SearchArchives for December 2012
11 December, 2012
Human rights to be part of APS job
The Attorney-General’s Department has developed an eLearning package to raise awareness among Australian Public Servants of the importance of human rights.
The package, entitled Human rights are in our hands, was launched by the Chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, Harry Jenkins and was designed to help public sector officials protect and promote human rights in their day-to-day work.
“The package demonstrates how human rights can be considered in your day-to-day work and provides some tools to assist you with this task,” Mr Jenkins said.
“It gives you an overview of Australia’s Human Rights Framework, and how this affects your responsibilities as a public sector official.
“I strongly encourage you to complete the eLearning package,” he said.
“Armed with this knowledge, you can have a positive impact on the policies we design, the way we treat the people we serve and the decisions we make.”
Principal Legal Officer in the Human Rights Policy Branch at the Attorney-General’s Department, Daniel Abraham said the eLearning package would be a valuable tool to help PS staff consider human rights in their work.
Mr Abraham said the package provided information about what human rights were, why they mattered and how they were protected, as well as providing an overview of Australia’s Human Rights Framework and the responsibilities that arise from it.
“While being of value for all public sector officials, it will be particularly useful for policy and legislation officers as it provides a detailed case study on preparing Statements of Compatibility,” Mr Abraham said.
The package Human rights are in our hands can be accessed from the Attorney-General’s Department website at this PS News link.
11 December, 2012
Capability reviews to review capabilities
The Australian Public Service Commission has embarked on a program of ‘capability reviews’ to assess the readiness of APS agencies to respond to looming financial and other pressures.
Announcing the results of its first seven reviews, APS Commissioner Steve Sedgwick said the reviews were important for building the future capability of the APS and its Agencies.
“These are not audits,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“(They) are conducted on the basis that all parties accept that every organisation has the scope to improve over time.”
He said a recent survey of senior executives found that in the current tight financial climate they were spending more time reallocating resources, managing significant change and setting strategic directions.
“The reallocation of resources is expected to increase,” Mr Sedgwick said.
He said the capability reviews were being conducted by senior level reviewers from outside the APS and the Agency concerned and worked with Agency personnel to produce a “forward looking, high level and impartial assessment of each Agency’s capabilities.’
He said that while it was early days in the program, a few opportunities for improvement were already emerging.
“In respect of leadership, which is one of the areas of review, two leadership challenges have been identified,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“These are leading organisational change and developing the longer term abilities and skills of employees.”
He said another area of review yielding results was strategy.
“The reviews have identified a gap between some Agency strategic plans and their operational business plans so you don’t get the ‘line-of-sight’ between strategy and operation.
“Some Agencies could use stakeholder management strategies and methodologies more systematically.”
The Commissioner said the third area to be reviewed was delivery.
“This is one of the stronger areas of capabilities,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“In particular, the capacity for innovative delivery.’
He said that in future, the results of the annual APS employee census and the capability reviews would be used together.
“They will help build a comprehensive evidence base for identifying systematic strengths and weaknesses in organisational capability across the APS.”
He expected every portfolio Department to have been capability assessed over the next two years.
More information about the capability reviews and the APSC’s plans can be accessed in the Commissioner’s 2012 State of the Service Report at this PS News link.
11 December, 2012
Productivity probe for impact of regulations
The Productivity Commission (PC) is to examine the impact Commonwealth and State regulators are having on small businesses around the country and produce a report card for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
Assistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation, David Bradbury said the national study would find out how “small business-friendly” Australia’s various regulatory authorities were.
“The way that Commonwealth and State regulators go about their operations can have a big impact on the time and costs of small businesses,” Mr Bradbury said, “and this PC study will look at which regulators are doing their jobs in the most small-business friendly way.”
Minister for Small Business, Brendan O’Connor said the report would complement the role of the country’s first Small Business Commissioner, Mark Brennan who was to take up his position shortly.
“It provides a great opportunity for people in small business to voice their concerns about how regulators interact with them and the final report card will be useful in improving practices and lead to small businesses spending less time and resources dealing with those regulators,” Mr O’Connor said.
The PC is to seek public submissions and release a draft report.
The Ministers said the final report was expected to be delivered to the Government within nine months.
The terms of reference for the study can be accessed at this PS News link.
11 December, 2012
Customs marks watch birthday
Customs and Border Protection has celebrated the first anniversary of its rebranded Customs Watch program.
National Director, Intelligence and Targeting with the agency, Jan Dorrington said Customs Watch had encouraged industry and the community to report suspicious activities related to the movement of people and goods across Australian borders.
“About five per cent of all detections made by Customs and Border Protection can be attributed to positive referrals to Customs Watch by industry and the community,” Ms Dorrington said.
“Referrals to Customs Watch mean fewer criminals, weapons and drugs on our streets.”
She said that since the program’s relaunch more than 2,500 calls and web-based information referrals had led to the detection of more than 191 prohibited weapons; 120 kilograms of illicit drugs and precursors; 14,500 tablets of performance and image-enhancing drugs; 130 million cigarettes and 22,000 kilograms of tobacco which equated to more than $54 million in evaded duty.
She said information provided to Customs Watch had led to successful prosecutions and a number of investigations were ongoing.
“I encourage everyone to report suspicious behaviour to Customs Watch toll-free on 1800 06 1800 FREE (1800 06 1800) or by using the online form available at the Customs and Border Protection website,” Ms Dorrington said.
“You can remain anonymous,” she said.
11 December, 2012
Century scores for students of Asia
A new program that would see more than 10,000 Australian students supported to study in an Asian country has been announced by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
To be known as “AsiaBound”, the program was scheduled to begin next year.
Ms Gillard made the announcement while awarding 90 students the 2013 Prime Minister’s Australia Awards.
Under the Awards scheme, 40 undergraduate and postgraduate Australian students were to receive scholarships to study, undertake research or take up work placements across the region.
Twenty students from Asia and 30 students from the Pacific were expected to receive the same opportunity in Australia.
Ms Gillard said the $37 million AsiaBound Grants Program would offer more than 10,000 Australian students grants to study in Asia and thousands more would have access to student loans.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said the Program would offer grants of between $2,000 and $5,000 to students undertaking study exchanges and $1,000 grants for Asian language study.
He said the Program would support the students to enjoy the experience of living and studying in an Asian country.
“This is a program to give Australian students the opportunity to build lifelong professional networks and friendships,” Senator Evans said.
“For a long time, Asian students have enjoyed educational opportunities here in Australia but student mobility must go both ways.”
Ms Gillard said the Prime Minister’s Awards scheme was designed to give students and researchers the chance to experience international study and work experience in countries across the region including India, Indonesia, China, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam.
She said award recipients from the region would undertake international work placements and participate in leadership development workshops to enhance their ability to contribute to the development priorities of their home country.
This year’s Australian recipients came from six states and territories and were undertaking study or research in a diverse range of fields including the visual arts, mental health, environmental science, law and anthropology.
The recipients of the Awards were announced at a Presentation Dinner in Canberra.
11 December, 2012
Manufacturers make up new advisory group
A new advisory group has been established to advise the Federal Government on how Australia’s manufacturing industries could “seize the opportunities” of the Asian Century.
Minister for Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet announced the Manufacturer’s Leaders Group, saying it would be led by the President of Boeing Australia and South Pacific, Ian Thomas.
“We decided to establish the Leaders Group in response to recommendations from the Prime Minister’s Manufacturing Taskforce earlier this year,” Mr Combet said.
“The Taskforce saw business, unions, researchers and Government working together to set out a strategy for the future of Australian manufacturing.
He said he wanted to see the collaborative and strategic approach continue.
Mr Combet said the Manufacturing Leaders Group would provide strategic advice to the Government; build better links between industry, the research sector and government; and promote improved capabilities to build more competitive firms and workplaces.
“It will also assist the Government to implement its response to the Taskforce’s recommendations,” he said.
“The Leaders Group will focus on major productivity challenges such as building high-performance workplaces and engage with other parts of the economy such as capital markets and the mining, resources, construction and research sectors,” Mr Combet said.
He said the Secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions (ACTU), Dave Oliver, as deputy chair, would continue the work he undertook on the Manufacturing Taskforce.
He said the Leaders Group had 22 members who would bring together a range of expertise to advise the Government on policy settings to ensure Australian manufacturing took advantage of opportunities in Asia and other markets.
11 December, 2012
Service station signs are fuel for thought
A consultation paper on proposed new rules for service station fuel price boards has been released for comment by motorists and the industry.
Prepared by Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand (CAANZ), the paper examines options for new national rules to outlaw operators putting false or misleading information on the boards.
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said there needed to be a consistent, national approach to the regulation of fuel price boards so that consumers could have confidence they would not be misled by signs.
“Two key objectives are ensuring that consumers are sufficiently well informed when making purchasing decisions, and that there is an integrated and harmonised approach in Australia to protecting consumers,” Mr Bradbury said.
“In line with these objectives, the consultation paper contains options for a consistent national approach to how information is displayed to consumers on fuel price boards.”
He encouraged motorists and other stakeholders to make a submission to the consultation paper.
“The outcomes of the consultation will be considered by Consumer Affairs Ministers when deciding on the appropriate course of action to take,” Mr Bradbury said.
Motorists and other stakeholders could make submissions via the Australian Consumer Law website.
The consultation paper can be accessed at this PS News link and the closing date for submissions is 15 February 2013.
11 December, 2012
Indigenous report has services delivered
The latest report from the Coordinator General for Remote Indigenous Services, Brian Gleeson has found that “measurable and significant results have been delivered in all Remote Service Delivery communities”.
Mr Gleeson said the report highlighted the progress in the 29 priority Indigenous locations, including all communities now benefitting from Regional Indigenous Health Project Officers and Indigenous Outreach Workers and most from the Medical Specialist Outreach Assistance Program; five of the nine Children and Family Centres were now operational and providing services such as early childhood education, sport and recreation programs and physical and mental health services; 18 of the communities were in line for access to Trade Training Centres to increase the focus on vocational training and assist the transition from school to employment; 24 communities had a permanent police presence, and 21 had night patrols; and there was a strong focus on schooling in Local Implementation Plans, with positive results from programs such as the Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy and the Wilcannia Disengaged Students Learning Centre.
Mr Gleeson said that under the Remote Service Delivery National Partnership Agreement, $291.2 million had been provided over six years to improve access to services for Indigenous Australians in remote areas.
“While this report shows that progress is being made in the priority Indigenous locations, we know there is more work to be done,” Mr Gleeson said.
The full report can be accessed at this PS News link.
11 December, 2012
Authority floats new Barrier Reef plan
A five-year plan has been launched to improve the Great Barrier Reef’s health, making it better equipped to cope with stress and climate change.
Launching the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (2012-2017), Chairman of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Russell Reichelt said the Reef faced a number of challenges and it was crucial to build up its health.
“A healthy ecosystem is better able to cope with stress,” Dr Reichelt said.
“We all have a role to play in protecting the Great Barrier Reef.”
He pointed to the Authority’s national education centre as proof that businesses could adapt their practices to reduce carbon emissions and help protect the Reef.
“As we’ve seen with environmental work at Reef HQ Aquarium, smart business decisions can be good for the environment too”.
He said the Reef HQ Aquarium had slashed its energy use by 50 per cent.
“Our action plan outlines what we as marine managers will do on the ground to protect the species and habitats that are most at-risk from climate change in the Great Barrier Reef,” Dr Reichelt said.
He said that under the action plan, protecting species and habitats in the inshore reef would be a focus as the area faced concentrated human impacts.
He said that local level plans included actions to protect reefs showing signs of stress, similar to the way using no-anchoring areas in the Keppels protected coral from anchor damage.
Dr Reichelt said reef health monitoring would also be expanded, with 1,000 of the 2,900 reefs monitored for signs of stress, diseases and predators such as crown-of-thorns starfish. “Although the reef is well-studied, the risks to the reef are changing along with the climate,” he said.
“We can’t assume what we’ve learnt so far applies to how the reef will work in the future.
“We need to understand how the Reef is changing and how we need to adapt management to protect it,” he said.
Dr Reichelt said the new five-year action plan followed the Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Action Plan 2007–2012, the first reef-focussed climate action plan of its kind.
He said the original plan had seen a number of major initiatives get underway, including saving turtles at the world’s largest breeding ground at Raine Island.
“The second action plan will expand on this work,” Dr Reichelt said.
The new Great Barrier Reef Climate Change Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (2012-2017)can be accessed at this PS News link.
11 December, 2012
Tourism full bottle on wine partnership
Tourism Australia has entered an agreement with Wine Australia to work together to further each other’s goals.
Tourism Australia is the Government agency responsible for attracting international visitors to Australia and Wine Australia is a statutory authority providing marketing support to the Australian wine sector.
The Ministers for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, and for Tourism, Martin Ferguson have welcomed the MoU.
Senator Ludwig said the partnership should inspire other businesses and organisations to work collaboratively in tackling the challenges of Australian industries performing on a global stage.
“Australia’s wine industry exports around 65 per cent of its production to international markets,” Senator Ludwig said.
“In 2011-12, the value of wine exports was close to $1.9 billion and supports thousands of jobs, including many in regional areas.
“Australia is already a leader in wine exports, but we want to see our market reach grow,” he said.
Senator Ludwig said the Australian Government supported industries that worked together to capitalise on the opportunities emerging markets such as Asia presented and that helped to build brand “Australia”.
Mr Ferguson said Australian tourism contributed nearly $34 billion to Australia’s GDP and directly employed over 500,000 people.
“Tourism earns nearly 10 per cent of Australia’s total export earnings, making it Australia’s largest service export industry,” Mr Ferguson said.
“This partnership will raise awareness of the strengths of Australia’s wine and tourism industries to growth markets like Asia.
“This is an exciting opportunity to help strengthen our industries as they compete for market share in an increasingly volatile and competitive global environment,” Mr Ferguson said.
11 December, 2012
Achievers bounce up for resilience awards
Local, State and Federal Government agencies and programs have been singled out for recognition in the 2012 Resilient Australia Awards.
Minister for Emergency Management, Nicola Roxon said the Resilient Australia Awards recognised innovative practices that made Australian communities safer, stronger and more resilient and better prepared to manage emergency situations.
The national Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre won a high commendation for conducting research in the social, environmental and economic impacts of bushfires.
“Over the last few summer seasons Australia has experienced natural disasters the likes of which many of us have not experienced in our lifetimes,” Ms Roxon said.
“While wild weather can be unpredictable, we can all be better prepared.
“The winning projects and commendations for the Resilient Australia Awards show how communities across our nation are developing innovative and creative ways to better prepare for emergencies and disasters,” she said.
Among other agencies to be recognised was the Lockyer Valley Regional Council in Queensland which won a local Government award for using its own funds to effectively move the town of Grantham, complete with essential services, improved road and rail access and social infrastructure above the flood plain.
NSW’s Wyong Shire Council received a high commendation for its “Natural Areas Bush Fire Management Program” which had improved the Council’s understanding of bushfire risk and its ability to communicate risk to the community.
The Victorian Department of Primary Industries was also highly commended for its Victorian Emergency Animal Welfare Plan.
The South Australian Department for Communication and Social Inclusion won the Federal Volunteer/Community Group award for its National Guidelines for Managing Donated Goods which provided a framework and resources to help in shaping community donations.
Mr Roxon said the awards received 108 entries this year - a record number.
She said formerly known as the Australian Safer Communities Awards, the Resilient Australia Awards were renamed to reflect the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience.
“We are committed to supporting a national approach to disaster resilience,” Ms Roxon said.
11 December, 2012
Business paper to do the business
Treasury has released a discussion paper on the increased use of the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) scheme by companies and some individuals to lodge their financial reports with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
The paper looks at making the scheme compulsory.
According to Treasury, the SBR was being used to lodge BAS statements, Tax File Number declarations, payroll tax returns and PAYG payment summaries.
The options paper looks at the use of SBR for lodging other financial report.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll said the use of SBR would improve the transparency of company financial information while also enhancing efficiency.
He said the SBR system was launched in mid-2010 to reduce the regulatory reporting burden on business.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said the SBR offered a quicker, easier way for businesses to meet their government reporting requirements.
“We understand that businesses face administrative burdens,” Senator Wong said.
She said that once fully implemented, it was estimated that more than one million Australian businesses would be able to report through the SBR system.
“Already, more than 100,000 lodgements have been received since the beginning of July, about nine times the number of lodgements for the same period in 2011,” she said.
“Cutting red tape improves productivity, and Standard Business Reporting is a key part of enabling this,” Senator Wong said.
11 December, 2012
And in other news...
New look for Tourism
Tourism Australia has unveiled a new logo.
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy said it was the right time to update the eight-year-old logo and to stay relevant and to reflect the organisation’s changing culture and identity.
“The strong use of blues, greens and yellows, and a significantly more contemporary positioning are in keeping with Tourism Australia’s positioning of a modern and confident Australia open to the world,” Mr McEvoy said.
Walkleys walk to ABC
ABC journalists and crew won eight Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism at the recent awards ceremony in Canberra.
Included among the winners and teams were Nance Haxton, Claudio Taranto, Amanda Gearing, Louis Mitchell, Nick McKenzie, Richard Bajer, Matthew Carney, Thom Cookes, Leigh Sales, Celeste Geer, Mary Ann Jolley, Geoff Thompson and Mary Fallon with veteran TV and radio reporter Peter Cave singled out for the year’s Most Outstanding Contribution to Journalism award.
Refugees rights upheld
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has found that 10 Sri Lankan refugees with adverse security assessments from ASIO were arbitrarily detained in closed immigration detention facilities.
“The conduct has also affected three Sri Lankan children who have been granted protection visas but are residing in immigration detention with their parents,” the AHRC said.
It found that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship failed to ask ASIO to assess whether six of the refugees were suitable for community-based detention while they were waiting for their security clearance.
NSW signs up to NDIS
The Australian and NSW Governments have reached an agreement that would allow the full roll-out of a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in NSW by July 2018.
The agreement is to provide care and support to around 140,000 NSW residents with significant disability, as well as coverage in the event of disability to around one-third of the Australian population.
Under the agreement the Commonwealth would provide funding to cover the administration of the scheme and contribute to the cost of individual care and support packages and other supports for people with disability, their carers and their families.
NSW would provide 48.6 per cent of the funding needed.
AFP expand airport ops
The Australian Federal Police has opened its new Aviation Operations Centre at the Canberra Airport.
New facilities have already been built at Murwillumbah, Sydney and Darwin, with construction underway at the other major airports and scheduled to be completed over the next two years.
The new facilities include an Emergency Operations Centre, Airport Police Operations Centre, muster rooms and training facilities, exhibit handling facilities and interview rooms.
Turner returns to gallery
The National Gallery of Australia is to host a major international exhibition during winter 2013:
Turner from the Tate: The Making of a Master.
The exhibition is to provide an overview of the artist’s development and offer insights into his working life and practices.
It will feature 110 works, including 40 oil paintings and 70 works on paper.
The Gallery had previously hosted a Turner exhibition in 1996.
The exhibition is due to begin its Australian tour at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide from 8 February to 19 May 2013 and move to the National Gallery for a season from 1 June to 8 September 2013.
This edition of PS News marks the last for 2012 as the office and newsdesk close down for the holiday break.
PS News will resume publication for 2013 in the week beginning 14 January.
On behalf of all the reporters, writers, contributors, web geniuses and administration staff who bring PS News to you every other week of the year, we wish all our readers a very happy and relaxing Christmas and a prosperous and rewarding new year.
7 December, 2012
The methods for developing Government Regulations are to be overhauled with the assessment of impacts to become a two-stage process.
The changes were announced jointly by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong and Minister Assisting for Deregulation, David Bradbury.
Senator Wong said that the need to improve regulatory performance was identified at the inaugural Business Advisory Forum (BAF) in April.
“Better regulation is an important part of the Government’s commitment to improving productivity and supporting business,” Senator Wong said.
She said redesigning the regulatory impact analysis (RIA) process into a two-stage assessment process was one of the measures to be adopted.
She said this reflected a major recommendation of the Independent Review of the Regulatory Impact Analysis Process conducted by David Borthwick and Robert Milliner.
Senator Wong said a two-stage RIA process would enable more accurate assessments of the impacts proposed regulations would have on business and other stakeholders and provide earlier opportunities for stakeholder consultations.
“We understand that businesses and the community want rigorous due diligence of any regulatory proposals,” Senator Wong said, “and these reforms have been developed in consultation with business.”
She said the operation of Government regulators would also be enhanced, with new arrangements expected to make it easier for businesses to contact them and understand their role.
“Regulators will also be encouraged to establish ways of dealing with complaints if they do not already exist,” she said.
Mr Bradbury said there was a commitment to reducing red tape and these measures represented a new, more sophisticated approach to improving regulation.
He said an annual regulatory plan would also be produced to highlight major reform activity and likely stakeholder engagement opportunities.
The Government’s full response to the review can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 December, 2012
Union call to protect
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has called for an increase in efforts to a stop what it claims is a rising number of attacks on Centrelink and Medicare staff.
staff in firing line
Deputy National President of the CPSU, Lisa Newman said that the union was set to raise with the Government the issue of how to confront the increasing number of incidents of abuse and physical threats directed towards staff.
She said customer aggression in service centres was at an all-time high according to official statistics which showed there were 5,900 reported aggressive incidents towards Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support Agency staff in the 2011-12 financial year – 400 more than the previous year.
She said the union would call on the Department of Human Services to increase its staff in centres to cut waiting times and so relieve bottlenecks within reception areas that staff say were flashpoints for trouble.
Ms Newman said that there was a clear link between staff cuts and a rise in violence and abuse.
“Over the past two years as part of Government cutbacks and consolidation of services, the number of Department of Human Services jobs has fallen from around 41,000 to 36,000 – a fall of 12 per cent,” she said.
“Yet they are doing more work - staff levels had remained the same as they were a decade ago but call volumes had increased by 63 per cent, an extra 14.7 million a year.
“People are being forced to wait longer to get served, which is causing these bottlenecks in service centres as customers mill around waiting their turn.”
She said that this had led to frustration and to arguments, abuse being directed at staff or even fights breaking out between clients.
Ms Newman said staff had been spat on, head-butted, punched, had phones thrown at them and had even received death threats.
“The Department has a duty of care to protect its staff as well as those people who come into the centres for a range of services,” she said.
“We are calling upon the Government to increase staffing levels to reduce waiting times, and to agree to review the physical environment of these centres to ensure they are as safe as they are welcoming,” she said.
Ms Newman said the CPSU was also calling on the Department to put staff in busy centres who were qualified to identify “high needs” customers requiring immediate assistance.
“Even something as basic as the introduction of signage in centres asking customers to be respectful towards staff has been delayed,” she said.
“We will be asking them about that too,” Ms Newman said.
7 December, 2012
Ideas wanted for
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has called for public submissions on how it can best improve the efficiency of reporting under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) Scheme.
Responding to recommendations from the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) made in February, the Department is to begin examining a range of methods to reduce the reporting burden, in consultation with the Clean Energy Regulator, while maintaining the integrity of the reported data.
In a parallel development, the Council of Australian Governments Business Advisory Forum noted in April that there was a significant view in the business community that the existing suite of climate change and energy efficiency measures included some which were unnecessary, duplicative and imposed costs on industry.
The Department was inviting those with experience in reporting under the NGER Scheme and other interested people to make submissions in response to a consultation paper.
It said it hoped to gather views on ways that reporting under the NGER Scheme might be improved while meeting the objectives of the legislation.
The Department said the review would also examine whether each measure duplicated existing energy and greenhouse reporting requirements (across all jurisdictions), and if so, would report on how those requirements could be streamlined.
It said the Government recognised that efficient collection and use of energy and emissions data had the potential to reduce reporting burden and duplication.
The Department said a major focus of its consultations were those elements of reporting that were marginal or less important to total reported figures, and yet consumed significant time and resources of reporters.
The consultation paper can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 December, 2012
Fair Work Act
The number of Australians covered by enterprise agreements in the Federal workplace relations system has reached 2.9 million according to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten.
hard at work
Mr Shorten said the figure was revealed in the September quarter’s Trends in Enterprise Bargaining Report that showed an additional 200,000 people were now covered by enterprise agreements.
“Having more working Australians involved in enterprise agreements helps deliver sustainable wages growth and improved productivity which supports both Australian workers and Australian business in staying competitive,” Mr Shorten said.
He said since the June quarter, an extra 2,000 enterprise agreements covering an estimated 202,300 employees had been entered taking the total number of agreements of since the Fair Work Act began to 22,500.
“We now have over 2.9 million working Australians covered by enterprise agreements made under the Fair Work Act, providing more people with flexible working arrangements and entitlements that work for them and their employers,” Mr Shorten said.
“It is encouraging that bargaining between employers and employees at the workplace level has led to better ways of working and is now widespread throughout the Australian economy.”
He said the main industries to record strong growth in agreement-making under the Act included rental, hiring and real estate services which reported an increase in agreements of more than 89 per cent with the number of employees covered increasing by 107 per cent since 30 June 2009.
He said the professional, scientific and technical services industries were not far behind with an 82 per cent growth rate and an increase of 42 per cent in the number of employees covered since 30 June 2009.
“The average annualised wage increase for all agreements approved in the September quarter 2012 stands at 3.6 per cent,” Mr Shorten said.
The September 2012 Trend report can be accessed at this PS News link.
7 December, 2012
New Commission to
A new Commission is to be established to investigate complaints from Australian industry about unfair competition from overseas.
dump on dumpers
The new body and a range of other initiatives have been announced by the Prime Minister as part of plans to reform Australia’s anti-dumping system.
The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard said that manufacturing employed nearly one million Australians in skilled and decently paid jobs and was a central part of a resilient, diverse and broad-based economy.
She said the sector faced challenges from the high Australian dollar, economic weakness in Europe, intense global competition and an oversupply of some traded goods in international markets.
“A key concern is evidence of a significant increase in dumping – the unfair trade practice where imported goods are sold in Australia at prices below their normal value, injuring local businesses and their workers,” Ms Gillard said.
“It is not acceptable for Australian jobs to be put at risk by products being dumped into this country.”
She said manufacturing provided a quarter of Australia’s business R&D expenditure, a third of our traditional trade apprenticeship completions and almost 30 per cent of our exports.
“The Government will support manufacturing by strengthening the system for investigating dumping and applying remedies where dumping is injuring local producers,” she said.
Ms Gillard said the reforms would establish a new Anti-Dumping Commission to investigate complaints; boost funding to Customs by $24.4 million over four years so it could deal with cases speedily; make the anti-dumping system easier for small and medium-sized businesses; and introduce stricter remedies against overseas producers who deliberately circumvented Australia’s anti-dumping rules.
7 December, 2012
G20 role promotes
Australia had taken its place in the three-nation leadership team for the G20 Group of Finance Ministers and Reserve Bank Governors.
Australia to top 3
Australia has joined the G20 “troika” which includes Mexico and Russia as the group of past, present and future chairs of G20, reflecting the leading role it is to play in 2014 when the international meeting will be held in Brisbane.
To mark our membership of the leadership group, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has written to the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, congratulating him on taking over the G20 chair, and looking forward to a close working relationship in the lead-up to leaders’ summit in St Petersburg in September next year.
Ms Gillard said she welcomed Russia’s plans to focus on the G20’s core objective of promoting economic growth and jobs.
She also wrote to and congratulated the new President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, on his inauguration and Mexico’s achievements as G20 host in 2012.
“The G20 is the forum best equipped to deal with the ongoing economic and financial challenges confronting the world,” Ms Gillard said, “bringing together at the same table the leaders of the major advanced economies and the emerging market economies.
“The G20 is a dynamic and flexible forum dedicated to resolving the global economic problems of the day and laying the foundations for prosperity and stability for the years to come.”
Ms Gillard said the centrepiece of Australia’s host year would be the Brisbane Summit which was expected to attract 25 world leaders, 4,000 delegates and up to 3,000 members of the media.
She said meetings of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors would also be held in Sydney and Cairns and a range of officials-level meetings and stakeholder engagement events supporting the policy process would be conducted throughout Australia during 2014.
7 December, 2012
An audit of the Commonwealth’s responsibilities under the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health has found that while the Federal Agencies concerned had made a good start, there were a number of issues relating to performance measuring and other matters that were of concern.
national health audit
In his report Administration of Commonwealth Responsibilities under the National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said both the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) and the new Australian National Preventive Health Agency (ANPHA) had put in place all the Commonwealth initiatives required of them but a number of challenges loomed.
Mr McPhee said the rising prevalence of lifestyle-related chronic diseases in the Australian community had prompted the Commonwealth put almost $1 billon into a new National Partnership Agreement on Preventive Health with the States and Territories to improve the community’s diet and exercise, encourage behavioural change, work with industry to promote physical activity and set up an new national preventive health agency.
“Overall, a good start has been made in implementing the Commonwealth’s roles under the Agreement,” Mr McPhee said.
“Between them, DoHA and ANPHA have commenced all Australian Government initiatives under the Agreement.”
He said the agencies had commissioned social marketing campaigns against smoking and obesity; provided grants to organisations for community-based healthy lifestyle programs; worked with industry sectors to promote a healthy living agenda; and helped fund and arrange the expansion of the Australian Health Survey.
“While a good start has been made,’ he said, “challenges remain in measuring performance against the outcomes and objectives specified in the Agreement.”
“DoHA still has work to do with the States and Territories to finalise the baseline data for the benchmarks specified in the Agreement; the detailed methodology for collecting performance data; and the division of responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the states and territories for collecting the data.
He said the Swap It, Don’t Stop It advertising campaign also came to his attention under the audit as it was required to adhere to the requirements of the Federal Government’s advertising framework.
“There was scope to more clearly correlate the factual information with the messages being delivered in the campaigns by including, in compliance statements, a list of statements appearing in creative materials that is clearly linked to the references backing the claims.”
Mr McPhee also registered concern at the financial arrangements entered under the agreement.
“The facilitation payments that have been made to the States and Territories to the end of June 2012 greatly exceed the $84.7 million that they had budgeted to spend to that time,” he said.
He made two recommendations, one each to DOHA and ANPHA.
The Auditor-General’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was John McWilliam, Michael Masters, Deanne Allan and Andrew Morris.
7 December, 2012
And in other news...
Commission opens doors
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) commenced operation this week (3 December) marking a milestone for Australia’s Not-For-Profit sector
The task of the ACNC is to drive reforms to cut red tape and play a leading role in delivering a national approach to NFP regulation.
Delegation to save internet
An Australian delegation has gone to the World Conference of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to put a case for protecting the internet from unnecessary regulation.
Leader of the delegation, Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said Australia wanted to make sure that any amendments to international regulations did not undermine the multi-stakeholder model of the internet that had been so successful to date or fundamentally change the way it operated.
The conference, in Dubai, runs to 14 December.
Museum opens art show
An exhibition of works from a new Aboriginal art movement emerging from the Western Desert has opened at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
Warakurna: All the Stories Got into our Minds and Eyes, is a collection of paintings, woven fibre and carved wood sculptures produced at Warakurna, a community at the foot of the Rawlinson Ranges in Western Australia, 300 kilometres west of Uluru (Ayers Rock).
Law change exposed
Exposure drafts of proposed amendments to sections of the Australian Consumer Law that have caused problems for restaurants and cafes have been released for public comment.
The Productivity Commission recommended that the law be changed to place restaurant and café menu surcharges for specific days, such as public holiday and weekends, outside the single pricing requirements.
The exposure drafts can be accessed at this PS Link.
A new initiative that provides free transactions at 79 ATMs across very remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities has been welcomed by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin.
Ms Macklin said the move would mean remote Indigenous communities in the Northern territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia would get a fairer go in terms of ordinary banking services.
Soils ain’t soils says Ex-GG
The new Advocate for Soil Health, former Governor General, Major-General Michael Jeffery has used World Soil Day to highlight the importance of managing soils sustainably.
General Jeffery said as the Soil Advocate since October he would be an active promoter of the benefits of taking an integrated approach to landscape management and of raising the profile of Australia’s valuable natural resources.
Smart guide to PS
A mobile version of the Australian Government Online Directory website has been released.
The website provides a guide to the structure, organisations and key people in the Australian Government.
The new version enables anyone with a smartphone to access the directory to find contact details for key people in the Australian Government.
Flying start for women
Two scholarships for women sponsored by the Royal Australian Air Force have been announced to encourage the development of young female pilots within the aviation community.
The scholarships, in their second year, help young women pursue flying careers by assisting with the costs associated with recreational flying.
Available through the Australian Women Pilots’ Association (AWPA), the scholarships were open to female pilots aged between 17 and 24, who had attained their Private Pilot Licence (A) or an equivalent level.
Applications must be submitted before 31 January.
Government in the red
The Commonwealth’s Consolidated Financial Statements for the year ended 30 June 2012 reveal a deficit of $39.4 billion after expenditure of $389.9 billion exceeded income of $350.4 billion.
The Consolidated Financial Statements present the whole-of-Government financial results, including all Australian Government-controlled entities outside the general Government sector such as Australia Post and the Reserve Bank.
NDIS Bill progresses
A new law to establish the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) has been introduced into Parliament.
From the middle of next year, the NDIS will come into force for more than 20,000 people with disability in five launch sites across the country - in the Barwon area in Victoria, the Hunter in NSW and across South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT.
The NDIS is aimed at ensuring people with disability received care and support based on their needs with choice and control over their support.
VC on show
Australia’s latest Victoria Cross recipient, Corporal Daniel Keighran has loaned his medal to the Australian War Memorial for public display.
The rare award will go on show in the memorial’s the Hall of Valour from early 2013.
Japanese films at NFSA
The Japanese Film Festival takes place at Arc cinema at the National Film and Sound Archives in Canberra this month.
The festival is to begin tomorrow (5 December) with a special opening night screening of I Wish.
Other features during the festival will include Love Strikes!, Afro-Tanaka, and Scabbard Samurai.
The Festival will run to16 December screening 18 films rated from PG to unclassified 18+.
All films are in Japanese with English subtitles.
As you were - Defence
The Department of Defence has decided that the current form of Certificates of Service remained appropriate as a form of recognition for contributions made by officers and instructors of the Australian Cadet Force.
The Department made its decision in response to a recommendation of the independent Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal inquiry.
Defence said no change to procedures was required because provision already existed within the Australian honours system to consider officers and instructors of the Cadet Force.
Uruguay new destination
A new work and holiday agreement has been signed between Australia and Uruguay.
The agreement provides for university-educated Australian and Uruguayan travellers aged between 18 and 30 to work and holiday in each other’s country for up to 12 months.
Uruguay is the latest country to agree to a reciprocal work and holiday visa agreement with Australia, joining countries such as Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Turkey and the United States.
Snowy Scheme remembered
A new book on the Snowy Mountain Engineering Corporation (SMEC) has been launched
at Parliament House in Canberra.
Performing the launch of Spirit of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, the Minister for Regional Development, Simon Crean said the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme was not only Australia’s largest renewable energy generator, it had contributed to the nation’s identity.
Mr Crean said SMEC was one of the key contributors to the scheme.
4 December, 2012
PS facing year
The year ahead is to be a significant one for the Australian Public Service according to APS Commissioner, Steve Sedgwick.
Unveiling the 2011-12 State of The Service Report in Canberra last week, Mr Sedgwick said the Federal election due next year would place added responsibilities and focus on the APS, particularly during the pre-election caretaker period.
“It will be more than usually important that the APS maintain the highest level of integrity in its dealings in this very sensitive period,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“In the light of recent commentary, not all of which is well-informed, I’ve given some attention in my Overview to a number of matters concerning the appropriate role of the Service and the underpinnings of public trust.”
He said that among the issues that could affect public trust in the APS were its treatment of confidentiality; the circumstances in which PS staff could made public comments; the role of APS employees and Ministerial advisers; and the proper role of PS staff when advising Ministers.
Mr Sedgwick said the care that PS staff took to ensure that private or confidential information was treated with respect and in accordance with the law was fundamental to a highly trusted Public Service.
“Public Servants need to ensure they fully understand their obligations and exercise due diligence when dealing with sensitive or confidential matters,” he said.
“Trust will be eroded if those who entrust the PS with sensitive information about their private of business affairs believed there is a risk that their confidence will not be appropriately respected.”
He said that on the question of public comment by PS staff, it was now accepted that senior staff had a legitimate role explaining Government policy.
He warned however that they needed to be careful not to go “beyond explanation into advocacy”.
“Careers may be ruined,” Mr Sedgwick said, “if an individual’s misjudgement is taken to imply they cannot impartially serve a Government that holds different views.”
He also confirmed the arrangement that Ministerial staff did not have the power to direct individual APS employees and urged anyone who was to complain.
“It is incumbent upon senior Public Servants to raise with the Minister or Chief of Staff instances in which they believe a Ministerial staff member has sought to direct an APS employee or to block the transmission of their advice to the Minister,” Mr Sedgwick said.
He said it would be “churlish and unprofessional” of a Public Servant however, not to adopt a better idea simply because it came from the Minister’s office.
“It is quite appropriate for senior Public Servants to be at least professionally curious about the merits of alternative policy proposals under debate, whether originating from a non-Government party or any other source”, he said.
Mr Sedgwick said he had expanded on these issues in Chapter One of the State of the Servce Report 2011-12, which could be accessed at this PS News link.
4 December, 2012
A review of APS job classifications has concluded that the current arrangements remained sound.
ruled on the level
Ordered under a recommendation of the Ahead of the Game: Blueprint for the Reform of Australian Government Administration, the review was conducted by members of the Australian Public Service Commission’s (APSC) Workforce Classification team and examined non-SES APS classification arrangements and work-level standards to ensure they continued to meet the needs of APS Agencies and employees.
Public Service Commissioner, Steve Sedgwick said the current classification system was implemented in 1998 to provide flexibility in structuring the APS in a way that accommodated a wide variety of jobs within a diverse and large workforce.
“The premise of job classification is work value, and the review team has consulted broadly regarding APS classification arrangements,” Mr Sedgwick said.
“Feedback from Agencies has revealed strong support for the current classification structure and the flexibilities it provides whilst identifying a need for improved central guidance and practical support.”
He said the review had made the following key findings:
The review recommended that the APSC establish a common set of principles for classification management across the APS; that it develop APS-wide work-level standards to accommodate diverse roles; that it improve guidance associated with using training classifications; and that it articulate the different methods available to Agencies in identifying and managing specialist occupations, such as using local job titles and assigning roles to job families.
- The current eight-level, non-SES classification structure was sound;
- A common set of work-value descriptors would improve work equity across the APS;
- Broad-banding provided Agencies with greater flexibility;
- Maintaining training classifications in the Public Service Classification Rules 2000 was seen as worthwhile; and
- The single classification spine should be retained.
The report of the APS Classification Review can be accessed at this PS News
4 December, 2012
Public sector debates
Canberra is to host the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s 2013 national conference in just under a year’s time.
future in Canberra
The conference is expected to bring Australian and international public sector authorities together to debate Serving Australia in the 21st Century.
President of the ACT Division of IPAA, Andrew Metcalfe said he was expecting about 500 delegates to attend.
“The centenary year of 2013 is an important time for Canberra and for the public sector as we celebrate 100 years of our city,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“The IPAA national conference will examine how it can become smarter, better and broader as we move into the next century.”
He said delegates would look at ways to improve public administration in Australia, discussing issues such as agility and resilience, productivity and innovation, and crossing borders.
Chair of the Conference Committee, Carmel McGregor said the conference program would feature experts speaking on a range of topics relevant to Australia’s public sector.
“It will engage, inspire and promote discussion among people who work within the Public Service, those who support it and those who study it,” Ms McGregor, who is also Deputy Secretary at the Department of Defence, said.
She said a conference highlight would be the presentation of the 2013 Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management.
“The Prime Minister’s Awards are a chance to look at the great work that is being done around the country, and to be inspired by public sector innovation and management excellence,” Ms McGregor said.
“They focus on specific initiatives and are based on organisations at all three levels of the public sector in Australia demonstrating success against four demanding criteria.”
The launch of the IPAA national conference was held at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra and captured by the PS News cameras in this week’s PS in Focus section at this PS News link.
4 December, 2012
New sports program
A new high performance game plan to move Australian sport from world class to world best has been unveiled by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC).
all funds and games
Chair of the Commission, John Wylie said Australia’s Winning Edge outlined a new business model for the nation’s high performance sport sector.
Mr Wylie said the plan sets out a course for Australia to become a top five nation at the Olympics and Paralympics; top 15 at the winter Olympics and Paralympics; No. 1 at the Commonwealth Games and home to more than 20 world champions annually.
“In the past our international sporting achievements were the envy of the world,” Mr Wylie said.
“However, many countries have now replicated our innovations and tapped in to our expertise.”
He said international competition was intensifying and improving all the time and Australians wanted and expected the ASC to respond to the challenge and restore the nation’s pre-eminent position in world sport.
“To do this we need a long-term plan to invest in sports where there is the best chance of success, implement a robust and goal-oriented planning cycle and ensure best practice governance and the right support is in place.”
Mr Wylie said a new model of funding for sports would also be adopted, based on a set of investment principles that assessed a sport’s ability to contribute to the targets.
He said the details of how sports performed against their plans would be made public every year through a State of Sports report giving transparency to national and international performance.
He said there would be a greater focus on investing, developing and retaining coaches and more money would be invested in supporting more athletes.
Talent identification is to become a focus with an annual ‘Sports Draft Camp’ to spot potential champions in Olympic, Paralympic and Commonwealth Games sports.
Chief executive of the ASC, Simon Hollingsworth said the plan in no way diminished the achievements of Australia’s athletes over the past decade.
“However, in any area of human endeavour, there is one truism – past success is no guarantee of future performance,” Mr Hollingsworth said.
“The success of these changes is dependent on all involved in high performance sport working together to move from world class to world best,” he said.
The full game plan Australia’s Winning Edge can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 December, 2012
Three decades of
The first 30 years of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 1982 have been celebrated by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.
The Commissioner, Professor John McMillan said the Act had been the legislative anchor for open Government in Australia for three decades.
“Freedom of information strengthens democracy and improves Government,” Professor McMillan said.
“It allows the public to play a stronger role in discussing, reviewing and scrutinising Government actions.”
He said Australia was one of the first countries to enact an FOI Act in 1982, and more than 90 countries had now taken that same step.
Professor McMillan said that close to a million FOI requests had been made in Australia under the Act.
He said the progress of open Government over the past 30 years in Australia, and over the past couple of years in particular, had been an enormous success story.
He said recent legislative reforms, coupled with a range of new information policy initiatives, had made it easier for people to gain access to information held by Australian Government Agencies.
“Public access to Government information is not only a right, but can also enhance participatory democracy by assisting the public to better understand how Government makes decisions and administers programs,” Professor McMillan said.
“I strongly believe that transparent Government is better Government.
“Thanks to the sweeping reforms enacted in the past few years, a cultural change is taking place within Government Agencies.”
He said public sector information was now regarded as a national resource that must be shared and made available for public purposes.
PS News reported last month that a review of the FOI Act and the Australian Information Commissioner Act 2010 had been ordered by the Government and would be conducted by senior PS administrator Dr Allan Hawke. The report can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 December, 2012
Response to ADF
The Minister for Defence has responded to a report into allegations of sexual and other forms of abuse in the Australia Defence Forces.
The consultants’ review, which received allegations from more than 1,000 people, identified a range of allegations from 775 people which fell within its terms of reference, the overwhelming majority of which were said to be plausible allegations of abuse.
These involved alleged activities in every decade from the 1950s with the earliest dating from 1951.
The Minister, Stephen Smith said the individual allegations, findings, issues and recommendations included in the report were serious and concerning, involving complex and sensitive matters which required careful consideration.
“The Government’s response to the review will ensure that people who have alleged past abuse in Defence receive a response,” Mr Smith said.
He said the responses included a general apology, establishment of an independent taskforce, a capped compensation scheme and a free telephone hotline.
“The independent taskforce will have responsibility for liaising with those who have made allegations of abuse to determine an appropriate response in individual allegations,” Mr Smith said.
He said these could include restorative justice/conciliation processes; referral to counselling; compensation; referral of appropriate matters to police; and referral of appropriate matters for disposition by the military justice system or other Defence process.
“The Taskforce will now commence the process of working with those who have made allegations to determine the best course of action based on their individual circumstances.” Mr Smith said.
4 December, 2012
Privacy laws to
The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim has welcomed upcoming changes to privacy legislation saying they would further protect peoples’ personal information.
“The reforms mean that the same privacy principles will apply to Australian Government Agencies and the private sector,” Mr Pilgrim said.
“A single set of privacy principles, the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs), should mean that it will be easier to comply with privacy laws, and for individuals to know what laws protect the privacy of their personal information,” Mr Pilgrim said.
He said the reforms also introduced a number of changes to how personal information was handled, including when it could be used for direct marketing and sent overseas.
Mr Pilgrim said the laws also strengthened the powers of the Commissioner.
“From the commencement of the new laws, I will be able to accept enforceable undertakings, seek civil penalties in the case of serious breaches of privacy, and conduct assessments of privacy performance for both Australian Government Agencies and private sector organisations,” he said.
“While I will continue to work with Agencies and businesses to help them comply with privacy laws, I will not shy away from using these powers in appropriate cases.”
Mr Pilgrim said that while the new Privacy Act would not begin for another 15 months, he urged Australian Government Agencies and businesses to start preparing now.
“Changes to credit reporting laws mean that some organisations will be able to collect more information about people’s credit worthiness,” he said.
“This includes information about whether a person has made or missed a payment on a credit card or loan.
“If a person misses making a payment from as early as this month, it will be able to be recorded on their credit record and may affect their ability to access credit in the future,” Mr Pilgrim said.
He said that people would not only need to be vigilant about paying their bills on time, they should also make sure that the information held by these organisations was correct.
4 December, 2012
New laws to upgrade Australia’s biosecurity system and replace the Quarantine Act 1908 have been announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig.
has had its day
Senator Ludwig said the Act underpinned Australia’s biosecurity system with the new legislation supporting a more responsive system that intervened where risk needed to be managed - offshore, at the border and post-border.
“Australia has a world class biosecurity system that protects our community, our farmers and our environment from pest and disease,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The Quarantine Act 1908 has served us well but times have changed and our legislation must reflect our needs now and in years to come.”
He said the new legislation promoted effective cooperation between Governments, trading partners, industry participants and the community.
“The Bill will support people to enter into arrangements to better manage biosecurity risks and reduce their regulatory burden,” Senator Ludwig said.
“By making arrangements more flexible, we’re making it easier for business to comply with Australia’s strict requirements and share ownership of our strong biosecurity standing.”
He said the legislation also supported stronger powers for monitoring, controlling and responding to biosecurity risks.
“A statutory Inspector-General of Biosecurity will be established to provide oversight and review of the system for stakeholders such as importers and local industry,” he said.
“Together, these provisions will reduce the potential of biosecurity incidents occurring and ensure we all play our role and are accountable.”
Senator Ludwig said a clearer division of roles and responsibilities between the Minister and the Director of Biosecurity would build confidence for trading partners and industry.
4 December, 2012
New deal switched on
A new package of measures to ensure quality Australian content remains available on Australian television have been introduced by the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
for TV channels
Senator Conroy said a major feature of the measures would be increasing the requirement for multi-channel Australian content on each commercial channel television channel from 730 hours in 2013 to 1,095 hours in 2014 and 1,460 hours in 2015.
“We will retain the current 55 per cent transmission quota for the commercial television broadcasters’ primary channels, but introduce greater flexibility into the current arrangements for sub-quotas.”
Senator Conroy said these measures were part of the Government’s initial response to the Convergence Review.
He said that in 2011-12 the commercial television industry invested a record $1.35 billion in Australian programming, in the areas of drama, sport, news and current affairs and light entertainment.
“In the same period, revenues have remained weak and costs have increased. Commercial free-to-air television is under pressure from the structural change taking place in the media due to the convergence of content delivery platforms and changing consumer habits,” Senator Conroy said.
“Without adjustments to the current rules, the industry could be forced to drop quality Australian content as cost-cutting bites into programming.”
Senator Conroy said that updating the rules on commercial free-to-air television broadcasters gave them certainty, and allowed them the flexibility and capacity to innovate and thrive.
Senator Conroy said that among the measures were an extension on the current rebate on television broadcasting licence fees for 12 months.
He said the fees would then be reduced permanently by 50 per cent, to a maximum of 4.5 per cent of revenue.
4 December, 2012
Improvements to the delivery of income management for Indigenous people in the Northern Territory have been made in response to findings from an interim evaluation report.
The report, by the Australian National University, the Australian Institute of Family Studies and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW, found that among people on income management in the NT there was a statistically significant perception of an improvement in their ability to afford food.
It also found that income management could contribute to improved wellbeing for some, particularly those who had difficulties in managing their finances or who were subject to financial harassment.
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the report built on the independent Northern Territory Emergency Response Evaluation Report 2011 which found that income management was supported by many people in communities who believed it was bringing about positive outcomes, especially for children.
Ms Macklin said the report also built on findings from the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children, which showed that the majority of respondents who were on income management thought that it had led to positive changes in communities.
She said the new model of income management had been operating in the Northern Territory since 2010.
“The report identified areas where income management could operate more effectively, including clearer exemption processes for people who were on compulsory income management and better targeted money management courses,” Ms Macklin said.
“In response, the Government is making changes to improve the delivery of income management in the Northern Territory.”
Ms Macklin said the changes would apply from 1 July 2013 and include ensuring parents on compulsory income management had a clearer pathway to apply for an exemption.
“Under the new arrangements, parents will receive more regular reminders from Centrelink about their responsibilities and the requirements they need to satisfy to qualify for an exemption, such as ensuring that their child has regular health checks, is immunised, and attends school,” she said.
“The Government will also strengthen the relationship between money management services and Centrelink, to ensure people on income management are receiving help to build their financial literacy, including budgeting, banking, savings and awareness of the risks of payday loans.”
Ms Macklin said the final evaluation report of income management in the Northern Territory would become available in 2014.
The interim report can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 December, 2012
Falls not falling as
A report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has found that unintentional falls continue to be the leading cause of injuries requiring hospitalisation in Australia.
The report, Hospital Separations due to Injury and Poisoning: Australia 2009-10, showed that there were about 420,000 injury cases requiring hospitalisation in Australia during 2009-10, an age-standardised rate of 1,858 cases per 100,000 people.
This was similar to the rate recorded in 2008-09 (1,865 cases per 100,000 people), but an increase on the rate in 1999-2000 (1,724 cases per 100,000 people).
Spokesperson for the AIHW, Professor James Harrison said of the 420,000 hospitalised injuries in 2009-10, 38 per cent were due to falls.
He said the second most common cause of hospitalised injury was transport accidents, accounting for 13 per cent of cases.
Professor Harrison said more than twice as many males as females were hospitalised for a transport injury (37,100 compared with 17,000).
He said the rate was highest for both males and females in the 15-19 age group.
“Among very young children aged up to four, the leading cause for injury hospitalisation was a fall (42 per cent), while smoke, fire, heat and hot substances accounted for eight per cent and poisoning by pharmaceuticals for six per cent,” Professor Harrison said.
“Of all hospitalised injuries, 26 per cent occurred in the home,” he said.
“Females were more likely to be injured in the home, while males were more likely to have been injured on a street or highway.”
Professor Harrison said the lowest rate of hospitalisation - 1,728 cases per 100,000 population - occurred in major cities in Australia, while the highest - 3,857 cases per 100,000 population - occurred in very remote Australia.
The Hospital Separations due to Injury and Poisoning: Australia 2009-10 report can be accessed at this PS News link.
4 December, 2012
New crime laws to
New laws designed to fight organised crime target the unexplained wealth of criminals and usher in a new offence for trafficking firearms which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Organised Crime and Other Measures) Bill was part of a reform package that targeted two main features of organised crime – the money it made and the firearms it used.
Mr Clare said the new measures included the establishment of a National Firearms Register; expansion of the Australian Ballistics Identification Network nationwide; development of a National Firearms Identification Database; firearms training for law enforcement specialists by United States trainers; and a Firearms Intelligence and Targeting Team to be established inside the Customs Service.
He said the changes also included embedding Customs and Border Protection officers in crime, gang and firearm squads in the States and Territories; a national campaign on unlicensed firearms; expansion of the Australian Crime Commission’s tracing capability; and annual national intelligence assessments of the illegal firearms market.
“These laws will make the maximum penalty for trafficking in firearms the same as the maximum penalty for trafficking in drugs,” Mr Clare said.
He said the reforms were designed to tackle the illegal firearms market from every angle – “to seize firearms, to break the code of silence, to improve the ability to trace illegal firearms, to strengthen the laws and harden the border”.
He said the Bill also included a range of improvements to unexplained wealth laws.
“Serious and organised crime is driven by the pursuit of money,” he said.
“Organised criminals are more afraid of losing their money than they are of going to jail.”
He said unexplained wealth laws reversed the onus of proof so that criminals had to prove their wealth was obtained legally.
“It makes it easier to confiscate their assets and is one of the most effective ways to bring down organised criminals,” Mr Clare said.