SearchArchives for December 2010
14 December, 2010
APS meets challenges
The Australian Public Service has won high marks from the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran, for its performance during the hiatus in Government earlier this year and for its role in the Global Financial Crisis a year earlier.
says DPMC’s Moran
Speaking to the Institute of Public Administration Australia in Canberra recently Mr Moran said the APS had performed “admirably” in the absence of a working Government and had continued to adapt to the unexpected circumstances since.
“Now, three months on, we are settling in well to the new order,” Mr Moran said.
“We have established some more robust routines for supporting the Government.
“We’ve revised and reinforced Cabinet processes.”
He said while the hung Parliament was a surprise, a bigger one was the Global Financial Crisis.
“Our response to the GFC highlighted the real strengths of the public service - our ability to find creative, proactive, effective solutions to difficult and potentially extremely serious problems.”
He said while the APS’s response to the GFC was positive, it also yielded lessons about some aspects of the PS function that could have been done better - “especially the hard grind of converting our big ideas into practical programs.”
Mr Moran said there was no shortage of advice on the home insulation and school halls programs but the main reason they had problems was the imperative to move quickly.
“The demand for haste was particularly acute at the time of the GFC,” Mr Moran said, “but it’s also a symptom of the times.
“Our citizens have higher expectations of us than in the past. So do their elected representatives. And they’re right to do so.
“In the Public Service we need to respond faster and adapt to the changes.”
He said under this pressure, the PS had to make sure it moved quickly.
“But we also have to deliver the goods. We have to ensure that our response is effective.
“As the problems with some of our GFC programs showed, just responding faster isn’t enough. We have to respond better.”
Mr Moran said the answer to this challenge lay in changing the culture of the APS.
“There are three cultural traits that will help deliver the change we need - agility, vocation and vision.
“We need to harness these traits to overcome the powerful forces of inertia and conservatism that exist in any organisation.”
He defined agility as quick-moving and nimble, identifying opportunities and threats before they occur.
He said vocation was the sense among Public Servants that that their work had intrinsic worth and could make a difference for the community and vision was the ability to look beyond the immediate, to set long-term goals.
“The cultural traits of agility, vocation and vision provide the foundation for the Public Service reform agenda,” Mr Moran said.
“They have served us well through our history... they have always been present, and this is a crucial reason change can succeed.”
He said the APS had risen to big challenges in the past.
“We need to build on those traits and reinforce them,” he said.
14 December, 2010
Moves to establish an APS-wide enterprise bargaining system have been rejected by the Government which has announced the current agency-based agreement process is to continue.
The Community and Public Sector Union has condemned the decision which was announced by the Special Minister of State, Gary Gray.
Mr Gray said the APS Bargaining Framework would improve the way that the APS bargained its enterprise agreements.
He said the Government had decided that agency-based agreement making had played an important role in promoting a “productivity-focused culture” in the APS and that the most effective way forward was to continue with it.
He said agencies would be provided with a set of recommendations regarding common terms and conditions of employment that they can use as a guide for their enterprise agreements.
“Importantly, agencies will continue to negotiate their own enterprise agreements, providing them with flexibility to tailor arrangements specific to their operations,” Mr Gray said.
“The Government will continue to require agencies to identify productivity improvements that will offset any proposed improvements to terms and conditions, including remuneration.
“This approach ensures that no additional pressure will be placed on the Commonwealth Budget.”
Mr Gray said the Department of Finance would examine agreements for affordability when remuneration outcomes exceeded a three per cent averaged annualised wage increase, with approval of the arrangements resting with him.
Under the Bargaining Framework, all new enterprise agreements are expected to include a nominal expiry date of 30 June 2014.
“In the spirit of good faith bargaining and genuinely consulting with employees, this new Bargaining Framework will provide greater emphasis on, and recognition for, employee representatives in the bargaining process and the workplace more generally,” Mr Gray said.
“The Australian Public Service Commission will play a pivotal role in providing expertise and support to agencies in developing arrangements and protocols for conducting formal bargaining processes with APS employees and their representatives.”
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood, accused the Government of “dropping the ball” on Service-wide bargaining.
Ms Flood said APS-wide negotiations would have given Government and unions a better way to tackle growing pay gaps between agencies, low mobility, skill shortages, and declining attraction and retention rates.
“A whole-of-service approach and streamlined arrangements are in everybody’s interest,” Ms Flood said.
“This is a missed opportunity to move towards pay equity for the Government’s own employees.”
14 December, 2010
New website to
The Australian Public Service Commission has launched a new website providing progress reports on the APS reform process.
track PS reforms
Entitled APS reform: building the future together, the website gives up-to-date information on a number of reform projects as well as on work commissioned by the Secretaries Board and on the general reform agenda.
It says the reform program consists of 28 projects aimed at transforming the APS’s capabilities and skills base, strategic policy capability, capacity to implement new policies and programs, and its culture and efficiency.
The website features progress reports on key areas of reform including ‘meeting the needs of citizens’, ‘providing strong leadership and strategic direction’, ‘strengthening workforce capabilities’ and ‘operating efficiently at a consistently high standard’.
Each section features a snapshot of activities in 2010, a spotlight on key issues, and information on what to expect in the near future. They also include links to updates on current projects.
The section on meeting the needs of citizens provides a progress report on the six projects that aim to deliver better services for citizens and create more open government.
It says further work will be done to simplify online access to Government services, including a ‘tell us once’ capability in relation to submitting personal information, while the use of Standard Business Reporting may also be expanded to reduce the costs to business of reporting to Government.
The section on providing strong leadership and strategic direction features information on nine projects that aim to enhance policy capability, reinvigorate strategic leadership and introduce a new APSC to drive change.
It lists service delivery integration led by the Secretaries committee as a key event during 2010, along with the launch of the Standard Business Reporting framework and the completion of the scoping study for the citizen survey.
It says key initiatives in the future include new Values embedded in legislation, reflecting and guiding the way the APS works together and with the community, and formalising the responsibilities of APS leaders.
The section on strengthening workforce capabilities includes information on seven projects that aim to clarify and align employment conditions and strengthen the APS workforce.
It lists the establishment of the Strategic Centre for Learning and Leadership as a key event in 2010, along with the identification and collation by the APSC of best practice recruitment processes to inform APS-wide recruitment strategies.
Key future initiatives include the establishment of the APS implementation network to build better implementation and delivery capabilities, and the advancement of workplace arrangements to improve the way the APS bargains its enterprise agreements.
The section on operating efficiently and at a consistently high standard includes information on six projects that aim to ensure agency agility, capability and effectiveness.
It lists the development of the capability review methodology as a major event for 2010, along with the development of mechanisms, strategies and proposals to promote agility in Government business.
The new website can be accessed from this PS News link.
14 December, 2010
Customs on the border
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has warned Customs officers to use their powers “lawfully and reasonably” following complaints from travellers.
The Ombudsman, Allan Asher, said travellers had complained to his office that they did not know why they had been searched, or were left wondering if the officer had acted within his or her powers.
“Sometimes travellers feel that their privacy has been invaded and that their treatment was unfair and unnecessarily intrusive,” Mr Asher said.
Customs officers have the right to examine items in luggage, such as diaries, notebooks, laptops and cameras, and can also make copies of documents in some circumstances.
Mr Asher said while the role of Customs officers at airports was important, there was a need to balance the level of risk against the perceived importance of the information sought.
He said Customs also had to satisfy relevant legislation and operate under principles of good administration.
“These coercive powers allow the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service to question international travellers, search baggage, copy documents and retain items for further examination,” Mr Asher said.
“I would caution that such powers require strong checks and balances to ensure a proper regard for the individual’s circumstances.”
In his report - Australian Customs and Border Protection Service – Administration of coercive powers in passenger processing, November 2010 - Mr Asher pointed to the case of a man who was questioned about his accommodation in his country of origin, whom he lived with, details of their relationship and whether he was married – which did not relate so much to the ‘carriage of prohibited goods’, as to whether his story stood up to the officer’s scrutiny.
The man complained to the Ombudsman that the questioning had been unduly invasive and personal, and that Customs officers had interpreted his reluctance to answer as suspicious.
Mr Asher said his investigation into Customs’ use of coercive powers found however that it was generally consistent with the principles of good administration.
His report found that improvement could be made in some areas, including the relevance of questions asked and documents copied, the timeliness of the return of personal possessions after forensic examination, and record keeping and transparency of administration.
The Ombudsman also called on Customs to improve the way it provides information to the public on passenger processing.
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service responded positively to the majority of the report’s 10 recommendations and said it was addressing the issues raised by the Ombudsman.
Mr Asher thanked the Customs service for its responsiveness and efforts and said he would review progress in six months time.
The full Ombudsman’s report can be accessed from this PS News link.
14 December, 2010
Payments to business
Payments to small businesses by Government Agencies have hit a high-speed record with over 97 per cent of bills settled within 30 days in 2009-10.
right on the money
According to Small Business Minister, Senator Nick Sherry, the rate was an improvement on the 96.5 per cent of the previous year and indicated the Government was “showing the way”.
“I’m delighted the Australian Government is setting a good example in terms of corporate citizenship,” Senator Sherry said.
“Steady cash flow is vital for small businesses – they shouldn’t have to wait excessively for payments when they deal with Governments and larger businesses.
“Unfortunately, for too many small businesses that is indeed the case, as shown by the latest Dun & Bradstreet Trade Payments Analysis, for the September 2010 quarter.
“It shows businesses took an average of 53.2 days to pay their accounts, a deterioration of 1.1 days compared with the same period last year.”
Senator Sherry urged large businesses and other levels of government to follow the Federal Government’s example and pay their bills to small business on time.
He said the Government’s on-time payment guarantee allowed small businesses to charge penalty interest if accounts for all new contracts up to $1 million were not paid within 30 days.
“This improvement in on-time payments is encouraging, but there is still room for improvement and the Australian Government will continue to strive for an even better result in the future,” Senator Sherry said.
14 December, 2010
Legal eagles to have
Two new regulators are to be established as part of national reforms to the legal profession.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland has announced that the Commonwealth is to fund a National Legal Services Board and National Legal Services Commissioner.
It will spend nearly $1.7 million to establish the two legal regulators.
Mr McClelland said the national bodies were a cornerstone of the new national regulatory framework for the legal profession and would play an important role in developing uniform national standards and ensuring consistency in complaints handling.
He said the Government wanted to implement a truly national regulatory system for the profession.
“These reforms will be of enormous benefit to the legal profession and to the broader Australian community,” Mr McClelland said.
“This Commonwealth contribution represents an investment in Australia’s progress towards a seamless national economy.
“The reforms will improve consumer protections and enhance the competitiveness of our legal services profession internationally – by reducing red tape and standardising regulations.
“These reforms will increase productivity in the legal services market, providing further opportunities for the legal profession to contribute to Australia’s future prosperity.”
Mr McClelland urged the States and Territories to work together to finalise the reforms, describing them as being in the national interest.
14 December, 2010
Budget opened up
The Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has invited the public to offer ideas and suggestions for the 2011-12 Federal Budget.
for public ideas
Mr Swan has called on families, individuals, businesses and community groups to have their say on the priorities for the 2011-12 Budget.
He said despite continued uncertainty in the global economy, Australia was still in a strong position.
“While most other developed countries are facing the aftermath of recession, our nation is now dealing with the challenges of growth,” he said.
“We have strong job creation, record terms of trade and a large pipeline of business investment gearing up.
He said this meant there were opportunities ahead for communities across Australia but also raised the challenges of building capacity into the workforce and modernising infrastructure to improve productivity.
“At the same time we need to continue preparing for the big long term challenges like climate change and an ageing population,” he said.
Mr Swan said community views were a central consideration to the Government in framing its policies.
He said submissions should be mindful of the Government’s commitment to its fiscal strategy and the need to offset new spending with savings.
“While the Budget remains on track to return to surplus in 2012-13…. the Budget must maintain the discipline of the Government’s fiscal strategy,” he said.
Submissions close on 28 January 2011 and can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr Swan said lengthier submissions should ideally include an executive summary of no more than two pages and be accompanied by an electronic version, either on disk or CD, or emailed in Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat format.
14 December, 2010
Australia is to become a founding member of a new international academy to fight corruption.
to set world straight
The International Corruption Academy in Vienna will be a centre of excellence in international anti-corruption education, training, cooperation and academic research.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, said the Government had agreed to become a founding member of the new Academy, which is expected to be fully operational next year.
“Today’s announcement shows Australia is at the forefront of the international fight against corruption,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Academy …will foster the sharing of expertise among academics, anti-corruption investigators, the public and private sectors across countries.
“Australia’s support for the Academy demonstrates our strong commitment to international efforts to fight corruption and builds on the Government’s anti-corruption efforts.”
Earlier this year, new laws had been introduced to substantially increase the penalties for foreign and domestic bribery offences.
Mr McClelland said the UN Convention Against Corruption, to which Australian is a party, would guide the new Academy’s activities.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor, said a recent decision by the G20 to build a global anti-corruption regime was also important.
“We recognise that no country is immune from the risk of corruption and Australia will work closely with G20 partners on a strong suite of anti-corruption measures,” Mr O’Connor said.
“In the wake of the global financial crisis, it is more important than ever that we prevent corrupt people from accessing global financial systems and from laundering the proceeds of their corruption.
“We are committed to cooperating with our international partners to recover these proceeds, including through asset tracing, freezing and confiscation.”
Mr O’Connor said Australia was also committed to conducting a comprehensive, open and inclusive review of its compliance with the UN Convention against Corruption next year.
He said the review would be one of the first to be conducted under the UN’s newly instituted review mechanism.
The Attorney-General’s Department has also released an updated Foreign Bribery Information and Awareness Pack to assist Australian individuals and companies to understand how anti-corruption laws affect them.
More information can be accessed from this PS News link.
14 December, 2010
State and Territory Education Ministers have endorsed the first-ever national curriculum for Australian schools.
to top of the class
The curriculum for K-10 English, mathematics, science and history will begin the next stage of implementation next year.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, said it was a landmark decision that would result in significant national reform.
Mr Garrett said it was part of the Government’s goal to ensure every child had a great education.
“This will deliver implementation of a consistent, forward-looking and world-class Australian Curriculum that will benefit Australian students, families and teachers,” Mr Garrett said.
“The Australian Curriculum is truly a curriculum for the 21st century.”
He said it would be one of the first curricula in the world to be delivered online.
“It is a vital plank of an education system that gives our young people the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to contribute to our national economy no matter where they live.”
Mr Garrett said the new curriculum would also help build the personal and life skills children needed to become active citizens.
He said the next stage of work would be coordinated by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) on behalf of Ministers.
ACARA is to consult with State and Territory authorities and educational stakeholders and the teaching profession, with regular progress reports to stakeholders and Ministers.
He said ACARA would finalise the achievement standards and any adjustments and refinements to the content of the curriculum by October next year.
Mr Garrett said the consultation process into the new curriculum had been extensive, with parents, teachers and professionals having their say on what should be included.
14 December, 2010
Business handbook has
A new handbook to help businesses protect themselves from their employees’ harmful actions has been released by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
The Insider Threat to Business – A Personnel Security Handbook explains how businesses can prevent current or previous employees – or someone with legitimate access to their resources – from being a security threat.
Mr McClelland said the launch of the new resource was timely, given the widespread discussion about the publication of sensitive information on the Wikileaks website.
“This is a stark example of how seriously the threat of insider activity needs to be taken,” Mr McClelland said.
“For business owners, insider activity can be expensive and disruptive.
“It can also have long term detrimental effects on business operations, profitability, reputation and culture.”
Mr McClelland said in the case of critical infrastructure, insider activity could have disastrous consequences and disrupt essential community services.
He urged businesses to read the resource, saying not only would it help them maintain a competitive edge, but would also protect the broader community from potential threats and damage.
“The resource will help business become more resilient to insiders by understanding any threats and evaluating the risks so they can develop their own personnel security framework,” he said.
The Handbook is a key initiative of the Government’s recently launched Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy.
The Strategy aims to provide owners and operators of critical infrastructure with information about threats to their sector.
The Handbook is available from this PS News link.
14 December, 2010
Road safety strategy
A draft National Road Safety Strategy has been released by the Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King.
to drive reforms
Ms King also released a study by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics, showing the road fatality rate in 2010 to be just one-tenth of that in the late 1960s.
The study showed there were over 40 deaths per billion kilometres in the 1960s compared to four-and-a-half today.
“This is proof that focussing on safer road users, safer cars and safer roads is working,” Ms King said.
“The fall in the rate is an amazing pay-off to three main safety measures over the last 40 years: seat belt wearing, random breath testing and speed enforcement.
“In each State and Territory these measures have been shown to have progressively reduced casualties, but the 1,500 fatalities and 30,000 serious injuries on our roads yearly clearly demonstrates we still have work to do.”
The study also showed that seat belt wearing rates had risen from about five per cent in the late 1960s to about 97 per cent today.
Ms King said the draft National Road Safety Strategy aimed to further reduce road fatalities.
She urged people to have their say on the new draft strategy.
“This study demonstrates what can be achieved with concerted community effort,” Ms King said.
“Since the 1980s, but especially since the beginning of the 1990’s, enforcement efforts against drink-driving and speeding have been ramped up and currently have been shown to play a very important role in preventing deaths on our roads.
“In fact in the absence of these two enforcement efforts, deaths on the roads would be double what they are today.
“The study also predicts that in the absence of further road safety efforts the fatality rate would cease declining and the number of deaths on our roads would rise with increasing traffic.”
The draft National Road Safety Strategy can be accessed through this PS News link. and the study at this PS News link.
14 December, 2010
Students pass test
An assessment of international students by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has ranked Australian students among the top academic performers in the world.
in OECD report
The 2009 OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a major international student assessment that tests the abilities of 15-year-olds in 65 countries every three years.
It focuses on one of the three major domains of reading, mathematics and science.
Some 14,250 Australian students from 353 schools participated in this year’s assessment, while internationally, 470,000 students took part.
Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, welcomed the results, saying they showed that Australian students were performing well above average in all three assessment areas.
He said while there had been no statistically significant change in any major domain since PISA 2006, he expected reforms to the education system in 2008 would lead to an improvement in results by 2015.
“Notwithstanding no statistically significant change in any major domain since PISA 2006, with science literacy in particular remaining steady, Australia has shown a decline in reading and mathematical literacy since these were the last major domains for testing,” Mr Garrett said.
“In both reading and scientific literacy, Australian students were outperformed by students in six countries or economies, while in mathematical literacy, Australians students were outperformed by students in 12 countries or economies, including two new entrants, Shanghai-China and Singapore.
“While Australia’s education system is in good shape, these results reinforce the need to continue with the reforms that will ensure our students are competitive in the future,” Mr Garrett said.
He said new initiatives had been introduced in an effort to encourage excellence in schools, including the National Curriculum and programs to improve literacy and numeracy.
14 December, 2010
Online safety is
A new ‘Cyber Safety Help Button’ has been released to help Australian children and their families stay safe on the internet.
The button provides a direct link to Kids Helpline, so if children are worried by cyberbullying or any other issue, they can phone or chat online to a professional counsellor.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said the initiative would help Australian children and families to stay safe online.
“The internet offers our young people many exciting opportunities but there are also some dangers and the Help Button will provide valuable information for students, teachers and parents,” Senator Conroy said.
Once downloaded, the button can be set to hover above other applications or minimised in the taskbar.
Children can click on it and choose whether they want to talk, report or learn about cyber safety issues.
“There are some great cyber safety resources currently available and the Help Button brings them all together in a way that’s easily accessible for young people,” Senator Conroy said.
He said young people could also report cyber safety issues directly to participating social networking and online game websites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Moshi Monsters.
“They can also report scams, offensive websites and improper contact,” he said.
The Help Button was designed by young people as part of the work of the Youth Advisory Group on Cyber Safety.
There are plans for future enhancements, including making it suitable for mobile platforms and providing additional resources for users.
“Young people are constantly accessing the cyber world either at home or at school for education, entertainment or to socialise,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Cyber Safety Help Button provides a one stop shop for our children if they ever feel uncomfortable online and for parents and teachers that is very reassuring.”
The Cybersafety Help Button is available from this PS News link.
14 December, 2010
A partnership between 11 Australian universities has produced a library in Melbourne 14 times bigger than the ancient world’s legendary Great Library of Alexandria.
brought to book
Located at La Trobe University, the library is home to up to seven million research volumes and important artefacts from around the world.
The controlled environment storage and access facility is the second stage of the library company CAVAL’s Archival and Research Materials Centre (CARM).
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the universities involved had worked together to find a way to allow academics to access key research material.
“The digital age has changed the way we store and access knowledge,” Senator Carr said.
“Books remain vital, but storing them imposes a significant cost burden on universities.
“By working together, these institutions have developed an innovative and cost-effective way to free up university library space, whilst making printed resources accessible to a wider community of users.”
Senator Carr said high-quality research infrastructure was vital for Australian universities.
He said a research institution’s productivity depended on the quality of its staff and the quality, quantity and accessibility of its other physical resources.
“It is critical that members of the research community work together, in partnership with government, to meet our infrastructure needs,” Senator Carr said.
“More than ever the Government is encouraging collaboration between universities.
“This is through initiatives like the Collaborative Networks Program, Cooperative Research Centres and the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy.
“I am delighted at the new partnerships these programs are fostering.”
The universities involved in the new facility, known as CAVAL CARM2, are the Australian Catholic University, RMIT, Deakin University, La Trobe University, Monash University, Swinburne University and the universities of Ballarat, Melbourne, New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria.
14 December, 2010
Marine industry found
The latest Index released by the Australian Institute of Marine Science shows Australia’s marine industry to be making a major contribution to the nation’s economic performance.
to be ship shape
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, said the Government was investing in marine science because of its importance to the nation’s major challenges.
“Marine science is more important today than at any other time,” Senator Carr said.
“It is central to the biggest issues facing humanity: climate change, environmental sustainability and food security to name a few.
“For example, marine-based tourism is an important industry sub-sector and that’s why we’re investing $49.4 million in infrastructure for research into climate change impacts on the Great Barrier Reef and other tropical marine environments.”
The Index found that the total measurable value of marine-based industries grew by six per cent from 2007-08 to 2008-09.
Senator Carr said this was a conservative estimate because economic data was not available for many marine activities.
“The fact that between 2001-02 and 2008-09 the industry’s value increased by about 80 percent reinforces the fact that Australia is truly a marine nation,” he said.
“Rigorous marine science provides the foundation for Government policy decisions about the oceans surrounding Australia.
“The release of this year’s Index illustrates how Australia’s marine domain supports billion dollar industries.
“This makes it even more important that we use science to sustainably manage our oceans.”
The Index can be accessed from this PS News link.
14 December, 2010
A team of Irish astronomers using the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research’s Anglo-Australian Telescope in northwest NSW have discovered a star glittering with zirconium, the material used to make look-alike diamonds.
According to Australian expert Dr Simon O’Toole, it was the first he’d ever heard of such a star.
The astronomers, from Armagh Observatory in Northern Ireland, calculated that the star contains four billion tonnes of zirconium, or 4,000 times the world’s annual production.
The star in question is 2,000 light years from the Sun in the direction of the border between the constellations of Capricorn and Aquarius.
The research team, led by graduate student Naslim Neelanamkodan and her supervisor, Dr Simon Jeffrey, were studying this and other stars known as heliumrich hot subdwarfs.
Dr O’Toole said the zirconium would be concentrated in the outer layers of the star.
“In these hot subdwarfs the metals actually float to the surface of the star, pushed out by radiation pressure,” he said.
“You can get nickel-crusted stars, lead-crusted stars, tin-crusted stars.”
However, Dr O’Toole said the star, known as LS IV-14 116, was the first one he’d heard of with an outer layer of zirconium.
He said most stars had about 10 zirconium atoms for every million silicon atoms.
However, LS IV-14 116 has two million zirconium atoms for every one million silicon atoms.
The Australian Astronomical Observatory operates the Anglo-Australian Telescope and the UK Schmidt Telescope at Siding Spring Observatory.
The results of the study are published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
14 December, 2010
Inquiry into law reform
Parliament’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee is to hold an inquiry into the Australian Law Reform Commission.
It will be the first inquiry into the Commission for 17 years and follows concerns it is not being adequately resourced.
The Committee will accept submissions until 28 January 2011 and report to Parliament on 31 March. Comments can be sent to email@example.com
Consultation on jobs
A consultation process on Job Services Australia (JSA) and Disability Employment Services (DES) has been started to determine how jobs services provision can be improved.
Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis, said the consultations would help the Government achieve better social inclusion and increased employment participation.
Ms Ellis said the consultation process would focus on key areas of disadvantage, including the long term unemployed, remote and mature age workers.
Archives advice for floods
The National Archives of Australia is providing online advice on salvaging personal records after a flood.
Its website contains practical steps on how to save wet documents.
Assistant Director of National Preservation Coordination, Ian Batterham, said the website gave advice on what to retrieve first and how to dry out material.
The online advice is available via this PS News link.
Telemarketing under scrutiny
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is undertaking a review of the Telemarketing Industry Standard.
ACMA has released a discussion paper on the standard, which has been operating for three years.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman, said it was now appropriate to seek industry and consumer feedback on its effectiveness.
The paper can be accessed from this PS News link.
Business website launched
A new website has been launched to help Australian businesses and community groups take advantage of online opportunities.
The website provides practical guidance for small businesses and community organisations to establish and enhance an online presence.
Minister for Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said it would help businesses expand their customer base and increase productivity.
The website can be accessed from this PS News link.
7 December, 2010
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has taken aim at Agencies that restrict service to regular clients due to the client’s unreasonable or difficult behaviour.
on difficult clients
He warned the restrictions could obscure a genuine grievance.
In his report the Ombudsman, Allan Asher, examined the Child Support Agency’s ‘write only’ policy which restricts some customers to written contact only because of what the Agency regards as ‘unreasonable behaviour’, including threats and abuse.
“There are two sides to the story of course,” Mr Asher said.
“We know that the Child Support Agency has a difficult job; that its customers can sometimes be quite challenging.
He said “money, kids and a relationship breakdown” posed a potent mix.
“Some people resent the CSA’s involvement in their lives.
“This can lead to angry and unreasonable behaviour. In turn (and we accept that) the CSA needs to impose service restrictions in some cases, for the safety and well-being of its staff.”
Mr Asher said in some instances, customers had been banned indefinitely from telephoning the CSA.
He pointed to the case of one man who had written numerous letters and emails to the CSA about his child support case and sought documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Agency judged his behaviour as “unreasonable” due to the “nature and frequency of his communication” and imposed the service restriction of ‘write only’ contact.
Mr Asher said the man had felt confused by what he regarded as contradictory communication and that the reasons for his restricted access had not been explained.
He was denied the right to contact the CSA by email or to lodge an objection by email. After many complaints to the Ombudsman he still felt that the CSA was ignoring him.
“Just as difficult behaviour can cloud an issue, so too, ‘write only’ restrictions can obscure a genuine grievance,” Mr Asher said.
“I urge all Agencies to develop a consistent approach in managing unreasonable customer conduct.
“It’s very important to distinguish the person’s behaviour from the complaint, which may be quite valid. Find and fix the problem, manage the behaviour.”
The CSA accepted all 11 of the Ombudsman’s recommendations made in his report and has undertaken to review every case where it has imposed service restrictions preventing customer contact in person or by telephone.
Mr Asher said he was “delighted” that the CSA would rethink its approach to managing challenging customer behaviour.
The Ombudsman is to review the effectiveness of the CSA’s ‘write only’ system in six months.
7 December, 2010
Audit takes issue with
The third annual Auditor-General’s report into Defence equipment procurement has revealed long delays and cost blowouts on the majority of projects.
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee examined 22 major projects in his report which focused on transparency and accountability.
The Auditor’s analysis found that maintaining Major Projects on schedule remained a “major challenge” for the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) and its industry contractors.
Mr McPhee said DMO data showed that at 30 June this year, the total time for the 22 major projects to achieve their final operational capability date was expected to be almost one-third longer than originally planned.
Some projects were forecast to experience delays of at least four years, including the high frequency modernisation project, the Collins Submarine Replacement, the Anzac Anti–Ship Missile Defence Phase 2A and the Wedgetail early warning and control plane.
The report found that the total budgeted costs for the Major Projects included in the report had increased by $7.8 billion - or 24 per cent - since the projects received their Second Pass Approval from Government.
However, the strong Australian dollar had led to savings of $3.8 billion.
Mr McPhee said except for the non-inclusion of project expenditure history expressed in base date dollars for 19 major projects and the prime contract price in base date dollars for four major projects, nothing had come to his investigators’ attention that caused it to believe that the information in the Project Data Summary Sheets, within the scope of the review, had not been prepared in all material aspects.
The report also provided, for the first time, unclassified data on DMO’s level of confidence in achieving each project’s key capability.
DMO’s assessment was that it had a high level of confidence in delivering 89 per cent of the key capabilities associated with the projects.
The delivery of 10 per cent of the key capabilities was considered to be under threat but the risk was still considered to be manageable.
The DMO revealed that the Wedgetail project was unlikely to achieve one of its five
key capability requirements, involving the performance of the phased array radar, which will not meet the specification at final delivery.
The Audit Office’s Assurance Review Team included Michael White, Michael Shiel, Michelle Page, David Steele, Kris Arnold, Harit Wadhawan, Rachael Knight, Anne Kent and Cienna Turpie.
The full report can be accessed at www.anao.gov.au
7 December, 2010
The Department of Defence and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a formal working relationship.
At an official ceremony in Canberra, five documents were signed, including the MoU and four annexes canvassing the reporting of the import and export of Defence cargo and the clearance of Defence air crew and passengers in and out of Australia.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor, said the agreement recognised that the relationship between Defence and Customs had grown into a “mature partnership” built on operational needs.
“As Defence’s operational tempo has increased over the past decade, with multiple deployments of personnel in our region and beyond, Defence and Customs now work in an environment requiring a rapid response as international situations develop,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The MOU will allow Defence and Customs to work more closely in their day-to-day operations, with greater clarity on the roles and responsibilities of each.”
Mr O’Connor said the framework would help to expedite the movement of Australian Defence Force personnel, platforms and equipment and would assist in the rapid deployment of personnel for emergencies and operational needs.
He said it would also allow Australia to respond in a timely and effective way to changing circumstances in the region.
The MOU was signed by the Secretary of Defence, Dr Ian Watt, Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, and the Chief Executive Officer of Customs Michael Carmody.
The agreement takes effect immediately.
7 December, 2010
My School website
The revamped My School 2.0 website is to be launched in the New Year to allow further consultation with Independent schools relating to their financial information.
Minister for Schools, Peter Garrett, said the original My School had “revolutionised” the way Australians talked about schools, with more than 4.1 million visits since its launch in January this year.
He said My School 2.0 would display new features including data on growth in student achievement and school finances.
“This is the first time that financial information about schools will be available for the whole community to see and in some cases, this is the first time schools have had access to this information,” Mr Garrett said.
He said to ensure the information was “robust and comparable”, the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) had commissioned a detailed validation process which was being undertaken by an accounting firm.
As part of the process, schools had the opportunity to review their information as it will appear on the new site and the firm had also reviewed the methodology for reporting school financial information.
The Minister said the accountants had identified circumstances which could lead to a misstatement of recurrent income for Independent schools and had recommended to ACARA that further validation and consultation take place to address it.
“It is essential that My School 2.0 delivers consistent financial information that allows Australian parents, teachers and the community to make fair comparisons between schools,” Mr Garrett said.
He said based on the consultant’s advice, ACARA had recommended that more time was needed to complete the validation and consultation process.
“I have subsequently asked ACARA to ensure it fully consults with Independent schools so they have the opportunity to review and understand the data.”
Mr Garrett said the validation process was designed to identify issues and to ensure they could be resolved.
“There is a groundswell of support in the community for the My School website and people expect the information to be thoroughly checked before the site goes live so they can make fair and reasonable comparisons between schools,” Mr Garrett said.
7 December, 2010
Swine flu pandemic
The H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic is officially over for Australia with the national Pandemic Phase rating downgraded from Protect to Alert.
back in its box
Minister for Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, said the move was made on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jim Bishop, and the Australian Health Protection Committee.
Ms Roxon said Professor Bishop had advised that levels of influenza-like illness in the community continued to be low although sporadic activity had been reported in some States and Territories.
“As the number of cases has declined it is appropriate to declare the H1N1 pandemic over in Australia for this year by returning our pandemic phase to Alert,” Ms Roxon said.
“The key element of the Alert phase is heightened vigilance for a new influenza virus or a change in a current circulating influenza virus, which may be of concern.”
The Minister said the Australian health sector’s response to the 2009 influenza pandemic was being reviewed and would focus on what was planned, what happened during the response and the lessons learned.
She said information from the review would inform future pandemic planning.
There were a total of 44,403 confirmed cases of swine flu in Australia since May last year, with 6,767 of those confirmed this year.
7 December, 2010
Biometrics new face
Applicants for protection visas in Australia are to be required to provide biometric data such as fingerprints and digital facial images as a way of improving identification processes. Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen, said biometric data was used widely overseas as an effective tool to manage visa and immigration processes, improve identity management and combat fraud.
of identity checks
“The introduction of biometrics to onshore and offshore visa application processing is a tangible milestone on the path to even stronger border security for Australia and is critical to maintaining the integrity of our visa and migration programs,” Mr Bowen said.
He said although biometrics data acquisition was already used in some immigration and citizenship processes, this will be the first time it will include all onshore protection visa applicants.
Mr Bowen said the initiative would help establish the identity of applicants for protection visas who arrive in Australia but are often unable to provide sufficient documentation to prove their identity.
He said it would also make it easier to detect inconsistent claims.
The Minister stressed that the move would not replace the current process for assessing an applicant’s claims for protection under the Refugees Convention.
“People who are owed protection under Australia’s international obligations will continue to be granted protection,” Mr Bowen said.
“People who are found to not be owed protection will be returned.
“My Department has put measures in place to ensure applicants are treated fairly and that flexible arrangements are available for those who live in remote areas.”
Biometric acquisition stations are to be available at Department of Immigration and Citizenship offices in Adelaide, Canberra, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Mr Bowen said the data is collected through a non-intrusive process that captures a digital facial image as well as a 10-digit fingerprint scan using a dry fingerprint scanning machine.
He said Australia would also begin the phased introduction of biometric collection in offshore visa application processing, to complement the expansion of biometrics collection to all onshore protection visa applicants.
This includes visa applications lodged in 16 countries, managed by 10 DIAC offices across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
‘From December, people lodging paper-based visa applications in Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will be required to provide a digital facial photograph and a scan of their fingerprints as part of their visa application, regardless of their nationality,” Mr Bowen said.
“Additional countries in Europe and Asia will be included in the program over the coming months.”
The initiative is being conducted in collaboration with the United Kingdom Government.
7 December, 2010
ACMA report finds
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has reported that the Australian community is satisfied overall with the nation’s communication services but there are real concerns for the standard of customer service and delivery.
Chair of ACMA, Chris Chapman, said the research showed that while four out of five consumers were generally satisfied with their communications services, a significant number of Australians had concerns with aspects of their services, particularly when they had a problem or were required to interact with their provider.
“The value Australian consumers place on their communications services is clearly reflected in the strong levels of take-up and use of new services across multiple platforms,” Mr Chapman said.
According to the research, satisfaction levels varied considerably when consumers and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) were asked to focus on aspects of service delivery such as customer service, service reliability, call costs, billing information, internet data speeds and line rental costs.
The report found 80 per cent of household consumers were generally satisfied with their mobile phone and internet service while 81 per cent were satisfied with their fixed-line telephone service.
Household consumer satisfaction with customer service from their provider was much lower, with 61 per cent for fixed-line services, 62 per cent for mobile phone and 67 per cent for internet.
SME’s recorded relatively high levels of overall satisfaction with their communication services, ranging from 79 per cent for fixed-line telephone and internet service to 81 per cent for mobile telephone service.
However, only 61 per cent of business users were satisfied with customer service for their fixed-line phone, 69 per cent for their mobile phone and 71 per cent for internet.
Other key findings included high levels of household consumer satisfaction for service reliability, with 88 per cent for fixed-line telephone, 80 per cent for internet and 76 per cent for mobile phone.
However, for both consumers and SMEs, fixed-line rental costs recorded the highest levels of dissatisfaction at 33 per cent and 28 per cent respectively, while 24 per cent of home internet users were dissatisfied with their internet speeds, compared to 16 per cent of SMEs.
“As ACMA research continues to show, digital communications have become integral to day-to-day social and economic activities of Australians and are in turn underpinning the transition to a digital economy,” Mr Chapman said.
“In this environment of increased dependency on digital communications, consumer satisfaction with communications services is integral to the future development of the digital economy.”
He said ACMA was undertaking a more comprehensive look at customer service as part of its Reconnecting the Customer inquiry.
7 December, 2010
New Regulator to
A new national regulator for the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector is to be appointed to take over upskilling the workforce from existing State and Territory-based regulators.
Minister for Tertiary Education and Skills, Senator Chris Evans, said establishing a single national regulator would improve the consistency of regulation across Australia, making it easier to respond to emerging challenges in areas of critical skills shortage.
“The new regulator will ensure that students are better equipped to take advantage of the growing economy, and give employers greater confidence in the skills of Australia’s VET graduates,” Senator Evans said.
All States and Territories have agreed to the new National VET Regulator except Victoria and Western Australia, which will continue to regulate providers operating exclusively in their States, except those enrolling international students.
Senator Evans said once appointed, the National VET Regulator would ensure that national standards were met, and would strengthen quality assurance for more than 1.2 million students and thousands of Australian businesses in the sector.
“With around 37 per cent of international students studying in the VET sector, the establishment of the national regulator is also an important measure to ensure quality and sustainability in international education,” he said.
$55 million is to be provided over four years to create the National VET Regulator, as part of the Skills for Sustainable Growth package announced in this year’s Federal Budget.
Senator Evans also welcomed the release of a research paper from the National Centre for Vocational Education Research that confirmed the VET system was working effectively.
He said the report also highlighted the need to build basic literacy, language and numeracy skills so that no-one was left behind.
He said this aligned with the Foundation Skills Package, which aimed to improving literacy and numeracy skills through an expanded community-based service development and Workplace English, Language and Literacy program and a National Foundation Skills Outreach and Leadership Project.
The report also looked at how the training system responded to workplace change including new technology, innovative work practices and changing compliance requirements.
7 December, 2010
Research results released by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor, have failed to determine whether people who play violent computer games are at greater risk of being aggressive.
plays a draw
The study found there was no conclusive evidence that violent computer games had a greater impact on players than other violent media, such as films or music videos.
“The review found that evidence about the effect of violent computer games on the aggression displayed by those who play them is inconclusive,” Mr O’Connor said.
“From time to time people claim that there is a strong link between violent crime or aggressive behaviour and the popularity of violent computer games.
“This review shows that there’s little evidence to support any claim of a strong link, though there is some evidence of short term effects on gamers.”
The review also found there was stronger evidence of short-term effects from violent computer games than long-term effects.
Although some research found that violent computer games were a small risk factor in aggressive behaviour over the short term, these studies did not thoroughly explore other factors such as aggressive personality, family and peer influence, and socio-economic status.
“We need a classification system that protects young minds from any possible adverse affect, while also ensuring that adults are free to make their own decisions about what they play, within the bounds of the law,” Mr O’Connor said.
He said classification Ministers across Australia were considering the pros and cons of introducing an R18+ classification for computer games which would restrict the viewing of these games to people aged 18 and older.
Ministers requested the literature review as part of their decision-making process, along with other documents to assist them in making an informed decision.
“I’m keen to proceed with making this important decision, based on solid and robust evidence,” Mr O’Connor said.
“This comprehensive review adds to the material Ministers can rely on to make their decision.”
The introduction of an R18+ classification for video games will be discussed at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General meeting in Canberra on 10 December.
7 December, 2010
Centrelink curls the
Keeping a stiff upper lip at Human Services has taken on a whole new meaning with the staff of Centrelink, the Child Support Agency and Medicare Australia combining to raise $29,000 for charity in the annual Movember moustache-growing challenge.
mo for Movember
General Manager of the Human Services Portfolio, Hank Jongen, said the three Agencies teamed up this year to raise funds for the charity Beyond Blue.
Mr Jongen said about 185 local staff took part, growing a moustache to raise awareness of men’s health issues.
“Human Services Portfolio staff help the community in their everyday work, providing support and information to people in crisis,” Mr Jongen said.
“These Agencies are an important part of their local communities, and our staff regularly raise funds for worthy causes.
“I’m pleased to say a number of staff have really embraced Movember – in fact, over the past month I’ve seen a lot of men sporting face foliage.”
Mr Jongen said some employees had become creative with their facial hair, and one moustache had been shaped into a question mark.
As part of Movember, the three Agencies also held a number of fundraising activities, including breakfast barbeques, casual days and cake sales.
Mr Jongen said the CEO of Centrelink had even donated her face for one of the Movember games, ‘Pin the mo’ on the CEO’.
Deputy CEO of Beyond Blue, Dr Nicole Highet, congratulated the Agencies for their efforts during Movember.
“The Human Services Portfolio has helped ensure that Beyond Blue continues important programs and research aimed at improving men’s health and well-being in rural, remote, regional and metropolitan areas across Australia”, Dr Highet said.
7 December, 2010
Free advice on
The Minister for Home Affairs has warned Australian consumers to check import requirements before buying Christmas gifts online from overseas.
The Minister, Brendan O’Connor, said the strong Australian dollar meant it was likely that more people this year would be shopping online for presents, however it was important to know the facts before making a purchase.
“Imagine the disappointment your loved one could feel if the present you buy doesn’t make it under the tree,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Australia applies importation restrictions and bans on some products that are dangerous or illegal - Christmas gifts are no exception to the rule.”
The Minister said items could be restricted or delayed from entry into Australia if they were dangerous and restricted under the law or if it violated quarantine or classification laws.
He said counterfeit goods could also be prevented from being imported, along with goods that were banned because they were faulty.
Consumers must also declare and pay tax on any item worth more than $1,000.
Mr O’Connor said consumers should be wary of counterfeit designer clothes, handbags, shoes, perfume, luggage and cosmetics, and electrical items such as hair straighteners and computer goods.
Other items included replica weapons, novelty cigarette lighters, high intensity laser pointers, wildlife souvenirs, mobile phones with tasers in them, and videos, DVDs, CDs or books with restricted content.
“Online shopping is a great way to find unique gifts at a competitive price, but consumers should make sure they are making wise purchases that will be allowed into Australia,” he said.
“Websites sometimes claim that their products can be brought into Australia but this isn’t always correct, so it is important to check with Customs before you buy.”
Customs risk assesses international mail and trained officers detect prohibited and restricted items.
Import permits can be obtained in advance of importing some restricted goods.
The Minister said for more information about import requirements, Customs could be contacted on www.customs.gov.au, 1300 363 263 or firstname.lastname@example.org
7 December, 2010
A discussion paper on the most effective means for delivering Telehealth services has been released for public comment.
alive and well
The $352 million initiative will give people living in rural, remote and outer metropolitan locations the ability to access medical specialist consultations online.
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, said the new service – to start on 1 July next year – would provide about 495,000 services over four years, as well as training and incentives for specialists, GPs and other health professionals.
“Telehealth will cut down the tyranny of distance and bring specialist services to the patient’s doorstep through the use of online videolink technology,” Ms Roxon said.
“That will cut down patients’ travel time and is part of the Government’s investment in delivering specialist services closer to home.
“For example, a patient in a regional area who is being treated for high blood pressure and whose GP wants a specialist’s opinion may be forced to travel a long distance to see a cardiologist – now they would be able to get the service delivered locally.”
Ms Roxon said the initiative was important because there were twice as many specialists per capita in major cities compared to regional and remote areas.
She said the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) would play a key role in allowing patients to experience the benefits of telehealth.
Telehealth trials will begin in the NSW town’s of Armidale and Kiama when the NBN rolled out early next year.
The discussion paper seeks views on the clinical situations and medical specialties in which telehealth would be most helpful and how it would work in practice.
It also covers remuneration models that could be employed, the financial incentives to ensure uptake and ongoing participation in the model, the training and support required, and technical issues.
The Minister released the discussion paper at a recent e-Health conference, where over 400 clinicians, industry and consumer representatives gathered to plan the steps necessary for a national e-health system.
Also released at the conference was a demonstration iPhone – still in the concept phase – that showed how Doctors could access a patient’s records easily with e-Health records, including X-ray results and allergies, making diagnosis quicker and safer.
Ms Roxon said she looked forward to receiving submissions from doctors, health professionals and patient groups.
The discussion paper is available at www.mbsonline.gov.au and submissions close on 27 January 2010.
7 December, 2010
Media report shines
The final report from a review of media access for people with hearing and vision impairment has been released by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
light on disabilities
The Media Access Review Final Report includes 22 recommendations to improve access to electronic media for people with hearing and vision impairment.
“Access to electronic media for people with vision and hearing impairment is an important issue that involves free-to-air and subscription television, DVDs, cinema, and the internet,” Senator Conroy said.
“The Government will ensure that meaningful improvements to media access for people with hearing and vision impairment can be achieved, while also ensuring actions taken are practical for broadcasters and content producers.”
Senator Conroy said the Government would move to immediately implement the recommendations and called on the industry and disability group stakeholders to follow suit.
He said the Government would introduce legislation next year to provide regulatory certainty by consolidating captioning requirements for both free-to-air and subscription television broadcasters into the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) 1992.
He said other new laws would increase captioning targets to provide a better outcome for people with disability and introduce requirements for caption quality.
Senator Conroy said free-to-air broadcasters had already agreed to captioning targets to be consolidated into the BSA, while further consultations were needed with the subscription television sector and other stakeholders regarding targets to be incorporated for subscription television.
He said the ABC would also be commissioned to conduct a technical trial of audio description in the second half of next year, subject to funding.
“A further review of captioning and audio description on electronic media in 2013 will consider the effectiveness of action agreed in 2010 in light of transformational communications initiatives, such as the introduction of the National Broadband Network and the switch to digital television,” Senator Conroy said.
“I note there have been substantial outcomes achieved already in the area of DVDs and cinema, and I commend the stakeholders involved.”
The final report can be accessed at www.dbcde.gov.au
7 December, 2010
Internet code to
A new code to protect internet users from online threats has come into force for Internet Service Providers.
The voluntary ISP Code of Practice on Cyber Security was announced by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
The ISP Code of Practice will provide a set of guidelines for ISPs to follow, including a notification/management system for compromised computers; a comprehensive resource for ISPs to access the latest threat information; a standardised information resource for end users; and a reporting mechanism to alert Australia’s Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT Australia) to cases of extreme threat.
The Code, known as the ‘icode’, was developed by the Internet Industry Association in partnership with Government agencies and is part of the Cyber Security Strategy.
Mr McClelland said ISPs had an important role to play in the cyber security of their customers.
“The Government’s Cyber Security Strategy recognises that ISPs occupy a unique position as Australian’s gateway to the Internet and are crucial in protecting the cyber security of internet users,” Mr McClelland said.
Senator Conroy thanked the ISPs that are adhering to the Code and commended the Internet Industry Association on the initiative.
“The Code of Practice provides a consistent approach to help ISPs inform, educate and protect their customers in relation to cyber security issues,” Senator Conroy said.
“It is a positive step that has attracted significant international interest, and I encourage all Australian ISPs to sign on and comply with it.”
The ISP Code builds on the Australian Internet Security Initiative which provides participating ISPs with information about compromised computers on their networks.
The Ministers said there were currently over 90 ISPs participating in the initiative, representing over 90 per cent of the home user market.
7 December, 2010
A new plan to tackle organised crime in Australia has been released by the Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Brendan O’Connor.
in the firing line
In launching the plan, Mr O’Connor said the Commonwealth Organised Crime Response Plan was the next step in the offensive against organised crime activities.
He said the Response Plan would help to ensure Government was directing resources to the areas of greatest importance and protecting the Australian community
He said there were three priority organised crime risks targeted in the Response Plan, as identified by the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) in its Organised Crime Threat Assessment.
These include amphetamine type stimulants, money laundering and identity crime.
Mr O’Connor said the Response Plan was part of the Commonwealth Organised Crime Strategic Framework, launched last year in an effort to bring together Federal Agencies involved in the fight against organised crime.
“Over the past year, operations involving multiple Federal and State agencies have led to the seizure of more than a tonne of illicit drugs and chemicals used in their manufacture,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We’ve also seen the arrest of more than 20 people for drug importation, tax fraud, people smuggling and money laundering.
“These are tangible results brought about by a more targeted and co-operative approach to fighting organised crime across national and international borders.”
He said the Response Plan added a new level of co-ordination and collaboration that was getting results for law enforcers and the community.
The Minister said the Response Plan complemented other collaborative projects such as the ACC’s Criminal Intelligence Fusion Centre, which provides in-depth criminal intelligence to various Agencies to help identify suspicious cash flows, establish patterns of crime and prosecute offenders.
The Heads of Commonwealth Operational Law Enforcement Agencies have unanimously endorsed the Plan and will be implemented by Agencies including the Attorney General’s Department, Australian Federal Police, Australian Crime Commission, AUSTRAC and the Customs and Border Protection.
Mr O’Connor said the Commonwealth was working with the States and Territories to develop a National Organised Crime Response Plan to ensure a consistent national approach.
7 December, 2010
Emergency management authorities from around Australia have been rewarded for innovation and initiative in the 2010 Australian Safer Communities Awards.
in safe hands
Congratulating the 18 recipients, Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the Awards recognised emergency management initiatives that had helped create safer communities across the country.
Winners included Victoria’s Office of the Emergency Services Commissioner which was honoured in the National Significance category for introducing the national Emergency Alert Telephone Warning System.
The warning system – which is being adopted nationwide - allows emergency management Agencies to send urgent warnings, such as bushfire warnings, directly to the public via telephone.
Emergency Alert has been used 66 times since it was launched in December last year, with in excess of 520,000 messages issued for flood, tsunami, bushfire, gas outage and missing person emergencies.
“These awards are an excellent example of Governments, the public, volunteers and the private sector working together to create safer communities,” Mr McClelland said.
“Each of these initiatives will make a real difference to the way we help prevent emergencies, or respond to them if they occur.
“Award recipients demonstrate some of the best characteristics of community participation and I congratulate each and every one of them.”
There were more than 100 entries to the award, in categories including State Government Departments, Local Government, volunteer organisations, the private sector and the education and training arena.
All aspects of community safety are covered in the awards, including risk assessment, research, education and training, information and knowledge management, and prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Other winning projects included a heatwave response plan; a local community recovery effort following the Victorian bushfires; an MP3 player to support traumatised teenagers; iPhone applications to guide first aiders; and an on-line game that teaches children the correct use of the triple-zero number.
7 December, 2010
Web 2.0 survey now on
A survey of Web 2.0 experts – and the public - is under way to find out what PS policy-makers, practitioners and academics think about Government 2.0’s future.
Launched though www.gov2au.net, the survey asks what (1) Government 2.0 mean for Australia’s governance; (2) How will Government 2.0 change the culture and practice of Australia’s Public Servants and governments; and (3) What will Australia’s Government 2.0 future look like.
Comments can be made to www.gov2au.net
Tax information more secret
The confidentiality of taxpayers’ personal information held by the Australian Taxation Office has been improved.
A new law was passed in Parliament to standardise the existing tax secrecy and disclosure provisions.
Inconsistencies and complexities in the existing laws were also removed to provide greater certainty for taxpayers and taxation officers.
Medicare Boundaries out
The latest draft of the planned geographic boundaries for Medicare Locals has been released.
Medicare Locals are the network of primary health care organisations that form a key part of the Government’s reforms of the health system.
The planned boundaries are based on work commissioned by the Australian General Practice Network and can be inspected at www.yourhealth.gov.au
Questacon wins again
Questacon - The National Science and Technology Centre – has won its sixth consecutive Tourist Attractions Award at the Canberra and Capital Region Tourism Awards.
In the last financial year, Questacon had a record visitation of more than 446, 000 people.
The Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House was named best tourism operation in the Heritage and Cultural Tourism category.
Talks on US trade treaty
The Department of Defence has started its consultations with industry on the Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty with the United States.
The Treaty aims to create more opportunities for Australian industry to increase trade in defence products and technology with the United States industry.
Phase one began with a public meeting in Canberra and further meetings will be held in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Darwin, Townsville and Newcastle this month.
For more information, go to www.defence.gov.au
Defence facility opened
The expansion of the Monegeeta Proving Ground Complex in Victoria has been officially opened by the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare.
Mr Clare said the latest equipment to be used by Australian troops in battle would be put to the test at the new facility.
The new complex will test equipment before it is manufactured and uses thermal imagery testing to measure how equipment performs at night.
Business get live chat service
The Small Business Support Line has added another tool for small businesses - an online ‘live chat’ service.
The new service has been running for less than a month and saw 27 discussion topics started in its first four days of operation.
Minister for Small Business, Senator Nick Sherry, said Live Chat was set up to help small business owners who were tech savvy and those who may prefer an alternative to speaking on the telephone.
Museum unveils map
The National Museum of Australia has launched a large print and tactile map of its building and exhibits for people with a disability.
Also launched as part of the International Day of People with Disability was an interpretation brochure about the Garden of Australian Dreams.
The NMA’s Assistant Director of Audience, Programs and Partnerships, Louise Douglas said the Museum was committed to ensuring all Australians would access and enjoy its exhibitions and programs.
For more information, go to www.nma.gov.au