SearchArchives for April 2011
26 April, 2011
Minister fires up
The Special Minister of State for the Public Service, Gary Gray has issued a new Redeployment Policy for the Australian Public Service.
Announcing an “enhanced approach to strategically managing APS staffing levels” Mr Gray said the new policy would make the most of the skills and abilities of APS employees to meet the current and future needs of the nation.
“In an environment where the Government must deliver a tough budget, it is vital that the APS retains employees with the right skills and experience to deliver on the Government’s agenda,” Mr Gray said.
“I am committed to ensuring that individual employees have as many opportunities as possible for continued employment.”
He said the APS had traditionally been committed to strategically managing staffing levels through long-standing redeployment practices, and redeployment principles had been in place since 2008.
He said effective redeployment was beneficial for APS employees and good workforce management helped build public sector skills and made for an agile and effective workforce.
Mr Gray said the Government was strengthening and updating the APS redeployment arrangements.
“To give effect to this I am releasing a new APS Redeployment Policy, which will build on and enhance existing APS practice,” he said.
He said the key principles of the policy included requiring agencies with excess employees to consider placing them in vacancies before undertaking external advertising; requiring agencies to explore redeployment options for excess employees both internally and across the wider APS; and expecting agencies recruiting employees to consider those seeking redeployment opportunities from other agencies first.
He said other principles included requiring agency downsizing processes to be clear and transparent and include strong communication and consultation with employees and their representatives; requiring agencies to make every effort to continue the training and skills development of retained staff; to ensure that downsizing did not unreasonably reduce the diversity of the workplace; that voluntary redundancy packages could be offered with a view to retaining highly valued employees; and that agencies avoid compulsory retrenchments.
Mr Gray said the Australian Public Service Commission would establish an on-line register for excess employees seeking redeployment.
He said the Government expected APS Agency Heads to manage the arrangements in the context of their own agency workforce plans as well as applicable legislation and agency enterprise agreements.
26 April, 2011
Commission fills gaps
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has issued details of the process to be employed by agencies in support of the principles set out in the new APS Redeployment Policy.
in new policy
The Commission has set out the arrangements to apply across the APS to give effect to the Principles, saying the new policy strengthened redeployment arrangements in the APS and would assist agencies manage staff reductions.
“In relation to excess staffing situations, agency heads need to comply with the Public Service Act and subordinate legislation as well as requirements in enterprise agreements,” the APSC said.
“The APSC will establish a central register for excess employees seeking redeployment.”
It said agencies with employees declared excess, or who had been formally notified that they might be declared excess, would register the employees’ interest in redeployment, by submitting their résumé to a central electronic database.
Agencies with vacancies would then consult the register prior to advertising to assess whether an excess employee might be suitable.
The APSC is to develop guidelines on assessing excess employees registered for redeployment to facilitate an efficient and timely process.
According to the Commission, where an employee is assessed as suitable, he or she could be transferred (at level) by the agency without assessing other candidates.
The new policy says that an agency head, with the agreement of another agency head and the employee, could move the employee to their agency as part of an arrangement to address job reductions.
The APSC is to provide a clearing-house facility for employees to register their interest in job exchange opportunities, subject to support by their agency head.
It says a job exchange might be agreed to by agency heads where another APS employee at the appropriate classification level was willing to accept a VR package.
The APSC said either agency head could decline a job exchange having regard to: the skills, attributes or performance of the employees involved and alignment to their workforce plan; and whether it was affordable.
The APSC said where the gaining agency head was satisfied that an excess employee could effectively perform a vacant job following a short re-training period, the losing agency might approve reasonable funding to the gaining agency for the adjustment period.
The full Redeployment Policy is available at this PS News link.
26 April, 2011
The Minister for Finance and Deregulation has announced that the efficiency dividend is to be increased for the next two years.
to pay dividends
The Minister, Senator Penny Wong, said the controversial measure would go up from 1.25 per cent to 1.5 per cent in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and then return to 1.25 per cent for 2013-14 and 2014-15.
The increase has been criticised by the Community and Public Sector Union.
Senator Wong said the increase would deliver additional savings of $465 million in the 2011-12 Budget, which will help provide an overall saving through the efficiency dividend of $1.1 billion over the forward estimates.
“These savings will help bring the budget back to surplus in 2012-13, and show the Government is determined to lead the way by tightening its own belt first,” Senator Wong said.
“Failing to make tough decisions now means we will have to make much tougher decisions in the future.”
She said increasing the efficiency dividend would ensure the Government continued to carry out its core business more efficiently, which would deliver greater value for money for taxpayers.
“It is the Government’s strong expectation that agencies will be able to meet the temporary increase in the efficiency dividend without resorting to forced or compulsory redundancies.”
National secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said the across-the-board cut to the Public Service would hit essential services relied on by thousands of Australians.
She said the move threatened jobs and would result in cuts to services in a public sector that was already stretched to the limit.
Ms Flood said at the last election the Government promised that it would not increase the efficiency dividend beyond 1.25 per cent.
“This broken promise is a huge disappointment for public sector workers who are already being asked to do more with less,” she said.
26 April, 2011
An audit of the process in which Chief Executives certify that their Agencies complied with the law and Regulations has found more than 17,000 instances of non-compliance in 2009-10.
The certification process only applies to Agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA Act) and the Financial Management and Accountability Regulations.
In his report Management of the Certificate of Compliance Process for FMA Act Agencies, Auditor-General Ian McPhee found 86 of the 103 Agencies reported non-compliance, a 13.7 per cent increase on the previous year.
“While remaining significant, the level of reported non compliance is low when compared to the substantial number of government financial activities which occur each year,” the Auditor-General said.
He said the Certificate process required the Chief Executive of an FMA Act agency to certify the agency’s compliance during the previous financial year with the FMA Act and Regulations.
He said since the inception of the Certificate, non compliance had been concentrated in three key areas: the commitment of public money; the use of drawing rights; and banking and investment by agencies.
He said overall, the Certificate process had been effective.
Mr McPhee said the requirement that Chief Executives sign-off on compliance and report identified instances of non-compliance had heightened the focus of agencies on compliance.
He said the process had resulted in the development of agency arrangements for assessing compliance; improvements in officials’ understanding of financial management requirements; and strengthening of agencies’ financial management procedures in support of compliance.
Mr McPhee said the main area for improvement was the need for more targeted quality assurance activity by agencies in regard to compliance.
He offered suggestions for better practice which included:
* promoting a better understanding of the requirements of the financial management framework, how they are implemented by the agency, and the associated compliance risks;
* using a risk-based approach to collecting the compliance information which will form the basis of Certificate results;
* quality assuring compliance information;
* integrating internal audit work and the Certificate process;
* supporting audit committee oversight;
* effective remediation and education practices; and
* periodically reviewing the effectiveness and efficiencies of the approach employed to avoid excessive resources being devoted to the assurance provided by the process.
The audit team was Hayley Tonkin, Jess Scully and Stuart Turnbull and the full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
26 April, 2011
A report into efficiency measures that may be adopted to improve the performance of the Australian Public Service has been completed by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
gets job done
Entitled Report of the Review of the Measures of Agency Efficiency, the 87-page report concludes that a portfolio-based efficiency dividend was the most appropriate measure for promoting efficiency across the APS, but that it be accompanied by other policies and strategies.
The review consulted widely across the APS, conducting 40 face-to-face discussions, holding teleconferences and distributing a questionnaire to more than 160 government bodies.
“The review did not gain the impression that the Australian Government was inefficient,” the report says.
“Australian Government departmental expenditures as a percentage of GDP have remained fairly constant.”
It noted that the pursuit of efficiency was an ongoing concern in the APS but achieving it was not a static goal.
“Pockets of inefficiency will continue,” it says. “Some new ones will develop.”
The review examined the strengths and weaknesses of the efficiency dividend system and explored alternatives but accepted there were few viable options that would deliver similar levels of budgetary savings.
“Most agencies the review consulted could identify the problem but, importantly, could not suggest an alternative,” it says.
“The Efficiency Dividend is simple, effective and predictable. But that is not to say that it has no shortcomings.”
The review recommended continuing work to develop and assess alternative ways of promoting efficiency in the APS.
It recommended that a “deliberate strategy” be put in place to manage costs across government and that the Department of Finance and Deregulation develop and promote a continuing efficiency agenda for the PS.
It called on Departments and Agencies to share their information and best practices more and for common functions to be benchmarked.
It said the number of Agencies should be rationalised; that principles should be established for the most sustainable structures; and that a road-map should be drawn up for standardising common processes and making greater use of shared services models across the Australian Government.
The review was guided by Stein Helgeby and David Martine at Finance and supported by a secretariat of Gareth Hall, Adrian Beekmeijer and Robert Janssens.
The full report can be accessed from Finance at this PS News link.
26 April, 2011
Defence speeds up on
The Department of Defence is to increase its internet capacity by five times under a new service contract that also provides greater security.
internet super highway
The contract is worth $52.9 million and will involve the replacement of Defence’s existing single internet gateway with parallel managed services the Department says will provide a five-fold increase in capacity.
The Department of Defence said these gateways would be housed in separate locations further strengthening the system’s reliability, eliminating the risks associated with a single gateway.
It said as Defence’s demand for internet services continued to grow, it was prudent to pursue an upgrade of its existing equipment in order to maximise its effectiveness.
It said the upgrade would improve its ability to ensure delivery of internet services (web, email and eBusiness services) to users within Defence and to external parties including other government agencies, industry partners and the general public.
This capability would also form the basis for the provision of Internet Gateway services to eight other Commonwealth agencies as part of Defence’s role as a lead agency under the Department of Finance and Deregulation’s Internet Gateway Reduction Program.
Defence said it would make savings by closing its current single internet gateway and an additional amount through the reduced power consumption and equipment decommissioning.
26 April, 2011
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has called a halt to its program of safety inspections offered to householders under its insulation safety initiatives.
The inspection program was introduced following difficulties experienced with the original Home Insulation Program (HIP) which was closed in February last year.
According to the Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet the inspections were called off following independent advice and analysis.
Mr Combet said under the Foil Insulation Safety Program (FISP) all households with foil insulation installed under the HIP were offered a safety inspection, with the option of having the foil insulation removed or, on the advice of a licensed electrician, safety switches installed.
He said under the Home Insulation Safety Program (HISP) the Government committed to inspect a minimum of 150,000 households insulated with products other than foil insulation.
Mr Combet said these inspections were targeted at installations based on a risk assessment.
He said after considering independent advice and analysis both the HISP and FISP would be concluded after committed inspections were completed.
He said under the HISP, the Government would continue to undertake targeted inspections until the commitment to inspect a minimum of 150,000 homes with non-foil insulation was reached, which is expected to be about mid 2011.
The Government will also move to finalise inspections under FISP subject to the completion of the remaining inspections.
Mr Combet said under FISP there had been a number of households with foil insulation that had either refused an inspection or not been able to be contacted.
He said the Government would continue to offer free inspections to any household that previously had not had an inspection and had concerns about insulation installed under the HIP. These inspections would be available until June 2012.
He said anyone who was yet to have a foil insulation inspection, or any householder with concerns, could contact the Safety Hotline on 13 17 92.
26 April, 2011
Ombudsman is new
The Acting Commonwealth Ombudsman has called for the wider use of interpreters by Government Agencies dealing with indigenous Australians.
voice for interpreters
Acting Ombudsman Alison Larkins said the wider use of Indigenous language interpreters would help to break down communication barriers and build stronger relationships between many Indigenous Australians, governments and service providers.
Ms Larkins said Government agencies needed to increase their awareness of the need for Indigenous language interpreters; train staff to work with interpreters; develop comprehensive policies on their use; build their engagement with interpreter services; include the costs of training interpreters into new policy initiatives; and remove the barriers to recruiting interpreters.
“Improving the use of interpreters is critical to achieving a better relationship between governments and Indigenous Australians,” Ms Larkins said.
“The implications for Indigenous people of not having access to interpreters when needed are significant and may have adverse consequences.”
She said the Ombudsman’s office had conceded that there was a shortage of Indigenous language interpreters and that it could be difficult to retain their services, but government agencies had an obligation to establish policies and provide services that met the needs of all Australians.
Ms Larkins was particularly concerned about the finding that even when interpreters were available, they often weren’t used.
“Until agencies, service providers and Indigenous Australians are able to effectively communicate with each other, many Indigenous Australians whose first language is not English, and who in many respects are already seriously disadvantaged, will be at risk of further hardship,” she said.
Ms Larkins said she was encouraged by the work being done by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs on a National Framework for the use and supply of Indigenous interpreters.
The Ombudsman’s report, ‘Talking in Language; Indigenous language interpreters and government communication’, can be accessed at this PS News link.
26 April, 2011
A new strategy for strengthening Australia’s research capability by 2020 and beyond has been launched by the Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr.
one for the books
Senator Carr said Australia must do more to inspire its best and brightest minds to undertake postdoctoral study and pursue research careers in academia, the Public Service and industry.
“The future of our manufacturing and other industries depends on our ability to innovate through research and development,” Senator Carr said.
“This is important if industry is to prosper in the low-carbon economy of the future.”
He said the strategy set out the full range of research workforce issues in Australia, including the divide between research and industry.
“It shows the Government is already providing incentives to embed researchers in business - such as the introduction of the Industrial PhDs scheme and Researchers in Business program - and more will be done to develop policies that surround industry linkages and researcher mobility,” Senator Carr said.
He said to help inform policy development in the area, funding would be provided for sector bodies to conduct projects investigating best practice approaches to research education.
Senator Carr said the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations would receive $80,000, the Australian Council of Learned Academies $80,000 and the Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies $40,000 to look at the issues in their various domains.
He said the Government would also contribute funds to the Australian Technology Network’s new Doctoral Training Centre for Industry in Mathematics, which is a pilot for a new model of PhD education, structured to turn research students into innovation leaders.
“Other key priorities include attracting more Indigenous Australians to academia and keeping more women in research careers,” Senator Carr said.
To view the strategy - Research skills for an innovative future: A research workforce strategy to cover the decade to 2020 and beyond - and find out more about the Government’s support for research, visit this PS News link.
26 April, 2011
An audit of Defence’s management of its explosive stores has found a range of weaknesses in oversight and control.
blows up at defence
In his report Management of Explosive Ordnance Held by the Air Force, Army and Navy, Auditor-General Ian McPhee says effective management of the explosives was essential if it is not to pose an unacceptable risk to the community.
“Explosive ordnance in the Defence domain, by its nature, poses potentially higher risks to public safety,” Mr McPhee said, “and to Defence’s reputation if it is mishandled or falls into the hands of those seeking to misuse it.
“(It) merits correspondingly stringent oversight and control.”
He said the main focus of the audit was Defence’s management of explosive ordnance inventory after it had left the depots and had become the responsibility of Air Force, Navy and Army units.
The Auditor-General said his audit found there was an average of around 75,000 movements of explosive ordnance annually, which was distributed to and used by ADF units, who managed more than 800 magazines and storage lockers around Australia.
He said the sum of the explosive ordnance inventory could not be centrally scrutinised in Defence unless the ADF units holding it correctly recorded it on Defence’s general inventory management system, MILIS.
However, Mr McPhee said, the audit found ADF units were not recording their explosive ordnance on MILIS and relied on a range of inconsistent systems for recording and managing their explosive ordnance.
According to the audit, the causes of the weaknesses in Defence’s oversight and control of explosive ordnance included the continuing need for ADF units to frequently process large volumes of manual explosive ordnance transactions; the lack of procedures and guidance; the lack of instruction on recording and reporting security incidents; and the lack of an effective program of monitoring and review within Defence.
Mr McPhee said his report made five recommendations aimed at improving Defence’s monitoring of explosive ordnance tracking arrangements.
The Audit team was Natalie Whiteley, Kim Murray, Michael Kozakos and Kim Bond and the full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
26 April, 2011
Australia’s National Measurement Institute has come to the rescue of a New Zealand laboratory damaged in the recent Christchurch earthquake.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said NMI was helping the company Greentide rebuild cultures of the micro-organisms it had lost.
“NMI is an international depository authority for the Budapest Treaty on the International Recognition of the Deposit of Micro-organisms for the Purposes of Patent Procedure,” Senator Carr said.
“So it had samples of the New Zealand micro-organisms in its collection in Port Melbourne.”
He said NMI was working with the company to help rebuild important microbial culture collections damaged in the earthquake after labs outside Christchurch where Greentide conducted some of its research, as well as the important collection of fungi and other microbes indigenous to New Zealand, were badly damaged.
Some of the fungi were not known to be stored anywhere else in the world.
“As one of a few depositories in the Asia Pacific region, NMI receives and stores micro-organisms for up to 30 years,” Senator Carr said.
“Luckily, Greentide had deposited samples of the cultures that were damaged in Christchurch with NMI.”
He hoped that research into New Zealand’s indigenous fungi – and pesticides – could continue with the ‘rebuilt’ collections.
“The company can be proud of its decision to lodge those samples,” Senator Carr said.
“It’s a decision that will help New Zealand farmers produce healthier crops for consumers quickly and efficiently.”
He said NMI was Australia’s peak measurement body responsible for biological, chemical, legal, physical and trade measurement.
From laboratories around Australia, it issues more than 15,000 test and measurement reports annually to more than 5,000 clients, in industries as diverse as food safety, environmental monitoring, instrument manufacture and calibration, and nanotechnology.
26 April, 2011
Water prices to
Intro: The Chair of the National Water Commission, Chloe Munro, has called for a rethink of the way water is priced in Australia.
go with the flow
Releasing four reports that examine options for water pricing and opportunities for greater competition, Ms Munro said the right approach would promote cost-effective services offering more customer choice, as well as encouraging innovation, efficient investment decisions and sustainable water use.
She said the benefits of pricing water to cover the true cost of the resource, capital assets and service delivery were recognised by all Governments under Australia’s blueprint for water reform, the National Water Initiative.
“While water bills should reflect the real costs of water supply, the Commission is well aware that significant investments in new infrastructure have meant that most Australians now face continuing price rises,” Ms Munro said.
“That’s why it is so important that governments and regulators give water service providers strong incentives to invest efficiently and deliver high-quality water services at the lowest possible cost.”
She said flexible pricing options would give customers more choice and better signal the value of our water.
“It is equally important that pricing is overseen by fully independent economic regulators,” Ms Munro said.
She said the National Water Commission’s Review of pricing reform in the Australian water sector report showed that approaches to pricing reforms had been patchy across States and Territories, and made nine recommendations on future water pricing reforms.
“The Commission commends moves by Tasmania and South Australia in undertaking institutional reform, including the establishment of independent price regulators,” Ms Munro said.
“These reforms are being supported by a range of practical measures such as the rollout of water meters in Tasmania.”
She said three additional Waterlines reports published by the Commission examined externality pricing, efficient water resource pricing, and competition in the urban water sector.
26 April, 2011
The Prime Minister has planted a tree at the fledgling National Arboretum in Canberra, pledging $20 million to the project over the next four years.
grows on trees
The Arboretum is due to open in 2013, the capital city’s centenary.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, joined ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope at the Arboretum to plant the tree grown from seeds taken from the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ in Barcaldine, Queensland, before its death after being vandalised in 2006.
Ms Gillard said it was particularly appropriate for the Commonwealth to mark the centenary of Canberra with a gift that would benefit both the people of Canberra and the Australian community as a whole.
She said it would not only become a national education, research and tourist resource but symbolised the journey of renewal for the people of Canberra as the forests replace the landscape scarred by the 2003 bushfires.
Mr Stanhope said the planting by Ms Gillard joined several trees planted by world dignitaries and Australian icons in the Arboretum’s Central Valley, including the former Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser and former Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffery.
He said the National Arboretum would join the other national institutions in Canberra.
Mr Stanhope said the Prime Minister’s planting represented the growing national importance of the Arboretum.
“The ACT Government’s vision for the Arboretum is to create a unique and lasting legacy for Canberra and the Australian community,” Mr Stanhope said.
“By its official opening in 2013 to mark the centenary of Canberra, the Arboretum will showcase 100 forests of rare and endangered species from across the globe, as well as a mosaic of permanent gardens.”
The Prime Minister encouraged all Australians to participate in the centenary celebrations in 2013.
“The celebrations will give people the opportunity to discover the many things that Canberra has to offer and to appreciate its beauty and distinctive character,” Ms Gillard said.
26 April, 2011
Forty-four projects to protect historic sites around Australia are to be supported with funding in the first year of the National Historic Sites program.
Minister for Heritage, Tony Burke said the funding would help in areas such as building restoration, management planning, landscaping and interpretive signage, which would be of great benefit to the public’s understanding of these special places.
He said projects in every state, the ACT and Norfolk Island had received funding, allowing managers of significant heritage places across the country to start on essential works.
“Heritage is about the places and events that tell the story of Australia,” Mr Burke said.
“Protecting and conserving our heritage places build our sense of community and identity, it helps inform who we are, where we have come from and our development as a nation.”
He said projects to be funded under the first round of the National Historic Sites program included: boiler restoration and drainage works at Goulburn Historic Waterworks (NSW); redevelopment and refurbishment of the Quorn Railway Station building for use as a visitor information centre at Pichi Richi Railway (SA); and the conservation and refurbishment of the former Rockhampton Supreme Court (QLD.
The Australian Academy of Science Shine Dome (ACT) will also received funding to improve lighting and install interpretive signage; as will the Chapel of the Guardian Angel (WA), for restoration of the chapel, and the New Military Barracks (Norfolk Island), for the replacement of roof tiles and repair of defective roof timbers.
In Tasmania, the heritage gardens at Brickendon Historic Gardens (TAS) will undergo a refurbishment.
Mr Burke said the National Historic Sites program would provide more than $17 million over four years for owners and managers of nationally significant historic sites to undertake vital work to preserve their properties for future generations.
Visit this PS News link for more information about the National Historic Sites program.
26 April, 2011
ACC organises report
The Australian Crime Commission (ACC) has published a detailed report on organised crime in Australia defining its motivating force as greed.
on organised crime
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor said Organised Crime in Australia provided government, industry and the public with the information they needed to better understand and respond to the threat of organised crime - now and into the future.
“Whether it’s amphetamine production, money laundering, online scams, corruption, fraud, identity crime or people smuggling – it’s all about the money for these criminal syndicates,” Mr O’Connor said.
“If there is an opportunity to make money, organised criminals will try to exploit it.”
He said the unclassified report was drawn from information gathered from the ACC’s Commonwealth, State and Territory partner agencies.
Mr O’Connor said the Commission had produced two other similar reports since 2008, but this edition was the most comprehensive profile of organised crime in Australia to date, and included the characteristics of those involved, what drives them and the activities they were involved in.
“Revealing these details for the first time is about being open with the Australian people and sharing what we’ve learned about organised crime operations in Australia,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We can all play a part in making life harder for criminals who want to suck money from the pockets of every Australian, and we can start by being well informed of the risks.”
Chief Executive of the Commission, John Lawler said it was important that Australians understood the threat of organised crime.
“If there was a ‘how to’ manual on waging war against organised crime, this report would comprise the first chapter,” Mr Lawler said.
“This is essential reading for Australian businesses and communities, so they can make informed decisions about risk and help make life difficult for organised criminals.”
Organised Crime in Australia is available at this PS News link.
26 April, 2011
Medal tribunal to
The Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal is to inquire into the recognition of acts of bravery and valour to see if any of 13 Australian servicemen deserve the highest honour, the Victoria Cross.
pin down honours
The Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney, said there had been numerous acts of gallantry and valour by Australian naval and military servicemen since World War I, and he was pleased that the independent Tribunal is to inquire into recognition for thirteen naval and military personnel.
He said the 13 servicemen were: Gunner Neale Cleary from East Geelong in Victoria; Midshipman Robert Davies from Greenwich in Sydney; Leading Cook Francis Emms from Launceston, Tasmania; Lieutenant David Hamer of Melbourne; Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick from County Durham, UK; Lieutenant Commander Robert William Rankin from Cobar, NSW; Able Seaman Dalmorton Joseph Owendale Rudd (Unknown); Ordinary Seaman Edward Sheean from Devonport, Tasmania; Leading Aircrewman Noel Ervin Shipp from Julia Creek in Queensland; Lieutenant Commander Francis Edward Smith from Lismore, NSW; Lieutenant Commander Henry Hugh Gordon Dacre Stoker (Unknown); Leading Seaman Ronald Taylor (Unknown); and Captain Hector Macdonald Laws Waller, also unknown.
“A number of people have raised the issue of a Victoria Cross for former Defence Force personnel with the Government,” Senator Feeney said.
“Through the Terms of Reference, I have directed the Tribunal to make recommendations on the eligibility of the listed naval and military members to receive the Victoria Cross, the Victoria Cross for Australia or other forms of recognition for their service.”
He said as part of the Inquiry, the Tribunal would also receive submissions from interested members of the public for other Defence Force members who might also be worthy of appropriate recognition for an act of gallantry or valour.
Senator Feeney said these submissions must be supported by appropriate documentation, not just anecdotal evidence.
He said all submissions would be recorded, acknowledged, analysed and referred to the Government for decision concerning possible future action.
The Inquiry will be headed by the Chair of the Tribunal, Emeritus Professor Dennis Pearce and submissions would close on 30 June 2011.
The full terms of reference for the inquiry and guidance on how to make a submission are available from this PS News link.
26 April, 2011
Donation a gift
Treasury has set aside $25,000 to go to the Royal Flying Doctor Service as Australia’s wedding gift to Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The gift was decided following a request from the couple to donate to one of their nominated charities instead of a wedding gift.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service has had the longstanding support of the Royal Family for many decades, and Prince William visited the RFD base in Cairns during his most recent visit to Australia.
Anyone who wants to contribute to the wedding can consider donating to the RFDS.
To donate visit this PS News link or this PS News link.
42,000 take parents leave
Three months since the introduction of the Paid Parental Leave scheme, around 42,000 new and expecting parents have applied for the Government-funded payment.
About 17,000 parents are already receiving Paid Parental Leave and more than 4,300 employers have registered to play their part in the scheme.
The Government’s Paid Parental Leave scheme provides eligible working parents with Parental Leave Pay for up to 18 weeks at the national minimum wage.
Families who don’t qualify for Paid Parental Leave still have the option of the Baby Bonus and other family payments if eligible.
Pay offer rejected
Staff of the ACT Government have voted to reject a pay offer of 2.5 per cent over three years.
More than 10,000 of the territory’s public servants voted to reject the offer, with the Community and Public Sector Union demanding a pay rise of between 3.5 per cent and 4 per cent.
The CPSU aired fears that the current pay offer would make it difficult for the ACT public service to attract employees to replace the ranks of its rapidly ageing workforce.
The Chief Minister’s Department will now consult with cabinet regarding the pay offer, and will meet again with the CPSU early next month.
Income management continues
The trial of income management and financial management support services in Western Australia is to continue with extra funding.
The trial of the child protection income management measure and voluntary income management currently being conducted across the Kimberley region and metropolitan Perth, will now continue until 30 June 2012.
Income management helps families ensure their welfare payments are spent in the best interests of children, and ensures that money is available for life essentials, and provides a tool to stabilise people’s circumstances and ease immediate financial stress.
The ACT Government wants to double the number of Public Servants with disabilities it employs to almost 700 over the next four years.
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said the Government was creating more dedicated jobs for employees with disabilities and would work to improve training and mentoring programs.
Australian Disability Commissioner Graham Innes welcomed target, saying 1.6 per cent of the ACT public service were self identified as people with a disability but there were 20 per cent of people with a disability in the Australian population and governments such as the ACT Government needed to give the lead.
Mitchell to study arts
Media magnate Harold Mitchell is to chair a review of private sector support for the arts in Australia.
The review will help the Government explore ways to increase corporate and philanthropic support for artistic practice.
Mr Mitchell is a leading business figure in Australia and brings to the role extensive strategic leadership experience as Chairman and President of a number of not–for–profit.
It is expected this review will be completed by the end of October 2011.
The Office for the Arts in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet will provide secretariat support to the review.
Better Starters wanted
Early intervention service providers have been invited to apply to join the Better Start Early Intervention Service Provider Panel.
The new program will provide tailored early intervention services to children with disabilities, helping children aged under six years who have been diagnosed with either Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, Fragile X syndrome, or moderate or greater vision or hearing impairments, including deafblindness.
The Panel will provide access to a range of early intervention services.
Round one applications will close on 18 May.
Information about the application process, including the application form and all supporting documentation is available at this PS News link.
Energy study for WA
Work is set to begin on a detailed assessment of the renewable energy potential of the Mid-West and Pilbara regions of Western Australia.
The study will help address some of the barriers to investment in remote off-grid and end-of-grid areas that have only patchy access to the electricity grid.
Evans & Peck was the successful tenderer for the Western Australia Regional Renewable Energy Assessment.
The study will assess the most economically viable renewable energy technologies in the region and identify the constraints to their deployment, and will also look at the future electricity demand profile for the region to see what network infrastructure might be required or if this can be met through renewable sources.
19 April, 2011
A plan to use Government purchasing contracts to encourage Indigenous employment has been announced by the Ministers for Finance and Deregulation, Penny Wong and Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Mark Arbib.
for Indigenous work
The Ministers said a new Indigenous Opportunities Policy would help ‘close the gap’ on Indigenous disadvantage.
Senator Wong said the Policy was about encouraging corporate responsibility, while also changing the way the Australian Government did business.
“Companies in regions with a significant Indigenous population that bid for Government contracts will need to train and employ Indigenous Australians and use Indigenous suppliers,” Senator Wong said.
Senator Arbib said Government procurement was a powerful driver for change.
“Government procurement can help bring about change, particularly in regional and remote communities,” he said.
“The IOP will ensure that Indigenous employment and training and supplier use becomes standard business practice for companies that tender for Government work.”
He said it would help create employment opportunities and support the growth of Indigenous business.
Senator Arbib said from 1 July 2011, in regions with a significant Indigenous population, tenderers for Government contracts more than $5 million ($6 million for construction projects), would need approved plans for employing and training local Indigenous people and for using Indigenous suppliers.
He said the Government had also re-issued the Indigenous Opportunities Policy guidelines which now specified the transition date for the shift from 50 per cent ownership to 51 per cent ownership in relation to the definition of an Indigenous business.
Senator Arbib said this change followed further discussions with representatives from the Indigenous business sector which was excited about the policy’s potential to grow business for Indigenous enterprises.
IOP Information sessions will be held in the second half of April and throughout May.
To register interest in an information session, readers can email email@example.com or for the IOP guidelines, click on this PS News link.
19 April, 2011
The Australian Public Service Commission has issued a Circular outlining the rules and requirements of workplace access for employee representatives.
set out in Circular
Circular 2011/3: Additional Advice to Agencies on Facilitating Access to Employee Representatives is in response to frequently asked questions from Australian Public Service agencies.
APS Commissioner Steve Sedgwick said the Circular addressed questions regarding: the facilities to be provided to union delegates and bargaining representatives under the Australian Public Service Bargaining Framework (APSBF); issues arising under the Privacy Act 1988 in respect of access to employee email addresses; and adequate employee access to information to make decisions.
Mr Sedgwick said under the APSBF, the role of workplace representatives, including union delegates, was to be respected and facilitated.
It was also the Government’s expectation that agencies would work collaboratively and professionally with employee representatives to resolve issues arising in the workplace and to establish practices and procedures in APS workplaces which facilitated the employees’ access to their representatives.
The Commissioner said that in order to facilitate this relationship, the APSBF outlined a minimum range of facilities to be provided to employee representatives both in bargaining and during the normal course of business.
He said these ongoing facilities included, but were not limited to: the right to reasonable paid time to provide information to and seek feedback from employees in the workplace on workplace relations matters at the agency during normal working hours; and the right to email employees in their workplace to provide information and seek feedback, subject to individual employees exercising a right to ‘opt out’.
He said agencies should also consider the importance of employees receiving information on the views being expressed by all parties in relation to bargaining in the interests of a fair and balanced approach.
Mr Sedgwick said agencies should therefore consider the appropriate facilities to extend to bargaining representatives, having regard to the good faith bargaining and general protections and other provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 (FW Act).
The Circular can found at this PS News link.
19 April, 2011
Mint coins wedding
The Royal Australian Mint is to preserve royal history with a commemorative 20 cent coin celebrating the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
plans without a hitch
Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said the coin, which would be released into public circulation after the wedding, featured a detailed sculpted portrait of the couple which had been through a highly consultative approval process with Her Majesty The Queen.
“This royal wedding will capture the hearts of millions around the world, and as we have done so in the past with royal celebrations, a special circulating coin will be released to the public to commemorate this important occasion in royal history,” Mr Shorten said.
“There are many royal collectibles out there but this circulating coin creates the excitement of checking your change to see if there happens to be a collectible right there in your pocket.”
Chief Executive of the Royal Australian Mint, MacDiarmid said the Mint’s renowned coin sculptor Vladimir Gottwald had designed the coin.
“Sculpting people’s faces can be rather challenging but Vladimir has exemplified quality craftsmanship and created a timeless piece which will be a collectible for years to come,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
He said the same design on the circulating 20 cent coin would also be offered on a collectible uncirculated 50 cent coin and as part of the Royal Wedding Set released earlier in March.
“The 2011 Royal Collection has presented all Australians with the opportunity to secure a precious keepsake of the fairy-tale marriage,” Mr MacDiarmid said.
The 50 Cent Uncirculated Royal Wedding Coin can be pre-ordered and will go on sale on 30 April. The 50 Cent Selectively Gold-Plated Royal Wedding Coin is only available in the Two Coin Set which can be ordered now.
19 April, 2011
Union beats Minister
The Community and Public Sector Union has revealed it is already conducting a cultural change program at the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).
to Defence study
The revelation followed the launch of a number of reviews and investigations into ADFA and the Australian Defence Force announced by the Minister for Defence earlier this month after an incident involving junior cadets at the Academy.
A senior industrial officer at the CPSU, Andrew Holland said the union’s Ally Program was designed to change the culture of higher education communities to be more sensitive of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex students and staff.
“Our union, the CPSU (SPSF), which covers all non-academic (general) staff employed in universities, was pivotal in lobbying the University of NSW to extend and introduce the Ally Program to the university’s ADFA campus,” Mr Holland said.
“We believe to have fair, equitable and safe workplaces, cultural change is crucial; and programs, such as the Ally Program, when fully implemented, work to implement cultural change and challenge inappropriate behaviour amongst peers.”
He said students and staff participate in the training and then apply it at a practical level in all dealings with colleagues, fellow students, and in their communities.
“We made a significant effort to ensure that the implementation of the Ally Program was extended to include ADFA, targeting its students and cadets,” Mr Holland said.
Mr Holland said the recent instance of alleged inappropriate behaviour, and its concurrent reflection on prevalent cultural values, vindicated the extent of the union’s efforts to get the Ally Program into ADFA.
“The CPSU fully supports the review announced by the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, to be undertaken by Elizabeth Broderick, the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, on behalf of the Australian Human Rights Commission,” Mr Holland said.
19 April, 2011
Ombudsman to take
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is to investigate the use of force by the Australian Federal Police and immigration detention service providers on Christmas Island to establish whether the Government breached its own principles of care.
swipe at violence
The Ombudsman, Allan Asher said his intention would be to see whether the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and the contractor had demonstrated due process and considered decision-making.
“My principal concern with Christmas Island, as with all of Australia’s detention facilities, is to ensure that in using its exceptional powers, DIAC upholds the highest standards of public administration and accountability,” Mr Asher said.
“My investigation will therefore pay particular attention to cross-agency coordination and take into consideration matters such as training, management and oversight, information systems, quality assurance and, importantly, controls over the use of these powers.”
He said he was also concerned about the impact of long-term detention on the ongoing mental health of immigration detainees.
“Most critically, I am concerned about the seemingly high incidence of self-harm and the high number of apparent suicides within the immigration detention network when compared to previous periods of high numbers in immigration detention and to other detention environments such as Australian prisons and police custody facilities,” Mr Asher said.
He said he was considering an investigation into the appropriateness of the physical facilities within which asylum-seekers were held and the extent to which DIAC and its contractor had developed and implemented programs to identify and manage those at risk of suicide.
Mr Asher said he had informed the relevant Government Ministers and agency heads of his investigation, and the Ombudsman Act 1976 allowed him to issue a notice compelling a person he believed had information relevant to an investigation to answer questions or provide information or documents.
Mr Asher said the Act also provided people served with such a notice protection against proceedings for disclosing information to the Ombudsman or his officers and a certain level of protection against civil action.
19 April, 2011
Uni review counts for
A review into Indigenous access of higher education aims to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders share equally in the life and career opportunities of a higher education system.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans and the Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, announced the review, saying that for too long Indigenous Australians had been under-represented in universities both as students and staff.
“The review will consider new strategies to address current inequalities based on the best available evidence,” Senator Evans said.
“This will help progress the Closing the Gap target to halve disparity in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.”
Senator Carr acknowledged the valuable contribution Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made to Australia’s research effort.
“The Government is investing more than ever before to make Australia fairer, richer and greener and making our research institutions more accessible for all Australians is a key part of this,” Senator Carr said.
He said the review would be led by the Professor of Law and Indigenous Studies at the University of Technology, Sydney Professor Larissa Behrendt, and draw on expertise from the Chair of the Indigenous Higher Education Advisory Council, Professor Steve Larkin.
The review will report its findings to the Government within 12 months.
For more information visit this PS News link or this PS News link.
19 April, 2011
Rehab service in
An audit of service delivery at the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service (CRS) has found that while the Agency’s performance had been well-managed and was an effective and responsive to clients’ needs, there was some room for improvement.
The audit report Service Delivery in CRS Australia: Department of Human Services signed off by Acting Auditor-General, Steve Chapman, looked at a suite of reforms to the disability employment sector, including the introduction of competition, facilitated by the Government in recent years.
Mr Chapman said the report found these changes had resulted in CRS Australia moving from being the sole provider of vocational rehabilitation services to being one of 66 providers of Disability Management Services but that it maintained approximately 55 per cent of the market share during the period 2010–12.
He said the diminishing level of ‘guaranteed’ work had meant that CRS Australia needed to be flexible in its operations while maintaining a high level of customer service that provided employment outcomes for clients.
Mr Chapman said the audit showed CRS Australia had regularly met key service delivery milestones while also achieving an operating surplus.
He said at the centre of CRS Australia’s business was its quality management system, and through this system, service standards were established; roles and responsibilities were articulated; guidance and training activities were made available to staff; and quality assurance processes that allowed management to monitor service delivery were adopted.
He said the audit established that CRS Australia had processes in place to obtain client feedback and to address client complaints, and client feedback surveys showed a high level of client satisfaction with the services being provided.
His report found that from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2010, 90 per cent of respondents indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the support received from CRS Australia.
Mr Chapman said notwithstanding the effectiveness of CRS Australia’s overall performance, there were areas where enhancements to existing practices could improve onsite quality assurance, client feedback processes, and performance reporting.
He recommended that CRS Australia review the existing client feedback mechanisms and examine options to routinely seek feedback from clients while they were receiving services and conduct a regular external client survey.
He also recommended CRS Australia develop and implement a complaints management training module and that it establish and report on a set of consistent key performance indicators.
The audit was conducted by Donna Hanson, Alexandra McElwee and Nathan Williamson.
19 April, 2011
A discussion paper exploring the merits of making tax advice privileged, similar to the way legal advice is privileged, has been released for public comment.
for tax advice
Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, said the paper, entitled Privilege in relation to tax advice, was in response to recommendations of the Australian Law Reform Commission.
“The discussion paper investigates the pros and cons of giving clients of professional tax advisers privilege for tax advice documents prepared for them, which currently have to be disclosed to the Tax Office,” Mr Shorten said.
“While the Government has yet to make a decision on this issue, thousands of taxpayers use the services of accountants when preparing their tax returns, so it makes sense for the Government to consider it.”
He said the Commissioner of Taxation had wide ranging statutory powers to access the information of Australian taxpayers, and these powers were of fundamental importance to performing the Tax Office’s statutory functions.
He said the statutory powers were subject to legal professional privilege, which shielded clients from disclosure of documents created for the dominant purpose of obtaining legal advice or in preparation for litigation.
Mr Shorten said while there was no privilege that applied specifically to advice on tax law provided by professional accountants, the Tax Office did provide an administrative concession that in practice provided significant protection for the clients of accountants.
He said in 2007, the Australian Law Reform Commission conducted an inquiry into the operation of legal professional privilege in relation to the coercive information gathering powers of various Commonwealth bodies (Privilege in Perspective: Client Legal Privilege and Federal Investigatory Bodies).
That report recommended establishing tax advice privilege to protect tax advice given by independent professional accounting advisers against the coercive information gathering power of the Commissioner of Taxation.
The discussion paper can be accessed from the Treasury website at this PS News link and submissions will be accepted until 15 July.
19 April, 2011
New statistics show that Australians pay more for broadband than people in most other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) according to the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy.
caught in costs net
Senator Conroy said the OECD statistics were further evidence that Australia needed a national broadband network.
“The NBN will provide Australia with world-class broadband infrastructure,” Senator Conroy said.
“It will open up a genuine choice of services and drive competitive prices for consumers, whether they live in a capital city or in regional, rural or remote areas.”
He said according to the OECD statistics regarding average broadband subscription prices, Australia was the third most expensive for very low-speed connections (out of 24 countries); 14th most expensive for high-speed connections (out of 33 countries); and 12th most expensive for very high-speed connections (out of 28 countries).
Senator Conroy said the recent passage through both Houses of Parliament of the National Broadband Network Companies Bills 2010 and the Telecommunications Legislation Amendments (National Broadband Network Measures-Access Arrangements Bill 2011) would further assist in reducing broadband prices for all Australians.
“The Government expects retail prices for high speed broadband services offered on the NBN will be both affordable and very competitive for all Australians no matter where they live,” Senator Conroy said.
“If Australia wants to remain competitive in our region as the world moves to a 21st century digital economy, then we need to act now.”
The OECD broadband statistics can be found at this PS News link.
19 April, 2011
Visa system sees new
A second discussion paper has been released on the simplification of Australia’s visa system.
Announcing the paper, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said through innovative changes outlined in June 2010, the Government would be simplifying and streamlining Australia’s complex visa system.
In its statement DIAC said the Government had committed to reduce by 50 per cent the number of temporary working visas by 2012 and to target a 50 per cent reduction in the total number of visa subclasses by 2015.
It said the reform was being taken forward as part of a Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership announced on 4 June, 2010, by the former Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, and the former Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.
The Department said at the time of the announcement, an initial public discussion paper was released that proposed a number of principles to guide the visa simplification and deregulation process through to 2015.
The initial paper also outlined some proposals for simplifying temporary residence work visas which had been developed further and were currently subject to final public consultation.
The DIAC statement said the second phase of the Visa Simplification and Deregulation project would focus on simplification of the visitor visa group and was the subject of the discussion paper.
It said the Visitor visa phase of the simplification and deregulation process had commenced with the release of the new discussion paper Simpler Visas: Making Visitor Visas Simpler for public consultation.
The visitor visa group allows for short-term entry of tourist, business, medical treatment and family visitors.
DIAC said visitor visa holders currently contributed to Australia’s economic development, social and cultural enrichment as well as strengthened Australia’s bilateral relations.
It said the discussion paper sought views on the deregulation of the Visitor visa group which was proposed to be implemented by September 2012.
The discussion paper is available at this PS News link.
19 April, 2011
A new education and compliance campaign being conducted by the Fair Work Ombudsman is targeting the unlawful practice of sham contracting.
Fair Work inspectors hope to educate tens of thousands of workers around the country who may be vulnerable to the sham contracting arrangements.
Executive Director of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Office, Michael Campbell said officers would also audit employers in sectors at risk of breaching sham contracting provisions of workplace laws, such as the hair and beauty, cleaning and call centre industries.
He said the campaign was in response to intelligence gathered from various sources as well as concerns raised by key stakeholders, including employee and employer groups and Members of Parliament.
“Sham contracting occurs when an employer disguises or misrepresents an employment relationship as an independent contracting arrangement,” Mr Campbell said.
“It is vital we ensure workers are classified correctly because if they are incorrectly classified as independent contractors they can miss out on employee entitlements such as minimum rates of pay and leave entitlements.”
Mr Campbell said up to 100,000 educational brochures on contracting arrangements would be distributed to members of key employee and industry groups around the country.
He said Fair Work inspectors would also hand out the brochures when they attended employment expos in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide.
“The extensive education component of this campaign aims to help employers and workers understand the circumstances in which a worker should be classified as an employee and when they can be classified as an independent contractor,” Mr Campbell said.
“We recognise that the large majority of employers want to comply with workplace laws and do the right thing by their employees and we are committed to assisting them to do that.”
Employers and workers seeking advice or assistance regarding independent contracting and sham contracting can visit the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website at this PS News link.
19 April, 2011
Warm welcome for
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has published a new booklet to help protect migrant communities from unscrupulous operators.
The booklet, called Your rights – tips on using a registered migration agent, includes 17 community languages, as well as English and is available online at the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority website (www.mara.gov.au).
According to DIAC it is illegal in Australia for anyone to give immigration assistance without being a registered migration agent.
The Department said it advised people, for their protection, to make sure their agent was registered with the Office of the MARA, which ensured only fit and proper people were registered migration agents.
It said agents must keep up-to-date with migration law, abide by a code of conduct, maintain proper communication records and pass police checks.
According to the Department, there were more than 4,400 registered migration agents in Australia and overseas who could provide immigration assistance.
The Department said if someone was unhappy with the services of their registered migration agent, they could complain to the Office of the MARA.
It said making a complaint would not affect any visa application they had with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
To find out more about a migrant’s rights, read the brochure Your rights – tips on using a registered migration agent on the Office of the MARA’s website at this PS News link or phone 1300 226 272.
19 April, 2011
Fifty-eight organisations and consortia have applied to become Australia’s first Medicare Locals.
up in local areas
Acting Minister for Health and Ageing Mark Butler welcomed the interest from Divisions of General Practice and other primary health care groups in establishing Australia’s first network of primary health care organisations.
“Medicare Locals will help to provide primary care services which are more responsive to the needs of local communities,” Mr Butler said.
“They will make it easier for patients to access the health services they need by identifying service gaps in local communities, helping to keep Australians well and out of hospital.”
He said the Government’s primary healthcare approach recognised the fundamental importance of GPs as being the centre of primary care.
“Medicare Locals build on the important role already delivered by Divisions of General Practice, focusing on improving local health and medical services through better coordination and integration of frontline primary health care services,” Mr Butler said.
He said the first tranche of Medicare Locals would be drawn from high performing Divisions, preferably working in partnership with other organisations.
All 58 applications in the first round involved one or more Divisions, as well as other primary health care partners.
Mr Butler said the Government looked forward to the first tranche of Medicare Locals being up and running from 1 July 2011.
He said the Government had been planning for the first tranche to comprise about 15 Medicare Locals.
Mr Butler said applications would be assessed against a number of key areas such as demonstrated ability to respond to local health needs and emerging priorities; ability to form productive relationships with key stakeholders; ability to build on a sustained track record of driving improved outcomes and system change in general practice and primary health care through effective practice support; and strong governance and operational arrangements.
The second part of the application process to establish the next round of Medicare Locals, starting in 2012, would close on 19 July 2011.
19 April, 2011
PS News Easter
Readers are advised there will be no Good Friday update for PS News this week and next week’s edition will be published on Wednesday 27 April to take account of the Easter and Anzac Day holidays.
We hope all our readers enjoy a safe and rewarding holiday break.
CSIRO staff walk out
CSIRO staff have stepped-up their campaign for improved pay and conditions with a national protest last week.
Staff across the Organisation stopped work early to protest against a substandard offer on pay and consultation provisions.
President of the CSIRO Staff Association, Michael Borgas said members felt they were being ignored and had no choice but to show their dissatisfaction through industrial action.
“This year is the first time in living memory staff have taken industrial action, but the way we are being treated has left us with no choice,” Mr Borgas said.
Green light for solar plant
One of the biggest solar thermal projects in the world has been given the go ahead for Queensland.
The Commonwealth has committed $34.9 million to help build the project, a solar energy system on the site of an existing coal-fired power station near Chinchilla.
When built, the $104.7 million Kogan Creek Solar Boost project will be the largest integration of solar technology with a coal-fired power station in the world.
The integration of the innovative solar technology at the Kogan Creek power station will save 35,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere every year.
Deaths report marked
The Attorney-General Robert McClelland has acknowledged the 20th anniversary of the release of the report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
Mr McClelland said the report had influenced Indigenous policies and practices at all levels of government for the last two decades.
He said it led governments, at both the federal and state level, to address the causes of what had become unacceptable rates of deaths in custody.
Mr McClelland said there had been a significant decrease in the number of deaths in custody over the past two decades involving both non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians.
Cattle rounded up
Officials from the Department of Environment are inspecting the Alpine National Park to confirm that cattle had been removed from the area.
The Victorian Government has advised that a bushfire mitigation trial had been put on hold and the grazing cattle had been removed.
Minister for Environment Tony Burke said under section 70 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 he had powers to request referral of an action that he believed may contravene the Act.
He said under the current circumstances, there was no existing proposal to deem referred or ‘call in’ for assessment under the Act.
Dunstone takes award
Airservices Australia’s Greg Dunstone has been awarded the prestigious Lawrence Hargrave Award for 2011.
The award recognised Mr Dunstone’s pioneering work and leadership in the implementation of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) technology in Australia, the Asia-Pacific Region and around the world.
Mr Dunstone had led the organisation’s ADS-B initiatives since the first trial in 2000 and was the driving force behind the successful deployment of the technology.
The Lawrence Hargrave Award is presented every two years and recognises achievement at all levels and in all disciplines of aerospace within Australia.
An agreement between the Government and the pathology sector will ensure that patients get access to quality, affordable pathology services and the tax payer, better value for money.
Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon said the new five-year agreement would save more than $550 million in the budget.
She said the agreement would improve transparency for setting pathology fees and help to ensure that taxpayers were only paying for pathology tests that were clinically required.
Under this new agreement, the average annual growth in pathology expenditure will now be capped to approximately 5 per cent per year.
Ship owners warned
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has warned ship operators that they need to ensure they have an appropriate process in place to properly manage the level of crew fatigue.
The advice is a result of the ATSB’s investigation into the 3 April 2010 grounding of Chinese bulk carrier Shen Neng 1 on Douglas Shoal, off the coast of Queensland near Gladstone.
In its final investigation report, the ATSB found that the chief mate was affected by fatigue and this resulted in a decreased level of performance while he was monitoring Shen Neng 1’s position.
The report found that the ship did not have an effective fatigue management system in place to ensure that the bridge watchkeeper was fit to stand a navigational watch.
15 April, 2011
A national blueprint for the development of e-health records has been released by the Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon.
gets green light
Due to be introduced on 1 July 2012, the planned e-health system will allow patients to manage their own healthcare better and Ms Roxon said the blueprint was a step towards the development of Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records (PCEHR).
“E-health records will drive safer, more efficient and better quality healthcare for Australians,” Ms Roxon said.
“Patients will no longer have to remember every immunisation, every medical test, every prescription as they move from doctor to doctor.”
She said the e-health system was a critical element in plans to modernise the Australian health system.
“This national blueprint, and the consultation and development that will follow, will help to develop e-health records for all Australians who want one from 1 July 2012.”
Ms Roxon said the draft Concept of Operations document described how the PCEHR system would work and what its benefits and privacy principles would be.
“The release is intended to prompt further discussion on its design and input into areas that require further discussion and development,” she said.
Ms Roxon said developing a nationally consistent e-health record system was ‘ambitious’ but she was confident it could be delivered.
“In the 21st century, patients should be able to visit their local GP, their specialist or emergency department and know their health records are available at a click of a button, if they want them to be,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the Concept of Operations would be a ‘living document’, continuing to be shaped by informed and practical views on the complex challenges of design, governance, policy and adoption issues it faced.
Information about the draft Concept of Operations could be obtained from this PS News link and submissions would be received until 31 May 2011.
15 April, 2011
Speed & alcohol drive
A new report on road safety from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) reveals that speed, alcohol and drugs remain the major causes of fatalities on Australia’s roads.
road safety failures
Entitled Fatal Road crashes in Australia 1990s and 2000s: Crash types and major factors, the BITRE report was officially launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King.
Ms King said the report reinforced the intent of the draft National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020.
“These statistics are alarming,” Ms King said.
“While we have been successful in reducing the road toll in the past 10 to 20 years, some realities have not changed at all and we really need to continue to drive home the messages.”
She said that as well as highlighting ongoing problems, the report identified new trends including an increase in motorcycle road deaths, an increase in fatal road crashes involving vehicles with one occupant and an increase in fatal crashes involving vehicles running off the road.
Ms King said drivers needed to recognise that many aspects of road use had changed over time and those changes must be accounted for.
“We have been working closely with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) to record any changes in patterns in serious injury and death from road crashes,” Ms King said.
“Its latest report shows significant increases in life-threatening injury in the 2000s.
“As we move to finalise the strategy I urge all road users to take responsibility for their actions and their lives, and the lives of others.”
The BITRE report can be accessed at this PS News link and the AIHW report Trends in serious injury due to land transport accidents, Australia 2000-01 to 2007-08 is available from this PS News link.
15 April, 2011
Single safety law
The Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips has defended the national harmonisation of work health and safety (WHS) laws saying the process was not designed to reduce the size of WHS regulation but to ensure uniform safety standards were in place across the country.
the safest way
Mr Phillips said the initiative was consistent with the requirements of the Inter-Governmental Agreement for Regulatory and Operational Reform in Occupational Health and Safety.
“This exercise is about harmonisation and putting everyone on the same page, it is not rationalisation or reform,” Mr Phillips said.
He said the content of the draft WHS Regulations was based on existing Work Health and Safety Regulations in each of the nine Australian jurisdictions, all of which were varied in length and content.
He said chapters of the draft WHS Regulations addressed hazards such as noise, confined spaces and falls, or specific industries such as construction, major hazard facilities or driving.
Mr Phillips said for national businesses, familiarity with only one set of work health and safety regulations would be easier than needing to know the nine sets that currently existed.
For these businesses, thousands of pages of regulations and rules would be replaced by the draft WHS Regulations which were about 580 pages.
“The model WHS Regulations needed to ensure effective safety standards and protections for all Australian workers without being overly prescriptive,” he said.
“It is not the number of pages or size that is important, but whether the model WHS Regulations will contain sufficient guidance to duty holders to ensure the health and safety of Australian workers.”
During a recent public comment process, submissions were made regarding concerns about the length and level of prescription in the draft regulations.
Mr Phillips said however that Safe Work Australia had already identified a number of ways the draft WHS Regulations could be reduced in size without compromising important policy objectives.
15 April, 2011
Good oil released on
Twenty-nine new undersea areas off the coast of Australia have been opened up for oil exploration in the 2011 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release announced by the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson.
The release is the largest for more than 10 years and covers an area of about 200,000 sq km, or almost three times the size of Tasmania.
The sites are in Commonwealth waters off the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania and in the territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands.
Mr Ferguson said stakeholder nominations underpinned every area in this year’s release, with the majority receiving multiple nominations.
“The acreage release nominations for 2011 follow an extensive consultation process that identifies and considers environmental, fishing, security and other third party considerations,” Mr Ferguson said.
With a trade deficit in crude oil, LPG and refined products expected to top $30 billion by 2015, finding new reserves is a priority.”
He said the release of acreage was a critical step in maintaining Australia’s energy security and was supported by data and analysis from Geoscience Australia.
Mr Ferguson said awarding exploration permits would give companies the exclusive right to apply to search for oil and gas in the permit area.
“Acreage release is only the first step in a comprehensive process of checks, balances and approvals,” he said.
“It does not give companies the right to conduct seismic surveys or drill exploration wells without further rigorous approvals.”
He said the value of the work represented a remarkable return on Government spending.
“For the period June 2006 to June 2011 Government’s investment of $75 million for work under Geoscience Australia’s Offshore Energy Security Program led to $625 million being committed to frontier exploration expenditure in acreage released in the frontier areas of the offshore Bremer, Bight, Arafura and Canning Basins, with a proposed secondary program of an additional $1 billion,” Mr Ferguson said.
For more information, including maps, visit this PS News link.
15 April, 2011
IT safety program
A new stage in the Australian Federal Police (AFP)’s ThinkUKnow campaign to protect young people online has been launched by the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor.
logs onto new stage
Mr O’Connor said the program, now a year old, was an internet safety initiative delivering interactive training to parents, carers and teachers across Australia using a network of accredited trainers.
He said the new phase included the establishment of ThinkUKnow Facebook, Twitter and youth pages to directly engage young Australians, and provide them with important support while they were online.
“This way, young people can access advice and support in the same space where they might experience issues,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The Australian Government is serious about preventing the exploitation of children online, which is why we hope to educate people on the risks young people face and how to mitigate these risks.”
Acting Manager, High Tech Investigations and Business Delivery with the AFP, Todd Hunter said the initiative was an example of how organisations could work together to protect young Australians online.
“The new youth section of the website is another example of how law enforcement and industry bodies like Microsoft and ninemsn can work together to educate and most importantly empower our young people on how to stay safe online,” Mr Hunter said.
Secondary school captain, Danielle Cornwell said the new section of the website provided good advice on ways to stay safe online.
“It has information on the good aspects about being online and also on what can go wrong,” Ms Cornwell said.
“It is good in the way it can help people who are bullied online, but also let them know what they can do to respond when it happens.”
Last year, the AFP delivered nearly 200 ThinkUKnow presentations to 6,747 parents, carers and teachers.
For information about the program, visit this PS News link.
15 April, 2011
Tourism report is
A new report from Tourism Research Australia has highlighted the importance of tourism to 20 of Australia’s top tourism regions.
ticket to regions
Launched by the Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson, the report The Economic Importance of Tourism in Australia’s Regions shows visitor expenditure as a percentage of output for each of the 20 destinations.
According to Mr Ferguson, tourism was the lifeblood of many regional areas because it created jobs where people lived.
“Tourism is a source of employment for many people including hospitality professionals, uni students, travellers, indigenous workers and older Australian looking for part-time employment,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Regions such as the Gold Coast, Tropical North Queensland, Sunshine Coast, NSW Mid North Coast and NSW Northern Rivers not only have a very high reliance on the tourism sector, tourism contributes between $1 billion and $4.5 billion to their local economy.”
He said visitors travelled to regional areas for many reasons, not just holidays, going to visit friends and relatives, for business, for learning and cultural experiences and for personal reasons.
“Almost 46 cents in every dollar spent by visitors is spent in regional Australia,” Mr Ferguson said.
According to the report, tourism was most important economically to Central Northern Territory where visitor spending accounted for 24.8 per cent of the region’s overall output.
Also high on that list were Victoria’s Phillip Island (18.7%), Queensland’s Whitsundays (17.7%), NSW’s Snowy Mountains (17.1%) and the West Coast of Tasmania (16.2 %).
The report also found that three of the top five regions attracting the biggest spending tourists were in Queensland where the Gold Coast was No 1 with $4.5bn in income, Tropical North Queensland second with $2.7bn, Sunshine Coast third ($2.4bn), then NSW’s Mid North Coast ($2bn) and Northern Rivers, ($1.1bn).
Western Australia’s Coral Coast was that State’s most important tourism region based on economic importance of 6.9% and expenditure $512m and Kangaroo Island flew the flag for South Australia with economic importance at 14.1% and spending $63m.
The report found that the top 10 tourism regions accounted for 60 per cent of total tourism expenditure.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
15 April, 2011
Drug lab guidelines
New national guidelines have been released for the remediation of illicit drug sites closed down by police.
stimulate clean ups
Launched by the Minister for Justice, Brendan O’Connor and Queensland Minister for Police, Neil Roberts, the new Clandestine Drug Laboratory Remediation Guidelines are a joint initiative of Federal, State and Territory governments and law enforcement agencies across Australia.
Mr O’Connor said the guidelines provide a step-by-step process to determining whether a site was contaminated, and then would assist in the remediation of those that were.
“The residue of drug manufacturing can pose risks for many years,” Mr O’Connor said.
“That includes potential health and safety problems for neighbours and new residents, including children.
“Clandestine drug laboratories can also damage our natural environment through soil and water contamination and the disposal of toxic waste in public spaces.”
The Australian Crime Commission said it was currently assembling its 2009/10 report on drug detection across Australia and expected to find that clandestine drug laboratory detections were continuing to rise, with about 600 reported nationally.
Queensland Minister Neil Roberts said detections were likely to continue to increase with a sustained police focus on drug manufacturing operations.
“Here in Queensland, police discovered 297 clandestine labs in 2009/10 - almost double the number found the previous year,” Mr Roberts said.
“We’re seeing more covert drug labs discovered as Queensland Police step up their efforts against the drug trade.”
He said communities could help by reporting suspicious activity to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
The Clandestine Drug Laboratory Remediation Guidelines are available at this PS News link.
15 April, 2011
Police book in to
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has opened a new office in Los Angeles to strengthen further the Force’s ties with US law enforcement agencies.
new US office
Assistant AFP Commissioner, Kevin Zuccato who opened the office said it was an important step forward in combating national and international crime.
“The Australia and US alliance is fundamental to Australia’s national security interests,” Assistant Commissioner Zuccato said.
“The AFP enjoys a close working relationship with US law enforcement agencies.”
He said the new office would have responsibility for liaison with the west coasts of the United States, Canada and Mexico, and would also work closely with the AFP office in Colombia.
He said the main priorities for the new AFP office would be investigations into technology-enabled crime; money laundering; drug trafficking; identity crime; terrorism; child sex exploitation; people smuggling; and fraud.
He said an AFP presence in Los Angeles also provided opportunities to enhance co-operation with private sector organisations, specifically in the technology industry.
“In an increasingly globalised world, transnational crime is a growing threat,” Assistant Commissioner Zuccato said.
“Australia and the United States share many common transnational threats including drug trafficking, terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime.”
He said the new office would enable both AFP and its US counterparts to build their capacity to fight crime in their respective jurisdictions.
The opening of the LA post brings the total number of International AFP locations to 31 with 105 members currently posted overseas.
12 April, 2011
Defence reviews to
The Minister for Defence has ordered a series of reviews into practices in the Department of Defence and the Australian Defence Force following an incident involving junior cadets at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra.
take on culture
The Minister, Stephen Smith has called for:
* The Australian Human Rights Commission to conduct a review of the way women are treated at ADFA;
* The Sex Discrimination Commissioner to review the progress of strategies identified by the Chief of the Defence Force’s Women’s Advisory Group, relating to pathways for women into Australian Defence Force (ADF) leadership.
* The Secretary of the Department of Defence to initiate a similar review for women in the Australian Public Service working in Defence;
* The Chief of the Defence Force to bring forward the opening up of all roles in the ADF to women, including combat roles;
* The Inspector General of the Australian Defence Force to review the management of incidents and complaints in Defence with specific reference to the treatment of victims and transparency of processes;
* A review of the use of alcohol by ADF members;
* A review of the use of social media by ADF members; and
* An inquiry under the Defence (Inquiry) Regulations into the management of the junior cadet incident to be led by lawyer Andrew Kirkham QC.
Mr Smith said since the incident at ADFA became public a large number of additional allegations had been levelled at the Defence Force by people who contacted his office, the Department of Defence or the media.
“The Secretary of the Department of Defence will engage an independent legal firm to review each allegation raised to determine the most appropriate way for these complaints to be addressed,” Mr Smith said.
“Defence and ADFA will engage with a panel of selected University Vice Chancellors and residential College heads to assess increased cooperation between ADFA and Australian Universities on the challenges facing higher educational institutions and residences in relation to student behaviour and cultures.”
He said the Human Rights Commission review would be an important step in commencing a far reaching cultural appraisal and ongoing change program for Defence.
“Each member of the ADF, from the most junior cadet to the most senior officer, is a representative of Defence and our nation,” Mr Smith said.
“The Defence leadership and the Australian community have a right to expect the highest standard of behaviour and professionalism.”
He said the “cultural stocktake” would assess ADF behaviours against its codes of conduct to ensure they reflected the expectations of the high standards that those serving their country should demonstrate at all times.
12 April, 2011
Young targeted in
New Facebook and Twitter accounts that put students in touch with Centrelink and Medicare information have been launched by the Department of Human services.
General Manager of the Human Services Portfolio, Hank Jongen said the launch was part of the Portfolio’s celebration of National Youth Week.
“This initiative is about communicating important information to young people in a way that works for them,” Mr Jongen said.
“The Facebook and Twitter pages will include regular updates from Centrelink and Medicare about services and payments for students, as well as reminders of important dates and deadlines, such as university application dates.”
He said the Human Services Portfolio played an important role providing a range of services and payments to support young people.
“Youth Week is the perfect time for young people to find out more about Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY and other Centrelink payments,” Mr Jongen said.
“It’s also a good time for students who are leaving home for the first time to find out about important Medicare information such as how to get their own Medicare card and register for online services.”
He said students could ‘follow’ Student Update on Twitter by visiting this PS News link or ‘Like’ Student Update on Facebook at this PS News link.
12 April, 2011
DIAC diverts to
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has issued a Workplace Diversity Strategy 2011–2013, outlining its commitment to an inclusive workplace and a diverse workforce.
DIAC Secretary Andrew Metcalfe said the Workplace Diversity Strategy 2011–13 continued the Department’s commitment to the broad range of people who made up its organisation.
He said it was supported by an implementation plan that outlined how the aims would be achieved over the next three years.
Mr Metcalfe said workplace diversity meant respecting and valuing the differing skills and experiences people brought to the workplace, as well as being aware of the additional challenges faced by some groups.
He said the Department recognised the diversity of its existing workforce - be it on the basis of gender, age, culture, religion, language or personal circumstances - and was committed to building on the richness of the perspectives, experience, knowledge and skills that this diversity brought to the organisation.
Mr Metcalfe said a diverse network of employees, truly reflective of the wider community it served and represented, was better able to understand and meet the needs of clients.
“By supporting diversity, we create a more positive work environment and increase our productivity,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“This strategy aims to address barriers experienced by some people in gaining access to employment, development or promotional opportunities.”
He said the workplace diversity documents acknowledged that innovative and flexible strategies were required if we were to attract, recruit, and retain the best people and remained competitive within the employment market as the workforce demographic evolves.
Mr Metcalfe said over the next three years the Department’s priorities would focus on Indigenous people as well as people with disability.
As stated in our Reconciliation Action Plan and Indigenous Employment Strategy, DIAC aims to boost Indigenous employee representation to 2.7 per cent of the total workforce by 2015, and to also to focus on increasing the representation of employees with disability.
12 April, 2011
An updated Code for use in Australian Citizenship Ceremonies has been issued by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen.
is no secret
Mr Bowen said his department had considered the appropriateness of the Code earlier this year, following confusion around certain elements of citizenship ceremonies.
“The changes will allow religious organisations wishing to provide holy books to new citizens, to supply those books to ceremony organisers,” Mr Bowen said.
“The holy books will be made available by organisers and it will be entirely up to individuals to choose whether or not to take one.”
He said the Bible, the Torah, the Koran or any other recognised holy books had never been banned from citizenship ceremonies, and people had always been welcome to bring their own holy book on which to take the pledge of commitment.
Mr Bowen said as a result of changes to the Code in 2003, holy books were not considered appropriate official gifts to be distributed by ceremony organisers to people at ceremonies.
He said recently there had been confusion as to whether or not religious organisations were permitted to distribute holy books at ceremonies.
“Consistent with existing policy, holy books are not a requirement for citizenship ceremonies and will not be provided directly to new citizens as official gifts by the Australian Government,” Mr Bowen said.
“This common-sense clarification respects the religious beliefs of new citizens, while at the same time upholding the dignity and appropriateness of Australian citizenship ceremonies.”
He said other revisions included clarification of administrative information for ceremony organisers, appropriate ceremony venues and the scheduling of ceremonies.
Mr Bowen said he would be writing to local government councils and ceremony organisers outlining the changes, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would conduct a program of information sessions with ceremony organisers on the changes.
Copies of the revised code are available at this PS News link.
12 April, 2011
Circular cashes in
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has issued a Finance Circular setting out the requirements applying to the commitment and spending of public money.
on PS spending
Circular 2011/1 Commitments to spend public money (FMA Regulations 7 - 12) provides guidance on the financial management framework relating to commitment and replaces Finance Circular 2009/05 Commitments to spend public money (FMA Regulations 7 to 13) and Finance Circular 2007/01 FMA Regulation 10.
The requirements apply to all agencies under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 and to all persons, including Ministers, considering entering into arrangements under which public money is payable or may become payable.
Acting Assistant Secretary at Finance, Kerry Markoulli signed the Circular which also contains advice on arrangements for people outside the Commonwealth handling public money as an allocated official or under an agreement.
Ms Markoulli said the Circular was divided into three Parts.
She said Parts 1 and 2 provided an overview of the requirements applying to committing public money and included frequently asked questions and Part 3 provided more detailed technical guidance.
The Circular was aimed at finance staff and relevant project officers who regularly undertook the functions it related to.
Ms Markoulli said the Circular reflected important changes to the FMA Act, which came into effect on 1 March 2011, and changes to the Regulations, which came into effect on 1 July 2010.
She said amendments included changes to section 44 of the FMA Act to add ‘economical’ to the definition of ‘proper use’; to Part 4 of the FMA Regulations (ie the old Regulations 7-14) to provide a logical and sequential workflow and rationalise definitions and improve readability; and to disapply Regulation 10 where contingent liabilities were assessed as ‘remote’ and ‘non material’, through the introduction of Regulation 10A.
Ms Markoulli said the FMA Regulations contained a broad transitional and savings provision that gave Agencies until 1 July 2011 to update their internal procedures, Chief Executive’s Instructions (CEIs), delegations and related materials.
The FMA Act and Regulations were available at this PS News link and the Circular could be downloaded from this PS News link.
12 April, 2011
Data Centre panel to
A whole-of-Government suppliers’ panel has been formed to provide services associated with data centres being set for APS Agencies.
have all the answers
The panel was announced by the Special Minister of State Gary Gray, who said the formation of the panel was a major milestone in the implementation of the Australian Government’s Data Centre Strategy 2010 – 2025.
“The Data Centre Strategy avoids future data centre costs of $1 billion. This panel is one component of the Strategy,” Mr Gray said.
He said the panel consisted of five companies and it was anticipated that a small number of additional companies might be added to the panel in the near future.
Mr Gray said the panel would be in place for five years, and agencies selecting data centre facilities from the panel would enter into 10-year leases for the use of data centre space, with an option to extend the lease for five years.
He said it was mandatory for Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (FMA) agencies to use this panel, and optional for agencies under the Commonwealth Authority and Companies Act 1997 (CAC).
Mr Gray said agencies would use the panel when they needed to move data centres because of such things as leases expiring, requiring additional power to support IT equipment or changes in IT outsourcing arrangements.
Also in 2011, the Government will add to the panel providers of future data centres (facilities that are not completely constructed, under construction, or in planning).
The Data Centre Strategy 2010-2025 is available on the Department of Finance and Deregulation website.
The companies forming the panel are: Canberra Data Centre (Hume, ACT); Datacom Systems (North Sydney, NSW); Global Switch Property (Australia) Pty Ltd (Ultimo, NSW); iSeek (Brisbane Export Park, QLD); and TransACT Capital Communications (Canberra, ACT).
12 April, 2011
New technology developed during the Queensland weather disasters is being used by Centrelink to assist people in remote communities access Government assistance.
to remote clients
Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek said Centrelink was using a new mobile device known as a “cPOP” (Centrelink Point of Presence), which connects up to 10 laptops at once to the agency’s network, giving outreach workers instant access to their desktops from virtually anywhere.
“During floods and cyclone experienced in recent months, hundreds of thousands of people were physically cut off from government offices and were unable to get through on the phone,” Ms Plibersek said.
“In response Centrelink flew in teams of assistance workers equipped with the new link devices, to areas which had been devastated and, in some cases, had no electricity or telephone services.”
Ms Plibersek said the cPOPs - which were transported in a small case - log on to the agency’s network using Windows 7, Citrix virtualisation and a link established through either satellite, 3G or cable, depending on the situation.
“The technology acts as a remote office, running up to 10 secure devices simultaneously, at speed and reliability equal to that of being in an office connected to a central server,” she said.
Ms Plibersek said during the floods the cPOPs allowed Centrelink workers to process claims for disaster victims on the spot, at evacuation and recovery centres across Queensland.
“Without this technology we would have been forced to take claims on paper forms and physically send them back to processing centres back in major cities and towns,” she said.
Ms Plibersek said the cPOPs’ biggest advance was its ability to give a group of people remote access to their own desktops using virtualisation, rather than having to use alternative applications to enter the network.
She said the mobile technology would now be used on the Australian Government Mobile Office and by teams travelling to remote Indigenous communities in Queensland, West Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
12 April, 2011
Disaster booklet to
A new publication to help businesses deal with natural disasters and other hazards has been issued by the Attorney-General Robert McClelland.
shake up business
Mr McClelland said the free booklet - Organisational Resilience - was designed for critical infrastructure organisations, but contained principles applicable for all businesses.
“Critical infrastructure organisations play an especially important role in providing essential services to other businesses, governments, and the community right across the country,” Mr McClelland said.
“But there are a range of threats and hazards such as natural disasters and equipment failure which can disrupt or disable business operations.”
He said the series of natural disasters in Australia and across the region this year served as a stark reminder of the important of organisational resilience.
“This resource provides case studies illustrating disruptions to business operations, how the business dealt with the situation, and what lessons were learnt,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the Organisational Resilience answers questions such as: what happened when a business was disabled for a length of time; what were the impacts on its profitability, service delivery, and employees; what were the flow-on effects to the broader community; and what were the key attributes that could help a business bounce back from disruption.
“Importantly, these real life examples demonstrate some of the behavioural attributes that contribute to resilience,” Mr McClelland said.
“I encourage all businesses to read Organisational Resilience to help protect themselves from potential threats and damage.”
He said the handbook was the latest initiative within the Commonwealth Government’s Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy.
It follows the release of The Insider Threat to Business – Personnel Security Handbook, launched by the Attorney-General in December 2010.
The free resource is available online at this PS News link.
12 April, 2011
Tax packs facts
The Australian Taxation Office has published its latest report on taxation statistics, drawn from the year 2008-09.
into stats pack
Taxation Statistics 2008-09 is the most comprehensive statistical publication the ATO produces.
Taxation statistics 2008-09 is a collection of data in relation to Australia’s tax and superannuation systems, compiled from information provided to the ATO in tax returns from the 2008-09 income year and other financial information provided in activity statements and other FBT, GST and excise forms for the 2009-10 financial year.
According to the ATO, as well as the latest statistics on (for instance) average taxable income by postcode, rental property deductions, work-related expenses and company tax, Taxation statistics had been updated to include new tables and statistics including: statistics on pre-filling by the ATO on individual income tax returns; a single table summarising major tax liabilities by broad industry; maps of average taxable income for individuals across Australia; and statistics on the Education Tax Refund.
It said highlights regarding Private Tax from Taxation statistics 2008-09 included: 12.3 million individuals lodged income tax returns; tax agents lodged 71.2 per cent of tax returns (8.8 million), and 18.8 per cent (2.3 million) were lodged via etax; individuals claimed negative net rental income of $6.5 billion, including $32.6 billion in rental deductions; and this was the first year since 2001-02 that net rental income had not decreased from the previous year.
The ATO also said the report showed in regards to Business Tax: 762,442 companies lodged returns, a 1.3 per cent decrease from 2007-08; companies reported total income of $2,272 billion, a 0.4 per cent increase from 2007-08; and total company expenses were $2,143 billion, a 4.3 per cent increase from 2007–08.
It said in terms of Superannuation the report showed: 360,374 funds lodged returns, a 6.5 per cent increase from 2007-08, and funds reported total income of $114.9 billion, a 9.9 per cent decrease from 2007-08.
The publication, including links to prior editions, is available at this PS News link.
12 April, 2011
Online safety nets
A new advisory group of teachers and parents has been established to help develop initiatives to keep children safe online.
new advice group
The new group joins the existing Youth Advisory Group, the 2011 version of which has been launched by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy Senator Stephen Conroy.
Senator Conroy said YAG, which was now it in its third year, had expanded its membership to include about 1,300 students aged eight to 17 from 130 schools representing all states and territories throughout Australia.
He said these students would participate in a series of one-week consultations and provide advice to the government on cybersafety issues faced by their peers.
Member for Deakin Mike Symon said the success of the YAG had led the Government to create a similar group for teachers and parents.
“The Teachers and Parents Advisory Group will complement the good work already being done by teachers and parents by providing a forum where members can share ideas on how to protect children online and promote cybersafety messages,” Mr Symon said.
He said the Teachers and Parents Advisory Group had gone live and he was looking forward to hearing their thoughts on cybersafety issues as they played such a critical role in keeping children safe online.
These two advisory groups are part of the Government’s Cybersafety Plan which includes education, international co-operation, a joint parliamentary committee, research, law enforcement and filtering measures.
The YAG program commenced last week with more than 160 students from 20 Victorian schools participating in the first online consultation sphere.
For more information on the Government’s cybersafety plan visit this PS News link or to download the Cybersafety Help Button free of charge go to this PS News link.
A multiple installer package for schools, councils and libraries to download the button on their networks was available by emailing the Help Button helpdesk at firstname.lastname@example.org
12 April, 2011
A half-year report on Government advertising expenditure in 2010 has revealed a drop in spending compared with 2009.
has right message
This was despite 2010 being an election year.
The Report was tabled in Parliament by the Special Minister of State, Gary Gray who said Federal Government spending in the 2010 election year was less than half that of the Howard Government in 2007 election year.
Mr Gray said the Campaign Advertising by Australian Government Departments and Agencies Half Year Report 1 July – 31 December 2010 outlined that $36.6 million was spent on government advertising in the second half of 2010.
“This took the total spending on campaign advertising in 2010 to $112.8 million compared to $115.3 million in 2009,” Mr Gray said.
“The Howard Government spent the most any Government has ever spent on campaign advertising in one year in 2007 - with a record $254 million.”
He said the report detailed all media expenditure by Australian Government departments and agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 on advertising campaigns where costs exceeded $250,000.
Mr Gray said data used by the report was sourced from the Government’s Central Advertising System, which consolidated government advertising expenditure and optimised media discounts through whole-of-government negotiated media rates.
He said the report covered the period 1 July to 31 December 2010, building on the previous four biannual reports issued in March and September 2009 and in March and October 2010. In addition to recent expenditure data, this report includes historical expenditure data.
The report can be found at this PS News link.
12 April, 2011
A consultation paper has been issued to establish a common definition of flood to be used in insurance policies.
rises to surface
Announced by the Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten, the standard definition has been designed by the Government, in close consultation with the Insurance Council of Australia and consumer groups.
He said people should know exactly what was, and what was not, covered under their insurance policies.
“The time has come for the insurance industry to meet their customers half way,” Mr Shorten said.
“A single, standard definition for floods, across the entire country, across every insurance company is the best way forward.”
He said the proposed standard definition was: ‘Flood’ means the covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of: (a) any lake, or any river, creek or other natural watercourse, whether or not altered or modified; or (b) any reservoir, canal or dam.
Mr Shorten said stormwater runoff was typically included in standard cover for home and contents policies and this would remain the case.
He said the paper had two proposals: a standard definition of flood for inclusion in insurance policies; and a short ‘key facts’ statement that summarises the contents of insurance policies.
He said in future, if the term ‘flood’ was standardised across insurance policies and defined in plain English terms, they would be more easily understood up-front, so consumers weren’t surprised when they tried to make a claim.
“Under the proposal, the term ‘flood’ can only appear in an insurance policy if it covers the standard meaning of the term,” Mr Shorten said.
He said those proposals would be subject to public consultation so the details could be refined, and it was expected they would be considered for inclusion in legislative changes introduced later this year.
The Government welcomes submissions on the paper, which is available from the Treasury website. Submissions close on 13 May 2011.
12 April, 2011
Card details exposed
The names and private details of more than 600 holders of official credit cards have been exposed following a theft of information from a Sydney telecommunications company.
According to IT industry magazine ZDNet, the names were on a database taken from the company, Rojone last month.
The company has ordered a review of security.
PhD applications extended
The expression of interest period for the Sir Roland Wilson PhD scholarships has been extended until 21 April.
In 2011, in partnership with the Commonwealth Government, the Foundation will be offering the inaugural Sir Roland Wilson Foundation PhD scholarships for Australian public servants.
These scholarships will offer high-achieving public servants the opportunity to make an active contribution to academic discourse that is of direct relevance to the Australian Public Service.
The purpose of the expression of interest process is to ensure that potential applicants meet the specific academic requirements for admission and this process will also identify whether ANU has the capacity to supervise the proposed research topic.
For further information regarding areas of research interest for the public service you can contact: Dr Jane Gunn, Group Manager, Strategic Centre for Leadership, Learning and Development, Australian Public Service Commission on 02 6202 3909.
Hogan appeals to Ombudsman
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has confirmed that he has received a complaint from Robinson Legal on behalf of Paul Hogan, John Cornell and Anthony Stewart.
The Ombudsman’s Office said an investigation is to be undertaken into aspects of the complaint.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman investigates complaints in private and as he sees fit.
Following completion of the investigation, the Commonwealth Ombudsman will consult with agencies involved and can consider release of a public report of the findings.
DIAC expands online
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has expanded its online services to enable clients applying for Australian Citizenship or a Resident Return Visa to attach documents to an application lodged online.
Clients will need to use your unique Transaction Reference Number (TRN) and the Password that they supplied when they created and saved their application.
For more information see this PS News link.
Road hits list
The Great Ocean Road will be placed on Australia’s National Heritage List.
Due to its extraordinary historic and natural significance to the nation, the Government had added the Great Ocean Road including the Twelve Apostles and world-famous Bells Beach, to the List.
The Great Ocean Road becomes the 92nd place on a list of Australia’s most valued natural, Indigenous and historic heritage sites.
It will become one of only 20 of the nation’s most iconic coastal places including the Great Barrier Reef, Bondi Beach, Point Nepean, Kurnell Peninsula and Shark Bay to achieve National Heritage listing.
New home for AFP
The official opening of the Australian Federal Police’s new state-of-the-war National Headquarters recognises the vital role the organisation will continue to play in combating organised crime and establishing security at local, national, regional and global levels.
The Kings Avenue Canberra premises is a national heritage-listed building created in 1974 and named the Edmund Barton Building (EBB) after the nation’s first Prime Minister.
The high-security headquarters encompasses the very latest in technology and includes a new Operations Coordination Centre which will ensure the highest level of coordination and collaboration during major operations and responses to critical incidents.
Comment call on air charges
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released an issues paper seeking public comment on a pricing proposal by Airservices Australia.
Airservices provides air traffic control services in Australia, including terminal navigation, and also provides aviation rescue and fire-fighting (ARFF) services at airports in Australia.
Airservices must notify the ACCC when it wishes to increases prices and is proposing a long-term pricing arrangement that will apply during the next five years.
Airservices is proposing to increase TN and ARFF prices annually by 0.6 per cent and 6.1 per cent respectively.
The ACCC is seeking submissions by 10 May 2011.
The issues paper is available on the ACCC’s website this PS News link.
Post not subsidising
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued its sixth report assessing cross-subsidy between the services provided by Australia Post.
The report analyses Australia Post’s 2009-10 regulatory accounts to establish whether its competitive services were being cross-subsidised with revenue from its monopoly services.
According to the report, the regulatory accounts do not provide evidence that Australia Post is cross-subsidising its competitive services with revenue from its monopoly services.
It said logistics services continue to be subsidised, and that subsidy appears to be Australia Post’s other competitive services, rather than its monopoly services.
12 sign up to NBN
Twelve retail service providers have signed an agreement with NBN Co to deliver services over the new network as part of upcoming end-user trials across the five first release sites on the Australian mainland.
Of the 12 RSPs, four have already been through the on-boarding process and are NBN-ready.
These four RSPs are expected to be the first to connect customers to the national broadband network on mainland Australia when they begin connecting customers as part of the end-user trial to begin in Armidale in the near future.
The four initial RSPs working with NBN Co in the test site phase will be running preliminary tests over the network and selecting a limited number of their existing end-users to take part in the trial.
Tax guide for promoters
A new guide to help tax intermediaries avoid contravening the Promoter Penalty Legislation has been launched.
The Tax intermediaries - Good governance and promoter penalty laws guide helps tax intermediaries manage promoter penalty and controversial tax planning risks that would impact on them and their clients.
The promoter penalty laws prohibit promotion of tax exploitation schemes.
The laws also address implementation of product ruling arrangements in a materially different way to that described in the product ruling.
The guide discusses the consequences of contravening these laws and how to establish the right governance controls to avoid those consequences.
For information visit this PS News link.
8 April, 2011
Revised guidelines and an online information service are among new measures to improve fraud control in the Australian Public service.
on fraud crackdown
Based on a report by the Australian Institute of Criminology and announced by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor, the shorter and simpler guidelines set out the obligations expected of Agencies when fraud is detected.
According to Mr O’Connor, the AIC report Fraud Against the Commonwealth reveals there were around 800,000 cases of fraud in 2008-09 costing the Commonwealth $597 million.
“These new resources will also help Agencies conduct more rigorous risk assessments and undertake detailed fraud prevention planning,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The new Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines make clear to Agencies their obligation to thoroughly investigate, and if needed, prosecute cases of fraud.”
He said all Government agencies faced the risk of fraud on a daily basis but it was particularly prevalent among those offering financial support programs to members of the public or through contractors and suppliers.
“Like all businesses, there is also a risk of fraud from staff within Commonwealth agencies,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said the spread of technology served to make matters worse.
“The threat of fraud is becoming more complex as we strive to deliver government services online and increasingly rely on digital records to deliver more personalised services,” he said.
“Technology is making life easier for tens of thousands of Australians and increases the efficiency of government programs, however, it can also create opportunities for cyber criminals, at home and abroad.
Mr O’Connor said the Government was taking problem of fraud seriously.
“By providing these new tools we’re determined to ensure that public funds are spent properly and accountably for the benefit all Australians.”
He said the new tools were the shorter and simpler Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines and a new central website Commonwealth Fraud Control Information Online, where agencies and the public could find fraud control information.
“Australian taxpayers rightly expect Commonwealth agencies to be vigilant stewards of public funds and make every effort to protect public money and property,” he said.
He said the Fraud Control Guidelines and Fraud Control Information Online could be accessed at this PS News link.
8 April, 2011
Resource guide has
The Auditor-General has published a Better Practice Guide on human resource information systems.
Placing particular emphasis on the inherent risks of HR information systems and relevant controls, the new 101 page Guide Human Resource Information Systems – Risks and Controls focuses on managing those risks through the implementation of better practice principles.
It identifies better practice system controls and describes manual or process controls that would be relevant to support or strengthen the implementation of system controls.
According to the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, establishing and monitoring internal controls over HR information are important management functions but the move towards Human Resource Management Information Systems (HRMIS) is posing a number of challenges.
“Internal control is fundamental to addressing risks to the completeness and accuracy of information,” Mr McPhee says.
“The integration of technology to support managing a modern workforce can introduce a range of information management risks.
“With this in mind, the new better Practice Guide emphasises the important role of both system and manual controls in maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of HR information.”
He said the Guide identifies the risks associated with HRMIS and looks at controls to allow HR managers to implement better practices and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their HR and payroll processes.
He said it also shows how to strengthen controls and manage user access to key system functions and increase the awareness of controls within the PeopleSoft and SAP HR systems.
“Implementation of controls should have due regard to the cost benefit involved,” the Auditor-General said.
“Equally, reducing controls for cost-saving reasons should be carefully managed as the operating risk profile may be increased.”
He said the Guide was supported by a supplement that provides better practice examples for implementing controls for the SAP and PeopleSoft HRMIS applications.
Booth the Better Practice Guide and the Supplement can be downloaded from the Australian National Audit Office website at this PS News link.
8 April, 2011
Research cuts into
The Community and Public Sector Union has drawn attention to a research study showing community opinion to be firmly against cuts to public services.
PS job cuts debate
Conducted by Essential Media, the survey revealed that more than two-thirds of Australians would prefer to put off returning the Federal Budget to surplus beyond 2012/13 if to do so meant cuts to services or increases in tax.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said only 22 per cent of the survey respondents approved of spending cuts, while 49 per cent wanted spending maintained.
Ms Flood said the research revealed deep concern about the effects of cuts to public services.
“Cuts to essential services might fill a short-term budget hole,” Ms Flood said, “but Australians realise they’ll lead to long-term problems.
“We are already seeing jobs cut at Centrelink ... and Medicare has had an effective staffing freeze for six months.
“This results in longer queues and poorer services and makes it harder for these organisations to respond to emergencies like the Queensland floods.”
She said the survey results showed the public did not want the Budget returned to surplus “at any cost”.
“The Government has a responsibility to ensure that the services built over many years are not damaged by deep cuts,” she said.
“Many vulnerable Australians rely on Government services and their needs should not be sacrificed.”
Full details of the research project are available from this PS News link.
8 April, 2011
A new guide that helps the victims of natural disasters understand their insurance policies has been welcomed by the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten and Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
is best policy
The guide When disaster strikes – cyclones, storms and floods: A guide to getting your insurance claim paid, is a self-help resource developed by Legal Aid Queensland to assist Queenslanders deal with the aftermath of the devastating storms, cyclone and floods which impacted on the State earlier this year.
According to Mr Shorten, the new guide provides a range of important information, including how to submit an insurance claim, understanding what an insurance policy covers, how to prove the cause of damage to property, and what a policyholder’s options were if the insurance claim is refused.
“It is a valuable resource for anyone trying to make an insurance claim following the devastating floods and Cyclone Yasi in Queensland,” Mr Shorten said.
“While it is Queensland specific, it will also be of assistance to people in other States facing similar circumstances.”
Mr McClelland said the Commonwealth donated $200,000 to legal services in Queensland to assist flood victims obtain legal advice with the Insurance Council of Australia and Legal Aid Queensland also making sizeable donations.
“Queenslanders and other people affected by the floods have legal rights and recourse to pursue their insurance claims,” Mr McClelland said.
“A number of legal issues relating to insurance claims are being addressed, including housing and tenancy issues and lost or destroyed documents.
“The new guide will help these efforts.”
He said Queenslanders affected by the floods and in need of legal information or assistance should contact Queensland Floods Legal Help on 1300 65 11 88 or visit this PS News link.
Information about Commonwealth assistance can be obtained from this PS News link.
8 April, 2011
Support services for newly-arrived refugees are to receive a boost with a new Humanitarian Settlement Services program (HSS) coming into force and 18 contractors engaged to provide services in 24 regions.
Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy announced the changes saying they would improve the integration of refugees into the community.
Senator Lundy said the new humanitarian support services would be concentrated around three major regional centres - Geelong in Victoria, Newcastle and Wollongong in NSW - and the contractors had been chosen from a national tender process.
HSS replaces the Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy program which commenced in October 2005.
“Australia has a proven record of providing world-class settlement services,” Senator Lundy said.
“The new Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program builds on this reputation
through a tailored service delivery model that will help these people to gain the skills and
confidence needed to become fully participating members of the community.”
She said it remained a government priority to see that refugees were accepted into the community Australia as quickly as possible and participated fully in its economic and social life.
She said to do this, the refugees needed the skills and knowledge to gain access independently to services in such areas as education, health care and the workforce.
Senator Lundy said HSS services would be delivered through a case management model which included reception on-arrival, case coordination, referral to mainstream services, information about life in Australia, cultural and local orientation, and assistance finding accommodation.
“There will be a strong emphasis on a more comprehensive cultural orientation program, the needs of youth, and the importance of working closely with other settlement and
mainstream service providers,” Senator Lundy said.
The HSS system began on 4 April.
8 April, 2011
The earliest surviving document printed in Australia has been added to the United Nation’s Australian Memory of the World Register.
Held by the National Library of Australia in Canberra, the eighteenth century theatre playbill advertises a theatrical performance at the Theatre in Sydney on Saturday 30 July 1796 and was printed by George Hughes who operated Australia’s first printing press.
Director-General of the National Library, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, said she was delighted the playbill had been added to the Memory of the World Register.
“As the oldest known printed document in this country, it is important that the playbill be recognised in this way,” Ms Schwirtlich said.
“It is also a special document because it was given to the National Library in 2007 by the Canadian Government after being found in a box of Canadian ephemera by a rare books bibliographer from Library and Archives Canada.”
She said it was believed that Philip Gidley King, who was to become the third Governor of NSW, took the playbill with him to London in 1796 when he was a First Fleet Marine Officer. King’s handwriting and signature appear on the back.
Ms Schwirtlich said the Australian Memory of the World Register was one of 60 such programs established globally by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to ensure that valuable archive holdings and library collections were kept safe for future generations.
She said other items from the National Library’s collection already included on the Register were Captain Cook’s Endeavour Journal and the papers of Aboriginal land rights activist Eddie Mabo.
Ms Schwirtlich said the playbill would be placed on permanent display at the Library when it opened its new Treasures Gallery in October this year.
8 April, 2011
A study commissioned for the Built Environment Industry Innovation Council has revealed that creating three-dimensional models of buildings before they were built could lead to better, cheaper and safer outcomes.
builds up models
The report Productivity in the Buildings Network: Assessing the Impacts of Building Information Models, found that using building information modelling (BIM) to produce a 3D model improved the productivity of the building sector significantly.
According to the Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, the 3D building modelling technology helped builders and owners make the best financial and environmental management decisions over the life of a commercial building.
Senator Carr said the report, which promoted better designed, cheaper to build and safer buildings, was part of a push to encourage architects, engineers, designers and builders to innovate and adopt new technology.
He said the Council’s research showed that if BIM was widely adopted, it would make a significant difference to national economic performance.
“I am pleased the Built Environment Industry Innovation Council commissioned this study,” Senator Carr said.
“They will use (it) to encourage the building industry to become more productive and innovative.”
He said the BIM system was growing in use overseas.
“The report is an important step in promoting its use in Australia where our building network sector accounts for about 12 per cent of Australia’s total production – around $355 billion – and employs about one-eighth of Australia’s workforce.” Senator Carr said.
“Widespread adoption of BIM will result in cleaner, healthier buildings – both new and renovated – with improvements in material consumption, energy efficiency, carbon emissions and the productivity of occupants.”
He said a building owner could save up to 10 per cent, on average, on the cost of a building.
Senator Carr said the Council’s report followed the appointment of a Built Environment Supplier Advocate in February and its release of a Recommendations Report into ways of increasing Australia’s global competitiveness in the built environment sector.
He said the latest report could be accessed at this PS News link.
8 April, 2011
Green light for
Applications for natural resource management projects to share in $178 million worth of environmental grants are now being taken under the Caring for our Country 2011-12 business plan.
Announced jointly by the Ministers for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke and Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, as well as Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Mike Kelly, the plan will support short-term projects that can be completed by mid-2013.
Mr Burke said the Caring for our Country program was designed to produce a healthy, better protected and more resilient natural environment.
“This is the third annual Caring for our Country business plan,” Mr Burke said, “and we are committed to funding investments in this next round that help the landscape withstand the many pressures it faces, including natural disasters.”
Senator Ludwig said the Government would work with regional natural resource management organisations and other key stakeholders to support on-going projects throughout the country.
“This work is being undertaken in conjunction with environmental recovery efforts in response to recent natural disasters such as widespread flooding and Cyclone Yasi,” Senator Ludwig said.
“A focus for funding will be to build community skills, knowledge and engagement in natural resource management, particularly among Indigenous, farming, coastal and marine communities.”
The Ministers said projects that built natural resilience in ecosystems and farmlands would be popular in 2011-12.
Dr Kelly said the successful applications would complement a large number of multi-year projects currently being funded from the first three years of Caring for our Country.
He said the 2010-11 business plan funded more than 200 projects across the nation and supported a broad range of industry, natural resource management and community groups.
He said more information on the Caring for our Country 2011-12 business plan, including how to apply for funding, was available from this PS News link or by phoning 1800 552 008.
5 April, 2011
New Archives tool
The National Archives of Australia has launched a new online tool for Departments and Agencies to use to assess the strength of their records and information management systems.
tests record systems
Check-up 2.0 is a new and improved version of the original Check-up with improvements and enhancements designed to help Agencies identify strengths and weaknesses in their information management practices.
Assistant Director-General of Government Information Management at the Archives, Margaret Chalker said she was excited to launch Check-up 2.0.
“Records are an essential part of Public Sector accountability and it’s important to manage them properly,” Ms Chalker said. “After all, they are the basis of good decision-making – and they protect the rights and entitlements of citizens.
“This application will help Australian Commonwealth Government Agencies by identifying strengths and weaknesses in their records management procedures.”
She said the new tool could be used to identify strengths and weaknesses in information and records management; identify areas of high risk where records and information management needed extra attention; and prioritise other areas of records and information that also needed attention.
She said the new tool would also help support a case for resources or initiatives to improve information and records management; help produce reports to senior management on how well agencies met the National Archives’ minimum requirements for basic records management; and assist in planning and developing strategies, policies, procedures and training materials.
Ms Chalker said the improvements in Check-up 2.0 included such enhancements as revised questions and more up-to-date advice; a new rating scale of one to six for each question; storage of assessments in a database which would enable comparisons; and an annual whole-of-Government benchmarking service which would allow Agencies to compare their records and information management systems with others.
She said also included is a new type of assessment “requirements for a business information system”.
For more information on Check-up 2.0, visit this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
Audit’s fraud guide
The Auditor-General has published a Better Practice Guide on the management of fraud control in the APS.
right on the money
Entitled Fraud Control in Australian Government Entities, the 108-page booklet is intended to complement new Fraud Control Guidelines issued by the Minister for Home Affairs last month.
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said recent deficiencies in the delivery of high-profile government programs resulted, in part, from a failure to implement robust fraud control measures early in the life cycle of the programs.
He said this had resulted in significant losses and reputation damage from fraudulent behaviour.
“A sound understanding by senior management of the responsibilities and expectations with regards to fraud control can help ensure the APS meets community expectations that government services and programs will be delivered with integrity,” Mr McPhee said.
He said the Minister for Home Affairs had issued an updated version of the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines last month which were more principles-based, and established the fraud control policy framework within which entities determined their own specific practices, plans and procedures to manage the prevention and detection of fraudulent activities.
He said the Better Practice Guide was intended to complement the Fraud Control Guidelines, and was an important tool for senior management and those who had direct responsibilities for fraud control.
Mr McPhee said elements of the Guide would also be useful to a wider audience, including employees, contractors and service providers.
He said among the aspects the Guide looked at were the need for effective fraud control strategies; the role of central agencies; fraud control strategies and program management; and building fraud prevention into program design.
It also looked at identity fraud which the Auditor-General saw as an emerging fraud risk.
Mr McPhee said his Guide was directed at a wide set of stakeholders, including senior executives, fraud managers, operational managers, line area employees, and service providers and contractors.
The Better Practice Guide can be downloaded from this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
Union lashes out
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has criticised job cuts in the Australian Public Service warning they would affect the delivery of frontline services.
at APS job cuts
National Secretary of the Union, Nadine Flood said further and significant cuts to spending were also expected in the upcoming Federal Budget.
She said expectations the Government could increase its so-called “efficiency dividend” to as much as 5 per cent would have a devastating effect on the delivery of public services.
She said cuts of that size would hit frontline services like Medicare and Centrelink, and damage the Public Service’s ability to respond to national disasters.
“Centrelink has just told the CPSU that 530 jobs will go because of current Budget pressures,” Ms Flood said.
“Medicare has had an effective staffing freeze for six months, putting huge pressure on frontline staff and resulting in longer queues and poorer service.”
She said DEEWR cut 600 jobs last year and had just announced a further 300 jobs to go.
“At a time when Public Servants are being asked to do more with less, it is unreasonable to also expect them to take a cut in real wages and accept reduced conditions,” Ms Flood said.
She said during the Queensland emergencies more than 2,500 Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support Agency and other staff worked overtime to staff evacuation centres and get payments out to families in need.
She said in recent weeks DFAT operational centres had taken thousands of calls round-the-clock about Australians living in Egypt or Japan and arranged the evacuation of Australian citizens from Egypt.
She said before the 2010 election the Federal Government had promised to cap the “efficiency dividend” system to 1.25 per cent a year.
“If the Government breaks its election commitment and increases the efficiency dividend, the impact will be enormous,” Ms Flood said.
5 April, 2011
The Australian Law Reform Commission is to review the Australian censorship and classification system.
to reveal all
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the final terms of reference for the review of the National Classification Scheme had been released following community consultation.
Mr McClelland said the review would consider issues such as existing Commonwealth, State and Territory classification laws; the current classification categories contained in the Classification Act, Code and Guidelines; the rapid pace of technological change; the need to improve classification information available to the community; the effect of media on children; and the desirability of a strong content and distribution industry in Australia.
Mr McClelland said the ALRC last reviewed classification standards 20 years ago.
“Given the advances in technology and media we’ve seen since then, it is timely this work is undertaken,” he said.
“I’ve asked the ALRC to develop options for ensuring the system of classification in Australia is able to accommodate developments in technology in light of media convergence and the global availability of media content.”
The Minister responsible for classification, Brendan O’Connor said technology was fast moving and the review would examine how the classification system could cater for advances into the future.
“A lot has changed in recent years,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Australians now access content through the Internet and mobile phones and that poses challenges for the existing classification scheme.
“We’re also seeing the convergence of different technology platforms and the worldwide accessibility of some content, which also creates new concerns.”
He said the appointment of a new ALRC Commissioner to work on the review would be announced shortly.
Mr O’Connor said the ALRC had been asked to provide its final report by 30 January 2012 and the terms of reference and further information were available from this PS News link.
He said the Commission would identify and consult with relevant stakeholders, including the community and industry, through widespread public consultation.
5 April, 2011
Tax review to probe
A review of how revenue collected from the Goods and Services Tax is distributed to the States and Territories has been announced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
Ms Gillard said the review would be conducted by former State Premiers Nick Greiner and John Brumby and businessman Bruce Carter and would lead to a simpler, fairer, more predictable and more efficient distribution of the GST to States and Territories.
She said instead of the States facing penalties for economic growth and rewards for economic underperformance, the GST distribution process should encourage economic reform and better delivery of services, and provide States with certainty.
She said this would build a stronger Australian economy and make for better, more efficient delivery of essential services like schools and hospitals.
Ms Gillard said under any changes that might be considered by the Government, it would ensure that smaller States continued to receive a fair share of GST revenue, and that States with larger economies were not unfairly penalised for success.
The Prime Minister said there were currently a number of elements of the distribution arrangements that could be improved, including not enough incentive for reform which meant underperformance in service delivery and economic growth could be rewarded; a need for more certainty and predictability so States would not be be hit with unexpected shocks to their finances; and the potential for greater simplicity.
Ms Gillard said the Review would be advised by a Heads of Treasuries Advisory Committee comprising representatives from all States and Territories, and would seek submissions from the public.
It would be supported by a secretariat within the Commonwealth Treasury, with representation from the States and Territories as well as other agencies as appropriate.
She said the Review would provide an interim report to the Treasurer by February 2012 and a final report by September 2012.
Ms Gillard said the Review would not affect the distribution of the GST revenue in 2011-12 or 2012-13.
5 April, 2011
Seniors panel an
A new advisory panel is to be established to ensure the voice of older Australians is heard in policy debates and formulation.
oldie and goodie
Announced by the Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler and the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, the Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians will be chaired by former chairman of National Seniors, Everald Compton, with the other members to be announced later this month.
Mr Butler said there had been a tendency to look at the ageing of the population as a problem to be solved, but it was important not to lose sight of the benefits and opportunities that came with a larger and more active community of senior Australians.
He said the new Advisory Panel would ensure these considerations were injected into a range of contemporary policy debates, such as the opportunities created by the National Broadband Network for senior Australians.
He said it would also examine how businesses and policy makers could assist senior Australians in their transition from the workforce into other valuable endeavours, such as supporting their families, mentoring, volunteering and community work.
Mr Butler said the Panel would complement the work of the Consultative Forum on Mature Age Employment, which would continue to focus on measures to promote workplace participation.
He said it would produce a series of reports to Government in the second half of 2011 and also undertake targeted consultation with relevant experts and peak representative bodies around the country.
The Panel and its work will be supported by a secretariat to be established in the Treasury.
Mr Butler said anyone interested in the Panel’s work or consultations could contact the secretariat at this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
Healthy start for
Nine new locations have been announced to lead the roll-out of e-health records across Australia.
Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon said e-health was one of the critical elements of the Government’s efforts to modernise the health system.
“In these nine projects we can see practical examples of how e-health can improve health care for patients,” Ms Roxon said.
“Most importantly, these projects can help to reduce the chance of medical errors and save patients from having to repeat their health history every time they visit a new doctor.”
She said these projects would lead the roll-out of e-health records for a wide range of patients, including Indigenous Australians in the Northern territory, Western Australia and South Australia, chronic disease patients in Western Sydney and aged care and palliative patients in NSW, the ACT and Tasmania.
“With more than 90 applications received, it’s clear there is a high level of support for e-health,” Ms Roxon said.
“These nine new sites will add to our existing three lead implementation sites that are busy working to implement their program.”
She said the 12 e-health lead implementation sites were aiming to have more than half a million Australians enrolled before the national launch of e-health records next year.
The Minister also announced the outcomes of the successful national e-health conference held in Melbourne last year, which were released through the National e-Health Conference Report.
“The conference provided an important opportunity for collaboration between clinicians, health consumers and the IT industry around the design and implementation of a PCEHR system,” Ms Roxon said.
“This report reveals how participants thought we should approach the opportunities and challenges ahead for e-health, and in particular discusses some of the innovation potential for the sector. This will be a useful report in the ongoing implementation of e-health records.”
She said details of the lead implementation sites and the National e-Health Conference Report could be downloaded from this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
Property audit is
An audit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s management of Australia’s overseas property leases has found it to be ‘largely effective’.
In his report Management of the Overseas Leased Estate, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found the basic elements for leased office and residential property were working effectively despite the fact that “diversity and geographic spread of the estate poses management challenges”.
He said his report showed that DFAT was responsible for managing the majority of Government overseas assets, which included both owned and leased properties across 93 locations in 77 countries.
Mr McPhee said in August 2010 the overseas estate included 925 properties of which 58 per cent were leased, while the remaining 42 per cent were owned. Of the leased properties, there were 57 chanceries, 39 Head of Mission residences, 407 staff residences and 31 other property types.
He said DFAT’s estimated annual rent for the leased estate in 2010–11 was $53.4 million.
In his report, Mr McPhee said under financial management and accountability arrangements, each agency was responsible for the funding and oversight of its leased property overseas, but at an operational level, DFAT, as the lead agency overseas, was responsible for the leasing of chanceries.
He said within DFAT, the strategic management of the leased estate was shared between the Overseas Property Office (OPO) and the Corporate Management Division (CMD).
Mr McPhee said the objective of his audit was to assess the effectiveness of DFAT’s management of the overseas leased estate, in particular, whether it had effective governance, reporting and funding arrangements in place; effectively managed overseas leased chancery and residential property on a day-to-day basis; and managed relationships with landlords and attached agencies effectively.
He said DFAT was presented with different leasing requirements and standards of property at each post, along with an evolving security environment, and within the context of this environment, the ANAO concluded that DFAT had been largely effective in the provision of leased property overseas.
Mr McPhee said the audit identified some elements of DFAT’s administration where improvements would strengthen the overall management of the overseas leased estate, including a review of the governance arrangements to better support the leased estate, with the intent of more clearly delineating roles and responsibilities within DFAT; and a focus on improved long-term planning for leased chanceries to better manage lease life cycles and changes to post requirements.
The report was prepared by an audit team of Damien Brown, Tara David and Tom Clarke and was available from this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
Uni takes chance
The Australian National University has entered a new strategic partnership with the Australian Risk Policy Institute (ARPI) to research and develop new approaches to risk policy and management.
with risk institute
Director of the Research School of Economics at ANU, Professor Warwick McKibbin said ARPI was reportedly the only professional body in the world formed specifically to promote risk policy.
He said it encouraged new thinking and new approaches towards risk policy, and the adoption of new frameworks for the management of risk among leaders, decision makers and policy makers in Australia.
Professor McKibbin said the application of risk policy was relevant to all areas of government, public service and business at global, national and local community levels.
He said the ANU College of Business and Economics and the Australian National Institute for Public Policy would be the primary areas involved in the partnership, however it would be likely to have benefits across the University.
“The evaluation and management of risk is a vital component of management policy and strategic planning in many areas of public life,” Professor McKibbin said.
“This partnership will have benefits for researchers across a range of academic disciplines, both within the public policy and business arenas and beyond.”
President of the Australian Risk Policy Institute, Tony Charge said risk policy addressed implications and potential impacts of public and corporate policies at every decision-making stage, and informed implementation analysis.
“The aim of risk policy is to both connect leaders with the concept of risk and to strategically inform the processes of risk management and risk governance by the introduction of new concepts and approaches such as ‘vulnerability’, ‘systemic risk’, ‘wicked problems’, ‘predictive analysis’ and so on.” Mr Charge said.
“This partnership offers a new and strategic way to identify and present risk information to leaders and organisations across the whole spectrum of public life in Australia.”
5 April, 2011
No Cabinet secrets
The National Archives of Australia has opened a new display highlighting newly-released Cabinet documents made available under the recently-introduced 20-year exclusion period.
in Archives display
The exhibition is entitled Out of the Cabinet and features documents and commentary on documents that are 20 years old instead of the formerly-required 30.
Assistant Director-General of Access and Communications at the Archives, Anne Lyons said that through a series of essays and a display of the original Cabinet documents, Out of the Cabinet was an in-depth and at times humorous look at particular policy decisions.
“Cabinet records reflect the decisions made at the highest levels of government,” Ms Lyons said.
“Few documents cover such a broad sweep of Australian history and touch the lives of so many Australians.”
She said Australia had one of the most liberal and accountable archival access regimes in the world and through April and May this year, the 1981 decision by the Fraser government to join the United States’ boycott of the Olympic Games, which was designed to punish Russia for their invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, would be on display.
She said the documents included details of financial compensation for athletes who were unable to attend and the Cabinet’s concerns they may be seen as a bribe.
“Out of the Cabinet can be explored online or by visiting the changing selection of documents from 1980 and 1981 in the National Office in Canberra,” Ms Lyons said.
5 April, 2011
National strategy for
A major new national strategy for Australia to use the National Broadband Network to become a world-leading digital economy by 2020 is to be released in May.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the most important aspect of the NBN was how it would be used to drive the economy, deliver better health and education services, improve environmental sustainability and drive business productivity.
She said the roadmap would provide Australians with a clear vision of what an NBN-enabled world would look like and what steps the Government, in collaboration with industry and the community, would take to get there.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said if Australia was to become one of the world’s leading digital economies by 2020, it must have a national digital strategy.
He said 72 per cent of Australian households had internet access and of those 64 per cent were using it to purchase goods or services, yet 59 per cent of Australian businesses did not have a web presence, and 73 per cent did not offer sales transactions online.
Senator Conroy said this meant that a large percentage of Australian businesses were missing out on the opportunities that the digital economy could provide.
He said the National Digital Economy Strategy would map the key areas of focus and outline programs that would allow Australian families, not-for-profit organisations and small and medium businesses to enjoy the economic and social benefits that the NBN could deliver.
He said these programs would create digital hubs in local towns where people who aren’t online could experience the benefits.
Senator Conroy said the programs would also provide training to local businesses and community organisations to ensure that all communities enjoyed the benefits of getting online.
5 April, 2011
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has announced a review of the methodology it uses to count the number of homeless people uncovered in its five-yearly Census.
The Bureau has issued a discussion paper on the topic, seeking the views of the homelessness services sector as well as everyone else.
The ABS said that if the methodology is revised, it would apply back to the 2001 and 2006 censuses to enable a comparative analysis of the trend in homelessness over time.
Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness, Mark Arbib urged all stakeholders to examine the assumptions, methodology and processes used in the ABS review, as well as provide input and identify issues with counts of certain groups in the community.
Senator Arbib said that accuracy of data was the most important principle in terms of counting the homeless.
“Improving our understanding and knowledge of people who are homeless is an important goal and I support attempts to enhance the accuracy of data,” Senator Arbib said.
“We know that counting the homeless is a very complex task and there is always the potential for undercounts or overcounts of particular groups.”
He said point-in-time data did not provide any indication of the flow of people in and out of homelessness or the number of people who were homeless outside the Census year.
Senator Arbib said the ABS discussion paper on the review of the Counting the Homeless methodology would be open for public discussion until 30 June 2011.
The final paper of the review would be made available by the ABS in July 2011 ahead of Census night on 9 August 2011.
He said further information on how to make a submission was available on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ website at this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
The National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary has presented its report to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Centenary of Anzac, Warren Snowdon.
places its orders
Ms Gillard said the report was developed by the National Commission on the Commemoration of the Anzac Centenary, which was established to look at options to mark the Centenary of the First World War 2014 – 2018, in particular, Anzac Day 2015.
She said the commission considered more than 600 submissions containing more than 1,500 suggestions from Australia and overseas.
Ms Gillard thanked the six members of the Commission for their contribution to the report.
She said the commission’s report made a number of recommendations for Government to consider in six general themes: education and public awareness; refurbishment and maintenance of memorials, cenotaphs, honour rolls and avenues of honour; recognition of a Century of Service; major Commemorative Services; community engagement to encourage activities that acknowledge and inform the local community; and international engagement to generate opportunities for Australia to be involved in initiatives and activities that would promote international collaboration.
Ms Gillard also announced the formation of a new Anzac Centenary Advisory Board to progress the work of the Commission and provide strategic advice on the planning and implementation of Anzac Centenary events and initiatives.
Mr Snowdon said the new Board was the next logical step in the journey towards 2015.
He said the Government would consider the Commission’s report and announce its response later in 2011.
The Commission members included former Prime Ministers Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke, RSL National President, Rear Admiral Ken Doolan (Retd), former Peacekeeper Major Matina Jewell (Retd), veterans’ advocate, Kylie Russell, and cartoonist and journalist Warren Brown.
The report can be found at this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
Consumers hung up
Research conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority has found that some consumers find it difficult to provide “fully informed consent” when signing up to telecommunications contracts.
on phone contracts
Community research on informed consent was commissioned to inform ACMA of community attitudes towards the way consent was currently sought and ways it could be improved for a better consumer experience.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the research highlighted a “core principle” of informed consent from a consumer’s perspective - full information must be offered in an accessible manner and at the time of agreement.
He said the report indicated that people wanted to take responsibility for protecting themselves, particularly where substantial finances were involved; where detailed information was required of the individual; and where the brand or the company was not well known.
Mr Chapman said consumers identified appropriate and inappropriate ways to handle consent in a number of situations.
He said contracts with telecommunication providers were the most commonly cited example of where consumers were called on to provide consent.
“Australians are aware of the potential risks of providing their consent online, on the phone or face-to-face and, interestingly but reassuringly, do feel a responsibility to be properly informed prior to giving their consent,” Mr Chapman said.
“However, they admitted they do not always take the time or make a proper assessment to fully inform themselves prior to giving their consent.”
He said overall, expectations with regard to actually providing informed consent for telecommunications contracts were very low.
The survey also examined consumer awareness and attitudes towards how personal information was used by third parties; towards consenting online; consenting over the phone and face-to-face; consent involving minors; and the length of time consent was valid for.
Mr Chapman said the findings were intended to provide ACMA with an understanding when considering informed consent issues in the future and when providing advice to industry and other stakeholders on consumer expectations.
The report Community research on informed consent can be found on the ACMA website at this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
Island project tackles
The Australian Federal Police has announced that its capacity building project with the Vanuatu Police Force has matured into the Vanuatu Australia Police Project (VAPP).
trouble in paradise
According to Australia’s High Commissioner in Vanuatu, Jeff Roach, the move represented another step for the Vanuatu Police Force (VPF) towards their goal of building a more effective police service for the community of Vanuatu
Mission Commander of the capacity building project for the past two years, Superintendent Bill Quade, outlined the achievements of the five year Project.
“The achievements of the project, including 126 new recruits, the donation of a Tier II vessel, various infrastructure projects and multiple training courses, develop the capability and capacity of the VPF, and facilitate and support self-reliance and management,” Supt Quade said.
Manager of the Australian Peace and Stability Operations Centre (MAPSOC), James Watson represented the National Manager of the International Deployment Group at the final meeting.
Mr Watson highlighted and complimented the VPF on recent changes to the Vanuatu Police Act.
“These changes now provide the VPF with a modern and effective legislation base on which to build an effective governance framework” Mr Watson said.
He said the VAPP would continue to support the VPF, with four main areas of focus, including training and professionalisation of VPF, infrastructure, assets and logistics, workforce renewal and internal VPF governance.
He said VAPP would be in operation until 30 June 2012.
5 April, 2011
Smokers smoked out
A new advertising campaign urging Indigenous Australians to quit smoking has been launched by the Ministers for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon and Indigenous Affairs, Warren Snowdon.
in tobacco campaign
Ms Roxon said the campaign depicted a young Indigenous woman reflecting on her own experience of having lost family and friends to smoking-related diseases and how she didn’t want her own children to think dying early from smoking related diseases was normal.
“This campaign addresses the harsh reality that 1 in 2 Indigenous Australians smoke, and 1 in 5 will die from smoking-related diseases,” Ms Roxon said.
“The statistics are alarming, but the message is simple: break the chain and give up a habit that will kill you.”
Mr Snowdon said smoking accounted for around 20 per cent of all Indigenous deaths, and it was the number one cause of chronic conditions and diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“Our Government is committed to halving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander smoking rates by 2018,” Mr Snowdon said.
“This campaign will complement our new tobacco health workforce which has already been rolled out across in the first 20 of 57 regions around Australia.”
He said it was also significant because it was the first Indigenous-specific television commercial as part of a national health campaign.
National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking, Tom Calma welcomed the campaign saying it reflected the life circumstances confronting the majority of Indigenous Australians.
“One in two of our people smoke and one in five die from smoking related diseases,” Dr Calma said.
“This anti-smoking campaign is providing information and support to help our people make informed choices to give up smoking and address unhealthy behaviours.
He said for help to quit smoking, people should consult their doctor or pharmacist, call the Quitline on 13 78 48 or visit the Quit Now website at this PS News link.
5 April, 2011
Twice the news in PS News
PS News is to come out twice a week from this week with a Friday update to be published for its Australian Public Service edition from now on.
Subscribers can look forward to a second weekly email alerting them to even more news, views and reviews about their chosen profession.
Immigration centre back to DIAC
The Australian Federal Police have handed control of the Christmas Island Northwest Point Immigration Detention Centre back to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, following an agreement between both agencies.
As the situation within the Northwest Point IDC remained in a steady state, it was appropriate for the AFP to hand control back to DIAC as the agency responsible for the operation and maintenance of the facility.
This hand-back would be followed by a transition period, where AFP resources would stand-by to ensure the hand-back occurs seamlessly.
Christmas Island Police will continue to undertake expanded patrols within the Christmas Island community.
Landmark land agreement
The 500th Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) has been registered with the National Native Title Tribunal.
The Victorian agreement with the Dja Dja Wurrung people includes the establishment of an annual Spring race to be known as the Dja Dja Wurrung Cup.
ILUAs allow groups such as pastoralists, mining companies, governments and others to proceed with projects while ensuring rights of Indigenous people are recognised and protected.
These agreements provide sustainable outcomes for Indigenous people and demonstrate the enduring benefits that can be achieved through native title when parties choose to negotiate, rather than litigate.
Railway to fix damage
The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has been ordered by the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPac) to repair environmental damage it caused.
An investigation by the federal environment department found ARTC's actions resulted in the clearing of a population of the critically endangered spiny rice-flower and part of an endangered grey box grassy woodlands and derived native grasslands of south-eastern Australia ecological community protected under national environmental law.
The works took place during the 2010 Western Victoria Track Upgrade Project. ARTC proceeded with the work without federal environment approval for their actions.
ARTC is required to spend $207,000 on a number of activities to achieve desired positive environmental outcomes.
Wedding prompts new coin
Australia’s first coin commemorating the royal engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton has hit the shelves at the Royal Australian Mint.
The 50c coin, dated 2010 to mark the year of the engagement, was designed by The Queen’s goldsmith and jeweller Stuart Devlin who has also designed a number of Australia’s circulating coin designs.
The design will feature on two products.
For those who just want a small collectible to remember this moment, a commemorative 50 cent coin in a card will be on sale, and a selectively gold-plated two coin set also available.
Both products can be ordered online at this PS News link or through the Mint’s Call Centre, 1300 652 020.
Sheds in the money
A second round of grants for men’s sheds has been announced as part of the Australian Government’s Shed Development Program.
Community groups can now apply for up to $10,000 to purchase work equipment, improve disability access, obtain shed insurance or connect to utilities.
$750,000 is being provided over three years through the Australian Men’s Shed Association to assist eligible men’s sheds across the country.
Men’s Sheds provide relief from the isolation many Australian men experience by encouraging them to work together, doing things that are traditionally done in sheds, like building furniture or fixing machinery.
The Shed Development Program Guidelines and Application Form are at this PS News link.
Air pollution drops
Data from the National Pollutant Inventory shows that emissions of a range of common air pollutants dropped slightly in 2009–10.
The NPI is a publicly accessible Australian Government database compiled in partnership with state and territory governments.
The latest data identified long-term trends showing that emissions of a range of common air pollutants – such as carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide and total volatile organic compounds – have either decreased slowly or remained steady.
National emissions of lead and its compounds have also continued to decrease.
For more information go to this PS News link.