SearchArchives for April 2009
28 April, 2009
IT link plan to do
An ambitious plan to link business computers to Government Agencies to streamline reporting requirements and cut red tape is on track to be up and running next year.
business on business
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the design had been finalised and work begun on the major components of the ‘Standard Business Reporting’ initiative (SBR).
“Standard Business Reporting will simplify business-to-Government reporting and save Australian businesses close to $800 million annually when fully implemented,” Mr Tanner said.
He said SBR would enable businesses to report to a range of Government Agencies using a single financial reporting language (XBRL).
He said examples of the reports within SBR’s scope included Business Activity Statements and PAYG returns due to be submitted to the Australian Tax Office, financial statements for the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and payroll tax for State Revenue Offices.
He said 13 Australian, State and Territory Government Agencies had been working with software developers, businesses, accountants, bookkeepers and other business intermediaries to develop the initiative.
“SBR’s six pilot partners (Beacon IT Group, Frontier Software, MYOB, PayGlobal, Software Objectives, and Software Systems and Instrumentation) are currently testing connectivity between business and Government in a pilot of the SBR design,” Mr Tanner said.
“IBM Australia has now been contracted to build the core service components of SBR. Similar to an electronic postal system, SBR’s core services will enable businesses and their intermediaries to securely submit their regulatory reports to Government directly from their accounting software if it has been SBR enabled.”
He encouraged interested parties to attend a free SBR conference that is to be held in May.
Mr Tanner said the system was due to be implemented by July 2010 and further information was available from www.sbr.gov.au
28 April, 2009
IT upgrade does not
Difficulties experienced with an upgraded computer system dating back to 2006 has left the Department of Veterans’ Affairs with unexpected extra costs, an inadequate IT system and a troubling audit report.
compute at DVA
It has also potentially left thousands of war veterans and income support recipients receiving incorrect payments.
In its report entitled Quality and Integrity of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Income Support Records, the Australian National Audit Office found that instead of providing the solution for modernising the Department’s ‘heritage’ database of personal information about income support clients, an off-the-shelf computer program purchased as part of a major restructure in 2005-06, has created other problems.
“Despite DVA’s considerable project planning, data testing and cleansing to prepare the heritage date for transfer,” the ANAO said, “unanticipated data incompatibility and integration issues emerged during the migration of the data.
“To enable the transfer of data,” it said, “heritage records with blank date of birth fields were populated by DVA with ‘dummy’ data.”
As a result, the auditors said, the Department faced a “major initiative” to clean up the data integrity errors as well as deal with other problems that arose due to the incompatibility of the old and new systems.
“Overall, the poor quality of the data in DVA’s electronic databases is affecting the efficiency and reliability of the Department’s decision making and its internal and external reporting,” the auditors said
They said among the data integrity problems uncovered were:
“These and other data integrity issues identified by the audit increase the risk of DVA providing untimely advice and incorrect payments and reduce the Department’s capacity to provided assurance that the right person is receiving their correct entitlement,” the auditors said.
- DVA clients with more than one Unique Identification Number;
- Incomplete qualifying service details for 41 per cent of the veterans eligible for a pension;
- Exempt assets being disregarded;
- Fragmentation of client information across multiple records; and
- Cases of pension misclassification.
They said a program targeting high-risk pensions had been successful in achieving higher than expected savings but it only reviewed seven per cent of those receiving pensions.
“Overall more than 70 per cent of clients have not had a review.
“This has potential service delivery impacts when cases are not reviewed for a number of years as clients could incur unexpected debts or be underpaid for a significant period.”
According to the auditor, DVA recognises that its client population is declining and faces a decrease in its workload of 30 to 50 per cent in the next 10 years.
“A key element of DVA’s IT strategy is to reduce expenditure on the maintenance of IT systems over time.”
The auditors made four recommendations which were all agreed to by the Department and the full report can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au
28 April, 2009
Public call for
The Australian Privacy Commissioner has called on all Government Agencies to take time during next week’s Privacy Awareness Week to reflect on their privacy responsibilities.
The Commissioner, Karen Curtis, said the annual Privacy Awareness Week, which would run from 3 to 9 May this year, would include a number of activities to promote privacy responsibilities within Agencies, and to raise awareness of the public's privacy rights.
“Privacy Awareness Week is an opportune time for Agencies to review their practices and procedures for handling personal information, paying close attention to the challenges created by new technologies" Ms Curtis said.
“It is also the perfect occasion to think about the privacy decisions we make every day in our personal lives as well”.
She said Agencies could enhance their privacy awareness during the Week by:
Commissioner Curtis said Agencies should take the time during Privacy Awareness Week to think about what good privacy meant, and to join the Office of the Privacy Commissioner in marking the week-long initiative.
- Reviewing privacy practices and procedures;
- Conducting Privacy Impact Assessments (PIAs) for new projects or management plans;
- Developing and promoting privacy FAQs and information for customers and staff;
- Promoting good privacy practices by running staff information sessions or including articles on intranets or in newsletters; and
- Distributing Privacy Awareness Week promotional material.
She said more information about the Week, and the associated promotional materials, could be found at the Privacy Week website: www.privacyawarenessweek.org/paw/australia.html and a guide to conducting Privacy Impact Assessments was at www.privacy.gov.au/publications/pia06
Commissioner Curts said Privacy Awareness Week is conducted by the Australian Office of the Privacy Commissioner and other Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities.
28 April, 2009
New Anzac trail
Plans to build an Anzac commemoration track in France and Belgium in honour of Australians who fought on the First World War’s Western Front have been announced by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin.
right on track
Mr Griffin said the trail would bring the story of the 300,000 Australians who fought on the Western Front alive, and had the potential to include up to seven key sites.
“I have held extensive discussions with many French and Belgian local representatives and am pleased they have agreed to work together in the development and establishment of the Anzac Trail,” he said, speaking from Pozieres in France.
Mr Griffin said the initiative would help foster a deeper appreciation of what Australians achieved and endured and would honour the courage and sacrifice of the Australians who fought.
“The Australian Government will commit $10 million over the next four years to the establishment of the trail,” he said.
“It is also clear that some local authorities will also contribute funds to assist in a number of the locations.”
Mr Griffin said a range of measures across the Western Front would be planned and developed in consultation with local communities and French and Belgian authorities.
He said options currently being assessed included major improvements to the museum at Villers-Bretonneux; the relocation of the existing museum at Fromelles; improved links to regional battlefield trails; refurbishing and upgrading the museum at Bullecourt; and establishing an interpretive centre at Pozieres.
“It is particularly important to act now as we move towards the centenary of our involvement in the war, and the international focus that will occur in the years ahead,” Mr Griffin said.
“The Anzac Trail will provide long overdue recognition of Australia's contribution all along the Front.”
He said the seven sites currently under consideration were Villers-Bretonneux, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Fromelles, Mont St Quentin, Ypres and Tyne Cot.
28 April, 2009
A new national consumer protection law that would allow buyers and Governments to challenge 'unfair' terms in standard-form contracts has been proposed by the Federal Minister for Consumer Affairs, Chris Bowen.
to be fair game
Mr Bowen said while the new law would not apply to the upfront price in a contract, it would apply to other indirect costs including exit, default or penalty fees.
“This new law will finally give all Australian consumers access to protection from unfair contract terms in standard-form contracts,” he said.
“Consumers facing unfair penalty or exit fees may find redress in the Government's new unfair contract terms provision.”
The Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs and the Council of Australian Governments agreed the unfair contract terms provision would state the term was 'unfair' if it caused a significant imbalance in the parties' rights under the contract and was not necessary to protect the legitimate interests of the supplier.
They said if the term was deemed to be ‘unfair’ a remedy could only be applied where the claimant proved detriment, or the likelihood of detriment to the consumer.
Under the provision, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would receive new enforcement powers.
The provision will only relate to standard form contracts and would exclude the upfront price of the good or service, using the approach currently adopted in the United Kingdom's Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations.
The provision is also expected to apply to all sectors of the economy as part of the generic national consumer law.
The consultation paper on the Australian Consumer Law has received over 90 submissions, with consultations with State and Territory Governments and key stakeholders continuing.
28 April, 2009
Court makes case for
New arrangements under which cases before the Federal Court of Australia may be fast-tracked have come into force.
The Chief Justice of the Court, Michael Black, has issued a Practice Note explaining the new procedures and providing a framework on which cases may be heard and finalised within 5 to 8 months from the date of filing.
Chief Justice Black said the new arrangements could also lead to reduced costs by limiting discovery and avoiding lengthy interlocutory disputes.
He said urgent cases may be finalised sooner.
According to Chief Justice Black, the key features of the Fast Track Directions included:
Chief Justice Black said however that while the Fast Track Directions applied, the speed with which cases could be decided would depend on their complexity.
- Substituting Fast Track Statements, Responses and Cross-claims for pleadings;
- Introducing scheduled Conferences and Pre-trial Conferences to ensure proceedings were actively case managed;
- An express statement from the Court that it expects parties and their representatives to cooperate with, and assist it, in ensuring proceedings were conducted in accordance with the Fast Track Directions;
- Limiting the scope of discovery obligations;
- Requiring parties to meet, confer and attempt to resolve any interlocutory dispute before applying to the Court for a determination of the dispute; and
- Resolving most interlocutory disputes on the papers.
He said each registry of the Federal Court would include a coordinating Judge to deal with fast track issues.
28 April, 2009
New grants program
A program of grants for national non-Government women’s organisations to improve the representation and advocacy of women’s and their issues has been unveiled by the Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek.
a frill for women
Ms Plibersek said the organisations were eligible for up to $100,000, as promoting women’s rights was a high Government priority.
“Ensuring that representative organisations are well equipped to advocate and participate in current policy debates is critical to improving gender policy outcomes,” she said.
“I want women’s organisations to expand their networks and work with women who have not engaged in policy debates in the past or who find it difficult to be heard.”
Ms Plibersek said the grants would support women's organisations and allow them to work with diverse groups of women in the community to help them engage in policy debates.
She said women who may not see themselves as part of the formal women's movement were among key target groups.
“Young women, Indigenous women, women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and women with disabilities will also be a focus,” Ms Plibersek said.
“The grants will promote stronger engagement between women in the community, women's organisations and the Government.”
Grant application forms were available from www.ofw.fahcsia.gov.au or by phoning (02) 6212 9618.
28 April, 2009
Finalists plug into
The Department of Finance has announced the finalists in its Excellence in e-Government Award.
The Government introduced the e-Award in 2006 to promote excellence in the use of ICT at all levels of Government.
The projects nominated for the finals this year came from The Australian Bureau of Statistics; the Australian Taxation Office; the Child Support Agency; the Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations; the Department of Immigration and Citizenship; Intellectual Property Australia; Queensland’s Tablelands Regional Council; and the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development.
The ABS was nominated for its Census Data Online (CDATA Online) project, which allowed users to create customised tables maps and graphs based on information of interest to them and the ATO was nominated for two projects; Pre-filling of Income Tax Returns and its Tax Office eLibrary.
The CSA received its nomination for the Child Support Estimator, which allows separated parents to calculate an estimate of how much they will be expected to pay or receive in child support.
DEEWR’s Parliamentary Document Management System is up for the award for its management of the flow of documents within a Government Agency, and the flow of documents to and from the Minister’s office, a system is expected to be used by 11 Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries by the end of 2009.
Two projects from DIAC, eVisitor and Visa Wizard and the Citizenship Wizard have been nominated with eVisitor allowing overseas visitors to electronically lodge their visa applications if visiting for tourism or business purposes and the Visa Wizard being an interactive self-service tool providing prospective travellers with information about visas. The Citizenship Wizard provides citizenship information to clients based on their personal circumstances.
IP Australia’s AusPat system provides a single point of enquiry for all Australian electronic patent data and the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development's youthcentral initiative connects young people aged 12 to 25 with their local communities and Government.
The final finalist is the North Queensland Wildfire Mitigation Project created by the Tablelands Regional Council which provides a shared mapping and data-exchange facility for Agencies involved in wildfire management.
The 2009 e-Award will be presented at an ICT dinner at CeBIT Australia 2009, which will coincide with the e-Government Forum in May.
28 April, 2009
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been given the go-ahead to set up a new TV channel for children.
easy as ABC
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the Government had put its weight behind the initiative as part of its response to the recommendations from last year’s Australia 2020 Summit.
Senator Conroy said the new digital channel would offer high-quality educational and commercial free viewing for Australian families.
“The ABC has always played a strong role in Australia's national identity and I expect the new children's channel will provide significant cultural and social benefits for Australian children,” he said.
Senator Conroy said the new channel would be the only dedicated children's channel available free to Australian homes and would operate in addition to the ABC's existing children's programming on ABC1 and ABC2 rather than replacing it.
He said the channel would be delivered digitally, providing Australian families with more television content and further incentive to switch to digital.
“A new digital channel specialising in children's content is a great example of the benefits of getting ready for digital television,” Senator Conroy said.
“The ABC Children's Channel will broadcast child-appropriate content for 15 hours per day and will be complemented by a variety of interactive elements and online content.”
28 April, 2009
Tax returns fire
The Commissioner for Taxation has rejected claims by a national newspaper that the Tax Office was powerless to prevent its staff from breaking the law when dealing with other Departments.
on tax attack
The Commissioner, Michael D’Ascenzo, posted a message to all staff on the ATO website explaining his position and denying the report in the Australian Financial Review.
Commissioner D'Ascenzo said the claims were not supported by the findings of independent reviews the ATO had commissioned.
He said the ATO “always takes great care to act in accordance with the law” and constantly looked for ways to employ the highest levels of integrity, probity and governance.
Commissioner D’Ascenzo said the ATO had commissioned two reviews by Tony Fitzgerald and Dale Boucher into issues regarding the Office’s “serious non-compliance (SNC) area.”
“In calling for the reviews, and asking such senior and well respected members of the community to conduct them, I wanted to acknowledge concerns raised with me by some staff and assure myself that our processes and procedures in SNC were robust,” he said.
“I am proud to lead an organisation that is open to scrutiny and seeks ways to improve its operation. With the benefit of independent reviews such as Mr Fitzgerald’s and Mr Boucher’s we are able to acknowledge areas for improvement and learn from them.”
Commissioner D’Ascenzo said the staff in SNC worked in a challenging and difficult area and that he would provide them with the support they needed to do their work.
28 April, 2009
An audit of the $25 billion national AusLink road and rail building program has revealed failings in cost estimating and on-time delivery for the majority of approved projects.
runs off the rails
Conducted by the Australian National Audit Office as one of a number into AusLink which has been building roads and rail links in conjunction with the States and Territories across the nation since 2004, the audit entitled Delivery of Projects on the AusLink National Network found cost blow-outs, delays and a number of projects announced prematurely during Federal election campaigns.
The program is managed by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (DITRDLG).
According to the ANAO, the budgeting and schedule issues uncovered in the audit underlined the importance of developing robust project proposals that were subject to rigorous scrutiny.
“The delivery cost of most of the sampled AusLink1 projects (was) greater than that expected at the time Australian Government funding was approved,” the audit reported.
“There have also been significant delays in the delivery of some major projects.”
It found the cost increases ranged from a low of 6 per cent to a high of 249 per cent for a Queensland project estimated to cost $40 million but coming in at $139.5 million.
“It is now recognised that project costs are not able to be estimated with confidence until after sufficient planning and scoping work has been undertaken,” the audit report said.
The auditors made four recommendations following their study:
The recommendations were agreed to by DITRDLG and the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
- That DITRDLG obtain assurances that improvements to project estimation and assessment processes have been implemented;
- That the Department’s role where projects are delivered through the alliance contracting method be explicitly addressed;
- That the risks for projects receiving accelerated funding be scoped better; and
- An improved administrative framework be documented for dealing with projects announced as part of election campaigns.
The full audit report can be found at the Audit Office website www.aanao.gov.au
28 April, 2009
ABC boss transmits
The General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Mark Scott has called for a bigger and bolder vision for international broadcasting in the Pacific region.
Citing the democratic crisis in Fiji as an example, Mr Scott said there were increasing challenges for Australia and the ABC in the world of “soft diplomacy” which used international broadcasting as one of its principal tools.
He said the developments in Fiji, while all-too-common among Pacific nations, could not be ignored if our Pacific neighbours were to prosper.
“These developments go to the heart of Australia’s regional interests,” Mr Scott said.
“When independent scrutiny of Government is thrown aside, we all suffer.”
He said in the world of soft diplomacy where “words can be bullets” it was not widely known how aggressively many of Australia’s G20 partners were investing in international broadcasting to further their own ends.
Also not widely known, he said, was how far Australia lagged behind them in this “race for influence.”
“The British spend $868 million on international radio and television; the French $618 million; the Germans $532 million; and the Chinese about $380 million,” he said.
“In Australia, we currently invest $34 million in Radio Australia and Australia Network television.”
“Out of this small sum, we broadcast on radio in seven regional languages and reach 44 nations in Asia and the Pacific on Australia Network.”
He warned that the ABC – and Australia – risked being drowned out in a growing proliferation of broadcast voices in the Pacific including the Japanese, Russians and Germans who have each announced plans for new English television services in Asia and the region.
“The easy call, particularly in a tough global economic environment, is to sit back and do nothing,” Mr Scott said.
“We do not have that luxury.
“This is our neighbourhood. We are not London or Bonn calling.”
He said the time was right for the bigger and bolder vision.
“The Federal Government is aware of our views.”
Mr Scott said while the G20 had given Australia an opportunity to display leadership on a range of issues from financial regulation to clean coal we could not afford to neglect the new tool in the diplomatic kitbag – the power of broadcasting.
28 April, 2009
Library lends out
The National Library of Australia has unveiled a special preview of its greatest treasures, which will be on show until 19 July.
Director-General of the Library, Jan Fullerton, said Treasures Gallery 2010: A Preview would feature over 80 of the National Library’s prized collection items.
Ms Fullerton said the items had been collected over the past 100 years, and would take pride of place when the exhibition opened.
“This special preview exhibition will provide a wonderful glimpse of what is to come in our new Treasures Gallery,” she said.
“The items have been carefully chosen to showcase the Library’s diverse collections, including manuscripts, pictures, rare books, maps and oral history.”
Ms Fullerton said showcased items would include Lieutenant James Cook’s Endeavour Journal, the ‘Gallipoli’ letter by war correspondent Sir Keith Murdoch, Patrick White’s notebooks, bushranger Ben Hall’s revolver, Lindy Chamberlain’s papers and images by acclaimed artist Ellis Rowan.
“These 80 items, selected from the more than nine million in our collection, include some rarely seen pieces which we are delighted to have on show for visitors, including a pochoir print from a series by Picasso and Jørn Utzon’s model for the design of the Sydney Opera House shells,” she said.
Ms Fullerton said the exhibition was free to the public.
28 April, 2009
The Department of Climate Change has released an on-line calculator to help businesses assess whether their energy usage meets the reporting requirements demanded by the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Act 2007.
to shine for business
Companies can now look at their carbon footprint by simply entering information about their fuel and electricity use to receive an online estimate of emissions and energy use.
The Department said the NGER’s calculator was designed to be easy to use, was anonymous and did not require a password to be accessed.
It said data entered during a session would not be retained after the application was exited, ensuring anonymity.
However, for businesses that wished to retain a copy, there was an option of producing a PDF print-out of the assessment at the end of a session.
A Solid Waste Emissions Calculator is also provided through a spreadsheet tool, allowing businesses to estimate their solid waste emissions according to Division 5.2.2 (Method 1) of the NGER (Measurement) Determination 2008.
Solid waste includes food, cardboard, textiles, concrete, metal, glass and garden cuttings.
The Department said although activity data relating to energy production, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and waste was included in threshold calculations under the NGER Act, it would not be included in this version of the Calculator, but may be introduced at a later date.
The Department suggested businesses for which the excluded sources were particularly relevant use the methods set out in the National Greenhouse Accounts (NGA) Factors to determine whether the corporate group or any of facilities were likely to meet the reporting thresholds.
28 April, 2009
Late students to
Full-time tertiary students who enrolled late and fear they may miss out on the stimulus package’s Learning and Training Bonus payment have been reassured by the Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig.
Senator Ludwig told students they would receive a bonus payment under the Australian Government's Household Stimulus Package and reminded them they did not need to contact Centrelink to receive it.
He said the Government knew some students couldn’t finalise their study plans until well into the academic year and had left bonuses to those students open until the end of June.
“Under the Government's stimulus package, people needed to be eligible for a payment on 3 February 2009 to receive their bonus,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The exceptions are students who enroll for full-time tertiary study after that date. They will receive their $950 bonus soon after their application for Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY Living Allowance is finalised.”
He said 3.2 million payments worth about $4 billion had already been paid to low and middle income families, drought effected farmers and small business and students.
Senator Ludwig said the payments were “just one part” of the Government’s plans to stimulate the economy.
“The remaining two-thirds of the Nation Building and Jobs Stimulus will be invested over the next two-and-a-half years into ready-to-build infrastructure,” he said.
“The projects have been selected with speed in mind to sustain jobs through the worst of the global recession.”
28 April, 2009
Mint pockets market
The Royal Australian Mint has released a new series of coins that pay tribute to all the Australians who have made contributions to the nation’s war efforts and peacekeeping.
on tribute coins
Acting Chief Executive of the Mint, Graham Smith, said the first coin released in the Australia Remembers series honours past and present Australian Service nurses.
Mr Smith said it was “fitting” to release the new series as the nation reflected on and celebrated ANZAC Day.
“Along with our servicemen and women who played such an important role, so too did many other Australians, whether on our soil or abroad, such as Australian Service nurses,” he said.
“Since the time of the Boer War, service nurses have contributed by caring for the sick and wounded in every conflict to which Australia has committed troops.”
Mr Smith said the release of the new series meant Australians had the opportunity to give a gift or collect a keepsake recognising the efforts and participation made by Australians who helped shape the history and security of Australia.
“Coins from the Royal Australian Mint, and the themes they acknowledge, are always great mementoes of our rich and proud heritage and culture,” he said.
Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Debra Cerasa, said Australian Services nurses had been providing assistance and care for over 100 years.
“I am proud to see our nurses recognised through the release of this stunning new collector coin from the Royal Australian Mint,” Ms Cerasa said.
To purchase the 2009 Australia Remembers 20 cent Australian Service Nurses uncirculated coin, visit www.ramint.gov.au or call 6202 6800.
28 April, 2009
Staff cuts anger union
Bureau The Australian Bureau of Statistics has been criticised by the Community and Public Sector Union for allegedly breaching the Workplace Relations Act by notifying a number of staff that they were excess to requirements without telling the union first.
The CPSU says the Act requires employers planning to release 15 or more staff to notify the union of its intentions and to enter into discussions but according to Deputy National Secretary, Nadine Flood, ABS management notified 31 SES and EL2 staff they were excess or ‘underperforming” without prior notice.
Ms Flood said the CPSU was considering lodging a dispute with the Australian Industrial Relations Commission but hoped to resolve the matter in discussion with the ABS.
Tasmanian PS under threat
The Tasmanian Government has warned its Public Servants that they could face job losses if they don't defer pay rises won before the onset of the global financial crisis.
Premier, David Bartlett said 1,500 Public Service jobs were at risk unless the State's 11,000 Public Servants helped the Government cut costs.
The Community and Public Sector Union said individual workers could not defer their pay rises, but it was willing to discuss compromises.
Water website launched
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has developed a new website to show weekly updates of water availability in public water storages across the MDB.
Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, said current storage levels could be compared with historical levels and visitors would be able to access information on the latest seasonal water allocations.
The new website was available at www.mdba.gov.au/water/waterinstorage
War memorial display
An interactive display has been added to a traditional Australian war memorial for the first time.
Unveiled in Hyde Park London, the display helps visitors learn more about the memorial and the service it commemorates.
It features a touch-screen display allowing visitors to search for information on the battles listed and to find where the names of those fallen appear on the memorial.
The display could also be accessed on the internet via www.awmlondon.gov.au
Disability website for choice
The Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Services, Bill Shorten has launched a new website to help boost employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
The Australian Disability Enterprises website provides information for businesses wanting to purchase products or services from employers of people with disabilities.
Further information was available from www.australiandisabilityenterprises.com.au
Network comment called
Stakeholders in the National Broadband Network have been invited to provide feedback in a bid to fast track the Network into regional Australia.
The consultation would allow interested parties to identify priority locations for investment and to comment on technical parameters for the roll out, funding arrangements, service delivery and infrastructure ownership.
Submissions are due by 12 May, with further information available from www.dbcde.gov.au
Flu jabs distributed
The annual free flu vaccination program for people over 65 has been launched with record supplies of vaccinations distributed this year.
Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot urged all Australians over 65 to take advantage of the free influenza shots to protect themselves.
She said when a person turned 65 they were eligible for the free vaccine.
The flu season usually runs from April to October, generally peaking in August.
21 April, 2009
Ministerial staff are
running out of power
The Community and Public Sector Union has called for payrises for staff in Ministerial offices, easier workloads and an increase in their numbers.
The union has described current situation as “unsustainable and unrealistic.”
Responding to a research paper by Nicholas Horne of the Parliamentary Library that found workloads in Ministerial offices needed “continued monitoring,” the CPSU has called for more staff despite the Government adopting a policy of cutting them by 30 per cent.
As well as commenting on staffing levels, Dr Horne’s paper raised other employment issues he said would “merit attention” from the Government, including salary levels and professional development.
According to the CPSU, the working conditions for Ministerial staff deserve immediate improvement.
“There are simply not enough staff to adequately deal with the increasing workload being faced by Ministers’ offices,” the CPSU said.
“The consequence of this increasingly high workload has been a staff turnover rate that is close to double the rate of the wider Federal Public Service.”
It said these problems were compounded by pay levels and classifications that did not reflect the quality, complexity or nature of the work being performed.
“The Parliament and the Government in 2009 is very different from previous Governments,” the CPSU said.
“The greater emphasis on community contact and response, coupled with the increasing use of new technologies and the internet, means that there is little opportunity for respite for staff.”
It said staff needed to be adequately remunerated and protected from overwork.
Dr Horne’s paper noted that a Parliamentary Committee was told in 2003 that Ministerial and MPs staff had grown 79.5 per cent over the previous 20 years.
“Excepting the years 1996–97 ‘the total number of ministerial staff has risen consistently’ from 1983 to 2006,” he said.
Dr Horne said figures from the Department of Finance and Deregulation indicated that between December 2007 and October 2008, 24 per cent of personal staff (at various levels) engaged by Ministers had ceased employment, with a cessation rate of 41 per cent in the Prime Minister’s office.
He said in December 2008 the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet engaged a consultant to review the allocation of staff under the MoPS Act.
The CSU said the Government should acknowledge that current Ministerial staffing levels were unsustainable.
21 April, 2009
Stats report shows state of the unions
A report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that 42 per cent of Public Sector employees were members of a union, compared with less than 20 per cent in the wider workforce.
The report, Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia, August 2008 found just 14 per cent of private sector employees were members of a trade union.
National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Stephen Jones, welcomed the report, saying there were significant benefits for Public Servants who were members of the union.
“It’s thanks to the hard work of our members and delegates that CPSU continues to grow and adapt and we always welcome their involvement,” Mr Jones said.
He urged Public Servants to join the CPSU to give them to access specialist advice and support.
“In these uncertain financial times, it’s more important than ever to join your union to work together for strength, know your rights and be supported in your workplace,” Mr Jones said.
According to the ABS, as of August 2008 there were 1.8 million employees across Australia who were trade union members in conjunction with their main job, an increase of 5.9 per cent on the 1.7 million in 2007.
However, the proportion of members remained at 19 per cent for both years.
The most recent report found 21 per cent of full-time employees and 15 per cent of part time employees were trade union members.
Tasmania was found to have the highest proportion of members (25 per cent) while Western Australia had the lowest (14 per cent).
The report found employees in the education and training industry group had the highest proportion of trade union members at 40 per cent, followed by public administration and safety (34 per cent).
The group with the lowest proportion of members was the professional, scientific and technical services industry at 4 per cent.
The Bureau found that on average, Australians earned $948 per week in their main job, with mean weekly earnings $1,160 for full time workers and $428 for part time workers.
Employees living in the ACT had the highest mean weekly earnings ($1,138) while employees in Tasmania had the lowest ($841).
Mr Jones said staff in APS departments with CPSU agreements were more likely to get wage increases, better sick leave conditions and better safety standards.
“Australian Public Service employees enjoy good pay and conditions thanks to the high levels of union membership,” he said.
A copy of the report was available from www.abs.gov.au
21 April, 2009
Carbon Institute pencilled in
A new Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute has been announced by the Prime Minister to fast-track the development and introduction of the new technology and share lessons learned with the rest of the world.
The Institute (GCCSI) has received strong international support and was launched by Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd at the inaugural meeting of Institute foundation members in Canberra.
Nick Otter was appointed interim Chief Executive Officer of the Institute, which has already had 85 Governments and major companies sign on as foundation members and collaborating participants.
More members are expected to join by 1 July 2009 when the Institute becomes a separate legal entity.
Mr Rudd said the Institute was developed to help drive global cooperation on Carbon Capture and Storage (CSS) projects and technologies and to help find an international solution to climate change.
It is expected to help reduce Australia’s carbon pollution levels and to play a key role, along with the International Energy Agency and the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, in achieving the G8 group's goal of deploying CCS technology by 2020.
The Government announced it would set up the Institute in September last year, saying annual funding of up to $100 million would accelerate the deployment of commercial scale CCS projects.
The GCCSI was established as part of the Commonwealth’s response to climate change, to help Australia reduce carbon pollution, adapt to the impacts of climate change and help shape a global solution.
It is believed that CCS could potentially play an important role in creating a low carbon economy.
Former World Bank chief, James Wolfensohn was appointed Chair of the International Advisory Panel of the GCCSI.
21 April, 2009
Funding needs tied up in bonds
The Federal Government is borrowing money at a rate of up to $67 billion a year to finance its economic stimulus packages and other necessary Commonwealth expenditure.
Chief Executive of the Australian Office of Financial Management, Neil Hyden, made this revelation at a recent address to Australian Business Economists in Sydney.
Mr Hyden said that less than a year ago, at Budget time, the AOFM was planning to raise just $5.3 billion from Government bonds, mainly to cover maturing debt and maintain a constant level of issues to keep the bond market ticking over.
“A week later, the AOFM was authorised to issue up to $5 billion in additional issue, to maintain the liquidity of the market in the face of increased demand,” Mr Hyden said.,
“The authorised amount of additional issuance was further increased to $10 billion in December.”
He said by February this year a program of two issues a week had been adopted, raising $500-$700 million each and taking the potential amounts raised to $32 million by the end of the financial year.
“If we were to continue our current pattern of bond issuance at the rate of $1-1.4 billion per week, this would provide $48-67 billion over the course of 2009-10,” Mr Hyden said.
He said however that the Government had a cash term deposit at the Reserve Bank that could be drawn on, taking the need to issue bonds down to about $40 million in the year ahead.
He made the point that in making these comments he was not trying to anticipate what might be in the Federal Budget.
Mr Hyden said the proposed national broadband network would add to the AOFM’s fundraising efforts in the years ahead, needing $8-9 billion as it proceeded.
“The (Aussie Infrastructure) Bonds could have longer maturities than existing bond lines, up to 30 years,” he said.
Mr Hyden said that while the Australian Government had increased its need for funds and as a result was issuing more bonds, other Governments around the world were busy doing the same thing.
“So far, this does not appear to have affected the take-up by investors of Australian Government debt,” he said.
“We have been helped in placing our bonds by Australia's strong credit standing, low level of debt and strong banking system, and by the resilience and flexibility of our economy.”
Mr Hyden said the AOFM's business had changed dramatically over recent months in the wake of the global financial crisis and the downturn in the economy.
“We will face continuing challenges in the period ahead,” he said.
21 April, 2009
More than 37,000 Australian sailors, soldiers and airforce personnel are to come under a new pay structure that represents a 10-year, $2.4 billion investment in the nation’s armed services.
win pay battle
The Department of Defence has announced that the final phase of the Graded Other Ranks Pay Structure (GORPS) is being rolled out with over 9,000 Navy sailors and Warrant Officers receiving their first salary payments under the new scheme.
Air Force, Army and Reserve personnel can expect their new pays in the coming weeks.
The new scheme will see Defence members from the ranks of Private to Warrant Officer and their service equivalents placed in pay grades based on their skills and experience.
Around half the personnel under GORPS will be placed in higher pay grades and receive increased salaries.
The remaining personnel will either transfer from the previous structure without a significant pay increase or have their salaries protected to ensure they do not suffer a wage decrease.
According to Defence, the pay structure meets contemporary industrial standards by recognising the work value of different military employment groups, market factors and skills shortages.
It also offers personnel greater reward for promotion and provides a solid foundation for a more responsive pay-setting mechanism.
Planning for GORPS commenced in April 2008 and included a review and validation of every member’s service, training and competency records.
Members’ pay is to be adjusted back to 4 September 2008 in line with the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal determination.
GORPS has been introduced in stages across the Navy, Air Force, Army and the Reserves to allow time to correct any anomalies.
Defence said care had been taken to ensure no one would be financially disadvantaged by the new structure, but that there were a number of avenues available to help ADF members and their families should any issues arise.
21 April, 2009
Investment guide is
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has published a new guide to help investors and consumers get the best out of their term deposits.
value for money
The Commission will also conduct a marketing and disclosure review of the term deposit market.
Term deposits in authorised Deposit-taking Institutions (ADIs) have grown by 39 per cent from June 2007 to September 2008, and ASIC estimates they now exceed $500 billion, making them one of the most used investments by investors and consumers.
Chairman of ASIC, Tony D’Aloisio said that the growth in ADI deposits, primarily term deposits, had been driven by investors and consumers reassessing risk reward premiums in favour of ADI-backed term deposits with the Commonwealth Government guarantee.
“ASIC will conduct a review of the marketing and disclosure associated with term deposits to test their adequacy,” Mr D’Aloisio said.
“We expect to complete our review by the end of May.”
He said ASIC would update the investor and consumer guide based on the findings of the review and issue additional guidance as necessary.
Mr D’Aloisio said investors and consumers should continue to have confidence in term deposits with ADIs.
“Our review is simply a ‘health check’ to ensure that investors and consumers can make properly informed decisions when choosing to make term deposits or to roll over existing deposits,” he said.
The new guide appears on ASIC’s investor and consumer website, www.fido.gov.au
21 April, 2009
Centrelink investigators in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth have swooped on welfare cheats in raids and operations that could net taxpayers more than $215,000 in overpayments.
cashes in on cheats
Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig, said dozens of Centrelink customers had been identified for failing to declare cash-in-hand payments.
Senator Ludwig warned others that Centrelink’s Intelligence Analysts and Fraud Investigators were able to detect suspected cases of fraud.
“Ripping off the welfare system by deliberately not declaring income to Centrelink will not be tolerated,” he said.
“While the vast majority of customers do the right thing there is a need for investigators to undertake these types of operations to catch those trying to rort the system.”
Senator Ludwig said over 100 taxi drivers had been interviewed in North Melbourne, sparking investigations into 15 cases which could save taxpayers up to $60,000.
He said workers in over 200 fast food outlets, cafes, bars, clubs and businesses offering adult services were interviewed in Sydney, with 29 Centrelink customers caught working for cash.
Senator Ludwig said 22 of these customers had their Government payments suspended, and the remaining seven were still under investigation.
He said taxpayers could save around $154,000 as a result.
Twenty three taxi drivers from Perth Airport are also facing further investigation over undeclared earnings.
“These operations send a clear message to the community that the system is fair and it will pursue those people who try to take advantage of it,” Senator Ludwig said.
Centrelink worked with the Police, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to conduct the operations.
People with information about potential fraud cases have been encouraged to contact the Government Services Fraud Tip-Off Line on 13 15 24 or visit www.centrelink.gov.au
21 April, 2009
The management of personnel in the Australian Army is to be revolutionised to give its members greater flexibility and more control over their careers.
According to reports in Defence media, the Army People Plan is to be adopted later this year and will include new conditions of service, career management arrangements, health and wellbeing considerations and new personnel administration procedures.
Director-General of Personnel, Brigadier Gerard Fogarty was quoted as saying that while the Army had been looking at a revised structure of the Defence force and how to bring it about, “we haven’t had an enabling plan to focus on our people.”
Brigadier Fogarty said the Army People Plan featured six main themes which emphasised increasing the Army work force and improving work-life balance.
“We have heard from soldiers that they want to stay in their posting locations longer,” Brigadier Fogarty said. “We are working on a standard three-year tenure for all soldier and officer postings to allow members greater location stability.”
He said work was also being done on allowing the Army to offer benefits to personnel they may not have previously qualified for as a way of adding flexibility to the workplace and to give staff greater choice in managing their careers.
Brigadier Fogarty said retention bonuses for ongoing staff would be phased out as the new improved pay and conditions took effect.
He said the retention bonus scheme had been very successful in keeping staff numbers up, particularly in certain ranks and grades.
He said the six main features of the new plan were:
Brigadier Fogarty said the Army People Plan had been endorsed by the Chief of Army and was intended to be a dynamic document.
- Maximising the capability of the Army’s workforce by integrating the regular, reserve and civilian sections;
- Offering competitive employment pay and conditions;
- Developing staff throughout their careers with training and cultivating leadership at all levels;
- Maintaining the health and wellbeing of staff by improving medical and OH&S programs;
- Improving the Army’s personnel management practices and capabilities; and
- Maintaining clear and consistent communication with personnel and their families.
“We have listened to what people have been telling us in the Defence Attitude Survey,” he said.
“The Army People Plan has incorporated this feedback.”
21 April, 2009
An internet blog and forum to encourage discussion about nuclear science and related issues has been launched by the operators of Australia’s only nuclear facility, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
go for net reaction
Interested members of the public, as well as nuclear science specialists, have been invited to take part in the trial and provide feedback.
The ANSTO blog began with a post by Chief of Operations, Ron Cameron who gave his perspective on the shifting nuclear power debate.
A further contribution is from a member of ANSTO’s Institute of Environmental Research, John Dodson entitled Nuclear Tools for Climate Change, which covers the use of nuclear methods in environmental science.
The forum, which has been running for more than a month, has included a feature on education resources, where teachers and students are encouraged to ask questions about nuclear science, and have them answered.
Both the blog and forum will be moderated during the development period with registered users having their postings, comments and replies publicly listed.
The success of the blog and forum will be assessed on the quality and level of interest and changes may be made to the forum structure and operation.
The trial period will end early next month.
21 April, 2009
War veterans’ book
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has developed a book of stories about the mental health experiences of veterans and their families in a bid to help health professionals and the veteran community understand the impacts of mental health better.
takes aim at illness
The book, entitled Beyond the Call, was produced in a partnership with the Australian General Practice Network (AGPN), and has been endorsed by ex-Service organisations.
It will be distributed to doctors, mental health professionals, pharmacists and ex-Service organisations.
Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Alan Griffin, welcomed the new resource saying it wouldhelp raise awareness about mental illnesses and the important role that families, partners, carers and health professionals played in helping veterans who suffered from them.
Mr Griffin said it was difficult to overcome the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, despite their adverse effects.
“Poor mental health can have a devastating effect on individuals, as well as those who live with and care for them,” he said.
“This Government is committed to increasing awareness, understanding and support for those directly and indirectly affected, and Beyond the Call is one part of that commitment.”
Mr Griffin highlighted the responsibilities of GPs and pharmacists in providing front-line help and effective support.
“Beyond the Call will help them gain a greater understanding of the adverse effects of mental health disorders,” he said.
He said his Department had recently funded the development of an easy-to-use system for health practitioners that outlined the treatment of adults with Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress, which had been distributed throughout Victoria following the bushfires earlier in the year.
Copies of Beyond the Call were available by emailing email@example.com or phoning 1800 026 185.
Further information was available from http://at-ease.dva.gov.au or by contacting the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service on 1800 011 046.
21 April, 2009
The national Race Discrimination Commissioner has announced 19 new projects designed to build good relationships and trust between Australia’s Muslim communities and their local police services.
a win for police
Commissioner Tom Calma said the projects would reach across Australia and take a grassroots approach to improving relations by encouraging respect and shared values.
Commissioner Calma said the projects were part of the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Community Policing Partnerships Program (CPPP).
“Racism, discrimination and religious hatred are all toxic viruses with the potential to eat away at the core of Australia’s multicultural society,” he said.
“A diverse pool of projects will soon be up and running and I expect they will fundamentally improve relations between police and young people, which have sometimes triggered disharmony and misunderstandings in the past.”
Commissioner Calma said identifying where prejudice was evident regarding members of Muslim communities and the police was the first step towards identifying and rectifying misunderstandings.
“Respecting and supporting cultural diversity in Australia today is crucial to keeping our society fair and reducing damaging discrimination in all its ugly forms,” he said.
Executive Director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation, Dr Hass Dellal, said a number of participants had considered taking up policing as a result of the projects.
“The young participants and community groups involved in the CPPP have shown a real commitment to establish meaningful partnerships with local police services, with some young Muslims being genuinely attracted to a career in the police service,” Dr Dellal said.
Commissioner Calma said the projects included workshops on rights, responsibilities and improving understanding of police complaint processes and a Queensland partnership that would look at police services in relation to issues the Muslim clergy faced when conducting their religious duties.
A three-day camp for ‘at-risk’ young people focusing on relationships, career opportunities and safe driving is included among the projects, as is a crime prevention and early intervention initiatives.
Commissioner Calma said youth and family issues, domestic violence and burial procedures would all be addressed.
The CPPP is a national initiative undertaken by the Australian Human Rights Commission in collaboration with the Australian Multicultural Foundation.
It is one of several programs undertaken by the Commission funded under the Commonwealth’s National Action Plan, which aims to promote social harmony and to counteract discrimination and misinformation about Muslim Australians.
The projects were chosen by a selection committee made up of police and Muslim community members.
Further information was available from www.humanrights.gov.au
21 April, 2009
New phones go
Up to 300 new public telephones are to be installed in remote Indigenous communities under a new agreement entered with a satellite communications company.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy announced the plan, saying the phones would assist communities that were among the most disadvantaged in Australia.
"Telecommunications is an essential service for all Australians and a particular necessity for people living in remote communities," Senator Conroy said.
"Public phones will improve connections to health, education, safety, business and other services as well as provide social and family contact for people living in remote Indigenous communities across the country."
Australian Private Networks Pty Ltd (APN) will install and maintain the fixed-line telephones. The company also operates a satellite broadband service under the Activ8me brand.
Installation will begin in the second half of 2009 and the phe phones will provide free untimed calls to emergency services, all Australian fixed-line phones and 1800 numbers, as well as free incoming calls.
Remote Indigenous communities with a population below 50 and without reasonable access to a public payphone may be eligible to receive a community phone under the Indigenous Communications Program.
The engagement of APN follows the announcement of the Government's initial response to the Regional Telecommunications Review, which was chaired by Dr Bill Glasson.
The response includes an additional $3.7 million contribution to a $30 million refocused Indigenous Communications Program to improve essential telecommunications services, basic public internet access facilities and computer training for remote Indigenous communities in partnership with States and Territories.
Eligible communities can be nominated by relevant Australian Government, State and Territory agencies or specifically appointed community liaison officers.
21 April, 2009
Members of the public have been invited to have their say on proposed reforms to Australia's intellectual property system.
a good idea
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, made the call saying a strong and efficient IP system was a cornerstone of successful innovation.
“The proposed reforms are designed to help Australian innovators take their inventions to a global marketplace and encourage foreign investors to bring their new technology to Australia,” Senator Carr said.
“This means growth both for our economy and our skilled workforce.”
He said the call for submissions provided a valuable opportunity for interested parties to contribute to the Government’s work in strengthening Australia’s innovation sector and boosting the nation’s economic prosperity.
“The multifaceted reforms aim to reduce barriers in the innovation landscape for researchers and inventors, allow patent claims to be resolved faster and strengthen penalties for counterfeiting and other serious forms of trade mark infringement,” he said.
“I encourage all stakeholders to make submissions and let their views be known.”
He said IP Australia was commencing consultation on two reform papers and would release further papers over the coming months.
The Getting the Balance Right paper was about raising patentability standards and giving greater certainty in the validity of granted patents while the Exemptions to Patent Infringement paper looked at ensuring that patents did not inhibit research and development in Australia.
The Minister said they were available at the IP website along with information on how to provide submissions at www.ipaustralia.gov.au. Submissions close 8 May 2009.
21 April, 2009
New weapon to fight
A coordinated national approach to combatting organised crime in Australia is to be developed by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG).
At a recent meeting in Canberra, the Attorneys-General agreed to consider common features that may be contained in State, Territory and Federal legislation to ensure there are no safe havens for organised crime groups.
Commonwealth Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said he would consider a range of legislative measures to facilitate this national response.
This may include greater telecommunications interception powers for covert investigations, making it easier to confiscate criminals’ assets and enhancing the cross-border investigative powers of law enforcement authorities.
Other proposals agreed to by the Attorneys-General to put to their States and Territories include coercive questioning of subjects, use of more sophisticated surveillance devices and protection of witnesses.
Mr McClelland said organised crime operated on a national scale and was estimated to cost Australia over $10 billion every year, a fact underlined by Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd when he presented the Government’s National Security Statement last December.
Following this, the Commonwealth is developing an Organised Crime Strategic Framework to enhance the understanding of threats posed by organised crime and improve the capacity to effectively prevent, disrupt, investigate and prosecute its activities.
Ministers have been updated on this framework in a briefing from the Australian Crime Commission.
21 April, 2009
Report settles on
An evaluation report on the resolution of family disputes in Legal Aid Commissions has been released by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
Entitled Family Dispute Resolution Services in Legal Aid Commissions, the report highlights the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of family dispute resolution services (FDR).
It found that FDR is an important part of the family law system and that for every $1 invested by the Australian Government in FDR, approximately $1.48 is saved in court time and related costs.
“FDR services provide families who would not otherwise be able to afford legal assistance with access to a timely, less adversarial and low cost option for resolving their legal disputes,” Mr McClelland said.
“Most importantly, it allows parents to focus on the best interests of their children.”
He said that FDR was underpinned by the assumption that separating couples, with the help of a neutral third party experienced in mediation or conciliation, could voluntarily reach an agreement that was fair to both parties.
“The evaluation found that FDR services provided by Legal Aid Commissions focus on the best outcomes for children, cost less than litigation, identify cases involving family violence or child protection issues, narrow the number of issues in dispute, and assist parties to reach agreement outside of court,” Mr McClelland said.
It was also found that FDR services played an important role in family law reforms as they provided a form of alternative dispute resolution which sat between mediation and litigation; that screening and intake processes provided the opportunity to assess the suitability of a matter for FDR or referral to other services; and through screening and intake which now collect valuable information on family violence and other power imbalances in families.
21 April, 2009
The results of a community consultation exercise on the development of a Defence White Paper has been released by the Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon.
for Defence paper
The findings, summarised in Looking over the Horizon: Australians Consider Defence, will create the basis for Australia’s future defence strategy, capability and funding directions.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the findings offered a valuable insight into the views of the Australian community.
“While the views and ideas expressed throughout the program were many and varied, it is pleasing to note that the consultation process remains of value to the community,” he said.
“I am encouraged by the community’s regard for the ADF and am grateful for the contributions and suggestions made by so many Australian’s as part of this important process.”
The community consultations, undertaken by a panel of five experts, showed that the public expected the Government to deliver a strong, well resourced and technically superior ADF capable of acting independently to defend the nation and its interests.
Concerns were raised that the White Paper should be derived from a national security strategy, with a number of participants arguing Defence should include aid programs, diplomacy and contributions by non-Government organisations.
The report found there was community concern that the ADF was being stretched to operate at unsustainable levels with many people wanting to see recruitment and retention initiatives in the White Paper.
The consultations found most Australians supported the nation’s alliance with the United States and while they were concerned about the threat of nuclear weapons, terrorism was not ‘front of mind’ for most people even though it still worried them.
The potential power rivalry in the region with the rise of China and India was touched on and climate change was considered to have strategic implications such as regional instability, pressure on natural resources and increased severe weather events.
The Community Consultation Program was conducted between July and November 2008 and involved members of the community, industry representatives, Defence analysts and Local, State and Federal politicians.
Mr Fitzgibbon thanked members of the panel for their efforts.
The panel was made up of Stephen Loosley (Chair), Arthur Sinodinos (Deputy Chair), Peter Collins, Rear Admiral Simon Harrington and Professor Tanya Monro.
A copy of the report was available from www.defence.gov.au
21 April, 2009
Food for thought at Library
The National Library of Australia has opened a new casual style eatery called Paperplate.
The Library’s bookplate café will close for renovations on 3 May and is expected to be up and running again in mid-June.
Paperplate offers take-away coffee and snacks, and is open from 10am to 2pm but will extend its hours when the bookplate café is temporarily closed.
CAPAM meets on leadership
The Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) is holding its 2009 Building Public Service Leadership Capacity Conference in Cukai, Malaysia.
In partnership with the Malaysian National Institute for Public Administration, the conference has as its theme the development of the next generation of Public Service leaders in Commonwealth countries.
“This challenge is especially difficult in the unique setting of the Public Service where organisations are immense, complex and multi-dimensioned,” CAPAM said in a statement on its website.
The conference, from June 22 to 24, builds on previous meetings in India (2005) and Ghana (2007).
Registration for the conference will open shortly.
CASA hosts pilots
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has hosted air safety workshops for pilots from Wangaratta, Yarrawonga, Mulwala, Mudgee, Broken Hill and Bathurst.
The workshops helped local pilots improve their skills and included a free BBQ for attendees.
The workshops were part of a national regional air safety campaign.
English upgrade at DIAC
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has raised the English language requirement for a number of 457 visa applicants in response to concerns about exploitation of workers from non-English speaking countries.
A DIAC spokesman said increasing the existing language requirement from International English Language Testing System (IELTS) 4.5 to IELTS 5 would align the subclass of trades and chefs under the 457 system with permanent sponsored visas for trades occupations.
“The requirement to ensure at least a ‘modest’ level of English – as defined under IELTS standards – is the first to be implemented after the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship announced a number of changes to the program.”
Tourism grants boosted
An 8.5 million competitive grants program to promote strategic investment in quality and innovation in the Australian tourism industry has been launched.
Called Tqual Grants, the program will support initiatives that develop innovative products, services or systems within the tourism industry; contribute directly to long-term economic development in the host region; or develop or support high-quality visitor services and experiences.
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said Tqual Grants would better position the Australian tourism industry in a highly competitive market.
The program has the support of the Opposition, Shadow Tourism Minister, Steven Ciobo who said it was important that the Government responded to the immediate challenges facing the tourism sector, especially in the region of job shedding.
Testing time for solar
A testing centre for the latest solar thermal technologies has been opened in Adelaide
Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, launched the centre at the University of South Australia's Sustainable Energy Industry Support Centre.
The Minister said the cutting-edge testing centre would be available for industry to use and would support research and development on solar hot water, solar heating systems and other solar technologies.
"This Australian facility will encourage industry innovation and improve our solar technologies, delivering better quality products to Australians sooner,” he said.
Solar thermal technologies will be put to the test in a range of ways, including measuring thermal performance of solar collectors, checking the impact of rainfall and large hail stones, evaluating safety and performance during extended periods of no hot water draw-off and protection against freezing temperatures.
14 April, 2009
on info changes
The Special Minister of State has personally called on PS employees working with Freedom of Information requests to support the Government’s move towards a more open, pro-disclosure FOI regime.
Speaking to an FOI Practitioners’ forum in Canberra , the Minister, Senator John Faulkner, said the Government would be relying on APS staff to ensure the reforms were successful and “actually deliver” more open and accountable Government.
“I do know that this will not always be easy,” Senator Faulkner said.
“It will always seem easier and safer to say ‘no’ rather than ‘yes’.”
“To choose caution and withhold the document rather than take what may seem to be a risk and release it.”
He said the objective of the proposals for change contained in exposure drafts currently out for public comment, was for more openness and a pro-disclosure culture within the APS and the community.
He said he recognised that the job Public Servants faced in weighing competing and complex demands between transparency and confidentiality was often a difficult one but the Government hoped the proposed changes embodied in the new laws would make it easier for decision makers.
“It takes a willing Government, and a willing Public Service to demonstrate a commitment to increased disclosure of Government information, especially if it means more scrutiny and increased potential for criticism of Government policy,” he said.
He said that staff in Departments and Agencies wanted – and deserved - clear boundaries and rules to guide their decisions and the draft Bills would provide that.
Senator Faulkner also expanded on the role of the new Information Commissioner’s position which was being created to take responsibility for managing FOI across the APS and of promoting pro-openness policies.
“The Office of the Information Commissioner is intended to be a resource for Agencies as well as for the public,” Senator Faulkner said.
He said it would have similar powers to the Ombudsman.
“After internal review, an applicant may apply to the Information Commissioner for review. In practice it will typically be the FOI Commissioner who undertakes the review.”
He said if the applicant continued to be dissatisfied following that investigation, a further review could be conducted by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
“The AAT will be reviewing the FOI Commissioner’s decision, not the Agency’s decision.
“The FOI Commissioner would not defend their decision in the AAT. It will be a matter for the appealing party to demonstrate why the FOI Commissioner made the wrong decision, and why the AAT should substitute a different decision.”
Senator Faulkner said that while the new scheme was more accessible cost-wise for applicants, the Information Commissioner would review the costing arrangements after12 months, and that review would include the compliance cost to Agencies.
14 April, 2009
to dig deep
A new publicly owned company is to be set up to build and operate the National Broadband Network.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the plan, saying the company would be created by the Australian Government which would maintain majority ownership while offering shares to private investors.
Mr Rudd said the Government would make an initial investment in the company but intended to sell down its interest within five years after the network was fully operational.
“This company jointly owned by the Government and the private sector will invest up to $43 billion over 8 years to build the national broadband network,” he said.
“The Government’s investment in the company will be funded through the Building Australia Fund and the issuance of Aussie Infrastructure Bonds (AIBs), which will provide an opportunity for households and institutions to invest in the national broadband network.”
Mr Rudd said the new network would be the “single largest nation building infrastructure project in Australian history”.
“The new investment is also the biggest reform in telecommunications in two decades because it delivers separation between the infrastructure provider and retail service providers,” he said.
“This means better and fairer infrastructure access for service providers, greater retail competition, and better services for families and businesses.”
Mr Rudd said the network would connect 90 per cent of all Australian homes, schools and workplaces with broadband services with speeds up to 100 megabits per second, one hundred times faster than many households and businesses currently use.
He said it would connect all other premises in Australia with next generation wireless and satellite technologies capable of delivering broadband speeds of 12 megabits per second, and would support an average of 25,000 local jobs every year over the eight-year life of the project.
Mr Rudd said under the new network, every house, school and business in Australia would get access to affordable fast broadband.
“High speed broadband is increasingly essential to the way Australians communicate, and do business,” he said.
“It will help drive Australia’s productivity, improve education and health service delivery and connect our big cities and regional centres.”
The Government is to commence an implementation study to look at detailed network design, how to attract private sector investment and ways to provide procurement opportunities for local businesses.
Mr Rudd said it would fast-track negotiations with the Tasmanian Government to build upon its proposal; progress legislative changes to govern the network company; and begin a consultative process on necessary changes to the existing telecommunications regulatory regime.
14 April, 2009
Survey gives birth
to baby-leave call
The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has drawn on the results of a recent survey to urge the Government to include paid parenting leave in this year’s Federal Budget.
Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said the poll results were overwhelmingly in favour of the move.
“This most recent survey shows that the Australian public are also saying that, particularly in these tough economic times, a national paid parental leave scheme is vital,” Commissioner Broderick said.
She said while the current economic climate presented challenges for setting national budget priorities, experience from overseas had shown paid parental leave contributed positively to strong economic and social outcomes and was not necessarily a burden on the economy.
“Compared to the figures discussed for funding national stimulus packages and the national broadband network, at $452 million, the cost of funding a national paid parental leave scheme is small and eminently affordable,” Commissioner Broderick said.
She said the poll found support for paid parental leave existed across the board, with women, men, the young and the old and people across income brackets all putting their hand up to support the scheme.
Commissioner Broderick said she welcomed the commitment of the Australian Government to gender equality.
“A national paid parental leave scheme is a foundation reform that can no longer wait,” she said.
“I urge the Government to ensure that the scheme is included in the May Budget.”
Australia remains one of only two members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development without such a scheme.
The Attitudes to Maternity Leave in Australia survey was conducted by Auspoll on behalf of the National Foundation for Australian Women, Unions NSW, the Commission for Children and Young People, Catalyst Australia and YWCA Australia.
14 April, 2009
war on red tape
Moves to cut bureaucratic red tape and reduce delays for war veterans accessing their entitlements have been announced by the Ministers for Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel.
The Ministers said they were delivering on an election promise and that the establishment of the Interdepartmental Working Group was already reducing the bureaucracy for making claims.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, said many veterans and ex-service personnel had been frustrated by the administrative burden of having to deal with multiple Government Agencies.
“I promised to establish an Interdepartmental Working Group to address this issue and am pleased to report it is already having a positive effect,” Mr Griffin said.
He said the Interdepartmental Working Group had already reduced the medical reviews veterans must take, begun sharing information with Centrelink and Comsuper, released a handbook on how to access interdepartmental entitlements and listed the Australian Defence force ID card as an acceptable Proof of Identity document across Government.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, said he welcomed efforts to end the duplicate medical examinations that personnel had to undergo to access entitlements.
“A successful trial to expand the role of the final Defence medical examination will reduce the complexity and delays facing some of the personnel leaving the ADF each year,” Mr Snowdon said
“The protocol developed by Defence and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs to follow in the event of a death in service or serious injury on deployment has been expanded to include Centrelink and ComSuper, ensuring senior level case management across all Agencies.
“This means that relevant Agencies are able to co-ordinate the full range of Government assistance that is available in these circumstances.”
Mr Griffin said the establishment of a Special Claims Unit at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs had also reduced average times taken to process claims.
He said a comparison of the 2006-07 and 2007-08 financial years showed processing time reductions of 15.7 per cent in Veterans’ Entitlement Act claims, 7.8 per cent for Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act initial liability claims and 30.9 per cent for Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Scheme initial liability claims.
“There are still issues to address, but I’m pleased we’ve already started to get results from this process,” Mr Griffin said.
He said the the Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service could be contacted on 1800 011 046.
14 April, 2009
paper is good tip
A consultation paper with the aim of establishing a national policy for waste management has been released for public comment.
Issued by Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, A National Waste Policy: Managing Waste to 2020 is expected to help clarify what is appropriately dealt with at each level of Government – Local, State and Federal.
Mr Garrett said waste policy had not been considered in the national context since 1992 and that the paper was “a chance for us to agree on what our priorities should be in tackling waste and where they are best addressed.”
“The Australian Government, with support from State and Territory environment ministers through the Environment Protection and Heritage Council, is leading development of a national policy to identify best practice in waste management and resource recovery, and to ensure Australia has the right mix of incentives and regulation,” he said.
“Many State and Territory Governments are now reviewing their waste and resource recovery policies and all jurisdictions, as well as stakeholders, are being invited to contribute their experience and ideas.”
Mr Garrett said the amount of waste generated in Australia grew by more than 28 per cent between 2003 and 2007.
“I encourage the community to contribute their views, ideas and information by making a submission on the consultation paper to my Department or attending one of the public meetings taking place across Australia,” he said.
Submissions close on 13 May 2009.
Public meetings are scheduled for each capital city, Townsville, Kalgoorlie and Wagga Wagga from 21 April to 1 May 2009.
Further information was available from www.environment.gov.au
14 April, 2009
New lines for Telcos
in discussion paper
A discussion paper on ways to improve regulation of the telecommunications industry has been released for public comment.
Announced by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, the regulatory reform is expected to help the industry work more effectively in the interests of consumers and businesses.
Senator Conroy said the existing regime needed an overhaul to improve competition and strengthen consumer safeguards, as well as remove redundant and inefficient red tape.
He said a vibrant and competitive telecommunications sector was important for delivering lower prices, better quality and more innovative services.
He said the paper sought “views on the options the Government will consider for reform of the existing regime to make it work more effectively, particularly during the rollout of the National Broadband Network.”
The paper was released after concerns about the effectiveness of the current regime were expressed by telecommunications carriers, consumer groups and stakeholders.
Senator Conroy said it canvassed a range of reform options, including streamlining current regulatory processes; strengthening the powers of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to tackle anti-competitive conduct; promoting greater competition across the industry; addressing competition and investment issues arising from cross-ownership; improving access arrangements for telephony and payphones; and introducing more effective rules governing connection and repair work by phone companies.
Submissions were due by 3 June 2009, before the Government made its final decisions and introduced legislation into Parliament.
Copies of the Regulatory Reform discussion paper were available at www.dbcde.gov.au
14 April, 2009
A recently-completed training exercise for Customs and Border Protection staff has been labelled “hugely successful” by the Chief Executive of the Department, Michael Carmody.
Mr Carmody said the training program, Exercise Eastern Exile, had tested the capability of officers and the resources and flexibility of the Agency.
“It is critical our officers are well trained and ready, and able to respond to any situation they may face,” he said.
“Customs and Border Protection will continue to conduct exercises in the future to ensure the Agency remains flexible and adaptable in its approach to protecting our border.”
Mr Carmody said the program had taken six months to plan, with the operational readiness training exercise unfolding across Port Macquarie, Mackay, St Helen's and Bywong.
“The benefit of running this type of exercise is that it builds staff skills, and ensures a national approach is applied across the Agency,” Mr Carmody said.
National Manager of Enforcement Operations, Malcolm Wright, said this year's test scenario challenged intelligence and operational teams to detect and stop an international criminal syndicate from importing a large quantity of drug precursors into Australia, via the east coast.
Mr Wright said the attempted importations occurred simultaneously in Queensland, New South Wales and Tasmania.
“Importantly, these exercises help staff understand how to work together as a team, and how the different parts of the organisation link to achieve outcomes and stop threats at the border,” he said.
“Operational readiness exercises have been carried out by Customs and Border Protection since 1997, and are critical to the Agency's ability to be ready to respond and intercept threats in real life situations.”
Mr Wright said training staff in separate skills such as using fire arms, and boarding vessels was not as effective as putting all training and skills development to the test at once..
“The Government and the community expect us to protect the borders and have the necessary infrastructure and skills to quickly and successfully respond to threats or situations,” he said.
“Planning and executing large exercises like this is essential for Customs and Border Protection to assess our skills and training.”
14 April, 2009
Nuclear research is
All the might and power of Australia’s only nuclear reactor has been put to work on a research program designed to make chocolate taste better.
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO, is using its new Open Pool Australian Lightwater (OPAL) reactor to look deep into the unknown atomic structures which give chocolate its flavour and texture.
Scientists have been looking at what makes some chocolates more brittle and others more flavoursome in order to find better manufacturing techniques and to improve the quality, taste and shelf life of chocolate.
In earlier research, ANSTO scientists discovered the taste of chocolate depended on which crystalline forms predominated as the chocolate was prepared.
They were able to identify the forms that were popular and tasted best, and gain a better understanding of how temperature and mixing controlled the crystallisation of the cocoa butter.
With the OPAL reactor now fully operational, ANSTO scientists plan to explore other aspects of chocolate, including why chocolate in hollow Easter eggs tastes different from solid chocolate and whether flows within chocolate moulds affect its flavour and texture.
A small angle neutron scattering instrument, Quokka, uses neutrons produced by the OPAL reactor to investigate the size, shape and distribution of molecules in a large range of materials, including chocolate.
Samples of chocolate are placed in a special cell where the temperature can be raised or lowered and the cocoa butter mixed at different rates.
Beams of neutrons provide a view of the sub-microscopic world by scattering off atoms in the material being probed.
The pattern obtained from the scattered neutrons, one of the fundamental particles that make up matter, reveals information about the molecular structure of chocolate.
ANSTO scientists are also investigating the impact of processes such as heating, mixing and fermenting on the structure of various foods, including pasta.
14 April, 2009
Policy forum salutes
The veteran and ex-service community will be able to have their say on Government decisions affecting them following the establishment of a strategic forum.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, said the high-level strategic forum would be established to address issues of strategic importance such as policy development and service delivery for the veteran community.
Mr Griffin said the forum, the Ex-Service Organisation (ESO) Round Table, would be made up of senior leaders of the ESO community and would act as the main channel for dialogue with the Repatriation and Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commissions and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA).
He said this would allow veterans to contribute input directly through him.
The new ESO Round Table will be supported by four smaller forums focusing on specific policy areas.
The Operational Working Party will focus on service delivery performance and issues; The National Health, Aged and Community Care Forum will advise on health and aged care needs of veterans and war widow/ers; the Current and Former Members of the Australian Defence Forces Emerging Issues Forum will handle consultation on issues affecting younger and recently discharged members and their families; and The National Mental Health Forum will enable consultation on mental health policy and issues, including raising awareness of mental health and the provision of early intervention and treatment programs.
The new structure followed a review of consultative arrangements between the veteran community and the Government.
Forum members will be selected by the Secretary or the Deputy Commissioner.
Mr Griffin said many people had highlighted problems with the current consultative processes.
“It was made clear to me that the arrangements warranted review to ensure they met the needs of the veteran community,” he said.
“That review has highlighted the need to refocus the consultative structure.”
Mr Griffin said the forums would provide a “firm basis for ongoing consultation with the ex-service community,” ensuring strategic and operational level issues were addressed.
“I am confident the forums will help us to improve services for veterans and the veteran community,” he said.
Mr Griffin said the new arrangements should be operational from mid 2010.
14 April, 2009
is big ticket item
A package of reforms to improve the system by which large infrastructure assets are shared by other users has been unveiled by the Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Chris Bowen.
Mr Bowen has taken his reforms to the States and Territories in the hope that the National Access Regime will be improved to increase its efficiency and enhance competition.
The National Access Regime has been established under the Trade Practices Act to ensure that large infrastructure assets are able to be used by third parties on reasonable terms and conditions, so that they don’t have to be duplicated by every user.
Mr Bowen said while the regime appeared to be working effectively, there were concerns it was generating regulatory risks that were hindering investment in essential infrastructure.
He said some infrastructure owners and access seekers claimed that processes under the regime were too lengthy and costly and that there was a broad consensus that something needed to be done to speed up the process.
“Currently, processes under the National Access Regime can go on for years,” Mr Bowen said.
“The National Access Regime needs to be improved to make decisions and arbitration faster.”
He said the package of reforms drew on recommendations from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the Productivity Commission, the National Competition Council (NCC) and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).
He said the reforms would streamline administrative arrangements and provide greater regulatory certainty for infrastructure owners.
He said the reforms would implement COAG Competition and Infrastructure Reform Agreement commitments; streamline decision-making criteria and processes; improve regulatory certainty; and reform ACCC and NCC administrative processes.
Mr Bowen emphasised the changes would not strengthen or weaken the criteria for application of the regime.
“The reforms strike an appropriate balance between the rights and interests of infrastructure owners and investors on the one hand, and the competition benefits of facilitating access on the other,” he said.
“This will ensure both investment in nationally significant infrastructure and the efficient use of that infrastructure.”
Mr Bowen said the regime promoted the efficient use of nationally significant infrastructure and facilitated access in cases where replicating the infrastructure concerned would not be economical and where commercial negotiation with the infrastructure owner or operator has failed.
Following consultation with the States and Territories, legislation to amend the National Access Regime is expected to be introduced into Parliament in mid-2009.
14 April, 2009
invests in report
A new publication setting out how the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC goes about its crime-fighting activities has been released.
The publication entitled AML/CTF reports and case studies: Summary outlines the integral role reporting entities play in AUSTRAC’s operations.
It illustrated how the timely and accurate submission of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML/CTF) reports to AUSTRAC supported Australian law enforcement operations.
The publication included recent examples of how suspicious matter reports, threshold transaction reports, international funds transfer reports and cross-border movement reports had helped investigations and prosecutions.
Chief Executive of AUSTRAC, Neil Jensen, said it was important for the reporting entities to understand the role they played in protecting Australian communities and financial systems from “money laundering, terrorism financing and other major crimes such as drug trafficking, fraud and people smuggling.”
Mr Jensen said in one case a bank teller had submitted a suspicious matter report detailing dubious over-the-counter transactions.
He said information in the report helped authorities identify an international identity fraud syndicate, leading to proceeds of crime action and the capture of more than $1.5 million in assets.
“By meeting their AML/CTF obligations, reporting entities provide AUSTRAC with the vital information required to support partner agencies with investigations and prosecutions,” Mr Jensen said.
“In the 2007-08 financial year, AUSTRAC received nearly 18 million financial transaction reports, so it is important that we demonstrate how this information is being used - and the significant results they help achieve.”
He said it was vital that all reporting entities and regulators worked together and remained vigilant to combat financial crime in Australia.
The AML/CTF reports and case studies: Summary and the related AUSTRAC Typologies and Case Studies Report 2008 were available from: www.austrac.gov.au
14 April, 2009
Film tax report
to be reviewed
A report on the effectiveness of taxation concessions for building the Australian film industry has been released jointly by the Assistant Treasurer and the Minister for the Arts.
Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett said the review examined the impact of film tax offsets, introduced in 2007, on levels of production by independent and in‑house production by Australian television broadcasters.
Mr Garrett said the refundable tax offsets had been designed to support and develop Australia's screen media industry and that the review found the level of Australian and co-production television drama was higher in 2007-08 than in previous years.
He said the balance of television production between independent and in-house production had remained stable since the offsets were introduced.
Assistant Treasurer, Chris Bowen, said although the review did not find the tax offsets had affected the share of independent production, it was “still early days for the new tax arrangements for television and film production in Australia.”
“Several industry stakeholders raised other issues regarding the ongoing operation and administration of the tax offsets,” Mr Bowen said.
“These issues were outside the scope of this statutory review, but will be examined in a broader review into the independent production sector expected in 2010.”
Mr Garrett said thirteen submissions were received, with a number of them specifically raising concerns about the current timing of payments from the offsets.
“The Government recognises the importance of this issue to the industry and is examining the issue more closely as a matter of priority,” he said.
“The tax offset is a new arrangement and it is essential that we allow further production and other data to be collected before undertaking the broader review we committed to in New Directions for the Arts."
The issues paper, submissions and review report were available from www.treasury.gov.au
14 April, 2009
up but not uniform
The Australian Defence Force registered a 54 per cent increase in recruitment enquiries in January 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.
According to the Department 9,937 enquiries were received during the month compared to 3,503 in 2008.
Recruiting authorities said the figures were encouraging but it was too early to tell whether the tightening labour market and global economic crisis were responsible.
ADF enquiries for 2008 peaked in October, with an increase of 27 per cent, or 1,863, over the level of enquiries received in October 2007.
Director of Military Recruiting, Group Captain Sheldon Kimber, was reported in the Defence media as saying that while there were plenty of enquiries, there was still plenty of work to do to convert them into recruits.
Group Captain Kimber said the increases were the result of ADF recruiting strategies and initiatives.
“I would expect that this increased interest, coupled with changed economic circumstances, should improve our chances or recruiting many of the people making enquiries,” he said.
“However, regardless of the economic circumstances and job market, the ADF is an employer of first choice, not last resort.”
The rate for applications, instead of enquiries, peaked in September 2008, with an increase of 27 per cent. More modest increases of 13 and 14 per cent occurred in October and November respectively.
Group Captain Kimber said application figures were down by 4.3 per cent in January 2009, from 1,329 to 1,272 applicants.
According to predicted figures, appointment figures for the full-time Army were at 93 per cent as of 1 February 2009 and 86 per cent for the Air force.
Group Captain Kimber said there was no direct historical connection between economic downturns and recruitment, but rather increased retention of serving personnel in a tough job market with reduced vacancies.
He said he was concerned that the recruitment of trades professions such as engineering and specialist recruitments were undersubscribed.
“We are not yet seeing the same increases in actual enlistments and recruiting numbers in the roles and trades we particularly want to fill,” Group Captain Kimber said.
He said over 100,000 enquiries were needed to achieve the ADF’s recruiting targets and that over 40,000 applications were needed to convert successful civilians into recruits.
14 April, 2009
New ANZAC coin
takes the biscuit
The first ANZAC $1 coin to be minted under a new annual program honouring Australian servicemen and women has been produced by the Perth Mint.
Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Senator Nick Sherry said a coin would be minted annually under the program honouring Australians who had served since the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.
Senator Sherry said the reverse design included a silhouetted bugler, the words “Lest We Forget” and the date of ANZAC Day, 25 April.
“The 2009 ANZAC coin release symbolises the importance of remembering the sacrifices of Australian diggers by the generations following them with a commemorative design of a former serviceman and a young child,” he said.
“The 2009 ANZAC $1 coin produced by The Perth Mint expresses the extraordinary pride that Australians have in their Defence forces.”
Chief Executive of Perth Mint, Ed Harbuz, said each subsequent coin in the program would bear a different symbolic design, offering buyers the chance to build a collection. “With an unrestricted mintage, the new coin provides as many people as possible with the opportunity to acquire an official Australian numismatic tribute,” Mr Harbuz said.
He said the first release was housed in an illustrated presentation card featuring a fold-out stand for upright display.
The illustration depicts a young Australian proudly wearing the medals of a relative who served.
The coin was available from The Perth Mint Shop or online at www.perthmint.com.au
14 April, 2009
in pension planners
Pensioners have been urged to advise Centrelink of their intentions for drawing down on their superannuation accounts.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig called on the part-pensioners to let Centrelink know if they planned to take advantage of recent changes to the rules that reduced the amounts they were required to access.
“Centrelink has sent letters to around 150,000 retirees who can benefit from the Australian Government's halving of the amount they're required to withdraw from their superannuation," Senator Ludwig said.
“The letters remind customers they need to inform Centrelink within 14 days, if they decide to choose to reduce the amount they draw down from their allocated or market linked income streams.”
Under the Government's broader superannuation rules, retirees have to draw down a minimum amount from their funds, with the amount dependent on their age.
Senator Ludwig said the new measures were in response to retirees' concerns about the security of their Age Pension payments.
“The Government's draw-down change is aimed at helping retirees preserve the asset value of their income streams, so they have more in super when markets improve,” he said.
Senator Ludwig said customers would need to provide Centrelink with an Income Stream Schedule as proof of the change.
“This will help Centrelink reassess pensioners' entitlements to ensure they are getting the rate of payment they're entitled to,” he said.
The minimum draw down for the current financial year was based on account balances from 1 July 2008, but reductions in the value of superannuation accounts have occurred since then.
“The change is in effect until 30 June 2009 and provides part-pensioners with much-needed relief from the impact of the global economic recession,” Senator Ludwig said.
Pensioners wanting more information about the change and how it could affect them should contact Centrelink's Financial Information Service on 13 23 00.
14 April, 2009
Defence site sale
is landmark deal
A former Defence site in the Melbourne suburb of Maribyrnong is to be sold as a housing estate.
The Federal Government will sell the site to the Victorian Government in a move expected to support jobs and provide more housing in the region.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the sale would take place under the Government’s new Commonwealth Property Disposals Policy (CPDP).
Mr Tanner said the policy facilitated the release of surplus Commonwealth land to increase housing supply, improve community amenity and create jobs.
“The sale of this parcel of land to the Victorian Government will do exactly that; supporting up to 4,500 construction jobs during the site’s development and providing more than 3,000 new homes in the area,” he said.
“Importantly, a minimum 20 per cent of these dwellings will be affordable housing.”
Federal Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek said the site would be developed by the Victorian Government’s sustainable development agency, VicUrban.
“Working with the Victorian State Government under the CPDP, we will see more affordable houses being built,” Ms Plibersek said.
Member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten, said the decision would provide the local community with access to land that had been closed to the public for over 100 years.
“Ongoing consultation with the local community is taking place to ensure the development will be balanced, sustainable and will meet the needs of the people in the area,” Mr Shorten said.
“Along with new residential and commercial development that will occur in the area, the site will be cleaned up and include significant areas of public open space and a variety of community facilities.”
In preparation for the handover, environmental remediation and heritage works will be undertaken at the site to ensure it meets Victorian environmental standards before VicUrban step in.
14 April, 2009
Austrade in website upgrade
Austrade is upgrading its website to include multimedia training, information and social media content for Australian exporters and overseas investors and buyers.
According to the web manager, Emma Palmer, the upgraded site would include links to Facebook and Twitter with visitors able to search for video and audio content.
Ms Palmer said flexibility was a major aspect of the new site which was expected to be operational next month.
Military compo reviewed
The Federal Government is commencing its promised review of military compensation arrangements and has called for public submissions.
The review will make recommendations about legislative and administrative changes that may be needed, as well as compensation available for members of the Australian Federal Police who have been deployed overseas.
The terms of reference have been released, and submissions close 30 June 2009.
Further information was available from www.dva.gov.au
Courts consider costs
The High Court, Federal Court, Family Court and Federal Magistrates Court have established a Joint Costs Advisory Committee (JCAC) to inquire into and make recommendations on any variations in the quantum of costs allowable to legal practitioners, and which should be contained in the scales of costs in court rules.
The scales are used to determine the amount payable where one party must pay the legal costs of another party.
Interested persons are invited to submit their views to Philip.Kellow@fedcourt.gov.au
AFP defends airport action
The Australian Federal Police has denied media reports that it failed to respond to a disturbance at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport International Terminal on 31 March 2009 in a timely or adequate manner.
The AFP said it responded to a notification from airport authorities and was at the scene of the incident within two minutes.
The AFP said there was no aviation security breach at any time, but that members were later advised of an allegation that Customs Officers had been the victims of a common assault with no injuries sustained.
An investigation is current.
Splendid artists chosen
Ten young and emerging artists will be chosen to undertake a three-week Arts Lab residency as part of SPLENDID – a collaboration with Lismore Regional Gallery in NSW, the Australian Council for the Arts and the Splendour in the Grass music festival.
The concepts workshopped during the residency will be further developed over a six month period and several will be commissioned to premiere at Splendour in the Grass 2010. Applications close 4 May 2009, with further information available from www.splendid.org.au
Schools join climate challenge
School students will be given the chance to win prizes for sharing their thoughts on what climate change means to them.
The Department of Climate Change's Think Climate, Think Change competition is open to students in years 3 to 9.
The competition opens on 28 April 2009 and closes 24 June 2009.
Find out more at www.climatechange.gov.au
Treaty meeting hosted
The Australian Government is to host the 2012 Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting.
The meeting will be the 35th of the ATCM and the third time the Treaty Parties will assemble in Australia.
Representatives of the Parties to the Antarctic Treaty meet to consider issues including environmental protection, Antarctic science, the management of tourism, the safety of shipping, and practical cooperation.
The announcement was made at a dinner celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty in Washington.
Disability Awards open
Nominations are now open for the National Disability Awards.
This year the scope of the Award categories has been broadened to recognise the diverse nature of contributions made by, and for, people with disabilities in areas such as business and employment.
Anyone can make a nomination for each category of the Minister's Lifelong Achievement Award, Disability Rights Young Leader Award, Business Award, Local Government Award, and Social Inclusion Award.
Nominations close 22 May, with more information available by visiting www.idpwd.com.au or phoning 1800 440 385.
Cigarettes to be lower risk
All cigarettes supplied in Australia will have to comply with reduced fire risk requirements by 23 September 2010, after the Government announced it would reduce the transition period to move to the new cigarettes from 12 to six months.
Consumer Affairs Minister, Chris Bowen, and Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, said the reduced fire risk (RFR) cigarettes have been designed to self-extinguish more readily if not consumed and are expected to reduce the incidence of fires caused by smouldering cigarettes.
The change was recommended by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Leslie takes tax award
The Graham Hill Award has been awarded to AGS’s Sydney-based Special Counsel Tax Litigation, Catherine Leslie, for her excellence in taxation law.
Ms Leslie is the longest-serving member of AGS’s tax practice, having joined the group in the early 1980s.
She was presented the award by Justice Edmonds of the Federal Court in Sydney.
Commissioner for ATSB
A new Chief Commissioner is to be appointed to the Australian Transport Safety Bureau as well as two part-time Commissioners.
The new Chief Commissioner will also be Chief Executive Officer of the ATSB and will hold the position for five years.
The part-time Commissioners will be appointed for three years.
Applications for the Chief Commissioner’s post have been called.
7 April, 2009
Union gets numbers from member survey
A survey among members of the Community and Public Sector Union has revealed a growing level of job insecurity among employees of the Australian Public Service.
Questioning its members about budget cuts, jobs and service delivery, the CPSU reported that of the 2,800 respondents who took part in the survey, almost half (48%) said they felt less secure in their jobs.
It said 88 per cent reported increased workloads and 58 per cent said their Agency was cutting jobs.
On the other hand, 56 per cent said the Agency was cutting services with 55 per cent saying the cuts were inconveniencing the public.
National Secretary of the union, Stephen Jones said the ongoing across-the-board increase in the efficiency dividend to 3.25 per cent was the root cause of the cuts and uncertainty.
“Around the world, Governments recognise the crucial role of the public sector in stimulating demand and helping economic recovery,” Mr Jones said.
“However, by continuing to impose an arbitrary 3.25% cut across all Agency budgets, the Commonwealth is adding its name to the list of big employers shedding jobs and hampering recovery.”
Mr Jones foreshadowed a busy program of lobbying Government MPs to protect PS jobs in the lead-up to the Federal Budget.
“"We still have five weeks before the Budget," Mr Jones said.
"So across Australia, we're going to speak directly to MPs to reinforce how important public jobs are to local communities and economies.”
He said the CPSU message would be simple: “An economic downturn is no time to cut jobs or weaken essential services."
Mr Jones said about two-thirds of the APS were stationed outside Canberra, and one-third outside metropolitan areas.
“We'll be looking to MPs to add their voice to ours in defending local jobs and essential services from these on-going cuts."
The CPSU survey figures showed that those staff most uncertain about their jobs (50%) were in Western Australia while the least concerned (39%) were in South Australia.
7 April, 2009
New employment scheme
puts job plan to work
A new, comprehensive employment service that draws seven separate employment programs into one has been unveiled by the Minister for Employment Participation, Brendan O'Connor.
Mr O’Connor announced the tender results for the new $4 billion scheme saying it would commence operations on1 July and allow a 12-month transition period for job seekers to move across.
Mr O’Connor said the new service, entitled Job Services Australia: People, Skills and Jobs had been designed as a “one-stop-shop,” offering job seekers a more personalised service.
He said an independent competitive tender was conducted by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to allocate 116 service contracts among 141 providers and at least 48 sub-contractors. He said 93 per cent of the services would continue to be provided by existing contractors.
Mr O’Connor said the contracts were determined following an extensive consultation period with the Department’s procedures signed off by an external probity advisor.
“There will be more than 2,000 Job Service Australia sites across the nation,” Mr O’Connor said, “an increase from 1,800 sites under the current system.”
“The old system, Job Network, was confusing, fragmented and laden with red tape.”
He said an important feature of the new program was its close relationship with the Productivity Places Program which set aside large numbers of training places for job seekers and recently retrenched workers.
“During these difficult economic times it is critical that job seekers remain connected to the labour market and access training so we enhance the nation's skills base for when our economy recovers,” Mr O’Connor said.
Included among the new arrangements were the contracting of 27 Indigenous organisations to provide employment programs and new specialist services being contracted to help job seekers with special needs, including young people, the homeless, those with a mental illness and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
He said from now on, job seekers would receive an individual Employment Pathway Plan that would include literacy and numeracy programs, work experience, help with resumes, trade equipment and training.
7 April, 2009
Defence pay audit can be banked on
The Department of Defence has released an Independent Auditor’s report into payroll problems that affected the Army’s Special Forces.
The audit was conducted by accounting company KPMG and followed reports that a Ministerial directive to cease debt recovery following salary overpayments had not been adhered to.
The audit found that negative impacts on Special Forces personnel had been addressed since the problems were discovered but that “remedial action (was) having its effects on the pay of individual SF members.”
The audit found that although three personnel had received payslips stating a total of zero dollars, all personnel had received pay.
“In fact all Special Forces members received monies related to their existing deduction arrangements as well as ‘advances’ to cover any calculated short fall in ‘other adjustments’,” the audit said.
On 22 October 2008, the Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon, directed that all debt recovery action cease, however 11 members continued to have their pay docked.
According to the audit, Defence attempted to stop the debt recovery action but the complexity of the problem meant it would take some time for a complete remediation of the system.
It said a number of factors contributed to the problem, including the lack of alignment between skill grades and old remuneration levels; lack of administrative control; ambiguity surrounding pay grades and the fact that the Department did not seek a requirement in a Determination from the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal that no person should be adversely impacted by the original pay decision.
The audit said that as at 5 March 2009, no recoveries of debt from Special Forces personnel were underway.
The audit made five recommendations, all of which were supported by Defence.
It recommended reforms be made to the remuneration determination process; found there was a need to simplify pay and allowance structures; and that Defence’s computer systems needed updating.
“Simplification of the allowance structures and pay systems can be achieved over a period of 3-5 years along with information technology systems reform and simplified administration,” the audit report said.
It recommended the initiation of a Controls Framework project to ensure accountability and that implementation issues were communicated, reported and overseen at a single point.
Secretary of Defence, Nick Warner, said he and the Chief of Defence Force, Air ChiefMarshal Houston would work together to implement the audit recommendations.
“We see these recommendations as complementing the Minister’s broader reform program, which the Chief of Defence Force and I have been working so hard to help to develop and secure,” Mr Warner said.
The audit said it had “no reason to doubt” the timeframe for addressing the pay issues would be achieved.
The Independent Audit into Special Forces Pay was available from www.defence.gov.au
7 April, 2009
Advertising report is on a good thing
The first report on Campaign Advertising by Australian Government Departments and Agencies has been released by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
It was the first of what will become a biannual report.
The report provided information on campaign advertising expenditures during the period 1 July to 31 December 2008 for departments and agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.
It covered campaigns where advertising expenditure exceeded $250,000 during the reporting period and included summaries of the campaigns along with historical advertising expenditure.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, welcomed the report saying it showed the Government had cut campaign advertising by close to two-thirds from that of the previous government in 2007.
“According to the Auditor-General’s recent report on the administration of advertising contracts between July 1995 and November 2007 more than $1.8 billion was spent on Government advertising, and nearly half of those outlays occurred in the last four years,” Mr Tanner said.
“In 2007, Government Departments and Agencies spent $254 million on campaign advertising.
He said in 2008, under the current Government, that expenditure was reduced to $86.6 million.
“That is a saving of close to $170 million,” he said.
Mr Tanner said the new biannual report was part of the Government’s new advertising framework which included the Central Advertising System – which consolidates government advertising expenditure, securing optimal media discounts; and the Communications Multi-Use List, which has resulted in the details of advertising and communications suppliers eligible to tender for Australian Government campaign work being made public for the first time.
The full report from Finance could be viewed at www.finance.gov.au
7 April, 2009
Royal Commissions attract big wigs
The Australian Law Reform Commission has released an Issues Paper and a call for public comment on questions that have arisen in its review of Royal Commissions for the Attorney-General.
The ALRC has been charged with examining the Royal Commissions Act 1902 with a view to advising the Government on whether less formal alternatives to Royal Commissions could be appropriate in some cases.
President of the ALRC, Professor David Weisbrot, said while Royal Commissions looked at issues of great public importance, they were usually extremely expensive.
Professor Weisbrot said they played an important role in ensuring systematic failure was addressed, particularly when controversial issues could not be handled satisfactorily by the Courts or political process.
“A key concern for the ALRC is whether an alternative model of executive inquiry might provide similar advantages and outcomes to Royal Commissions, in terms of respect, independence, protection of witnesses and so on, while offering more flexibility, less formality and greater cost effectiveness,” he said.
Professor Weisbrot said there were often expressions of disappointment when less formal means of inquiry were established, as was the case with Dr Mohamed Haneef and Cornelia Rau.
“Royal Commissions usually prove to be very expensive,” he said.
“We estimate that, in today’s dollars, the Royal Commission into the Building and Construction Industry cost taxpayers over $70M, the one into the collapse of insurer HIH cost over $47M, and the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody cost over $50M.”
The Commissioner in charge of the ALRC Inquiry, Professor Les McCrimmon, said the current Act gave Royal Commissions a range of coercive information gathering powers.
“A Royal Commission can apply for a search warrant, summon witnesses to give evidence and require the production of evidence,” Professor McCrimmon said.
“The exercise of such powers must be balanced carefully against the rights of those being investigated.”
He said the Act also contained a number of criminal offences that could be used to punish failure to comply with a Royal Commission, interfering with witnesses, or interfering with the work of a Commission.
“We will be exploring whether civil penalties may be more appropriate in some of these contexts,” Professor McCrimmon said.
The ALRC has developed an Online Discussion Forum to complement the Issues Paper.
The forum has been organised around key questions being considered in the Inquiry and could be accessed at talk.alrc.gov.au while the Issues paper was available from www.alrc.gov.au
The closing date for written submissions was 19 May 2009, with the ALRC’s final report due by 30 October 2009.
7 April, 2009
Radio review is sound policy
The radio frequency spectrum used by Commonwealth, State and Territory police, security and public safety services is to be standardised.
The move has been welcomed by the Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, and is one of a number of initiatives outlined in an Australian Communications and Media Authority discussion paper released recently.
"ACMA's review of the 400MHz spectrum band presents a nation-building opportunity to improve emergency services and law enforcement intercommunications," Senator Conroy said.
"I urge all relevant agencies and the State and Territory Governments to focus on ACMA's proposals and use the submissions process to identify and explore all relevant issues, and work towards increased interoperability."
He said the Federal Government's Digital Regions Initiative will fund education, health and emergency services projects in partnership with State, Territory and Local Governments. In the area of emergency services it will support projects that use digital technologies to improve emergency and disaster response both within and across State and Territory borders.
Senator Conroy said applications for the Digital Regions Initiative will be called no later than September 2009.
"The harmonisation of police, ambulance and emergency services radio communications across State borders has been a long-standing goal," Senator Conroy said.
"The review of the spectrum infrastructure required to do this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity."
ACMA's discussion paper, Spectrum Proposals: 403-520 MHz - Proposals for future arrangements in the 400 MHz band, is available from: www.acma.gov.au
7 April, 2009
Super fund changes to account for time
The reporting requirements of superannuation funds are to be changed to demand that they report long-term returns prominently in member statements.
The Minister for Superannuation, Senator Nick Sherry, announced the new rules which have been introduced to reinforce the fact that superannuation is intended as a long-term investment.
Senator Sherry said the changes would require the Funds to disclose five and 10 year returns in the periodic statements they issue to members.
"It is important that super fund members appreciate that super is a long-term investment," Senator Sherry said.
"The past year has been a difficult one for super fund members due to the impact of the global financial crisis on returns, however, if fund members focus only on short-term returns, they risk switching investment options or funds to their long-term detriment."
He said clear information about medium-to-long-term returns could help fund members appreciate superannuation.
Senator Sherry said the changes had been subjected to consultation with the superannuation industry and the changes would require that the long-term return also be disclosed at the investment option or sub-plan level and be “highlighted, positioned and presented” in a manner that would attract the member's attention.
“For the upcoming reporting season 2008/09, only the five-year return would be required to be disclosed,” Senator Sherry said, “and disclosure could be made either on the periodic statement or in a separate insert which would be sent to members together with the periodic statement.”
He said the disclosure would also assist the superannuation funds communicate their performance better over the long-term cycle, including the rises, falls and flat periods.
“In line with the Government's aim of increasing efficiencies and reducing costs for members, super funds will also be able to use a website as the default method of delivering their annual report,” Senator Sherry said.
“In addition, where a member has electronic access to personal fund information and has given permission, the fund will no longer be required to provide a written or an electronic member statement,” he said.
7 April, 2009
Energy savings mean power to ACIAR
The staff of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, ACIAR, have cut electricity consumption in their Canberra office by more than 25 per cent and installed a 48-panel solar power array to save energy.
Their efforts have been recognised by the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, who made a personal visit to congratulate ACIAR personnel on their achievement.
“This is the third largest operating solar facility in the ACT,” Mr McMullan said. “Together with their energy savings, ACIAR is making a significant contribution to reducing its carbon footprint.”
Her said to achieve their savings the staff of ACIAR had committed to turning lights off when not needed, using fewer and more efficient lights and paying attention to the settings on their office air-conditioning system.
As part of its ongoing computer system upgrades, the Centre also installed much more energy-efficient computer hardware, while the solar facility was supplying about 7 per cent of ACIAR's electricity requirements.
Mr McMullan commended the Centre's staff for their efforts and thanked the building owners of ACIAR House for underwriting half the solar costs. He also acknowledged that ACIAR had cut water consumption by two thirds over the past three years through the use of tank water.
“Without change, our food production systems will be further damaged, challenging our longer term capacity to produce enough food to feed the world’s population, which is predicted to number more than 8.5 billion people by 2050,” Mr McMullan said.
“Nearly all the studies on the global carbon balance point to higher atmospheric and oceanic CO2 levels from the burning of fossil fuels.
“We have a long way to go to stabilise CO2 concentrations but we have to start,” Mr McMullan said.
7 April, 2009
Telecoms watchdog bites off more power
A lack of consumer confidence in Australia’s telecommunications service providers has prompted the Government to strengthen the powers of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
In a bid to improve consumer protection in the sector, the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy announced the reforms saying the Government wanted to see consumers in the telecommunications market getting the service and conditions they expected.
"The protracted development of the Mobile Premium Services consumer code has highlighted clear deficiencies with the co-regulatory framework," Senator Conroy said.
"If co-regulation is to remain viable, industry must ensure that the code processes are more responsive to consumer needs.”
Senator Conroy announced an examination of the consumer code development process and the implementation of new code enforcement powers for the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
He released an issues paper on the key matters to be considered by the review of the code development processes. He also announced plans to amend the Telecommunications Act 1997 to allow ACMA to issue infringement notices.
"Improving the code development process is only one piece of the puzzle and effective consumer protection should be supported by an increased emphasis on enforcement," he said.
"We need to provide the Australian Communications and Media Authority with faster, more effective incentives to encourage compliance with codes and regulations."
7 April, 2009
Archives offers gold to mine its treasures
The National Archives of Australia is offering research grants to people who want to delve into its collected secrets and produce innovative research projects.
Grants worth a total of $40,000 are available to researchers, scholars and archivists' projects using the more than 50 million records the Archives holds that cover Australian Government activities since Federation and significant 19th-century records transferred from the colonies to the Commonwealth.
Former award-holders have explored topics as diverse as censorship, volunteering, copyright reform, foreign policy and Australian prisoners of war.
The three grants on offer are the Margaret George Award for talented, emerging scholars – up to $10,000, the Frederick Watson Fellowship for established scholars – up to $15,000, and the Ian Maclean Award for archivists and other professionals interested in archival issues – up to $15,000.
Applications close on Friday 26 June 2009, and the grants will be awarded in September.
The research work can be undertaken at any one of the National Archives’ offices, in any Australian capital city, and the grants may be awarded on a full-time or part-time basis. More information is available from the Archives website www.naa.gov.au and applications can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to: Grants and Awards, National Archives of Australia, PO Box 7425, Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610.
7 April, 2009
Stops pulled out for organ donations
The Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority has used the example of recently-killed actress Natasha Richardson to further the call for organ donations.
Chief Executive of the Authority, Karen Murphy said the decision by Ms Richardson’s family to donate her organs demonstrated the importance of families knowing their relatives’ wishes.
“Their reasoning was that donating was ‘very Natasha’ and so they opted to help a seriously unwell person have a better chance at life,” Ms Murphy said.
“It’s the reason why it is vital for your family to know and understand your attitude towards organ and tissue donation. It is a subject which can be difficult for many people to discuss but it is critical to more Australians receiving life-saving transplants.”
Ms Murphy said there were more than 5.5 million people listed as intending donors with the Australian Organ Donation Register, a number that had grown by a million since 2002.
She said however that on 1 January this year there were 1,716 children, women and men on the official transplant waiting list and that during 2008 only one third of the demand for organs was able to be met from 259 deceased donors.
“Like many families, Ms Richardson's made the life-giving decision at a highly emotional and stressful time,” Ms Murphy said.
“It reinforces the need for all Australians to talk with their partners and families about organ and tissue donation and make clear their intention to donate.”
She said organ and tissue donation was a national conversation every Australian family needed to have.
7 April, 2009
Vegetable patch to be
sauce of great pride
A long-lost national icon is to be restored at Australia’s No. 1 private address with the help of local ABC personnel and the blessing of the Prime Minister and his wife.
The vegetable patch at the Prime Minister’s Lodge in Canberra is to be replanted.
Celebrity gardener Peter Cundall said he told Prime Minister Kevin Rudd his roses were a “disgrace”.
“Where are your tomatoes and your carrots and your potatoes?” Mr Cundall asked the PM and his wife. “Where’s your veggie patch?”
According to Mr Cundall, they said “immediately” that they would love one.
Mr Cundall said that if the PM decided in favour of the veggie patch, he would personally lend a hand and a spade to the project.
Vegetable grower in the Canberra region, Mike Plane said the Prime Minister and his family would make wonderful gardening role models.
“I think it would set a wonderful example,” Mr Plane said, “to all Australians that growing some of their own food is a healthy, nutritious, tasty choice which really impacts on a lot of things.”
He said it impacted on climate change, fuel and fuel use.
“It impacts on recycling atmospheric carbon…and it also particularly impacts on good water use,” he said.
Afternoon show presenter on the ABC radio in Canberra, Genevieve Jacobs said there were already thriving vegetable gardens at both the British High Commission and Embassy of the United States and the gardeners at each would keenly support one at the Lodge.
Ms Jacobs invited her listeners to suggest plants for the proposed Prime Ministerial vegetable patch.
7 April, 2009
Migration Authority cleared to sail
A new Office of Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) is expected to reduce the amount of migration fraud.
The Commonwealh Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said the Authority would begin operating on 1 July, taking over the self-regulatory functions which have been operated by the Migration Institute of Australia (MIA) since 1998.
“Illegal activity by migration agents attacks the heart of Australia's visa programs and will not be tolerated,” Senator Evans said.
His comments followed a joint agency raid on a migration agency in Melbourne which uncovered an alleged racket involving agents supplying false documents for student visa holders.
Officers from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Australian Federal Police and other agencies raided a migration agency in Melbourne where three agents were allegedly providing fake documentation to support permanent residency applications for foreign students.
“It is alleged that the agents were involved in falsifying documentation to support permanent skilled migration applications of their student visa holder clients,” Senator Evans said.
“The students had applied for permanent visas based on their claimed skills in a range of occupations including cooking, hairdressing, horticultural work and car mechanics.”
Investigations are continuing into possible offences relating to forgery and fraud under the Migration Act and the Commonwealth Criminal Code which carry penalties of up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
The new MARA will be supported by an advisory board, which will include a nominee from the MIA, a nominee from the Law Council of Australia, a consumer representative and a community representative.
7 April, 2009
is passport to region
A document examination workshop held in the Philippines last week was a ‘wide-reaching’ example of regional cooperation according to staff of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship who co-chaired the event.
The workshop, Document Examination at the Border, was attended by about 57 participants from 26 countries and was part of the Bali Process steering group’s program of ongoing regional cooperation.
According to an official DIAC spokesman, regional cooperation was essential to the effective detection of identity fraud and combating people smuggling and trafficking.
“This workshop serves as a perfect demonstration of that regional cooperation,” the spokesman said.
He said the workshop was led by expert document examiners from Australia, Philippines and Singapore and all participants were invited to share their experiences and develop networks for future cooperation.
He said the aim of the workshop was to improve understanding of the different levels of document examination capability that are required within the immigration environment and the different levels of training that are required to develop and maintain that capability.
"A range of topics will be discussed including document examination capacity and the management of laboratories, training and information distribution," the spokesman said.
“This workshop serves the purpose of meeting Bali Process objectives and furthering Australia's good relations with regional partners.”
DIAC reported that more than 120 people arrived at Australian airports with forged or fraudulent documents in 2007-08 and a further 143 improperly documented passengers attempting to travel to Australia were detected by Australian immigration officers at international airports overseas.
7 April, 2009
Two staff members of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in Canberra have won the Australian final of the Global Management Challenge and will now represent Australia in the world final in Portugal this month.
Sam Underdown and Oner Aktas, who are each studying for their Masters in Business Administration at the Australian National University, took the national crown by achieving the highest share price for an imaginary company on a simulated stock exchange.
“It’s exciting to operate a $6 million company,” Mr Underdown said. “Obviously it would have been even better if the money was real.”
Mr Aktas said he would like to explain how they ran their company ‘ANUMBA’ with such success, but that would be giving up trade secrets needed for the world final!
“What we can say is that we closely monitored our competitors, and market demand, making decisions we thought would give us the biggest profits,” Mr Aktas said.
The DIAC pair, along with a third ANU team member, beat 15 other teams to win the Australian final. The final in Portugal will be held on 22 April.
“The [ANU] course provides the flexibility to choose electives that are relevant to my work in DIAC e-business projects,” Mr Underdown said. “I aim to apply the management skills and knowledge I am gaining directly into my daily duties.”
Mr Atkas said his work in IT infrastructure at DIAC had benefited from the ANU course.
“It's great to have the Department’s support to further our studies and to be able to combine university and workplace skills in the challenge," he said.
World-wide, some 20 000 university students from 30 countries took part in the competition.
"We're excited to represent Australia in the world final and it’s a great chance to apply our skills and experience against some of the best universities and business schools in the world," Mr Underdown said.
7 April, 2009
calls Unis to table
Universities have been invited to apply to the Federal Government for the honour of hosting Australia's first Centre of Excellence for Local Government.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the Centre would foster improvement and professionalism within Australia's third sphere of Government and was expected to showcase and encourage innovation and best practice across Local Government, improve the Local Government workforce capability to address skill shortages, assist Local Government to attract and retain skilled staff, and deliver training and development, including specialised leadership programs.
The Prime Minister said up to $8 million would be made available for the landmark project which would help share knowledge and bridge the gaps between Local Governments, training providers and research institutions.
Mr Rudd said that when the Government consulted with Local Government on the proposal it showed that a range of dispersed education and training services already existed, however significant gaps remained and there was a lack of coordination.
“I encourage universities intending to submit an application to consider partnering with other institutions, Local Government stakeholders or others with expertise,” he said.
“Applicants should build on other related and existing initiatives and propose strategies and services that are practical and affordable.”
Mr Rudd said that they would also need to show how they would work with stakeholders to deliver services nationally, including online services, as well as tailoring specific services to meet regional needs.
He said applications closed on Wednesday 22 April 2009 and a decision on the successful applicant would be made after an independent assessment process.
The application form and further information, including where to lodge applications, was available at www.infrastructure.gov.au
7 April, 2009
APSC invites Indigenous
The Australian Public Service Commission is inviting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and graduates to apply to join the APS.
The APSC says work is available in a variety of fields in the APS, from international relations through to the environment and Indigenous affairs.
It says by lodging a single application with the Commission applicants will be considered for employment opportunities in more than 40 Australian Government agencies.
Bushfires officially a disaster
The Victorian bushfires have been officially declared a disaster under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
The declaration will allow disaster relief funds to be tax deductible.
The Funds will still need to apply to the Australian Taxation Office for formal endorsement, and donations will be tax deductible for two years from 29 January 2009.
HR Institute’s new look awards
The global financial crisis has had an impact on this year's Australian Human Resources Institute's Australian HR and People Management Awards.
The 2009 awards will look at the role played in the present financial climate by responsible business practices and will be judged by role models in their fields with awards named after them.
The 209 awards will include the Lynda Gratton Award for CEO of the Year - Lynda Grattan is professor of management at the London Business School - and The Dave Ulrich Award for HR Leader of the Year, named after the professor of business at the University of Michigan.
The 2009 national AHRI award winners will be announced at a gala dinner presentation on November 11 in Melbourne.
Australia's airports are to be safer following the appointment of 22 aviation rescue fire fighters.
The new recruits, who graduated from the Airservices Learning Academy in Melbourne last week join a fire fighting service of over 700.
According to Airservices Australia, aviation fire fighters are called out around 150 times a week across Australia’s 20 busiest regional, domestic and international airports and have saved more than 20 lives in past two years.
Galaxy map led by Australian
An Australian astronomer was lead scientist in an international group which has just completed the most detailed survey of galaxies in the nearby universe.
The survey was carried out with the UK Schmidt Telescope, operated by Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales.
Dr Heath Jones of the Anglo-Australian Observatory led the team that presented its results to an international meeting in Malaysia.
Comment call on super guide
The Australian public is being asked to comment on discussion paper and Prudential Practice Guide for managing conflicts of interests in superannuation.
Issued by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, the documents were prepared following consultation with Government Agencies and the superannuation industry and would now be distributed for wider consultation.
APRA invites interested parties to comment on the draft guide by 30 April 2009.
The guide is available on the APRA website at www.apra.gov.au
Money laundering conference
A major international conference to advance the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing was held last week in Sydney.
The two-day conference examined global trends in money laundering, Australia's regulatory regime, anti-money laundering offences and proceeds of crime legislation, as well as the anticipated impacts of the global financial crisis.
The Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Conference 2009 was co-hosted by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), the Attorney-General's Department, the Australian Bankers' Association and the Australian Institute of Criminology.
DSTO scientist honoured
Defence corrosion expert, Dr Bruce Hinton has been awarded the 2009 Frank Newman Speller Award, from the US-based organisation NACE International.
Dr Hinton, from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), was recognised for his “sustained and insightful application of science and engineering to the solution and prevention of corrosion on Australian Defence Force aircraft”.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said a program to proactively manage corrosion in Australia’s Black Hawk fleet in the 1990s was one of Dr Hinton’s most significant contributions to Defence.
Serco in detention deal
Serco Australia has been selected as the preferred tenderer to provide services at immigration detention centres around Australia.
The five-year contract covers the provision of detention services at immigration detention centres (IDCs) and a range of transport and escort services to people in detention.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship intends signing the service contract by 30 June 2009.
Water report released
The National Performance Report on Urban Water Utilities has been released showing that Australia’s urban water utilities and rural water providers are securing water needs for the future.
Parliamentary Secretary for Water, Mike Kelly said the industry was also improving its performance in areas such as health, customer service, asset management, environment, finance and pricing.