SearchArchives for August 2007
28 August, 2007
Take Care Warning
For Caretaker Phase
Public Servants have been warned to avoid political activity and to respect the “caretaker conventions” of the Federal electoral cycle in the lead-up to the coming Federal election.
They have been reminded of the importance of protect the apolitical nature of the Public Service
With the current Government’s term of office expiring on 16 November, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has revised its guidelines on the Caretaker Conventions to provide Departments, Agencies and individual PS officers with clear advice on what is expected of them as the election date nears.
According to the Guidelines, the caretaker period begins when the House of Representatives is dissolved and continues until the election result is clear.
“During the caretaker period, the business of Government continues and the ordinary matters of administration still need to be addressed,” the Guidelines say.
However, they say that successive Governments have followed conventions that ensure an incoming Government was not bound by new policy.
“In summary, the conventions are that the Government avoids making major policy decisions that are likely to commit an incoming Government; making significant appointments; and entering major contracts or undertakings.”
They say the definition of ‘major’ would be a judgment call, often related to dollar value, likely controversy and any legal, commercial or other imperative concerned.
According to the Guidelines, Government advertising campaigns would only be continued during the caretaker period if they enjoyed bipartisan support, were of an operational nature – such as Defence recruiting or public health campaigns - and were not associated with election messages.
The Guidelines also advised Agencies to take particular care with website content, ensuring only factual matter was added to Ministerial websites.
They advise that the use of official premises for public events, such as media conferences etc, may continue but say Opposition spokespeople and candidates should be given the opportunity to attend.
All parties are free to campaign in PS offices normally open to the public but the Guidelines warn staff to take extra care.
“It is most important during an election campaign that Public Servants not become caught up with party political activity,” they say.
“For that reason, it is not appropriate that use of premises extend to such activities as
engaging Public Servants in political dialogue or using Public Servants for logistical support for
“Nor, of course, should use of premises unreasonably disrupt the normal
operations of the offices concerned.”
The Guidelines are available for download on the PM&C website www.dpmc.gov.au
28 August, 2007
CPSU Journey Cover
Is Way to Go
The Community and Public Sector Union is to insure its members against injury while travelling to and from work, filling a gap left by changes to PS workers compensation rules introduced this year.
National Secretary of the Union, Stephen Jones, announced the new cover, which applies to all members for 12 months from 27 August 2007.
Mr Jones said the cover would protect Public Servant members of the Union involved in serious accidents travelling to or from work and during meal breaks.
He said without it, they could face financial ruin.
“CPSU members who have exhausted their sick leave entitlements and are unable to work because of serious injuries sustained on the way to or from work can and will face financial difficulties,” Mr Jones said.
“This arrangement will provide limited income protection for CPSU members without sick leave credits, who are seriously injured on their journey to or from work and, in certain circumstances, during authorised meal breaks.”
He said the insurance would be free of charge for union members and remain in place for 12 months while the Union lobbied to have workers compensation cover restored.
Mr Jones said since the introduction of the new workers compensation arrangements in April, confusion and concern had reigned across the Public Service.
He said the changes were brought in despite strong opposition from unions, medical experts and other groups.
“Many people have expressed outrage at the way the Howard Government removed such an essential employment condition without any consultation,” Mr Jones said.
“In our view, these cuts have put CPSU members at unacceptable risk.”
He said the coverage was negotiated with insurance brokers Gow-Gates and would be provided by a leading Australian insurer.
CPSU members need not apply for coverage, all financial members will be automatically insured.
More information is available from the CPSU website www.cpsu.org.au
28 August, 2007
Ombudsman Lays Down
Law On Court Probes
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has issued a report clarifying his role and powers when investigating the decisions of Courts and Tribunals.
According to the Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, there are “significant problems” in determining where the powers of the Ombudsman reach as far as investigating complaints against Courts and Tribunals go and his report is an attempt to clear up the situation.
“Difficult questions regularly arise about whether the Commonwealth Ombudsman is able to investigate a complaint about a Court or Tribunal,” Professor McMillan says. “And equally importantly, whether the Office is the appropriate body to look at the issues raised.”
He said his three-part report reviewed the issues surrounding his powers in a bid to improve his Office’s handling of complaints about Courts and Tribunals; to make his powers clearer for the Courts and Tribunals to understand; to improve public understanding of his role; and to improve the understanding of complaint handling mechanisms in the Courts and Tribunals themselves.
Professor McMillan said he had powers to investigate administrative decisions made in Courts and Tribunals but it was not always clear how far those powers extended.
“In particular, it is difficult to list those actions which are administrative, rather than judicial or adjudicative in nature,” he said.
“It is also difficult to create hard and fast rules to decide when it is appropriate for the Ombudsman to choose to investigate a complaint.
“It will often involve weighing and considering a range of factors.”
He said his Office enjoyed a good working relationship with Courts and Tribunals and was continuing to refine its role of working with them on individual complaints.
“The Ombudsman’s Office is also increasingly aware of persistent complainants who cause difficulties for Courts and Tribunals.”
He said the law might have to be changed to make his role clearer.
“In the longer term, the Ombudsman believes that legislative reform would solve many of the definitional problems.”
The full text of the Ombudsman’s report is available at www.ombudsman.gov.au
28 August, 2007
Sky the Limit for
An Australian joint-venture telescope is at the heart of a new Google mapping feature which extends “Google Earth” to the heavens.
The Anglo-Australian Observatory’s Siding Spring facility in northern NSW is providing almost all the data for Google’s maps of the southern skies, using its 1.2-m UK Schmidt Telescope.
According to the AAO’s Professor Fred Watson, the Schmidt Telescope collected as much information from the sky as a conventional, much larger telescope, because it could see a bigger piece of sky in a single glance.
Sky in Google Earth will let users view 100 million individual stars and 200 million galaxies, and see how planets move across the sky.
Seven layers of information can be called up about celestial bodies and events, ranging from Hubble Space Telescope images to a “Users’ guide to galaxies” and information for amateur astronomers.
The southern sky data came from 894 photographic plates taken by the Anglo-Australian Observatory’s Telescope.
Other data came from the Space Telescope Science Institute, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, the Digital Sky Survey Consortium, CalTech’s Palomar Observatory and the UK Astronomy Technology Centre.
“Sky in Google Earth will be a fantastic resource for just about everybody,” Professor Watson said “You use it just like Google Earth, and it lets you to view the sky from any place on Earth.”
He said even professional astronomers were likely to use Sky in Google Earth.
“It will be a great way for professionals to share new images and science results with each other and with the public.
“For instance, we could use it to point out where a new supernova has been seen on the sky, or to share new images,” Professor Watson said.
28 August, 2007
National OHS Week
To Be a Safe Bet
Safe Work Australia Week has been launched by the Australian Safety and Compensation Council and will be held this year between 21 and 27 October.
The week aims to encourage all working Australians to get involved in, and concentrate on, safety in their workplace to reduce death, injury and disease.
According to the Chairman of the ASCC, Bill Scales, Australia currently ranked in the top five countries for reducing work-related deaths. He said there had been n with a 13 per cent decrease in accepted compensation claims and a 36 per cent decrease in compensated fatalities since 16.
“While these figures are encouraging, even one injury or fatality in the workplace is still one too many,” Mr Scales said.
He said incorporating safety into everyday work practices and making it a daily consideration not only improved occupational health and safety performance, but had a very significant effect on productivity.
“By organising a safety event in the workplace for Safe Work Australia Week, employers can begin to highlight the importance of safety and the role everyone plays in making safety a priority at work,” Mr Scales said
He said that an online ordering system for free promotional products had been launched to assist employers promote Safe Work Australia Week.
“Workplace events don’t need to cost a lot of money or require a lot of time to plan and the ASCC has made promotional products and resource kits available online to support employers across Australia.”
Mr Scales said there had already been orders from more than 500 organisations nationwide for Safe Work Australia Week promotional products.
He said the promotional products, employer resource kits and activity ideas for Safe Work Australia Week 2007 were available from the ASCC website at www.ascc.gov.au.
28 August, 2007
Budget Cashes In On
Last Year’s Surplus
The Department of Finance and the Treasury have announced that the general Government sector realised a cash surplus of $17.3 billion in the year 2006-07.
They said this was 1.7 per cent of GDP and $3.7 billion higher than expected at the time of the 2007-08 Federal Budget.
Around $2 billion arose from lower-than-budgeted spending and about $1.7 billion from higher tax receipts.
According to the Treasurer, Peter Costello, and the Minister for Finance, Senator Nick Minchin, company tax receipts were higher than expected by about $1 billion and superannuation fund tax receipts higher by almost $0.4 billion.
Lower spending was achieved across a large number of programs, including social and welfare programs, largely reflecting the stronger economic conditions.
The preliminary budget outcome for 2006-07 was the ninth cash surplus out of the past 10 budgets prompting Mr Costello and Senator Minchin to say that by delivering budget surpluses, the Government was adding to national savings, keeping pressure off inflation and supporting lower interest rates.
The 2006-07 Final Budget Outcome document would be released by the end of September, as required by the Charter of Budget Honesty Act 18.
After taking account of cash advances in the form of loans, specifically HELP loans, the Ministers said there was around $15.5 billion of the 2006-07 surplus available for investment.
28 August, 2007
For Defence Staff
Australian Industry has been called on to share the skills of scarce personnel with the Australian Defence Force Reserve.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Peter Lindsay, made the call at a breakfast of business leaders in Adelaide recently, saying that employers and the ADF could both benefit from sharing the finite supply of skilled personnel.
“The engineering and technical trades and the ADF have a lot a lot in common,” Mr Lindsay said.
“Both train their people to a high standard and contribute in their own ways to the creation and maintenance of a safe, secure and productive environment for the people of Australia.”
Mr Lindsay said the strong economy and jobs market meant Defence and the private sector were finding it difficult to attract and retain people and were sometimes in competition with one another.
Rather than competing for personnel, he said there were benefits for Defence and Industry to make service in the Reserve attractive to employees and for both to work cooperatively.
“As the Australian Defence Force continues to be deployed in a variety of ways and locations, we need Reservists with specific technical skills,” he said.
“Employees who volunteer for Defence service can develop their existing skills while earning extra money and gaining the satisfaction that comes from serving their country.”
Mr Lindsay said that in return, employers could receive significant cash payments to offset the temporary absence of their staff and would benefit from the attributes the ADF typically brought out in its members such as leadership, loyalty, teamwork and commitment to a task.
“The ADF is also talking to a range of seasonal industries about utilising their tradespeople in traditional down-times. The ADF gets the added capability and industry gets its people back when they need them,” Mr Lindsay said.
Industries currently being targeted by Defence included Health, Engineering and Technical Trades, the Law and Information Technology.
28 August, 2007
Spirits Uplifted By
Charity Bra Quest
Centrelink staff in Central West NSW have put their weight behind the McGrath Foundation’s Bra Challenge in a fun campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer.
In the past six months staff of Centrelink have collected 750 bras as well as $300 for the Foundation.
According to Centrelink’s organiser, Lana Grey, breast cancer affected about one in 11 Australian women in their lifetime and the donated bras would be used to form a bra chain with a view to breaking a Guinness World Record.
“It’s not just people in their mid 50s that are being diagnosed but also younger people in their mid 20,” Ms Grey said.
“Cancer doesn’t discriminate, and it will have an effect on everyone in every community at some stage.”
She said the response from the people of NSW’s Central West had been overwhelming.
“When we initially started the challenge, we never dreamed the community would get behind it the way it has,” she said.
The bras are now on their way to a central collection point in Queensland thanks to the generosity of local removalists, Dawsons.
Ms Grey said the campaign’s success was built on the motivation of Centrelink staff to get behind the cause.
“The Centrelink staff from our Bathurst, Orange, Mudgee, Lithgow and Cowra offices, always rally behind causes that help their local communities,” she said.
“They were very involved in the challenge – from collecting bras to raising money through raffles – so it’s nice to be able to give them a pat on the back for their efforts too.”
The chain of bras will have to stretch further than 111km to beat the current record.
28 August, 2007
Gets Call to Explain
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has launched its first investigation under the Do Not Call Register which protects consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls.
The Authority is to investigate a company called Lifestyle Dynamics after a number of complaints were received from consumers claiming they continued to receive calls after placing their details on the Do Not Call register.
The Do Not Call Scheme commenced on 31 May and has since attracted more than 1.6 million registrations.
According to ACMA the Authority has worked with industry since that time to build compliance with the new scheme and as part of this approach, 259 businesses which had been the subject of complaints had been written to, warning them of their new obligations and outlining the penalty provisions for non-compliance.
ACMA reported that 88 per cent of the businesses targeted ceased to attract consumer complaints within four weeks of being contacted. In the second wave of reviews, a further 161 companies were contacted in the same manner.
ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapmansaid it was pleasing that the overwhelming majority of companies made aware of their requirements under the Do Not Call Register stopped making unsolicited telemarketing calls.
“However, continuing anti-compliance will be acted upon,” Mr Chapman said, “And the Act carries significant penalties for those offenders.”
He said ACMA was continuing to monitor telemarketers that were the subject of complaints and would take more formal action where it was warranted.
Mr Chapman said Lifestyle Dynamics had continued to be the subject of a large number of consumer complaints (more than 90) despite repeated written warnings.
He said the investigation was likely to be complex and could take some time.
ACMA will not be making further comment until the investigation is completed.
28 August, 2007
Prize The Winner
With New Sponsor
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation is to sponsor a category in the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prizes from next year.
The new category of Defence Science would reward outstanding science in support of defence or national security.
Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Peter Lindsay announced the sponsorship at the recent Eureka Prizes presentation dinner saying it would enhance the reputation of Australia’s defence scientists and the role they played in supporting the nation’s defence and national security efforts.
“This category will present an excellent opportunity for us to foster innovation and recognise excellence in the field of defence science and technology,” Mr Lindsay said. The $10,000 award will be presented annually from 2008 onwards.
Mr Lindsay said the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes were Australia’s most prestigious award scheme recognising outstanding efforts in science, research, leadership, innovation and science communication.
The Director of the Australian Museum, Frank Howarth, welcomed the new prize.
“The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the most comprehensive science awards in the country,” Mr Howarth said. “The new DSTO prize will highlight outstanding Australian science and technology that assists our defence and national security, and fills an important gap in the coverage of the present prizes.”
Mr Lindsay said the judges would be looking for examples of high-class research or innovative science with the potential to enhance capability for defence or national security.
“2007 marks 100 years since science began to play an increasingly critical role in strengthening Australia’s Defence Force,” Mr Lindsay said.
The first defence scientist, Cecil Napier Hake, was appointed in 1907 to advise the Department of Defence on ammunitions and explosives.
“The Australian Defence Force will continue to rely on science and technology for its capability edge,” Mr Lindsay said.
“With the DSTO Eureka Prize, Australian scientists now have another incentive to contribute to the long tradition of supporting the country’s defence and national security.”
28 August, 2007
The Australian Safety and Compensation Council has launched an online service offering public access to national Workers’ Compensation statistics.
The National Online Statistics Interactive System combines two previous versions of the system and includes standardised data on Australia’s occupational health and safety performance over the past eight years.
According to the Chairman of ASCC, Bill Scales, NOSI is easy to use, comprehensive, and allows nationally comparable indicators of OHS performance to be made across key industries.
“Data available in the system includes number of workers’ compensation claims, incidence and frequency rates, average time lost from work and total compensation payments,” Mr Scales said.
“The statistics available in NOSI can assist employers, employees, industry and researchers in identifying high risk industries and hazards in the workplace and developing injury prevention plans and promoting workplace safety.”
Mr Scales said one of the key features of the new NOSI was its user-friendly format that meant that the public could extract the data they needed when they needed it, without having to formally request it from the Office of the ASCC.
He said NOSI was a positive step forward in raising awareness of national OHS issues, however the statistics in the database were a harsh and timely reminder of the importance of creating and maintaining a safe working environment for all.
“The ASCC’s Safe Work Australia Week, which runs from 21 to 27 October, is one initiative which asks all Australians to focus on health and safety issues in their workplace and make safety a priority,” he said.
“I encourage employers and employees to begin planning now, just how they can get involved and host activities in support of Safe Work Australia Week at their workplace, because as we all know safety is everybody’s business,” Mr Scales said.
The National Online Statistics Interactive System is now online at nosi.ascc.gov.au and more information on Safe Work Australia Week 2007 is available from the ASCC website at www.ascc.gov.au
28 August, 2007
Defence Law Changes
Are ‘Fair and Just’
The Defence Force Justice System is set for a shake-up with Assistant Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson, saying sweeping new rules represented a “significant enhancement” of Australia’s military justice system.
Mr Billson said the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2007, which was tabled in Parliament recently, was one of the final developments in response to the Senate’s 2005 report, The effectiveness of Australia’s Military Justice System.
Service media has reported that the reforms it contains will further improve the impartiality and fairness of the military justice system.
“The Bill is designed to provide for, and balance the maintenance of, effective discipline and the protection of individuals and the rights of ADF members,” Mr Billson said.
“Because of the unique nature of warfare, the ADF applies a far greater level of regulation than that encountered in other forms of employment and demands behaviour consistent with its role as an armed force.”
He said breaches of Service discipline must be dealt with speedily and sometimes more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct. He said it must be demonstrably objective, timely, impartial and fair to ADF members.
Head of the Military Justice Implementation Team, Rear Admiral Mark Bonser said the military justice system needed to balance the rights of individuals with effective discipline, which is what underpinned operational effectiveness.
“These enhancements are the most significant changes since the current Defence Force Discipline Act was introduced more than two decades ago,” Admiral Bonser said.
“It’s important for us to be in a process of continuous improvement in our dynamic, values-based Defence Force.”
According to Admiral Bonser, the Bill’s provisions include:
* a right in all cases to appeal against a summary authority conviction, order or punishment to a Military Judge of the Australian Military Court, in addition to oversight of summary convictions and punishments provided by reviewing authorities;
* the right to elect to be tried by a Military Judge of the Australian Military Court for all but a limited number of disciplinary offences;
* a fair and simplified evidence framework for summary trials more suitable to the maintenance of discipline, particularly in operational circumstances; and
* amendments to offences and punishments to improve their fairness.
Other key developments to the system included establishment of a new tri-Service investigative unit to work closely with civilian police; clearing of a backlog of redresses of grievance by ADF members; appointment of a civilian with judicial experience to preside over inquiries into deaths of ADF members in service; and a plan to reinforce ADF culture based on Service values following the Learning Culture Inquiry Report into ADF schools and training establishments.
Mr Billson said that with these reforms, the Government would provide a military justice system that improved impartiality and fairness while striking a balance between ensuring effective discipline to allow the ADF to operate safely and effectively, and protecting individuals and their rights.
More details of the Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2007 are available at www.defence.gov.au/mjs
28 August, 2007
Are Cash for Culture
Two of the nation’s most significant cultural institutions have received million-dollar gifts from the philanthropic institution, The Ian Potter Foundation.
Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis has announced that the Foundation has provided $1 million each to the National Library of Australia and the National Portrait Gallery.
“These significant donations from The Ian Potter Foundation highlight the tremendous contribution that private foundations and corporations are making to building Australia’s cultural heritage,” Senator Brandis said.
“The Ian Potter Foundation has shown a deep and well-targeted commitment to fostering and supporting cultural organisations in Australia and is keeping the visionary and entrepreneurial spirit of Sir Ian Potter alive through the projects it supports.”
He said the National Library would use its $1 million to build a Treasures Gallery where iconic original material in the collection such as the Endeavour Journal would be displayed on a permanent basis. The National Portrait Gallery would use its $1 million to develop its collection of major Australian portraits.
Director-General of the National Library, Jan Fullerton, said the Library’s Treasures Gallery would help to meet the Australian community’s growing interest in its own history.
“We are enormously grateful to The Ian Potter Foundation for helping to make our dream of a Treasures Gallery a reality,” Ms Fullerton said.
The Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Andrew Sayers, said the National Portrait Gallery now had a magnificent new building and significant philanthropic support to build its collection of portraits.
“The support of The Ian Potter Foundation will allow us to tell the vibrant and inspiring stories of Australia to be told through major portraits of significant people,” Mr Sayers said.
28 August, 2007
Parenting Kit To
Be a Boomer
The parents of every baby born in the next two years are to receive a New Parent Kit from the Federal Government full of practical, reliable and user-friendly information to help them raise their child to the age of five.
Prime Minister, John Howard has announced the program saying an increase in funding of $2.7 million over the next four years would pay for the development and distribution of the Kit, which includes a Raising Children DVD and links to the Raising Children website.
Mr Howard said the DVD would enable those without a computer to access information on everything a parent needs to know about raising a child, from birth through to five years of age.
He said the DVD was a companion product to the Raising Children website, which had been highly successful in providing practical, reliable and user-friendly information for Australian parents of children 0 to 8 and for those who supported them.
The website www.raisingchildren.net.au was launched in May 2006 and was expected to reach its two millionth visitor this month.
Mr Howard said his announcement was in addition to the Government’s previous $4 million funding commitment for the website as part of its Stronger Families and Communities Strategy: Early Childhood - Invest to Grow initiative.
In addition to providing information on child development and parenting, the website also had a variety of innovative tools such as “parenting in pictures”, “baby karaoke”, regular newsletters and an online parenting forum.
Mr Howard said the funding would ensure continuation of the website to 2011 and would also be used to upgrade its “My Neighbourhood” mapping component which could be used by parents to locate services in their local area.
He said both the DVD and website provided parents with the best research-based information available so they could make well-informed choices to suit their own situations.
Until its inclusion in the New Parent Kit later this year, the DVD would be available free for new parents by accessing www.raisingchildren.tv
28 August, 2007
ASIC Talks Money
In Radio Series
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has launched a series of radio segments aimed at informing Indigenous communities on a range of financial issues.
ASIC’s Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Greg Tanzer said the series, entitled Money Talks featured Indigenous Australians of all ages talking about everyday money matters in a casual and engaging way.
“The Money Talks series delivers consumer messages on a range of topics, including bank fees, budgeting, credit and super,” Mr Tanzer said.
“There is also a segment on making sure you have adequate car insurance in case things go wrong”.
He said in developing Money Talks, ASIC consulted with community members, people working with Indigenous communities and other Government agencies.
“The series also uses real life examples of money problems identified by ASIC’s Indigenous outreach staff, as areas where money problems often arise for Indigenous consumers,” he said.
Mr Tanzer said the Money Talks series would be broadcast nationally through the National Indigenous Radio Service to 153 radio stations, mainly in regional and remote Australia. People could also listen to each segment via the dedicated Indigenous page of the FIDO website www.fido.gov.au/indigenous.
He said Money Talks formed part of a larger Indigenous outreach strategy developed by ASIC over recent years. Other resources available from ASIC for Indigenous consumers free of charge included:
* Moola Talk - a comic which provides useful information and practical tips about common money issues in remote Indigenous communities;
* Super and Us Mob! - a brochure with tips on understanding superannuation; and
* Book Up: Key Facts - a booklet to help anyone dealing with book up, with information on better book up practices as well as tips on budgeting and alerts about keeping PIN numbers secret.
Mr Tanzer said free copies of the publications were available at www.fido.gov.au.
28 August, 2007
C’wlth Asked to
Push Public Transport
The Commonwealth has been called on to take over funding of State public transport systems, just as it does for roads.
A survey of 1000 people commissioned by the Melbourne-based Eastern Transport Coalition and conducted by the Australian Research Group, has shown that a majority of voters in key
eastern Melbourne Federal electorates would like the Federal Government to consider funding public transport.
ETC Chairperson, Mick Van de Vreede said traffic congestion was a major problem in the east of Melbourne and because of major holes in the public transport network, people often had no option than to join in.
“71 per cent of people use cars to get to work and 61 per cent would use public transport if the option was available,” Mr Van de Vreeded said.
“The Federal Government can help provide that option, 62 per cent of respondents said it was not acceptable that the Federal Government provided funding for major roads but not for public transport infrastructure.”
He said the Commonwealth currently provided billions of dollars for major road infrastructure yet did not see public transport as a viable alternative.
“Our local residents don’t want to see each level of Government blame each other,” Mr Van de Vreede said. “76 per cent believed the State and Federal Governments should share the cost for all necessary public transport infrastructure.”
He said that while the Federal Government didn’t currently fund public transport projects, a recommendation of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Heritage called for the provision of funds that would “include provision of funding specifically for sustainable public transport infrastructure for suburbs and developments on the outer fringes of our cities”.
He said the sample for the survey was 1000 people in Federal electorates that fell within the ETC member Councils area.
21 August, 2007
APSC Cranks Up New Starter Search
A range of new initiatives to attract, recruit and retain staff for the Australian Public Service have been announced jointly by Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs, the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Peter Shergold and the Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone.
The three new initiatives were launched to counter ongoing difficulties attracting new starters to the APS and then keeping them. The traditional reliance on generous superannuation benefits was no longer proving effective in the current employment market.
According to Commissioner Briggs, the recruitment and retention of staff was one of the most significant issues impacting on the performance and sustainability of the APS.
“We can no longer take a passive role if we want to remain competitive,” Commissioner Briggs said.
She said that the findings of the 2005 Management Advisory Committee report Managing and Sustaining the APS Workforce and the her own State of the Service Report 2005-06 had pointed to the need for the APS to modernise its image and position itself to meet the emerging challenges.
“In the employment market we are battling an image problem,” she said.
“How we promote ourselves is not just about where we place our ads, or the style of graphics attached to them. This is really about understanding what applicants are taking away from the recruitment experience, and whether we are leaving them with a sense of our professionalism, and what it really means to work in the APS.”
Commissioner Briggs said the MAC report also found that many new APS recruits, particularly those from other sectors, had difficulty with the complexities of Australian Government and APS processes.
She said to help position the APS as an employer of choice, the Commission had:
* launched APSjobs.gov.au, a website providing a single entry point for APS employment opportunities. It promotes an up-to-date “employment brand” for the APS and a modern “look and feel” for job advertisements, while continuing to serve the functions of the Public Service Gazette. It has several new facilities, such as access to information about public service employment conditions, email alerts so job seekers can be notified of upcoming vacancies and a register for former APS employees to notify their interest in temporary employment;
* developed Cracking the Code: How to Apply for Jobs in the Australian Public Service, a series of online jargon-free, plain-English fact sheets providing advice on careers in the APS, finding jobs and navigating the recruitment process. It tackles the myths and misconceptions that are affecting the image of the Public Service as an employer and complements the APS workforce planning objective of attracting and recruiting employees to the APS.
* produced a guide for Public Service human resource practitioners, Better, Faster: Streamlining Recruitment in the Australian Public Service to help agencies address the obstacles to quick recruitment, and a set of interactive APS-wide induction materials to help new employees develop the skills and knowledge to work effectively in the APS environment.
21 August, 2007
Paper Gazette Folds
The Australian Public Service Gazette has ceased to be printed in paper form.
From this month, the APS Gazette will only be available on-line at www.APSjobs.gov.au as part of an overhauled and improved service to jobseekers and Agencies alike.
Published concurrently in paper and on-line form for the past decade, the weekly APS Gazette has shown a solid trend away from the paper version, prompting the Australian Public Service Commission to consolidate its employment notices in the new, improved website.
“The online version provides better access for individuals and has been the overwhelmingly preferred form of accessing the information,” the APSC says in a Circular.
Under the new arrangements, www.APSjobs.gov.au will include a separate section for jobseekers incorporating a search function; an email alert service for people interested in particular types of jobs; a register of experienced ex-APS staff looking for short-term work; noticeboards giving details of upcoming recruitment drives and mobility opportunities across the APS; a section dedicated to vacancies and promotions in the Senior Executive Service; and a resource section to assist aspiring APS applicants.
The APSC Circular says the APS Gazette has become a section of the new website carrying employment opportunities, promotions and other employment related matters.
The new service is on the web now at www.APSjobs.gov.au
21 August, 2007
Guides Show Way For PS Decision Makers
The Administrative Review Council has released a series of Best Practice Guides for administrative decision makers in Government Departments and Agencies.
Developed by the ARC with the assistance of Monash University academic, Associate Professor Pam O’Connor, the guides work chronologically through the information decision makers need to be familiar with in relation to key stages in the administrative decision-making process.
There are five guides in the series: Lawfulness, Natural Justice, Evidence, Facts and and findings, Reasons and Accountability.
According to the Council, the Guides are written in clear and succinct terms and provide a valuable benchmark for administrative decision making across all Government Departments and Agencies including the Australian Public Service and the States and Territories.
The Council expects they will be incorporated into Departmental and Agency internal training programs and on-line training resources.
“The Guides will allow Government decision makers to acquire and retain a fundamental knowledge of good decision making,” a statement accompanying the Guides said.
In launching the series, Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock said decisions made by Public Servants in many Government Departments and Agencies could affect the lives of many Australians and cover a multitude of issues, from welfare entitlements to civil aviation safety.
“For this reason, it is important these decisions are made carefully, wisely and prudently," Mr Ruddock said.
“Through the Guides, decision makers now have quality, accurate guidance on best practice in administrative decision making.
"I expect these Guides to become the standard reference tool for public officers performing a decision making function."
The ARC said the Guides could be used as building blocks and supplemented to meet the specific legislative needs of individual departments and agencies.”
It said it was working with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to develop a DIAC-supplemented version of the Guides and the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman was also working on its own versions.
“The Council strongly encourages other Departments and Agencies also to consider this option.”
More information about the Guides is available from the Council’s Executive Director on (02) 6250 5800 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
21 August, 2007
Shergold Bites Back At Watchdog
The Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Peter Shergold, has described the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office as “a pain in the bum.”
Speaking at a seminar marking the Ombudsman’s 30th anniversary and reported in the Canberra Times, Dr Shergold said his comments were not a personal sleight against current Ombusdman, Professor John McMillan: “My discomfort applies with equal force to the Ombudsmen who preceded him.”
Dr Shergold – who noted the Ombudsman’s Office fell within the PM&C portfolio - said it was possible Professor McMillan treated him more kindly a result.
More likely, Dr Shergold said, the Ombudsman had little interest in PM&C because it did not actually deliver anything that anybody other than the Prime Minister was likely to care about.
He said however that he had been exposed to the Ombudsman’s operations when leading other Departments whose activities had been the subject of criticism.
“The pain in my bum is a small price to pay for identifying and remedying defective administration,” Dr Shergold said.
He said it might even improve the trust citizens had in Government, the Parliament and the Public Service.
He said the myriad of small decisions that could have an impact on citizens’ lives were subject to expert scrutiny through the work of the Ombudsman. The office was a crucial part of the network that ensured public accountability and that the use of public funds was in the public interest.
He said the activities of the Ombudsman ensured that neither executive power nor administrative authority were overstepped.
Dr Shergold said the existence of the Ombudsman’s Office was a powerful reminder to Public Servants that they had an obligation to see that their actions were free from administrative error, did not go beyond reasonable authority, did not lack proper authorisation, deny natural justice, breach Parliamentary convention or undermine Public Service values.
21 August, 2007
Taxman’s List is Collector’s Edition
Investors in real estate and people who sell properties and make capital gains are among those to be targeted by the Australian Taxation Office in the coming year according to the ATO’s 2007-08 Compliance Program.
Releasing the Program, Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said the compliance crackdown was as much about helping people comply with their tax obligations as it was about dealing firmly with those who didn’t do the right thing.
He said the Compliance Program was about fairness and creating a level playing field for everyone.
“Our aim is to be as unobtrusive as possible to the majority of people who meet their obligations, but to be highly visible to those who don’t,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“Capital gains can be a complex area for people so while we will take a firm approach with those who have not tried to meet their obligations, we want to help people get over the line.”
The Compliance Program includes special attention for Government Agencies still grappling with GST issues, public/private partnerships and the treatment of grants and property transactions for tax purposes.
“We will work closely with Chief Executives, Chief Finance Officers and tax managers to support good tax governance,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
He said the ATO conducted 21 field audits and 40 desk reviews of Government employers’ compliance with PAYG withholding, superannuation guarantee and fringe benefits tax obligations in 2006-07 and raised revenue of $250,000
It also completed 71 investigations of Agencies’ superannuation guarantee obligations and raised $3.88 million.
In 2005-2006 around 7.1 million individuals claimed $12.5 billion in work-related expenses – an increase of 9.3 per cent over the previous year. This year the ATO was paying special attention to work-related expense claims from:
* tourism workers, travel consultants and guides
* fitness and sporting industry employees
* construction industry employees
* guards and security employees and,
* mining site employees.
Mr D’Ascenzo said serious fraud and evasion were also high on the agenda.
“We are working closely with other agencies and tax jurisdictions to address international tax issues,” he said, adding that Project Wickenby investigations would continue and would be complemented by an increased focus on the use of tax havens and promoters of tax exploitation schemes.
“We will take a close look at how people are using tax havens - from multinationals and complex transactions to individuals with offshore bank accounts,” said Mr D’Ascenzo.
“New laws mean we can also act against promoters of schemes involving offshore and other aggressive arrangements.”
A copy of the Compliance Program 2007-08, summary of priorities and key activities, and the Commissioner’s speech are available on the Tax Office website www.ato.gov.au.
21 August, 2007
Defence Survey Has Attitude
A survey of Defence personnel has found that areas of concern to service personnel included ADF pay, work-life balance, workload and working hours.
The 2006 Defence Attitude Survey sampled 30 per cent of Australian Defence Force members and Defence civilian employees.
Participation in the attitude survey was voluntary and it gave Defence personnel an opportunity to comment candidly on employment-related matters including leadership, conditions of service and remuneration, career intentions, wellbeing and family issues.
While a high proportion of ADF personnel were generally happy with the work they undertook in their postings, between 30 and 38 per cent of the ADF and 18 per cent of Defence civilians reported that they were actively looking at leaving the Service.
According to the Department, the 2006 survey findings highlighted Defence personnel perceptions of the positive aspects of working in Defence, as well as areas of concern to personnel that may require more attention.
It said data from past survey findings had been used to shape programs such as ADF locality allowances, child care, spouse and partner employment, remuneration arrangements and improvements to career management. Survey data also helped to develop several of the ADF retention initiatives announced by the Government in December 2006 and as part of the 2007-08 Federal Budget.
The 2006 Defence Attitude Survey was the seventh to have been conducted since attitudinal data was first collected in 19. Defence senior management has access through the survey to the anonymous views and opinions of almost 62,000 personnel, giving a strong baseline of data for workforce planning and policy development.
According to the Department, the Government has committed $3.1 billion over the next 10 years to improve ADF recruitment and retention with some of the significant programs including $226 million for bonuses and allowances for ADF members in critical positions or employment areas with key skill sets and $585 million to reform the ADF other ranks pay structure.
It said significant pay adjustments were also now flowing from a new ADF pay structure that recognised the work value of different military employment groups and rewarding them accordingly.
Defence also has a current project to improve ADF career management.
This program recognised that balance between individual needs and Service needs and military capability had a strong influence on whether ADF members decided to stay or go.
Defence is also considering the development of a work-life balance benchmark to measure and better manage the impact of ADF service on members and their families.
21 August, 2007
Aid Agency Ripe For New Green HQ
Australia’s Aid Agency, AusAID has take up residence in the “greenest” building in the Commonwealth - Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer officially opening the new headquarters in Canberra.
The new building uses sustainable plan principles lessening the ecological impact of construction and putting the agency at the forefront of Government initiatives towards environmental sustainability. Energy consumption in the new building is predicted to be 47 per cent lower compared with conventional buildings, helping AusAID reduce its CO2 emissions by 586 tonnes a year.
“The new premises uses cutting edge environmentally sustainable technology, such as a chilled beam cooling system, stormwater tanks on site for water reuse in bathrooms and an energy efficient automated lighting system,” Mr Downer said.
“Extensive use of recycled and low volatile organic compound materials throughout the building has lessened the building’s ecological impact both during construction and ongoing use.”
Mr Downer said there was a specially configured crisis centre within the building that had the technology to enhance AusAID’s ability to effectively manage and respond to humanitarian disasters.
He said the move to “greener” premises was in line with AusAID’s stated objective to achieve sustainable development in partner countries.
21 August, 2007
Productivity Report Is Profit of Doom
The Productivity Commission has released its latest scorecard on the financial performance of 85 Commonwealth, State and Territory Government trading enterprises.
The report Financial Performance of Government Trading Enterprises 2004-05 to 2005-06- also examines the effects of different asset valuation methods and rate-of-return measures on performance comparisons and capital management.
The report said that the 85 GTEs monitored in the report controlled just under 3.5 per cent of Australia's non-household assets ($197 billion), and accounted for around 2 per cent of GDP.
The report showed that while, on average, profitability had increased in all sectors (with the largest improvements in the electricity, railways and forestry sectors), 37 per cent of GTEs recorded declines, and 13 per cent did not report a profit at all.
It said about half the monitored GTEs did not achieve commercial rates of return in 2005-06, underscoring a long-term failure of Governments to operate businesses on a fully commercial basis in accordance with their competition policy undertakings.
Commission Chairman, Gary Banks said that the efficient operation of GTEs was important both to the wellbeing of the community and to the competitiveness of Australian industry, including export performance.
He said the Commission would continue monitoring GTEs which would assist in evaluating the progress and gains from further infrastructure reforms.
He said financial performance monitoring of GTEs formed part of the Commission’s research into the performance of Australian industries and the progress of microeconomic reform.
The monitored GTEs provided services in key sectors of the economy, including electricity, water, urban transport, railways, ports and forestry.
The full report can be viewed on the Productivity commission’s website: www.pc.gov.au
21 August, 2007
Indigenous Momentum Builds Up Talk
The Attorney-General’s Department is seeking comment on the consultative draft of the National Indigenous Law and Justice Strategy.
Secretary, Robert Cornall has opened the draft for comment saying the Strategy reflected the outcomes of the 2006 intergovernmental Summit on Violence and Child Abuse in Indigenous Communities.
“The Ministerial Taskforce on Indigenous Affairs identified the development of a strategy as one of the priority actions for the Attorney-General’s Department,” Mr Cornall said.
“Preliminary consultations have occurred, including with the National Indigenous Council, in preparing this framework for Indigenous justice.”
He said the draft Strategy was intended to facilitate development of a bipartisan, coordinated, long-term and multi-jurisdictional approach, to reduce the pressing and complex issues in Indigenous justice.
Four key law and justice issues would be highlighted in the Strategy:
* to increase actual and perceived safety
* to reduce crime in communities and improve access to justice
* to reduce imprisonment and juvenile detention, and
* to reduce the impacts of family violence.
“The final Strategy and its effectiveness will depend upon how accurately it reflects the interests of stakeholders with responsibility for, or involvement in, Indigenous law and justice issues,” Mr Cornall said.
Copies of the Strategy, as well as feedback forms are available on the Attorney-General’s Department website www.ag.gov.au and the closing date for responses is 19 October 2007.
Comments and questions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or posted to the National Indigenous Law and Justice Strategy, Attorney-General's Department, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Barton ACT, 2600
21 August, 2007
Permanent Sentence For Legal Council
An advisory council established in 10 to promote the export of Australian legal services is to be made permanent.
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock has announced that the International Legal Services Advisory Council is to become a permanent Government body.
“ILSAC has had great success in advising the Government on how best to remove barriers to the overseas expansion of Australian law firms,” Mr Ruddock said.
“This important work has enabled the Australian Government to create new opportunities for Australian law firms overseas.”
Mr Ruddock said he was pleased to announce that Sir Laurence Street QC, who has chaired ILSAC since its inception in 10, has been reappointed as Chairman for a further term of up to two years. Deputy chair, Andrew Rogers QC, has also been reappointed.
Mr Ruddock also announced the members of ILSAC who included Solicitor-General, Dr David Bennett QC, Professor Duncan Bentley from Bond University, Professor Michael Coper, a number of industry leaders from major law firms and representatives of the Attorney-General’s Department, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Education, Science and Training, Austrade and AusAID.
“The Council’s members bring with them an impressive range of international experience that will help achieve ILSAC’s aim of enhancing and improving Australia’s international presence and performance in legal and related services,” Mr Ruddock said.
He said council members would provide their services without payment, serving in an honorary capacity for three year terms.
Further information on ILSAC is available at www.ilsac.gov.au
21 August, 2007
ACCC Mounts Up With Canadian Counterpart
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced that bilateral talks with the Canadian Competition Bureau have been successful and the two organisations plan to strengthen their co-operative arrangements.
The two authorities have agreed to attack mass-marketing fraud together, in partnership with other jurisdictions, and send clear messages to fraudsters that there is no place for them to work with impunity. Mass-marketing fraud encompasses Internet scams, fraudulent telemarketing and other attempts to deceive consumers.
Chairman of the ACCC, Graham Samuel, said the meetings were based on the idea of sharing of best practices and identifying areas for further co-operation.
Sheridan Scott, the Canadian Commissioner of Competition, said her Competition Bureau had always understood the importance of exchanging ideas with its international colleagues.
“This has been an excellent opportunity to deepen and broaden that work,” Ms Scott said.
Mr Samuel and Ms Scott agreed that in today’s globalised economy, international dialogue among competition authorities was ever more important.
In that regard, Ms Scott applauded an Australian Government initiative to introduce criminal sanctions for cartels, saying such a measure “would lead to deeper cooperation between our countries in battling this anti-competitive behaviour”.
The two agencies further committed to pushing forward the agenda of the International Competition Network, a global group of about 100 competition authorities which sought practical ways to enhance co-operation and drive the adoption of recommended practices among jurisdictions.
Mr Samuel said that the discussions with Ms Scott, who is also Chair of the International Competition Network, were important as increasingly Australian consumers were subject to global anti-competitive conduct and harmful consumer practices and it was important that agencies worked collaboratively.
21 August, 2007
Customs and DIAC In Train Swapping*
Despite the obvious benefits of learning something new, sometimes it’s tough to get people motivated about training – particularly when the work they do every day seems never-ending.
But that’s not a problem for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Western Australia office and its Fundamentals of Supervision course and that’s due, in part, to the inclusion of Customs officers in the training program.
The idea of this cross-agency training was initiated by DIAC staff member Glen Tucker during his time as executive officer to WA State Director, Bruce Mackay.
Mr Tucker formed a good working relationship with his counterpart at Customs in WA, Shaun Senior, and together they created the cross-agency training initiative.
“It made a lot of sense to Shaun and me that because our two agencies work very closely together, both could benefit greatly from developing a better understanding of the other,” Mr Tucker said.
“We felt that this could be achieved by having staff from Customs participate in our Fundamentals of Supervision program and by having DIAC staff participate in Customs’ Leading People at the Front Line course.”
Mr Mackay said the cross-agency training initiative was an excellent way to build good relations with a key stakeholder.
Customs staff who have taken part in the DIAC courses have given positive feedback and DIAC own staff have commented on the benefits of having Customs staff on their courses, saying it added a new perspective to the overall learning experience.
The first DIAC staffers to take part in Customs’ Leading People at the Front Line course are enrolled for later this month.
* Article submitted by DIAC
21 August, 2007
Archives Exhibition Plugs Into iPods
Visitors to the National Archives of Australia in Canberra will be able to enjoy a richer cultural experience following the introduction of an iPod tour of the Archives’s Memory of a Nation exhibition.
The iPod tour was developed by the National Archives in association with the Department of Environment and Water Resources which administers the National Heritage List.
Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis, and Assistant Minister for the Environment, John Cobb said the joint project brought to life iconic records and key moments in Australian history.
“A visitor can take an iPod, select the object they’d like to learn more about and then view the object as they listen to a detailed audio description,” Senator Brandis said. “The tour can also be downloaded via the web.
“This could be one of the first MP3 tours of its kind in Australia. It’s a great example of how technology can help make heritage and the arts accessible to everyone.”
Director-General of the Archives, Ross Gibbs said the exhibition provided a snapshot of the National Archives’ diverse collection and that the items chosen for the first iPod tour all had a connection to the National Heritage List.
He said in the Memory of a Nation exhibition, visitors could witness the heroic journeys of Douglas Mawson and Charles Kingsford Smith, the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef and the brilliance of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin. They could also smile at a poster enticing the cricket-loving British to visit Australia for what became the infamous Bodyline series and admire the illuminated manuscript of the Duke of York’s address at the opening of Parliament House.
The Memory of a Nation exhibition and iPod tour is a permanent display at the National Archives of Australia. For more information and to download the tour visit www.naa.gov.au/exhibitions/MemoryNation/tuning-into-heritage.html or www.heritage.gov.au
21 August, 2007
Austrade Education Has Videos Taped
Export development Agency, Austrade, has added a series of 30 video clips to its website, aimed at helping business students understand the key points of exporting for success.
Manager of Austrade’s Education Programs Unit, Leigh Derigo, said students liked to access video clips for their assignments because they were more engaging than print material.
“Video has become the social media of this generation.” Mrs Derigo said.
“ Educators are now including the clips in lecture material or requiring students to view them as homework.
She said the new resources were designed to teach students about the potential for Australian products and services overseas and encourage them to consider exporting. She said businesses featured in the clips included Gourmet Garden and Hairstyler.com.
Mrs Derigo said the case studies came directly from Australian business success stories that were most likely to inspire future entrepreneurs.
The clips, taken from longer video case studies, had been produced as part of Austrade’s Exporting for the Future program for higher education courses in international business, marketing, entrepreneurship and export.
She said each clip explored specific exporting issues through the experiences of small- and medium-sized Australian businesses.
Austrade also recently launched the latest in a series of multimedia resource kits. Next Step the World Series 2: Exporting and International Business includes a DVD featuring case studies on small global businesses and a complementary booklet of teaching notes.
The latest video clips and access to Austrade teaching resources are available at www.austrade.gov.au/studentcentre.
21 August, 2007
Heritage List has Overseas Reach
The inaugural List of Overseas Places of Historic Significance to Australia has been unveiled and it includes Anzac Cove, Kokoda Track and Howard Florey’s laboratory in Oxford.
Announced by the Minister for the Environment, Malcolm Turnbull, the list celebrates overseas places of the historic importance to Australia in a way that is respectful of the rights and sovereignty of other nations.
Mr Turnbull said the List would have high thresholds for inclusion and only comprise the most truly significant places of historical value to Australia.
“The List will be an indelible reminder of how our nation has been shaped by significant events and individual achievements by Australians overseas,” Mr Turnbull said.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Bruce Billson, said Anzac Cove and Kokoda Track were both evocative places for Australians.
“The stories of the battles that took place at these sites are ones of courage, endurance and mateship – qualities that have since become part of our national identity,” Mr Billson said.
Howard Florey’s laboratory, the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University, is where the eminent Australian researcher conducted his pioneering research, said the Minister for Education, Science and Training Julie Bishop.
“Howard Florey is arguably one of our greatest Nobel Laureates and it is appropriate that we honour his achievement that saved millions of lives and transformed human health,” Ms Bishop said.
21 August, 2007
Dancing Cadets Put Best Foot Forward
More than 50 cadets from the Australian Defence Force Academy’s Performing Arts Company have completed a season of the musical Footloose.
Director Josh Cowell wanted this year’s production to be something new for ADFA.
“In 2007 the Performing Arts Committee decided to move away from the productions of the last few years and to venture into a more recent show,” Midshipman Cowell said.
“The show contains many bold, bright colours and costumes. Flashy, over-the-top dances contrast with the conservative dullness of the town of Bomont and of course, there is plenty of montage-worthy ’80s music that would make Kevin Bacon smile.”
The stage adaptation by Dean Pitchford and Walter Bobbie of the 1980’s film revolves around Ren McCormack - a city kid from Chicago who moves with his mother to the town of Bomont.
Ren is immediately at odds with the community’s conservative attitudes. He discovers that there is a law banning dancing which was set in place by the old-fashioned and narrow minded Reverend Moore, and to make matters worse, he falls for the Reverend’s daughter.
“It’s the classic film on stage with an ADFA spin,” said Assistant Director Jackie Killian.
14 August, 2007
PS Labour Losses If Labor Wins Election
The Federal Opposition has repeated its intention of slashing Public Service jobs if it wins the coming election.
Shadow Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner outlined a series of cutbacks last year which he said would save $3 billion and has now added $209 million in further cuts.
Under Mr Tanner’s latest cuts, the numbers of Ministerial staffers would be reduced by 30 per cent, some Departmental Liaison Officers would go, the Government Communications Unit would be abolished and spending on media monitoring would be curtailed.
Agencies already identified for the cuts include the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, the National Capital Authority, Invest Australia and Digital Australia.
In a speech at the National Press Club entitled Quality Government, Mr Tanner said Labor would “commit to very strict constraints on Government spending”.
“Under our Cleaning up Government package, we’ll reverse the trend that’s become entrenched,” Mr Tanner said.
“These cuts will save approximately $209 million over the forward estimates period. They add to previously announced initiatives cutting back on Government advertising, consultants, recruitment agencies, market research, and tax deductibility for political donations.”
Mr Tanner said even though the national economy was growing strongly, 2007 Budget figures projected faster growth in Government spending over the next few years.
“Public service employment has grown much faster than overall employment since 2000,” Mr Tanner said.
“Excluding Defence, ASIO and AFP personnel, Public Service employment has grown by 25.3 per cent over that time. Total employment growth has been 15.1 per cent.
He said the number of senior Public Servants had “soared by an astonishing 44 per cent.”
Mr Tanner said Labor would also increase the level of transparency and disclosure of Government financial information.
“Individual agencies seem to get more money whenever they ask for it,” he said.
“We’ll provide details of individual program costs. We’ll link the Budget papers with the detailed forward estimates. We’ll properly cost tax concessions. We’ll reform the Budget outcomes framework to provide meaningful benchmarks against which spending initiatives can be assessed.”
He said it was time to get all the available financial information out into the open, so a “real debate” about the quality of Government could be held.
“Do we want to seriously tackle climate change, invest in education and broadband, and rebuild our infrastructure?” Mr Tanner asked.
“ Let’s see where the money’s going, and let the Australian people decide.”
He said he had written to the Minister for Finance seeking confidential access to Departmental officials which could be made available after 15 August under the Caretaker Convention guidelines.
“The days of big Government are over,” Mr Tanner said.
“We want to improve Government, not expand it.”
14 August, 2007
Detention Mistakes Unlock PS Lessons
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s extensive investigation of wrongful immigration detention cases has been used to support a new publication outlining 10 important lessons for the wider Public Service.
The Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, told a recent seminar in Canberra hosted by the Institute of Public Administration Australia that the Public Service could learn from the mistakes made by the former Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
He recently published his final report into 247 cases of wrongful detention by the Department between 2000 and 2007, including 26 people who were Australian citizens.
Professor McMillan said that while the administrative failures at DIMA had, in one case been described as “catastrophic” the fact that they were identified, investigated and consequent recommendations accepted, showed that the system was working.
“Paradoxically, we can draw positive lessons,” Professor McMillan said.
“Strong cooperation between an executive agency and an external oversight body, in exploring and correcting serious administrative error, speaks well of the system of Government.”
He said the Ombudsman’s 30 years of complaint handling and administrative investigation had shown that errors “can and will occur in all administrative systems.”
“Moreover, the errors are usually the same across Government,” he said. “It is therefore important to know the causes of those errors, and how to prevent and lessen them.”
He said his new publication Lessons for Public Administration used the shortcomings at Immigration to illustrate the effects of poor public administration.
“The lessons should come as no surprise and there is nothing new,” Professor McMillan said. “They capture the basic essentials of good administration.”
He said what was new was that his report contained “case study after case study” of how a departure from the principles of good administration can have significant adverse consequences for members of the public.
Professor McMillan outlined the 10 lessons for the Public Service as:
1 – Maintain accurate, comprehensive and accessible records.
2 – Place adequate controls on the exercise of coercive powers.
3 – Actively manage unresolved and difficult cases.
4 – Heed the limitations of information technology systems.
5 - Guard against erroneous assumptions.
6 – Control administrative drift.
7 – Remove obstacles to prudent information exchange with other agencies and bodies.
8 – Promote effective communication in your own agency..
9 – Manage complexity in decision making
10 – Check for warning signs of bigger problems.
Professor McMillan said Agencies should not wait for an external crisis to focus attention on their problems but should pick up the warning signs through internal monitoring and quality control and through internal and external complaint handling.
14 August, 2007
Clear Image Left On IR Facts Paper
The Workplace Authority has reported that more than a million copies of the new Workplace Relations Fact Sheet have been ordered by employers and more than 100,000 downloaded from the Authority’s website.
Recent changes to the law require employers to give existing employees a copy of the Workplace Relations Fact Sheet by 20 October 2007 and since July all employees starting a new job must be given a copy within seven days of their start date.
Director of the Workplace Authority, Barbara Bennett, said she was encouraged by the response.
“It’s only been two weeks since employers have been required to provide their employees with the fact sheet,” Ms Bennett said. “I am encouraged that in such a short period so many fact sheets have already been ordered and downloaded.”
“It’s important that people know about the workplace relations system. The new fact sheet provides a clear overview of the system and lets employers and employees know where to go for further information and practical help.”
Ms Bennet said with less than 10 weeks to go, employers yet to distribute the fact sheet to their workforce should contact the Workplace Authority to order free copies or visit the website to download an electronic copy.
She said the fact sheet was part of the recent changes to the workplace relations system which strengthened protections for employees and introduced the Fairness Test.
14 August, 2007
Taxman Explains Duties to SES
Taxation Commissioner, Michael D’Ascenzo has told newly appointed SES officers that the key to leadership is to understand themselves, the people they deal with and the environment in which they operate.
Speaking at the Australian Public Service Commission’s Senior Executive Service Orientation Program in Canberra, Mr D’Ascenzo said SES officers were also expected to take personal ownership of the outcomes of the organisation they served.
“Leadership these days is a tough gig and expectations are high,” Mr D’Ascenzo said. “From both inside and outside your organisation.”
He said the SES was expected to exercise good judgement and common sense and share the ownership of corporate directions.
“You, your team and others need to be aligned with your corporate goals.”
He said the SES should set the tone and standard for their organisations and were expected to seek and deliver worthwhile outcomes.
In delivering outcomes, the SES should always remember to look for measures of effectiveness first, he said, and then seek to carry out those strategies that would optimise the desired outcomes as efficiently as possible from the perspective of the citizen.
“For example, in an era of heightened focus on delivering good service and value to the community, this requires that we identify our ‘customers’, and continuously work with them to co-design solutions that work for them,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
He said leadership today was about winning the trust and respect of constituents, including citizens, shareholders, employees, and customers.
“This trust and credibility is best secured by high levels of integrity and authenticity.”
He said joining the SES meant different things for different people.
“For me – ‘moving up’ provides more opportunities to make a difference.
“I believe that most people have an inner drive to excel, to make the fullest use of all their talents.
“When you empower them with that opportunity, the results can be refreshing.”
14 August, 2007
No Foot in Mouth as Minister Lauds AQIS
Quick action by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service in responding to Britain’s latest Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak has prompted Agriculture Minister, Peter McGauran, to declare that the Government’s investment in the Service was paying dividends.
Mr McGuaran said the Government had spent $616 million over the past three years to strengthen quarantine protection which included an additional 1200 full-time AQIS staff since 2001 – more than 400 extra at Australian airports.
“We have also funded the installation of an extra 64 AQIS X-ray machines since 2001, 38 of which are located at Australian airports,” Mr McGauran said.
He said support for border security had also seen 46 additional detector dog teams trained, 18 of which were added to quarantine and security measures in place at airports.
“There have also been major upgrades to quarantine facilities at mail centres and seaports.”
Mr McGauran said AQIS played a vital role in protecting Australia’s borders, and last year inspected:
* more than 11 million passengers and crew at airports;
* 146 million mail items;
* 13,000 vessels and 95,000 sea passengers;
* 1.6 million sea containers and 380,000 air cargo containers.
“The Government fully understands the essential role AQIS plays in preventing exotic diseases and pests entering Australia – and we have provided it with the resources to carry out this vital task in a way that is comprehensive, but minimises the impact on the travelling public,” Mr McGauran said.
14 August, 2007
New Register For Board Women
Women with an interest in serving on Commonwealth Government Boards are being urged to register their names on a new database.
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Women’s Issues, Julie Bishop announced that the free and confidential online registration and search service was now up and running.
“AppointWomen is part of the National Strategy for the Increased Participation of Women on Boards,” Ms Bishop said. She said it was supported by State and Territory Governments.
“It will support the efforts of Australian Government departments to identify talented women, with diverse skills and experience, who are actively seeking appointment to boards or other decision-making bodies.”
Ms Bishop said the Government was committed to increasing the number of women in leadership roles and AppointWomen would make it easier for them to register their interest and for departments to find suitable women candidates.
“AppointWomen is an effective, user-friendly and efficient database tool, and already contains more than 1000 CVs.”
She said the new web-based AppointWomen database had many advantages over the previous paper-based system, including: improving the quality and currency of CVs; allowing a faster service to both candidates and Government agencies; and giving Boards access to a greater diversity of skills, perspectives and knowledge.
“In addition to AppointWomen registrants, Departments also had access, through the AppointWomen system, to candidates registered with the privately run Women on Boards,” Ms Bishop said
She said interested women could register with AppointWomen by going to www.appointwomen.gov.au
14 August, 2007
Cricket Academy Has Runs on the Board
The national cricket academy that has helped to produce some of Australia’s greatest players has celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Since 1987, 265 male cricketers have gone through the training regime at the Academy which was set up by Cricket Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.
Forty-three of the trainees had gone on to represent Australia at the highest level with nine former AIS scholarship holders taking part in Australia’s victorious win and clean sweep in the 2007 World Cup and the 2006 Ashes Test series. These included Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Shaun Tait, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Bracken and Shane Warne.
Minister for Sport, Senator George Brandis congratulated the academy, now known as the Centre of Excellence.
“The Australian Government is very proud of its involvement with Cricket Australia in the AIS Cricket Centre of Excellence,” Senator Brandis said.
“The Centre has been integral in the continued success of both men’s and women’s Australian cricket.”
Originally based in Adelaide, the Centre of Excellence is now based at Allan Border Field in Brisbane, and was committed to identifying, testing and developing some of Australia’s best players backed by world-class coaching and sports science expertise.
The first intake of players into the program was in 1988.
The AIS Women’s Cricket Program was introduced as a camps-based program during 2000/01 season. Forty-four scholarship holders had progressed through the AIS women’s cricket program with 33 representing Australia in test, one-day matches and Twenty20 matches.
“The Australian Government is committed to building on Australia’s international sporting success, particularly in cricket,” Senator Brandis said.
14 August, 2007
Defence Aiming At Students’ Gap Year
School leavers are being invited to spend their gap year in the Defence Force.
Prime Minister, John Howard has launched the ADF Gap Year program by inviting young Australians to lodge their applications with Defence Force Recruiting.
The Prime Minister said the ADF Gap Year program represented a $306 million investment in the youth of Australia and was part of the Government’s $3.1 billion commitment to boosting ADF recruitment and retention.
While many Year 12 school leavers go straight into tertiary education and training, about 34,000 of them each year take a break in their first year out of school to broaden their life experiences, gain skills or travel.
Mr Howard said the ADF Gap Year offered these young people an alternative way of pursuing their ‘Year 13’ by serving in the Navy, Army, or Air Force where they would experience a different and exciting lifestyle. He said it represented a unique opportunity to undertake training, acquire transferable skills, gain independence, maturity and become self-reliant, all while being paid.
Mr Howard said the ADF Gap Year offered a “try before you buy” taste of the ADF, without any obligation to serve beyond the 12-month program. “In this way, young Australians were given an excellent introduction to service life without having to commit for four or more years.”
He said each of the Services had tailored their Gap Year programs to give participants a wide range of choice.
“A basic military training element is common to all, but Navy participants can expect to experience life onboard a ship as a sailor, while Army is offering a range of employment streams as a soldier from rifleman and gunner to clerical and logistics trades. Air Force participants will be exposed to a range of officer and airman employment categories.”
Mr Howard accepted that not all Gap Year participants would want to continue serving in the ADF, but said those who did would be able to transfer to full-time military careers and training - or return to the ADF later and receive a financial bonus, having completed their tertiary or vocational training. “Some may also pursue part-time paid service in the Reserves.”
Mr Howard encouraged all Year 12 school leavers to seriously consider the ADF Gap Year option.
“The skills they will gain in terms of teamwork, self-discipline, communication and access to emerging technologies will assist them in their future studies and will be valued highly by prospective employers,” he said.
“All this while earning between $30,000 and $46,000 over the year.”
14 August, 2007
Candid Scammers In Flash Payouts
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has won more than $300,000 for the Australian victims of North American scams after intervening in court action overseas.
The ACCC, with assistance from the Queensland Police and the Competition Bureau of Canada, froze funds which had been collected under a mass mail-out to consumers.
ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel said consumers had received letters which were carefully written to create a sense of excitement about a huge and unexpected win or prize, including as a result of a lottery, sweepstake, award or other unclaimed funds.
Mr Samuel said once a victim had responded, they were only guaranteed of one thing: they would receive more and more letters promoting yet further wins.
“Some victims become so certain that they are only one more small payment away from getting a fortune that they find it impossible to accept that they have been scammed even when bank or police officers explain the scam,” Mr Samuel said.
The investigation was initiated after an employee of Adelaide-based Powerstate Credit Union, became concerned that a long-time customer was making many small payments to overseas “lotteries” believing that he had already won a major prize.
While many of the victims were older consumers, this was not always the case, Mr Samuel said. “Scammers are happy to take anyone’s money, they don’t discriminate.”
Mr Samuel said the joint action had severely disrupted the operations of 37 scam promoters, but the battle was not yet over.
“These particular promoters used Pacific Network Services Ltd and related companies to move their money around the world,” he said.
“PacNet group cooperated with the investigation. It has paid $316,936 in to a trust fund that will now be handed back to some of the victims.
Mr Samuel said the company had also ended its business relationships with promoters identified in the ACCC’s court action.
He said Niche Government Consulting and Assurance would administer the refunds process to consumers who could show that they paid money to one of the listed scams between 1 March 2006 and 28 February 2007 and applied to the Refunds Administrator for a refund.
Mr Samuel said details of how consumers could apply for refunds could be found on the ACCC’s web site.
14 August, 2007
Agencies Surf Into Bayside “Hub”
A “Government Hub” has been officially opened at Batemans Bay on the NSW South Coast with Minister for Community Services, Senator Nigel Scullion saying it would greatly improve access to Government services for the people of the area.
The newly-opened office will house staff from the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and the Department of Education Science and Training and provide office facilities for out-posted staff from the Queanbeyan local Indigenous Coordination Centre.
Senator Scullion said the NSW South Coast had a diversity of people with differing economic circumstances and placing dedicated staff in the office would help to extend the Government assistance across the area.
He said there were some 560 service providers funded by FaCSIA in the Wollongong to Eden region, valued at more than $20 million last year.
He said DEST had maintained a presence in Nowra for some years and relocation to Batemans Bay would enable it to better service the area from Wollongong to Eden.
The new Batemans Bay hub is located at the corner of Vesper Street (Princes Highway) and Beach Road.
14 August, 2007
Trees Website Gets Hug From Foresters
A website that will help educate young Australians and their teachers about the facts of sustainable management of Australia’s forests has been launched by the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz.
The website was developed by the National Association of Forest Industries and the National Forest Education and Awareness Network.
“This online resource will make a valuable contribution to the education of young Australians,” Senator Abetz said.
“It will also provide teachers with a central point of factual information on the management of Australia’s forest resources and their important role in managing climate change.”
Senator Abetz said the website would put “onto the world wide web more factual information about our world-leading, renewable forest management, to counter the various misleading websites run by the Greens and their associates”.
He congratulated NAFI and NFEAN on the website and said it complemented the Government’s efforts to counter “some of the rhetoric and misinformation about Australia’s forest management practices”.
The Australian Government has also recently launched the Australia: Sustainable Forest Management information booklet and DVD to address overseas campaigns by some extreme groups.
“Their aggressive and misleading campaigns are clearly designed to cripple Tasmania’s renewable forest industry,” Senator Abetz said. “They fail to acknowledge the environmental benefits of sustainable forestry and that significant areas of Tasmanian forests are already in reserves.”
He said that 47 per cent of Tasmania’s native forests were protected in reserves, including 80 per cent of all the old growth forest.
“I welcome both initiatives and the role they will play in providing the facts about Australia’s enviable record of sustainable forest management.”
The new website is at: www.australianforests.org.au
14 August, 2007
Refunds Advice Has Money Back Promise
A new series of advisory and informative publications for consumers about refunds and warranties and warranties for services has been issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The flyers and a revised version of the Commission’s refunds “wallet card” complement the brochure, Warranties & Refunds, and give consumers a snapshot of their rights under the Trade Practices Act 1974.
According to ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel: “Consumers should be aware that whenever they buy a good or service, the Act gives them certain protections that cannot be changed or removed by anyone.”
Mr Samuel said the flyers would provide consumers with information on the steps they can take to resolve a dispute involving a refund or warranty, or how to complain to the ACCC.
“The ACCC encourages all consumers to learn more about their rights in relation to refunds and warranties when buying goods or services,” Mr Samuel said.
He said while the ACCC couldn’t act on behalf of individuals about warranty and refund claims, it had successfully prosecuted companies for failing to inform consumers of their rights under the Act.
“The ACCC will not hesitate to take action against businesses which mislead consumers about their statutory rights,” Mr Samuel said. “Consumers can be tricked into thinking that they can’t have a faulty item replaced, or get a refund, because the manufacturer’s express warranty period has expired, when that may not be so.”
The new flyers are available free of charge from the ACCC website, or by calling the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502.
14 August, 2007
American Weathermen Put Cairns on Map
The American Meteorological Society has held a meeting on radar meteorology in Cairns, Queensland, its first in the Asia-Pacific region.
Assistant Minister for Environment, John Cobb said the meeting, one of the oldest regular the AMS holds, was a great opportunity for Australian researchers to showcase their own meteorological learning while hearing from other scientists from around the world.
“The conference will look at a range of areas including the uses of radar during severe weather and the hydrological application of radar systems,” Mr Cobb said.
“The value that these technologies provide to the community cannot be overstated. During times of severe weather the Bureau of Meteorology uses radar to predict the direction and severity of storms.”
He said “now-casting” or very short term weather forecasts, were invaluable during severe storms.”
Mr Cobb said the AMS conference would conclude two weeks of scientific dialogue on radar meteorology.
He said the Bureau of Meteorology and the World Meteorological Organisation had already hosted a training workshop on radar meteorology and now-casting to a small group of international now-casting experts in Palm Cove.
“The workshop, which provided mentorship in weather radar and now-casting techniques in the Pacific region, is an important initiative in advancing the science of now-casting to our nearest neighbours,” Mr Cobb said.
14 August, 2007
Debtors Have Rights In Any Language
A booklet designed to assist consumers who experience problems dealing with debt or with debt collectors is now available in six new languages.
Developed jointly by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, Dealing with debt: your rights and responsibilities was now available in Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Italian, Turkish and Vietnamese.
ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel and ASIC Chairman, Tony D’Aloisio said both their organisations continued to receive complaints about debt collection activity with ASIC reporting a steady increase in the number of complaints received during 2007.
“In response, we have taken steps to ensure more people have access to this guide on debt collection by translating it into six new languages,” Mr Samuel said.
“While the booklet makes it clear that consumers have an obligation to repay any debts they owe, it also provides clear guidance about what may represent unacceptable conduct by debt collectors.”
Mr D’Aloisio said both ASIC and the ACCC were committed to ensuring that all consumers who found themselves in a difficult financial position could be confident they would be dealt with fairly and lawfully.
“Unfortunately, on some occasions debt collectors go beyond what is reasonable, and harass, mislead or abuse consumers,” Mr D’Aloisio said.
“This booklet contains practical advice and information about what to do in potentially stressful situations that can arise when handling debts. It also provides useful guidance and tips on how to manage debts, and where to go for more help in a debt crisis.”
Mr Samuel said the booklet stressed that any contact between a debt collector and a consumer must be necessary, and for a reasonable purpose.
“It provides specific guidance on the appropriate frequency of face-to-face, telephone and other contact, as well as the appropriate location of face-to-face contact.”
Mr D’Aloisio said there was specific information within the booklet about different types of conduct likely to breach consumer protection laws.
“Consumers experiencing any of these types of conduct should immediately contact ASIC or the ACCC to make a complaint,” Mr D’Aloisio said.
14 August, 2007
Wartime Exhibition Blows Cover on 1917
A new exhibition honouring Australian soldiers who fought and died in the nation’s most tragic and costly battles has been opened at the Australian War Memorial by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Billson.
Entitled To Flanders Fields, 1917, the exhibition marks the 90th anniversary of the battles and includes many wartime artefacts and photographs.
“In that year, more than 20,000 Australians died and a further 50,000 were wounded, maimed or taken prisoner in France and Belgium,” Mr Billson said.
“I am pleased that the Australian Government has provided $130,000 to support this exhibition as part of activities honouring the 90th anniversaries of battles on the Western Front.”
He said the funding was provided through the Department’s Saluting Their Service commemorations program.
Mr Billson said the exhibition included items from the Memorial’s own extensive collection, together with material lent from overseas institutions including the In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres, bringing the experiences of Australians on the Western Front closer to today’s Australians.
“Visitors will see a watch worn by Snowy Howell, with the time stopped from when he was wounded at Bullecourt. For his heroic action during an enemy attack that day he was awarded the Victoria Cross.
“There is also a blood-stained and battered stretcher used in Belgium by the 10th Australian Field Ambulance – there was no work more dangerous than stretcher bearing. The names of those killed in the unit are carved on the stretcher’s handles.”
Mr Billson said the exhibition was one of a range of initiatives that commemorated the service and sacrifice of Australians on the Western Front from 1916 to 1918.
The opening of the exhibition was attended by the Mayor of Zonnebeke in Belgium, Dirk Cardoen and his colleague Councillor Franky Bryon.
“ I met with Mr Cardoen and Mr Bryon today to discuss upcoming commemorative events in Belgium to mark the 90th anniversary of The Battle of Passchendaele in October 2007,” Mr Billson said.
He said the third of five books in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Australians on the Western Front series, 1917:Ypres was now available for purchase and an interpretive display had been launched as part of the new Visitor Centre at Tyne Cot War Cemetery in Belgium.
“Ninety years on we remember the achievements of our diggers on the Western Front with great pride, and again acknowledge their service,” Mr Billson said.
14 August, 2007
Green Corps Shows True Colours
Fifty-seven new Green Corps teams will be set to work across Australia in the coming months to tackle some of the environmental challenges of our time.
Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone said up to 500 young people between 17 and 20 had put up their hands to become trainees in the latest round of the Green Corp Projects .
“The newest Green Corps teams will focus on some of our most urgent environmental challenges including controlling feral birds, planting trees, saving frogs and learning how to fight fires,” Dr Stone said.
Young people who participate in Round 48 projects will work on activities such as the restoration of heritage buildings, surveying and monitoring endangered Australian fauna as well as working with community organisations such as Landcare to rehabilitate and restore Australia’s natural environment and waterways.
Dr Stone said that at Imanpa in the Northern Territory, 10 young people would gain environmental work experience by participating in activities involving native and traditional plant regeneration, the installation of irrigation lines, fencing and improvements to the community.
She said a community of Grey Headed Flying Foxes in Parramatta Park, NSW, would also benefit from monitoring by a Green Corps team, with work on the project increasing the connections between existing bushland areas and providing high-quality environmental and cultural outcomes for participants and the local Parramatta community.
Dr Stone said each Green Corps team had up to 10 young Australians aged 17 to 20, who wanted to help address local environment issues or work on projects that preserved Australia’s cultural heritage. Green Corps projects run for 26 weeks.
“Since 17, the majority of participants have gone on to employment, education or further training at the conclusion of their time on Green Corps,” Dr Stone said.
Young people participating in Green Corps receive an allowance for the duration of the project. They also receive accredited training in modules related to the project, such as horticulture, conservation and land management practices, basic construction techniques, basic woodworking, first aid, occupational health and safety and career counselling.
“Initiatives such as Green Corps provide positive work experiences for our youth and help them gain the confidence they need to get ahead in life," Dr Stone said.
“Through participation in Green Corps, they raise their prospects of employability, positively contribute to the community and make a real difference to Australia’s environment.”
A full list of Round 48 Green Corps projects is at: www.greencorps.gov.au/greencorps/News
7 August, 2007
PS Call Centres Are Talk of the Town
Four of Centrelink’s call centres have taken out awards in the annual Australian Teleservices Association State awards.
Victoria’s Wendouree call centre has won back-to-back state titles as the Best Call Centre (between 50 and 120 staff); the Adelaide call centre claimed the Best Call Centre (more than 120 staff) with Mandy Petry from Port Augusta named South Australia’s Call Centre Champion; while in Western Australia, Ingrid de Ruyter from Centrelink’s Perth call centre won the Teleprofessional award.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Chris Ellison, said Centrelink’s call centres and its employees had proven themselves to be among the best in Australia.
“Centrelink has 25 call centres located around the country – many in regional communities – and handled around 31 million calls last financial year, making it the largest single-purpose call centre operation in the country,” Senator Ellison said.
“Its operations are diverse, providing specific services for customers in regional and remote communities, Indigenous Australians and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.”
Senator Ellison said in addition to servicing its regular customers, Centrelink’s call centres were integral in supporting Australians in times of crisis, including the on-going drought, the Cyclone Larry recovery efforts, the Hunter and Gippsland floods, as well as disaster response work in the wake of the London and Bali bombings.
Senator Ellison said despite increasing pressure on Centrelink’s call centre network, the Government was ensuring Centrelink had the capacity to handle the extra workload.
“The Government is expanding Centrelink’s call centre network, including in regional centres, providing much-needed local jobs,” Senator Ellison said.
“For example, the Prime Minister recently announced an extra 150 staff will be employed at the Launceston call centre.”
He said expansions were also taking place at the Hobart, Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour operations, while a new call centre was planned for Batemans Bay in NSW.
“And I’m also pleased to say that the award-winning call centre at Wendouree in Victoria has recently moved into a new purpose-built building in Gillies Street. In addition to the improved amenities and telephony facilities it’s resulted in the creation of another 32 jobs, 20 of which are full-time.”
The state winners will now represent their respective categories in the ATA National Awards in Sydney on 14 September.
7 August, 2007
Ageing Website Is Taking Big Hits
The Department of Health and Ageing’s website for people wanting information on aged care has been viewed by more than 100,000 people since its launch in November last year.
Minister for Ageing, Christopher Pyne said the Aged Care Australia website was designed to assist ageing Australians, their families and carers during this very important transition period in their lives.
“Almost two million Australians are now over the age of 70,” Mr Pyne said.
“There is an increasing need for people to be able to have access to accurate, up-to-date material on aged care and the choices that are available to them or their family members. It’s all here in the one convenient location.”
The Aged Care Australia website provides comprehensive information about aged care accommodation, community care services, support for carers and important health matters.
“The Aged Care Australia website is filling a demand for accessible, easy-to-read information, giving people the resource they need to make informed decisions about their future,” Mr Pyne said.
He said the website included an Aged Care Home Finder which allowed people to compare up to five aged care homes at any one time by selecting desired features such as type of care, activities and services available in the home, whether another language was spoken, food choices, the home’s policy on pets, and transport services. The website allowed people to view photographs, sample floor plans and other information to assist in decision-making.
Mr Pyne said the Community Care Services Finder feature helped locate services in viewers’ own areas to support them in their home and community.
Material from the website could be stored for future reference and shared with family and friends through a My Page feature.
Visitors to the site could also use the Contact Us section to have their aged care queries answered.
The website is accessible at www.agedcareaustralia.gov.au.
7 August, 2007
Medal Nomination Is Rights Thing To Do
Nominations are being called for the 2007 Human Rights Medal and Awards.
“The Human Rights Medal and Awards celebrate their 20th anniversary this year and provide an excellent opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of individuals and organisations by nominating them for these prestigious awards,” said the President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Jon von Doussa.
“You don’t have to be famous or well known for your efforts to enter – the medal and awards are about celebrating the efforts of those who work tirelessly everyday without fuss to promote and protect human rights and to overcome discrimination in Australia.”
Since 1987, HREOC has recognised often extraordinary contributions made to Australian society by a variety of men and women committed to issues of human rights, social justice and equality.
Mr von Doussa said each year HREOC received outstanding nominations for the Human Rights Medal and award categories of Law, Community (individual and organisation), Arts Non-Fiction, Print Media, Television and Radio.
“Former winners have made an outstanding contribution within their communities or done so through the practice of law, through writing books about human rights issues or through their work in the media,” Mr von Doussa said.
Nominations for achievements of an individual or organisation for the 2007 Human Rights Medal or one of the award categories can be made on the entry form located at www.humanrights.gov.au/hr_awards or by phoning (02) 9284 9618 for more information.
Nominations will be received until 5 October, 2007.
7 August, 2007
Website Floated To Keep Warbirds Aloft
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority has added essential information about taking flights on ex-military and historic aircrafts to its website, in recognition of the growing popularity of adventure flying.
People planning on taking to the skies onboard a “warbird” are being urged to check out the on-line information before they do so.
“The popularity of adventure flights has been growing in recent years and the way safety is managed for these flights is quite different to everyday flying on commercial aircraft,” said CASA’s acting chief executive Shane Carmody.
“CASA has now made it easy to get all the information you need on adventure flights by simply going to our website.”
The website explains how the safety of adventure flights is managed and the responsibilities adventure flyers must take. The information is part of a new on-line initiative by CASA to provide practical information on aviation safety to the Australian public.
A section sets out in plain English the actions CASA and the aviation industry take to maintain and improve Australia’s high aviation safety standards.
Mr Carmody said the new information aimed to take the mystery out of aviation safety.
“Aviation is a highly technical and sophisticated industry and that means it’s not always easy for people to get a full appreciation of important safety issues,” he said.
Find out more at Aviation Safety Explained: www.casa.gov.au/publicinfo/index.htm
7 August, 2007
Lawyers Pack Cases For Duty in Iraq
The Australian Government is looking to recruit three lawyers with investigative experience to join a team of six heading to Baghdad to bolster the Iraqi legal system as part of its Law and Order taskforce initiative.
In a joint statement by Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer and Defence Minister, Dr Brendan Nelson, the Ministers said the lawyers would train and mentor local counterparts so that the Iraqi Court system could fairly and expeditiously try detainees accused of such major crimes as murder, rape, kidnapping and terrorist offences under Iraqi law.
The Ministers said three lawyers from the Australian Defence Force would be in the initial team. “A second group of three team members with appropriate investigatory experience is being recruited,” Mr Downer said.
“The Law and Order Task Force has been established to create a safe and well-resourced environment in which detainees charged with major crimes can be accommodated and their cases investigated and brought before the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.
“Strengthening the capacity of the Iraqi law and order sector is an essential component in building a stable and democratic Iraq, able to govern and protect itself.”
The Task Force began operating in May and cases had already begun to be heard and investigated. The Task Force focuses on crimes committed after March 2003, with the Iraqi High Tribunal continuing to be responsible for trying serious crimes alleged to have been committed during the Saddam era.
7 August, 2007
Sea Weather System Is All Plain Sailing
The Bureau of Meteorology has added broad-scale information on ocean currents, temperature and salinity to its services following the launch of BLUElink, a new ocean forecasting system.
Developed by the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Royal Australian Navy, BLUElink uses sophisticated scientific techniques and oceanic data from satellites, surface and sub-surface data collectors to produce a seven-day forecast of sea temperature, salinity and currents.
Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson, said the new BLUElink forecasts would be an important tool for use in Australia’s ocean territory.
“Australia will benefit from advances in predicting ocean conditions for naval and civilian marine operations,” Dr Nelson said.
“For the Navy, sonar performance, ship routing, training exercises and troop landings are very much affected by the state of the ocean.”
Dr Nelson was joined in welcoming the initiative by the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop, and Assistant Minister for the Environment and Water Resources John Cobb.
“I congratulate the (CSIRO’s) Wealth from Oceans Flagship, the Bureau, and Navy for providing this new and vital service to users of the oceans that will provide a wealth of information for many years to come,” Ms Bishop said.
Mr Cobb said BLUElink would change the way oceans around Australia were viewed and would provide important environmental information for mariners.
“Our knowledge of ocean conditions is continuing to make progress, thanks to ongoing improvements in scientific understanding and technology. BLUElink forecasts are possible because of the immensely powerful computer networks that are able to process the vast volumes of data describing physical ocean conditions,” Mr Cobb said.
The Ministers said BLUElink’s forecast would help identify and predict the complex movement of Australia’s offshore and coastal waters. They said ocean conditions were critical factors in climate and also directly influenced fisheries and most aquaculture endeavours. They said knowledge of them was essential for coastal construction, maritime safety, marine pollution response and management of the marine environment.
BLUElink would help improve regional climate forecasts, support ship routing to achieve greater fuel savings, improve maritime rescue and safety capabilities, and identify changes in coastal water temperatures, salinity and currents that directly influence reefs, aquaculture and all forms of marine life.
The next phase of the BLUElink research was currently underway and included an intensive review of historical ocean data, improvements to the existing forecasting system, the development of near-shore wave forecasting and a contribution towards an improved tropical cyclone prediction model.
7 August, 2007
ACCC and NZCC Tie Cross-Ditch Knot
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has signed a cooperative agreement with New Zealand’s Commerce Commission which is expected to make it easier for the two organisations to work together.
Both Commissions are responsible for enforcing competition and consumer law, and for market regulation.
The new Cooperation Agreement between the ACCC and the NZ Commerce Commission was signed by Commerce Commission Chair Paula Rebstock and ACCC Chairman Graeme Samuel at the Commerce Commission’s Wellington, NZ, office.
The new agreement replaces a 14 Memorandum of Understanding between the Commerce Commission and the ACCC’s predecessor, the Trade Practices Commission and is viewed as a major advance in an already strong relationship enjoyed by the two Commissions.
“This agreement reflects the closer relationship that has developed between the two Commissions over the years and will provide a sound basis for working closely together in the future,” NZ’s Ms Rebstock said. “Given the emergence of global cartels and global mergers, trans-Tasman cooperation is becoming increasingly important.”
She said as business became more global, competition agencies needed to look beyond their national borders.
Mr Samuel said the agreement would help both countries to effectively enforce competition and consumer law.
“The New Zealand and Australian economies are highly integrated, with close collaboration under the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement, and very similar competition and consumer policy,” he said. “This agreement will boost competition and consumer enforcement on both sides of the Tasman.”
In 2006 the two Commissions signed up to a trans-Tasman merger protocol to facilitate decisions on mergers and acquisitions.
7 August, 2007
Tests On Fish To Be Scaled Up
Imported fish is to undergo tougher screening following a survey by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service that found residues of antibiotics in batches arriving from overseas.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, announced the testing upgrade saying imported seafood would now be checked for a range of antibiotics, including flouroquinolones, quinolones and penicillins.
“While the residues detected were at low levels and did not represent a food safety issue, the survey showed that some imported seafood did not comply with Australia’s rigorous standards,” Mr McGauran said.
“As part of its high standards for food safety, AQIS regularly undertakes reviews of imported food. The survey and the additional testing requirements reflect Australia’s ongoing surveillance and highest standards of food safety.”
Mr McGauran said the additional testing would give consumers even greater confidence that imported seafood met the high standards required of Australian seafood industries.
He has also referred the results of the AQIS survey to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for their technical advice, given both those organisations had expertise in the safety issues associated with the use of antibiotics in food production.
“Importantly, Australian consumers can continue to be confident in the safety of our food supply - be it domestically produced or imported,” Mr McGauran said.
7 August, 2007
Questacon Display is Site for Sore Eyes
The latest exhibition to be unveiled at Canberra’s Questacon hands-on science Centre asks the question: “Can you really believe what you see?”
Teaming up with the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence in Vision Science to highlight the latest research into visual systems, the program features more than 20 visual illusions and explores what they tell us about our system of seeing.
The visual illusions exhibit was unveiled at Questacon after Small Brains, Smart Minds, a talk by Professor Mandyam Srinivasan, a leading ACEVS researcher and winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.
Professor Srinivasan described his research into the visual systems of honeybees and how this work could be used to help robots see.
“Anyone who has watched a fly make a flawless landing on the rim of a teacup would know that insects cope remarkably well with their world, despite possessing a brain that carries fewer than 0.01 per cent as many neurons as ours,” Professor Srinivasan said.
“The illusions used in this exhibit have been selected and developed to reflect some of the hot research topics in vision science that the Centre of Excellence has been formed to advance.”
According to Dr Stuart Kohlhagen, Questacon’s Manager of Exhibition Services, Questacon and ACEVS plan to continue building their partnership and look forward to presenting more interesting and significant research to the public in the future.
ACEVS research focuses on themes relating to vision, from the causes of various degenerative diseases of the eye, to how the eye and brain work to make sense of the world we view.
The Centre also explores the applications of this research including helping to design flying robots for NASA.
7 August, 2007
Defence on Target At Future Centre
A three-way partnership between the Department of Defence, the Department of Education, Science and Training and the Defence Materiel Organisation has been established to set up a Defence Future Capability Technology Centre to emulate the work done in other industries’ Cooperative Research Centres.
Planned to get off the ground in 2008, the DFCTC is one of the innovations emerging from the Defence Industry Policy released earlier this year.
According to Chief Defence Scientist Dr Roger Lough the new Centre would have many of the characteristics of the CRC Program which is administered by DEST.
“While modelled on the successful CRC concept, the DFCTC will be targeted at developing a specific future defence capability,” Dr Lough said.
The Centre would facilitate collaboration between publicly funded research organisations, leading Australian universities and Defence industry.
“As part of Defence’s commitment to nurturing small-to-medium enterprises, we want to ensure all Australian companies have the opportunity to participate in the DFCTC and are building this into the participation guidelines,” Dr Lough said.
Dr Lough outlined the key areas of focus for Defence science and technology over the coming decades, providing industry and other stakeholders with a valuable insight into near-future Defence capability challenges. He also updated Defence industry representatives on recent enhancements to mechanisms used by DSTO to engage with industry and academics, such as the Capability and Technology Demonstrator Program.
DSTO is the Government’s lead Agency charged with applying science and technology to protect and defend Australia and its national interests. Dr Lough said DSTO was a unique organisation in the Asia-Pacific region, delivering expert, impartial advice and innovative solutions for Defence and other elements of national security.
In 2007 DSTO is celebrating 100 years of Defence science and technology.
Dr Lough said that over the past century the business of Defence had become increasingly reliant on new and emerging technologies. He said DSTO was the Australian Defence Force’s technology partner, helping to deliver capabilities that were crucial to the defence of Australia and its national interests.
7 August, 2007
Seeds Of Forest Kit Planted in Japan
An information package on Australian forestry has been produced and distributed in Japan.
The Australia: Sustainable Forest Management information booklet and DVD were launched at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo.
Minister for Forestry and Conservation, Senator Eric Abetz, said the information detailed the facts about sustainable forest management in Australia.
“Sustainable Forest Management was developed to provide Japanese producers and consumers with a clear understanding of the legal framework that underpins our forestry operations,” Senator Abetz said.
“It also details the world-leading nature of Tasmania’s renewable forest industry and the significant amount of forests in reserve – 47 per cent of Tasmania’s native forests are protected forever in reserves, including 80 per cent of all the old growth forest.
“This is well above the United Nations benchmark of 10 per cent.”
Senator Abetz said it was regrettable that the Australian Government had to run the campaign in Japan “to correct the misinformation being distributed in international markets by the Greens and their accomplices, the extreme Rainforest Action Network”.
In May, Tasmanian Greens leader Peg Putt flew to Tokyo to campaign against Tasmanian forest exports with the Rainforest Action Network, and while Greens leader Senator Bob Brown did not attend this time, he sent a video message.
“It is notable that Tasmanian woodchip exports to Japan have declined by some 20 per cent over the past four years,” Senator Abetz said.
“A significant proportion of this decline is directly due to the sabotage tactics of the Greens and the Rainforest Action Network.”
Sustainable Forest Management was prepared through the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement package, which included funding to improve the awareness and understanding of sustainable forest management and protection of forest values across Australia. It is to be produced in a number of languages.
7 August, 2007
Stats Bureau to Look at Films
The Australian Bureau of Statistics plans to survey film, television, video production and digital games development services in Australia
The Film, Television and Video Production and Post-Production, Digital and Visual Effects Services 2006-07 publication will report on production levels, income, employment numbers and profitability across the audio-visual production industry.
Last conducted in 2002-03, the survey has been expanded following consultation with the Australian Film Commission, film agencies and the wider industry to provide greater detail on post-production, digital and visual effects.
The Bureau of Statistics said the Digital Games Development Survey would provide detailed measures of the performance, structure and activity of the businesses operating in Australia, including the composition of income earned, details of expenses and the characteristics of the workforce. It said this was the first time the ABS had conducted a survey of the digital games sector.
According to Acting Chief Executive of the AFC, Chris Fitchett, the Commission strongly supported industry participation in such important surveys.
“Findings from the Film, Television and Video Production and Post-Production, Digital and Visual Effects Services publication will provide an extremely timely industry benchmark from which to chart growth, now and into the future,” Mr Fitchett said.
He said the survey would expand on the information available about the “dynamic sector” following major funding initiatives announced in the Federal Budget.
The surveys are part of the ABS’s commitment to providing statistics on a range of service industries in Australia and would be published in June 2008.
7 August, 2007
School’s In for Aussie Literature
The Australia Council for the Arts is hosting a roundtable to discuss how to get more Australian contemporary and classic writing onto high school and university curricula, and how to get students studying them in greater depth discussion.
The roundtable, held in Canberra this month, was chaired by the Australia Council Literature Board chair, Dr Imre Salusinszky.
Twenty eminent Australian authors, publishers, teachers, academics and other stakeholders are involved in the roundtable discussion, including Bob Carr, Professor Elizabeth Webby, Professor David Carter, Nicholas Jose and Dr Jeremy Fisher.
Chief Executive Officer of the Australia Council, Kathy Keele said that profiling Australian literature throughout the education system was vital to a thriving literary culture.
“We hope that it will be the beginning of a conversation about our national literature and its place on education curricula,” Ms Keele said.
“From the day, we aim to develop a consensus on the ways to advance this agenda and some recommendations for future action.
“Our education institutions are the key to more Australians having a more sophisticated understanding of their own national literature,” Ms Keele said.
7 August, 2007
Tastes of Pacific Tabled at Museum
The Australian National Maritime Museum has launched a multi-cultural food festival,
Pacific on a Plate which draws together the culinary traditions of people who have migrated to Australia from communities all around the Pacific basin.
A host of stalls will be set up at the Museum in Darling Harbour, NSW, on 1-2 September offering dishes from as far away as Japan, Canada and Peru, alongside non-stop free entertainment on Pacific themes. The festival will be open to all, will be free to enter, and no plate of food will cost more than $10.
Director of the Australian National Maritime Museum, Mary-Louise Williams said the “delicious” event would highlight the Museum’s core interests in the history of maritime activity on the Pacific and the history of migration to Australia.
“We hope everyone who comes to Pacific on a Plate to taste the food will come inside and explore these themes in the Museum’s exhibitions.”
Ms Williams said Pacific on a Plate was the fourth festival in which the Maritime Museum had focused on food and food history to amplify wider social history themes. This festival has been timed to chime in with Sydney’s APEC Conference, without being directly associated with it.
Dishes on offer will include Japanese takoyaki (dumplings with octopus, prawn or crabmeat); Ceviche from Peru (fish marinated in lemon, onion, garlic, coriander and Peruvian spices); Vietnam’s goi cuon (fresh rice paper rolls with prawns, pork, mint, basil and vermicelli); Russian deliashe (meat and onion pie); Canadian sugar pie (dessert pie with maple syrup filling); and a feast of other samples from China, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, the Philippines, New Zealand and more.
The entertainment program, led by prominent food journalist Joanna Savill, will feature cooking talks and demonstrations and music from around the Pacific including the celebrated TaikOz No Wa (Japanese-style taiko percussion troupe), The Real Mexico mariachi band and Polynesian dancing.
7 August, 2007
Insurers Covered By New APRA Plan
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority has issued a discussion paper canvassing the possibility of regulating foreign insurance companies trading in Australia.
The paper follows a Government announcement in May that foreshadowed refinements to the general insurance prudential framework.
APRA Member John Trowbridge said the proposed refinements would have an effect not only on the Direct Offshore Foreign Insurers that wished to become APRA-authorised, but also on all APRA-authorised general insurers.
“The proposals recognise five different categories of insurer, based on their risk profiles, while maintaining adequate protection for policyholders,” Mr Trowbridge said.
The five categories of insurer are locally incorporated insurers, wholly owned subsidiaries of local or foreign insurers, foreign insurers operating as foreign branches, association captives, and sole parent captives.
The Government intends that offshore foreign reinsurers would not be required to be authorised in Australia.
Mr Trowbridge said APRA’s discussion paper did not address the proposed exemptions from prudential regulation foreshadowed in the Government’s announcement.
He said Treasury is developing options for such exemptions and intended to issue a separate consultation paper on this topic.
APRA invites interested parties, including local and foreign insurers, insurance agents and brokers, reinsurers and buyers of insurance, to comment on the proposed refinements to the prudential framework that are intended to apply from 1 July 2008.
Written submissions should be forwarded to GIRFPF@apra.gov.au by 11 September 2007.
7 August, 2007
Army of Supporters Called up for APEC
Up to 1500 members of the Australian Defence Force will be assigned to security support at the upcoming APEC Leader’s Meeting in Sydney, along with an array of military and protection equipment.
Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said a range of capabilities would be put in place during the meeting to support New South Wales Police and ensure the event was safe, secure and successful.
He emphasised the ADF’s supporting role during APEC by stressing that the NSW Government, the NSW Police were responsible for security at APEC07.
“The ADF’s job is to provide specialised support to the NSW Police, as well as support to the Attorney-General’s Department under the Commonwealth’s standing arrangements for counter-terrorism if that is required,” Air Marshal Houston said.
He said Defence’s commitment would include Blackhawk helicopters and a detachment of F/A 18 Hornet fighters, specialised search teams, a special operations task group, and ships from the Royal Australian Navy. The ships and aircraft would be able to divert aircraft and intercept vessels at sea to counter specific threats should they arise.
ACM Houston said the ADF would also provide liaison offers in key operation nodes throughout the city, as well as niche security support in and around Sydney Harbour through specialist clearance divers.
ADF Reservists would play key roles in the supporting task force by providing an additional layer to complement standing ADF domestic security capabilities.
“I am pleased to see Reserves taking a full part in this operation,” ACM Houston said.
“Some of these troops are part of the Reserve Response Forces that were established three years ago as part of the Government’s commitment to securing Australia against the threat of terrorism. Their contribution to APEC07 will include assisting the NSW Police with tasks such as searching venues and operating vehicle checkpoints, showing just how versatile Australia’s Reserve forces are.”
Air Chief Marshal Houston also congratulated the newly-appointed commander of the ADF’s joint task force supporting the APEC Leader’s Week, Brigadier Andrew Smith.“Brigadier Smith has a wealth of experience in this type of operation, having led our Task Force supporting the Commonwealth Games in 2006,” he said.
1 August, 2007
Outsourcing Out In IT Buying Round
Outsourcing of Government IT services could come to an end in the next two years as more than $1.2 billion worth of Public Service IT contracts across 23 Agencies are set to come up for renewal.
Market researcher, Judy Hurditch of Intermedium, said many of the expiring contracts were signed in the late 10s when outsourcing was the policy of the day, but a return to in-house sourcing is likely to lead to a major turnaround in IT services for the PS.
“The then Office of Asset Sales and Information Technology Outsourcing strongly encouraged a number of agencies into outsourcing arrangements despite many protests from Agencies,” Ms Hurditch said.
“Then a review by Richard Humphry in 2000 halted this push, literally overnight.”
She said since then, no new Agencies had taken up the single sourcing outsourcing option, but a number had initiated some selective outsourcing.
“The threshold question for these agencies now is whether to retain infrastructure outsourcing as a strategy or take a decision to revert to in-house arrangements.
“While no agencies have yet completely abandoned outsourcing, it is clear that a number of them are very undecided about what to do,” she said.
Ms Hurditch used the Australian Tax Office as an example saying it had just commenced a process to replace its long-standing IT Outsourcing Contact with EDS. She said the ATO’s contractual arrangement with EDS was due to finish (unless the ATO exercises its rights to extend its arrangement with EDS) in June 2008 and it had appointed a consultant to advise on the broad options available to either fully or selectively outsource.
She said the ATO would then consider its options, and either go to the market to meet all or part of its IT requirements in 2008, or as it has done in the past, exercise an option to June 2010, which was likely to be worth $170m per year to EDS.
Ms Hurditch said Intermedium’s Federal Government IT Infrastructure Outsourcing Report 2006-07 showed infrastructure outsourcing was a very significant part of Federal Government ICT procurement with 48 per cent of Agencies contracting more than $1m on ICT products and services per annum, involved in outsourcing.
She said the major question was “will agencies that have not yet engaged in infrastructure outsourcing in the past now see it as a more appealing prospect, given that there is a decade of outsourcing experience within Federal Government?”
1 August, 2007
PS Staff Survey Poll-axes Bosses
A recent survey of Public Servants that revealed that 57 per cent believe their bosses are “ineffective” and “no good at what they do.”
According to former Army Officer and now project management expert, Michael Young, the survey, by personnel company Talent2, showed the importance of training and development for senior staff.
Mr Young said the finding confirmed a view that many PS managers were living in the past and faced a pressing need to developing their skills.
“There have been a number of spectacular failures in management of projects in Government agencies of late,” Mr Young said. “Experience shows that it is the softer, more people-focused skills that managers need to learn to produce results.”
He said it was not surprising that employees were losing faith in bosses who refused to learn.
Mr Young, who is ACT President of the Australian Institute of Project Management, and a consultant with the firm Transformed, said many managers were focused on getting the job done and had lost sight of the need for good personnel management.
“In Project Management – like many other management disciplines – bosses have traditionally focused their efforts on learning the technical skills required to do the job. It’s become clear that it is in the failure to manage the human elements of projects that things come undone.”
He said the key leadership skills that modern managers required were the ability to set vision and goals and motivate staff to achieve them.
“They also need to be able to implement two-way communication with people of all backgrounds, experience and levels.
“A key skill is to be able to build and be able to sustain good teamwork and use the unique skills of team members to achieve excellent results,” he said.
The Talent2 survey also found that learning and development were as essential for those on the top rung of the ladder as it was for those still climbing up, particularly with employee retention a major issue in today’s workplace.
Mr Young said skills such as leadership, communication and team building were the difference between outstanding and ordinary leaders.
He said employers should take the survey seriously and enrol in learning programs to gain the skill levels necessary to manage staff with skill and ability.
1 August, 2007
Parliament Staff Take Over House
Nearly 60 delegates from Commonwealth countries throughout the world are meeting at Parliament House, Canberra this week for a conference of Serjeants-at-Arms and Ushers of the Black Rod of Commonwealth Parliaments.
It is the first such conference to be held in Australia and delegates span the A to Z of legislatures across the Commonwealth - from the Australian Capital Territory’s Legislative Assembly through to the National Assembly of Zambia.
The delegates will discuss topics that include security in Parliaments, Parliament’s working relationship with the media and the changing role of Serjeants-at-Arms in Parliaments. Presentations will be given by some of the key people involved in advising on security issues in Australia.
The conference was opened by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, David Hawker MP who welcomed the chance for Australia to host such a conference.
“The professional development of Parliamentary staff offered by a conference such as this, particularly for delegates from some of the smaller and developing Parliaments of the Commonwealth, is very important,” Mr Hawker said.
“It also strengthens the ties that already exist between the Parliaments of the Commonwealth.”
Mr Hawker said he hoped the conference would enable delegates from an enormously diverse range of legislatures to share their experiences and learn about approaches that would work well in their own Parliaments.
This professional development conference will run until 4 August 2007.
1 August, 2007
Work-life Balance Is Juggling Act
Work and family policies were a key focus of the federal elections of 2001 and 2004 and with this year’s Federal election fast approaching, a Work + Family Roundtable has proposed benchmarks against which policies for improving work and family outcomes can be tested.
Made up from some of Australia’s leading researchers in their respective fields, the Work + Family Roundtable draws on relevant Australian and international evidence and practice to inform Australian public policy debate.
The Roundtable believes that, in principle, work and family policy proposals should:
* recognise that good management of the work/life interface is a key characteristic of good labour law and social policy
* support women and men to be workers as well as mothers, fathers and carers
* facilitate employee voice over work arrangements
* result in more sustainable workplaces and workers (e.g., through “do-able” jobs, appropriate staffing levels and job security)
* promote gender equality, including pay equity
* adopt a life-cycle approach to facilitating good work/family interaction
* protect the well-being of children and other dependents
* ensure predictable hours and earnings
* promote social justice and the fair distribution of social risk
* give workers dignity and stability
* treat individuals fairly, regardless of their household circumstances.
The Roundtable recommends that a strong commitment to improving the reconciliation of work and family in Australia should be enshrined in a Charter for Work and Family.
This Charter would recognise the above principles and give attention to the following issues and adopt policy settings like those listed below.
The list has arisen from the Roundtable’s best assessment of the current state of research on work and family issues internationally:
* policies to assist workers find a better fit between working hours, schedules and location and their preferences;
* measures that compensate for long and unsocial hours of work;
* a better approach to part-time work;
* greater access to sick leave, annual leave and leave for family reasons;
* a government funded national system of paid maternity, paternity and parental leave;
* arrangements that ensure a relevant living wage;
* fairer, more effective family tax and welfare policies;
* new national approach to quality, accessible, affordable early childhood education and care;
* better research and evaluation of work and family issues.
More information about the Work + Family Roundtable can be found at www.familypolicyroundtable.com.au
1 August, 2007
Reality Webcast is Unreal for ADFA
The Australian Defence Force Academy has launched a website hosting video podcasts of the first six weeks of its military training program.
The reality-based series, The First Six Weeks, follows a Division of new recruits from their first day at the Australian Defence Force Academy through to their commencement Parade at the end of initial training.
The series includes diary style commentary to give prospective candidates a better idea of what happens when they join ADFA as Navy Midshipmen and Army and Air Force Officer Cadets.
Commandant of ADFA, Brigadier Brian Dawson said the program was unscripted and followed Midshipmen and Officer Cadets as they completed each activity during Year One Familiarisation Training.
“The series currently includes 20 video podcasts which will give school students and their parents an opportunity to see what ADFA is really like,” Brigadier Dawson said.
“It is the Midshipmen and Officer Cadets’ first impressions, their experiences and their own evaluation of their training.”
He said Year One Familiarisation Training was selected as a focal point because in a short period it touched on the range of training activities and outcomes that Midshipmen and Officer Cadets would achieve during their three-year program.
These activities included learning to march; assembling, loading and firing military weapons; cleaning, ironing and washing; physical and adventure training - including rock climbing, the high ropes course and high-speed water insertions; working together in a team and taking responsibility for themselves and each other.
The first six weeks also includes enrolling in subjects with the University of NSW at ADFA, meeting university lecturers and planning academic timetables.
The podcast series concludes at the end of the first six weeks as the Midshipmen and Officer Cadets join their family and friends at the Chief of the Defence Force Parade to celebrate their achievements.
The First Six Weeks is available online along with maps and additional facts about ADFA at www.defencejobs.gov.au/FirstSixWeeks.
1 August, 2007
Greenhouse Plan Cuts Red tape
A single, streamlined system for greenhouse and energy reporting by Australian companies is to be set up by the Federal Government.
Environment Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said the scheme would cost $26 million over five years but would lead to nationally consistent greenhouse gas emissions and energy data .
“Australian business can expect the duplications, red tape and cost burden of existing reporting requirements to be reduced through the new legislation,” Mr Turnbull said.
“Many companies already involved in monitoring their emissions through other programs will benefit from a single, streamlined national reporting system.”
He said some companies were currently required to prepare up to eight different reports.
“Industry will now have an opportunity to contribute to the development of a world class domestic emissions trading scheme through the effective and efficient provision of essential information.
“The new system will also, for the first time, provide easily accessible company level information to investors and the general public on greenhouse gas emissions and energy use by Australia’s major companies.
Mr Turnbull said the Commonwealth would continue to work with State and Territory Governments to ensure the new system met their needs and delivered genuine reductions in red tape and costs.
He said the system was expected to be in place by July 2008.
1 August, 2007
Books Campaign Much More Than Words
The fifth annual Books Alive campaign that encourages more Australians to read books has been officially launched by the Minister for the Arts, Senator George Brandis.
Developed through the Australia Council for the Arts and supported by the Australian book industry, the month-long campaign aims at introducing, or reintroducing, all Australians to the simple joy of opening a brand new book.
The Great Read Guide is the cornerstone of the campaign, profiling 50 “thumping great reads” in fiction, crime, thriller, fantasy, history, popular science, travel, biography, children and teen categories. Australian titles dominate the list almost four to one.
More than 2.5 million copies of the Great Read Guide would be handed out during the month-long campaign, in the August edition of The Australian Women’s Weekly and at participating booksellers, department stores and public libraries.
A national television advertising campaign, bookseller initiatives, a website and an e-newsletter round off the Books Alive campaign for 2007.
Books Alive chair Sandra Yates said that Books Alive 2007 continued the campaign’s success over the past four years.
“Since 2003, Books Alive has placed more than one million books into readers’ hands,” Ms Yates said.
The Books Alive 2007 ambassador is the popular author and commentator Peter FitzSimons, who will embark on a national promotional tour.
More than 260,000 copies of his commissioned title The Ballad of Les Darcy, a biography of the legendary Australian boxer, ware to be given away free with any of the 50 titles in the 2007 Books Alive Great Read Guide during the campaign.
1 August, 2007
TV Trainees Dive For Naval Ratings
Trainee clearance divers at the Royal Australian Navy Diving School in Sydney are to star in an ABC television series tracing their progress from their first Clearance Diving Acceptance Test through to their graduation in May 2008.
The four-part documentary is intended to show just how tough it is to become a diver. Lieutenant Matt Carroll, CIO of the Diving School, said there were 30 applicants when filming began on 12 June – now there were just 14.
Aside from the acceptance test and graduation, filming would also take in underwater battle damage repair, mine counter measures and maritime tactical operations.
West Australian company Prospero Productions is doing the filming at the RAN Diving School at HMAS Penguin on Middle Head in Sydney Harbour.
Prospero Productions has been making documentaries for the Australian and international markets for the past 15 years. This series is not its first foray under the water. About 10 years ago it made a seven-part series called Dive School which followed the exploits of commercial divers in Britain. This will be the first time the company has focused on Australian Navy divers.
Prospero Production’s research and production manager, Ingrid Longley, said the aim was to make a “fly on the wall” style series, following the trials and tribulations of the trainees as they progressed through the nine-month long course.
The working title for the documentary is Navy Divers.
Prospero Productions is in discussion with the ABC at the moment and hopefully the documentary would air next year.
The RAN Diving School holds Clearance Diving Selection Tests throughout the year to assess suitability personnel to commence Clearance Diving Training. In addition to the Clearance Diving recruits, nominations are accepted from suitable personnel throughout the fleet and the wider ADF.
1 August, 2007
Defence Recruits To Breathe Easy
Defence Force recruits with certain types of asthma are to be allowed into Australia’s armed forces, following improvements in the treatment of the condition.
Minister for Defence, Dr Brendan Nelson, announced the new arrangement which he said would bring the ADF into line with the latest medical research.
“A study conducted by the Department of Defence and the Centre for Military and Veteran’s Health has recognised that the diagnosis and treatment of asthma has significantly improved and that there is a need to adapt medical entry standards to reflect this,” Dr Nelson said.
“People who present with ‘mild intermittent’ or ‘mild persistent’ asthma will now be eligible for entry into the ADF, with the group identified as low risk. It is expected that this will increase the pool of eligible ADF candidates by 400,000.”
Dr Nelson said the study had led to the introduction of a three-step testing protocol, to ensure that entry standards reflected best practice in the community, and that candidates could be employed at minimum risk to themselves or others and not have a negative impact on capability.
A clinical audit undertaken as part of the study indicated serving ADF members who enlisted with asthma waivers had displayed minimal use of health services and sick days as a result of the condition.
Dr Nelson said Defence would provide education, asthma management plans and additional health checks to new recruits with “intermittent” or “mild persistent” asthma. All recruits would receive ongoing monitoring.
“I welcome the support of the National Asthma Council Australia and its ongoing assistance working with the ADF,” Dr Nelson said.
1 August, 2007
Building Watchdog Lays Foundation
The Australian Building and Construction Commissioner has released a report revealing that his office had improved the productivity of the building and construction industry since its introduction in October 2005.
ABCC Commissioner, John Lloyd said he was reassured by the positive impact of the ABCC after such a short time.
“The productivity gains we are seeing now were predicted by Royal Commissioner Cole when he recommended the ABCC be established,” Mr Lloyd said.
“Unlawful conduct in the building and construction industry has decreased because the ABCC is an active regulator. It is important that not just the building industry is advantaged. This study shows that significant gains are flowing through to the wider Australian economy.”
Mr Lloyd said construction was fundamental to creating a competitive economy and it was vital that it continue to be undertaken in a highly efficient and productive manner.
Econtech, an independent economic consultancy, was commissioned to study the impact of the ABCC on productivity and to estimate the effects on the wider economy. The study examined data from quantity surveyor analysis, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Productivity Commission, case studies of selected projects and economic modelling.
The main findings were:
* costs were on average 10.7 per cent higher in commercial building compared to domestic residential building from 14 to 2003. The cost gap fell to 1.7 per cent in 2007;
* the gain in labour productivity, comparing the same periods, was estimated to be 9.4 per cent; and
* construction labour productivity by 2006 outperformed historical performance predictions by 9.5 per cent.
The study used advanced modelling to estimate the economic impacts of the ABCC and compared economic outcomes with and without the ABCC.
The modelling estimated that:
* GDP was 1.5 per cent higher than it otherwise would be;
* the CPI was 1.2 per cent lower than it otherwise would be; and
* a gain in real consumption of 0.8 per cent. Lower living costs lead to higher living standards.
1 August, 2007
Customs Email Scam Crosses Boundaries
The Australian Customs Service has issued an alert to online consumers who have received emails asking them to pay a range of fees, duty or taxes before imported goods are released to them.
Customs says is has received reports of instances where an Internet purchaser received an email from a Hotmail account saying that their goods were being held by “Customs” until the charges were paid.
The email said that in order for the purchaser to receive the goods, “Customs” required payment of duty, GST and/or taxes. Customs has confirmed it does not make such requests of importers.
“It really is another example of buyer beware,” said Jane Bailey, Customs’ National Director, Cargo.
“Consumers purchasing goods over the Internet need to take the time to find out what the correct procedures for importing goods into Australia are,” Ms Bailey said.
If goods are detained by Customs, pending payment of duty and taxes, contact would always be made with the importer in writing, by mail.
She said Customs does not make contact with individuals via Hotmail email accounts.
If importers had any doubts concerning a contact they had received, Customs recommended they request corroborating documentation.
Private importers or their agents should calculate the import charges associated with their Internet orders prior to completing the transaction, and always request a receipt for any charges levied at the border.
Investigations into the scams are ongoing.
Ms Bailey said that if any member of the public believed they had been a victim of fraud they should contact their local police station. Suspected scams should be reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
1 August, 2007
Super Warning Over Not-so-super schemes
The Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission have issued a joint warning about illegal schemes offering people early access to their superannuation funds.
The warning was issued following a surge in complaints from consumers in Sydney.
According to Deputy Taxation Commissioner, Raelene Vivian, the ATO was working with ASIC to investigate a number of illegal schemes that promised early access to super savings.
‘These schemes are often promoted by word-of-mouth and target particular groups within the community,” Ms Vivian said.
“It is important people understand that schemes offering early access to superannuation are illegal and attract significant legal and financial penalties to promoters and clients.”
ASIC’s Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Greg Tanzer said several schemes under investigation had affected people working in the aged care industry including nurses, carers and kitchen staff, as well as the Pacific Islander and Filipino communities.
He said the scheme operators made their money charging fees or commissions but in fact were helping themselves to other people’s savings.
“People are often charged very high amounts to access their super in this way, in some cases up to 30 per cent of their balance,” Mr Tanzer said.
“A 30 per cent ‘fee’ or ‘commission’ adds up to a massive $9,000 on a super account balance of $30,000. In some of the worst cases, scheme operators have stolen people’s entire superannuation savings.”
Ms Vivian said early access to superannuation was only granted in exceptional circumstances and in strict accordance with the law.
“Trustees can apply to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority under specified compassionate grounds,’ Ms Vivian said.
‘This service is free and people don’t need to use a promoter.”
According to ASIC and the Tax Office, people should always consider the following tips:
1. Don’t rely on advice about financial matters from someone without a licence;
2. Think about superannuation as an investment for your future; and
3. Seek help from a trusted source if you are in serious financial difficulty
1 August, 2007
Crocodile Hunter Bags Nature Park
A wildlife reserve on North Queensland’s Cape York is to be named in honour of former croc hunter, Steve Irwin.
Prime Minister, John Howard said the reserve was an important addition to Australia’s National Reserve System, and a fitting tribute to a passionate environmentalist and a great Australian.
“I know Terri Irwin has worked tirelessly to make the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve a reality, and I am proud that my Government could help achieve her dream,” Mr Howard said.
Steve Irwin, the popular wildlife warrior who was known as The Crocodile Hunter, died in September 2006 when he was pierced through the heart by a stingray while on a diving expedition off Port Douglas in Queensland.
Minister for the Environment, Malcolm Turnbull announced the $6 million Australian Government funded purchase of what would become the 135,000 hectare Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve north-east of Weipa, under the National Reserve System Program.
The Wenlock River, which borders the property, is home to Australia’s greatest diversity of freshwater fish as well as the endangered speartoothed shark. The reserve’s important gallery dry vine forests are amongst the largest and least disturbed examples of their type in the region.
“Steve was in awe of the prolific wildlife of the Wenlock and Ducie rivers bordering the reserve and he would have been proud to see the property protected as a wildlife reserve,” said Terri Irwin.
“This magnificent gesture by the Australian Government will allow us to actively manage this land for conservation and research, as a perpetual memorial to Steve’s work.”
She said controlling feral animals and protecting wetlands and forest would be a major part of their work on the reserve. A scientific research centre would also be built and research would be conducted through the University of Queensland and other research organisations.
The Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve will be the 301st property added to the National Reserve System, a network of protected areas preserving Australia’s distinctive landscapes for future generations.
The network of protected areas has grown by more than 40 per cent in recent years with reserves now covering more than 11 per cent of the Australian continent and protecting more than 88 million hectares of the nation’s most distinctive and fragile landscapes.
1 August, 2007
Defence Taskforce Targets Training
A joint Defence Industry Training Task Force has been established to boost skills training in Defence and related industries.
Assistant Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson said the joint task force was analysing several initiatives in joint training for defence industry, the ADF and the Department of Defence.
“These initiatives will play an important role in increasing and improving training, education, recruitment and retention in the wider Defence environment,” Mr Billson said.
“Some of the concepts under consideration by the task force include pooled apprenticeship programs, graduate schemes and personnel exchanges between industry and Defence.”
Mr Billson said the aim of the taskforce was to improve awareness and enhance career prospects and to promote general recruitment in the wider defence sector.
“The Joint Defence-Industry Training Task Force is an important advance to secure a capable and adaptable workforce for the needs of the defence civil and Service sectors,” he said.
Chaired by the Head of Industry Division in the Defence Materiel Organisation, Kerry Clarke, the task force comprises senior personnel across Australia’s leading defence companies, key industry bodies, Australian Defence Force training commands, and the Department of Defence.
The joint task force is set to report its recommendations in late August.
1 August, 2007
Councils Rated In LGA Awards
The winners of the 2007 National Awards for Local Government have been announced by the Minister for Local Government, Jim Lloyd.
There were 26 winners for the 15 categories of Awards - 11 from small councils, with a ratepayer base of less than 15,000. There were also 27 commendations.
“This year the Awards have continued the tradition of offering Councils the opportunity to showcase their hard work,” Mr Lloyd said.
“Councils from all over Australia have submitted projects to the Awards program that are first class and demonstrate how hard they have worked to better their local community.”
The subjects of the winning projects were very diverse, from childcare, to community participation to environmental concerns.
Mr Lloyd said he supported the focus of this year’s Awards on Local Government - working hard for Australians, “because that is just what Local Governments all around the country are doing - working hard to benefit local people,” he said.
The Awards attracted nearly 300 entries in 15 categories.
Since 1986, the National Awards have been providing Councils the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences with their colleagues throughout Australia. The National Awards have highlighted the wide range of issues facing Local Government.
Category winners are eligible for an overall National Award to be selected by the National Judging Panel, chaired by Kathryn Greiner in August in Canberra. The National Winners will be announced at a dinner to be held at Old Parliament House on 23 October 2007.
Councils can find out more information about the National Awards for Local Government and the complete list of category and commendations winners on the DOTARS website: www.dotars.gov.au/local/awards