisations can make submissions by email to email@example.com, by mail to PO Box 685 Woden ACT 2606, or by calling 1800 017 533.
Submissions will be accepted until the end of May and further details including the terms of reference of the Commission, the principles and a guide to making submissions, are available at www.nhhrc.org.au
8 April, 2008
New kilogram is
Australian scientists with the National Measurement Institute may have redefined the “kilogram”.
Small Business Minister Dr Craig Emerson, the Minister responsible for Australia’s National Measurement Institute, recently handed over two silicon spheres to the international measurement community during a special ceremony.
He said the kilogram, the unit of mass in the International System of Units, was presently defined as the mass of a platinum-iridium cylinder sitting in a vault in France. He said there was evidence that the mass of the 119-year-old cylinder may have slowly changed over time in a small but measurable way. “This presented a unique opportunity for staff from the CSIRO’s Australian Centre for Precision Optics and the NMI to take part in the Avogadro Project,” Dr Emerson said.
“The project is a global collaboration that aims to link the weight of the kilogram directly to the mass of atoms. It’s about scientific breakthroughs and providing the world with a reliable standard of mass.
“More importantly, we have a standard in which we have complete confidence, to underpin present and future technological innovations.”
Dr Emerson said the definition of the kilogram was the peak measurement standard of mass to which all others worldwide are traced.
“I understand that not only are measurements of mass affected, the definition of the kilogram links directly to measurements for energy, electrical and chemical quantities,” he said.
“Improving the kilogram will improve our measurement capabilities in these and other areas.
“This is great news for those industries that rely on accurate measurement such as aerospace,” Dr Emerson said.
8 April, 2008
Mint big noting
The Royal Australian Mint has signed a major contract for the upgrading of its materials handling and warehousing system.
Family owned Australian business, Australis Engineering has won the tender, which will be aligned with the current building refurbishment project. Delivery is set for March 2009 and the total value of the contract is $7.4 million
“Australis’s proposal is state of the art,” said Janine Murphy, CEO of the Mint.
“Along with the refurbishment project, the new automated system using robots, automated guided vehicles and a unique multi-axis bucket elevator blank delivery system will ensure the Mint is a truly modern manufacturing facility that will not only meet all the Mint’s stated requirements but will attract thousands of additional visitors to the upgraded public gallery when the refurbished Mint reopens to the public in early 2009.”
The Managing Director of Australis Engineering, Phillip Gustafson said his company was proud to have won the contract, which incorporated high levels of process automation, modernised infrastructure and equipment, and re-engineered processes to:
• increase the physical security of coinage blanks and coins;
• reduce OH&S risks through the physical separation of people and equipment;
• reduce or eliminate manual handling;
• automate real time accounting and auditing of blanks and coins as they progressed through the receipt, production, storage and delivery processes; and
• minimise time wasted with work in progress and the transportation of materials around the Mint’s premises.
The project provides for the complete design, supply, installation and commissioning of equipment and systems and will address all aspects of materials handling, warehousing and inventory control from receipt of blank coin, through manufacturing and production, quality control and warehousing, to the despatch of finished circulating coins.
8 April, 2008
Ship Inquiry to get
to bottom of sinking
A Commission of Inquiry is to be launched into the fate of the recently discovered WWII battleship, HMAS Sydney II.
Terence Cole has been appointed President of the Inquiry.
Acting prime Minister, Julia Gillard announced the Inquiry saying information likely to become available as a result of the discovery of the shipwreck could lead the Commission of Inquiry to determine the circumstances surrounding the loss of the vessel with its entire crew in November 1941, following an engagement with the German raider HSK Kormoran.
The wrecks of both ships were found recently off the coast of Western Australian.
Ms Gillard congratulated the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, for establishing the Commission of Inquiry which would examine the 66-year mystery of how Sydney II was lost with all hands.
“More than 600 of our nation’s finest sailors and airmen lost their lives and we still don’t know exactly how Sydney II met her end,” Ms Gillard said.
“I hope that through this inquiry we have a better understanding of what happened on that fateful day. In particular, I know that this Inquiry will have special significance to the families of those who lost loved ones on Sydney II.”
Air Chief Marshal Houston said Commissioner Cole was eminently qualified to preside over one of Australia’s greatest maritime mysteries.
“I am extremely pleased that Mr Cole has accepted this appointment. He has a wealth of judicial experience and is very capable of undertaking this important task,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
“During his distinguished career he has presided over two Royal Commissions, served as a NSW Supreme Court Judge, Judge of the NSW Court of Appeal and has held the position of Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Australian Defence Force.”
8 April, 2008
Agreement brings payrise
APSC Direction redirected
The Australian Public Service Commission has acted to remove ambiguities from a Direction covering the employment of non-ongoing Senior Executive Service staff for less than 12 months.
The APSC has amended Clause 6.3 of the Directions to make clear that the employment must also satisfy the normal minimum requirements set out in the Directions.
Public Servants in the Australian Capital Territory Government Service are to receive a 4% payrise this month as part of their three-year collective bargaining agreement.
About 10,000 staff of the ACTGS are covered by the agreement which saw them receive a similar rise in Aril last year.
DHA buys charity house
Defence Housing Australia has bought a house in Mawson Lakes, South Australia, that was built to raise funds for the redevelopment of the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
The home was scheduled for auction mid-March but was purchased by DHA beforehand for $500,000.
The money from the sale completes a $1 million target set by the fundraisers to complete redevelopment of the Fourth Floor Medical and Newland Wards of the hospital.
Lobbyists exposed in code
An exposure draft of the Lobbying Code of Conduct has been released to enable lobbyists and interested persons to comment on the proposed Register of Lobbyists.
The proposed Register will allow Ministers and other Government representatives who are approached by lobbyists to establish whose interests the lobbyist represents so informed judgments can be made about the outcome they are seeking to achieve.
This will be the first formal lobbyists register ever adopted by a Federal Government.
Thirty-six members of the Community and Public Sector Union have been recognised for their outstanding contribution during the Rights At Work campaign.
Margaret Gillespie, Lynton Sherry and Simon Cocker were awarded Life Membership of the Union and Steve Mastwyk was awarded a Meritorious Service Award.
Others recognised included: Al Randall, Annette Clark, Carolyn Allen, Dianne Churchill, Frances Prentice, Bill Thomas, Brenda Higham, Dan Gerritsen, Ella Mullins, Glenys Lindner, Greg McCarron, Ivan Matthews, Kerri Lee, Lewis Albanis, Nick O’Gorman, Pauline Kreibig, Terri Brown. Alison Lapidge, Allison Wood, Andrew Kristjanson, Anna Hyland, Catherine Fitch, Lucy Gormly, Margaret Anderson, Margaret Close, Mary Molan, Tara Booth, Tiffany Karlsson, Victor Rodziewicz, Wendy Spicer, Tony Hyams, and Vanessa Ferguson.
ABC goes green
ABC offices and studios across the country are to implement changes to reduce energy, water consumption and waste while at the same time encouraging others to do so.
The ABC has launched its Green At Work website at www.abc.net.au/greenatwork a straight-talking guide to going green at work, pulling together some of the best Australian resources to give the basics on what to do, plus a range of experts to answer green at work questions.
Galaxy mappers win prize
A team of astronomers from Australia and Great Britain has won the first Group Achievement Award from the British Royal Astronomical Society.
The 33-member team has spent 10 years mapping the distribution in space of 220,000 galaxies using the 3.9-m Anglo-Australian Telescope in New South Wales - a project called the 2-degree Field Galaxy Redshift Survey.
The scale of the project was ground-breaking and for the first time the positions of a huge number of galaxies were able to be mapped and the subtle effects that revealed the different types of matter in the universe seen.
Science nominations sought
Australia’s scientists and science educators have been encouraged to nominate outstanding colleagues for this year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.
The Prizes recognise the achievements of outstanding individuals and research teams, and reward the excellent work of Australian scientists and science educators.
The Prizes will be awarded in five categories: Prime Minister’s Prize for Science ($300,000); Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year ($50,000); Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year ($50,000); Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools ($50;000); and Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools ($50,000).
Canberra-based company, Serco Sodexho Defence Services has been fined $7500 in Sydney’s Federal Magistrates Court after it was found to have breached the Workplace Relations Act 1996.
The Court found thecompany applied duress to a young person when negotiating an Australian Workplace Agreement by telling a 19-year-old that is she didn’t sign up she would be sacked.
Serco Sodexho Defence Services employs more than 6000 non-military people on Defence Department sites.
Australia Post licks charges
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued its third report on whether Australia Post’s competitive activities were being cross-subsidised by its monopoly activities.
According to ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel, the Commission was unable to find any evidence that Australia Post was benefiting by cross subsidisation, although one of its monopoly services was propped up from funds from other reserved activities.
1 April, 2008
Job clearing house gets the all-clear
The Government has recognised the personal impact of its proposed job-cutting policies in the Australian Public Service by establishing a Career Transition and Support Centre in the Australian Public Service Commission.
The move followed calls from the Community and Public Sector Union for an effective whole-of-Government response to the redeployment process.
Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner announced the new Centre saying it would “minimise the personal impact of the Government's planned efficiency measures on affected Public Servants.”
Senator Faulkner said the Centre would manage and co-ordinate opportunities for excess staff to be redeployed across the APS.
He said the Government was determined that the Public Service should be able to retain its corporate knowledge as well as the expertise and skills of its workers.
“Our approach will ensure the retention and reallocation of staff with skills essential for implementing the Government's new policy agenda,” Senator Faulkner said.
“The Centre will provide career transition advice and support services to excess APS employees, will assist with the redeployment of excess staff, and will provide strategic advice to Agencies on recruitment and redeployment matters.”
He said it would commence operations on 1 May 2008.
In addition, Senator Faulkner said, the Public Service Commissioner had provided Agencies with a set of eight principles to govern the handling of staffing reductions at an Agency level.
He said these principles would provide consistency and transparency in the management of excess staff as well as ensure a continued focus on building skills within Agencies.
He said the Government did not want to see Public Servants and their families put under undue stress during the transition period.
As well as calling for a coordinated approach to redeployment, the CPSU demanded that no “involuntary” redundancies be ordered; that the Government give a commitment that workloads would be adjusted if staff numbers were; and that it confirm the 2 per cent increase in the efficiency dividend was a one-off exercise.
1 April, 2008
Senate pays off
for PS pensions
Retired Public Servants have received a boost in their campaign to improve their pension arrangements with another Senate Committee urging the Government to change the rules and bring PS pension indexing into line with the age pension.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee has recommended that Public Service and military superannuation pensions be linked to movements in average weekly earnings in preference to the Consumer Price Index.
The recommendation has been welcomed by the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers Association, a spokesman saying it was “very pleasing.”
Indexation Campaign Manager with the SCOA, John Coleman said the Association submitted 13 recommendations to the Committee which handed down its findings last month.
He said the main one was the need to address the “unfair” means of indexing Commonwealth and Defence superannuants’ pensions.
“It was very pleasing to see that our recommendation re indexation was picked up by the Committee along with several other of our recommendations,” Mr Coleman said
In its report, the Senate Committee called for increased standardisation of the indexing methodologies being used to maintain the purchasing power of pensions, social security and other Government retirement benefits.
Its report entitled “A Decent Quality of Life” said the Government should note the limitations of the Consumer Price Index as an indexing device as well as the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Household Expenditure Indices.
The Government… should index Commonwealth funded superannuation benefits and the military pension to Male Total Weekly Earnings or the Consumer Price Index , whichever is the higher,” it said.
The report also noted that pensioners on fixed incomes were disproportionately affected by price increases for essential goods and services such as food, rent, petrol and household utilities.
It said the lack of affordable dental services and the cost of pharmaceuticals were of particular concern.
It said those most under stress were single pensioners – particularly women – and warned that many older people would need to work beyond the normal retirement age if they were to have enough superannuation to retire on.
1 April, 2008
ABC upgrade pulls
plug on studio staff
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has unveiled plans to modernise some of its production facilities and has flagged the likelihood of staff losses and redundancies.
ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott announced the plans, saying the moves would lead to greater multi-skilling of staff, although fewer employees, but that there would be full consultation with news staff, studio crews and unions.
“We will be seeking to minimise redundancies through redeployment and retraining where possible,” Mr Scott said.
The plan that threatens the jobs is the creation of ABC Resources, a new division combining production resources and resource hire to improve the Corporation’s ability to respond to changing demands in the digital media environment.
Mr Scott said ABC Resources would provide the ABC with a more flexible, multi-skilled production workforce, able to provide facilities and skilled staff for both internal and external production.
“The ABC is committed in the future to being a broadcaster and a producer of its own material - as it is today,” Mr Scott said.
“That means sourcing the best quality material at the best price from both our own producers and the independent production sector.”
He said the creation of ABC Resources would move production staff onto a sustainable model, better suited to the current and future needs in the digital media world in which the ABC now operated.
“ABC Resources will formally start operation from 1 July. It will have a guaranteed level of internal production for ABC Television, underpinned by a more transparent system of transfer pricing to improve efficiency,” Mr Scott said.
“By incorporating the ABC’s existing Resource Hire business, ABC Resources will also be well placed to market spare capacity, both labour and facilities, to external clients, improving efficiency and generating returns to the ABC.”
Mr Scott said the creation of ABC Resources followed a detailed review of the ABC’s Television production methodology and practice.
“One of the great challenges for the ABC is to keep faith with our traditional audiences on radio and TV, while keeping pace with audience trends in the rapidly emerging digital media space, notably the delivery of content via broadband,” he said.
“To meet this challenge we need to harness the potential of new technology and have a more flexible workforce.”
The Community and Public Sector Union was concerned it might be too late for the promised consultation.
The Union’s Graeme Thomson was reported as saying he was not optimistic that discussions with staff would change the Corporation’s position.
1 April, 2008
are 2020 vision
Commonwealth Public Servants are being asked to put in 20 hours of unpaid work at the upcoming 2020 ideas summit.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made the call for volunteers and the new Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and cabinet, Terry Moran, has written to Department heads asking them to nominate staff.
The memo from Mr Moran said working at the ideas summit would provide a “unique opportunity to be part of the Government’s policy development process and represents an excellent professional development opportunity”.
He said with up to 40 concurrent discussion groups, the summit secretariat was looking for 80 scribes to keep an accurate record of the discussions and summarise the essential elements, plus another 12 or so volunteers to help with media inquiries and facilitate media movements around the venue.
National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Stephen Jones said the CPSU supported the summit, but thought the Government had an obligation to do the right thing by its employees.
“Obviously we support the summit and hope it’s a great success, but from what I’ve heard, the roles that people are being asked to perform seem like normal duties,” Mr Jones said.
“If people are there in an official capacity, then normally you’d expect them to be paid. They’re normal sorts of arrangements, when people work additional hours, they do overtime or get time off in lieu or get some sort of recognition for the work that they perform.”
The summit secretariat was reported as saying the response from the APS had been “extremely positive, with a large number of people from a number of Departments volunteering their services for both roles”.
1 April, 2008
Democrat voted in
for Budget scrutiny
Australian Democrats Senator for Western Australia, Andrew Murray has been appointed by the Government to review transparency issues for the Budget as part of the Operation Sunlight reforms.
Making the appointment, Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said Senator Murray was widely-respected with major expertise in issues of financial transparency and parliamentary accountability.
“He has been active in numerous Senate inquiries that have recommended major Budget and financial reforms,” Mr Tanner said.
“Senator Murray will review options for greater disclosure of Budget and financial information, and provide a report to the Government before 30 June 2008.”
Mr Tanner said the appointment was a significant down-payment on Operation Sunlight, the Government’s plan to improve Budget accountability and transparency.
He said the Government was determined to improve Budget and financial information provided to Parliament and the public.
He said key practical reforms to be implemented included:
• streamlining and enhancing the information Agencies provided to Parliament;
• simplifying the presentation of Budget Papers; and
• requiring Agencies to provide clear information about currently funded operations.
Further improvements would be made during the course of 2008 and be informed by the work of Senator Murray, Mr Tanner said.
“The Government is delivering on its election commitment to improve transparency, openness and accountability in the presentation of Budget and financial information.”
1 April, 2008
2007 not so super
for super funds
The country’s financial industries watchdog, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, has reported that the combined assets of superannuation accounts fell in the December quarter but there was overall growth for the year.
APRA said industry and public sector funds grew in the quarter but the value of retail and corporate assets fell.
APRA’s December 2007 Quarterly Superannuation Performance publication showed total assets over the 12 months to 31 December rising to a total of $1.18 trillion, despite a fall of $4.3 billion during the December quarter.
Industry funds’ assets grew by 1.4 per cent ($2.9 billion) to $207.4 billion, and public sector funds’ assets increased by 0.2 per cent ($0.3 billion) to $181.5 billion. Retail funds’ assets fell by 1.3 per cent ($4.8 billion) to $373.3 billion, while corporate funds’ assets fell by 1.6 per cent ($1.2 billion) to $70.2 billion over the period.
Contributions to funds with at least $50 million in assets over the December quarter were $20.8 billion, with employers contributing $13.7 billion and members contributing $6.6 billion. Other contributions, including spouse contributions and Government co-contributions, totalled $528 million.
As the prudential regulator of the financial services industry, APRA oversees banks, credit unions, building societies, insurance companies and most members of the superannuation industry. It is largely funded by the industries it supervises.
APRA supervises institutions holding approximately $3 trillion in assets for 21 million Australian depositors, policyholders and superannuation fund members.
1 April, 2008
Army digs toes in
over boot policy
The Australian Army has reviewed its policy on combat boots to offer soldiers more choice in footwear.
Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy has released the new policy which he said was needed to cater for soldiers working in differing operations under differing conditions.
He said it was clear that the standard in-service boot was not envisaged to meet the requirements of all soldiers in all conditions and that other boots could be more suitable in desert, tropical, temperate or cold weather operations.
Director of Logistics with Army, Colonel Andrew Bottrell said the new policy allowed soldiers to purchase and wear four types of boots.
“This policy…. provide(s) soldiers with a greater range of choice when on exercise or operations,” Colonel Bottrell said.
He said the four boots that endorsed for selection were the Altama 4158 3LC, the Belleville M590; the Bates 30501 Durashock; and the Crossfire Peacekeeper Plus.
“In barracks we’ll continue to wear the Terra boot,” he said. “Colonel Bottrell said the Army was continuing to assess non-issue boots and more could be added to the list.
He said the current policy would be in place until the next generation of combat footwear was introduced, and that was unlikely before mid-2009.
Lt-Gen Leahy said feedback he had received indicated most soldiers were happy with the standard in-service boot which had seen five versions developed since it was introduced in 1999.
He had ordered that a boot-fitting specialist be posted to stores outfitting new recruits to ensure they were correctly fitted.
1 April, 2008
HR holdin’ key to
job engine room
Human resource professionals have been urged to broaden their focus to consider new pools of potential labour as a means of increasing the number of people in Australia’s workforce.
Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O’Connor told a recent conference of the Australian Association of Career Counsellors that despite 17 years of continued economic growth, there were significant challenges ahead if it was to be sustained.
“Australia is already experiencing significant shortages of skilled labour while the ageing of our population will impact on our ability as a nation to continue to grow and remain globally competitive,” Mr O’Connor said.
“In order to boost the number of people in the workforce, we need to tap into alternative pools of potential workers including young people, mature age Australians, parents seeking to return to work, and people with a disability who have the capacity to work.”
Mr O’Connor said the needs of those people who were employed but wanted to work more hours also needed to be addressed.
“Australia cannot afford to have potential workers, who can and want to work, excluded from the labour force for economic, social and other reasons,” he said.
The conference’s 500 delegates included representatives from small business, educational institutions, Government and the corporate sector.
“Career counsellors are an important part of Australia’s training system by helping people make job and study decisions, as well as manage careers and plan career transitions,” Mr O’Connor said.
The national conference discussed issues that were important to Australia’s future including the early years of education, to pathways and transitions to careers, and to expanding the career landscape for mature age workers.
Mr O’Connor also presented the 2008 Group Training Australia Partnership Award to Swinburne University’s youth education, training and employment service - First Stop and the AFL’s SportsReady program.
He said Swinburne University and AFL SportsReady were recognised for establishing an innovative pilot program for Indigenous school-based apprentices working in sport and recreation.
1 April, 2008
100 in the shade
The Bureau of Meteorology marked its 100th anniversary this year with a function in South Australia on World Meteorology Day, 26 March.
An event at the Bureau’s Regional Office in Kent Town acknowledged the importance of the work of the Bureau over the past 100 years, and the linkages it had with the World Meteorological Organisation in ensuring weather services were appropriate to the needs of the community.
The dedication and professional conduct of staff who had provided more than 30 years of service to the Bureau were also formally recognised through the presentation of long service awards.
South Australian Regional Director of the Bureau, Andrew Watson said, like his colleagues who received long service awards, he had seen great changes at the Bureau in the past 30 years.
“When I started with the Bureau in Perth in the late 1970s, our weather forecast was for tomorrow only. Nowadays we forecast for seven days, with just as much accuracy as we managed for one day in 1978 and we are likely to extend our forecasts to 10 days in the near future.”
A new book that captured many personal stories of people who had worked for the Bureau in South Australia, Weather Prophets of South Australia, was released at the function. It includes tales from the Antarctic to the tropics, from the early 20th century to the present time.
The book was written by a dedicated group of volunteers who gave many hours and much energy to the project.
“The stories in the book are a snapshot of some the activities that the Bureau has been involved with over the years, and an interesting insight into some of the characters who have worked with this organisation,” Mr Watson said.
Change, innovation and a commitment to the community have been hallmarks of the Bureau over the past 100 years, he said.
“Our confident forecast for the future is to continue to improve our weather services by utilising the latest advances in technology and the continuing efforts of our dedicated and professional people.”
1 April, 2008
Students jump gap to
march out at Defence
School leavers joining the Defence Forces for a gap year have graduated from their first 12 weeks of basic training with a March Out Parade.
Commandant of Army’s Recruit Training Centre, Colonel Bill Hanlon said the Gap Year participants were now fully integrated and entitled to the same pay and benefits as any other member of the Defence Force.
“This is a unique opportunity for school leavers to sample Army life, as well as gain independence and skills while being paid,” Colonel Hanlon said.
“It gives these young Australians space and resources to make good decisions about what they are going to do with their life.”
He said the Gap Year Program was part of a $3.1 billion commitment to boosting ADF recruitment and retention.
Members of the program had no obligation to Defence following the agreed 12-month term of employment but were entitled to a $10,000 bonus if they re-enlisted into the regular Army on completion of a civilian trade or tertiary qualification.
Colonel Hanlon said he was very pleased with the way the recruits had developed over the past three months.
“There are some very fine young Australian men and women marching out here today and they should be justly proud of what they have achieved so far,” Colonel Hanlon said.
Members of the group would now go on to be trained in a specific employment stream before being posted to a Land Command unit.
1 April, 2008
SMOS bites ballot
on electoral reform
A green paper on potential reforms to the electoral system has been foreshadowed by the Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner.
Senator Faulkner said the Government planned to introduce legislation in the next Parliamentary sitting to fix problems with political donations in the system, but would also “kick-start a green paper process to reform and modernise our electoral processes.”
He said the Prime Minister would ask the States and Territories to join the Commonwealth in examining electoral issues.
Senator Faulkner said the reforms to the donation regime were a priority because they needed to be in place an operating by the start of the next financial year but the Electoral Reform Green Paper would be released in two parts.
He said the first part would look at disclosure, funding and expenditure issues and the second would examine a broader range of options aimed at strengthening other areas of the electoral law.
Part one would be released for discussion in July 2008 and part two, in October 2008.
“The Prime Minister is writing to the Premiers and Chief Ministers to seek their cooperation in progressing electoral reforms and asking them to nominate a relevant Minister to work with the Commonwealth on the green paper process,” Senator Faulkner said.
“The Government will also ask the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters to consider the green paper, and expects to work closely with JSCEM as the process of electoral reform moves ahead.”
He said the measures would lead to more transparency and openness in the electoral system and improve mechanisms to ensure voters could effectively enrol and vote.
1 April, 2008
DIISR has formula
for chief scientist
The Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research has launched a search for a full-time Chief Scientist.
Minister for Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr said the search was in keeping with a Government promise before the last Federal election to upgrade the position in recognition of the fundamental contribution science made to the nation’s wellbeing.
“By upgrading the current part-time position, this Government is giving the position the prominence it deserves,” Senator Carr said, “sending a clear message about the crucial role science will play in building a world class innovation system.”
He said the advertisement would call for a Chief Scientist who was able to provide expert advice to Government that was current and covered the full spectrum of innovation, science, engineering, and research.
“The new Chief Scientist will be someone who is able to maintain strong academic, industry and community links whilst holding this position.
“Someone who not only has an outstanding record of achievement in innovation and science but also has the respect of the science and research community.”
Senator Carr said making the position full-time would enable the appointee to:
• carry on a strong science advocacy role;
• promote increased participation in science in educational institutions; and
• strengthen collaborative links with science and research institutions, industry, and State and Territory Governments.
“Dr Jim Peacock AC has served Australia well since 2006 and has agreed to extend his term to continue the critical work of the Chief Scientist while the search for the new appointee goes on,” Senator Carr said.
“I wish to thank him for his contribution and wish him well in the future.”
1 April, 2008
Bureau doles out
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that 5.5 million Australians over 15 years of age were not in the workforce and most didn’t want to be.
It said this number represented 33 per cent of the population.
The Bureau’s report Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia, 2007 said of the people not in the labour force in September 2007, most (85 per cent or 4.6 million) did not want work. Almost half of them (48 per cent), were 65 years or older, 18 per cent were aged 55-64, and 12 per cent were aged 15-24.
The Bureau said that people not wanting work included people who simply said so; some who were permanently unable to work, and some who wanted to work but were not looking and not available to start work within four weeks.
It said these people were “without marginal attachment” to the labour force.
Nearly two-thirds (60 per cent) of non-working Australians were women. The bureau said the women who did not want to work most commonly reported that their main activity was “home duties or caring for children” (39 per cent) and “retired or voluntarily inactive” (30 per cent).
For men, their main activity was “retired or voluntarily inactive” (45 per cent), had a “long-term health condition or disability” (18 per cent), or “attending an educational institution” (17 per cent).
According to the ABS, there were 845,000 people not in the labour force who said they wanted to work.
Of these 8 per cent were actively looking for work but were not available to start work in the previous week and the remaining 92 per cent were not actively looking but were available to start work within four weeks.
Of the people who wanted to work, nearly a third (29 per cent) were aged 15-24 and 18 per cent were aged 25-34.
Two-thirds (66 per cent) of the people who wanted to work were women.
Women who wanted to work most commonly reported that their main activity was “home duties or caring for children” (61 per cent). For men, “attending an educational institution” (39 per cent) was their main activity when not in the labour force.
Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia, 2007 was available for free download from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ website www.abs.gov.au
1 April, 2008
goes for perfect 10
The United States Department of Homeland Security has announced that it had begun collecting additional fingerprints from international visitors arriving at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
The change is part of the Department’s upgrade from two- to 10-fingerprint collection. It says this will enhance security and facilitate legitimate travel more accurately and efficiently by establishing and verifying visitors’ identities.
It said for more than four years, US Department of State consular officers and US Customs and Border Protection officers had been collecting biometrics - digital fingerprints and a photograph - from all non-US citizens between the ages of 14 and 79, with some exceptions, when they applied for visas or arrived at US ports of entry.
“Quite simply, this change gives our officers a more accurate idea of who is in front of them,” said Paul Morris, Executive Director of Admissibility and Passenger Programs, Office of Field Operations, CBP.
“For legitimate visitors, the process becomes more efficient and their identities are better protected from theft. For those who may pose a risk, we will have greater insight into who they are.”
The Department’s US-VISIT program currently checks a visitor’s fingerprints against DHS records of immigration violators and Federal Bureau of Investigations records of wanted persons and known or suspected terrorists.
Mr Morris said checking biometrics against the watch list helped officers make visa determinations and admissibility decisions.
He said collecting 10 fingerprints also improved fingerprint matching accuracy and the Department’s ability to compare a visitor’s fingerprints against latent fingerprints collected by the US Department of Defence and the FBI from known and unknown terrorists all over the world.
Additionally, visitors’ fingerprints are checked against the FBI’s Criminal Master File.
Mr Morris said, on an average day at JFK, almost 14,400 international visitors completed US-VISIT biometric procedures.
Visitors from Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France and Japan comprised the largest numbers of international visitors arriving at JFK.
1 April, 2008
School reform is on
steep learning curve
The Government’s education revolution has taken a step forward with the recent meeting of the Council of Australian Governments agreeing to develop a new schools reform plan for the 21st century.
Minister for Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Julia Gillard said the reforms would target disadvantaged school communities, improved teacher quality, greater accountabilities and boosting parental engagement.
“It is a major plank of the historic COAG agreement reached in Adelaide… which outlines a productivity and participation agenda that spans early childhood to adulthood,” Ms Gillard said.
“The agenda will be outcomes-focused, transparent and reward improved performance. It will underpin the creation of a modern, productive and inclusive Australia.”
Ms Gillard said at the centre of the schools reform plan was a National Partnership payment from the Commonwealth to State and Territory Governments for the delivery of better education outcomes from disadvantaged school communities.
She said the Governments would work together to identify disadvantaged school communities which would receive well-targeted and integrated support.
New targets were to be written into the Specific Purpose Payments to be negotiated with State and Territory Governments this year. Ms Gillard said the NP payment would be based on the outcomes achieved from those disadvantaged schools.
In addition, COAG has agreed to at least halve the gap for Indigenous students in Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020.
“This is about giving every child the best possible chance in life and ensuring that we have a productive economy,” Ms Gillard said.
She said the COAG Working Group on the Productivity Agenda would work closely with the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs and the Catholic and Independent schools sectors to develop the next step in the Government’s Education Revolution.
1 April, 2008
Emergency Management Services across Australia are to adopt common procedures and practices following a meeting of Police and Emergency Ministers in Canberra.
Meeting as the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management, the Ministers issued a communiqué which said they endorsed draft Australian Emergency Management Arrangements which would assist in creating more informed, safer and sustainable communities that were better able to withstand natural disasters.
Chaired by Commonwealth Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, the Ministerial Council comprises State and Territory Ministers for Emergency Services, and the Australian Local Government Association. The Council welcomed New Zealand as a new member, represented by NZ Minister for Civil Defence, Rick Barker.
The Ministers set up a working group to report to the Council of Australian Governments on the development and implementation of a nationally consistent emergency warning system in Australia.
All Ministers agreed such a system had the potential to save lives and all expressed a willingness to work to together to ensure better responses to emergencies.
The Council also agreed to work towards implementing the National Emergency Management Strategy for Remote Indigenous Communities which they saw as critical to prepare vulnerable and isolated Indigenous communities from serious disaster. The Council noted the potential for training, education and employment opportunities for Indigenous people.
It also recommended implementing a national standard for the introduction of reduced fire risk cigarettes by early 2009 and noted progress towards a single incident management system and enhancing urban search and rescue capacity including working closely with New Zealand.
The Council acknowledged the invaluable contribution of volunteers and requested a report from the Australian Emergency Management Committee on appropriate methods to recognise, recruit and retain volunteers.
It also asked the Australian Emergency Management Committee to advise on a new public information campaign to better prepare local communities for emergencies and make them more resilient when it came to responding to natural disasters.
1 April, 2008
Courts count costs
A Joint Costs Advisory Committee has been established by the High Court, Federal Court, Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court to inquire into, and to make recommendations on variations to costs allowable to legal practitioners.
Interested persons and organisations are invited to submit their views on the costs to JCAC.
Regiment coming of age
The second edition of a book recounting the history of the Royal Australian Regiment has been launched by the Chief of Army, Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy.
Entitled Duty First, the book was edited by David Horner and Jean Bou, and brings the RAR’s history up to date to 2006, from the birth of the Regiment in 1948.
Games adults play
Community views are to be sought on whether to introduce an R 18+ classification for computer games.
Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus said most other countries with comparable classification schemes had an adult rating for computer games.
Jackson to Oxford
ABC journalist, Elizabeth Jackson has won the 2008 Donald McDonald ABC Scholarship to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in Oxford.
Ms Jackson has been with the ABC for 16 years and is currently Executive Producer and Presenter of Saturday AM and Correspondents Report on Radio National.
Her Oxford studies will allow her to investigate international Freedom of Information legislation.
Women good sports
Australian women are to have more opportunities to become leaders in sport following announcement of the latest round of development grants.
Totalling $400,000, the grants are to help women undertake accredited training and development in coaching, officiating, governance and sports management.
Already 15,500 women from around Australia had been assisted by the scheme.
DIAC travel changes
Changes to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Electronic Travel Authority system are to be introduced from 21 April,
Under the changes, the Department will continue to process most ETA applications instantly, however in a small number of cases, some additional processing will be required.
Train study on track
An official study has been launched to determine the economic benefits and likely success of a multi-billion dollar standard gauge inland railway between Melbourne and Brisbane. At present, the only north-south rail corridor in eastern Australia runs along the coastline via Sydney.
An inland route through the Central West of NSW has the potential to slash the time it takes to move freight from Melbourne to Brisbane by rail from 36 hours to 21.
Explosive code is cracker
The Australian Forum of Explosives Regulators has called for public comment on a draft of the third edition of the Australian Code for the Transport of Explosives by Road and Rail.
The Code has been revised to update the technical provisions and operational content, including the listing of explosives.
AFER will accept public comment until 7 May 2008 and the draft is online at www.ascc.gov.au