SearchArchives for December 2009
15 December, 2009
Risk is safe option
By Alycia Brown
for PS new starters
Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Glenys Beauchamp has urged young leaders in the Public Service to “take risks” and “challenge their bosses.”
Ms Beauchamp made the comments in a speech to a graduation ceremony for participants of Indigenous recruitment programs in the APS.
Ms Beauchamp urged the graduates to make the most of every opportunity presented to them as they began their career in the Australian Public Service.
“We need to encourage leaders to have judgment and the courage to drive change,” she said.
“Sometimes we see the Public Service as being very risk averse so I encourage all of you to take risks, challenge your bosses and put forward your ideas because you are going to be the new leaders we are going to rely on in the future.
“I encourage you all to jump into the deep end when you can, when the opportunity arises.”
Ms Beauchamp was joined at the graduation ceremony 2009 Pathways of Success, by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin and Acting Public Service Commissioner, Carmel McGregor.
Ms Macklin, Ms Beauchamp and Ms McGregor congratulated the graduates and reminded them to take up any new challenges that faced them.
Ms Macklin said the APSC’s Pathways program was part of the Public Service Commission’s Public Calling- Indigenous Employment Strategy.
“The Pathways program gives Indigenous people career opportunities,” she said.
“That is what it is about – giving each and every one of you career opportunities, a start in the Public Service but also a start to your career.”
She highlighted the importance of achieving cultural diversity within the Public Service.
“We need you and benefit enormously from you,” she said.
“What is so important about the Public Service is it provides so many opportunities, whether it is in foreign affairs or the Public Service Commission, in the Prime Minister’s Department or in the Police.
“All of those areas need people to bring that diverse experience – it makes the whole organisation so much stronger.
Ms McGregor thanked Agencies such as the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, the Bureau of Statistics, FaHCSIA and the Child Support Agency for their support in placing Indigenous trainees and recruits.
“We in the Commission value and enjoy and thank you for your support and assistance,” Ms McGregor said.
“I look forward to continuing to engage with you in the future and hope we can continue to improve the programs we currently run - and that means working with Agencies that have significant involvement to date and those that could do more.”
Over 40 Indigenous cadets, university graduates and trainees graduated at the ceremony which was held in Canberra.
15 December, 2009
New Security College
A National Security College to prepare security personnel for increasingly complex challenges is to be established as part of a joint project between the Commonwealth and the Australian National University.
unlocked in Canberra
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said the College would provide world class education and training in national security policy issues to give senior national security officials access to ANU teaching and research programs.
“The College will be a critical element in preparing Australia’s future national security leadership, and safeguarding our national security,” Mr Rudd said.
“A safe and secure Australia is the Government’s first priority, and the National Security College will play a key role in ensuring this.”
He said the new College followed the success of a pilot executive development course headed up by the National Security Adviser, Duncan Lewis.
Former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Michael L’Estrange has been appointed founding Executive Director of the National Security College, with the ANU also appointing him as a professor of the University.
“Mr L’Estrange has served Governments of both sides of the political divide for many years with distinction,” Mr Rudd said.
“Mr L’Estrange’s wide Public Service experience, linked with professorial standing, will place him and the University in a very good position to establish the College and deliver the high level of executive development essential for the national security community.”
Mr Rudd said Mr L’Estrange’s first tasks would include developing a detailed business model for the College and building on the pilot program’s early course development work.
The College’s board will be made up of senior Government officials and University nominees, and is to be chaired by Mr Lewis.
15 December, 2009
PS to chirp up
The Government 2.0 Taskforce has released its draft report into how the Government and Public Service can use new technologies such as Facebook and Twitter to engage with the public.
with more twitter
The draft report, Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0, found a major barrier to Government 2.0 was a culture that did not embrace disclosure of Public Sector information.
A key recommendation made by the Taskforce was for a Declaration on Open Government to define Public Service information as a national resource and recognise the importance of technology towards developing policy, service delivery and transparency in Government.
“As a world leader in public administration and public policy innovation, Australia should, with the United States of America, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, be leading transition towards Government 2.0,” the Taskforce said.
“However, although some individual Australian Agencies have been international leaders we have yet to pursue Government 2.0 in a co-ordinated way that reflects a whole of Government position.
“Australia must do better if it is to realise the Government’s aspirations as set out in the Taskforce’s Terms of Reference which anticipate stronger, more co-ordinated governance and a renewed Public Service culture of openness and engagement.”
The draft report recommends Public Servants engage with the community online and that open engagement at all levels is vital for Public Service reform and innovation.
The report recommended a lead Agency be identified to take responsibility for Government 2.0 policy and provide leadership, guidance and support to agencies and public servants.
The Taskforce said the lead Agency’s work program should be developed though a Government 2.0 Steering Group in consultation with Departments including Prime Minister and Cabinet; the proposed new Office of the Information Commissioner; Finance; the Australian Public Service Commission; National Archives; Bureau of Statistics; and the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
The report said all major Agencies should identify barriers to online engagement within their organisation and develop plans to reduce their impact within 12 months of the Government’s response to the report.
“Access to work tools like web-based email, collaborative work spaces and instant messaging create powerful new possibilities for collaboration particularly where collaborators are physically apart,” the Taskforce said.
“Likewise Twitter, Facebook and blogs provide access to professional information and conversation.
“Yet not enough Public Servants have work access to these building blocks of Government 2.0.”
The Taskforce encouraged comments on the draft report, with further information available from www.gov2.net.au
Comments on the draft report will be accepted until 16 December 2009.
15 December, 2009
Defence survey is
Results of the first Australian Defence Force families survey have been released and are expected to help shape the 20-year ADF Housing and Accommodation Strategy and improve the Absence from Home Support program.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Greg Combet said the survey would help Defence determine the needs of ADF families and whether support and education programs were being well received.
“Overall the responses indicate that the majority of families find that Defence is very supportive of ADF families,” Mr Combet said.
“The survey findings also show that families are highly resilient and resourceful in dealing with the challenges of the unique employment requirements of the ADF.”
He said the survey sent “a clear message” that families would like to see improved communication and interaction with Defence.
“The survey found that although Defence has a comprehensive range of service and personnel policies aimed at supporting families, it is clear that more can be done to improve the way that these programs and policies are communicated and understood,” Mr Combet said.
He said that in light of the results, commanders were being sent information about improved communication with families, including making them feel part of the community, helping with family education and preparation and helping them to understand the role of the ADF.
“For example, the importance of encouraging families to attend unit and ship social events and pre-deployment briefings is currently being reinforced to ADF commanders,” Mr Combet said.
“The survey results also highlight the value of on-going family preparedness and education.
“Families have shared their own adjustment experiences which are being used to tailor support, employment, housing and education programs.
He said Defence would engage with ADF members and their families to improve their relationship and minimise the impact of services on families.
Mr Combet said the survey results were valuable in helping support families with different needs, preferences, family characteristics and employment circumstances.
The survey results were available from www.defence.gov.au
15 December, 2009
Big city planning
Australia’s capital cities are to develop 30-year strategic plans by 2012 that detail how they will respond to climate change, population growth and improved productivity.
is capital idea
The move has been imposed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to ensure the nation’s most populous communities meet national criteria for transport, housing, urban development and sustainability.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said capital city strategic plans were needed to boost economic productivity, respond to climate change and ensure Australia was prepared for a population of 35 million people by 2049.
“The national criteria will deliver better integrated and longer term - 30 year - infrastructure and land use plans,” Mr Rudd said.
“The criteria require planned, evidence based land release to improve housing affordability, better transport planning to tackle urban congestion, and new urban development to be better linked to transport, jobs and services.”
He said work would commence next year, with an initial report on each jurisdiction’s plan to be completed during 2011.
Mr Rudd said that from 1 January 2012, the Federal Government would link future infrastructure funding to States and Territories meeting these criteria.
“The Commonwealth must have confidence in the integrity of a capital city’s strategic planning system if it is to invest in that city,” he said.
Mr Rudd said the Commonwealth would also contribute to reforms by its property assets, service delivery and approval processes.
He said the reform would secure better outcomes from investments of all Governments in Australian cities and strengthen public confidence in the planning system.
15 December, 2009
New DVA health
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is to reissue its Repatriation Health Cards which are due to expire in 2010.
cards are big deal
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said some improvements would be made to the new cards which would be given to all eligible veterans, war widows/widowers and dependants.
Mr Griffin said the changes would increase the cards’ security, improve provider satisfaction and increase veteran access to services.
“Changes to DVA Cards will not reduce or change current eligibility to hold a DVA Card,” he said.
Mr Griffin said a magnetic strip on the card would contain name details, file numbers, card types and expiry dates to enable providers to swipe the card as they would a Medicare card.
“By improving the claiming experience for the providers it will increase the likelihood of providers accepting DVA cards,” he said.
Other changes included issuing eligible clients living overseas with a card and removing the need for veterans to have a letter of authority from the Department when receiving medical treatment in Australia.
Mr Griffin said the cards would feature microprinting and a DVA registered hologram to increase security and prevent their reproduction.
The reissue of all cards is due to commence in March 2010 and is expected to take about six weeks to complete.
15 December, 2009
Phone alert system
A national telephone-based emergency warning system has been launched to help prevent casualties from major disasters such as Victoria’s Black Saturday tragedy.
gets the numbers
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the Emergency Alert service would warn the public of major emergencies by sending recorded voice and text messages to landline and mobile phones.
The alert service will be based on the owner’s billing address rather than their phone’s location.
“This new system has been developed through national collaboration and provides for consistency and interoperability across our borders,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the service would be in addition to television and radio alerts, public address systems, doorknocking, sirens, signage and the internet.
Mr McClelland said the Government contributed $26 million towards developing a national alert system, including $15.65 million towards Emergency Alert.
He said the States and Territories would be responsible for the ongoing operation of the system.
Victorian Police and Emergency Services Minister, Bob Cameron said the system could send 1,000 voice messages a minute and 300 text messages a second to mobile phones.
Mr Cameron said the service would be used 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the case of a life-threatening emergency.
Mr McClelland and Mr Cameron cautioned against relying solely on the Emergency Alert service, saying everyone in the community needed to take action to prepare for and respond to emergency situations.
Mr McClelland said the Federal Government had funded research to determine if messages could be delivered to mobile phones based on physical location rather than their billing address.
15 December, 2009
Web 2.0 tangles
A trial of how Web 2.0 technology might help support the patent examination process and improve the quality of issued patents is being conducted by the Agency responsible for granting intellectual property protection, IP Australia, and the Queensland University of Technology.
Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry, Richard Marles said the Peer-to-Patent (P2P) initiative would tap into expert community information, comments and attitudes that could be taken into account when assessing an invention’s eligibility for a patent.
Mr Marles said the 12 month trial would enable people to opt-in and pool their knowledge via an interactive website.
“It makes good sense to use technology to add a layer of checks and balances in our intellectual property system so it can meet the challenges of the future,” Mr Marles said.
“This approach has the potential to assist IP Australia’s patent examiners to find information relating to a patent application and will result in even stronger patent rights for innovators.”
He said P2P would be trialled in business methods and related applications as technology in those areas developed quickly and the databases used by examiners for searching may not be as advanced as the knowledge of experts.
Mr Marles urged qualified people from relevant industries, Government and academia to participate in the trial.
“The community only benefits from a patent if it is truly inventive and taking an area of technology forward,” he said.
Further information on the P2P trial was available from www.ipaustralia.gov.au and www.peertopatent.org.au
15 December, 2009
A new environment website has been launched by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to provide people with a central online point to easily access information on climate change and other environmental issues.
gets green light
Editor of the new Environmental Portal, Sara Phillips said the site had been launched to coincide with the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and was the central online point for all the ABC’s environment related online content.
Ms Phillips said the public could visit the site to find a broad range of ABC programs and coverage relating to the environment, including ABC News, TV and Radio content, breaking headlines, features, analysis, audio, videos and photos.
“Instead of having to search across the ABC’s website for programs or articles relating to the environment, they are now aggregated into one place,” Ms Phillips said.
“It provides a credible and independent Australian perspective on many issues relating to the environment, including climate change, energy, forests, green business, land management, oceans and reefs, pollution, transport, waste and water.”
She said the website featured special coverage of the Copenhagen climate conference, including an interactive timeline that visualised key environmental measurements such as CO2, ocean pH, air temperature and the rise of the human population and industrial technology.
The new website could be accessed at www.abc.net.au/environment
15 December, 2009
Investors to bank
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has launched a guide for retail investors.
on new ASIC guide
The free Guide, Investing between the flags,outlines the basic principles of investing and suggestions on developing and sticking to a sound investment plan.
Chairman of the Commission, Tony D’Aloisio said the Guide would help retail investors invest more wisely, although he added that investing was never risk free.
“When you go swimming at the beach, you will reduce the risk of drowning if you swim between the flags, similarly, when you invest, you will reduce the risk of losing your money if you adopt the investing behaviours identified in this guide which has been developed over a long period of time,” Mr D’Aloisio said.
“The wise investor takes time to understand the basic principles of investing such as diversification and the trade-off between risk and return.”
The guide includes six steps to investing safely, including understanding tolerance for risk, goals and timeframes; understanding how different investments work; and developing an investment plan such as spreading investments between different asset classes, managers and sectors.
Other tips include suggestions on deciding how to invest, implementing a plan, and monitoring investments.
The Guide also features case studies showing how people at different life stages have different investment goals and what to consider when working towards those goals.
For a free copy of the guide, visit www.fido.gov.au
15 December, 2009
Healthy outcome for
The Government has announced the organisations successful in their bid to participate in the $1.2 billion Disability Employment Services program, to begin on 1 March 2010.
Among the successful Agencies was the Government-owned CRS Australia, and a range of small and large private sector and community-based organisations.
Minister for Employment Participation, Senator Mark Arbib said the new program would improve services for people with disability and their families, carers and employers.
“We’ve opened up the scheme, so for the first time, every person with disability can be helped to find work,” Senator Arbib said.
“The introduction of the new arrangements is expected to increase the participation of people with disability in employment.”
He said Disability Employment Services had been developed through a year of engagement and consultation, and had a strong focus on social inclusion.
“There is a greater emphasis on skills development, education and training, particularly in areas of local skills shortages,” Senator Arbib said.
“This will greatly improve the employment prospects of a group of people who need extra help to find and keep meaningful employment.”
He said more than 66 organisations from over 1,100 sites would deliver Disability Employment Services Program A, which had been designed for job seekers with disability, injury or health condition who require the assistance but are not expected to need long-term support in the workplace.
Another 209 organisations from 1,150 sites which currently deliver Disability Employment Network services will deliver Disability Employment Services Program B for job seekers with a permanent disability who need more long-term support in the workplace.
Senator Arbib said by removing the cap on the number of people who can access help, every person with disability could be assisted in their search for employment.
“This will be of great benefit to many individuals and families across Australia and has received widespread endorsement from both people with disability and their families and the industry,” he said.
Senator Arbib also announced additional services to support people with disability access employment, including contracts to provide national coverage for the National Disability Recruitment Coordinator and a JobAccess information and advice service which delivers workplace solutions for people with a disability or mental health condition.
A full list of successful organisations was available from www.workplace.gov.au
15 December, 2009
ACCC Curtain campaign
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has launched a national campaign to increase community awareness of the dangers posed by blind and curtain cords following the death of two infants earlier this year.
has strings attached
Deputy Chairman of the ACCC, Peter Kell said the Commission was working with State and Territory Fair Trading offices to raise awareness of the potential dangers of loose curtain and blind cords.
Mr Kell said loose curtain and blind cords are a hazard for children as they can play with them, become tangled and be unable to prevent themselves from choking.
“It is alarming that 15 tragedies relating to blind and curtain cords have taken place in Australia since the early 1990s - sadly some have been as recent as August and October this year,” he said.
“Our message is simple: loose blind and curtain cords can kill. Fix them out of reach, so kids are out of danger.”
Mr Kell said the ACCC was encouraging curtain and blind suppliers, landlords, housing providers and community groups to help raise awareness of the hazard.
He said by following four key steps, people could reduce the risk of children being harmed.
Mr Kell said parents and carers should check that cords were out of reach of children; secure loose cords out of reach by using cleats or tensioning devices; choose safe blinds and curtains by making sure they had warning labels and could be secured out of reach; and keeping children away from all cords and chains.
“I am pleased to see that some of these organisations and community groups have already agreed to support this campaign,” he said.
Further information on the campaign was available from www.accc.gov.au
15 December, 2009
Online shoppers told
The Australian Federal Police is warning consumers to be careful when shopping online in the lead up to Christmas.
not to get hooked
The AFP has produced a fact sheet in partnership the Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA) which lists simple tips consumers can use to protect their personal information.
AFP National Manager of High Tech Crime Operations, Commander Neil Gaughan said shopping online had many benefits but also came with risks.
“Shopping online, while often a convenient and cost effective way to purchase products, requires consumers to safeguard their personal information as they would when shopping at a physical store,” Commander Gaughan said.
“Consumers need to ensure they protect their personal and financial information to prevent fraud and the disappointment of financial loss when goods are not received.
“There are precautions that consumers can take to reduce the risk of credit card fraud, such as using anti-virus software to protect themselves from unwanted interference.”
Commander Gaughan said the strong Australian dollar was expected to lead to an increased number of internet purchases.
Chief Executive of the ABA, David Bell said before making a purchase, consumers should research the merchant to ensure the business was trustworthy and would protect personal information including credit or debit card details.
“Also you should make sure that the website offers secure transactions by using encryption technology to transfer information from your computer to the online merchant’s computer. Encryption keeps information that you transfer safe,” Mr Bell said.
“Identify a secured website by looking for ‘https’ in the web address – an unsecured website address starts with ‘http’”.
Other tips included reading the website’s privacy and security policy, using a single credit card for online purchases because it was easier to check irregularities, never sending credit card details by email, and saving all transaction details.
The fact sheet was available from www.afp.gov.au
15 December, 2009
Airservices fire fighters now have the latest in ‘smart’ personal protective equipment as part of a $2.4 million national upgrade of fire fighting gear.
hot in new gear
General Manager of the Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting service (ARFF), Andrew Rushbrook said the new gear would ensure members were well placed to protect life and property at airports.
“This new equipment has been extensively tested and fully complies with, or exceeds, the relevant Australian standards,” Mr Rushbrook said.
“It offers our fire fighters significantly better protection than the clothing it replaces.”
He said some of the gear it was replacing had been in use for over 15 years.
Mr Rushbrook said an “exhaustive” tender process had led to the selection of PAC Fire Australia as the successful equipment provider.
“We’ve made several modifications during trials to ensure the clothing is suited to Australian aviation fire fighting environments from Tasmania to the Northern Territory,” he said.
The new clothing is currently being distributed to all operational personnel of the ARFF, which provides an aviation rescue and fire fighting service at 21 of the Australia’s busiest capital city and regional airports.
Mr Rushbrook said the roll-out would be complemented by the introduction of sophisticated inventory management systems.
“Each clothing item is fitted with a radio frequency identification (RFI) chip to log care and maintenance activities and provide a comprehensive record of its fire service,” he said.
The purchase of the new gear is part of a $70 million, five year investment in modernising Australia’s aviation fire and rescue services, including the purchase of new equipment, fire trucks, training facilities, and new fire stations at selected airports.
15 December, 2009
Ex PS director is top
Former Senior Public Servant, Andrew Heslop has been named one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Sydney for inventing Neighbour Day.
of the neighbourhood
The (Sydney) magazine recognised Mr Heslop, the former Acting Director of Marketing and Communication at the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Authority in the Department of Health and Ageing, for creating Australia’s annual celebration of community.
Mr Heslop came up with the idea in 2003 after the remains of an elderly woman were discovered on her couch, still wrapped in a blanket two years after she had died.
He said the incident sparked “enormous outrage and controversy” in Australia and internationally, and prompted him to write a letter to the editor of The Age in which he suggested a day be established to promote community cohesion and neighbourhood awareness.
He said his idea received extensive media attention and the last Sunday of March each year has now been named Neighbour Day, with people encouraged to get to know their neighbours.
“Knock on the door and say g’day to your neighbour,” Mr Heslop said.
“You don’t have to be best friends; you just have to be tolerant of them and their lives.”
He said while he was originally unsure about the public’s reception of the idea, Neighbour Day was now celebrated across Australia with communities and Local Councils hosting activities such as street parties and breakfasts.
“Neighbour Day brings people together in such a simple way,” he said.
“It encourages people to keep an eye out for those elderly and vulnerable people they know.”
He said the initiative had received “amazing support” from all levels of Government, with Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd endorsing Neighbour Day 2009, the first time a Prime Minister had done so in the history of the event.
Mr Heslop said he was humbled to be named in the Top 100 Most Influential People.
“I was absolutely surprised and quite daunted to see the people I was ranked with,” he said.
“I am completely humbled to be considered among prominent Australians such as Anthony Albanese, Carla Zampatti, Glenn Stevens, Frank Lowy, Dr Peter Shergold, Justice Virginia Bell, Heather Ridout, Paul Barry, Richard Tognetti, Stephen Page and Cate Blanchett.
“I mean, Cate Blanchett - you can’t be serious!”
Mr Heslop runs and funds the annual campaign himself, but said he may take on corporate support next year.
15 December, 2009
A Senate Committee has recommended major reforms to the way the High Court handles complaints after handing down its findings on the role of judges.
on Court system
The Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into Australia’s Judicial System, the Role of Judges and Access to Justice examined the judicial appointment system, terms of appointment, jurisdictional issues and complaints.
Key recommendations were for the High Court to adopt a written complaint handling policy and make it publicly available within one month of the report being tabled and for all Federal Courts to publish quarterly complaint handling summaries online.
Personal details of complainants or judicial officers would not be identified in the public reports.
Other recommendations were for a more “principled and transparent” appointment process for the High Court, involving advertisements for vacancies and confirmation that the selection process is merit-based.
A nationally consistent compulsory retirement age was also recommended and a Constitutional amendment to create a fixed-retirement age for judges and federal judicial officers.
The report also called for the establishment of a federal judicial commission modelled on the Judicial Commission of New South Wales.
It recommended the new judicial commission include three functions: complaints handling, assisting Courts to achieve consistency in sentencing and judicial education.
The findings and recommendations were available from www.aph.gov.au
15 December, 2009
ACCC stamps on stamp rise
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has objected to Australia Post’s plan to raise the price of stamps from 55 to 60 cents.
The ACCC said it was unable to agree to the price increase as the proposed costs of Australia Post did not reflect the decline in demand for letter services.
Australia Post said it was “surprised and extremely disappointed” at the ACCC’s opposition to the price increase.
AFP closes bribery case
The Australian Federal Police have finalised its investigations into claims of bribery involving two Senators.
The AFP investigation found there was insufficient evidence to support allegations of impropriety relating to a visa being granted by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to a person who had previously been refused an entry visa based on bad character.
The AFP also found there was insufficient evidence to prove the visa was linked to political donations made by the Italo-Australian community in the lead-up to the 2004 Federal election.
CSIRO reports on gases
A CSIRO report on new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has been released at the Bioenergy Australia 2009 conference.
The report was released by the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and recommends a bioenergy sustainability framework be developed.
The CSIRO said while Australia’s bioenergy industry, which uses biomass for heat, power and liquid fuels, was relatively small, it had significant growth potential and it was important for Australia to demonstrate the industry’s sustainability.
Fair work week in January
Fair Work Week is to run from 4 to 8 January 2010 and will highlight the new Fair Work system which is set to come into force on 1 January.
The new Fair Work system comprises a safety net of 10 legislated National Employment Standards and new modern awards to implement a nation-wide workplace relations system for the private sector.
Fair Work Week aims to raise awareness and understanding of the new workplace relations system and further information is available from www.fairwork.gov.au
CSA offers financial advice
The Child Support Agency has teamed up with the Australian Financial Counselling and Credit Reform Association in an effort to improve financial literacy and support services for separated parents.
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said the partnership would help create a CSA hotline for financial counselling and child support advice and information.
“Financial counsellors working with separated parents will also be provided with additional child support training, support products and services as a result of the partnership,” Mr Bowen said.
He said further information was available from www.familyseparation.humanservices.gov.au
Tax talks with Canada
Australia and Canada have commenced negotiations to update their existing tax treaty.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the negotiations were part of the Government’s program to ensure tax treaties met international best standards and the needs of Australian businesses.
Senator Sherry said Australia had already signed a new tax treaty with New Zealand and that a modern tax treaty with Canada was an important step towards updating the Australia’s tax treaty network with key investment partners.
Public comment has been invited on the treaty by 15 January 2010, with further information available from www.treasury.gov.au
Australia’s future Army leaders have graduated from the Royal Military College, with 145 of the 156 staff cadets made Lieutenants in the Australian Army.
One cadet graduated into the Royal Australian Air Force and 10 were overseas students who will be commissioned into their respective armies.
Governor General, Quentin Bryce was reviewing officer for the Graduation Parade and presented the Sword of Honour for exemplary conduct and performance of duty, and the Queen’s Medal to the Staff Cadet ranking first among graduates.
Archives opens Bruce display
A new exhibition showcasing the personal papers and objects of Australia’s eighth Prime Minister, Stanley Melbourne Bruce is the first of its kind in Australian history.
Highlights of Stanley Melbourne Bruce: Prime Minister and Statesman include Mr Bruce’s war medals, Freedom of the City caskets, cutlery and crockery and his Privy Council uniform.
The exhibition also features the contributions made by his wife, Ethel Bruce, to the Lodge and opened at the National Archives of Australia on 11 December.
Grants for memorials
A new grants program has been established to help conserve memorials to Australians who have made signification contributions to Australia and the rest of the world.
Minister for Heritage, Peter Garrett said the $100,000 Commemorating Eminent Australians program would provide funding to maintain graves, memorials and other commemorative material in Australia and overseas.
Community groups, not for profit groups and local Councils could lodge expressions of interest up to 23 December 2009, with further information available from www.environment.gov.au
More access to airports
New measures to make Australia’s regional international airports more attractive destinations for international airlines and tourists have been announced.
Foreign airliners will be offered greater access to four major gateway destinations – Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth – for flights that make stopovers in regional airports.
The Government said airports such Cairns, Broome and Darwin could benefit from the new measures.
PS News on holiday
This is the final edition of PS News for 2009.
The editor, staff and contributors to PS News wish every reader and their families a healthy and relaxing Christmas break and a rewarding new year.
The first edition for 2010 will be published during the week of 18 January.
8 December, 2009
New security scheme
Security clearances for Commonwealth staff and contractors are to be provided by a single security vetting agency in the Department of Defence by October next year.
The new approach is expected to save $5.3 million a year and improve the security vetting process by ensuring Public Servants and business contractors have a single clearance effective across Government.
It was also designed to address unnecessary regulation and remove inconsistencies within the current system.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said under the current system more than 100 Agencies replicated the processes of security vetting while more than 50 had separate contracts with vetting service providers.
“The introduction of a single vetting agency will remove this inefficient duplication,” Mr McClelland said.
In 2007/08, almost 50,000 federal security clearances were conducted.
Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner said Defence would provide an efficient and cost effective system.
“This consolidation will deliver security clearances quicker and with less paperwork than the current decentralised system,” Senator Faulkner said.
“This is a good outcome. I am pleased that Public Servants and contractors will only have to deal with a single Agency on security clearance issues.”
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the changers formed part of the Government’s Better Regulation Ministerial Partnerships, which aims to improve productivity through deregulation.
“The introduction of various Better Regulation Ministerial Partnerships reflects the Government’s ongoing commitment to addressing impediments to Australia’s long-term productivity growth,” Mr Tanner said.
“We have listened to the concerns of business and the wider community and taken action to cut red tape and improve efficiencies in our own backyard.”
The Community and Public Sector Union welcomed the announcement, with Deputy Secretary, Nadine Flood saying it would provide greater efficiency and help create a more unified Public Service.
“This is a positive move towards saving millions from replicating red tape across Departments,” Ms Flood said.
“A coordinated approach across Departments will boost efficiency and this is just one example of the savings that could be made by moving to a more unified Public Service.”
8 December, 2009
New policy is
A new procurement program for Government printing services has been entered with 176 companies across Australia to provide better value printing services to 12 participating APS Agencies.
licence to print
The Agencies, which include PM&C, DIAC, DFAT, FaHCSIA, Centrelink, Medicare and the Bureau of Statistics, will be able to use the new program to go directly to approved printers without having to go through their own tender processes.
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen and Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the Design, Production and Distribution Tender program would save millions of dollars and cut red-tape for businesses.
“This five-year plan streamlines the way Government engages with the Australian printing industry, reducing the administrative burden on both Government and industry,” Mr Bowen said.
Mr Tanner said the $220 million program was part of the Government’s procurement reform agenda.
“The Government awards contracts totalling about $30 billion a year to procure goods and services,” Mr Tanner said.
“A number of those goods and services are bought by most or all Agencies and yet under existing arrangements the purchase of those items is not coordinated across Government.
“Our new Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines facilitate a coordinated approach to procurement that will make sure Australian taxpayers get the best value for money.”
He said Centrelink led the consultation process and worked with other Agencies and the printing industry to devise the new system.
Mr Bowen and Mr Tanner said the program had been designed to address the needs of all participating Agencies on an opt-in basis and there was a possibility that more Agencies would take part in the future.
The Design, Production and Distribution Tender includes print management, creative and design services, printing and production, and warehousing and distribution.
The 12 participating Agencies are the Australian Bureau of Statistics; Australian Hearing; Centrelink; ComSuper; Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts; Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs; Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Department of Health and Ageing; Department of Human Services; Department of Immigration and Citizenship; Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet; and Medicare Australia.
8 December, 2009
The Australian Industrial Relations Commission has completed its task of modernising and simplifying Australia’s Industrial Awards, reducing more than 4,000 awards to just 122.
is award winner
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, welcomed the Commission’s release of the final Stage 4 modern awards saying the AIRC should be congratulated for its role in delivering the reform, which was one of the Government’s election commitments.
Ms Gillard said modifying and simplifying the award system had been a huge and difficult task, but one that had been long overdue.
She said the AIRC had completed the job with its “trademark professionalism,” and had undertaken significant consultation and issued an exposure draft for each modern award.
She said employers and employees would benefit from the reduced complexity of the awards and the reduction in red tape.
Ms Gillard said the Government welcomed the AIRC’s decision to clarify that the Miscellaneous Award would not apply to certain categories of employees who were not traditionally covered by awards. She said this was consistent with the framework the Government set out for award modernisation.
She said that along with the 10 legislated National Employment Standards, modern awards would now guarantee a fair and simple minimum safety net for Australian employees and would come into force on 1 January 2010.
The AIRC conducted around 80 pre-exposure draft and other consultations during 2008 and 2009.
8 December, 2009
Excise duty excised
More than a century of tradition is to come to an end on 1 January 2010 when the Australian Taxation Office takes over excise duties from the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
Introduced under the Government’s Better Regulation Ministerial Partnership, the history-making move is designed to cut red-tape and reduce compliance costs for businesses. According to Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry the ATO’s administration of excise-equivalent goods (EEGs) would include imported petroleum, tobacco and alcohol products but Customs would retain its border management issues.
“This means a single Agency - the Tax Office - will have responsibility for the administration of excise goods,” Senator Sherry said.
“A single administrator will deliver significant efficiencies across Australia through a more streamlined process and a reduction in duplication across Agencies.
“These revised administrative arrangements reflect the outcomes of extensive industry consultation and will reduce compliance costs of around 400 businesses.”
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the new system would be phased in over 18 months from the beginning of next year, with up to 22 full-time Customs positions to be transferred to the ATO.
Mr O’Connor said both Agencies would update the relevant Ministers of the progress of the changes every six months, with a final update upon completion.
“Monitoring implementation of these arrangements will ensure that they are undertaken smoothly and the Ministers involved in the Partnership have asked that these updates include feedback from industry,” he said.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the changes were in response to the Productivity Commission’s recommendations in the Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business: Manufacturing and Distributive Trades released in September last year.
“High level Ministerial oversight of this reform through a Better Regulation Partnership will ensure tangible benefits are delivered both for importers and the community as a whole,” Mr Tanner said.
The ATO and Customs are expected to contact all known affected clients with further details of the new arrangements shortly.
8 December, 2009
Customs plays safe
A joint operation between the Customs and Border Protection Service and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has intercepted and seized children’s toys containing dangerous levels of lead that were heading for shops and Christmas stockings in Melbourne.
with toy strike
Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Customs and Border Protection, Neil Mann said the pre-Christmas strike involved more than 500 tests on 165 toy samples including counterfeit Ben 10 figures, camouflage tommy guns, boxing gloves and a ride-on motorcycle.
“In total, 4,918 toys were seized and will be destroyed – demonstrating the effectiveness of cooperation between Agencies to protect the Australian community,” Mr Mann said.
He said toys with lead levels of more than 90 milligrams per kilogram that children could swallow or absorb through their skin were prohibited under import and supply laws as they could cause illness and developmental delays.
Deputy Chairman of the ACCC, Peter Kell said 480 packages of counterfeit Ben 10 toys with lead levels up to twice the legal limit had been seized, but assured parents that genuine Ben 10 products sold in major department stores complied with Australian standards.
“Evidence indicates that well-known toy brands are now making sure their toys are safe, after major recalls in 2007-2008,” Mr Kell said.
“However, since then, unsafe levels of lead in toys have been detected in Australia and overseas at the discount end of the market.”
8 December, 2009
Innovation Guide is
The Australian National Audit Office has published a Better Practice Guide on managing innovation in the Public Sector.
full of good ideas
The ANAO said the benefits of innovation, which it described as “the application of new ideas to produce better outcomes,” were diverse and could not only enhance economic performance, but also social welfare and environmental sustainability.
“Innovations can also improve organisational efficiency; provide higher quality and more timely services to citizens; reduce business transaction costs; and provide new methods of operation,” the ANAO said.
“Innovation can enable better performance and drive new directions.”
The Guidelines focus on the culture and practices that can be adopted within current policies and frameworks to encourage innovation in the Public Service.
“Innovation can only flourish and be sustained in the context of a culture that encourages, recognises and rewards new ideas and gives authority to translate those ideas into practice,” it says.
“The executive leadership team has primary responsibility for setting the philosophy and culture of an organisation and putting in place the policies and procedures to facilitate innovation.”
The Guide outlines a model for managing innovation within the PS, suggesting Agencies first develop an idea, implement it, check it and then make any necessary adjustments.
“Developing new approaches to old problems and solutions to new and emerging issues is a core function of a dynamic and forward-looking Public Service,” it says.
“Without efficient, effective and timely implementation, inspirational and forward looking ideas will not be transformed into new processes, products, services or methods of delivery.”
The Guide suggests Agencies then evaluate the idea to ensure it is efficient, effective and appropriate before making any changes that are needed.
“An appreciation of the importance and diversity of innovation, and how to achieve it, should be part of the knowledge, skills and behaviours of every Public Servant.”
The Better Practice Guide is available from www.anao.gov.au
8 December, 2009
Centrelink has closed down a program that reunited thousands of families and friends over the last decade after a review found security processes could lead to misuse.
out of touch
The ‘In Touch’ program was suspended in September after it was revealed a convicted paedophile had used it to contact another convicted paedophile.
General Manager of Centrelink, Hank Jongen said it was a shame the program had come to an end, but the safety of individuals and the community was a priority.
“The decision to close the In Touch program was based on a thorough review of our processes and procedures, which found it is not possible within the existing arrangements or any practical alternative that could be put in place, for Centrelink to guarantee against any future misuse,” Mr Jongen said.
“It would be irresponsible for Centrelink to continue to offer a service where we cannot guarantee the community that a similar event wouldn’t happen again.”
In Touch was not a Government-funded program, but was provided as a community service to assist people searching for missing loved ones.
Mr Jongen said the Agency would not be changing other existing arrangements involving the disclosure of information involving a threat to life, health or welfare of an individual.
He thanked members of the public who had expressed support for the program and said there were other tools available to help reunite people.
“Apart from facilities available through the internet such as Google and Facebook, people can approach Local Councils for information to assist them in tracking down missing relatives,” Mr Jongen said.
8 December, 2009
Ideas Agency is
A new Agency to help Australian companies get their ideas onto the market is to be set up early in 2010.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr said the Agency, ‘Commercialisation Australia’, would provide businesses with case managers to guide them through commercialising innovative ideas and to help build their skills and knowledge.
Senator Carr said case managers would also link businesses to volunteer business mentors and specialist advice.
“This is a radical new approach to Government commercialisation assistance through a single program,” Senator Carr said.
“Commercialisation Australia will open early in 2010 and ensure assistance is adjusted to meet each applicant’s needs rather than trying to make their application fit the program.”
He said applicants who were at the proof of concept stage could be eligible for up to $250,000 in funding while repayable assistance of up to $2 million would be available for early stage commercialisation activities.
“As Commercialisation Australia comes into operation, the services and assistance it offers will supersede those currently available under the Commercialising Emerging Technologies (COMET) program,” Senator Carr said.
“Commercialisation Australia will become the primary source for Australian Government assistance in helping to get ideas into the market place.”
Due to the commencement of Commercialisation Australia, the COMET program will be closed to new applications from 1 January 2010.
Further information was available from www.innovation.gov.au
8 December, 2009
International students should be given more support, better information and improved complaint handling services according to the interim report of the Baird Review into education services for overseas students.
made feel at home
The report, which was released by the Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, also called for tougher registration requirements for organisations hoping to provide international education.
Ms Gillard said the review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000showed international education could be improved through greater consumer protection such as improving student tuition protection arrangements and stronger, simpler regulation.
She said the report also discussed the links between education and migration and the sector’s long-term sustainability.
Head of the review, Bruce Baird held forums with almost 200 students and providers, from the tertiary, English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students and school sectors.
He also met with provider and student peak bodies, regulators, State and Territory Government officials and key embassies.
The review received about 150 written submissions and more than 300 people participated in an online forum.
Ms Gillard said the feedback would help inform the final report which is to be handed down early next year.
Recommendations of the International Student Roundtable and other Government work to protect international students will also be considered.
The interim report was available at www.aei.gov.au
8 December, 2009
Three new discussion papers on reforming the nation’s legal profession have been released by the National Legal Profession Reform Taskforce.
talk up legal reforms
The papers deal with trust accounting, professional indemnity insurance and business structures.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the Taskforce had been asked to develop uniform legislation to regulate the legal profession across Australia.
“These discussion papers have provided options to remove red tape, protect consumers and uphold professional standards,” Mr McClelland said.
In the trust accounting paper the Taskforce recommended measures to protect interests on trust and suggested joint and several liability for principals of law practices when taking responsibility for complying with their obligations.
The Taskforce recommended nationally consistent levels of professional indemnity insurance protection be applied to businesses across Australia.
In the business structures paper, the Taskforce recommended the provision of legal services through a range of business structures which would not disadvantage consumers of legal services.
It also called for changes to ensure that any particular business structure did not impede a law practice and its practitioners from complying with the National Law, National Rules and other professional obligations.
Mr McClelland encouraged comment on the papers, which were available from www.ag.gov.au
8 December, 2009
Program has exhibits
A new program to assist Australia’s national collecting institutions develop exhibitions for regional areas has been announced by the Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett.
down to a fine art
Mr Garret said the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach (NCITO) program would help such bodies as the Australian National Maritime Museum, National Gallery of Australia, National Portrait Gallery, National Film and Sound Archive and National Museum of Australia tour collections both nationally and internationally.
“Metropolitan centres outside the Eastern seaboard and regional centres will see an impressive range of works from the national collections over the next 12 to 18 months,” Mr Garrett said.
“Regional centres from Gladstone in Queensland to Port Pirie in South Australia will host some of these touring exhibitions, attracting visitors from remote and metropolitan Australia to view the collections.”
He said the Government would provide $1 million for the program in 2009-10, and a total of $4 million over four years, to develop and tour exhibitions such as the National Gallery’s collection of works by Australia’s first colonial artist, Robert Dowling and the Portrait Gallery’s National Photographic Portrait Prize.
Other tours funded through the NCITO program include the National Museum’s Symbols of Australia; the Maritime Museum’s Little Shipmates - Seafaring Pets; and the Film and Sound Archive’s Touring the Sounds of Australia.
“Our cultural collections play an important role in the fabric of a community, and the Australian Government is proud to continue its commitment to bringing high quality exhibitions to a broad range of Australians through the NCITO program,” Mr Garrett said.
8 December, 2009
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has announced an organisational restructure, moving from five to six divisions and sharpening its focus on digital television among other things.
to add more bite
Chairman and Chief Executive of ACMA, Chris Chapman said there were four primary motivations behind the restructure which were to allow the organisation to contribute to the National Broadband Network proposal, support the transition to digital television and radio, lead to increased citizen input and continue to maintain its regulatory and day-to-day functions.
“I am looking forward to our new structure functioning as a powerful platform from which the ACMA can pursue its strategic goal: to make communications and media work in Australia’s public interest,” Mr Chapman said.
“This is a pivotal step forward for the ACMA’s aim of reaching a world-class standard of performance.”
He said each of the six divisions would be headed up by a General Manager and would include a Digital Transition Division, Communications Infrastructure Division, Digital Economy Division, Corporate Services and Co-ordination Division, Content, Consumer and Citizen Division and Legal Services Division.
He said the Digital Transition Division would be headed by Giles Tanner and undertake all ACMA work related to the digitisation of television and radio broadcasting.
The Communications Infrastructure Division will be managed by Maureen Cahill and include IT projects and e-government services while Nerida O’Loughlin will lead the Digital Economy Division, looking at the impacts on ACMA of changes to the policy environment. Clare O’Reilly is to run the Content, Consumer and Citizen Division which will include the rights of the public and incorporate citizen views.
Mr Chapman said the Corporate Services and Co-ordination Division would be headed by Dianne Carlos and Brendan Byrne would be the new head of the continuing Legal Services Division.
“I am pleased to say that there has been broad staff and management support and engagement with the restructure and I am confident that the new shape of the ACMA will sharpen our external stakeholder focus over calendar year 2010,” he said.
He said the restructure was designed in part to improve stakeholder participation and outcomes through improved e-government and citizen services.
8 December, 2009
Website lifts roof on
The Department of Environment has launched a website listing deregistered insulation installers under its Home Insulation Program.
It has also introduced tougher training and skill requirements for installers.
Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett said installers working under the program were on notice that if they broke the rules, they would not be able to access payments and could be named on the website.
“The list of businesses deregistered from operating under the Home Insulation Program sends a strong message to installers and the public that we take non-compliance with the insulation program requirements seriously,” Mr Garrett said.
“The consequences of dodgy behaviour for insulation businesses just got a lot tougher.”
Mr Garrett urged householders to check the Installer Provider Register to ensure they choose a reputable installer.
Under the changes to training and skill requirements, which commenced last week, a formal risk assessment must be completed for every job to identify hazards such as electrical risks.
Metropolitan households will also have to get two independent quotes based on physical site inspections before proceeding with installation.
The changes follow a recent ban on the use of metal staples for foil insulation and a mandatory requirement that down light covers be installed.
Mr Garrett said health and safety under the program was paramount.
“From the outset we have required that every person involved in the installation of insulation has Occupational Health and Safety training and meets minimum competency requirements or be supervised by someone who does,” he said.
“Every registered installer has an obligation to ensure the safety of their employees and compliance with all relevant occupational health and safety requirements. Anyone seeking to shirk their responsibilities has no place in this program.”
Mr Garrett said the Government had introduced Australia’s first national training program for insulation installers and that its audit and compliance team had checked the ceilings of almost 6,000 homes to date, with a further 5,000 expected to be completed by the end of the year.
“The fact is that more than 700,000 households have benefited from this program and can look forward to significant savings on their heating and cooling costs now and into the future,’ he said.
The list of deregistered installers was available at www.environment.gov.au
8 December, 2009
Finance markets to
A consultation paper and draft legislation covering reforms to the supervision of Australia’s financial markets has been released by the Minister for Financial Services, Chris Bowen.
cash in on report
The paper and draft Bill outline the first steps towards changes that would see the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) take over the supervision of real-time trading on all domestic licensed markets, as announced in August this year.
Under the changes, ASIC would be responsible for supervising trading activities by broker participants and enforcing the laws against misconduct on Australia’s licensed financial markets.
Individual markets such as the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) will retain responsibility for supervising the entities listed on them.
Mr Bowen said the Government was seeking input from the public on the new system.
“The Bill and the consultation paper propose the establishment of a robust framework for financial market supervision which will ensure the continued integrity of Australia’s financial markets into the future,” he said.
Mr Bowen said the draft Bill included removing the obligation on domestic financial market operators to supervise their financial markets and instead, make them responsible for the operation of the market and for supervising and enforcing their operating rules.
The draft also includes a new type of rule, called a ‘market integrity rule’ to be made and enforced by ASIC and proposes an infringement notice regime for dealing with breaches of the market integrity rules.
Mr Bowen said the consultation paper sought comment on ways ASIC could recover the costs of supervising the markets; the possibility of establishing a disciplinary panel made up of financial experts; providing ASIC with increased power to give directions; and a number of transitional arrangements.
He said submissions would close 24 December 2009, with further information available from www.treasury.gov.au
8 December, 2009
A new campaign to reduce the risks of terrorists gaining access to harmful chemicals has been launched by the Attorney General, Robert McClelland.
to dissolve fears
The Chemicals of Security Concern Campaign was designed to raise awareness within the community that chemicals can be used for terrorist activity and to encourage the public and industry to report suspicions to the National Security Hotline.
“This important campaign aims to provide industry and the community with information, tools and resources to raise awareness that some everyday chemicals can be misused for terrorist purposes,” Mr McClelland said.
“The threat from terrorism is real, and we know that terrorists will use any means at their disposal to carry out attacks.”
The campaign is part of the Chemical Security Management Framework, established by the Council of Australian Governments to ensure strong measures are in place to alert authorities to the acquisition of chemicals for illegal purposes.
Under the framework, the Government established the National Government Advisory Group and National Industry Reference Group on Chemicals of Security Concern; developed a methodology to undertake risk assessments for 96 chemicals of security concern; and agreed on the initial chemicals to be subject to risk assessments.
Mr McClelland said the campaign was a result of collaboration with industry and State and Territory Governments.
The Chemicals of Security Concern Campaign will run until July next year.
Further information was available from www.chemicalsecurity.gov.au
8 December, 2009
A review conducted by the Inspector-General of Taxation has found the Tax Office’s settlement process for dealing with compliance disputes is necessary for good tax administration but has made 24 recommendations to improve dispute resolution.
settles ATO scores
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said settlements were used to resolve taxpayer disputes in cases where the Tax Office believes litigation outweighs the possible benefits.
“The Inspector-General’s review found settlements are a necessary and important feature of good tax administration – provided they are properly administered and there is community confidence in the integrity of the system,” Senator Sherry said.
He said in the review, Review into aspects of the Tax Office’s settlement of active compliance activities, the Inspector-General recommended changes designed to achieve an integrated, transparent and cost effective approach to taxpayer dispute resolution.
Senator Sherry said the Tax Office had committed to making the changes, which would involve improving the Tax Office’s recording, analysis and public reporting of settlements and enhancing settlement decision making by strengthening compliance with existing procedures.
In response to the recommendations, the ATO will also allow settled cases to be reopened under certain circumstances, ensure all necessary information and changes are disclosed to affected taxpayers, and conduct probity checks to prevent inappropriate use of settlements.
Senator Sherry said the ATO would also establish a redesigned business model focusing on end-to-end processes to improve linkages between settlements and its processes.
“The review highlights the importance of end-to-end reporting and analysis across the life cycle of a case,” he said.
Senator Sherry said the Inspector-General would review the Tax Office’s progress within two years
“The goal is to gain a more comprehensive and detailed picture of the net contribution to revenue of the Tax Office’s compliance actions,” he said.
The report was available from www.igt.gov.au
8 December, 2009
Budget ideas wanted
Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has invited individuals, businesses and community groups to submit their ideas for the 2010-11 Budget.
Mr Swan said when developing policy priorities for the next Budget, it was important to canvass the views of the public.
He said submissions should consider the impacts of the global recession on revenues and the need to offset new spending with savings.
Submissions close 29 January 2010, with further information available from www.treasury.gov.au
Electoral Commission goes hi-tech
The Australian Electoral Commission has run a Virtual Tally Room for the Bradfield and Higgins by-elections, providing ongoing updates of voting preferences.
The website includes a breakdown of preferences and preference flows, division profiles, polling places and members up for election.
The Virtual Tally Room was available from www.aec.gov.au and will be updated until all postal votes have been received and counted.
DVA announces holiday dates
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has announced its opening hours for the Christmas and New Year period.
While offices will be closed between 5pm on Christmas Eve and 9am on 4 January 2010, veterans will be able to continue accessing key services throughout the holiday period.
Crisis counselling will be available 24-hours through the Veterans’ Line on 1800 011 046; Defence Service Homes Insurance will provide help with policy and claim enquiries on 1300 552 662; and pension pay days will not be affected by the Christmas shutdown.
Investors tackle disability
The Disability Investment Group has released a report on action for people with disability to contribute to the Commonwealth’s National Disability Strategy.
The Government has responded to the key recommendation made in the report, The Way Forward: A new disability policy framework for Australia, announcing the Productivity Commission will investigate a national disability insurance scheme.
The Disability Investment Group recommended the scheme focus on employment, housing and research.
The report was available from www.fahcsia.gov.au
National gun register coming
CrimTrac is developing a National Firearms Identification Database to create national standards for identifying firearms.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the Database would address inconsistencies and reduce the potential for registration mistakes.
Mr O’Connor said the Database would be implemented in 2012 and would meet the requirements of jurisdictional police services.
AFP to chair world body
The Australian Federal Police has been appointed as Chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce for three years.
The Taskforce was established in 2003 to combat online child abuse and exploitation and is made up of police forces from around the world.
As Chair, the AFP will focus on expanding taskforce membership over the next six to 12 months, with a number of law enforcement Agencies and relevant organisations having already expressed a strong interest in joining.
Pilot scholarships on offer
Aviation enthusiasts are being encouraged to apply for one of 11 scholarships being offered by Airservices Australia that subsidise the cost of obtaining a pilot’s licence.
The scholarships are designed to identify the next generation of pilots and support the industry’s sustainability.
Scholarships will be awarded by the Royal Federation of Aero Clubs of Australia, Australian Women Pilots’ Association and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia.
Further information was available from www.awpa.org.au, www.rfaca.com.au and
Company reports simplified
Draft reforms designed to cut red tape and improve corporate reporting have been released.
Key measures to reduce the regulatory burden on companies include streamlining parent-entity reporting; greater flexibility for companies to pay dividends; and allowing companies to more easily change year-end dates.
The reforms are being implemented through the Corporations Amendment (Corporate Reporting Reform) Bill 2010, with interested parties able to make submissions by 3 February 2010 by visiting www.treasury.gov.au
Franchising panel appointed
An expert panel on franchising and unconscionable conduct is to advise the Government on ways to enhance laws designed to protect small businesses from anti-competitive behaviour by big businesses.
The Panel was established due to outstanding issues raised by recent Parliamentary inquiries into the Franchising Code of Conduct and the provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974 that prohibit unconscionable conduct.
The Department of Treasury has released an issues paper to canvass the views of consumers, businesses and other stakeholders.
Submissions close 18 December 2009, with further information available from www.treasury.gov.au
Piracy guidelines published
New guidelines to help shipping operators and seafarers detect, deter and prevent piracy and robbery at sea have received support from the Australian and international shipping industries and the International Maritime Bureau.
Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese said the Guidelines were developed by the Inspector of Transport Security in response to the resurgence of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and in South East Asia.
“The Government is acting to make sure an appropriate framework is in place to safeguard our maritime industry,” Mr Albanese said.
The new Guidelines were available by emailing email@example.com
1 December, 2009
PS motivated to get
Figures released by the Australian Public Service Commission have shown growth in the Public Service has slowed while the number of Public Servants who are “highly motivated” and proud to work for the APS have increased.
on with the job
The State of the Service Report 08-09, reveals that the rate of growth in the APS has slowed down over the past three years, from to 6.3 per cent in 2006-07 and 2.8 per cent in 2007-08 to 1.4 per cent in 2008-09.
It says there were 162,009 APS employees as at June 2009 compared with 159,789 at June 2008.
Agencies with the strongest growth in employee numbers during the year included Centrelink (6.9 per cent), the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (14.9 per cent) and the Department of Climate Change (66.7 per cent).
The report shows 87 per cent of employees were motivated to do their best possible work (compared to 84 per cent during 2007-08) and that 97 per cent were willing to put in extra effort to get a job done.
Four out of five Public Servants were satisfied with their job, a slight increase on the previous year, and 82 per cent were proud to work for the APS.
The report identifies 14 factors that drive engagement in the Public Service, including goal clarity, team performance and relationships, rewards, autonomy, feedback, Agency culture, career progression and remuneration.
Most employees reported understanding the goals of their position (87 per cent), 75 per cent said they were satisfied with their team and 72 per cent were happy with the performance of their immediate manager.
Sixty-three per cent were happy with their work-life balance but just 57 per cent were satisfied with the credibility and degree of performance feedback.
Only 56 per cent of employees were satisfied with learning and development opportunities, 51 per cent were happy with their workplace culture and less than half (48 per cent) were content with their level of remuneration.
Just 40 per cent of employees felt valued in their role, which, according to the report, indicated “significant scope for improving practice” in the area.
Thirty-six per cent of employees said they were satisfied with their career progression, with those aged 45 and over expressing the lowest level of satisfaction at 28 per cent.
The report says employee engagement and satisfaction have not changed significantly for “some time” and that the APS will need to target areas that could be improved in the future.
The report was available from www.apsc.gov.au
1 December, 2009
Cosmetic changes in
The latest figures on diversity within the Public Service have been released by the Australian Public Service Commission in its State of the Service Report 08-09.
According to the report, Indigenous employment rose slightly from 3,148 employees at June 2008 to 3,176 at June 2009, however their representation as a percentage of the APS workforce remained steady at 2.1 per cent.
The Council of Australian Governments has set a target of a least 2.6 per cent Indigenous representation within the broader Public Service by 2015.
The report says Agencies that delivered services predominantly to, or worked with Indigenous communities were more likely to employ a greater number of Indigenous staff. It used Aboriginal Hostels Limited (84.2 per cent) as an example.
It says larger Agencies with above-average Indigenous representations included the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (9.3 per cent) and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (5.3 per cent).
The report shows the proportion of employees with a disability decreased from 3.2 per cent at June 2008 to 3 per cent as at June 2009.
The overall number of employees with a disability fell for the fifth year in a row, decreasing by 199 employees, or 4.2 per cent, the largest drop since 2002-03.
“This decline can be partly explained by a reduction in the number of positions at APS 1-2 levels, where employees with disability have historically been over-represented,” the report says.
The Government released the National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy in September 2009 in a bid to improve the employment of people with a disability and to promote social inclusion.
Women make up 57.8 per cent of total employment in the APS, a 1.8 per cent increase on 2008, while male representation increased by 0.8 per cent.
Women outnumber men at all levels up to and including APS 6, but continue to be under-represented at leadership levels.
At June 2009, women made up 37 per cent of the SES (unchanged from 2008) and 46 per cent of EL employment (up from 45.1 per cent in 2008).
During 2008-09, 68.1 per cent of people engaged in the APS possessed graduate qualifications, up from 61.9 per cent the previous year.
The report identified the ‘typical’ APS employee as a 42 year-old female, with graduate qualifications working at the APS 6 level.
The full report could be downloaded from www.apsc.gov.au
1 December, 2009
Super fund invests
Administration of the Public Sector Superannuation Accumulation Plan (PSSap) is to be outsourced in 2011.
Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner announced the plan, saying it would save taxpayers $5 million a year.
He said the Department of Finance and Deregulation had been working with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers on a review of the administrative arrangements of the major public sector superannuation schemes, particularly with regard to their long-term IT requirements.
He said the review found the PSSap scheme could be delivered more cost effectively by “accessing the available competitive market.”
“Outsourcing arrangements are expected to be implemented by July 2011,” Mr Tanner said, “delivering savings and enabling ComSuper to focus on improving administration of the larger and more complex defined benefit schemes.”
He said $22.4 million of the savings generated by the reforms would be used to improve the schemes’ IT infrastructure, their member superannuation data and ComSuper’s defined benefit scheme administration systems.
Mr Tanner said the planned improvements would produce further savings of around $3 million a year.
According to Mr Tanner, outsourcing PSSap would have no immediate impact on the staff of ComSuper but over time, the organisation would work to minimise it in any case.
In another reform, Mr Tanner announced that the position of Commissioner for Superannuation would be replaced by a Chief Executive Officer on 1 July 2010 when the boards of the Australian Reward Investment Alliance (ARIA), the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme (MSBS) and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme (DFRDB) are merged.
He said the new board would be trustee of the main civilian and military superannuation schemes and would have the required skills to govern in the best interests of all members.
“Consolidation will bring more than 650,000 members and pensioners under a single trustee board, establish a greater pool of assets for investment purposes and apply best practice management approaches across all the schemes,” Mr Tanner said.
“This ongoing reform program includes several initiatives to streamline arrangements and practices without affecting member’s benefits or entitlements.”
1 December, 2009
Commissioner does job
APS Agencies have been urged to improve recruitment and retention processes to make the Australian Public Service more appealing to job seekers.
on APS recruiting
Acting Australian Public Service Commissioner, Carmel McGregor, said the latest State of the Service Report showed the average time taken to finalise job offers in the APS was 61 days.
Ms McGregor said this was too long and meant the Public Service was unable to compete with the private sector for high quality employees.
She said there was a need to improve processes and that the attraction and recruitment of staff should be a priority.
“We need a much truncated recruitment service,” Ms McGregor said.
However she warned Agencies against rushing the recruitment process, saying while taking too long was undesirable, so was hiring the wrong person for the job.
“If it takes you two weeks and you get the wrong person that’s not great either,” Ms McGregor said.
The Commissioner made the comments when releasing the 12th annual State of the Service Report.
The report says a key challenge facing APS Agencies was the ability to attract and retain appropriately skilled employees.
The report says many Agencies are looking at how to improve staff recruitment, with methods such as using e-recruitment being investigated.
“Agencies are also using various approaches to implement retention strategies in order to support their recruitment initiatives, including professional development, flexible work arrangements and building a positive workplace culture” it says.
The report says data provided by 57 Agencies showed the average time to finalise an offer of employment was 61 days, but that the length ranged from 21 to 142 days.
“Information on how the APS performance compares with other jurisdictions is limited,” it says.
“However, the UK National Audit Office’s report, Recruiting Civil Servants Efficiently, found that it could typically take an average of 16 weeks to recruit a new employee and that significant cost savings could be achieved if processes were improved.”
Ms McGregor said the APSC was revising the guidance to Agencies on recruitment and employment matters following a recruitment survey conducted in June this year.
The survey asked Agencies what the Commission could do to help them with recruitment.
It found almost half of participating Agencies were unhappy with recruitment times, citing work pressures and security clearances as impediments to faster processes.
It found Agencies had mixed views on how ‘merit’ should be defined and how it affected the recruitment process and that Agencies wanted greater flexibility in recruiting.
Just over half of Agencies thought promotion appeals should be abolished.
The State of the Service report could be downloaded from www.apsc.gov.au
1 December, 2009
A Parliamentary report into long-term weather forecasting in Australia has recommended increased funding, bigger computers and more job security at the Bureau of Meteorology.
sees into the future
Chair of the House of Representatives Industry, Science and Innovation Committee, Maria Vamvakinou MP said the recommendations would help improve the viability and reliability of seasonal forecasting.
“Australia is a vast landmass with a diverse range of climatic conditions and many of our economically important industries are crucially dependent on long-term meteorological forecasting,” Ms Vamvakinou said.
The report, Seasonal forecasting in Australia, recommends increased funding for research into the effects of weather and climate variables on forecasting abilities, such as El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole.
It also calls for a Government review into what supercomputing facilities were required by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) to conduct forecasting operations and research, with additional funding to increase supercomputing capacity to be made available.
Other recommendations include a Government audit of weather stations that contribute data to forecasting models to ensure they comply with World Meteorological Organisation guidelines; budgeting for additional weather stations; and the establishment of an institute of meteorological science to develop ongoing partnerships between relevant research bodies.
The CSIRO and BOM would also be required to report on why a particular forecasting model or system was chosen for use and would have to assess weather and climate variables before incorporating them into forecasting models.
The Community and Public Sector Union and the CSIRO Staff Association welcomed the report, calling on the Government to adopt the recommendations.
They said more secure tenure for BOM staff, many of whom are employed on three year contracts, and a review of their employment conditions was needed.
CPSU spokesperson, Sam Popovski said Australia used to be at the forefront of world climate research, but the report confirmed this was no longer the case.
“The report acknowledges the impact that years of staff cuts are having on our seasonal forecasting capacity,” Mr Popovski said.
“Without more staff and support, the essential services provided by the Bureau will continue to be compromised.”
He said weather stations needed an immediate boost to the number of observational staff, as well as more training and development opportunities.
The report was available from www.aph.gov.au
1 December, 2009
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has drawn on computer game technology to create a new computer cluster able to process research data thousands of times faster than a desktop computer.
declared a winner
CSIRO said its ‘Graphics Processing Units’ (GPU) computer cluster – the first of its kind in Australia – would complement the supercomputing resources used by researchers at the recently installed National Computational Infrastructure facility at the Australian National University.
The cluster contains 61,440 computer cores and will allow CSIRO scientists to explore what could be the next generation approach to supercomputing, the use of GPU technology for parallel processing.
Computational and Simulation Science leader at CSIRO, Dr John Taylor said the computer cluster combined Central Processing Units (CPUs) like those in PCs with more powerful GPUs to make it more efficient.
“GPUs have been around a while, hidden in your computer game console but now we’re seeing them in scientific computing,” Dr Taylor said.
“GPUs speed up data processing by allowing a computer to massively multi-task through parallel processing.
“They were initially designed to render 3D scenes in computer games.”
He said a GPU cluster was generally less expensive and more energy efficient than a CPU-based supercomputer, and was 30 to 70 times faster than CPUs.
“GPUs are not just useful for image data, they can tackle big science challenges – processing petabytes of data and more, very quickly,” Dr Taylor said.
“Using GPUs to analyse complex research data is becoming a global trend in computing.”
The cluster is to be used by researchers in a range of areas, such as cloud computing, data and visualisation tools, and genetics.
Projects to be run on the cluster include figuring out where tiny fragments of genetic code sit on a genome, reconstructing medical images in 3D and modelling the interactions between nutrients and plankton in the oceans.
Information Sciences Group Executive at the CSIRO, Dr Alex Zelinsky said the cluster was important to the CSIRO’s e-Research Strategy.
“It will enable CSIRO to, in a cost effective way, be globally competitive in addressing computational challenges for ‘big science’,” Dr Zelinsky said.
Thirty CSIRO scientists were trained earlier this year in how to code their experiments to run on the new GPU cluster.
1 December, 2009
The Australian National Audit Office has released its report on the contract management of the Australian Federal Police, Austrade and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The Auditor-General, Ian McPhee found overall the three Agencies’ contract management processes and practices provided an adequate level of support for the provision of goods and services, however there were a number of instances where there was insufficient evidence of delegates approving contract variations or invoice payments.
In his report, Agencies’ Contract Management, Mr McPhee said the Agencies did not periodically review the success of their approaches to contracting.
He concluded that the Agencies would benefit from improving management and recording of payments, complying with relevant Finance Regulations and giving more attention to the approval process for contract variations.
The Auditor General said the Agencies’ procurement and contract advisory units provided a satisfactory level of support for staff to manage small to medium size contracts but could benefit from improved processes to provide contract management advice and by periodically reviewing Agency-wide contracting performance.
Mr McPhee recommended Agencies review and, where required, strengthen compliance with Finance Regulations, with specific reference to contract variations and the management of contract records.
He also recommended those Agencies managing many contracts develop a systematic approach to disseminating information on contract management and periodically review all contract information to identify trends in performance, with the aim of using the information to improve contract management.
The full report could be accessed at www.anao.gov.au
1 December, 2009
Help needed for
An audit of how AusAID manages the Government’s expanding overseas aid program has found it has managed the program well to date, but future growth could pose management challenges.
The audit, AusAID’s Management of the Expanding Australian Aid Program, looked at AusAID’s staff capacity, how it selected aid projects, technical assistance and the monitoring and evaluation of aid performance.
Auditor General, Ian McPhee said in 2008-09 the Government provided an estimated $3.8 billion in overseas aid, $3.2 billion of which was through AusAID.
Mr McPhee said the aid program had increased by 42 per cent since 2004-05 and that growth was expected to continue.
He said managing Australia’s aid program was a “complex undertaking” but that since 2005 AusAID had managed the expansion of the aid program in “a way that supports delivery of effective aid.”
“This period has seen AusAID increase the management responsibilities of country offices, recruit additional staff and build in-house technical expertise, and strengthen monitoring and evaluation of aid – supporting delivery of more aid and improved aid effectiveness,” Mr McPhee said.
He said AusAID had also made progress in changing the way Australian aid was delivered by increasing its use of partner government systems and working more collaboratively with other donors.
He said the aid program was likely to double in size between 2008-09 and 2015-16.
“AusAID faces considerable management challenges amidst ongoing program growth,” the Auditor-General said.
“AusAID staff are concerned about workloads and stress levels at many overseas posts and there is a shortfall of expertise in some areas.”
He said many country programs hade been operating without an agreed development assistance strategy and that the number of aid activities under management had grown strongly.
Mr McPhee said AusAID was also having trouble reducing reliance on traditional forms of aid.
“Resolving these issues requires a particular focus on AusAID’s internal capacity and the composition of Australian assistance – to make the delivery of aid more manageable and effective,” he said.
The Auditor General made six recommendations to improve AusAID’s program management and strengthen accountability for aid funding.
“In particular, AusAID can improve management of human resources by addressing its long-standing problems with regards to the level of staff turnover, further increasing management responsibilities of locally engaged staff, and continuing to progress workforce planning and development,” Mr McPhee said.
He recommended AusAID develop a policy on using partner Government systems and strengthen the way it monitors the aid program by reporting on the quality of aid activities against country program objectives and improving the quality of data collected on how aid is delivered.
The full report could be accessed at www.anao.gov.au
1 December, 2009
Equal pay report
A Parliamentary report on the gender pay gap has recommended a number of amendments be made to the Fair Work Act and Sex Discrimination Act.
The House of Representatives Employment and Workplace Relations Committee report, Making it Fair, made 63 recommendations including changing the Fair Work Act 2009 and sex discrimination legislation to ensure men and women received equal pay for equal work.
Committee Chair, Sharryn Jackson MP said a pro-active approach was needed to address pay inequity.
“Increasing women’s participation in the workforce will lead to increases in productivity for the nation,” Ms Jackson said.
“How can Australia afford not to do it?”
Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick welcomed the report, saying it highlighted the urgent and overdue need to close the growing gender pay gap.
“One of the most important reforms proposed in this report is the elevation of the principle of equal pay for work of equal or comparable value from a ‘good to have’ to an ‘unambiguous obligation’,” Commissioner Broderick said.
She said discrimination could have a life-long impact, with many women retiring with significantly less savings because of pay inequality.
“The recommendations for the establishment of several new mechanisms and processes to achieve pay equity are very welcome,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“They have the potential to greatly strengthen the position of women in the workplace.”
The 465-page report recommends making elevating pay equity a clear objective of modern awards.
It suggests the Australian Industrial Relations Commission report to the Committee prior to the finalisation of awards on how pay equity principles had been achieved.
The report also calls for an amendment of the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to make it mandatory for employers who have repeatedly discriminated on the basis of pregnancy or carer’s responsibility to attend counselling or an approved training course.
Under the proposed changes, Government leadership strategies including annual pay equity audit reporting would be required for all Government Agencies; business ‘red tape’ would be minimised; and a Pay Equity Unit would be established with education, research and enforcement roles to focus approaches to address the gender pay gap.
The report also calls for the exemption from the payment of the nine per cent superannuation charge for employees who earn less than $450 per month to be removed.
1 December, 2009
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has unveiled a new website containing details and photos of overseas war memorials dedicated to Australian service personnel.
is new way to go
The Overseas Memorials Search website allows viewers to access details and photographs of over 110 official and privately constructed overseas memorials honouring Australian service.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said the website would make planning a visit to an overseas memorial easier for Australians.
“Australians have served in locations throughout the world - not only protecting our nation, but helping to protect our neighbours and allies,” Mr Griffin said.
“Official memorials have been established by the Australian Government or the Commonwealth in many of these locations, and local communities have also erected special memorials and monuments.
“I encourage all Australians to consider visiting an overseas memorial as part of future travel plans, or as part of research into our wartime history.”
He said the new database provided travellers with details about memorials on the Kokoda Track, a memorial plinth at Subic Bay in the Philippines and a memorial stone in Elands River in South Africa.
“The database will continue to grow as more data is collected, and I invite people with information about the location or details of overseas memorials to contact my Department,” Mr Griffin said.
“The stories behind each memorial are unique and provide a powerful reminder of the courage of Australians who served and died overseas.”
He said an example of one tribute to Australian soldiers was in the Danish town of Stadil, where locals had built a wooden cross to commemorate the crew of the Lancaster bomber EE138, which was shot down by a Luftwaffe night fighter in 1943.
The crew of eight men, four of whom were Australian, managed to steer the Lancaster away from the village before it crashed, but died for their efforts.
The new website was available at http://memorials.dva.gov.au
1 December, 2009
A new family tracing and support service for “forgotten Australians” and improved aged care are among initiatives to be adopted by the Government as its response to a Senate report into the treatment of former child migrants.
get family services
The report, Forgotten Australians and Lost Innocents Revisited, details the trauma and suffering of many of the 500,000 former child migrants and led to a national apology by the Prime Minister on 16 November 2009.
In a joint statement the Minister for Community Services, Jenny Macklin and the Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot said responses to the report would help care leavers.
Ms Macklin and Ms Elliot said a national ‘Find and Connect Service’ would help ‘forgotten Australians’ locate personal and family history files and reunite them members of their families where possible.
The service is expected to include a national database that collates and indexes existing State identified records into a national searchable database, accessible to State and other care leaver services and to care leavers directly.
Ms Macklin and Ms Elliot said the Government would identify care leavers as a special needs group for aged care purposes by amending the Aged Care Principles 1997.
“This will ensure the needs of care leavers are considered in the planning and allocation of aged care places,” they said.
“The Government will also support the development and distribution of information so providers and carers in the aged care sector recognise the special needs of care leavers and provide appropriate and responsive care, including access to counselling and support services.”
Two history projects will also be established to help scholars, support organisations, the community, former child migrants and their families better understand the experiences of children who experienced physical and emotional abuse while in care.
Ms Macklin and Ms Elliot said the Government would provide the National Library of Australia with $1.7 million for an oral history project, including $500,000 for counselling support for those who participate.
They said the National Museum of Australia would receive a further $1.2 million to develop a material culture collection and exhibition.
Both projects are expected to commence in early 2010.
The report was available from forgottenaustralianshistory.gov.au
1 December, 2009
Project audit finds
The Australian National Audit Office has released its annual report on the Defence Materiel Organisation’s Major Projects Report 2008-09 (MPR).
DMO on the money
The ANAO found while the DMO had improved transparency and accountability for cost and schedule performance since its last report, remaining on schedule “remained a major challenge.”
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet welcomed the report, saying it was in line with the Government’s commitment to improve the transparency of DMO’s top projects.
“This report demonstrates that the DMO has been very successful at controlling cost within the major defence procurement projects,” Mr Combet said.
“Across 15 major projects, once price, foreign exchange variations and Government approved scope increase are accounted for, the net cost increase has been negligible.
“This performance is well above global trends and international benchmarking.”
Mr Combet said in coming years, the DMO would report on a total of 30 of its largest projects.
“Future Major Project Reports will also objectively reveal emerging trends in the management of DMO’s largest projects, further strengthening the Government’s and the DMO’s accountability to the Australian public,” he said.
In his report, Auditor General Ian McPhee said a number of projects had fallen behind schedule.
“In analysing the history of the 15 projects covered in the 2008–09 MPR, eight project schedules slipped by a total of 378 months against original dates for achieving final operational capability,” Mr McPhee said.
The Auditor said the main projects to significantly fall behind schedule were the HF Modernisation (74 months), the Collins RCS (72 months), the FFG Upgrade (65 months), Wedgetail (48 months), RHTiger (42 months), Armidales (33 months) and Bushranger (26 months).
“Seven projects have experienced in year schedule slippage totalling 119 months or an average seven per cent increase in the final operational capability schedule across the 15 projects,” Mr McPhee said.
“This slippage in turn affects budget performance, related projects and other administrative processes.”
The report found information disclosed in Project Data Summary Sheets that covered major challenges, risks and the achievement of future dates involved uncertainty because they related to events and circumstances that may or may not occur.
The full report was available from www.anao.gov.au
1 December, 2009
The Women in Law Enforcement Strategy mentoring program has celebrated its 10th anniversary.
is ideal for women
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the WILES program was based on a formal mentoring structure, with participants matched with senior mentors from law enforcement and regulatory Agencies for one year.
“Since 1999, the WILES program has been a forum to encourage women to pursue careers and senior positions within Australian law enforcement and regulatory Agencies,” Mr O’Connor said.
Under the WILES program, mentors provide participants with professional advice on career progression and share insights into the profession.
Formal events are held throughout the year and cover topics such as leadership, communication styles and work/life balance.
“Supported by both women and men since its inception, the program has seen 270 women graduate and over 200 senior leaders-including both women and men-contribute to the program as mentors,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Over the past decade, the number of women employed by law enforcement and regulatory Agencies has grown by 14 per cent and the number of women in Senior Executive Service positions has grown by 10 per cent.”
He said the program supported and advocated women’s advancement into positions of leadership in law enforcement through a guided, learning environment where senior leaders impart their knowledge, skills and wisdom.
WILES is sponsored by the Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies (HOCOLEA), with the governing Steering Committee and program participants drawn from the 12 HOCOLEA Agencies.
It is currently chaired by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
1 December, 2009
Public comment is being sought on ways to improve access to television, cinema and other electronic media for people with a hearing or vision impairment.
focuses on vision
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy and Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten have released a discussion report on the issue, Access to Electronic Media for the Hearing and Vision Impaired: Approaches for Consideration.
The report examines ways to improve audio description and captioning levels in television, cinemas, DVDs and online audio-visual content.
Senator Conroy encouraged the media industry, people with vision and hearing impairments, and stakeholder groups to participate in the investigation.
“Electronic media is an important source of information and entertainment for the entire community and it is important that we work to ensure people with a hearing or vision impairment can access the services they require,” he said.
Recognising the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, who invented the first writing system for the blind, Mr Shorten said it was important to continue Mr Braille’s work to ensure information was available to the hearing and vision impaired.
“Society has a responsibility to support the social inclusion of people with disabilities and senior Australians,” Mr Shorten said.
“If people with disability are to be full participants in society it is crucial that they have the same access to television, the internet and other forms of communication as the rest of the community.
“I would urge all people with disability to make their opinions heard and contribute to this review.”
The paper was available in print and audio file, and via printed and Braille copies as requested from www.dbcde.gov.au
Submissions close on 29 January 2010.
1 December, 2009
Australia and New Zealand have introduced new legislation to improve trans-Tasman legal disputes and taxation issues.
is Abel alliance
The Trans-Tasman Proceedings Bill 2009 was introduced in both countries’ Parliaments and implements a Treaty signed in 2008 to make legal action between the two simpler, cheaper and more efficient.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the legislation would allow a broader range of judgments to be registered and enforced between Australia and New Zealand.
Mr McClelland said under the new laws, Court appearances by video-link from one country to the other could take place and regulatory regimes supporting trans-Tasman markets could be enforced.
He said the reforms would benefit businesses and individuals operating in the trans-Tasman environment and would support work taking place under the Australia New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement.
Legislation designed to boost investment and trade between the two countries was also introduced into the Australian Parliament.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the International Tax Agreements Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2009 would update and modernise bilateral tax arrangements between Australia and New Zealand.
“Australia and New Zealand share a unique, close and deep relationship and this Bill will ensure taxpayers on both sides of the Tasman benefit as the two countries forge even closer bilateral ties,” Senator Sherry said.
“Tax treaties facilitate trade and investment by reducing barriers caused by double taxation.”
He said the treaty would reduce or remove withholding taxes on certain inter-corporate dividends; remove withholding tax on interest payments made to unrelated financial institutions or to the Australian and New Zealand Governments; and lower royalty withholding tax.
It would also extend treaty benefits to Australian managed investment trusts and give cross recognition to the tax exempt status of pensions in both Australia and New Zealand.
Senator Sherry said the Bill would also give domestic legal effect to two other treaties – one with Belgium and one with Jersey - to combat global tax evasion.
1 December, 2009
The inaugural National Security Science and Innovation Strategy has been launched by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Anthony Byrne.
onto security plan
Mr Byrne said it was the first time a comprehensive overview of how science and innovation could enhance Australia’s security had been produced and that it would be lead by the National Security Science and Technology Branch within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
“The Strategy sets out our national security objectives for science and innovation and establishes new opportunities for collaboration across Governments, universities and the private sector, as well as with our international partners,” Mr Byrne said.
“This will drive the performance and take-up of relevant research and development, the sharing of information and knowledge, and lead to the enhancement of required research capabilities.”
He said Australia had a “proud track record” of producing world-leading science and innovation to enhance its national security and that the Strategy would ensure the national security community could continue to draw on expertise across the innovation sector.
Mr Byrne said the Strategy had been driven by the “increasingly complex” array of national security challenges, including the potential impact of climate and demographic change, resource and cyber security, and extreme economic events.
He said it had been developed in parallel with other national security policy initiatives, including the Cyber Security Strategy and the Serious and Organised Crime Strategic Framework.
Under the Strategy, 12 objectives have been grouped around themes of “a more prepared and resilient society” and “the smarter use of information.”
Mr Byrne said one of the Strategy’s initiatives included the National Security Science and Innovation Directory, which would provide an easily accessible reference point for individuals and organisations interested in engaging in national security science and innovation activities.
“The Government will also establish a National Security Science and Innovation Advisory Board to allow senior industry, university and research representatives to provide independent evaluation of the Strategy, including progress toward the national security objectives for science and innovation,” he said.
“I look forward to the conversations and partnerships this Strategy and such initiatives will create, and the outcomes these connections will produce.”
1 December, 2009
Information laws progress
Legislation to improve access to Government information has been introduced into Parliament.
Cabinet Secretary and Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig said the new Bills were “the most significant reforms” to the handling of Government information since the Freedom of Information Act was established in 1982.
The Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009 is expected to promote a pro-disclosure attitude in the Public Service.
The Information Commissioner Bill 2009 will establish the Office of the Information Commissioner to oversee privacy protection and access to Government information.
IT studies down
Fewer people are studying information technology, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, with a drop from nine per cent in 2001 studying in the field to three per cent this year.
The report found around 2.7 million Australians were enrolled to study in May 2009, with management and commerce the most popular fields followed by society and culture.
While more people are undertaking bachelor degrees, diplomas and certificates, fewer people are signing up for apprenticeships.
Further details were available in Education and Work, Australia, May 2009 from www.abs.gov.au
The National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon, has won the Tourist Attraction Award for the fifth year in a row at the Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards.
The Awards encourage and celebrate excellence, quality, professionalism and innovation within the local tourism industry and the Tourist Attraction Award highlights Questacon’s contribution to tourism in Canberra.
Questacon will now represent the Canberra and Capital Region at the National Awards which will be announced in February 2010.
Caribou lands at Memorial
The Air Force’s oldest remaining Caribou has been retired to the Australian War Memorial.
The A4-140 flew in Vietnam from 1968 to 1971 and was more recently involved in evacuation missions between East Timor and Darwin.
Air Commodore John Oddie last week officially handed over the A4-140 to Australian War Memorial Assistant Director, Nola Anderson.
Reserve bosses get payrise
Payments to the employers of Defence Reservists have been increased to $1,183.10 a week.
Self-employed reservists and other employers in need of financial assistance under the Employer Support Payment Scheme will receive the payment, which was increased from $1123.30.
Commission to study trade
The Productivity Commission is to review the impact of bilateral and regional trade agreements on trade and investment barriers and Australia’s trade and economic performance.
The Commission’s study will examine the effectiveness of trade agreements in responding to national and global economic and trade developments and look at attempts to enhance Australia’s economic engagement in the region.
Andrew Stoler has been appointed part-time Associate Commissioner to help with the study, which is expected to be completed within 12 months.
Moving contract let
Toll Transitions Pty Ltd has been selected as the preferred tenderer for Defence’s Removal and Relocation Administration Services.
Around 23,000 ADF members and their families are relocated each year in military postings and the five-year contract, which has an option for four one-year extensions at the discretion of Defence, is worth more than $1 billion for the first five years, including both removal and relocation components.
Gallery spaces open
The newly refurbished exhibition spaces at the National Gallery of Australia have been opened to the public and include a gallery dedicated to Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series.
Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett said the new exhibition spaces would enhance visitors’ experiences by bringing some of the Gallery’s previously hidden treasures to light.
The new exhibition spaces are part of the NGA’s $61.8 million building refurbishment, which will also include a dedicated Indigenous gallery, a multi-purpose education and orientation space and revamped retail facilities.
English tender called
A new tender is being sought for the Government’s Adult Migrant English Program, which provides language tuition and support to migrants across Australia.
Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson said the tender was for a new model of services, including enhanced vocational counselling.
The new model will include services for 15 to 17-year-olds who have left school in the first year after arrival in Australia and a flexible curriculum with information on Australian society, culture, laws, services and customs.
Further information was available from www.tenders.gov.au
Endeavour winners named
Winners of the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Endeavour Award have been announced.
Forty Australian undergraduate and postgraduate students will receive up to $63,500 to study or intern in Asian countries, while 10 international postgraduate students will receive funding to study in Australia.
The scholarship program was created in response to the 2020 Summit and commits $14.9 million over four years.