SearchArchives for February 2007
26 February, 2007
Army Enlists Job Finders
For Recruitment Drive
The national Job Network has been urged to support the Department of Defence’s recruitment drive, the Minister for Workplace Participation, Sharman Stone encouraging a closer cooperation between the two giant organisations.
Defence hopes to attract an extra 2600 soldiers for the Australian Army to meet the security challenges facing Australia, Dr Stone said, and there were just under two million working age Australians currently on unemployment support.
“The varied career opportunities in the Australian Defence Force are often overlooked,” Dr Stone said.
She said the Providers of Australian Government Employment Services made up a network of agencies working from more than 1,000 sites around Australia and they were ready to assist with recruitment into the Army, Navy or Air Force.
"Close working relationships between the Australian Government Employment Service Providers, such as Job Network and ADF recruitment ensure that job seekers are given full information about the range of employment and career opportunities available to them including jobs in our Australian Defence Force," Dr Stone said.
She said that as well as joining the permanent Australian Defence Force, job seekers could join the Defence Force Reserve Service to meet their mutual obligation requirements, if they met entry criteria.
"This is a fantastic opportunity for job seekers to give back to the Australian public," she said.
"Participation in Defence Force Reserves assists job seekers to gain workforce skills, but as well, personal organisation, team work and self discipline.
"Given the opportunities to join Australian Defence Force Reserves in regional areas, people on drought-affected farms could look to supplement their income, and at the same time, contribute to their income and to their country’s security by joining the ADF.
Dr Stone said the ADF has recently changed four entry standards relating to weight, past drug use, tattoos and short-sightedness.
26 February, 2007
Defence’s Directorate of Service Conditions has set 30 March as the deadline for submissions to a review of conditions of service for non-custodial parents in the Australian Defence Force.
RAAF News reports that the entitlements for members of the ADF who share parenting of their children with former partners is a long-standing issue with the importance of regular contact between separated parents and their children well-documented.
It said Defence recognised the mobility requirements of ADF service could make regular contact more difficult, the Directorate recently gaining Personnel Steering Group endorsement for the review.
The review would also include examination of the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Bill 2006 to investigate if there were any implications for ADF members who were non-custodial parents.
It will look at conditions of service that support ADF members who are non-custodial parents and proposals for enhanced conditions as well as the tax implications for any new policy proposals.
A tri-Service working group would assist in developing options and DSC is inviting input from ADF members, particularly non-custodial parents, their supervisors and managers.
26 February, 2007
National Museum Makes
The National Museum of Australia has been judged Australia’s top tourist attraction.
The Museum took out the award at the 2006 Australian Tourism Awards held in Sydney, with the National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon, receiving a commendation in the Significant Tourist Attraction category.
The award is the Museum’s second at the highest level, having also been judged the top attraction at the same event in 2004, after only three years of operation.
.Acting Director of the Museum, Suzy Nethercott-Watson said the second-time win showed the NMA was a successful and influential national tourist attraction.
“This confirms the attraction of the Museum as a top cultural tourism destination,” Ms Nethercott-Watson told the Canberra Times.
“The award emphasises the importance of museums at a time when Australian and international visitors are increasingly interested in our history.”
She said the Museum and staff had done outstanding work to get where it was today, after opening only six years ago.
“Since the Museum opened…the staff have consistently impressed visitors across Australia and overseas,” Ms Nethercott-Watson said.
Of 13 other entries from Canberra in the Awards, only the Canberra Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management troubled the judges, winning the Tourism Education and Training Award.
Canberra is to host the Australian Tourism Awards next year.
26 February, 2007
Auditor Shows Penchant
The Auditor-General has made four recommendations to Centrelink to help it gear up for the expected explosion in Age Pensions in the years ahead.
Following an audit of complex pension assessments, the Auditor urged the Agency to improve its performance measurement processes for specialist staff engaged on the complex cases; tighten up on the warning signs that an assessment is likely to be complex; consider standardising management arrangements for the specialist assessors; and implement strategies to ensure there will be enough qualified staff to deal with the expected surge in complex assessments as the community ages.
Centrelink agreed with all the recommendations.
According to the Auditor, complex Age Pension assessments arise when pensioners have interests in businesses, trusts or companies which produce income that impacts on their pension entitlements.
He estimated that Centrelink staff assessed 46,000 complex cases between July 2005 and May 2006, involving payments of $400 million a year.
“Complex assessments pose a significant business risk to Centrelink,” the Auditor-General said.
“It can be a complex task for Centrelink to determine whether an individual has met the eligibility criteria and what their level of payment should be.”
He said a past audit of the pension system had revealed that about half the entitlement calculations carried out by Centrelink contained errors with 30 per cent leading to an incorrect payment being made.
While Centrelink had moved to deal with this error rate, the Auditor said it still needed to improve its performance measurement processes, particularly those that kept track of the specialist Complex Assessment Officers.
“It is important for Centrelnk to have access to reliable performance information regarding the work of CAOs,” he said.
He also called on the Agency to introduce “succession planning” so that it would be prepared for the expected increases in aged pensioners in future.
“There is expected to be strong growth in the number of complex age pension assessments in the near future but none of Centrelink’s area offices has developed succession strategies to ensure adequate numbers of CAOs in the future.”
The Auditor said the Age Pension program was the Government’s biggest in the social security arena, delivering approximately $22 billion to 1.9 million people in 2005-06.
Centrelink administers the scheme on behalf of the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
26 February, 2007
Agency Pays Out on
The Child Support Agency is beefing up its focus on separated parents who deliberately minimise their income to cheat their way out of child support payments.
CSA General Manager, Matt Miller, said some parents were hiding income illegally, earning income in the cash economy and minimising their income through salary sacrificing for tax purposes.
"These parents are not only cheating the child support system – they're cheating their children," Mr Miller said.
To combat the practice, Mr Miller said the CSA would be targeting parents in affluent suburbs who report minimum incomes to pay the minimum child support – around $6 a week.
"CSA will also investigate parents who receive child support and who are suspected of reporting minimal incomes to receive higher payments from their partner and the Australian Government," he said
Mr Miller said data matches from a variety of sources, such as bank statements and tax records were used to uncover cheats.
"CSA does not assume that just because a parent is paying the minimum of around $6 a week, they are minimising their income to reduce child support – some parents do have legitimately low incomes," he said. "However it does make sense to examine how parents on reportedly very low incomes can afford to live in suburbs with above-average house and rental prices."
By employing an additional 120 financial investigators, CSA has been able to increase the number of parents it investigates four fold, with the number of parents investigated increasing from 600 a year to 2400 a year.
26 February, 2007
CDEP Goes in Job Lot
Community Development Employment Projects are to be replaced with access to real jobs as part of significant reforms to Indigenous employment services.
The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey, said the strong economy allowed the Government to replace the CDEP in urban and major regional locations, reducing welfare dependency among Indigenous Australians
Mr Hockey said CDEP would be replaced by a job brokerage service entitled Structured Training and Employment Projects which would be required to place Indigenous Australians in jobs.
He said the new service formed a critical part of both the Government’s Indigenous Economic Development Strategy and its broader economic goals.
"While CDEP has played an important role in many communities, it has resulted in some people living off welfare for years," Mr Hockey said.
"Our only success measure should be if we get someone into a real job – not a position funded by welfare."
He expressed concern Indigenous Australians were not benefiting from the strong economic conditions in the same way as other Australians.
"I am also concerned the labour market is not benefiting from these potential workers," he said.
Mr Hockey said 64 per cent of STEP participants had been placed into jobs and/or education and training.
"These projects together with other highly successful mainstream services like the Job Network will put participants on the pathway to economic independence," he said.
26 February, 2007
Model Tender is Real
Thing for ACCC
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has called for tenders to develop a fixed network services cost model to inform its regulatory decisions.
ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel said the Commission had always been open to considering reasonable cost models developed by industry but they were not up to scratch so it was going it alone.
"The continuing inadequacy of industry's models has led us to the view that the ACCC needs to have its own cost models," Mr Samuels said.
He said this would assist the ACCC in its decision-making on regulated fixed services. He said these services included those important to a competitive environment in the communications and broadband fields, including the unconditional local loop service, line sharing service and originating and terminating access services.
Tenderers wishing to provide the services cost model must bid on developing an engineering-economics model that estimates the efficient, forward-looking costs of supplying services on Australia's fixed telecommunications network.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC engaged international consultants WIK-Consult in 2006 to construct a mobile network and cost model for the supply of the mobile terminating access service. It is now consulting with interested parties in relation to that model.
"The development of the fixed network services cost model is the next step in the ACCC's cost model development process," Mr Samuel said.
26 February, 2007
Capital On Top for
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian National University to promote Canberra as a key location for students of Australian Indigenous Studies.
Under the MOU, students would be able to study at the ANU while obtaining mentoring at AIATSIS.
AIATSIS Chair, Professor Mick Dodson said the MOU was designed to increase support and research capabilities for students of Australian Indigenous Studies.
“Our two institutions will increase the level of support and encouragement for students, enhancing their experience in a collaborative way,” Professor Dodson said.
“AIATSIS holds the world’s greatest collection of original materials relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples, so it makes sense to work with ANU to enable students to draw on our original materials during their studies.”
ANU Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Lawrence Cram said an already long relationship with AIATSIS would be secured by the MOU.
“The move to a formalised and stronger collaborative relationship will benefit staff and students alike,” Professor Cram said.
“The supportive framework outlined in the MOU would support, among other activities, the development of a national Indigenous summer school for graduate students, staff secondments, joint approaches to research funding bodies, joint tendering for research consultancies and joint academic conferences and seminars.”
Professor Dodson said that among other ambitions for the MOU, the secured relationship with ANU would attract more Indigenous students to studying, particularly in Canberra.
“This is about making Canberra competitive in the eyes of students,” he said, “especially Indigenous students.”
26 February, 2007
Nuclear Advice Gets
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency has published an advice paper to inform decision-makers on what to do in the case of widespread radioactive contamination.
The Agency outlined the internationally accepted system of radiological protection relevant to a radiation emergency situation.
According to ARPANSA, a Radiological Dispersal Device, by its very nature, would spread radioactive contamination over an extended area.
"Experimental data and modelling of the dispersion of radioactive material from an explosive RDD have shown that affected areas may need to be decontaminated or remediated to reduce the risk of health effects to members of the public," the Agency said.
It said intervention to prevent serious immediate effects should be a first priority.
Protective actions to avoid longer-term health effects should be initiated when they will produce more good than harm in the affected population. The levels at which these actions are introduced and withdrawn should produce a maximum net benefit to the population.
ARPANSA said that in an emergency involving the dispersion of radioactive material into a community, protective measures such as evacuation, sheltering in place, resettlement or restrictions on foodstuffs may be carried out to minimise the risk to the public.
The decision on implementation of these measures should be based on the national guidelines.
The Agency noted however that there was no existing Australian guidance on criteria for the implementation of clean-up or remediation of an area affected by radiological or nuclear emergencies.
It recommended that following an incident, a Technical Working Group be formed to provide multidisciplinary advice on the optimisation and implementation of the remediation measures.
The advice can be obtained from the ARPANSA website www.arpansa.gov.au.
26 February, 2007
MOU For More Bite
The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation and share information.
The MOU recognises the importance of cooperation between APRA and AUSTRAC to promote confidence in the integrity of the Australian financial system.
AUSTRAC is Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism regulator and specialist financial intelligence unit and APRA is the prudential regulator of the financial services industry .
Established to administer the Financial Transaction Reports Act 1988, AUSTRAC it operates simultaneously under that Act and the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006.
APRA oversees the operations of banks, credit unions, building societies, general insurance and life insurance companies, friendly societies and most members of the superannuation industry.
Under the MoU, the two agencies will assist each other with information, referral of matters and cooperation in regulation, compliance and enforcement, consistent with relevant laws.
APRA Chairman, Dr John Laker said the agreement would enable ongoing collaboration between the two agencies.
"The recent passing of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Act has made it possible for Australia’s prudential regulator and the anti-money laundering regulator to set up more formal arrangements for closer cooperation and exchange of financial transaction reports information," Dr Laker said.
AUSTRAC Chief Executive Officer, Neil Jensen, said it was an important step towards countering money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
An AUSTRAC-APRA Coordination Committee will be established to develop and maintain the close working relationship envisaged.
26 February, 2007
Echidna Spikes Trophy
at Defence Awards
The Defence Materiel Organisation AIR 5416 (Echidna) project team has won the Essington Lewis Trophy at the annual Australian Defence Magazine Awards dinner in Canberra.
The trophy is awarded jointly to the Defence project team and the prime contractor for the project. It is named after the World War Two industrialist who mobilised Australian industry for the war effort.
DMO head, Stephen Gumley, congratulated the Echidna project team, saying the project had been run with strict attention to detail and project engineering discipline by all involved – most notably by Tenix and the Commonwealth’s Echidna Phase 2B project team.
“I congratulate them on delivering this complicated project on schedule and to a very tight budget, providing a major improvement to the survivability and command and control elements of the C-130H fleet," Dr Gumley said.
The Echidna Phase 2B project is providing an Electronic Warfare Self Protection capability for the Air Force fleet of C130-H aircraft.
The project includes upgrading the legacy system already fitted to four aircraft to provide a common platform across the fleet.
26 February, 2007
Bloody Hell Campaign
a Tour de Force
Almost one in every two people who saw the 'So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?' tourism campaign in Australia's top three tourism markets took positive action such as visiting a travel agent or australia.com, a survey has found.
These consumer results were released by Tourism Minister, Fran Bailey, who said it was great news that so many people who watched the advertising took the next step towards visiting Australia.
"In fact, in our top three markets, 46 per cent of consumers who had seen the ad are taking positive action," Ms Bailey said.
The campaign proved successful in both Western and Asian markets, with airlines and hotel operators reporting strong forward bookings for the next few months.
"I am confident 2007 will be our best tourism year ever, creating even more jobs for Australians."
She said the international tourism campaign would continue to evolve with new elements for key markets.
"To keep our campaign fresh, different characters from the original television campaign will deliver the tagline," she said.
"This was part of the plan and uses footage produced more than 12 months ago."
For example, Indigenous tourism experiences have strong appeal in Europe, so Bangarra dancer Frances Rings will deliver the tag line.
Ms Bailey said 2006 was a record year for international tourists visiting Australia.
26 February, 2007
Progress Still Healthy
on Medibank Sale
The Government is seeking joint lead managers to progress the sale of Medibank Private.
Finance Minister, Senator Nick Minchin said the appointment of joint lead managers following a tender process was essential if the share market float of Medibank Private was to begin immediately after the next election, provided the Government was returned.
He said appointing them now would facilitate the listing of Medibank Private in 2008, allowing limited preliminary sale preparations to be undertaken.
The managers would be involved with project managing the sale of Medibank Private, marketing the offer and selling the shares at both the institutional and retail level.
Up to four joint lead managers may be appointed, with the roles likely to be filled by major investment banks.
“The Joint Lead Managers will be appointed on the basis that their contracts can be readily terminated should the sale not proceed for any reason, and the payment of fees is dependent on the sale proceeding, which is itself contingent on the Government being re-elected,” Senator Minchin said.
The appointments will follow an open and competitive tender process to be conducted by the Department of Finance and Administration.
Legislation allowing the sale of Medibank Private was passed on 5 December 2006.
“This sale will increase competition in the private health insurance industry, improve services to contributors and give all Australians the opportunity to own part of the company through a public float,” Senator Minchin said.
“The Government will also recognise existing members through an entitlement as part of the public offer structure, with the nature of that entitlement to be finalised closer to the float,” he said.
26 February, 2007
Government Lifts Lid on Museum Case
The Australian Government has sought to intervene in a British Court case aimed at stopping London's Natural History Museum from testing or interfering with the remains of 17 Indigenous Tasmanians.
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock and Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough said they would intervene in the case to ensure the Australian Government's views were put to the High Court of the United Kingdom.
Mr Ruddock had already approved funding for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre's action against the Natural History Museum seeking the return of the remains without any further testing.But he said that despite Government efforts, an agreement had not been reached.
"We are instructing lawyers to represent the Government but we are also continuing to encourage the parties to resolve this matter out of court," Mr Ruddock said.
Mr Brough said the Australian Government firmly supported the rights of Indigenous people to oppose testing and was committed to the repatriation of all Indigenous Australian remains from overseas institutions.
He said the Government had welcomed the decision of the Natural History Museum last November to return the remains, but expressed concern over the Museum's plan to conduct scientific tests before their return.
"The Australian High Commissioner in London has written to the Director and Trustees of the Museum on several occasions and also to the British Government outlining the Australian Government's views,'' Mr Brough said. "It is unfortunate we have now been forced to take this step."
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre has been negotiating with the Museum for the return of the remains since 2000.
26 February, 2007
CSIRO Kids Research is Childs’ Play
A major survey of Australian children is underway, with thousands of phonecalls to families across Australia inviting them to participate.
Four thousand young people are needed for the national nutrition and physical activity survey, known as Kids Eat, Kids Play.
The survey is being conducted by CSIRO through the Preventative Health Flagship and the Human Nutrition Centre, in partnership with the University of South Australia.
Participants are being recruited in the first half of 2007, with interviews expected to continue until August 2007.
Children will be randomly selected from metropolitan and regional areas of all Australian states and territories. Selected families will be telephoned and invited to take part in the survey, which will involve 230 towns and cities across Australia.
Participants will be interviewed face-to-face about their food intake, activity patterns, and physical measurements.
Additional information about the number of steps they take will be collected using a pedometer for seven days for children aged over five, and some general questions about the household will be asked.
It is the first national survey of Australian children's nutrient intake since 15 and the first national physical activity survey since 1985.
The activity survey is led by Project Director, Professor Tim Olds from the School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia.
Nutrition survey activities are managed by Professor Lynne Cobiac, Head of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at Flinders University of South Australia.
National social research fieldwork company, I-View, will work with the University of South Australia and CSIRO to conduct the survey, which has involved preparing a team of interviewers based in centres across Australia to gather the data.
The survey is funded by the Department of Health and Ageing, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Australian Food and Grocery Council.
26 February, 2007
Security Planning On Track in Darwin
A counter-terrorism exercise in Darwin was an important lead-up in the preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation meeting to be held in May, Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, said.
As hosts of APEC 2007, Australia will facilitate more than 100 days of meetings throughout the year, including the Energy Ministers Meeting in Darwin from 27-30 May.
Mr Ruddock said around 20 Australian and Northern Territory Government agencies and the private sector would be involved in the exercise, which tested responses to a range of security and terrorist incidents at various Darwin locations.
Participants are involved in high-level discussions examining scenarios to respond to different terrorist incidents.
"We are working closely with all States and Territories and the private sector to ensure APEC events are as safe as possible," Mr Ruddock said.
The exercise, called Ochre Luminary, promotes a more coordinated approach to airport policing.
The Australian Government has allocated more than $166 million over six years to ensure the safety and security of all APEC events.
It has also provided $195.5 million to tighten security and policing at Australia's major airports.
"Australia has an excellent reputation for hosting major events such as APEC,'' Mr Ruddock said. "However, we know from the lessons learned from the London attacks in July 2005 that continuous testing of our arrangements is crucial to ensuring we can respond effectively should an attack occur in Australia.''
19 February, 2007
Auditor Does His Book Over IP Slow Down
The Auditor-General has lashed out at Departments and Agencies for dragging their feet on protecting the Commonwealth’s copyright assets and intellectual property.
According to the Auditor, assets worth $7.7 billion last financial year were at risk and a recommendation his office made as far back as 2003-04 that they be better protected had yet to be adopted.
He found at that time that 61 per cent of Agencies rated their intangible IP assets as medium or high importance, but only 30 per cent had policies or plans in place to manage them.
He complained then that leadership was lacking in the PS that would encourage Departments and Agencies to recognise the importance of IP and described such leadership as “crucial.”
Three years later he is still waiting.
According to the Auditor, accounting for IP could be difficult but the benefits were significant.
“Effective management of IP can result in improved operational and financial performance, better use of existing resources and improved accountability,” the Auditor said.
Poor management of IP could result in loss of control, liability for infringements, improper disposal and failure to identify and protect the Commonwealth’s assets, he said.
“Managing IP in the public sector presents unique challenges.”
Referring to the delay in adopting his earlier recommendations, the Auditor-General said Parliament’s Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit had recognised the importance of a Government-wide approach to IP management and had set an implementation date of May 2006.
He noted that that date had passed.
According to the Departments charged with providing leadership on the issue, increased workloads associated with the US Free Trade Agreements and administrative changes to IP responsibility had led to the delays.
The Auditor-General found other reasons as well, including the Departments’ paying insufficient attention to questions of implementation; inadequate structures for dealing with disputes; a lack of clarity and inconsistencies in documents. He also found they had failed to resolve key questions for the approach such as its purpose, which agencies would be covered and whether it was supported by existing policy.
“Earlier attention to questions of implementation may have enabled more timely identification (and resolution) of some of the issues that eventually arose ,” the Auditor said.
He recommended that the implementation now proceed as quickly as possible, a recommendation agreed to by the Departments concerned.
19 February, 2007
Parliament to create Tourism-de-Force
The powers and responsibilities of Tourism Australia are to be strengthened in legislation before Parliament.
Tourism Minister Fran Bailey said the move would enhance the commercial focus and financial accountability of the Board of Tourism Australia, in the wake of the Uhrig review of statutory authorities.
Ms Bailey said changes would include removing the Government member from the Board, replacing the process of Ministerial approval of the corporate and operational plan with one of endorsement, and reducing the threshold for Ministerial approval of contracts from $5 million to $3 million.
"The legislation will put Tourism Australia on a stronger commercial footing, ready to chase the global consumer tourism dollar," Ms Bailey said.
"It will give a much more strategic, commercial focus to the Board."
Ms Bailey said that over the past five years, the Government had increased tourism funding by 60 per cent.
"The Tourism Australia Board will have to comply with increased financial accountability, which is appropriate given that 80 per cent of its funding is from Australian taxpayers," she said.
19 February, 2007
Greater Voice for Country Radio
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is to almost double the amount of cross-media content produced by ABC Local Radio throughout regional Australia.
ABC Managing Director Mark Scott said the broadcaster would train 17 new Radio Online producers to live and work in regional Australia and tell local stories for ABC Radio, Television and Online, he said.
Mr Scott said extra funding from the National Interest Initiatives scheme would assist ABC Local Radio establish new producer positions in regions where they didn’t currently exist.
He said this would increase the number of cross-media producers in regional centres from 25 to more than 40 and would also almost double the amount of cross-media content produced by the ABC for regional audiences.
Mr Scott said the new positions would be located in Coffs Harbour, Orange/Dubbo, Rockhampton, Toowoomba, Townsville, Broken Hill, Mildura, Karratha, Geraldton and Sunshine Coast.
There would be a new Sport Radio Online Producer for Ballarat and Wagga Wagga; a Rural Radio Online Producer for Alice Springs and a Local Radio Online Unit Coordinator in Lismore.
There would also be a new Local Radio Online Program Director and two Local Radio Online Executive Producers in undecided locations to manage editorial issues for the team.
Mr Scott said that in 2006, Local Radio Online was responsible for 26 per cent of all traffic to ABC Online with a unique Australian audience of about 530,000 per month.
19 February, 2007
Dopes Caught in Dope Net
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has made good use of enhanced powers allocated to it by Government last year.
ASADA said the new powers had proven to be bad news for athletes in Australia who tried to cheat the system, with more than a quarter of the Register of Finding entries for the financial year to date resulting from their enhanced investigations.
A total of 18 entries were made in the Register for the period, of which five were a direct result of ASADA’s new powers.
Chair of ASADA Chair, Richard Ings, said the new powers had improved ASADA’s detection capabilities and complemented its traditional testing.
“As a result, athletes and their support personnel committing anti-doping rule violations that previously could not be caught are today facing serious sanctions," Mr Ings said.
He said the five entries came from investigations into allegations of doping in weightlifting.
Relying on testing alone to detect anti-doping rule violations was no longer an option, he said.
"Our message to Australian athletes and their support personnel breaking anti-doping rules today is clear.
"Stop now or you will be caught.”
The Register entries included prohibited substances such as anabolic steroids (3), human growth hormone (1), stimulants (cocaine) (1), cannabis (5), and two entries for failing to comply with a request to provide a sample, as well as offences for use, possession or trafficking in prohibited substances.
A total of 3,822 samples were collected from between 1 July 2006 and 1 February 2007, including 2,286 Government-funded urine and blood tests.
19 February, 2007
Competitors Have Designs On Park
An international competition to design parks next to Canberra's Lake Burley Griffin has been launched by the Minister for Territories, Jim Lloyd.
The National Capital Authority was developing a master plan for "Canberra Central Parklands," which included Commonwealth Park, Kings Park and the Rond Terraces, Mr Lloyd said, and the competition would attract the top landscape architects and urban planning professionals from around the world.
Mr Lloyd said a prize of $50,000 would be offered to the winning designer who might also be commissioned work on the master plan.
“This plan will set down ways to develop the parkland while protecting the best of its existing features,” Mr Lloyd said.
NCA Chairman, Michael Ball said the competition was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for landscape architects, urban planners and architects.
"The tradition of international competitions is one that we hold dear," Mr Ball said.
"The design for our national capital by Walter Burley Griffin was selected by international competition, as were many of our city's landmarks."
He said it was an unparalleled opportunity to create a world's best plan for these significant national parklands along the northern shore of Lake Burley Griffin.
Mr Ball said the competition would be judged by a panel led by Elizabeth Mossop, an Australian working in the United States; Robert Schaefer from Germany; Christophe Girot from Switzerland; and Sue Barnsley, Rob Adams and Stuart Mackenzie from Australia.
The Chief Executive of the NCA, Annabelle Pegrum said special places and features, such as Blundell’s Cottage and the national monuments, would be protected.
"The features you love about Commonwealth Park will be retained and it will be better integrated with Kings Park," Ms Pegrum said.
Registration for competitors will close on 23 April 2007, with entries due by 23 May 2007. The winner will be announced in late June 2007.
19 February, 2007
Training for Gaining in CAPAM Initiative
International moves to improve the standard of Public Services across the globe are focusing on training in a two-prong attack being coordinated by the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management, CAPAM.
The 1,100 member organisation has embarked on a program of identifying Training and Development Institutes across the Commonwealth and then expanding on a number of initiatives to apply new skills and knowledge to the advancement of training in their Public Services.
At a 2005 meeting in Delhi, India, the CAPAM members decided to “significantly advance the dialogue, learning and the overall state of knowledge and practice” among its members and agreed that the first step would be to issue a Commonwealth Training and Development Institute Directory.
Director of the Institutes Initiative, Margaret Saner from the UK National School of Government, said the Directory would include contact details for each Institute as well as details of its strategic approach and operational model. She expected the Directory to be completed very soon.
She said the second stage of the Initiative would then be an “Institutes Project” to build on the information gathered for the Directory to work towards a network of Training Institutes within the CAPAM membership.
She said the five main issues to be addressed by the Initiative were:
Engage and build political commitment;
Connect to the policy and PS reform agendas;
Create a culture of learning in the PS;
Support learning for elected officials; and
Move from individual to PS-wide learning.
A high-level gathering is planned for Ghana late this year to advance the project, with much preparatory work to done in regions beforehand to ensure the meeting is a success.
“The aspiration is to work towards a dynamic event where the sharing of challenges and successes will add to effectiveness and facilitate the enhancement of the role of Institutes in Public Service reform,” Mrs Saner said.
19 February, 2007
Green Light for Transport Strategy
The Australian Logistics Council has received a $1.6 million grant over four years to develop a new strategy for the Australian transport and logistics industry.
Transport Minister Mark Vaile announced the funding at the ALC annual forum on the Gold Coast, following an independent review of the current Australian Logistics Industry Strategy which is led by the council.
Mr Vaile said the transport and logistics sector employed 454,000 people and carried 2.3 billion tonnes of freight a year.
"Through the Australian Logistics Industry Strategy, we are working with the industry to improve its efficiency," Mr Vaile said.
"Every efficiency gain that ripples through the logistics industry creates a wave of benefits for Australia as a whole, because of its central importance to the economy."
He said the review found strong support for the logistics strategy in terms of focus and initiatives such as the Retail Logistics Supply Chain Code of Conduct and work to encourage more young people to enter the industry.
The review said the existing strategy had gone as far as it could and that a new strategy, independent of the Government's Action Agenda program, should be developed.
It called for the industry to develop the new strategy under the leadership of the ALC, with the Government moving to a secondary role, for implementation by 2010.
Mr Vaile said the Government accepted the report's recommendations and would continue to fund the ALC as it developed and implemented the new strategy.
The ALC is chaired by Ivan Backman and consists of 76 industry leaders.
The executive summary of the review can be accessed at www.dotars.gov.au/alc
19 February, 2007
New NSW Reef To Be Ship Shape
The Royal Australian Navy plans to sink the HMAS Adelaide off the NSW Central Coast so the Guided Missile Frigate can be used as a dive wreck.
HMAS Adelaide is to be decommissioned late in 2007 at her home port in Rockingham, Western Australia, with handover to the NSW Government expected in early to mid 2008.
The NSW Government has indicated that the preferred location for the site will be near Terrigal.
Tourism projects which have previously used former RAN warships to establish dive wrecks have reportedly accrued annual revenues ranging from $2.4 million to $23 million to the significant benefit of local communities.
In addition to the warship, the Commonwealth would contribute up to $3 million in funding toward the costs of preparing the ship for sinking.
HMAS Adelaide was built in the United States and commissioned in the Royal Australian Navy on 15 November 1980 and is the second ship to carry this name. The first was a light cruiser that served from 1922 to 1945. HMAS Adelaide was the first guided missile frigate to be home ported in Western Australia.
HMAS Adelaide participated in the 10/91 Gulf War as part of Operation Damask, Australia’s participation in the international coalition against Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. More recently, the ship was deployed for peacekeeping operations in East Timor in 19 and to the Persian Gulf as part of the International Coalition against Terrorism in 2001 and 2004.
HMAS Adelaide is 138 metres long, displaces 4100 tonnes and has a crew of 184 as well as helicopter aircrew and maintainers.
19 February, 2007
New Record Registry a Sound Idea
The National Film and Sound Archive has established a public registry of significant recordings that all Australians can help create called Sounds of Australia.
Australian Film Commissioner Paul Grabowsky, who is Sounds of Australia's 2007 patron described the initiative as “very exciting” for the NFSA saying it acknowledged the importance of recorded sound in shaping the Australian identity.
"There's no doubt that sound has the power to evoke memories and emotions in a very personal way," Mr Grabowsky said.
"I will be fascinated to see what people nominate.”
He said all Australians were welcome to nominate recordings for the registry and a panel of experts from the sound industry and cultural institutions would choose 10 recordings from the list each year for the registry.
Nominations for the 2007 list close on 31 March.
To be eligible for inclusion, sound recordings must have been made in Australia or by Australians and be at least 20 years old.
Almost anything captured on disc, tape, hard drive or cylinder can be nominated - material as diverse as a political speech or news broadcast, a great sporting moment, a single song, an album, an artist or a body of work, or even recordings of bird songs or frogs.
NFSA Director, Paolo Cherchi Usai said criteria for selection would include artistic excellence, historical relevance, technical or scientific achievement, and prominence in shaping Australia's culture and identity.
The NFSA established Sounds of Australia with a foundation list of 10 recordings, representing more than a century of Australian recorded sound.
The foundation list includes the first known Australian recording (a Warrnambool shop assistant imitating a chook) from 1896; Nellie Melba's first commercial recording from 1904; Peter Dawson's On the Road to Gundagai from 1931; Tribal Sounds of Australia, the first available recording of traditional Aboriginal music from 1953 and Men at Work's 1981 classic, Down Under.
The 2007 additions to Sounds of Australia will be announced in June.
19 February, 2007
Long Life is the Return on Capital
The people of Canberra live longer but have fewer babies than the national average according to information collected by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
In a report issued recently, the Bureau said residents of the Australian Capital Territory enjoyed a higher life expectancy than residents of the other States and Territories with a boy born in the ACT during 2005 expecting to live 79.9 years and a girl to 84.0 years. The national expectations were 78.5 and 83.3 years respectively.
The Bureau said the total fertility rate in the ACT in 2005 was the highest it had been since 15, at 1.65 births per woman. Nationally, the rate reached 1.81 births per woman in 2005.
The number of births registered to ACT residents in 2005 was 4200.
In addition, the standardised death rate for the ACT fell from 6.5 deaths per 1000 people to 5.6 in the decade to 2005.
According to the Bureau, the two main underlying causes of death for ACT residents in 2004 were diseases of the circulatory system, such as heart attack or stroke (33 per cent) and neoplasms, such as lung cancer or melanoma (30 per cent).
19 February, 2007
Defence Targets New Recruits
The Defence Department has held a summit in Sydney to improve military recruitment.
Minister, Brendan Nelson spoke at the summit which included cadets, recruits, senior Defence personnel, school principals, career advisers and industry leaders as participants.
Dr Nelson told the group that the most important asset in the Australian Defence Force was its people.
"The men and women who wear and who have worn the uniform of the Australian Navy, Army and Air Force, have defined and shaped our values, our beliefs and our national identity," Dr Nelson said.
He said the Government had allocated $1 billion over the next 10 years for recruitment and retention, with targets of more than 9000 full-time and part‑time new entrants each year.
The recruitment summit explored four themes: access, process, pathways and summation.
Dr Nelson said access was about extending the reach of the ADF to a broader recruitment market and creating more pathways to military careers through linkages with other organisations.
Process was about finding ways to improve and streamline recruitment timeframes and processes.
Marketing looked at gaining a better understanding of how ADF careers are perceived in the wider employment marketplace and finding better ways to engage potential recruits and those who influence career choices and summation was about gathering ideas for the future enhancement of ADF recruiting.
Dr Nelson said a fresh approach would make a difference to recruitment.
He asked Defence to review the summit proceedings and present a range of recommendations and action plans for implementation.
19 February, 2007
AG Finds Deep Throat a Pain in the Neck
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock has defended the Federal Government following delays in laws to protect the confidential sources of journalists.
Mr Ruddock said critics should be asking the States and Territories why they are experiencing delays in drafting and finalising the reforms.
"I secured the State and Territory agreement to make these amendments at the April 2006 meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, but I have yet to see the provisions which the States agreed to draft, for all jurisdictions to implement," Mr Ruddock said.
He said the Government had consistently made its view known that there was a need for reform in this area.
The Solicitor-General had made submissions on behalf of the Government to that effect during the court proceedings involving Herald-Sun journalists Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus.
"Legislating for confidential relationships privilege protection is part of a larger package of reforms which will implement Australian Law Reform Commission report on the uniform Evidence Act," Mr Ruddock said.
He said he had encouraged all States and Territories to implement uniform evidence laws and would continue to pursue the reforms through the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
"The Commonwealth is doing its part. It's up to the States to do theirs," he said.
19 February, 2007
Piles of Money on Show in Museum Case
The Government is believed to have agreed to fund legal action in Britain to stop the testing of Tasmanian Aboriginal remains.
The British Natural History Museum has undertaken to return the remains of 17 Tasmanian Aborigines but intends conducting scientific tests before the handover.
Lawyers for the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre have won an injunction in Britain's High Court to halt the tests pending a further court hearing but the Centre claims its legal costs were putting their efforts at risk. It called on the Commonwealth to help fund the case.
According to Michael Mansell from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, the Attorney-General's office has advised him that funding would be ranted.
"Our legal team in London can now get on with preparing the case for trial and we reckon that right and merit is on our side," Mr Mansell said.
But he still wanted Prime Minister John Howard to intervene.
"We would appreciate an announcement by (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair that John Howard had approached him and as a result of that the Museum was going to hand the remains over unconditionally," he said.
Mr Mansell said a final hearing on the matter was expected to be held shortly.
19 February, 2007
Senator Develops Film Policy
Australian film makers should be legally required to deposit their films with the National Film and Sound Archive according to Liberal Senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries.
Senator Humphries said such a move would ensure future generations of Australians would get to see the films.
He said that under the Copyright Act 1968, one copy of every published item in Australia must be deposited with the National Library of Australia and the relevant State library but there was no equivalent requirement for films made in Australia.
He said the Act could be amended to introduce the requirement.
"It is not good enough to expect film-makers will hang on to their material indefinitely and make it easily accessible," Senator Humphries said.
"We need to ensure this occurs because film is a key resource for those seeking an understanding of how our nation, in particular its cultural identity, was forged."
He said it should be a condition of Government assistance that filmmakers lodge their films with the National Film and Sound Archive and estimated this would cover around 80 per cent of films currently made in Australia.
Senator Humphries said that although the ability of the average person to privately purchase and collect films had increased significantly over the last 100 years, it would be a shame if Australians had to resort to avenues such as e-Bay to access old Australian films.
He said only 10 per cent of Australian films from the silent era survived despite it being the foundation of the development of the Australian film industry.
One of the films made during this era, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was possibly the world's first full length feature64 film, yet only 17 minutes of the film remained.
"This is a cultural tragedy which must we must ensure is not repeated," Senator Humphries said.
He said he had taken the matter up with the Arts Minister.
19 February, 2007
Digits Up for Amateur Telly
Community television could go digital following a report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications, Information Technology and the Arts.
Community television broadcasts in analogue only and does not have secure access to digital broadcasting options for the future.
The Committee report examined options for ensuring the transition to digital for community television in Australia, including the opportunity to simulcast. It took into account the financial burden of conversion and simulcast for community television broadcasters.
Chair of the Committee, Jackie Kelly MP, said there was no doubt that community television was extremely valuable on the “media landscape."
She said it was an “incubator” for diverse and innovative programming and a training ground for commercial and national broadcasters.
She said the Government intended to sell the remaining spectrum soon, with no provision for community television.
"We believe that the sector’s future should be made secure," Ms Kelly said.
"The report’s recommendations summarise the only way community television will survive the transition to digital without having to grow from scratch all over again after analogue has been switched off."
She said the report recommended the Government sell the unreserved digital channel known as Licence A, with an obligation to carry community television during the simulcast period.
It should then convert Channel 31 to digital and permanently allocate it to current and future community broadcasters.
The Committee report recommended the Government provide $6 million to the community television sector to convert broadcast equipment to digital and $1.7 million per year to the community television sector for each year of simulcast.
The inquiry into community broadcasting was announced in January 2006 and received 130 submissions.
Ms Kelly said a second report covering broader community broadcasting issues would be released later this year.
19 February, 2007
Campaign to Clean Up Cleaning Industry
The Office of Workplace Services has launched an education and compliance campaign focusing on the Australian cleaning industry.
Regular industry and regional campaigns were an integral part of the work of OWS, ensuring businesses kept accurate time and wages records and that workers were paid in accordance with their minimum entitlements.
According to OWS Director, Nicholas Wilson, the cleaning industry campaign would entail writing to more than 3500 businesses throughout Australia and providing practical advice, information and assistance.
Mr Wilson said the Office also examined compliance by asking for copies of time and wages records to check them against the demands of the Workplace Relations Act 16 and other relevant industrial instruments such as awards or agreements.
He said it also provided advice to employers, often in the form of fact sheets outlining the new Independent Contractors Act 2006.
MrWilson said the cleaning industry employed a large number of casual and transient workers, as well as young workers and migrant employees who could be vulnerable, thereby increasing the need for OWS to undertake education and auditing in that industry.
“OWS has taken a proactive approach to education and prevention,” Mr Wilson said.
“However, if the OWS finds breaches that are repeated, wilful or of a serious nature, or if the employer does not rectify the breach voluntarily, the OWS may initiate litigation proceedings to ensure compliance."
Businesses found breaching their obligations could face a penalty of up to $33,000 per breach.
12 February, 2007
Union Pays Out On PS Compo Deal
Proposed changes to workers compensation laws threaten to erode the safety net for Commonwealth public sector employees according to the Community and Public Sector Union.
Plans to overhaul the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation and Other Legislation Amendment Bill would remove compensation coverage for employees involved in accidents that occurred during travel to or from work, or who were injured during breaks outside their place of employment, the CPSU said.
The Union warned the amendments would shift the cost of injuries sustained through the course of employment onto individual employees.
"This is despite evidence that Comcare is one of the most effective rehabilitation and compensation schemes in the country, with high return to work rates and low premiums," the Union said.
The draft Bill is still before a Senate Committee.
In its submission to the Committee, the CPSU said that the planned changes would erode employee entitlements to rehabilitation and compensation and could delay return to work and increase medical costs both for the employee and for taxpayer funded health and other social service costs.
It said members had contacted the union with their stories and concerns, some of which were included in the submission.
If the Bill was passed, the Union said, travel to and from work would no longer be covered.
At present, accidents on the way to, or from, the place of employment are covered under no-fault arrangements but under the new rules, employees would have to rely on third party insurance for accidents that occurred through no fault of their own.
Pedestrians and bicycle riders may not be covered, a situation the Union said, provided a powerful disincentive to use healthy, environmentally-friendly transport.
In addition, lunch and meal breaks spent away from the office or place of employment would no longer be covered by the Comcare scheme.
The Union pointed out that journey claims represented only a small proportion of Comcare claims and appeared to be falling, down from 16.8 per cent of total claims in 2004-05 to 14.8 per cent a year later.
Other organisations that made submissions to the Senate Committee included the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Beyond Blue, Bicycle Federation of Australia, Pedal Power and Law Council of Australia.
12 February, 2007
Customs Swoops on Auditor’s Report
The Australian Customs Service has defended itself against a critical Auditor-General’s report that found the organisation had failed in a number of vital areas when introducing a comprehensive new cargo management system in 2005.
Difficulties implementing the new system led to long delays in processing cargo in the lead-up to Christmas 2005 with substantial hold-ups and disruption at many major Australian ports and airports.
The Auditor has made seven recommendations to improve the system.
According to the Customs response however, it had already heeded the lessons learned from the exercise, most of which were identified in a separate consultants’ report issued in May last year.
“Customs acknowledges that there are some things that could have been done to make the implementation smoother,” the organisation says in its response to the Auditor’s findings.
“Customs has made significant progress in addressing the shortcomings.”
It said staff responded quickly when industry began experiencing problems with the new system and had undertaken internal reviews of its processes and relationships with industry to ensure that the difficulties did not occur again.
“The system has functioned reliably during the past 14 months,” it says.
“It is clear that much remains to be done.
“Industry is now actively engaged with Customs in undertaking this work.”
The Auditor found that the cost of the exercise had blown out from an estimated $30 million in 19 to $205 million by February 2006 and that the project was a “major challenge” for Customs.
He said Customs lacked many of the basic fundamental needed to manage a project of that size, including a project plan, financial management plan, project budget or proper risk assessment.
“Project teams were continually under pressure to meet tight deadlines which were not achieved,” he said.
“Customs underestimated the complexity and risks associated with the project and failed to properly respond to emerging issues and changes in risks.”
Customs takes the view that the new system has been implemented.
“Customs has delivered a robust platform for business re-engineering,” it says.
It has also replaced its old, outdated system and introduced new measures to deal with the heightened security and trade environments.
Customs agreed with all seven of the Auditor’s recommendations.
12 February, 2007
ACT Gets its PS Together
A restructure of the ACT Public Service has consolidated personnel and finance services into one area serving all Departments and promises a more efficient Government service delivery according to Acting ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher.
Set up in the ACT Department of Treasury the new Shared Services Centre has about 1000 staff.
Ms Gallagher said ACT Government Departments had been responsive to the transition and she was confident the new arrangements would help to recruit and retain staff.
She said where possible, resources had been channelled into integrated, streamlined, cross-Government systems and processes which allowed corporate services staff to work collectively in a more efficient environment.
“By restructuring the ACT Public Service we will ensure that fewer of our resources are swallowed up by administration," Ms Gallagher said.
"The human resources, finance and information technology savings alone are expected to deliver savings of $4.3 million in the first year, rising to $10 million in 2009-10,” she said.
"Attracting qualified people is clearly a challenge for departments with extremely small corporate sections, so the establishment of the Shared Services Centre will mean expanded opportunities for career development in this area of the ACT Public Service.”
The SSC includes the ACT Government’s IT section InTACT, its procurement section, finance, human resources, records and publishing services.
Corporate services that could not be standardised across Agencies had not been included in the Shared Service Centre.
12 February, 2007
ABC Points Finger at Digital
Organisational changes at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will help the national broadcaster maintain leadership in the digital media world, according to ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott.
Mr Scott said the changes included creating an Innovation Division and merging the ABC News Online unit with the news and current affairs team into a rebadged ABC News Division.
He said ABC TV and ABC2 would be integrated in the Television Division, while the Radio Division would become the Radio and Regional Content Division, providing both audio and video content for radio broadcasts, local ABC websites and television programming.
Mr Scott said the ABC had been at the forefront of digital media development in Australia for the past decade through ABC Online, broadband, video-on-demand, ABC2, podcasting and vodcasting.
"Digital media is now integral to everything we do," he said.
"It is not an add-on, it is not a novelty, it is the present reality as well as the future."
He said the proposals reflected the shift of digital and new media from the fringe of operations 10 years ago to the very centre of the ABC's television, radio and news and current affairs output.
"They will better equip us for a world where our audiences increasingly want ABC content on demand - when they want it, not just when we want to schedule it," he said.
The changes are to be introduced over the coming weeks in consultation with staff.
Mr Scott said consultation committees, including staff from areas affected by the changes, would be established immediately.
"These changes are evolutionary, and are driven by the need to provide ABC audiences with ABC content when and where they want it, and on whatever device they choose - be it traditional TV or radio, online, on their mobile phones or iPods," Mr Scott said.
12 February, 2007
Rocket Launchers in Auditor’s Sights
An audit of Defence weapons and munitions has made its initial report.
Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, has announced that the initial phase of the audit focused on the M72 rocket launcher which was used by the infantry against armoured vehicles.
In January, police charged a person with receiving and disposing of seven of Defence’s rocket launchers as well as a number of other offences.
"The police currently hold one of those munitions," Dr Nelson said.
He said the audit team investigated the origin of the M72 held by the police, finding it was an old variant, probably produced in Australia around 10.
"Defence records indicate that the variant was removed from Defence stocks some years ago," he said.
While the audit team was not able to identify conclusively when the theft occurred, police investigations were continuing.
Dr Nelson said the audit team also found that accounting and security practices for weapons and munitions before 2000 were less stringent than those now in place.
It found that under the current weapons and munitions management system, accounting procedures provided a significant degree of confidence that Defence assets could be tracked.
The audit team checked M72 stocks at sites around Australia and found that all were present and accounted for.
"In all cases, the full stock of the current M72 variant held by Defence was accounted for with no discrepancies," Dr Nelson said.
Nevertheless, the audit team made a number of recommendations to improve and tighten procedures for accounting and tracking M72s throughout Defence.
Dr Nelson said M72s would not be issued, except for operational purposes, until the recommendations of this first phase of the audit report were implemented.
He said phase two would look at security aspects of policies and practices for managing weapons, munitions and explosives across Defence.
12 February, 2007
Intelligence Chief Makes Course Comments
It is an interesting and challenging time to be working in intelligence according to the Director-General of Security, Paul O’Sullivan.
Speaking at the first Australian Intelligence Community induction course for 2007, Mr O’Sullivan said there was an expectation by Government that intelligence agencies would work together well, that all available information would be taken into account, and that the full capabilities available within the Australian system were fully used to produce the highest quality intelligence.
"While there have always been good working relationships across the Australian Intelligence Community, over the last several years there has been considerable strengthening and deepening of those relationships,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
“(This was) directed towards a shared goal of being fully effective and the prevention of harm to Australia and its interests."
He said the Intelligence Community induction course began in 2005 as the first coordinated cross-Community course to be run on a regular basis. Since then, 18 courses have been given to 530 officers, while a senior officer course has been delivered to 51 people.
"Just as important is the opportunity that spending three days on a course such as this offers to get to know people in the other agencies, to put a human dimension to what might otherwise seem to new comers like an impenetrable bureaucracy surrounded by secrecy and folklore," Mr O'Sullivan said.
Participants heard presentations over three days from the six intelligence agencies and from other agencies such as Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australian Federal Police, Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Protective Security Coordination Centre and Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
Mr O’Sullivan said Agencies looked for ways to work together with seconded officers spread throughout the Community and a great deal of information shared.
"Another development that continues to have an impact on the way in which we work has been the escalation of the level of media interest and commentary on intelligence matters," he said.
"Traditionally, intelligence professional's natural preference had been to work out of the glare of the media spotlight."
12 February, 2007
ACMA Switches on To Power Play
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released guidelines for use of its enforcement powers under the Broadcasting Services Act 12.
The guidelines were developed following public consultation and will be reviewed annually to ensure they remain relevant and appropriate.
ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, said the Authority had attempted to strike a balance between providing certainty and clarity to the broadcasting industry while maintaining the capacity to take a responsive, proportionate and flexible approach to regulatory action.
"The guidelines set out the matters that ACMA will take into account in making enforcement decisions,” Mr Chapman said.
“And the principles ACMA proposes to apply in using some of its broadcasting enforcement powers."
He said those principles included recognition of the importance of encouraging and facilitating compliance by all industry participants with statutory obligations.
He said ACMA’s compliance activities may be both proactive and reactive and decisions must not be influenced by bias, conflicts of interest or irrelevant considerations such as gender, race, religion, political views or affiliation.
Enforcement action should be proportionate to the impact of the breach or risk of future breach and as far as possible, should seek to address any systemic or ongoing element that may give rise to future breaches.
Mr Chapman said the circumstances of each breach would be considered separately.
A copy of the guidelines and an explanatory statement are available through the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments at www.frli.gov.au.
12 February, 2007
Farms Still In the Swim Despite Drought
Australia’s agricultural sector was sufficiently internationally competitive to survive the current drought according to Austrade Chief Economist, Tim Harcourt.
“The Australian farm sector may be historically small in terms of size, but it is very efficient by world standards,” Mr Harcourt said.
“(It is) still a substantial contributor to Australia’s export effort.”
He said the wider export impact of the drought was not as severe as it could be due to a number of factors.
“Firstly, we’re experiencing a drought at the same time as a resources boom. Hence, the fall in rural exports, because of drought-related decreases in supply, are coming at the same time as strong growth in resources exports
“Second, the rural sector was not as large as it used to be.”
Mr Harcourt said Commonwealth Bank research showed the farm sector accounted for around three per cent of total output with a similar share of total national employment, although it still accounted for a fifth of Australia’s exports.
"Thirdly, the flip-side of the reduction of the farm sector’s share of national economic output and employment is that it’s made significant gains in efficiency and productivity.
"Accordingly, it’s been able to survive past droughts as well as sharp swings in exchange rates and commodity prices.”
Mr Harcourt said a fourth factor was that the financial fall-out of the drought had not been as large as is in the past.
Programs such as the Farm Management Deposit scheme and altered taxation arrangements allowed farmers to make deposits when earnings were high, so they could draw them down when earnings were low, he said.
Transport subsidies and drought relief schemes were also helping the worse-affected areas.
“Fifthly, the economic diversity of rural and regional Australia has helped," Mr Harcourt said.
"Whilst there are obvious knock-on effects for rural businesses who service the farm sector, many regional Australian economies have a range of export oriented industries that service mining, manufacturing and professional services businesses as well,” he said.
12 February, 2007
Defence Schoolkids in Education Firing Line
Differences between State and Territory education systems caused disruption and anxiety to the children of Australian Defence Force personnel as they moved around the country on posting.
This is the view of the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson, who said Australian Defence Force families could be required to relocate every two to three years, forcing a change of schools for children.
“Some children may attend as many as six or more different schools over the course of their education and the differences between State and Territory curriculums can create a serious lack of continuity in education,” Mr Billson said.
There were significant variations between the education systems, including different school starting ages, a variety of expected learning outcomes and availability of elective subjects.
“All of these factors can add significantly to the stress for families and students when moving on posting,” he said.
Mr Billson welcomed the debate on a national school curriculum saying he had no doubt a more uniform approach would benefit ADF families and in particular school-age children.
“The retention of our ADF members is a high priority of the Australian Government," he said.
Defence provided education support to families on a new posting and had at least one Regional Education Liaison Officer in each State or Territory who provided parents, students and schools with advice.
“Defence School Transition Aides and Mentors are funded in many schools with a high proportion of ADF children and they assist students and teachers alike by easing the transition on joining and leaving the school," he said.
12 February, 2007
Five Unhappy Returns for Tax Man
A former Tax Office contractor has been sentenced to five years jail for fraud totalling almost $800,000.
Stephen Anthony Bell, 42 of Melbourne was found guilty of 28 charges including obtaining a financial advantage by deception, money laundering and unauthorised access to computer data.
The ACT Supreme Court heard that Mr Bell had set up three self managed superannuation funds and illegally accessed Tax Office systems to obtain information on the super entitlements of other taxpayers. By submitting fraudulent forms, Mr Bell arranged for their entitlements to be paid into his funds.
Over $377,000 of the nearly $800,000 in cheques was cashed through overseas accounts. The remaining cheques were stopped before being cashed.
Taxation Commissioner, Michael D’Ascenzo assured the public that the Tax Office took their privacy very seriously.
“No level of unauthorised access is acceptable,” Mr D’Ascenzo said. “Especially when it is used to commit fraud.”
He said the five-year sentence sent a strong message that the ATO will not hesitate to act where it sees misuse of taxpayer information.
“While the majority of our staff do the right thing it is inevitable that in a large organisation there will be a small number of people tempted to do the wrong thing,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“We are continuously reviewing our internal processes to monitor and detect any inappropriate behaviour.”
Mr Bell will have to two years before being eligible for parole.
12 February, 2007
Kelly is Clerk of the Course
Leading Aircraftwoman, Kelly Hyland is the first clerk to complete the Air Force’s new training program for clerks - Clerk Initial Workbook – and she did it in record time.
LACW Hyland, from RAAF Base Tindal in the Northern Territory, finished the workbook within a month of starting the first step in the Clerk Competency Journal.
The Air Force newspaper Air Force News reported that competency-based training and workplace assessment for clerks was a significant step towards improving the clerical contribution to Air Force capability.
It said the Clerical Competency Journal documented the training required across the various employment roles, recording achievements that would provide clerks with aligned civilian accreditation.
Most clerks would be able to achieve the competencies required during their usual work, however some in more diverse areas, may not have had the opportunity to practice common clerical skills regularly. This was the case with LACW Hyland who found that much of her assessment was based on simulation.
LACW Hyland said she felt overwhelmed at first and just put the workbook and journal away,however her assessor encouraged her to give it a go.
"Once you get into the workbook, it’s not so daunting and the more you do, the easier it becomes," LCAW Hyland said.
Director of Military Administration–Air Force Group Captain Andrew Elfverson said he was impressed that most Air Force clerks had been keen to embrace this big step forward.
“Unfortunately there are a few myths floating around concerning the amount of work relating to the Competency Journal which I hope Kelly’s experience will help to dispel,” Group Captain Elfverson said.
“Kelly is a shining example of what can be achieved by any clerk once they make the initial effort," he said.
12 February, 2007
New Law Taps Into Phone Interception
Legislation covering telecommunications interception and access to communications data will be simplified under a draft Bill released for comment by Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock.
The draft Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill 2007 proposes a single legislative framework clearly stating when security and law enforcement agencies can access telecommunications and related data.
Mr Ruddock said the exposure draft would facilitate input from key stakeholders including Commonwealth, State and Territory security and law enforcement agencies and members of the telecommunications industry.
He said the Bill consolidated in one Act the separate regimes now regulating access to communications data and content.
“It is not about creating new powers of access, but instead seeks to consolidate in one place, a clearer, more accountable access regime," Mr Ruddock said.
He said the changes were necessary because of rapidly changing technologies and would strengthen existing record keeping, reporting and oversight obligations.
The new laws were recommended by the2005 Blunn Report of the Review of Access to Communications.
12 February, 2007
Bigger World View at ABC
The International Division of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation has been expanded to include Radio Australia, Australia Network and International Projects.
ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott said the division would build on the success of Australia Network and Radio Australia in delivering content to international audiences that showcases Australia and Australian attitudes.
"There are opportunities to improve the effectiveness of our services to Asia and the Pacific through greater collaboration and this new division will help to achieve that," Mr Scott said.
"Our aim is to both grow our own audiences; and to ensure the ABC makes a positive contribution in working with other broadcasters to develop effective media in the region."
He said Radio Australia was to launch in India in 2007, while the Australia Network reached more than 12 million viewers per month.
The ABC's mix of news, current affairs, education, lifestyle, drama and sport is now available in 20 million homes across Asia, Pacific and the Indian sub-continent.
Mr Scott said the International Division would also provide support for broadcasters in the Asia-Pacific region, including specialist advice and technical assistance, mentoring and training activities.
The most significant of these activities are funded by Australia's oversea aid agency, AusAID.
12 February, 2007
Crime Centre Warns of Muling Ruse
The Australian High Tech Crime Centre has found an increase in on-line criminal offences over the last two months.
Working in partnership with the Australian Federal Police and the banking sector, the AHTCC has identified a new method by which money launderers steal funds from Australian bank customers.
Under the scheme, the AHTCC said criminal enterprises were luring ordinary Australians into becoming their ‘mules’ and expanding on existing money laundering scams that ‘employed’ people to act as a third parties to receive and transfer stolen funds in their accounts.
According to the AHTCC, traditional mules are promised a commission of four to 18 per cent after funds are transferred overseas using an International Funds Transfer Agent. This commission is not often received.
The Centre said recruiting mules frequently involved advertising fake jobs on popular employment or job-seeking websites as well as online in chat-rooms or through unsolicited employment emails.
Under current laws, this form of money laundering can receive a 20 year prison sentence.
AHTCC Director, Kevin Zuccato said those involved with this form of laundering could expect to be heavily pursued and prosecuted.
“The Australian Banking Sector and Australian law enforcement agencies will continue to actively pursue any person participating in this criminal activity,” Mr Zuccato said. “People engaging in this criminal activity can expect to be prosecuted.”
Although mules were most often innocently involved, under some circumstances they may also be open to prosecution.
The AHTCC warned people to refuse any such offer of fund transferring, and anyone who has received money in their bank account under those circumstances should contact their financial institution immediately.
12 February, 2007
Attorney Puts Case for Less Red Tape
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock has welcomed a call by the Business Council of Australia for States to cut red tape on business.
“Reducing unnecessary regulation on business is an important step to ensure that we lock in our economic prosperity," said Mr Ruddock.
“I have been pursuing a harmonisation agenda with the States and Territories with the goal of reducing the ridiculous inconsistencies and contradictions in State laws that impact on business.”
Mr Ruddock said there were different privacy and conveyancing laws across Australia and 70 pieces of legislation covering personal property securities.
"They include confusing and complex methods to protect people taking loans out over personal property," he said. "There are also different laws for statutory declarations and powers of attorney."
He said all the differences led to increased business costs and increased prices for consumers yet the Australian economy was no longer segmented into States and Territories the way it was at Federation.
He said goods and people moved freely across borders and the law should reflect that.
Mr Ruddock said national systems would simplify everyday transactions and provide significant benefits for business and consumers.
12 February, 2007
Tour for the Money Say Record Breakers
The Australia Bureau of Statistics has revealed that around 5.5 million tourists visited Australia in 2006, the third record-breaking year in a row.
According to the ABS the numbers were up 0.6 per cent on 2005, with a substantial increase in tourists from China (up 8.2 per cent), Britain (up 3.6 per cent), South Korea (up 4.2 per cent) and India (up 23.1 per cent).
The Cricket Ashes series also attracted record numbers of British tourists, with 134,300 tourists in December, up 22 per cent on the previous year.
Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Fran Bailey said international tourism was still growing, despite the strong competition from overseas.
"More international tourists have reached Australia's shores than ever before, and most importantly, they are spending $1.4 billion more in our local shops, hotels and restaurants," Ms Bailey said.
"This is our key aim, attracting big-spending tourists who spend up big."
Ms Bailey expressed concern however at the five per cent fall in the Japanese market.
"The appreciation of the Australian dollar to the Yen, coupled with a slashing of aviation seats out of Japan by nine per cent, is making the dream of an Australian holiday less of a reality for too many Japanese," she said.
Ms Bailey said the So Where the Bloody Hell Are You? advertising campaign had created strong interest in Australia as a destination with a 92 per cent increase in hits to our tourism websites.