SearchArchives for August 2011
30 August, 2011
Public Servants from across Australia have been named National Fellows of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) at its 2011 National Conference held in Hobart last week.
Lynne Tacy, Stephen Bartos, Matthew Kendall and Alison Garrod from the APS were among those honoured for their work.
Acknowledging the recipients of the awards, the National President of the Institute, Percy Allan, said each one had made an outstanding contribution to public administration.
“Australia is fortunate to have dedicated, talented and passionate public administrators at all levels of Government,” Mr Allan said, “and it is appropriate that IPAA – the professional association of the Public Sector – acknowledge and celebrate their achievements.
“To be made a National Fellow of the Institute is the highest accolade for IPAA members.”
Mr Allan said Lynne Tacy had been a significant contributor to central and whole-of-government reviews of Public Service matters for almost 40 years.
He said from 2000 to 2008 she was the Deputy Australian Public Service Commissioner and in 1994 was awarded the Public Service Medal for services to IR reform.
Director of Sapere Research Group, Stephen Bartos was recognised after serving 26 years as a member of IPAA ACT.
Mr Bartos was previously a Deputy Secretary of the Department of Finance and Administration; an economic and policy advisor to the Fraser, Hawke, Keating and Howard Governments; and was currently a Visiting Fellow in the Asia Pacific School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University.
Matthew Kendall and Alison Garrod were acknowledged with IPAA Young Public Sector Leader award: Mr Kendall is General Manager of the Sustainable Water Management Group at the National Water Commission, and Ms Garrod is Director of Borders (New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria) at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Mr Allan said all awardees had dedicated their careers to serving the public interest.
“The 2011 recipients join a pre-eminent group of leaders from across jurisdictions and agencies, who capably demonstrate the qualities and attributes required of the profession,” he said.
“These individuals have and have made a significant contribution to the work of IPAA.”
For more information visit this PS News link.
30 August, 2011
A new online map directing people in financial trouble to their nearest financial counsellor has been launched by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury and Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, Julie Collins.
marks the spot
Located on the MoneySmart website, the map shows the locations of 400 financial counselling services across the country and can be searched by town, suburb or postcode.
Ms Collins said financial counselling was a free, confidential and independent service funded jointly by the Federal, State and Territory Governments.
“Financial counsellors help people in financial difficulty to get debt under control and manage the family budget,” Ms Collins said.
“This new online map will improve people’s access to the services and help people in need get in touch with their local agency - be it in Bunbury or Katherine, Mount Gambier or Townsville, Wollongong or Dickson, Geelong or Burnie.”
Mr Bradbury said the MoneySmart website provided valuable information and resources to help people manage their finances, and the new map would point people in the right direction when they need professional financial counselling services.
“If people find themselves struggling to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage as well as juggling debts, they should consider seeking the help of a professional financial counsellor,” he said.
“Along with the other online calculators, mobile phone apps and links to service providers, the new financial counsellor map on MoneySmart will help people to find assistance in their local area,” Mr Bradbury said.
He said people could also talk to a financial counsellor or get a referral by phoning a free hotline, available Australia-wide, Monday to Friday on1800 007 007.
More information is available on this PS News link.
30 August, 2011
Departments and Agencies across the APS have been urged to buy goods and services through Australian Disability Enterprises (ADEs) as a practical – and approved - way of helping people with disability.
make strong call
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers Senator, Jan McLucas said ADE’s gave people with disabilities the chance to participate in work and experience the sense of fulfilment and satisfaction that employment offered.
“At the same time, they deliver a great range of products and services across a wide range of industries, including design, printing and packaging, manufacturing, laundry and landscaping at competitive prices,” Senator McLucas said.
She said when an ADE was used to purchase goods and services costing over $80,000, there was no need to go out to tender so long as value for money was still obtained.
She said this was due to Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines (CPGs) which contained an exemption for the procurement “of property or services from a business that primarily exists to provide the services of persons with a disability”.
Senator McLucas said such an exemption was included to encourage APS departments and agencies to buy from ADEs.
“I want to encourage all levels of Government, as well as the commercial sector, to support these competitive business enterprises,” she said.
“By engaging disability enterprises, Government and business are not only advancing the cause for community inclusion of people with disability, they are also making smart business decisions by procuring from competitively priced businesses.”
She said quotes from the Australian Disability Enterprise were available either by direct contact or via the website.
The website also includes a Buying for Government portal where information about purchasing from Australian Disability Enterprises, as well as case studies and customer testimonials was available.
The Australian Disability enterprises website can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 August, 2011
Arts to make show in
The new Australian Curriculum for schools will include a prominent place for the Arts according to the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett.
Mr Garrett said a ‘shaping’ paper setting out how drama, dance, music, visual arts and media arts would be studied in all schools had been released by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA).
“During that extensive consultation, ACARA received a lot of feedback and suggestions about the best way to teach the Arts in our schools, including the need to maintain specialist teaching,” Mr Garret said.
“We’ve listened to those suggestions and the final shaping paper released today reflects the views of our arts and education leaders, schools and parents.”
He said it was important that every child in Australia had the opportunity to engage with the arts no matter where they lived or what school they attended.
He said the arts enabled children to broaden their understanding of the world through experiencing various art forms, and to have the confidence to show their creativity.
“The fact that the Arts curriculum is the second to be developed, after the foundation subjects of maths, science, English and history, demonstrates the Government’s commitment to fostering creativity and recognising that the Arts are at the centre of our way of life,” he said.
Mr Garrett said under the new curriculum, students would study all five arts subjects (dance, drama, media arts, music and visual arts) from their first year of school to the end of primary school.
He said once in high school, students would be able to start specialising in one or more subjects and schools would have a high degree of flexibility over implementation.
He said ACARA would use the shaping paper to guide the writing of the Australian Arts Curriculum, which would be released for public consultation next year.
Mr Garrett said once the curriculum was completed it would be endorsed by States and Territories and then be implemented in classrooms from 2013.
Copies of the shaping paper were available at this PS News link.
30 August, 2011
TV goes blank on
A report into Australian content on free-to-air and pay television has raised fears that Australian programs may be on the way out.
In its report Convergence 2011: Australian Content State of Play, Screen Australia raises the question: Will Australian stories survive convergence?
According to Screen Australia, there has been a “significant dilution” of Australian content in the media in recent years.
“Since 2008, the hours of foreign content on free-to-air (FTA) television have increased 154 per cent, greatly outstripping the growth in Australian content at 59 per cent,” the report says.
“While viewing across all FTA channels has increased by 14 per cent with the advent of digital channels, Australian content has fallen from 52 per cent of total hours broadcast in 2008, to 38 per cent in the first six months of 2011.”
It says the proportion of audience for Australian content has also decreased from 60 per cent to 51 per cent in the same period.
Chief Operating Officer of Screen Australia, Fiona Cameron said audiences were fragmenting away from the main free-to-air channels to multi-channels that had no Australian content requirements.
“While high-speed broadband is set to hyper-accelerate the process of convergence, television remains the leading way of viewing screen content,” Ms Cameron said.
The report says it is the traditional media sector, dominated by commercial television and feature films, which were the only significant investors in Australian stories at this time.
It says the combination of incentives and government requirements ensured Australian stories remained on Australian screens but the difficulty with moving forward in a multi-channel, converged environment, was the economics of screen production.
“Australian content is more expensive for broadcasters than foreign imported content,” it says.
“As a result, more than 70 per cent of the commercial FTA broadcasters’ drama expenditure relates to foreign drama.”
Ms Cameron said the strength of the US audio-visual sector was unsurpassed and the trend to greater levels of foreign content would only continue unless new ways of accommodating Australian stories on Australian screens were developed.
She said the best argument for Australian content on Australian screens was that it rated well but that argument was not enough in the context of a flood of foreign content available “dirt cheap” through multiple distribution points.
“In an era of convergence, Screen Australia is keen to promote choice, access and diversity and looks forward to further contributing to the debate,” Ms Cameron said.
The full report is available at this PS News link.
30 August, 2011
Seniors iron wrinkles
The Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians has published its first report on how to make best use of the experience and skills of older Australians.
out of first report
Chaired by Everald Compton and including former Minister (now Professor) Brian Howe and Professor Gill Lewin, the Panel has been looking at harnessing the opportunities presented by a larger and more active community of older Australians
According to the Minister for Ageing, Mark Butler, the Panel’s work is about ensuring the community doesn’t lose the valuable experience and skills of older Australians as they move into retirement, and the seniors themselves have the opportunity to stay involved in the community.
Mr Butler said the Panel had identified a number of themes from its public consultations including improving workforce participation; encouraging life-long learning; and better planning for seniors’ housing needs.
“The report is designed to encourage debate around these and other issues, and the Panel invites further input from the community as it continues its deliberations,” Mr Butler said.
“Australians moving into their senior years are generally healthier, higher skilled and more financially secure than previous generations, providing a wider range of opportunities both for individual older Australians and for the broader community.”
He said the proportion of Australians aged 65 or over would rise to about 23 per cent of the total population by 2050, compared to 14 per cent today.
“This growing number of older Australians is changing the shape of our society, and bringing with it challenges, but we must not lose sight of the enormous benefits and opportunities that come with a larger and more active community of seniors,” Mr Butler said.
He said seniors were choosing to contribute to the community and economy in many different ways, such as caring for their parents or grandchildren, volunteering through community groups, or continuing with paid work.
Mr Butler said whichever way seniors chose to contribute, it was more important than ever that the country made the most of their potential across a range of policy areas and did everything possible to build strong attachments to the community.
30 August, 2011
New laws buy into
New laws tightening up the rules surrounding ‘payday lending’ have been announced by the Minister for Financial Services, Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten said the proposed laws would give more protection to people desperate for a small loan to replace a broken household appliance or to tide them over until their next pay packet.
“These proposals seek to stop payday lenders from overcharging consumers who are desperate for money, by introducing limits on the costs they can charge,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the new reforms would see Australia’s first national cap on costs for ‘small amount’ contracts (contracts for $2,000 or less that run for less than two years).
He said lenders would be limited to charging an upfront fee of 10 per cent of the total amount borrowed and two per cent each month for the life of the loan.
“I’ve seen cases where someone who borrows $300 is charged over $100 for a seven day loan, and can then only meet the repayment by not paying other bills, such as rent or electricity,” he said.
“This can lead to a cycle of debt that makes things worse for the borrower.”
Mr Shorten said the changes would amend the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009.
He said among the key measures in the draft legislation were a prohibition on refinancing small amount contracts; and requirements for short term lenders to disclose the availability of other options.
“For some people, taking out a payday loan might seem like the only answer - but more debt at ridiculously high cost can create more problems than it solves,” he said.
“That’s why the Government wants short term lenders to tell people about other options such as Centrelink advances, No-Interest and Low-Interest Loan Schemes run by community organisations, and the availability of hardship programs with utilities and other credit providers.”
Mr Shorten said the Government would also release a discussion paper with more detailed proposals to improve access to alternatives to payday loans.
“This draft legislation continues the Government’s delivery of the National Credit Reforms, and our commitment to protect and improve the position of vulnerable consumers,” Mr Shorten said.
More information is available from this PS News link.
30 August, 2011
Older prisoners a
The Australian Institute of Criminology has released a ‘Trends & Issues’ paper on the challenges posed by increasing numbers of older prisoners in the corrections system.
Entitled Older Prisoners – a challenge for Australian corrections, the paper examines the trend towards increasing numbers of older prisoners, the numbers of which over 50 have blown out by more than 1,500 in the past 10 years.
Co-author of the report, Susan Baidawi said older prisoner populations presented a number of challenges for Governments, correctional administrators, healthcare providers and community agencies.
The report found in 2010, inmates over the age of 50 comprised 11.2% of the Australian prison population, in contrast with the situation in 2000, when only 8.3% of prisoners were aged 50 years and over.
It also found the number of older Indigenous prisoners was relatively lower, comprising only 9.5% of males (294) and 7% of females (15) aged 50 and over.
It said those figures might reflect the lower median age of death of Indigenous Australians.
The report concluded that Indigenous prisoners would therefore be expected to be affected by age-related health issues at a younger age than other prisoners and such information should be accounted for in future research and practice.
Overall, the AIC research focused on issues such as the costs of responding to rising healthcare needs and infrastructure issues surrounding accommodation and correctional programs for older prisoners such as disability needs.
The report recommended considering the establishment of special needs units for older prisoners; the employment of specialist staff; and specialised post-release services.
Ms Baidawi said understanding such issues was an essential starting point for clear policy for the management of older inmates in Australian prisons.
“There is little Australian literature concerning older prisoners,” Ms Baidawi said. “Policymakers and administrators are heavily reliant on the international literature both to understand this population and to design management strategies for this group.
“Research should be systematic and focus on characterisation of the domestic older prisoner cohort,” she said.
30 August, 2011
A survey conducted by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) during science week found that three quarters of people wrongly believe that microscopic life exists on other planets and a quarter believe in light sabres.
The findings were part of a new show called Fact or Fiction which attracted hundreds of people to four sessions at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Scenes from science fiction films were shown before inviting audiences to use keypads to vote on which technologies were now a reality and which were still the stuff of daydreams.
Team Leader of ANSTO’s Discovery Centre and organiser of the event, Rod Dowler said the show proved to be a great way to engage audiences with some of the latest scientific developments.
“The concept for the show was developed by ANSTO and we were fortunate to secure National Science Week sponsorship from DIISR,” Mr Dowler said.
“The feedback has been terrific, everyone really enjoyed hearing from ANSTO scientists and learning about what is now possible thanks to science.”
He said the ultimate aim of Science Week was to engage the public with science, and he believed Fact or Fiction hit the mark.
“Everyone loves movies, and the popular sci-fi movies that most people remember were a great place to start a conversation about science,” he said.
The survey found more than half the people taking part wrongly believed hover boards, such as that used by Back to the Future’s Marty McFly, existed; and more than 40 per cent incorrectly believed it was possible to bring people back to life after they had been frozen.
Responses also indicated that women most wanted robots to do housework and nano-bots to fight disease; while men wanted to live out their sci-fi fantasies, teleporting and travelling through time.
30 August, 2011
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that Australian women are still living longer than men, but that men are closing the gap.
According to the ABS data, over the past 10 years life expectancy at birth had increased at a greater rate for men (by 3 years) than for women (by 2 years) but women continued to have a higher life expectancy at birth (now 84 years) than men (79 years).
Gender Indicators, Australia, looked at the differences between males and females in the main areas of wellbeing such as economic security, education, work and family balance, health and safety and justice.
It found women had increased their participation in the labour force, while it had remained relatively stable for men.
However, it also found on average women earned 11 per cent less than men per hour.
According to the figures, men and women also differed in how they spent their working time; while they all spent a similar amount of time working, men spent nearly twice as long on employment related activities.
Alternatively, women spent almost double the amount of time on unpaid work such as domestic activities, child-care and voluntary work.
The publication revealed that in 2010, more women aged 18-24 years (31%) than men (23%) were studying towards a qualification at Bachelor’s degree or above.
Overall, men were more likely than women to have poor health risk factors, such as being overweight or obese and consuming alcohol at risky levels.
Women however were more likely than men to report high or very high levels of psychological stress.
The new figures are available in the first issue of Gender Indicators, Australia, a new six-monthly publication that presents data to reflect gender roles and monitor the changes that occur over time.
The full issue can be accessed at this PS News link.
30 August, 2011
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has issued revised privacy guidelines for television and radio broadcasters.
out in the open
The guidelines are open for comment.
Issues of consent for children and other vulnerable people are among the issues clarified in the privacy guidelines which also set out ACMA’s approach to invasions of privacy (where a person’s seclusion is intruded upon - whether or not in a public place).
ACMA said the Privacy Guidelines were originally issued in 2005 to assist in interpreting privacy obligations developed by industry in the various broadcasting codes of practice.
It said they covered the use of material relating to a person’s personal or private affairs or which invaded an individual’s privacy.
According to ACMA the obligations concerning the use of private information were clear but recent decisions had suggested that much better guidance was required around those concerning invasions of privacy.
ACMA said that in reviewing the Guidelines it had considered the current provisions in the various broadcasting codes of practice; its own broadcasting investigations concerning privacy since August 2005; the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Report 108 For Your Information: Australian Privacy Law and Practice; and general developments in the law.
The Authority also published two research reports with the guidelines, Community research into broadcasting media privacy 2011 and Australian’s views on privacy in broadcast news and current affairs 2011, which were specifically commissioned by the Authority to assist with its review.
The consultation period for the draft guidelines closes 7 October 201 and both the draft guidelines and research reports are available at this PS News link.
30 August, 2011
An employment program for Indigenous trainees is to see 20 receive jobs and training in the finance industry.
on the money
Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Mark Arbib said the initiative was possible thanks to the support of a major bank and consulting company
“This project was developed to meet industry requirements for entry-level jobs and is an excellent opportunity for Indigenous Australians to get the skills needed to get a foot in the door in the finance industry,” Senator Arbib said.
“Once the participants have completed their pre-employment training, the Commonwealth Bank will offer them a job, with the option of further accredited training.”
He said the consulting company would also mentor participants throughout their training and for the first six months of employment, to ensure any barriers to employment could be overcome.
“This project is another example of how the Government and industry are working together to build employment and training opportunities for Indigenous Australians,” he said.
“This isn’t training for training’s sake, it’s training that leads to a real job.”
Senator Arbib said Treasury predicted 500,000 jobs would be created over the next two years and it was critical that Indigenous Australians had the support and training they needed to take up employment.
“Indigenous employment is not a short-term issue,” he said.
“Over the next four years the Australian Government has committed almost $650 million to the Indigenous Employment Program and $50 million to the Indigenous Youth Careers Pathway Program.”
He said the initiative was part of the Government’s target to create more than 100,000 jobs for Indigenous Australians by 2018.
26 August, 2011
Green Act overhaul
A new National Centre for Cooperation on Environment and Development is one of a number of major initiatives to flow from an independent review of Australia’s environmental laws by former senior Public Servant Allan Hawke.
gets green light
The new Centre and a raft of other changes have been announced as part of the Government’s response to the review which made 71 recommendations in its overhaul of the 12-year-old Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke said the proposed reforms would ensure Australia’s environment was protected while it kept pace with economic growth.
Mr Burke said the reforms set out a new national approach which outlined better environmental protection focusing on whole regions and ecosystems and faster environmental assessments.
He said the reforms also removed duplication, cut red tape and provided better upfront guidance on legislation requirements, with more long-term certainty and transparency.
“As our communities and economy have grown, our experience in managing our environment has also evolved,” Mr Burke said.
“These reforms will help to ensure Australia’s national environmental laws remain effective in protecting our unique environment and cutting red tape for businesses for job-creating projects.”
Mr Burke said the reforms adopted a more proactive approach which included identifying and protecting ecosystems of national significance; a more co-operative approach to developing environmental standards; a more streamlined assessment process; and new national standards.
He said a new Biodiversity Policy would be developed as well as the establishment of a single national list of threatened species; better regulation of international trade; more transparent information; better processes for heritage listing; an environmental offsets policy; and improved public consultation.
He said the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) national reform agenda would build on the changes.
Mr Burke said 56 of the Hawke review’s recommendations had been agreed to fully or in part but 15 had not been accepted.
He said Dr Hawke received about 340 written public comments during his review, and conducted more than 140 meetings.
He said overall the Government agreed with the Report’s conclusion that five processes defined the future direction for Commonwealth environmental regulation: harmonisation, accreditation, standardisation, simplification and oversight.
The full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the Governments response at this PS News link.
26 August, 2011
PS defended against
Fears of job cuts to the Australian Public Service proposed by the Federal Opposition have prompted the Chief Minister of the ACT to write to the shadow Treasurer putting a case for restraint.
planned job cuts
In her letter dated last month, Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said cutting 12,000 jobs from the APS would have a major impact on the Canberra economy which would be felt much wider than just the Public Service.
Ms Gallagher estimated that each PS job in the national capital was worth $78,000 a year to the local community and reducing the workforce by 12,000 would cost it nearly a billion dollars.
“The real impact is likely to be much higher,” Ms Gallagher said, “as every Public Servant spends their salary on local businesses such as florists, child care, clothing and restaurants.
“ACT retailers, already doing it tough because of global uncertainty, will suffer as a result.”
She said that in 1996-97 when the then Howard Government cut 30,000 jobs from the public sector Australia-wide, the majority of the cuts were made in Canberra.
“As a direct result of these cuts the ACT economy went into a recession with house values sinking up to 30 per cent in some areas,” Ms Gallagher said.
“It took many years for the ACT and the broader regional economy to recover.”
She said following the 1996-97 cuts, unemployment in Canberra reached almost 8 per cent.
She predicted that the loss of 12,000 jobs would lead to an unemployment rate of 6 per cent.
“I addition to the detriment caused to the ACT, the flow-on effects of such massive job cuts will have a direct impact on the adjacent populations of Queanbeyan, Yass and Cooma whose local economies are interdependent with the ACT economy,” she said.
In response to the Chief Minister’s letter, the shadow Treasurer said he stood by his plans.
He told the Canberra Times that the Opposition went to the last election with a promise to cut 12,000 positions by natural attrition and it would “stand by that policy.”
“Government is much larger now than what the Labor Party inherited in 2007,” the shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey, was reported as saying.
26 August, 2011
COAG cashing in on
Progress towards a seamless national economy continues to be made according to the Minister Assisting on Deregulation, Senator Nick Sherry, who said 14 of the 27 areas for simplification had now been completed.
Senator Sherry, who is also co-chair of the Council of Australian Government’s Business Regulation and Competition Working Group, said delivery of streamlined and simplified national Regulations was proceeding well.
“These reforms have significant benefits for the economy and for business,” Senator Sherry said.
“The Department of Finance and Deregulation estimates that 10 of the 27 reforms are worth about $3.5 billion per year to the economy as a whole, with $1.8 billion of this flowing to business.”
He said personal property securities reforms were due to be operational by the end of October and all States and Territories were on track to have harmonised Occupational Health and Safety regulations in place by the first of January 2012.
He said a number of other major reforms were currently being implemented.
“Just this week, the Government introduced legislation into the Commonwealth Parliament to deliver a national business names registration system,” he said.
“Businesses will only have to apply once to register their business name nationally and only pay one fee of around $70 for a 3 year registration - a saving of around a thousand dollars.”
Senator Sherry said the implementation of those reforms was a result of strong and effective cooperation between the Commonwealth, the States and the Territories.
“I look forward to this productive approach continuing, so the benefits of remaining reforms start flowing as soon as possible,” he said.
More information is available from this PS News link.
26 August, 2011
Sign language used
Australian Sign Language (AUSLAN) videos to help deaf and hearing impaired TV viewers switch from analog to digital have been released by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
to extract digital
Senator Conroy said the 16 videos provided practical information such as how to connect a set-top box, how to record digital TV and what Government programs were available to assist households make the switch.
He said the launch coincided with Hearing Awareness Week.
“The Government wants to ensure all members of the community receive the information they need about the switch to digital TV which is happening progressively across Australia between 2010 and 2013,” Senator Conroy said.
“It is important all Australians have access to information to assist them in making the switch to digital and in particular members of our community who are deaf or are hearing impaired.”
He said making the new AUSLAN videos was a critical part of achieving that goal.
“The Digital Switchover will be completed in all parts of Australia by the end of 2013 with the majority of households already having made the switch,” he said.
He said the Deafness Forum of Australia (DFA) were partners in producing the videos.
Chair of DFA, David Brady said it was encouraging to see the Australian Government meeting the needs of those with hearing loss in such a way.
“It’s important that all Australians have clear and concise information on what impact changes to government policy or program implementation might have on their lives,” Mr Brady said.
“It’s even more important to ensure this material is made available in an accessible way.”
The Australian Sign Language videos are available from the Digital Ready website at this PS News link or can be requested through the National Call Centre 1800 20 10 13.
26 August, 2011
Trade cadetships nail
A new panel of education and training experts has been appointed to advise on developing and implementing the National Trade Cadetship (NTC) and Indigenous Ranger Cadetship initiatives.
panel of experts
The panel was announced by the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett.
Mr Garrett said it would be chaired by chair Professor Denise Bradley and would advise the Government on the best ways to ensure that students who wanted to pursue a vocation or trade were offered high-quality, nationally consistent learning pathways in schools.
“The Government has committed $3.1 million for the initial development of the NTC initiative and $37.5 million over 3 years for the workplace experience component to support this important initiative,” he said.
“We’re also investing $4.1 million over 3 years for the Indigenous Ranger Cadetship initiative, giving indigenous students the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge they need to become rangers with nationally recognised qualifications.”
Mr Garrett said Professor Bradley and the panel members possessed extensive experience in national education policy and vocational education and training.
“The Australian Government has brought together the most experienced and well respected experts from within their field from industry, education, unions, vocational education training sector and Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples,” he said.
“This will help us immensely as we start to roll out the NTC initiative next year.”
He said under the NTC, students from Year 9 would be able to undertake vocational education as an option under the National Curriculum.
He said there would be a focus on pre-apprenticeship pathways for students in years 11 and 12 which would be delivered through the Trade Training Centres and other accredited training providers.
“As well as this, students will have the opportunity to take part in a work experience component delivered by group training organisations, providing on-the-job experience and exposure to the world of work,” Mr Garrett said.
He said building Australia’s skilled workforce began in schools.
26 August, 2011
Defence takes shot
A new suite of training programs to help the families of Defence Force personnel improve their wellbeing and psychological health has been launched by the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon.
at family training
Mr Snowdon said FamilySMART was developed to foster resilience among Defence families to deal with the extraordinary challenges they faced.
“We know Defence families face many difficult circumstances as a result of their loved ones committing to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) to serve our country,” Mr Snowdon said.
“Deployment, postings and long absences from home combine to disrupt partners’ careers and children’s education.”
He said FamilySMART would focus on such challenges through a series of face-to-face programs, to be delivered to both the ADF member and his or her partner in small groups.
Mr Snowdon said the programs had been developed by the Defence Community Organisation (DCO) in consultation with Defence’s Mental Health Branch and would be delivered by 26 trained Defence Social Workers across Australia.
He said the first stage of the scheme would start next month and involve programs in Darwin, Townsville, Cairns and Brisbane.
He said it would be expanded to a further 10 locations in early 2012.
Mr Snowdon said FamilySMART complemented the BattleSMART psychological resilience program that sought to strengthen the ability of serving ADF members to cope with and manage stressful situations.
He said the programs were part of a wider Defence strategy to support the mental and physical wellbeing of ADF members and their families through prevention-based training.
“It’s important to take care of the families of serving members because it’s their strength and courage that makes the Australian Defence Force the powerful, enduring organisation it is,” Mr Snowdon said.
26 August, 2011
Global survey puts
An international survey conducted by the United Nations has revealed that production processes around the world will have to be significantly overhauled if poverty is to be eliminated and environmental issues facing the planet overcome.
globe at risk
The report, entitled The Great Green Technological Transformation was released at the Australian National University this week.
ANU PhD scholar Imran Habib Ahmad, said this year’s report revealed that major investments would be needed worldwide in areas such as the development and scaling up of clean energy technologies, sustainable farming and forestry techniques and the climate-proofing of infrastructure.
“This report will be a very helpful contribution to the ongoing national policy discussions on climate change and green economy developments in both developed and developing countries,” Mr Ahmad said.
“It details the measures needed to undertake a fundamental technological transformation, not only to promote growth, but also to help reach the goal of full decarbonisation of the global energy system by 2050.”
He said the latest figures built on a 2009 survey for the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs - Promoting Development, Saving the Planet - which he was involved in.
He said the 2009 report articulated an integrated approach to dealing with the climate and development challenge, using a comprehensive set of measures with an investment driven approach including a price mechanism.
Under-Secretary General of the UN-DESA, Sha Zukang who oversaw the 2011 report, said it showed how important technological progress would be for ensuring a future that benefited everyone while protecting the planet.
He said the report was also paramount in the lead up to of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June 2012 in Brazil, of which he is also Secretary-General.
“The report is required reading as we gear up for Rio+20, which is an opportunity to define pathways to a safer, cleaner and more prosperous world for all,” Mr Sha said.
The 2011 report is available at this PS News link.
26 August, 2011
Inclusion to include
A new program that appoints local ambassadors to promote social inclusion and the benefits of Australia’s diversity has been announced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
Ms Gillard unveiled the People of Australia Ambassadors Program at the launch of the new independent Australian Multicultural Council (AMC).
She said up to 40 people would be selected as ambassadors to provide grassroots advice to the AMC about effective initiatives which promoted inclusion and leverage diversity in our communities.
She encouraged people to nominate local champions from their own neighbourhood and communities who had helped to promote inclusion and participation.
Ms Gillard said the AMC would provide advice to Government on multicultural policy and emerging issues and ensure Government services responded effectively to the needs of Australia’s diverse communities.
She said a former advisory council recommended the new independent body be set up to advise and consult on multicultural issues and inform national policy.
She said the 10 member Council would play a formal role in a strengthened access and equity strategy, have a research advisory role to play in public policy, and lead cultural diversity celebrations and Harmony Day activities.
“The Council was appointed as part of the Government’s new multicultural policy, The People of Australia, released in February this year,” Ms Gillard said.
“The new Council will provide a strong voice on multicultural issues and contribute constructively to the broader deliberations of Government.”
More information is available from this PS News link.
26 August, 2011
And in Other News...
Civilian staff in the Department of Defence walked off the job for an hour yesterday (25 August) to attend protest meetings over stalled pay negotiations.
Around 70 Defence bases and offices across the country were affected.
According to the Community and Public sector Union, it was the first time in 20 years that union members in Defence had taken protected industrial action.
Carbon market open
A Carbon Farming Initiative which establishes a regulated carbon offsets market, has been passed by Parliament.
The new laws give farmers, forest growers and other landholders access to international and domestic carbon markets.
It means they can sell any carbon credits they generate to companies so they can offset their carbon pollution.
More information is available from this PS News link
Car stats published
New figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statists have reveal Australian vehicles travelled 227 billion kilometres on Australian roads in 2010.
The average vehicle covered 14,100 kilometres in the 12 months to 31 October 2010, down from the 14,600km travelled in 2006.
Vehicles in Victoria and the Northern Territory went the furthest (14,600 kilometres), followed by Queensland (14,400 kilometres) and New South Wales (14,200 kilometres).
Articulated trucks travelled an average of 85,000 kilometres; over six times further than passenger vehicles.
The Bureau’s Survey of Motor Vehicle Use is available to download from this PS News link
Awards seek sponsors
The Local Government National Awards are looking for sponsors among Government Departments and Agencies.
Organisations have been invited to sponsor a 2012 Award to recognise, reward and promote the innovative work of Local Government across Australia.
Sponsors can nominate the award they wish to sponsor.
Entries for the 2012 Awards will open in December 2011and more information is available from Charlene Tack on (02) 6274 6747.
Agreement to promote AFL
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been signed by the Federal Government and the Australian Football League to support development of the code overseas.
The AFL will also assist the Government to promote trade and investment, using Australian football as a platform.
Paper on gambling
A discussion paper on the review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 has been released and public comments invited.
Responses to the paper will be used to assess the policy objectives of the Interactive Gambling Act and the roles that Government, industry and consumers play in the area.
The paper can be viewed online at this PS News link and submissions close 21 October 2011.
The paper was foreshadowed in a PS News story on the review’s terms of reference earlier this week. See this PS News link.
Disability initiative popular
The Better Start for Children with Disability initiative, has proven successful with 725 children registering in its first six weeks.
Figures released by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs showed that about 120 children were registering each week to benefit from $12,000 in early intervention service such as speech pathology, audiology and physiotherapy.
Children in outer regional, rural and remote areas were also eligible for an additional one-off payment of $2,000 to help meet the costs of accessing services such as travel and home visits.
Women’s book launched
A book compiling the perspectives of 100 women working in and around the Public Service in Victoria has been published by the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA).
Portraits of Women in Public Service was launched by IPAA Victoria and includes the perspectives of Dr Kathy Alexander, Penny Armytage, Professor Kate Auty, Deborah Cheetham, Janet Dore, Helen Silver, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich and Chloe Munro.
Christine Nixon, Elizabeth Proust, Geraldine Kennett, Dr Helen Szoke and Fran Thorn also made contributions.
The book is available for $49 from this PS News link.
Drugs report sees challenge
A report by the Australian Institute of Criminology has found that poly drug use represented a difficult challenge for policymakers and practitioners.
The AIC research found that in the criminal justice and law enforcement sectors poly drug users were at greater risk of failing to comply with the conditions of court-imposed supervision and corrections orders.
The report is available at this PS News link.
Help for Nigerian PS
A partnership between the Governments of Australian and Nigeria will help to deliver ongoing public service reform in the African nation.
The joint initiative will aim to increase efficiency and improve service delivery in the country’s public sector.
Building uniform ideas for all tiers of Government; adopting best practices in human capital development; and instilling ethics and values in civil servants are to be on the reform agenda.
23 August, 2011
Size matters in
A report from the Centre for Policy Development (CPD) has revealed that the Australian Public Service is the same size in 2011 as it was in 1991.
report on APS
According to researcher Andrew Whelan, the APS would need an extra 50,000 staff to maintain it relative size against the increase in population.
Entitled The State of the Australian Public Service: An Alternative Report Dr Whelan’s work analysed 20 years of opinion research on Government and the Public Service.
As Research Director with the CPD’s Public Service program, Dr Whelan said the research revealed that attacks on the public sector were not supported by the community.
“Almost 70% of Australians support delaying the return to surplus and two-thirds support maintaining or increasing public sector spending,” Dr Whelan said.
“There’s a strong preference for services to be provided by the public sector: twice as many people support public over private provision of health and education for example.”
The report also found the APS was an increasingly top-heavy workforce that did not reflect the diversity of the Australian community, with Indigenous people and Australians with a disability under-represented, and women under-represented in the senior ranks.
National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood said the union welcomed the report.
“This is a significant report and we welcome the factual balance it brings to the ongoing debate about the size and role of the APS,” Ms Flood said.
“It also confirms that most people have a higher level of confidence in Public Service Agencies than in major companies.”
She said the CPSU would also support the report’s proposal for the introduction of a major survey to measure how satisfied and confident the community was with the Australian Public Service year by year.
The full report could be accessed at this PS News link.
23 August, 2011
Speakers to speak
The concept of minority government is to be closely examined at the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s (IPAA) National Conference in Hobart this week.
up at talk fest
Public administrators and academics from across Australia and overseas will debate a number of topics at the conference with 32 speakers, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to address the assembly.
National President of IPAA, Percy Allan, said this year’s focus, minority government, was one of the most hotly discussed topics in public and private spheres today.
“With minority governments a growing presence in Australian politics at all
levels, Learning to Power Share will examine whether this form of government stifles decision-making or provides fertile ground for new approaches to government policy and services,” Mr Allan said.
“The conference will also consider key issues such as new modes of governance, decentralisation and regionalisation, and ethical leadership.”
He said the Conference would bring together a wealth of local, national and international speakers to help define the Australian Public Sector’s approach to a challenging new paradigm of governance for decades to come.
“We are pleased to have a great line-up of speakers including Akash Paun from the Institute for Government UK who will share his experience on how Westminster has adapted to power-sharing government, as well as former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters who will explore what minority governments mean for the real Public Servant.”
He said Prime Minister Gillard would deliver the annual Garran Oration during the Conference which was being held 25 and 26 August.
More information, including details of the conference program and how to register, was available from this PS News link.
23 August, 2011
Veterans’ staff to
line up for Forces
Staff of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs are to visit military bases around Australia to provide advice and support to Defence personnel considering making the move to civilian life.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon said that from October this year, staff from the Department would be on hand at more than 25 military bases around Australia to provide advice and support on injury, physical and mental health and compensation issues.
“This new initiative – part of the Support to Wounded, Injured or Ill Program (SWIIP) – will support ADF members dealing with injury, physical and mental health issues, accessing information on their entitlements and ultimately improving their transition to civilian life,” Mr Snowdon said.
“Staff will provide expert advice and facilitate early notification of compensable injuries including those tackling physical and mental health issues.”
He said the on-base visiting model would provide advice and support relating to the provision of DVA services and benefits for all ADF personnel.
He said once implemented, SWIIP would provide a ‘whole of life’ medical, rehabilitation, compensation and transition framework for Defence.
Mr Snowdon said the program would include the early identification of health and income support requirements post discharge; participation in transition management seminars; and pre and post deployment briefings.
“It will reduce complexity involved in accessing support and ensure better integration,” he said.
“We have created SWIIP as a specialised, all encompassing program and the vehicle for realising a fundamental cultural shift for all areas within Defence and DVA that have responsibility for a transitioning member,” the Minister said.
23 August, 2011
The Australian Taxation Commissioner has issued a public warning for people to watch out for tax-related scams at this time of year.
in on tax returns
The Commissioner, Michael D’Ascenzo said typically the ATO saw a spike in scams each year around tax time.
“Anyone can be the target of a scam, and sometimes scams are so sophisticated and authentic in appearance that even the most alert can be caught out,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“Scammers can use a range of methods including phone calls, letters, text messages, emails, bogus websites, computer viruses and even false advertisements to try to fool people into giving away their money, passwords and personal details.”
He said once scammers had personal information they could steal a person’s identity and commit fraud against them, with potentially serious consequences such as the theft of funds.
“The ATO is aware of a number of scams currently in operation where scammers contact victims claiming to be from the ATO and offer them a tax refund in exchange for payment and their personal details,” he said.
“The ATO will never ask you to pay money to receive your tax refund or any special government payment and does not ask for personal information such your bank account details using email.”
Mr D’Ascenzo said the ATO also did not charge for the use of online tools such as e-tax.
“If something seems suspicious, too good to be true, asks you for personal details or cannot be verified by contacting an official source, it is likely to be a scam and you should report it,” he said.
“The ATO uses a range of intelligence to crack down on scammers including reports from the community.”
He said common scams reported to the ATO included cold-call emails or calls asking victims to pay money for or provide their personal details in order to obtain a tax refund; and fake e-tax notification emails encouraging victims to ‘click links’ to download other malware including malicious versions of e-tax.
Mr D’Ascenzo said more information was available from this PS News link.
23 August, 2011
Women hit back
Community comment has been invited on a proposed national plan for greater protection of women and girls in conflict situations.
in peace plan
Launching the Draft Australian National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security, Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis said the draft plan was a response to a call from the United Nations Secretary-General for all UN Member States to develop national action plans to better implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (UNSCR 1325).
Ms Ellis said the resolution was the first Security Council Resolution to address the disproportionate impact of war and armed conflict on women and girls, and highlighted the critical role women played in achieving conflict resolution and peace.
“The UN estimates that 75 per cent of the estimated 60 million people currently displaced by conflict and disasters around the world are women and children, and this leaves them vulnerable to high rates of sexual violence and abuse,” Ms Ellis said.
“For Australian peace and security operations to be fully effective, women must participate in decision-making processes, and the rights of women and girls in conflict must be protected.”
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said Defence was supporting the National Action Plan and was committed to promoting the role of Australian women in peacekeeping and peace building.
“Across our forces, women are performing roles from medical support in Afghanistan, providing maritime security and tackling piracy or peacekeeping efforts supporting our Pacific neighbours,” Mr Snowdon said.
“Defence has also commenced a series of reviews into aspects of ADF and Departmental culture to help drive cultural change in the treatment of women in the ADF and to make changes where necessary.”
The public consultation period closes 18 October 2011.
More information, including directions on how to lodge a submission, is available from this PS News link.
23 August, 2011
The national rating system for energy efficient buildings has been increased from five to six stars.
The six-star National Australian Built Environment Rating System (NABERS) was launched in Sydney by the Chief Executive of the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Lisa Corbyn.
Ms Corbyn said the extra star acknowledged that the Australian property industry was reaching a standard previously considered beyond world’s best practice.
She said NABERS was a national program, administered by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and included tools for Energy, Water, Waste and Indoor Environment.
“In the 10 years since the NSW Government introduced the first environmental performance rating for offices, Australian commercial buildings have become so much more efficient the time has come to introduce a sixth star,” Ms Corbyn said.
“This is a move that was called for by top performers in the commercial property industry who are already moving beyond NABERS five-star excellence towards a market-leading six star goal.”
She said office buildings using NABERS to measure and manage energy and water use improved greenhouse performance by an average11.5 per cent and water efficiency by 9 per cent.
The launch also saw the presentation of the first seventeen 5.5 and 6 star NABERS Energy and Water rating certificates to office buildings, tenancies, hotels and shopping centres in NSW that achieved “market leading performance and efficiency”.
Ms Corbyn said a further 30 buildings which had gone beyond five stars in water and emissions savings through purchasing GreenPower or recycled water in NSW would also receive 5.5 or 6 star certificates.
She said 60 per cent of Australian office space has been rated with NABERS Energy, 68 per cent of it in NSW.
She said around 5 per cent of rated buildings were currently achieving a 5 star rating which had been set as an aspirational target in 2000.
A 6-star rating would be awarded for ‘Market Leading’ performance, and would represent a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions or water use from 5 stars.
More information about the system is available from this PS News link.
23 August, 2011
Infant formula plan
The CSIRO is to work together with a private company to develop the next generation of ingredients for infant formulas.
is breast practice
Research Team Leader at the CSIRO, Luz Sanguansri said the organisation would partner with leading Australian ingredients manufacturer, Clover Corporation to investigate how nutritional bioactives could be combined in formulas with the natural essential Omega 3 fatty acid DHA.
Ms Sanguansri said the research aimed to improve the ability of infants to absorb bioactive ingredients that could boost their immune systems.
“While natural breast milk is the gold standard, when infant formulas are needed to supplement or replace it, those formulas need to be as close to the real thing as possible,” Ms Sanguansri said.
“Many of the bioactive components of breast milk are not stable and their inclusion in infant formula is not straightforward.”
She said there were also a number of scientific and technical hurdles to overcome before DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid) and bioactives could be added to infant formulas.
“For example, DHA is complex, fragile and is only found in significant amounts in a few foods so, we need to be able to protect, stabilise and deliver the DHA.”
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Clover Corporation, Professor Ian Brown said the research agreement built on collaborative efforts over 15 years between CSIRO and the company on the development of functional ingredients.
“We have a long track record of extensive work with CSIRO, originally through our exclusive license to commercialise CSIRO’s MicroMAX technology,” Professor Brown said.
“This latest investment by CSIRO and Clover Corporation will enable us to focus the expertise of both organisations on overcoming barriers to producing the next generation of nutritional ingredients for infant and medical foods,” he said.
23 August, 2011
After school care
The first national guidelines for after school and vacation care have been released by the Minister for Early Childhood, Peter Garrett.
guide passes test
Mr Garrett said My Time, Our Place – Framework for School Age Care in Australia emphasised the importance of allowing children to learn through fun and playtime.
He said it would be implemented across the country from the beginning of 2012.
“This is the first time we’ve had a national set of principles for a care sector that is used by a large proportion of Australian families, providing support to working parents and a safe, fun learning environment for school aged children,” Mr Garrett said.
“We know that this is one of the fastest growing sectors in child care – for example, during the December 2010 quarter, almost 256,000 children attended before and after school care, compared to 242,600 children over the same period the year before.”
He said the latest figures represented an increase of 5.5 per cent but until now there had been no national set of standards and expected results.
He said My Time, Our Place was developed for the Australian and State and Territory Governments by school age care expert Dr Jennifer Cartmel of Griffith University, in consultation with peak school age care bodies, educators and parent groups.
Minister for Child Care, Kate Ellis said the aim of the framework was to provide children with a strong sense of identity and wellbeing, to give them confidence and communication skills, and to help them feel connected to the world.
“Children thrive when families, educators, schools and the wider community work together in partnership to support children’s wellbeing and learning,” Ms Ellis said.
“We’re moving away from the highly structured, one size fits all approach and more towards a system of care which responds to the needs and interests of individual children.”
More information is available from this PS News link.
23 August, 2011
New laws log on
A report on proposed cyber safety laws by a Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee has been welcomed by the Attorney-General and the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice.
to cyber security
The Ministers, Robert McClelland and Brendan O’Connor, said cybercrime posed a significant challenge for law enforcement agencies having overtaken the drug trade as the most profitable form of crime in the world.
Mr McClelland said the Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 set the legislative framework to enable Australia’s accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime – the only binding international treaty on cybercrime.
“The increasing cyber threat means that no nation alone can effectively overcome this problem and international cooperation is essential,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 strengthens cyber security laws and enhances Australia’s ability to combat international cybercrime.”
He said the Bill aimed to make three key changes centred around preservation (enabling agencies to request the preservation of communications by a carrier they intend to seek a warrant over); international cooperation; and cybercrime offences (extending the scope of existing Commonwealth computer offences to meet the requirements for such offences under the Convention).
The Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime covered crimes committed via the internet and other computer networks, dealing particularly with computer-related fraud, child pornography and violations of network security.
“To date, over 40 nations have either signed or become a party to the Convention, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and South Africa,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Over 100 nations are also using the Convention as the basis to strengthen their legislation to combat the threat of cybercrime.”
He said the changes would ensure that Australian legislation was consistent with international best-practice and enabled domestic agencies to access and share information to facilitate international investigations.
The Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 amends the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987, the Criminal Code Act 1995, the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 and the Telecommunications Act 1997.
The Committee’s report is available at this PS News link.
23 August, 2011
The terms of reference for a review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001 have been released by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
shows its hand
The review was announced earlier this year to address technology developments, such as those which allow multi-jurisdictional gambling via the internet, and other issues facing the enforcement of the Interactive Gambling Act.
“The decision to review the Interactive Gambling Act was announced as an outcome of the Council of Australian Government’s Select Council on Gambling Reform meeting in late May,” Senator Conroy said.
“The review will enable the government to further examine the approaches taken by a variety of other countries and their potential applicability to Australia.”
He said the review would examine the availability of harm minimisation measures for online gambling services; the enforcement of existing prohibitions on certain types of online gambling; and the way the Act applied to different technological platforms.
He said an examination of the social, taxation, jurisdictional and enforcement aspects of regulated access to interactive gambling services currently prohibited under the Act would also be included.
Senator Conroy said the terms of reference acknowledge that the adequacy of the existing provisions of the Act, including technical, operational and enforcement issues relating to the prohibition of interactive gambling services and the advertising of such services, needs to be assessed.
“The review will consult widely with key stakeholders, States and Territories, and the broader community and will also consider the findings of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform’s inquiry into interactive and online gambling and gambling advertising,” Senator Conroy said.
The Terms of Reference for the review are available at this PS News link.
23 August, 2011
New support services
New arrangements for providing family support services across Australia have been announced jointly by the Minister for Families, the Attorney-General and Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services.
are family friendly
Funding of up to $1 billion has been allocated to the Family Support Program with community organisations in 2,200 locations receiving payments to deliver support for vulnerable families and children.
The Ministers, Jenny Macklin, Robert McClelland and Parliamentary Secretary Julie Collins said the community organisations would deliver important services such as parenting skills training, relationship counselling, playgroups, family law services and intensive support for at-risk children and families.
“The Australian Government consulted closely with service providers in developing the initiative and for the first time we are delivering three year contracts to service providers – giving these organisations greater certainty and allowing them to focus less on paperwork and more on delivering support to Australian children and families who need it most,” Ms Macklin said.
“The Family Support Program streamlines more than 20 Family and Children’s programs into four streams to provide more flexibility to meet families’ needs, while making sure the important elements of the current program are retained.”
She said among the new activities were Communities for Children services to provide prevention and early intervention activities to families with children up to 12 years in disadvantaged communities throughout Australia.
She said family and relationship services, community playgroups and specialist services would also receive a boost.
“These services work alongside the family law services to ensure that families across Australia, especially those living in disadvantaged locations, have access to more integrated services to support them during critical life events,” Ms Macklin said.
“Family support services are a vital element of the Government’s National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, which provides a national approach to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Australian children,” she said.
23 August, 2011
Trial continues for
A ‘welfare reform’ trial in Queensland’s Cape York is to be extended following a positive report from the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC).
The Commission is an initiative of the Federal and Queensland Governments in association with the four Cape York communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said the FRC quarterly report showed the trial to be having some positive results.
“I’m pleased to see that people are finding income management a useful tool and are requesting the Family Responsibilities Commission to either continue or extend their time on income management,” Ms Macklin said, “as it helps them stabilise their household budget and ensure bills are paid and children are fed.”
“The Family Responsibilities Commission aims to move people from passive welfare dependence to engagement in the real economy, increase parental responsibility, restore local authority and build stronger, more resilient communities.”
Queensland’s Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships, Curtis Pitt said the report outlined some of the trial’s progress.
“Extending the trial provides an opportunity to build upon the success of initiatives already underway aimed at restoring local Indigenous authority, encouraging positive behaviours and improving economic and living conditions,” Mr Pitt said.
“The decision to extend the trial followed consultation with key partners in the reform program, the Australian Government and the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership, coupled with the Family Responsibilities Commission, elders, local Councils and community representatives.
He said one of the most positive changes from the trial was the contribution to closing the education gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
“The FRC works with community members to address school attendance, tenancy, Magistrate Court convictions and child safety issues,” he said.
Mr Pitt said across the four trial communities school attendance notifications dropped from 339 last quarter to 332 this quarter.
“While not a major drop, this is still a pleasing result because it demonstrates that fewer students had unexplained absences from school,” he said.
“Magistrates Court notifications decreased in all communities – and notably, Hope Vale has continued to see a decline in notifications for all quarters since quarter 6.”
23 August, 2011
A report into apprenticeships and traineeships across Australia has revealed that 5.3 per cent more Australians were in training at the end of March this year than at the same time last year.
The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) revealed the numbers which it said represented an increase from almost 436,000 in 2010 to 458,900 this year.
Minister for Jobs and Skills, Senator Chris Evans said in the 12 months to 31 March the number of apprenticeships and traineeships completed across the country rose by 4.8 per cent, up to 169,700.
“The rise in the number of Australians in training reflects the Government’s record investment in skills,” Senator Evans said.
He said the NCVER report also found 315,500 people commenced an apprenticeship or traineeship in the last year, an increase of by 11.5 per cent over the year before.
The report also found that across the country, trade commencements increased by 9.2 per cent, and a record number of trade apprentices were in training, an increase from 211,000 in March 2010 to 212,500 this year.
Senator Evans said the $3 billion skills package announced in this year’s Budget would deliver another 130,000 high-quality training places through direct partnerships with industry.
“The Government’s investment is giving more Australians than ever before the opportunity to get an apprenticeship and the skills they need to get a job,” he said.
“This investment will ensure industry has the skilled workers it needs to grow and prosper.”
The NCVER report is available at this PS News link.
19 August, 2011
Super change to
Proposed changes to superannuation rules to allow contributors to claw back excess contributions rather than face stiff penalties for going over the concessional tax limit have been announced by the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten.
Mr Shorten, who was himself a victim of the policy, said the new rules would allow people who breached the concessional contributions cap by up to $10,000 for the first time to be given the option of taking their money back.
A consultation paper has been issued on the proposal.
Mr Shorten said excess contributions tax was incurred when an individual contributed more superannuation into their account than the maximum allowed to receive the concessional tax rate.
He said concessional contributions could include compulsory superannuation guarantee payments, salary sacrifice contributions, and other deductible contributions.
“The Government believes these changes will make the superannuation system fairer by giving individuals the option to take excess concessional contributions out of their superannuation fund and have them assessed at their marginal rate of tax, rather than incurring a potentially higher rate of excess contributions tax,” Mr Shorten said.
He said the excess contributions tax was designed to ensure that individuals adhered to the superannuation contributions caps, and was part of ensuring that the substantial tax concessions for superannuation remained sustainable and fair.
“While the Government believes the high rate of excess contribution tax is important to encourage compliance with the contribution caps, individuals who breach their concessional contribution caps for the first time should be given a second chance,” he said.
Mr Shorten said the Government was mindful of the need to minimise the compliance cost on superannuation funds as well as on the individual.
He said the majority of the administrative processes would be handled by the Australian Taxation Office.
He said excess concessional contributions were taxed at 31.5 per cent, in addition to the 15 per cent tax imposed when contributions were made to the fund.
The consultation paper is available at this PS News link.
19 August, 2011
Penny drops on new
Public comments have been invited on proposed new Regulations that tighten the requirements on Telstra to make payphones more readily accessible.
Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said the draft Regulations would set stronger standards and benchmarks for Telstra in its provision of public payphones.
“The Government is taking action to set clear rules to ensure Telstra meets its universal service obligation to make payphones reasonably accessible,” Senator Conroy said.
“The draft Regulations would establish tough new processes if Telstra wishes to remove payphones and would impose stronger requirements on Telstra to repair payphones in a timely manner.”
He said the draft Regulations proposed clear requirements for the locations of payphones; timeframes Telstra must meet when they required repair; criteria that must be applied before Telstra removed a payphone; new requirements to consult the public when a payphone was installed or removed; and rights for people to make complaints.
He said Telstra’s payphone obligations would be enforced by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) under an infringement notice regime introduced last year.
Senator Conroy said the maximum penalty to apply for a beach of the Regulations could be as high as $2 million (18,000 penalty units) but the actual amount would be set following the public consultation period.
He said there had been a long history of community concern about payphone removals and repairs.
“Recent inquiries, such as the 2009 report from the Regional Telecommunications Independent Review Committee, show payphones continue to provide a valued service, particularly in rural and remote parts of Australia,” the Minister said.
“They are especially needed where there is limited access to mobile phone coverage or to make emergency calls.”
The draft Regulations could be accessed at this PS News link.
19 August, 2011
Medicare audits to
Medicare Australia’s powers to audit claims for payment from health professionals have been strengthened.
go for the doctor
General Manager of the Department of Human Services, Hank Jongen said changes to compliance audit legislation enhanced Medicare’s ability to determine if claims made by health professionals were correct and appropriate.
Mr Jongen said DHS was writing to health professionals to advise them of the changes following the commencement of the Health Insurance Amendment (Compliance) Act 2011 in April of this year.
“The amendment means Medicare can request that health professionals produce documents that verify the Medicare benefits they’ve claimed,” Mr Jongen said.
“Previously this wasn’t mandatory as all records received from compliance audits were voluntarily supplied by health professionals seeking to substantiate claims for Medicare benefits.”
He said the new legislation also introduced an administrative penalty system to encourage compliance and provide a more structured and transparent compliance auditing process.
“When health professionals don’t participate with compliance audits it is very difficult for Medicare to assess whether expenditure made under the program was correct and appropriate,” Mr Jongen said.
“Expenditure under the Medicare program is around $15 billion annually, so it’s important that Medicare has the ability to protect the integrity of taxpayer dollars.”
He said health professionals still had the opportunity to voluntarily provide substantiating documents before a formal notice to produce documents was issued.
He said under the new legislation, Medicare was required to make contact with health professionals at the beginning and end of the audit process and to explain the reasons for the compliance audit.
“Another key feature means health professionals can lodge an application for a review of a decision where they disagree that the amounts are recoverable,” Mr Jongen said.
“The legislation is not retrospective and can only be applied to services rendered on, or after, 9 April 2011.”
More information about the new audit process can be obtained from this PS News link.
19 August, 2011
Artists to work on
A nation-wide competition has been launched to design a National Workers’ Memorial to honour Australians who have lost their lives at work.
Announcing the competition jointly, the Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans, and NSW Senator Doug Cameron said they were looking to find a suitable design for the Memorial which would be a reminder of the importance of workplace safety.
“We are seeking innovative and thoughtful designs that commemorate the contribution and sacrifice of Australian workers in a sensitive and enduring way,” Senator Evans said.
“The Australian Government has committed $3.6 million to establish the National Workers’ Memorial.”
Senator Cameron, who chairs the committee guiding the establishment of the memorial, said it would be an important place for reflection.
“The Memorial will be a place for people to pay tribute to those who have died as a result of work related accidents or disease,” Senator Cameron said.
“It will also be a place to reflect on the evolving values, ideas and aspirations of the Australian community in relation to workplace safety.”
Senator Evans said the Memorial would be in Canberra’s Kings Park on the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin and would provide an important focal point for the national commemoration of Workers’ Memorial Day, recognised internationally on 28 April each year.
He said the design competition was being run by the National Capital Authority and was open until 7 October 2011.
All arts and design professionals could enter and more information was available from this PS News link.
19 August, 2011
A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has endorsed Australia’s new national framework for evaluating and assessing teachers, students and schools.
pass OECD test
The report has been welcomed by the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett.
The Minister said the report, OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Australia found the education reforms had established transparency and accountability as the foundation for a high-quality and fair school system.
“The report is a big tick of approval from an independent, internationally recognised organisation,” Mr Garrett said.
I was also pleased to see that the OECD believes our decision to introduce teacher standards is a ‘major development’ and that teachers in Australia are treated as ‘trusted professionals’ with a high degree of autonomy.”
He said the reform process had been ongoing since 2007 and was aimed at improving transparency, lifting standards and introducing greater accountability.
“I was also pleased to see that the OECD believes our decision to introduce teacher standards is a ‘major development’ and that teachers in Australia are treated as ‘trusted professionals’ with a high degree of autonomy.”
Mr Garrett said the report found that the reforms had given Australia a clear framework of national expectations, a new national education infrastructure, and a firm commitment to transparency and accountability.
He said there was a strong focus on student outcomes, a coherent system of assessments for learning, and NAPLAN results were considered credible and useful by teaching professionals.
“We have always said that reforms such as the NAPLAN tests and the My School website are not just about providing information to the public, but are also important tools which help us identify which schools and students need extra attention and support,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the OECD had made a number of policy recommendations for student assessment, teacher appraisal and school evaluation; but work in those areas had already begun as part of the wider education agenda.
“We’re investing more than $65.6 billion over four years to help make every school a great school,” Mr Garrett said.
19 August, 2011
New sounds make
The National Film and Sound Archive has added 10 new sounds to its 2011 Sounds of Australia registry.
noise at Archives
The additions were announced by the Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, who said they had become part of Australia’s audio heritage.
Mr Crean said the new heritage sounds included Kylie Minogue’s recording of I should be so lucky, Skyhooks’ Living in the 70s, and a series of news stories about Cyclone Tracy.
“The 2011 sounds are diverse, ranging from the maiden Parliamentary speeches of the first two women elected to the Australian Parliament, Dame Enid Lyons and Dorothy Tangney, to an inspiring call of the race that stops our nation – the 1952 Melbourne Cup,” Mr Crean said.
“The Sounds of Australia registry celebrates the unique and diverse recorded sound culture and history of Australia.”
He said the registry was an iconic collection which belonged to the people of Australia.
“The registry is an opportunity for all Australians to help choose the music, speeches, jingles, natural and man-made sounds to be preserved for future generations,” Mr Crean said.
He said the National Film and Sound Archive launched Sounds of Australia in 2007 with a foundation list of 10 sounds and the Australian public had been invited each year to nominate recordings to be added to the registry.
He said other songs included in 2011 were the first audio recordings of the songs and music of the Torres Strait dating from 1898; the first recording session of popular actors and comedians Nat Phillips and Roy Rene as The Sailors in 1927; Joan Sutherland’s first major hit recording The Art of the Prima Donna, from 1960; I’ll Never Find Another You by The Seekers - the first Australian band to have a British number one selling single, 1964; and Voss composed by Richard Meale in 1987.
All the recordings on the registry are available online at this PS News link.
19 August, 2011
Paper homes in on
A discussion paper and a series of forums on the future of employment services in remote areas have been launched by the Ministers for Indigenous Employment, Indigenous Affairs and Employment Participation.
The Ministers, Senator Mark Arbib, Jenny Macklin and Kate Ellis said new remote services would be in place from 1 July 2013 and would be simpler, more integrated and flexible.
Senator Arbib said remote communities and the people who lived in them were extremely diverse.
“A new, tailored approach to participation and employment services for remote Australia needs to be able to respond to emerging local economic opportunities,” Senator Arbib said.
“I encourage people to have their say on how remote participation and employment services could be improved.”
Ms Macklin said the consultation forums started this week.
“There will be forums in more than 40 locations, including remote communities, throughout August and September 2011,” Ms Macklin said.
“The Government believes that the first step in reforming remote services is to talk with people about what they think will work best.”
She said the Government wanted people’s views on how participation and employment services could be improved to suit the needs of jobseekers in remote areas better.
Ms Ellis invited people to attend a consultation forum and comment on the discussion paper.
“We are inviting people in remote communities to come and discuss how remote participation and employment services can be improved in their community,” Ms Ellis said.
“If you are unable to attend a consultation forum please feel free to make a submission to the review based on the discussion paper.
“Interpreters will be available at many forums and a DVD in a variety of indigenous languages will also be shortly released.”
The Ministers said comments or feedback on the discussion paper would be received until 12 October 2011 and could be submitted in writing to email@example.com.
More information, including access to the discussion paper, could be obtained from this PS News link.
19 August, 2011
Interest aroused in
New draft laws that would bring Australia’s investment management rules more closely into line with other countries have been released for public consultation.
The amendments revolve around changes to the income tax law that would clarify how certain income of foreign funds, for 2010-11 and prior income years, were taxed.
They would also clarify the treatment of some investments of foreign funds, where the returns were attributable to a permanent establishment in Australia.
Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said the proposed changes in tax treatment would help provide certainty for businesses investing through Australian intermediaries,
“Australia’s taxation of foreign managed funds is not consistent with other financial centres, including the US, the UK, Hong Kong and Singapore,” Mr Shorten said.
“These new measures will help Australia retain $57 billion already invested here by foreign managed funds.”
He said the proposed amendments would support Australia’s managed funds industry, which stood at around $1.8 trillion at the end of March 2011.
He said the changes would help position Australia as a leading financial services centre.
“It responds to a recommendation by the report of the Australian Financial Centre Forum concerning the tax treatment of funds management vehicles,” Mr Shorten said.
He said that as part of the 2011/12 Budget, the Government had asked the Board of Taxation to bring forward its review of the full funds management Investment Management Regime.
He said the Board would now report to the Government by 30 September 2011.
The consultation period on the new legislation closes on 30 August.
More information is available from this PS News link.
19 August, 2011
And in Other News...
Industrial action at DAFF
Quarantine staff are to walk off the job for 4 hours today at all major Australian international airports.
The industrial action comes after pay negotiations at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) stalled.
The action is expected to impact on a number of DAFF services including cargo inspections, the release of imported goods and x-ray screening of international mail.
The protected action is related to dissatisfaction within the APS over pay negotiations.
News crew killed
An ABC news crew has been killed in a tragic helicopter crash while on assignment in remote South Australia.
Journalist Paul Lockyer, cameraman John Bean and pilot Gary Ticehurst perished when their ABC helicopter crashed in apparent bad weather on Thursday night.
Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott said the organisation was experiencing one of the saddest days in its history.
Rail line investigation
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is to conduct an investigation into operations on the interstate rail line between Sydney and Melbourne.
The investigation follows a number of incidents on the rail line, which is leased and operated by the Australian Rail Track Corporation.
The ATSB will look at the track’s operational condition and the measures being put in place to maintain the safety of rail operations where track quality is below acceptable operational standards.
Health Authority a step closer
Legislation to establish a National Health Performance Authority has passed through the lower house.
The National Health Performance Authority will be the new watchdog for Australia’s health system with a brief to provide patients with better information about the performance of hospitals and other key areas of the health system.
The Authority is to be delivered with no net increase in PS staff, the Minister for Health and Ageing predicting that her Department would actually shed staff in the next two years.
A major mailout campaign alerting small businesses to a new way of making employee superannuation contributions has been launched by the Department of Human Services.
More than 680,000 small businesses are on the mailout list.
Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek said the new Clearing House Service would be provided by Medicare.
The service is available to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
Health records consortium
A consortium has been selected to build the IT infrastructure for Australia’s electronic health record system.
Accounting company Accenture is to lead the project.
When operating, the new system will allow a person’s GP and other health professionals to view their records by making sure the information is available whenever and wherever they are needed.
Health insurance hits record
The Private Health Insurance Administration Council has reported that Australia has reached its highest rate of private hospital insurance participation in more than 10 years.
The Council said that 45.3 per cent of the population was now covered by private hospital insurance.
The statistics represents a growth of 2.8 per cent over the 12 months to 30 June 2011or 281,811 extra people.
Defence in safety case
Comcare has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from the Department of Defence after the Department allegedly failed to observe its duties under federal workplace safety laws.
An investigation found that Defence did not take all reasonably practicable steps to protect the health and safety of its employees at work. The Department claims it has taken steps to address the safety deficiencies.
Comcare said it would monitor Defence to ensure it complied with the undertaking.
New exhibition at Gallery
The National Gallery of Australia has opened a new exhibition of one of Australia’s most influential and much loved artists.
Fred Williams: Infinite horizons is the first major retrospective of Fred Williams’s work in over 25 years.
The exhibition features over 100 works of art, from both public and private collections, some of which have never before been publicly displayed.
It will also tour to the National Gallery of Victoria form April to July 2012 and the Art Gallery of South Australia from August to November 2012.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is working with schools across NSW to trial a new cybersafety activity.
The ACMA has been consulting with Year 6 and 7 students to audition Cybersmart Networking, an initiative which aims to address the issues confronting young people on social networking sites.
Cybersmart Networking will be launched nationally in November and will be free to all schools Australia-wide. More information is available from this PS News link.
Draft weed plan out
Public comment is being sought on a draft plan to reduce the impact of weeds in northern Australia.
The Threat abatement plan to reduce the impacts on northern Australia’s biodiversity by the five listed grasses plan aims to manage the threat posed to native plants and wildlife by the introduced grass species amba grass; para grass; olive hymenachne; mission grass; and annual mission grass.
The three-month public consultation period closes on 21 November 2011.
Information can be obtained from this PS News link.
Bureau backs Storm week
The Bureau of Meteorology is supporting StormSafe Week.
StrormSafe Week runs this week until Sunday (21 August) and is an initiative of the Victorian SES.
The week aims to encourage the community to get prepared and minimise the risk to their home or business during bad weather after more than $2.1 billion of damage to Victorian properties was reported in the past 18 months.
More information is available from this PS News link. or the Flood & Storm information line 1300VICSES (1300 842 737).
Vaccine report released
The Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council has released its first report on the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Essential Vaccines.
The report found that all jurisdictions met the applicable benchmarks, except Western Australia which met two out of three.
A second report on the National Partnership, covering the period April 2010-March 2011, will be submitted to COAG at the end of this month.
16 August, 2011
Comcare plan sets
A major change in the way Comcare goes about its business has been identified by the Agency’s General Manager of Safety, Neil Quarmby.
all new priorities
Outlining Comcare’s Work Health and Safety Plan for the current financial year, Mr Quarmby said the four key priorities identified in the Plan represented a “major change in the way Comcare delivers its services”.
He said the priorities were: worker health, preventing harm, stronger enforcement, and a smooth transition to national work health and safety laws.
“Our new regulation model highlights the importance of preventing workplace injuries,” Mr Quarmby said.
“This year we’ll deliver strong enforcement outcomes, but also commit to stopping workers getting harmed in the first place.”
He said the changes included an initiative to target federal employers with poor workplace cultures in relation to drug and alcohol harm as well as a workplace bullying campaign which would address the recent growth in mental stress claims.
“We’re targeting workplaces where bullying is just ‘how things work’, and we’ll be working with employers where alcohol harm is a known risk in the workplace,” he said.
“We’re sending the message that it’s not OK, that it’s unacceptable.”
Mr Quarmby said harmonised work health and safety laws due to start on 1 January 2012 were also a major priority and Comcare would re-train its inspectors to exercise new powers under the laws, such as providing assistance to victims and families involved in workplace harm.
He said harmonisation would reduce red tape on a national level and help regulators such as Comcare improve the way it dealt with workplace incidents.
Comcare’s National Conference, to be held from 12 to 14 September at the Melbourne Convention Centre, will focus on harmonisation.
More details are available here.
16 August, 2011
Location named as
The Australian Government is in the Top 10 of Governments around the world for eGovernment, eService and online service delivery according to the Minister for the Public Service, Gary Gray, and steps are being taken to make it even better.
new IT frontier
Mr Gray told a Summit on Technology in Government and the Public Sector that the next big challenge was ‘location based’ services.
“Government decisions are typically based on cost, time and benefit – or What, When and Why,” Mr Gray said.
“However there has been recognition that location-based information is critical.”
He said adding location to the decision-making mix would give government another driver: Where.
“Analysing need according to location helps agencies to better deliver appropriate services, such as mental health and employment support,” Mr Gray said.
“It allows governments to align infrastructure, such as schools and transport links, to better match community and business needs, and to highlight potential duplication between Commonwealth and State/Territory initiatives.”
He said location information could be used in policy development to encourage greater participation in regions where support and services were most needed.
“Mr Gray said it location information was one of the building blocks for innovation in ICT and was APS 200 project.
“A strategic framework has been developed, supported by an initial set of location information principles,” he said.
“These include good governance, location information access and sharing, standards and interoperability.”
He said location information opportunities presented an exciting time in ICT, particularly for the public sector, and the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism would provide the policy lead.
Mr Gray hailed the growing use of video-conferencing across the APS as making a tangible contribution to innovation and productivity with the National Telepresence System, now operating in 34 sites around the country.
“It allows Ministers, Senators, Members of Parliament from all levels of government to conduct virtual meetings with very high quality video and audio, closely simulating a face-to-face meeting,” he said.
“Every capital city has at least two TelePresence facilities.”
He said “cloud computing” and service delivery reform also presented new opportunities for Government Agencies to use the capacity of online service delivery to respond better to citizens.
“We want to be able to simplify account administration for those accessing government services online and allow people to Tell Us Once about changes to their contact details to reduce the burden and duplication for people updating their details online, while maintaining their privacy,” Mr Gray said.
“The information that Government holds is a national resource but it remains largely untapped.”
Mr Gray’s speech can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 August, 2011
The Community and Public Sector Union has called for restraint from the Federal Opposition on its promises to cut public service jobs.
attracts union ire
National Secretary of the Union, Nadine Flood, urged Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey to explain his plans for the APS to end the uncertainty for PS staff.
“The Public Servants he is talking about are real people who work hard and have mortgages and families to support,” Ms Flood said.
“If someone suggested slashing a thousand jobs in Joe Hockey’s electorate, he’d be up in arms. But apparently if they are public sector jobs, they don’t count”
She was concerned the Opposition was too happy to threaten Public Servants with the axe, “just to score a cheap political point”.
“Mr Hockey’s most recent comments about abolishing departments are at odds with his previous policy of cutting 12,000 public sector jobs through natural attrition and imposing increased efficiency dividends,” she said.
“For the sake of his own credibility he needs to let us know exactly what cuts he intends to make.”
Ms Flood also rejected the Opposition’s claims about rapid growth of the Public Service in recent years saying they were not backed up by the facts.
“The federal Public Sector will have grown by 13,996 (8.35%) since 2006/2007 while population will rise by over 11 per cent in the same period, based on ABS data,” she said.
“Growth in public services is actually well behind the increased population using these services.”
Ms Flood said Public Servants were already under pressure dealing with an increased efficiency dividend and resistance to proposed pay rises to keep up with the cost of living.
“Public servants are already stretched and Joe Hockey’s chainsaw approach would do more damage to the long-term capacity of the Public Service,” she said.
16 August, 2011
Watchdog opens door
A report into workplace safety in Department of Immigration and Citizenship detention centres has found serious cause for concern for both employees in the centres and the inmates they house.
on detention centre
The report, prepared by work health and safety watchdog Comcare, said there were issues with violence, overcrowding, training and management planning.
According to the media reports on the ABC, Comcare identified under-training of staff and a lack of preparation to deal with threats of violence, protests and self-harm in the Centres which it said were constant.
The ABC said the report was “scathing” about overcrowding issues which it said would worsen with new arrivals.
According to the Comcare report, once inside the detention centre, arrivals faced a system that placed them and their guards in danger.
It identified five major failures including no risk management process; no effective written plan to deal with critical incidents; no plan to alter staffing levels in emergencies; staff not trained to be confident and competent; and no steps taken to manage detainees’ religious and cultural needs.
The ABC quoted Opposition spokesperson on immigration, Scott Morrison as saying system-wide failures in the detention network were apparent and that calls for a Parliamentary inquiry were justified.
Mr Morrison said the report detailed a system unable to respond to serious threats and proper training was not provided.
The Department was defended by its spokesperson Sandi Logan who rejected a suggestion that DIACfailed to cooperate fully with the Comcare investigation.
“Where there have been serious incidents that have occurred we have had to wait for the full medical report, the legal report, any police investigation into that incident before it’s been brought to Comcare’s attention,” Mr Logan said.
“We would reject any suggestion that we did not cooperate with Comcare.
“I think there may have been some miscommunication on a couple of occasions.”
A Parliamentary inquiry is to review the immigration detention centre network.
16 August, 2011
NBN rollout to roll
Proposed amendments to a telecommunications determination and regulations to ease the passage of the National Broadband Network through the community have been released for public comment.
over local laws
Minister for Broadband and Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said the proposed amendments to the Telecommunications (Low-impact Facilities) Determination 1997 and the Telecommunications Regulations 2001 would facilitate the “timely and efficient” rollout of the National Broadband Network.
Senator Conroy said the proposed changes would enable NBN Co and operators of comparable broadband networks to utilise Commonwealth regulations rather than State and Territory planning laws to connect premises; locate equipment in multi-unit buildings; and deploy new broadband infrastructure in streets.
“These changes, if adopted, would simplify the rollout of the NBN and enable consumers to enjoy the benefits of faster broadband services sooner,” Senator Conroy said.
“Importantly, existing protections under the Telecommunications Act would continue to apply.
“For example, carriers will still be subject to legal obligations to notify people of intended activity, minimise damage and restore work sites.”
He said the Government understood local community sensitivities regarding possible changes and that was the reason comments were being sought on the draft amendments.
Senator Conroy said that in all instances the Government expected NBN Co to cause as little disturbance and inconvenience as practicable in rolling out its facilities, and for to be restored within reasonable timeframes.
He said processes would be in place to resolve any concerns on the part of property owners and that such expectations were backed up by the legal requirements applying to carriers that use powers and immunities.
“This is an important step for the rollout of next generation broadband infrastructure,” he said.
“Community and industry participation is important and I encourage those interested to present their views.”
More information is available from this PS News link.
16 August, 2011
Taxpayers plug in to
Australian taxpayers have taken to the Taxation Office’s electronic tax return lodgement system in their droves with the ATO reporting over a million returns lodged in the first five weeks of the new financial year.
Commissioner of Tax, Michael D’Ascenzo said e-tax was first launched in 1996 and since then there had been almost 16 million lodgements online.
“Continued improvements to the e-tax program and the introduction of the pre-filling service made it a popular choice for over two and a half million self-preparers last year,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“Our pre-filling service is proving extremely popular - last year around 72% of e-tax users chose to pre-fill their return.”
He said this year, the ATO had already collected over 50 million pieces of third party information for the pre-filling service with new information including parental leave payments; employee share schemes; tax-free government pensions; foreign employment income; and information to assist in determining eligibility for the education tax refund.
“Information on share disposals, which is provided to us by all Share Registries, has also been made available this year as a trial,” he said.
“Most of this information is expected to be available by mid-August, but if it is not there when you start preparing your e-tax return you can subscribe to the Alerts service in e-tax which will send you an SMS or email when your information becomes available.”
Mr D’Ascenzo said e-tax was a free, safe and secure way to complete your tax return but in order to protect privacy and guard against scams the program should only be downloaded from the ATO website and would never ask for credit card details.
More information is available from this PS News link.
16 August, 2011
The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has released a report on the incidence of assault and robbery against overseas students in Australia between 2005 and 2009.
home in on report
In 2010 then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith announced that the AIC would conduct independent research into crimes against overseas students with particular reference to crime rates against Indian students.
It was the first major study of its kind in Australia.
Director of the AIC, Adam Tomison said the ground-breaking analysis data-matched 418,294 students from five source countries with police victim records over the five years.
“The nature of the data did not allow the AIC to engage in specific analysis of racial motivation,” Mr Tomison said.
“That said, there was nothing in the overall findings that lends support to the view that Indian students have been singled out primarily for racial reasons.”
He said key findings showed rates of assault for Indian students were lower than or on par with rates for the general Australian population but rates of robbery against Indian students were higher than average for Australians in the larger States for most years.
He said the report found the proportion of robberies against Indian students occurring at commercial locations was approximately double that recorded for students from other countries and over half the robberies of Indian students on commercial premises occurred at service stations.
Commissioner for Race Discrimination, Graeme Innes said further research was needed to understand better the extent to which racial motivation was at play in crimes against international students.
“Though the Australian Institute of Criminology’s report on Crimes against international students in Australia 2005-2009 is certainly welcome, we are concerned that there are two key problems with the research methods,” Mr Innes said.
He said the first concern was that the international student population could not be reasonably compared to the broader Australian population.
“International students face a specific set of risks and vulnerabilities because of their temporary status and their lack of familiarity with their local environment,” he said.
“But the broader Australian population does not necessarily experience these same risks.”
Mr Innes said the second concern regarded “significant issues” with international students underreporting crime and violence, which would have an impact on the reliability of the data.
The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
16 August, 2011
New cultural policy
Community comment has been invited on a new 10-year national cultural policy, the first to be developed in almost two decades.
hits a high note
Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean said the policy would be a vision for how arts and creativity would be supported, developed and ushered into the mainstream of modern Australia.
“The arts are fundamental to our way of life and not just for their entertainment value,” Mr Crean said.
“More than 285,000 people are employed directly in arts and cultural jobs and Australia’s creative industries already contribute over $31 billion to industry gross product.”
He said the new policy was fundamental, because the creative arts empowered the individual and underpinned expression, tolerance and inclusion.
“That’s why they will be included in the new national curriculum, to ensure young Australians have access to learning in the creative arts,” he said.
“A renewed National Cultural Policy will ensure Australia doesn’t miss important opportunities to tell our stories, educate and skill our workforce and enable our culture to connect with the rest of the world.”
Mr Crean said feedback on the discussion paper would be encouraged around four proposed goals: ensuring that Government support reflected the diversity of a 21st century Australia and protected Indigenous culture; encouraging the use of emerging technologies and new ideas that promoted participation; supporting excellence and world-class endeavour; and increasing and strengthening the capacity of the arts to contribute to society and the economy.
He said all Australians, whether they worked in the arts sector or not, were encouraged to read the discussion paper and make a submission.
The public consultation period would be open until 21 October 2011 and the National Cultural Policy was set for release early next year.
More information is available from this PS News link.
16 August, 2011
Draft legislation to increase protection for older Australians taking advantage of ‘reverse mortgages’ has been issued for public comment.
shift up a gear
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten encouraged older Australians and other interested stakeholders to comment on the draft legislation.
“Many senior Australians have worked hard to own their own home before retirement, and if they need to use credit to access the equity in their home then they deserve to be adequately protected,” Mr Shorten said.
“These measures deliver a new level of protection for seniors who take out reverse mortgages.”
He said reverse mortgages were different from other credit products and it was important that the law took into account their unique characteristics.
“With these new measures, older Australians can have greater confidence when using these products, and will be able to make better choices,” he said.
Mr Shorten said the reform gave borrowers certainty about what would happen at the end of the contract, to assist their planning and the changes would amend the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009.
He said key measures in the draft legislation included Australia’s first statutory protection against negative equity; better disclosure of the financial consequences of entering into the contracts; and new requirements on lenders before they acted on a default.
“This draft legislation continues the Government’s delivery of the National Credit Reforms, and our commitment to improve the regulation of equity release products under the Delivering for Seniors package,” he said.
“I encourage older Australians to participate in this consultation and provide their views on the measures outlined.”
Mr Shorten said the Government had conducted extensive consultations since February 2010 in the development of the reforms and enhancements, including convening a dedicated consultation working group comprised of key industry, consumer group and legal representatives.
More information is available from this PS News link.
16 August, 2011
ANSTO scientist has
A scientist with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has been nominated for an award in the prestigious Eureka Awards.
formula for prize
Dr Vanessa Peterson was nominated for the People’s Choice Award for her work on renewable clean energy technologies.
Dr Peterson’s work includes using neutrons produced by ANSTO’s state-of-the-art research reactor, OPAL, to understand materials that store and deliver charge better, particularly those for the transportation sector.
The materials include batteries for use in electric vehicles, and alternative energy-systems based on hydrogen.
The promise of her work is that it could lead to making petrol engines redundant, with power produced from hydrogen resulting in clean water as the only by-product.
The Award nomination recognised her studies saying they could ultimately help to build better and environmentally-sustainable energy technologies for cars and the transportation industry.
The nomination statement said Dr Peterson led Australia’s Neutrons for the Hydrogen Economy research project, known as the Energy Project, in which ANSTO’s expertise and equipment was matched collaboratively with researchers from across the world.
Responding to the nomination, Dr Peterson said she had always had an interest in science.
“When I was a child, I remember being amazed something like sunshine and dirt could be transformed by a plant into a piece of fruit, essentially storing energy that we could eat,” Dr Peterson said.
“One of my teachers inspired me to study science, suggesting I would be taught the process of learning, and that I could apply this to anything I chose to do.”
The Eureka Prizes, managed by the Australian Museum, recognise excellence in Australian science.
The People’s Choice Award is awarded through a public voting system and votes can be submitted at this PS News link.
16 August, 2011
Women at war
The 70th anniversary of three military services for women has been marked with a tribute to the services by the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon.
mark 70 years
Mr Snowdon said the three services were the Women’s Australian Auxiliary Air Force (WAAAF), the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service (WRANS) and the Australian Army Women’s Service, later known as the Australian Women’s Army Service (AWAS).
He said the WAAAF was created first in February 1941, followed by the WRANS in April 1941 and AWAS in August 1941.
He said those forces were originally formed to release men from some of their military duties to allow them to be deployed in fighting units overseas.
“During the Second World War more than 27,000 women joined the ranks of the WAAAF,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The women who joined were posted across the country, from north Queensland to Western Australia, they served at RAAF bases, flight training schools and factories.”
He said the women played a vital role in the war effort despite not being allowed to fly or serve outside Australia.
He said the WRANS was also formed, initially to provide women to undertake driving, office duties and catering services but by the end of the war their role was expanded to include work in technical areas such as protecting ships from magnetic mines, intelligence and cryptanalysis.
“Over 2,000 women served with the WRANS during the Second World War, and after a short stand-down after the war, the service continued to support the Royal Australian Navy in non-seagoing roles until the mid 1980s,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said the AWAS also took on more than 21,000 women for roles in anti-aircraft and coastal artillery, ordnance, cipher, electrical, intelligence and mechanical units, as clerks, typists and cooks, parachute folders, drivers and butchers during the Second World War.
“Similar to the WRANS, the AWAS was disbanded after the war but reinstated in 1951 as the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps (WRAAC),” he said.
“In the late 1970s female soldiers began to be integrated into the Army at large and in early 1984, the WRAAC was disbanded.”
16 August, 2011
Families targeted in
Spending on education and employment support for Defence families is to be significantly increased with the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon announcing an extra $3 million for the program.
Mr Snowdon, said the new support doubled the funding for the Partner Education and Employment Program.
“Under these expanded arrangements, the partners of our junior personnel will be eligible to apply for a one-off payment of up to $3,000 to access vocational training and other education opportunities to assist them become job-ready,” Mr Snowdon said.
He announced the increased funding during a meeting with the National Executive of the support organisation Defence Families of Australia.
He said 2011 had been a significant year for Defence Families of Australia, marking its 25th year representing Defence families.
“Defence Families of Australia plays a key role in providing Defence families with a voice,” Mr Snowdon said.
“It brings the views of Defence families to Defence leadership – and to me – and ensures that matters that are important to families are heard.”
He said the Defence Families of Australia national executive would meet with senior Defence personnel to discuss matters of importance to the families of ADF personnel.
He said applications for the expanded Partner Education and Employment Program would be available from the Defence Community Organisation website in November from this PS News
More information on Defence Families of Australia could be obtained from this PS News link.
12 August, 2011
Strong progress for
A national disability insurance scheme is to be set up following a recommendation of the Productivity Commission.
The Commission was asked to look at possible reforms to disability support services, an area in which the Federal Government believed service standards were not being adequately delivered.
In its report Caring for Older Australians, the Productivity Commission recommended establishing the new scheme along with another covering injuries.
Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said the Government supported the proposal.
“The Australian Government supports the Productivity Commission’s vision for a system that provides individuals with the support they need over the course of their lifetime, and wants reform of disability services that is financially sustainable,” Ms Gillard said.
“The Government, with the States and Territories, will start work immediately on building the foundations for reform.”
She said an immediate $10 million would be allocated to the initiative to support technical policy work; establish a Select Council of Ministers from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to lead reform in the area; and set up an Advisory Group to serve the Select Council.
She said the Council would be chaired by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan and Minister for Disabilities, Jenny Macklin, and the Advisory Group of experts by Dr Jeff Harmer.
She said the Commonwealth would nominate Bruce Bonyhady and Dr Rhonda Galbally as its representatives on the Group with the States and Territories invited to nominate their own.
Ms Gillard said care and support for people with disabilities should be based on their particular needs, not on a “lottery of what kind of disability they have, how they acquired it or where they live.”
She said future reform of disability services would require investment from all levels of Government.
Ms Gillard said the Productivity Commission also recommended work on developing common assessment tools to determine eligibility for support; improved standards of quality for service; a national pricing structure; greater capacity for the disability sector and its workforce.
It estimated that the reform process would take at least seven years.
The Productivity Commission’s full report is available at this PS News link.
12 August, 2011
Shock and awe in
Major organisational and management changes have been announced for the Department of Defence following a review of personal and institutional accountability in the giant Department.
The Ministers for Defence, Defence Science, Personnel and Materiel announce the reforms together, some of which would be introduced immediately.
The review was conducted by Melbourne academic Rufus Black.
According to the Defence Ministers, key initiatives among the reforms would be the appointment of two new Associate Secretaries; the strengthening of personal and institutional accountability within the organisation; establishment of a new process for the inclusion of projects into the Defence Capability Plan; and improving the Department’s project management skills.
They said their priorities included reforming Defence planning, decision-making and performance management as well as substantially reducing the number of Committees in the Department.
Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith said the reforms fully implemented the Review of the Defence Accountability Framework (The Black Review).
“The Black Review is the first comprehensive review to examine personal and institutional accountability in Defence as a whole,” Mr Smith said.
He said the Secretary of Defence would initiate filling the two Associate Secretary positions immediately by a merit selection process.
He said the two positions would be Associate Secretary (Chief Operating Officer) and Associate Secretary (Capability) with the Associate Secretary (Chief Operating Officer) responsible for Personnel Services and Policy, Defence Support and ICT Groups.
The Associate Secretary (Capability) would be responsible for the integrated capability development of Defence’s Strategy Group, Capability Development Group, the Defence Materiel Organisation and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.
Mr Smith said the Department would also reduce its administrative silos through the greater use of project teams which would be given more skills in project management.
“The Government agreed that the Capability Development Group should be adequately resourced in terms of workforce numbers and skills to develop capability proposals,” he said.
“Defence will give priority to developing career streams for both ADF and civilian staff in capability development and acquisition.”
The Minister said reforms to planning and decision-making would also be introduced.
“Defence will develop a single Defence Plan to Support ‘One Defence’ and ensure better accountability of the whole organisation,” he said.
“The Plan will establish key performance measures and specific senior individuals will be identified and held accountable for the achievement of these measures.”
12 August, 2011
Expand expansive at
Executive assistants and personal assistants from across the Australian Public Service came together yesterday (11 August) for the annual Expand Conference in Canberra.
‘Expand’ is the PS-wide network of executive assistants (EAs) and personal assistants (PAs) and people in equivalent positions.
The conference gave participants the opportunity to learn about leadership, teamwork, technology and career advancement.
The 2011 conference was officially opened by the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Andrew Metcalfe.
Mr Metcalfe, who is the current patron of Expand, said he was proud to be supporting a “fantastic initiative, which raises awareness of the importance of the role and function of EAs and PAs.”
“It’s great to see this organisation providing such excellent support to its members through access to training and development, sharing skills and information, and helping with career advancement,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“EAs and PAs spend a lot of time during their working days looking after other people, and it’s great for them to have this opportunity to meet at this conference to not only network with each other but also learn.”
The conference featured writer, media identity, and former Rugby Union international Peter Fitzsimons, who delivered a keynote speech discussing leadership, teamwork and partnerships.
The winners of the Executive Assistant and Personal Assistant of the Year awards were also announced at a gala dinner.
All EAs and PAs in the Australian Public Service are automatically members of Expand but new members were welcome.
More information about the organisation and its activities can be obtained from this PS News link.
12 August, 2011
New and higher service standards applying to large telecommunications companies are to come into effect on 1 October with the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy unveiling a legal ‘instrument’ to set minimum performance levels.
make call on telcos
Senator Conroy said the instrument would be a safeguard for consumers against poor customer service on the part of the giant telcos.
“The Customer Service Guarantee (CSG) Standard is designed to protect consumers against poor customer service by setting timeframes to be met by service providers for the connection, fault repair, and keeping of appointments in relation to standard telephone services,” Senator Conroy said.
“This instrument makes larger Customer Service Providers (CSP) meet the timeframes under the Customer Service Guarantee Standard 90 per cent of the time for connecting new services, repairing existing ones and turning up to appointments.”
He said if the CSPs didn’t meet the timeframes in 90 per cent of cases, then the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) could fine them using the infringement notice powers provided by the Parliament at the end of 2010.
Senator Conroy said the maximum penalty would be set following a public consultation period and could be as high as about $2 million (18,000 penalty units).
He said the Telecommunications (Customer Service Guarantee - Retail Performance Benchmarks) Instrument (No.1) 2011 showed a commitment to providing stronger protections for consumers.
“Reporting by ACMA has shown the existing CSG Standard does not do enough to ensure service providers maintain or improve service quality, particularly in regional and remote areas,” the Minister said.
“These new measures will promote consistency and provide incentives for service providers to improve performance, especially in rural and remote areas,” he said.
12 August, 2011
Organ donations hit a record high last month with the Australia and New Zealand Organ Donation Registry (ANZOD) announcing that 33 deceased donors gave a second chance at life to 98 Australians in need of transplants.
grind out record
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King said it was an encouraging result but there was more work to be done to not only sustain but build on the increases achieved.
“This year to date we have achieved the highest organ donation rate of 201 donors and the highest transplant recipient outcome of 593 transplant recipients for the same period in any year since national records began,” Ms King said.
“Australians can be confident that the foundations for the new national system for organ and tissue donation are in place and measures are being embedded to ensure the best clinical system for identifying potential donors and supporting donor families in consenting to donation.”
She said at the end of July 2011 ANZOD showed there were 201 organ donors compared to 174 organ donors for the same period in 2010, a 16 per cent increase.
She said this year to date, the number of transplant recipients had also increased to 593 transplant recipients compared to 526 for the same period in 2010, a 13 per cent increase.
President of the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ), Professor Peter MacDonald welcomed the July 2011 figures.
“TSANZ is encouraged by the continuing increase in the national organ donation rate and the increased transplant activity that this makes possible,” Professor MacDonald said.
Chairman of Transplant Australia, Dr Alan Amodeo said more people than ever before were now receiving a transplant and the overall official waiting list had reduced from 1,875 on 3 January 2008 to 1,590 at 4 August 2011.
“Importantly we would like to recognise the benefits not only to these individuals but also to their families,” Dr Amodeo said.
“Behind every transplant recipient is a family hoping and praying that their loved one will receive the gift of life.”
More information about organ transplantation can be found at this PS News link.
12 August, 2011
Social inclusion to
A new fund to encourage, support and promote ‘social enterprises’ has been announced jointly by the Ministers for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis, and Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Senator Mark Arbib.
The Ministers said social enterprises were those that combined an innovative business model with a social or environmental mission.
They said the Government would provide seed funding to two investment organisations who would offer tailored financial products and loans to the social enterprises.
They said Social Enterprise Finance Australia (SEFA) and Foresters Community Finance would have a combined capitalisation of $32 million, delivered through the Social Enterprise Development and Investment Fund (SEDIF).
Ms Ellis said that SEFA and Foresters Community Finance would work to support social enterprises nationwide.
“We want to ensure that more social enterprises are able to access appropriate finance at the right time to achieve positive social impacts in their communities,” Ms Ellis said.
“SEDIF offers a way for community organisations, investors and governments in Australia to work together to pool resources and skills to deliver financial returns and an even greater social impact.”
Senator Arbib said SEFA brought together a unique range of partners including Community Sector Banking, the Macquarie Group Foundation, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, Australian Bush Heritage, the University of Sydney, and Triodos, one of the world’s leading social impact finance organisations.
He said another fund, the Aboriginal Community Enterprise Fund, would provide loans and financial advice to social enterprises delivering services in Indigenous communities or to organisations led by Indigenous Australians.
“Social enterprises play a vital role in creating sustainable training and employment opportunities in many Indigenous communities,” Senator Arbib said.
“This investment fund is a good example of the Australian Government’s commitment to supporting Indigenous Australians to get long term sustainable jobs, and to close the gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous Australians.”
More information about social enterprise funding was available at this PS News link.
12 August, 2011
Growing pains in
A report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies has found that children in jobless families find it harder to learn, socialise, deal with emotions and develop physically.
Entitled Growing Up in Australia: Longitudinal Study of Australian Children – Annual Statistical report 2010, the report shows that the longer parents are out of work, the poorer their children’s outcomes were likely to be.
Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin said the Institute had been studying the development of 10,000 children and their families across Australia since 2004, gathering insights into how a child’s social, economic and cultural environments contributed to their wellbeing.
“The evidence clearly shows us that where parents don’t work, children have poorer outcomes than children whose parents are employed,” Ms Macklin said.
“The study found that jobless parents mostly live in disadvantaged areas and on most indicators have higher odds of poor parenting.”
She said the findings were behind Government policies to help families with young children in disadvantaged communities build their parenting skills, gain an education and participate in work.
She said the AIFS report also looked at issues related to living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods over time as well as behavioural problems and competencies.
“Other areas covered include children’s language development, health experiences and a focus on the family educational environment, such as how often a child is read to and how much time is spent watching television,” the Minister said.
“This new research tells us how Australian children are faring so we can make sure that all children are healthy, happy and learning.”
Ms Macklin said early developmental outcomes were important indicators for outcomes in a child’s later childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
She said the full report could be accessed at this PS News link.
The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children is a partnership between the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA), the AIFS and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
12 August, 2011
Draft program guidelines for the Digital Hubs and Digital Enterprise programs have been released for public comment by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
to point the way
Senator Conroy said the draft guidelines provided information on the purpose and desired outcomes of the programs, as well as information about eligibility requirements and the application process.
“The guidelines will shape the way we deliver the Digital Hubs and Digital Enterprise programs,” Senator Conroy said.
“It is important that Australians have the opportunity to comment on these draft guidelines so we can ensure these programs meet the needs of the community.”
He said the programs supported the National Digital Economy Strategy’s goal that Australia be among the world’s leading digital economies by 2020.
Senator Conroy said the Digital Hubs program, part of the Digital Communities initiative, provided training and support to residents in local communities to gain the skills needed to maximise the benefits of the NBN.
He said the Digital Enterprise program provided funds to deliver training small-to-medium enterprises and not-for-profit organisations so they could better understand how to take advantage of the NBN and online opportunities more generally.
He said Digital Hubs and Digital Enterprise activities would be delivered to the 40 communities that first benefit from the NBN.
“After the guidelines are finalised, an initial call for applications to deliver activities for both programs is planned for later this year targeting the five mainland NBN first release sites and 3 stage one communities in Tasmania,” Senator Conroy said.
“Subsequent funding rounds will be held in line with the NBN roll out.”
He said eligibility criteria were provided in the draft guidelines and the period for comment would close on 19 August.
For more information on the hubs and programs or to view the draft guidelines, visit this PS News link and this PS News link.
12 August, 2011
And in Other News...
More agreements rejected
Members of the Community and Public Sector Union in the Department of Health and Ageing and the National Library are the latest to reject proposed enterprise agreements.
They join their colleagues in Defence, Customs, Immigration, Tax, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) who also returned a no vote.
CPSU members in DAFF and Defence have also voted to take protected industrial action.
Housing targets exceeded
Targets for improving Indigenous housing in remote communities have been exceeded.
In the 2010-2011 financial year 490 new houses and 2,288 refurbishments were completed, a higher number than the 463 new houses and 2,012 refurbishments planned for.
The work was delivered in partnership with State and the Northern Territory Governments under the $5.5 billion National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.
All jurisdictions are now commencing work ahead of schedule for the 2011-12 financial period.
Skills fund launched
A new fund to support industry sectors suffering from critical skill shortages has been launched.
The $558 million National Workforce Development Fund will provide 130,000 workers with the opportunity to learn new skills.
Industry will be able to bid to secure matched funding to train current or prospective workforce with applications to be received until 30 September 2011.
More information is available from this PS News link.
NSW adopts classification
The NSW Government has agreed to introduce an R18+ classification for computer games.
All Law Ministers from jurisdictions around Australia - except NSW – agreed last month to support in-principle adoption of the proposal.
The R18+ classification aims to provide better advice to parents and help prevent children and teenagers from accessing unsuitable material.
Army to lose vehicles
Up to 12,000 Army vehicles are to be disposed of.
Defence Materiel said the vehicles were non-combat vehicles such as Land Rovers, trailers, Unimogs, trucks and truck-mounted cranes.
The disposals will take place between 2011 and 2020 and vehicles would be replaced by new ones.
A number of vehicles would be reserved and offered to community and heritage organisations, including the Australian War Memorial, RSLs and other historical organizations. Organisations with an interest in the vehicles can register such an expression with the Defence Disposals Agency (02) 9393 2914.
Alliance contracting guide
New national guidelines for alliance contracting have been released.
The National Alliance Contracting Policy and Guidelines were developed by the Council of Australian Government’s Infrastructure Working Group and could cut up to 15 per cent off the cost of major projects by streamlining alliance processes across jurisdictions.
To guidelines can be accessed at this PS News link.
WA tax disappointment
The Western Australian Government has expressed its disappointment that the Minerals Resource Rent Tax and Carbon Tax are not on the agenda for the October Tax Forum.
State Treasurer, Christian Porter said the forum would have provided an ideal opportunity for the taxes to be evaluated in the context of broader tax reform.
Awards Tribunal decides
Recommendations from the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal that no change be made to the awards of the Australian Service Medal or Australian Active Service Medal to Defence Force personnel involved in peacekeeping operations have been accepted by the Government.
The Tribunal also recommended against establishing a new medal for peacekeeping service or to recognise the award of the 1988 Nobel Peace Prize to UN peacekeepers.
It also recommended no action be taken to award the Australian Service Medal to ADF personnel in the Commonwealth Monitoring Force in Rhodesia between December 1979 and March 1980.
Dust deters tourists
New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed the full impact of the Chilean volcano on the Australian tourism industry.
The ABS figures show visitor numbers to Australia fell by 3.8 per cent in June 2011 compared with the same month last year.
The data also shows arrivals from New Zealand were down 3.7 per cent, and Australian departures to New Zealand were down 17.7 per cent in June 2011, compared with June 2010.
Radio trial extended
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is to extend the digital radio trials in Canberra and Darwin until 31 July 2012.
ACMA usually limits trials to 12 months but determined that the strong likelihood of permanent digital radio services in the regional communities constituted ‘special circumstances’.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has announced it will now join the trial in Canberra.
Library displays magazine
The National Library of Australia has opened a new display narking the digitisation of the first 50 years of the Australian Women’s Weekly.
The first 50 years of magazine are also now available online through the National Library’s free discovery service this PS News link.
The digitisation project was assisted by the State Library of NSW.
Tax volunteers available
Volunteers trained and accredited by the Australian Taxation Office are now available to assist low income earners with their tax returns.
Tax Help is a free and confidential service available to people who earn around $50,000 or less per year - and who have straightforward tax affairs.
It is available by appointment only, until the end of October 2011 and can be accessed by phoning 13 28 61
Cyclist gets stamp of approval
A souvenir stamp sheet has been released by Australia Post to honour Cadel Evans’ historic win in the Tour de France.
This year Evans became the first Australian to win the race which covers 3,430km over three weeks. He was runner up in 2007 and 2008.
The stamp sheet features 10 x 60c Southern Cross stamps and will retail for $15.95.
9 August, 2011
New FOI guide
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) has published new guidance notes for Agencies processing requests for documents under Freedom of Information laws.
The guidance relates to applying Cabinet and other exemptions under the Act and the notes were developed in consultation with the Australian Information Commissioner, the Freedom of Information Commissioner and the Australian Government Solicitor.
According to PM&C, the new guidance notes were designed to provide practical assistance to Agencies on the use of exemptions under FOI laws, in particular those related to Cabinet and ‘deliberative’ documents.
The notes say the Act provides legally enforceable rights for people to obtain access to a document unless that document falls within one of the exemptions.
They list documents that could be exempt as those relating to Cabinet, national security, law enforcement, secrecy provisions, material obtained in confidence, trade secrets, Commonwealth-State relations, deliberative processes, Commonwealth financial/property interests, and certain operations of Agencies.
It says however there will always be some other documents, the disclosure of which would not be in the public interest, and which should properly be exempt under the FOI Act.
It says it is essential that Agencies consider carefully the application of exemptions to ensure the legitimate protection of Government documents consistent with the application of the Act.
“Given the importance of Cabinet confidentiality, FOI decision makers should make use of the Cabinet exemption whenever it is properly available,” the notes say.
“While the FOI Act promotes access to government information, it still allows for decision makers to recognise the importance of the Government having ‘thinking space’.
It advises Agencies to give adequate notice to their Minister’s office, and other portfolios if necessary, when they intend to release potentially sensitive documents.
In relation to ‘deliberative’ documents, the notes say any that are involved in the Government’s broader decision-making or deliberative processes are protected under FOI law.
The notes also acknowledge that resource issues can be a problem and recommend that Agencies seek an extension of time when necessary.
They also say it is important that if charges are applied for FoI access they should reflect the work involved, rather than be used as a tool to discourage applications.
It advises agencies to take care calculating the costs involved.
“Agencies routinely can underestimate the cost of requests, particularly those that are wide in scope or broad in terminology,” the notes say.
“Agencies should assess resource costs early.”
The Guidance Notes can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 August, 2011
Police open gates to
An agreement that would see local police involved in security at immigration detention centres is being developed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).
The Department is leading preparations for a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by police and emergency services around the country, following a series of workshops.
The matter was raised by the National Standing Council on Police and Emergency Management (SCPEM) after unrest at a number of detention centres.
NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Michael Gallacher, said the workshops reviewed existing incident management planning for each immigration detention facility owned by the Commonwealth and comprised representatives from DIAC, the Australian Federal Police, State and Territory Police and the contractor Serco.
“Following the riots at the Villawood Detention centre on 20 April 2011, it became clear these arrangements needed to be settled as a matter of urgency,” Mr Gallacher said.
“Law enforcement agencies have been concerned for some time about the lack of clarity regarding their powers, responsibilities and liabilities in relation to immigration detention centres across Australia.”
He said the Memorandum of Understanding was being developed to incorporate the new arrangements and was in response to issues raised during the workshops.
He said it would establish agency responsibility between DIAC, the direct service provider (currently Serco), AFP and the relevant State or Territory Police Force.
“DIAC will also chair a working group of representatives from each jurisdiction to examine whether there are any legislative impediments to the exercise of State and Territory police powers at immigration detention facilities,” Mr Gallacher said.
“The outcomes of the working group will be reported back to SCPEM out of session.”
9 August, 2011
Cold reception for
Plans by the Federal Opposition to disband the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency (DCCEE) have been met with criticism and rejection by the Department’s Minister, the Government and the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).
Announced on ABC television by Opposition Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, the move would cost over 1,000 PS jobs and was described as an unjustified attack on the Australian Public Service by the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet.
Mr Hockey revealed the Department’s future after criticising it for its role in developing the recent carbon price policy.
“This is the same Department of Climate Change that said there’d be a thousand companies that would pay the carbon tax, and then 24 hours later it’d be 500 companies,” Mr Hockey said.
“It’s the same Department of Climate Change that has been party to Treasury modelling where they’ve modelled the impact of their own carbon tax at $20 a tonne instead of $23 a tonne.”
When asked if the Opposition intended disbanding the Department, Mr Hockey said “Yep.”
He also defended the loss of Public Service jobs.
“We went to the last election promising to reduce the public service by 12,000 through natural attrition over two years,” he said.
“In the three and half years since Labor was elected, the Public Service in Canberra has grown by more than 20,000.”
Special Minister of State for the Public Service, Gary Gray rejected Mr Hockey’s claim saying the APS had grown by only 8,355 since 2007.
“At 30 December 2010, the Australian Public Service numbered 163,778,” Mr Gray said.
“There was 155,423 Australian Public Servants at 30 June 2007.”
Mr Combet said the Opposition’s itself was inconsistent.
“Under the policy the Coalition says it will conduct a tender-based grants scheme to award subsidies to polluters who promise to clean up their acts,” Mr Combet said.
“But with no Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, the Coalition would have no public servants to draw up grant guidelines, to administer the tender process, to negotiate grant agreements and contracts and to monitor whether the polluters were fulfilling their obligations.”
The criticism was joined by the National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood who said the Department had some of the most highly skilled and experienced people in their field and should not be used in the political debate about climate change.
“Whether you are going to tackle our growing carbon emission problem through direct action or a carbon tax, you’ll need qualified and experienced people in the public sector to make it happen,” Ms Flood said.
“Rather than fuelling the climate of threats and abuse, leaders on all sides of politics should acknowledge the hard work and professionalism of public sector researchers and policy-makers in this area.”
9 August, 2011
Archives on record
The National Archives of Australia is urging respondents to this week’s Census to tick the ‘yes’ box at item 60 to ensure their information is kept for future researchers in 99 years time.
for Census question
Acting Director-General of the Archives, Stephen Ellis said the Census offered Australians the opportunity to ensure their stories were preserved in the national history for generations to come.
Dr Ellis said when respondents ticked ‘Yes’ to Question 60 on their Census form, they allowed the National Archives to preserve their information on microfilm in a ‘time capsule’ for 99 years.
He said the information would then be made available in 2110 for family historians and researchers in the next century.
He said the option for Australians to have their information preserved by the National Archives was first introduced in the 2001 Census, when 52 per cent of respondents answered ‘Yes’, with the number growing to 56 per cent in the 2006 Census.
He said the Archives role wouldn’t end in 2110 when the records were released and that they would go on storing them indefinitely.
“The Census will be an invaluable public record for family historians and social researchers into the future, and I encourage all Australians to consider the value of saying “Yes” to Question 60,” Dr Ellis said.
“We are hoping that the percentage of respondents who say “Yes” to Question 60 will increase to more than 60 per cent in this Census.”
He assured people their records would be kept safe, with Census information held in high-security vaults across a variety of locations within the Archives.
Dr Ellis said the information could not be accessed by any other Government Agency, including police or taxation, until the 99-year closed period expired and the records became public.
9 August, 2011
A new report into Indigenous health has found significant improvements according to the Minister responsible, Warren Snowdon.
on the mend
Mr Snowdon said the report was the third biennial report from Australia’s State and Federal Ministers for Health against the Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework.
“The findings in the report show encouraging improvements in Indigenous health,” Mr Snowdon said.
“While this is good news, there is still a long way to go to close the gap between Indigenous health outcomes and those of the general population.”
He said the report highlighted areas where improvements still needed to be made, including chronic diseases and mortality rates which continued to grow for cancer and kidney disease.
He said it also showed no improvement in the instance of diseases such as diabetes.
Mr Snowdon said the series of reports was a valuable way to monitor progress in closing the gap in Indigenous health, and to track the factors that underpinned health outcomes.
“Further findings in the report show a 29 per cent decline in deaths due to circulatory disease - the leading cause of death for Indigenous Australians; and a 55 per cent decline in infant mortality rates, an increase in antenatal care, and greater immunisation coverage for children,” he said.
“Other improvements included a small but significant decrease in smoking rates, an increase in episodes of care by Indigenous primary healthcare services, and a narrowing of the gap for all-cause mortality and avoidable mortality.”
He said the report highlighted other factors that affected a person’s health such as education and employment; overcrowding in housing; contact with the criminal justice system; and the fact that almost half of all Indigenous Australians were in the bottom 20 per cent of equivalent household incomes.
Mr Snowdon said access to health care was also an important issue.
Copies of the report and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework are available at this PS News link.
9 August, 2011
A surge in suspicious looking tax returns has prompted the Australian Taxation Commissioner, Michael D’Ascenzo, to issue a warning to taxpayers not to try to defraud the ATO or overstate their refund claims.
He said taxpayers doing so this year were likely to be caught.
The Commissioner’s warning followed an increase in the number of “potentially suspicious” tax returns he said had already been detected by the ATO.
Mr D’Ascenzo said $150 million in possible suspect tax refunds had not been issued by the ATO with 40,000 suspect returns stopped and technology being used to crackdown on cheats.
“We are only a month into tax time and we have already noticed an increase of these type of claims compared to this time last year,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“So far we have stopped nearly 40,000 returns that we believe include potentially overstated or fraudulent refund claims, which have included claims for spouse offset, education tax refunds and refund of franking credits.”
He said part of the reason the number was up from last year was the increasing sophistication of ATO systems to detect the claims.
“This has potentially prevented around $150 million in total refunds being inappropriately issued,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
He encouraged taxpayers who were unsure of what to claim or who thought they had made a mistake to contact the ATO.
He said most people did the right thing with regard to their tax obligations but anyone thinking of deliberately doing the wrong thing should consider themselves warned.
He said the ATO would apply significant administrative penalties and may also prosecute taxpayers who attempted to defraud the revenue or superannuation systems by deliberately overstating their deductions or offsets.
The ATO could be contacted on 13 28 61.
9 August, 2011
Food health dialogue
A new website designed to encourage healthier foods and eating across the community has been launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King.
cooks up website
Showcasing the work of the joint public/private Food and Health Dialogue, the website focuses on food innovation, including a ‘reformulation program’ that aims to reduce fat, sugar, sodium and energy in consumer food products, and increase the fibre, wholegrain, fruit and vegetable content.
Ms King said the Dialogue had already achieved commitments from industry to reduce the sodium content of more than 100 bread products and more than 20 ready-to-eat breakfast cereals and the new website would keep consumers informed about its work.
“Information on monitoring activities and the next food sectors to be engaged under the Dialogue will also appear on the website,” Ms King said.
“Over time, details of related initiatives, including food reformulation activities being undertaken in the United Kingdom and the United States, will be added to the site.”
She said sodium reduction targets had already been agreed for simmer sauces, and sodium and saturated fat reduction targets for processed meats.
She said the website would also allow consumers to see which companies had signed up to the Dialogue and which were committed to improving the nutritional profile of their products.
The website described the Dialogue’s primary activity as “action on food innovation”. It said the reformulation program set targets at challenging levels to deliver “real benefits to Australian consumers.”
It also said the reformulation program would be supported where appropriate by activities aimed at reducing and standardising portion sizes.
The website is available at this PS News link.
9 August, 2011
Australia has ratified an international convention to help protect workers from asbestos-related health hazards.
The convention was signed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, at the end of last month.
Mr Rudd said the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 162 Concerning Safety in the Use of Asbestos required countries to implement national laws or regulations to protect workers against health hazards arising from occupational exposure to asbestos.
He said ratifying the Convention should encourage other countries in the Asia Pacific region to consider implementing international labour standards.
“Australia will be only the fourth ILO Member State from the Asia Pacific to ratify the Convention,” Mr Rudd said.
“Asia still accounts for over 60 per cent of the world’s imports of asbestos, and unfortunately, dangers to human health posed by the unsafe use of asbestos in the workplace are not yet well recognised in our region.”
Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans said the ratification confirmed Australia’s commitment to workplace health and safety.
“Australia will now have a world class regime that reflects best practice in protecting employers and employees from the harmful effects of asbestos,” Senator Evans said.
He said Australia had also ratified the Protocol to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention, 1981 and the Part Time Work Convention, 1994.
He said the Protocol required countries to place responsibilities on employers to record and notify the relevant authorities of occupational accidents and diseases and the Convention required that part-time employees received the same protection as full-time workers for occupational health and safety, discrimination in employment and the right to organise and bargain collectively.
“Ratifying these three instruments is a significant achievement that demonstrates the progress Australia has made and our commitment to international labour standards will,” Senator Evans said.
9 August, 2011
DIAC shows character
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has published a new Fact Sheet on the character test applying to non-citizens applying for visas to enter Australia.
in new Fact Sheet
Fact Sheet 79 - The Character Requirement says the test put the onus on the applicant to show that he or she was of good character and applied to visa applicants, visa holders, relevant non-citizen sponsors, and non-applicant family members.
It says it ensures they are of “acceptable character.”
“As well as being a tool to help assess the suitability of people to enter and stay in Australia... the test introduces discretionary powers to either refuse or cancel visas if the person does not pass the character test,” the Fact Sheet says.
It says a person would fail the character test if he or she had a substantial criminal record; had been convicted of any offence while in immigration detention; or had an association with an individual, group or organisation suspected of criminal conduct.
It says it would take into account a person’s past and present criminal conduct, and whether there was a significant risk that the person would engage in criminal conduct in Australia.
The Fact Sheet also clarifies when a person would be deemed to have “a substantial criminal record” and says they would not pass the character test if they received a conviction of any kind, regardless of whether a prison sentence was imposed while in an immigration detention or during an escape from such a centre.
The Fact Sheet says exercise of the discretionary powers would take into account, among other things, the protection of the Australian community; the length of time a person had been living lawfully in Australia; international law obligations; the person’s family ties in Australia; their age; health; and level of education.
It says a person whose visa was cancelled due to a criminal record would be permanently excluded from Australia, subject to their right to appeal.
The Fact Sheet can be accessed at this PS News link.
9 August, 2011
Businesses to drive
A discussion paper urging businesses to become more active promoting road safety has been issued by the National Transport Commission (NTC).
road safety push
A Corporate Approach to Road Safety Discussion Paper explores how the existing corporate commitment to workplace safety can contribute to achieving Australia’s national road safety strategy targets.
Chief Executive of the NTC, Nick Dimopoulos said with Governments committing to reduce death and serious injury on Australia’s roads by at least 30 per cent over the next decade it was time to consider the role of the corporate sector in road safety.
“We recognise that corporate investment in road safety has to be good for business,” Mr Dimopoulos said.
“We know of a number of businesses within Australia and internationally which have introduced road safety initiatives which are good for business and good for the community.”
He said the returns for such businesses were often realised in ways not considered before, including customer loyalty, a more skilled workforce, overall reduction in corporate risk, and enhanced brand recognition.
“We’re keen to work collaboratively with the corporate sector to develop a national program that supports and encourages corporations to exert their influence over the way that the road network is used to make life safer for all Australian road users,” he said.
“Businesses can identify and act on things entirely within their control that don’t require Governments to act first and don’t require regulatory change, but will improve road safety.”
Mr Dimopoulos said the discussion paper opened the conversation with corporate Australia about the best way to harness their influence to implement positive, sustainable actions on road safety with consultation to close on 30 September, 2011.
For more information visit the Corporate Approach to Road Safety discussion paper available at this PS News link.
9 August, 2011
Disability trusts to
Draft laws making it easier to contribute to special trust accounts to support people with a disability have been released for public comment.
be made stronger
The proposed legislation aims to remove income tax barriers for people contributing to a Special Disability Trust (SDT).
Releasing the exposure draft legislation and explanatory material, Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said the measures delivered on the Government’s commitment to help support people with severe disability, as well as their families and carers.
Mr Shorten said the amendments made SDTs more beneficial for families by providing a capital gains tax exemption (CGT) for assets transferred into an SDT for no consideration and extending the CGT main residence exemption to SDTs.
He said the changes also provided a CGT exemption for the recipient of the principal beneficiary’s main residence (provided their ownership interest ended within two years of the principal beneficiary’s death), and ensured equivalent taxation treatment amongst SDTs established under different Acts.
“These changes will apply from the 2006-07 income year, to align with when SDTs were first able to be established,” Mr Shorten said.
“The Government remains committed to a strong process of consultation on tax measures and is conducting a two-week consultation period on this legislation to ensure it is introduced into Parliament as soon as possible.”
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas, said SDT’s were another tool for carers and families of people with a disability to assist in future planning to support their loved one.
Copies of the consultation materials are available from this PS News link. and the consultation period closes on 12 August 2011.
9 August, 2011
The Australian Human Rights Commission has launched its 2011 photo competition on the theme “the right to education.”
in the frame
President of the Commission, Catherine Branson said this year’s theme was important, both in Australia and universally.
“Everyone in Australia has a right to education, regardless of who they are or where they live,” Ms Branson said.
“The right to education is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as being essential for fully developing one’s personality and for promoting understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups.”
She said the competition was divided into two categories – one for under-18 year olds and another for those over 18.
“Education is so close to the heart of so many young people that we’re particularly keen to see some creative and innovative entries in the under-18 category,” she said.
“We’re looking for great photos about the broad theme of education- maybe it will be you and your classmates, or maybe an exciting event your school or local library held or anything about education – from Kindergarten to life-long learning.”
Ms Branson said a winner from each category would be chosen each month to receive an Apple iPod shuffle with the overall winners of both categories set to receive a $500 Apple voucher to be presented at the Commission’s Human Rights Awards in Sydney on 9 December.
She said a selection of the best photos would also be showcased on the Commission’s website and Flickr page.
For details on the competition guidelines and how to submit a photo visit this PS News link.
9 August, 2011
ACMA film develops
The Australian Communications and Media Authority’s cybersmart program has released a short film for teenagers showing the dangers of cyberbullying, sexting and filming fights.
Entitled Tagged, the film is a drama that explores the dangers of communication technology and the importance of personal responsibility.
Deputy Chairman of ACMA, Richard Bean said such themes were crucial to maintaining positive online behaviour and experiences while growing into adulthood.
Mr Bean said the film featured a teenage cast and would be aimed at an audience 14 years old and over when it is premiered online on 23 September.
He said Tagged encouraged students to discuss the ethics of online life including the impact of cyberbullying on others; digital reputation management; and how online interactions may have real-life consequences.
He said the film would be complemented by flexible lesson plans, activities and character interviews which promoted adopting positive online behaviour.
“Sometimes teenagers who film intimate behaviour, a fight, tag a private photograph, or make offensive comments and publish this material online do so in the heat of the moment and act without being fully aware of the consequences,” Mr Bean said.
“Tagged is a frank, realistic drama that will help teenagers understand how their online actions can all too easily have real life consequences, and then make the right decisions before posting material online.”
More information on the Cybersmart program and the film’s trailer are available at this PS News link.
5 August, 2011
The Commission of Inquiry into the Queensland floods has handed down its interim recommendations, including six relating to the responsibilities of the Commonwealth.
in Qld flood inquiry
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland welcomed the Inquiry’s report saying the recommendations affecting the Federal Government would be considered and a response prepared in due course.
Overall, the report made 175 recommendations, 104 of which applied to the Queensland State Government and 65 to Local Governments.
The recommendations impacting on the Commonwealth included that the National Emergency Management Committee consider a national public education campaign about the dangers of driving into floodwaters; that the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) make clear the areas covered by its warnings; and that it publish any predictions of flash flooding on its website and alert the Local Councils concerned.
The report also recommended the Bureau consider re-publishing warnings on its website; develop working relationships with all Councils; expand its volunteer rainfall and river height networks; and consider identifying amateur weather-watch groups.
Head of the Services Division at BOM, Ray Canterford, said the Bureau welcomed the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations.
“We will assess the implications for the Bureau as quickly as possible to determine how best to respond before the coming summer’s severe weather season,” Dr Canterford said.
“The Bureau is working with other Australian Government Departments and Agencies to respond to the Commission’s report.”
Mr McClelland said the flood disaster was “catastrophic on every level” especially due to its cost in lost lives.
“It brought enormous devastation to so many communities and wreaked damage that will cost billions of dollars and take years to rebuild.”
He said it was sensible to release the interim report now and to focus on flood preparedness as that would help agencies prepare for the summer flood season.
“Natural disasters are an inevitable part of Australia’s landscape,” Mr McClelland said.
“As successive governments have done in the past, it’s critical we continue to learn from the experiences of dealing with disasters so we are better prepared for the future.”
The interim report from the Commission of inquiry can be accessed at this PS News link.
5 August, 2011
ABC job cuts don’t
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is to drop a number of underperforming television programs, outsource the production of others and cut jobs.
rate with union
The plans were confirmed by the Head of ABC television, Kim Dalton on ABC radio and were condemned by staff unions.
Mr Dalton said among the confirmed cuts were the programs The New Inventors and Art Nation, but the number of job losses was unknown.
He said the broadcaster was proud of the success of The New Inventors, but its viewership had fallen by about 50 per cent after eight-years and Sunday afternoon’s Art Nation was down 30 per cent.
“This is an adjustment to do with responding to some programs’ audiences not being as interested, and it’s time to commission new programs,” Mr Dalton said.
“We are under increasing ongoing financial pressure and we have to make sure the resources we’ve got... we use as efficiently and as effectively as possible.”
He would not comment on reports that around 15 staff, including presenters, producers and other technical staff from Sydney, Adelaide and Perth would be made redundant but the Community and Public Service Sector Union (CPSU) described the cuts as “cultural vandalism”.
The union’s Graeme Thomson said the cuts raised questions about whether the ABC was in breach of its charter.
“Taxpayers have the right to be outraged by the dismantling of their ABC,” Mr Thompson said.
“ABC TV has been reduced to a mere transmission tower broadcasting the same material from the same production houses used by commercial channels.”
He said the cuts threatened the ABC’s distinctiveness, rationale and ultimately, it’s funding.
“What angers ABC staff is that they have been set up for failure,” he said.
“The internal programs have been starved of funds and promotion budgets, while external productions have had funds lavished on them and have been heavily marketed by the ABC.”
5 August, 2011
Changes lobbed onto
Changes have been announced to the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists and their official Register.
Special Minister of State for the Public Service and Integrity, Gary Gray announced the changes saying they took effect from 1 August.
Mr Gray said the changes were informed by responses to a discussion paper released in July last year.
“After reflecting on the matters raised in the course of the review, the Government is satisfied that the Code and Register as they currently stand operate effectively, with appropriate coverage and reach,” Mr Gray said.
He said the review identified two areas in which the operation of the Code and Register could be improved.
“First, to enhance openness and transparency, the Government will require lobbyists to disclose on the Register the details of any former government representatives employed by their firm as lobbyists.
“Second, measures will be introduced to streamline the regulatory and administrative arrangements for registration.”
Mr Gray said those measures would be to allow signed statutory declarations submitted for registration purposes to be accepted in electronic or faxed form and for
regular updates of information to be required twice yearly instead of quarterly.
“These changes strengthen the operation of the Commonwealth register and provide further transparency in the lobbying sector as well as aligning with administrative arrangements already applied by most state registers of lobbyists,” he said.
“All registered lobbyists will continue to be required to provide updated statutory declarations once per year, and they will remain obliged to update entries within 10 business days if there is any change to their details, including to their lists of clients.”
5 August, 2011
Food agency has
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has marked its 20th anniversary with a special event at Old Parliament House in Canberra.
taste of success
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King opened the seminar Watching over our food—past, present, future; and congratulated FSANZ on its achievements over two decades.
“Australia and New Zealand have a well-deserved reputation for safe and high quality food supplies,” Ms King said.
“Food is vital to the economies of both countries, generating about $24 billion in export earnings for Australia and representing half of all New Zealand’s merchandise exports by value.”
She said FSANZ was established as the National Food Authority on 19 August 1991 following a number of overseas food scares, including BSE and Mad Cow Disease.
She said at that time, food standards were inconsistent and varied from State to State with the establishment of a single food regulator aiming to ensure standards were national and uniform.
“Fifteen years ago, in 1996, we signed a treaty with New Zealand and the Australia New Zealand Food Authority was formed to develop food standards for both countries, becoming the first bi-national government agency,” Ms King said.
She said major achievements during the 20 years in food regulation included uniform national food standards; the benefits of a single market with New Zealand; the development of primary production and processing standards in Australia; and the addressing of major public health issues such as the fortification of bread with folic acid and iodine.
“In addition, FSANZ also coordinates work on international food emergencies and food recalls,” she said.
“There is plenty to do in the future too, including finalising the whole-of-government response to the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy which is due to be considered in December this year.”
5 August, 2011
High hopes for air
Air travellers from New Zealand to Australia will be able to complete part of their Australian arrivals requirements in New Zealand under a trial arrangement announced by the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor.
Following a meeting with the New Zealand Minister for Customs, Mr O’Connor said the two nations’ SmartGate systems were to be integrated for travel between Auckland and the Gold Coast.
Mr O’Connor said the trial would run until July 2012 and be available to Australian and New Zealand ePassport holders, aged 18 and over.
He said for the first time eligible travellers would be able to bypass the SmartGate kiosk at the Gold Coast and go straight to the gate if they used SmartGate when departing from Auckland International Airport.
New Zealand’s Minister for Customs, Maurice Williamson said the SmartGate trans-Tasman trial was another example of “the great working relationship” between the New Zealand Customs Service and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
“The New Zealand and Australian governments share the view that travelling across the ditch should be as much like a domestic experience as possible,” Mr Williamson said.
“I encourage all eligible travellers to take advantage of the new SmartGate integrated solution when flying between New Zealand and the Gold Coast.”
Mr O’Connor said the trial was a great new way to streamline passenger processing.
“The SmartGate trans-Tasman trial aims to make it easier and more efficient for travellers to self-process at passport control,” he said.
“SmartGate will also help to reduce queuing by creating a more seamless border processing experience.”
He said given the success of SmartGate, both Australia and New Zealand had planned expansions of the program at several of their international airports.
5 August, 2011
A new national strategy for catering to the needs of carers has been announced.
The Government’s National Carer Strategy will provide Australia’s 2.6 million carers with $60 million in new funding over the next four years.
Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin launched the Strategy along with Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas.
Ms Macklin said new funding under the Strategy included provisions to extend automatic eligibility for the Carer Allowance for carers of children with Type 1 Diabetes; continue the Carer Adjustment Payment following a catastrophic event involving a child; and improve access to the Carer Supplement for carers to help them maintain paid employment.
She said fairer access to Bereavement Payments and a national and targeted campaign to raise awareness of the role of carers were also be among the priorities of the Strategy.
“The National Carer Strategy will help to ensure carers have the same rights, choices and opportunities as other Australians,” Ms Macklin said.
“It also aims to help build a society which genuinely values and respects carers.”
She said the Strategy set out how Governments, business, health and community professionals and the wider community would work cooperatively together to achieve such a vision.
She said it was supported by the Australian Government and all State and Territory Governments.
The launch came after a Productivity Commission report into a long-term disability care and support scheme, a report which Ms Macklin said would be considered carefully.
More information about the National Carer Strategy was available from this PS News link.
5 August, 2011
Tourism Australia has won an award from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) for its online advertising campaign Making Tracks.
to open doors
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said the campaign received the overall Best of Show award and won the Best Social Media Marketing category at the IAB Awards.
Mr Ferguson said in addition to that success, the Making Tracks campaign had also been selected to be included in Google’s 2011 Creative Canvas, which showcased a collection of some of the best and most innovative advertising campaigns brought to life using Google’s products.
“Tourism Australia’s innovative use of social media as part of the Making Tracks campaign has successfully shown the world why there’s nothing like Australia,” Mr Ferguson said.
“We know that marketing Australia to the world means harnessing the power of the internet and the creative collaboration with YouTube enabled Tourism Australia to reach new markets by focusing on music and the arts.”
He said Making Tracks involved videos of journeys across Australia and musical compositions by members of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra and contemporary Australian musicians broadcast as a series on YouTube and via Tourism Australia’s digital and social media channels.
“The campaign ran in the lead up to the YouTube Symphony Orchestra which took place at the Sydney Opera House in March and was successful in showcasing many of Australia’s most iconic visitor attractions to an international online audience of tens of millions,” Mr Ferguson said.
“The four Making Tracks online videos generated a total of more than 2.7 million views.”
He said Tourism Australia engaged a creative agency and production company to help deliver the campaign, alongside its own marketing team. Making Tracks would now be entered into the IAB MIXX Awards in the US.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is the professional association for the online advertising media. PS News is a member.
5 August, 2011
New AFP kennels
The first of nine new dog kennel facilities to be built for the Australian Federal Police has been officially opened in the northern NSW town of Murwillumbah.
go to the dogs
The facility, built under the auspices of ‘Project Jupiter’, is part of a $200 million funding program to strengthen security at Australian airports over four years.
The program is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.
National Manager for Aviation with the AFP, Assistant Commissioner Shane Connelly said the Firearm and Explosive Detection (FED) dogs housed at Murwillumbah would service the Gold Coast airport, supporting additional aviation security measures including checking facilities, aircraft, baggage and freight.
“This new facility will provide a new home and vital training for our canine team and enable the AFP to continue to provide first-rate security at Gold Coast airport,” Assistant Commissioner Connelly said.
“This opening is the first in a series of new facilities that will continue to ensure the AFP is unwavering in its provision of security and safety for passengers and visitors to Australia’s major airports.”
He said the new facility featured 10 overnight kennels; two isolation kennels for sick dogs or those needing to be separated from the other animals; six day runs; a vet treatment room; and an agility yard.
He said at present there were 46 FED and 10 Currency and Drug dog teams operating in 10 of Australia’s 11 major airports.
Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O’Connor said the dogs were a highly specialised key resource for the AFP in the provision of airport security.
“Our current aviation security is among the best in the world and this new facility will further enhance our capabilities in this area,” Mr O’Connor said.
5 August, 2011
Indian exchanges to
A number of new initiatives to strengthen education links between Australia and India have been announced by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans.
He said among the measures were new exchange programs for academics and college principals.
“There are currently more than 300 collaborations between Australian and Indian universities, business and industry which involve the sharing of knowledge and expertise,” Senator Evans said.
“The Government wants to see these collaborations expand.”
He said new initiatives included an Australia India Higher Education Exchange program; the Australia-India University Shadowing Pilot 2012; an Energy and Resources Institute–Deakin University Scholarship Program and a new program to showcase Australia’s universities to the heads of Indian university colleges.
Senator Evans said the Australia-India College Principals’ Program 2011-12, funded by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) and the Australia India Council and administered by Asialink, would allow heads of leading colleges to visit Australia and see first-hand the state-of-the-art facilities Australian universities had to offer.
He said the first group of college principals to travel to Australia in 2012 had already been announced.
“It will also be a good opportunity for the principals to see the support available to students and gain an understanding of international student life in Australia,” Senator Evans said.
He said the University of Delhi had strong ties to several Australian universities through the international Universitas 21 network of research-intensive universities and had entered an agreement with the Australia India Institute to support a study tour of 15 undergraduate students to Australia for up to three weeks in October this year.
“Australia has a long history of cooperation in education and training with India, and these new programs will help strengthen the bilateral relationship further,” the Minister said.
5 August, 2011
And in Other News...
DAFF staff down tools
Staff at the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) have begun industrial action over stalled enterprise agreement negotiations.
Members of the Community and Public Sector Union in DAFF walked off the job at around 40 sites across Australia on Thursday (4 August) to discuss the lack of progress with their bargaining claim.
The workers are expected to escalate their action in coming weeks to include longer stoppages and work bans.
In a separate action the union delivered around 17,000 postcards to the Australian Public Service Commission this week calling for more meaningful negotiations.
NBN goes wireless
The National Broadband Network is to extend its reach into communities in five States and Territories using a wireless service.
Ballarat in Victoria; Darwin in the Northern Territory; Geraldton, Western Australia; Tamworth, New South Wales; and Toowoomba in Queensland will be connected offering peak download speeds of 12 Mbps per second.
Changes to legal system
Changes to Australia’s legal system have come into force with litigants to matters in the Federal Court of Australia and Federal Magistrates Court now required to file statements setting out the genuine steps they have taken to resolve their disputes and, if they hadn’t taken any, to explain why.
According to the Attorney-General, the changes aim to increase access to justice for the community by encouraging realistic – and less costly - alternatives to litigation.
Holding no more
Tributes have been paid to former Federal Minister Clyde Holding, who died this week aged 80.
At various times between 1977 and 1998 Mr Holding was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Transport and Communications, Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs, Minister Assisting the Treasurer, Minister Assisting Prime Minister on Multicultural Affairs and Minister for the Arts and Territories.
A second mainland site has been connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Kiama Downs/ Minnamurra in New South Wales have become the second site on the Australian mainland to switch on the NBN enabling trial users to receive a connection.
80 per cent of residents in Kiama have signed up for a free connection to the network and will now be able to experience speeds of up to 100Mbps, with potential speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second expected to be available late next year.
Armidale (NSW) was the first release site connected to the NBN in May this year and other sites of Brunswick (VIC), Willunga (SA) and Townsville (QLD) will begin offering services progressively over the coming months.
Pay offer increased
The ACT Government has boosted its pay offer to Territory Public Servants, in a bid to resolve an ongoing dispute.
A rise of 3.5 per cent per year over two years is now being offered, up from the government’s last offer of 3 per cent.
It is the second time the Government has raised its offer, which began at 2.5 per cent per year but this time Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said it was the best and final offer.
Vince McDevitt from the Community and Public Sector Union said the latest offer was positive and members were considering it.
Airservices Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) personnel numbers have been given a boost following the graduation of 18 new recruits at Melbourne Airport.
Graduates completed a 10-week training course at Airservices Learning Academy with training including theoretical and practical education in fighting aircraft and structural fires; aviation rescue techniques; and dealing with the hazards of highly flammable aviation fuels.
The ARFF service operates the largest fire fighting vehicles in Australia and on average respond to 150 emergency calls each week at Australia’s 21 busiest regional, domestic and international airports.
Training more popular
New research by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has revealed more Australians than ever are taking up the opportunity to undertake an apprenticeship and gain the skills they need to get a job.
The NCVER report found the number of apprentice and trainee commencements increased overall by 15.7 per cent to 314 000 for the 12 months to 31 December 2010 with trade commencements increasing by 21.9 per cent and non-trades commencements up by 13.1.
It also showed the number of apprentices and trainees in-training at the end of 2010 was 440 700, an increase of 6.3 per cent from the previous year.
NCVER’s Australian Vocational Education & Training Statistics: Apprentices and Trainees 2010 annual report is available at this PS News link.
2 August, 2011
A plan for some Commonwealth, State and Territory Public Service superannuation schemes to be managed centrally has been proposed by the Minister for Public Sector Superannuation, Senator Nick Sherry.
has defined benefits
Speaking at the Government Superannuation Funds Conference in Perth, Senator Sherry outlined the benefits of a ‘partnership’ between the administrators of closed PS schemes, particularly those offering ‘defined benefits’.
He said there were still 33 defined benefit schemes operating in Australia, mostly in the public sector, with a small number still open to new members.
He said the Commonwealth alone administered 11 of the schemes covering 600,000 members but that the membership base was falling, the calculation of entitlements complex and the focus of administration had shifted to paying pensions.
He said in 1982-83 around 82 per cent of the members of PS super funds were in defined benefit schemes but by 2008 the number had fallen to two per cent.
“Looking forward [the schemes] will generate considerable challenges,” Senator Sherry said.
“Economies could be achieved across jurisdictions.”
He said the core problem was that fund managers needed to maintain effective administration of closed schemes while cash flow and membership declined.
“I believe you should consider the fundamental issue of better cooperation across jurisdictions to meet these challenges,” Senator Sherry told the fund managers.
“In the mature superannuation market we have today, is superannuation administration a core business of any government?”
He said there were a number of common factors in the old style schemes that made them difficult to administer.
“Calculating a member’s benefit in a defined benefit scheme involves a much more complex process than in a defined contribution scheme.”
He said the data and systems used to manage the schemes were sometimes ‘decades old’; there was a diminishing number of ‘subject matter experts’ who understood the intricacies of the schemes; and importantly, they were closed.
“There is a risk if we don’t start talking to each other soon that opportunities to work together to create critical mass and to reduce costs will be lost, as each jurisdiction looks to identify its own solutions,” Senator Sherry said.
“It is likely to become increasingly difficult to attract and retain capable people with aspirations of a long-term career in superannuation administration, particularly defined benefit administration.”
He said there could be opportunities for administrators to work together “given similarities in scheme designs, member demographics and challenges faced.”
The full text of the Minister’s speech can be accessed at this PS News link.
2 August, 2011
Ombudsman opens gates
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is to investigate suicides and incidents of self-harm in Australian immigration detention facilities.
on detention centres
The Ombudsman, Allan Asher, has initiated the investigation himself following a visit to detention facilities on Christmas Island and reports from his staff who visited others.
“It is my job as Ombudsman to oversight and guide good administrative policy,” Mr Asher said.
“I suggest the time is right for the Government and the agencies managing its detention programs to re-focus on administering humane and risk-based detention practices.”
He said he was “alarmed” that in the week he visited Christmas Island more than 30 incidents of self-harm by detainees there were reported.
“Too many detainees are waiting too long for bureaucrats to process and review their paperwork,” he said.
“And changing policy or direction on any border control issue is fraught with political risk.”
He said administrative challenges did not justify “elasticity” in interpreting or applying the detention values to which the Government was committed.
“It is my responsibility to speak up if that happens.”
Mr Asher said more than 1,100 incidents of threatened or actual self-harm across all places of detention were reported in 2010-11 with 54 reported during the first week of July this year alone.
“There is clearly something fundamentally wrong,” he said.
“We urgently need an evidence-based assessment of the extent and causes of these tragedies in detention facilities relative to the general population, and guidelines and protocols for preventing and managing them.”
He said he hoped to be able to release the findings of his investigation by the end of the year but in the interim it was incumbent upon the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to ensure detainees are offered appropriately structured communal activities to give them “a reason to get up in the morning, reduce their sense of isolation and maintain contact with reality”.
2 August, 2011
A new national strategy to prevent bushfire arson has been agreed between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the National Strategy for the Prevention of Bushfire Arson was agreed upon by Ministers for Emergency Management and Police from all Australian jurisdictions and New Zealand.
“Arson is a major threat to the Australian community, with up to half the estimated 54,000 bushfires each year deliberately lit or started in suspicious circumstances,” Mr McClelland said.
“The strategy will help ensure a national, collaborative approach to combating the potentially deadly crime of bushfire arson.”
He said the new national strategy outlined four key principles – a national approach, information sharing, collaboration and consistency and interoperability.
He said it would include a new public website or portal to provide ready access to community information on arson; the creation of an intranet platform to provide investigators with a secure environment to exchange information; the provision of advice on best practice arson prevention strategies; and support for a Wildfire Arson Investigation Management Course.
Mr McClelland said the strategy was the first part of the National Work Plan to reduce bushfire arson in Australia.
“Arson, in all its forms, is estimated to cost the Australian community approximately $1.6 billion per year,” the attorney-General said.
“However, it is the human toll that is most devastating.”
He said bushfires were one of the leading causes of death from disaster and had accounted for more people injured than all other natural disasters combined.
“The community plays a key role in detecting suspicious behaviour of arsonists and working with police to keep the community safe,” he said.
“The national strategy will help raise awareness of arsonists in the community.”
Mr McClelland said Government and emergency authorities could not fight arson on their own and the help of the community needed to be enlisted.
“The Australian Government has held National Bushfire Arson Forums each year since 2009 to ensure all Governments can work together to fight arson,” he said.
2 August, 2011
Draft carbon laws
The draft laws promoting a clean energy future for Australia have been released for public comment.
in black and white
The Australian community, stakeholders and legal experts are all being encouraged to offer feedback on the details of the Clean Energy Legislative Package.
Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet and Treasurer Wayne Swan jointly released drafts of the key bills in the package saying it would give businesses and investors certainty about the carbon price, allowing them to plan their investments in renewable and clean energy technologies.
Mr Combet said the package included four main bills - the Clean Energy Bill 2011 (which sets up the carbon price mechanism); the Clean Energy Regulator Bill 2011 (which establishes a regulatory body to administer the mechanism); the Climate Change Authority Bill 2011 (which establishes a new Authority to advise the government on the future design of the carbon price mechanism); and the Clean Energy (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2011.
He said the package also included details of the Government’s Jobs and Competiveness Program, which would assist emissions-intensive and trade-exposed industries.
“It also includes details of the Energy Security Fund, which will assist electricity generators to ensure energy security,” he said.
Mr Combet said a further Bill on the household assistance measures already announced was currently being drafted.
“This legislation will be part of the whole package that will be introduced into Parliament later this year and will deliver the Government’s commitments to households in full,” he said.
“The Government will provide tax cuts, increases in family payments and higher pensions and other benefits to assist households with the modest cost impacts of a carbon price.”
Submissions on the Clean Energy Legislative Package can be sent to the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency until Monday, 22 August 2011.
2 August, 2011
A new National Emergency Smartphone Application is to be developed to improve access to disaster information and help reduce calls to the Triple Zero (000) emergency phone line during natural disasters.
to save the day
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said Ministers for Emergency Management from the Commonwealth, States, Territories and New Zealand, agreed to continue to work together to improve Triple Zero’s surge capacity.
Mr McClelland said Ministers considered a report tabled by the Commonwealth that made a number of recommendations to improve Triple Zero’s capabilities including a national adoption and promotion of a single State Emergency Service number and a single Police Assistance line number; the development of an alternative emergency number for reporting bushfires; and improving the www.triplezero.gov.au website to reduce unnecessary calls to 000.
He said the report also recommended that public awareness of when it was appropriate to call 000 be improved as well as call handling practices at call centres in the States and Territories.
He said in times of disaster, the volume of calls to Triple Zero increased by an enormous amount.
“Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments already undertake a significant amount of work to reduce the number of non-urgent calls to Triple Zero,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Government will continue to work with the States and Territories to improve information channels during times of natural disaster so people aren’t unnecessarily calling 000.”
He said the new app would provide real-time information about disasters directly to people’s phones.
“The use of GPS technology through this app could allow location-specific information to be fed to users,” he said.
“It’s important the community knows where to find information during a disaster to take the pressure off Triple Zero, so that those who need urgent fire, ambulance or police assistance are not held up.”
Mr McClelland said Triple Zero received 8.9 million calls from across Australia in 2010.
He said the disaster season coincided with a peak time for Triple Zero calls over the Christmas break, with operators taking up to 50,000 calls above the monthly average last December and January.
2 August, 2011
Discussion paper to
A discussion paper on priorities and directions for tax reform has been released as part of preparations for a Tax Forum on 4-5 October.
tackle tax reform
According to Treasurer, Wayne Swan, the Tax Forum has the aim of enhancing a series of new, major reforms to build a stronger, fairer and simpler tax system.
Mr Swan said the Forum would also help identify further reforms to make the most of the opportunities and challenges ahead for Australia, such as the shift in global economic weight from West to East, the ageing of the population, and the transition to a clean-energy future.
He said it would also help to identify further reforms to build on the priorities of making the economy stronger and making the tax system fairer and simpler.
He said the discussion paper outlined a range of ideas raised in the “Australia’s Future Tax System Review” and which were likely to be discussed at the Tax Forum.
Mr Swan said the paper included a section on each of the six sessions to be held at the forum - personal tax; transfer payments; business tax; State taxes; environmental and social taxes; and tax system governance.
He said the initial invitation list for the forum would also be released setting out the participants and observers who had been selected and explaining how others would be chosen.
He said individuals who would like to apply for selection as a participant or an observer should apply online by Friday 12 August.
The discussion paper, initial invitation list and online expression of interest form are available at this PS News link.
2 August, 2011
A new coin is to be minted to mark the 100th anniversary of the national Census.
comes to its Census
Launching the new collectable one-dollar coin, Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said that from the beginning, the Census had been an important compass assisting Governments map the nation and navigate Australia’s future.
“This coin allows the tens of thousands of people who have worked on the Census to have a memento of their working to shaping the nation’s future,” Mr Shorten said.
“As both the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Royal Australian Mint (the Mint) fall within my portfolio responsibilities as Assistant Treasurer, it’s good to see these great Australian institutions working together to commemorate an event of such national significance.”
He said the coin design was developed by the Mint and ABS designers and featured a bar graph of horizontally stacked different faces to represent the individuals who made up population figures collected by the Census.
He said the 2011 Census logo, which is the shape of Australia in a stylised ribbon form, was also featured, along with a long standing ABS employee and his wife on the coin packaging.
Census night is on 9 August 2011 and for more information regarding the 2011 Census visit this PS News link or contact the Census Inquiry Service on 1300 338 776.
More information about the 100 Years of Census 2011 $1 uncirculated coin is available from this PS News link or by contacting the Royal Australian Mint Call Centre on 1300 652 020.
2 August, 2011
‘Shadow’ Board shines
A new “Shadow RBA Board” has been set up by a group of economists to determine what the real Reserve Bank Board should do when faced with a given set of circumstances.
light on RBA
Created as a short-term research project by the Australian National University to look at interest rate setting by monetary policymakers, the Shadow RBA Board will meet from August to October, coming together on the Thursday before the Reserve Bank meets and forecasting what it believes should be the official position.
Director of the Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis at ANU, Professor Shaun Vahey said the project aimed to study the collective views of shadow board members and take into account each one’s uncertainty about which way to move interest rates.
“The (shadow) board members are not forecasting actual RBA board behaviour, but are considering what they believe is the appropriate rate,” Professor Vahey said.
“This is an exciting project as many economies operate with a shadow board.”
He said board members were asked to rank their preferred target interest rate, and to give the probability that each interest rate was appropriate.
“Each economist gave a percentage value for how much they preferred each interest rate using an electronic voting system,” he said.
“For example, I ranked a five per cent interest rate as my first preference at 50 per cent, 4.75 per cent was ranked second at 35 per cent, 4.5 at 15 per cent, 5.25 at 5 per cent and all other options were at zero.
Professor Vahey said the board members were not forecasting what the actual RBA Board would do but were considering what they believed was the appropriate rate.
He said the overall opinion pool currently revealed that the present interest rate of 4.75 per cent was the most preferred at roughly 60 per cent.
He said by collecting the shadow board members’ collective preferences and calculating the likely outcome, the result could be transparent and accountable.
“This might prove to be a more transparent method of communicating monetary policy setting by incorporating explicitly the diversity of opinions within the shadow board,” he said.
More information about the shadow Reserve Bank Board can be obtained from this PS News link.
2 August, 2011
Voters vote to
A survey by the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) in Canberra has revealed that many Australians would sell their democratic votes or choose not to exercise it all if given the choice.
sell their votes
The study was conducted to find out the importance democracy plays in the everyday life of Australians.
It found one in five Australians would not vote if they didn’t have to and one in 10 would sell their vote if they could.
It also found 20 per cent of Australians admitted to having cast a donkey vote or refusing to vote at an election with most saying it was because they didn’t like any of the candidates at the time.
Acting Deputy Director at MoAD, Michael Richards said the survey showed democracy was something that Australians valued but didn’t necessarily understand how it impacted on them.
“A number of Australians struggle to understand how, outside of elections, they can contribute to democracy as part of their day to day lives,” Mr Richards said.
He said while the majority of Australians valued living in a democracy, nearly two-thirds had difficulty acting on issues they were passionate about.
He said a further 10 per cent thought there was nothing left to stand up for or that there were plenty of groups that would stand up for them.
The survey found however that while many agreed it was important to stand up for the rights of others, nearly two out of three said people should advocate for the rights of people living in non-democratic societies.
Mr Richards said MoAD was to hold a Have Your Say Day on Wednesday 10 August to encourage all Australians to have their say and participate in democracy.
“A number of Australians complain that they don’t have time to think about, or participate in democracy,” he said.
“We are encouraging everyone to use this day as a central point to talk about the issues that matter most in their lives.”
For more information about the survey, MoAD or the Have Your Say Day, visit this PS News link.
2 August, 2011
Power with people
Homeowners in Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne keen to save money on their energy bills have been invited to join a new project by the CSIRO, measuring the amount of energy used to keep homes warm or cool across the seasons.
in energy study
Senior scientist with CSIRO’s Energy Transformed Flagship, Peter Osman said the organisation was looking at how energy costs varied for different homes in different climates.
“By understanding energy use over the year, throughout different seasons, we’ll gain an accurate picture of how the energy efficiency of houses could be improved,” Dr Osman said.
“Taking part in the study has two fantastic benefits - firstly, by understanding how energy is used we have no doubt that energy bills could be reduced; secondly, we could help improve household comfort levels by suggesting the most cost effective ways to prevent energy loss.”
He said those who took part in the study would have a unique opportunity to understand better how their homes used energy by each receiving a detailed report at the end of the survey.
He said some participating households would also be provided with an online monitoring device worth $1,500 so the family could see where and how they were using electricity.
“Taking part is easy,” Dr Osman said.
“If your house is less than 10 years old and you live in Adelaide, Brisbane or Melbourne you can register to become one of the study households.”
He said homes would be fitted with a couple of thermometers while some homes may be eligible to have the online energy monitoring device installed.
He said participants would also be asked to provide information, like energy bills, so the CSIRO could learn a little bit more about that household.
Dr Osman said the study was being funded by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency and would cover 500 homes in the three cities.
2 August, 2011
The Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) used national tree day last Sunday to urge homeowners and gardeners to take care choosing trees for specific areas on their properties or around their homes.
on trees as weeds
According to the RIRDC, Australians were out in their thousands to support National Tree Day, and many took the opportunity to buy some plants and trees.
It advised that before buying a tree however, the gardener should ask their local nursery “Is this tree right for me?”
It said nurseries were able to provide advice on which trees and plants were best suited to specific areas, including which ones were considered weeds.
It said the industry had stepped up its knowledge base through a joint project between RIRDC and the National Weeds and Productivity Research Program.
Nursery & Garden Industry Australia (NGIA) has shortlisted the top 1,000 selling trees and plants which, when used as an online weed risk assessment tool, could help define the risk of weed growth in different areas.
Manager of Environmental and Technical Policy at NGIA, Anthony Kachenko said it was the first time the industry had used scientific rigour to quantitatively determine what was technically known as a weed.
“We’ve been running the Grow me Instead initiative for several years, which has been recommending alternatives for plants deemed to be environmentally unsound,” Dr Kachenko said.
“We intend to transfer our results into a colour chart, identifying Australia’s six key climatic regions and their apparent weed risks, which can then be tagged onto plant labels when sold.”
He said some plants were fine in one area but not in others with the Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) a good example of how a plant native to a small area of New South Wales can be considered a weed in Victoria.
“We hope our conclusions will be used extensively across the industry to help nurseries effectively communicate a plant’s weed risk to their customers,” he said.
“That means that every day – not just National Tree Day – people will be able to plant trees that are compatible to their location.”
Dr Kachenko said making sure a plant was suitable wasn’t a question of aesthetics, but of ensuring a reduction of the impact and spread of weeds in the local environment.
More information about national tree day or trees as weeds can be obtained from this PS News link.