SearchArchives for February 2008
26 February, 2008
More Work Needed
For Safer Workplaces
A Comparative Performance Monitoring report on Australia’s occupational health and safety and workers’ compensation outcomes in 2005-06 has been endorsed by State and Territory Workplace Relations Ministers.
According to the Ministers, the report reveals Australia was taking steps in the right direction, but more needed to be done to make the nation’s workplaces safer.
Key findings in the report include:
* Australia recorded 231 compensated fatalities in 2005-06, of which 184 were from injury and musculoskeletal disorders and 47 were from other diseases.
* more than 114,000 inspections of workplaces were undertaken around Australia with 67,200 notices issued.
* more than 900 prosecutions were commenced and almost $23 million in fines were handed out by the courts.
* body stressing continues to be the injury/disease that accounted for the greatest proportion of claims (42 per cent).
* Australian workers’ compensation schemes expended more than $5.7 billion, of which around half (52 per cent) was paid direct to injured workers in compensation for their injury or illness.
* the manufacturing industry recorded the highest incidence/claim rates per 1000 employees (28.6), followed by: transport and storage (28.3); agriculture, forestry and fishing (25.9); and construction (25.3).
* 80 per cent of injured workers successfully returned to work within eight to 10 months of sustaining their injury.
The Comparative Performance Monitoring report was complemented by the Compendium of Workers’ Compensation Statistics, which provided more detailed analysis of national workers’ compensation data.
The Compendium series can be found at www.ascc.gov.au. The CPM report series can be found at www.workplace.gov.au/cpm.
26 February, 2008
Future Fund Cashing
In On Opportunities
A report on the investment program for the Future Fund has revealed a 0.6 per cent return for the financial year to 31 January 2008 and a balance in the account of $50.5 billion.
The Future Fund has been established to meet the costs of Public Service superannuation, which until recently was unfunded.
General Manager of the Future Fund Paul, Costello said at the end of January the Fund was defensively positioned with a bias to interest-bearing investments.
He said equities and property securities, other than its substantial holding in Telstra, made up just more than 25 per cent of the portfolio.
“The shape of the portfolio reflects a combination of the early stage of our program and our view, expressed in our 2006/7 Annual Report, that market uncertainty was increasing,” Mr Costello said.
“As a cashed-up investor we are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities emerging in this new environment in both public and private markets.”
He said the Future Fund had also focused on recruiting a team with the skills to expand the investment program across a wide range of sectors. This is now substantially in place.
“We are a long term investor focused on returns over rolling 10 year periods and we are in a strong position to pursue our investment objectives,” Mr Costello said.
He said the $6 billion contributed to the Higher Education Endowment Fund had been invested entirely in cash and related instruments, in line with the current interim Investment Mandate which required returns to be maximised with negligible chance of loss.
“We also look forward to developing our investment approach for the Higher Education Endowment Fund in line with a longer term Investment Mandate which is currently being developed,” Mr Costello said.
26 February, 2008
Activity Study Takes Time Out
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that Australians were working longer but spending less time sleeping, playing and eating or drinking.
The report How Australians Use Their Time, 2006 found that in that year Australians slept for an average of 8 hours 31 minutes a day, five minutes less than in 1997. Time spent eating and drinking also decreased by 4 minutes a day to 1 hour 29 minutes.
Time spent on recreation and leisure activities had decreased by 1 hour 45 minutes per week since 1997 (to 29 hours 31 minutes a week) and the average Australian was spending an extra hour a week on activities such as watching television and using the Internet than they did in 1997 (16 hours 20 minutes a week).
Time spent on sport and outdoor activity decreased by nearly an hour compared to 1997 to an average 2 hours 13 minutes a week in 2006.
The Bureau reported that men and women spent a similar amount of time on both paid and unpaid work (such as domestic activities, child care, purchasing, and voluntary work and care), with 51 hours 55 minutes a week for men and 52 hours 58 minutes for women.
This was around 2 hours more than in 1997.
It said men spent 31 hours 51 minutes a week on paid work in 2006 (up 5 per cent on 1997) and nearly double the amount of time women spent on paid work (16 hours 27 minutes a week, up 7 per cent on 1997).
More people were employed, contributing to the higher average hours of paid work.
The Bureau showed however that men spent much less time on unpaid work (20 hours 4 minutes) than women (36 hours 31 minutes), with domestic activities making up just on half of the time spent on unpaid work by both men and women.
Time spent by women on domestic activities had decreased nearly an hour a week from 1997, while men spent the same amount of time as they did back then.
Other findings included:
* People aged 15 and over spent an average 3 hours 30 minutes a week on education activities in 2006, 15 per cent higher than in 1997.
*For parents of children under 15 years of age, the time spent on child care as the main activity undertaken at any given time, averaging 2 hours 8 minutes a day in 2006 (3 hours and 5 minutes for women).
* When a parent of children under 16 was mainly involved with another activity, the time spent on child care as a secondary activity was 4 hours 13 minutes taking the total time spent on child care to 6 hours 21 minutes a day for parents (8 hours 31 minutes for women).
26 February, 2008
Defence Paper is
White Way to Go
A “White Paper” on Defence has been commissioned by the Minister for Defence, Joel Fitzgibbon.
Mr Fitzgibbon announced the structure of the Paper and the appointment of the personnel to develop it, saying it would be a “key strategic document” and was a “key election promise”.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the White Paper was important for Australia’s future defence and security as it would be a vital planning document forming the foundation of future Defence capabilities.
“We owe it to the Australian people to get this planning right,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“The White Paper will help the Government make fully-informed and cost-effective decisions about the military capabilities we need to defend Australia and to promote our interests.”
He said developing the White Paper process would lead to comprehensive policy guidance across the entire Defence portfolio.
It would align defence strategic guidance, force structure, capability priorities and resource strategies, by taking a comprehensive view of the Defence enterprise.
Mr Fitzgibbon also commissioned a series of accompanying reviews (Companion Reviews) to be conducted across a range of Defence areas to underpin the new White Paper.
These critical studies would be a key input to developing Defence business and Budget priorities to 2030.
“Production of the White Paper will be led by Defence and I have accepted the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Force and Secretary of Defence, that Mr Michael Pezzullo, currently a Deputy Secretary within the Department, assume the role of principal author,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“I have also appointed a Ministerial Advisory Panel to provide me with external advice on key issues associated with the White Paper, and to work with Mr Pezzullo.
“The Panel, comprising three leading Australian strategists, Professor Ross Babbage, Major General Peter Abigail (Retd), and Dr Mark Thomson, will bring valuable experience to the White Paper process.”
Mr Fitzgibbon foreshadowed opportunities for community participation in the White Paper process.
“The development of the White Paper will include a comprehensive community consultation process to encourage community interest in Defence issues, and incorporate those views into the policy making process,” he said.
“I will be announcing the membership of the community consultative panel and details of the community consultation process in the near future.”
26 February, 2008
Interest Shown in
A set of principles to improve transparency in the screening process for foreign investment proposals has been unveiled by the Treasurer, Wayne Swan.
The principles set out the main factors to be considered in determining, on a case-by-case basis, whether particular investments by foreign Governments and their Agencies are consistent with Australia’s national interest.
“Assessing the national interest in any given case requires a balanced view of the proposal against these principles,” Mr Swan said.
“The principles set out the additional factors that need to be considered in relation to investment proposals by foreign governments and their Agencies over and above those that apply to normal private sector proposals.”
He said the Commonwealth welcomed foreign investment because it could make an important contribution to national prosperity as well as the development of the nation’s industries and resources.
“The purpose of Australia’s foreign investment screening regime is to ensure that such investment is consistent with our national interest,” Mr Swan said.
Under the principles the Treasurer has the power to reject proposals that are deemed contrary to the national interest or impose conditions on them to address national interest concerns.
Significant foreign investment proposals, which include all proposed investments by foreign Governments and Agencies, are examined by the Foreign Investment Review Board. This is a longstanding feature of Australia’s foreign investment policy which Mr Swan said had been maintained by successive Governments.
He said when examining investments the FIRB would have regard to the following six issues:
* An investor’s operations are independent from the relevant foreign government.
* An investor is subject to and adheres to the law and observes common standards of business behaviour.
* An investment may hinder competition or lead to undue concentration or control in the industry or sectors concerned.
* An investment may impact on Australian Government revenue or other policies.
* An investment may impact on Australia’s national security.
* An investment may impact on the operations and directions of an Australian business, as well as its contribution to the Australian economy and broader community.
Mr Swan said the Government would consider any plans by an acquiring entity to restructure an Australian business following its acquisition with key interests including impacts on imports, exports, local processing of materials, research and development and industrial relations.
26 February, 2008
Brought to Book
A new book questioning how the measurement of performance was affecting Public Service efficiency has been published in Canberra.
University of Canberra researcher, Professor John Halligan co-authored the book with Professor Geert Bouckaert, director of the Public Management Institute at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium.
“There are extremes in the way individuals and Departments respond to performance management,” Professor Halligan said.
“In some cases, work is done solely to meet performance indicators regardless of how perverse the outcomes may be. In others performance management is followed to the minimum, just enough to complete the reports.”
The authors created unique models of performance management systems and examined how effectively different countries, including Australia, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands, conformed to them.
Their work Managing Performance: International Comparisons, was launched by Auditor General, Ian McPhee.
“Public sector reform is a long journey – it tends to be incremental, and it takes time and energy to inculcate the desired changes,” Mr McPhee said.
“It is, of course, handy to know in advance the prospects for success of the next steps; and, even better, to be guided by other countries’ experience.
This is what makes this book invaluable.
“This book, with its very captivating cover, has compelling content for readers searching for the essential read on managing performance in the public sector.”
Professor Halligan is with the Centre for Research in Public Sector Management at the University of Canberra.
His research interests are public management, leadership and management of change, public sector reform and comparative institutions (Public Service, executives and Parliaments).
26 February, 2008
Defence on Track of
The recruitment of more Indigenous soldiers, sailors and airforce personnel is to become a priority for the Australian Defence Force.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, said that although Indigenous Australians made up 1.4 per cent of the Australian workforce, only 0.6 per cent of Defence was Aboriginal.
“We know all too well that one of the biggest challenges facing the Australian Defence Force is a shortage of the right people with the right skills,” Mr Snowdon said.
“We need to make the most of Australia’s human resources, and while attracting Indigenous people into the Defence force represents a challenge, it is also a huge opportunity.”
The Minister said lessons could be learnt from the Regional Force Surveillance Units.
“NORFORCE based in Darwin, is 48 per cent Indigenous, and I know first hand the excellent work they have done over the last 12 months with Operation Outreach, supporting the intervention in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory,” Mr Snowdon said.
“They also work tirelessly protecting Australia’s borders with Operation Resolute.”
He said that the Government must learn the lessons from the North Australian examples, and apply them across the whole of the ADF.
“The ‘one size fits all’ recruitment strategies … simply don’t work,” Mr Snowdon said.
“I do not make light of the difficulties. Poor health; lack of education; cultural issues; isolation, have all been much discussed in recent weeks. But we must do all we can to enhance the capability of the ADF; and that includes increasing Indigenous participation.”
He said the Government was finalising an Indigenous recruitment strategy.
“But whether we need mentoring, networking, cadetships or traineeships, rest assured it will be done. It is in the national interest.”
26 February, 2008
All Clear Ahead for
Australia and the United States have settled on terms for a new “open skies” air transport agreement.
Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese announced the agreement, saying Australian and US airlines would now be able to determine the frequency of their air services, and the routes they served, without Government interference
Previously new entrants to the route were only guaranteed four services weekly, making it difficult for new airlines to start services.
Mr Albanese said Australian travellers, trade and tourism would all benefit as designated airlines would be able to operate unlimited services between the two countries, via other countries and beyond to other countries.
Over time this would lead to greater choice through increased competition, and provide significant employment opportunities for Australians in the aviation and tourism industries, he said.
“This agreement demonstrates the strength of the Australia-US relationship,” he said.
“The United States is Australia’s third largest aviation market and this agreement removes restrictions on Australian and US airlines starting services and routes between the two countries,” Mr Albanese said.
He said Australia was a strong advocate of liberalising air services between Australia and the US, while at the same time securing our national and economic interests.
“We will have more competition in the market for Australian travellers through the entry of new carriers, such as V Australia,” he said.
“This should result in greater choice for Australians travelling to and from the United States and to other destinations.”
He said the arrangements would enable V Australia to proceed with its plans to introduce air services between Australia and the US from late this year.
“The Agreement will also provide certainty for Qantas and Jetstar to plan into the future, and widen the network of cities they serve in the United States.
“Any airlines wishing to take up the commercial opportunities available under the new arrangements would need to obtain relevant regulatory requirements before commencing operations, including meeting Australia's stringent aviation safety and security requirements.”
He said the new arrangements become effective immediately, pending formal approval of the new treaty by the respective Governments.
26 February, 2008
His Nuclear Power
Investigation of a fault in Australia’s only nuclear reactor that led to its shutdown last July has resulted in the nuclear watchdog ARPANSA evaluating a new design for the reactor’s fuel.
Chief Executive of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, Dr John Loy said ARPANSA had received a submission from the reactor’s operator, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), seeking approval for the redesigned fuel.
Dr Loy said ANSTO discovered that several fuel plates had become displaced from their original positions in the core of the OPAL reactor and it had been shut down since July to allow the incident to be investigated.
“As a result of this investigation, ANSTO deemed it necessary to modify the design of the fuel used in the reactor,” Dr Loy said
He said ARPANSA legislation imposed a requirement on ANSTO to seek approval prior to making any modification to the OPAL reactor or its fuel that could have significant implications for nuclear safety.
In addition to detailed information about the design of the proposed replacement fuel, which was intended to prevent any future dislodgement, ANSTO’s submission includes a root cause analysis, which examined the cause of the dislodgement of the fuel plates.
The submission also outlined proposals for returning the OPAL reactor to full power.
Dr Loy said ARPANSA had commenced reviewing the submission in detail and was using external expertise to assist in its evaluation of the submission, particularly in the areas of vibration and of reactor fuel design and manufacture.
26 February, 2008
Military Salutes new
Australia’s military justice system has been overhauled following decades of reviews and inquiries.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon has tabled a Bill in Parliament he says is one of the final developments towards a fairer and more transparent system.
“The Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade Committee pushed for reform, in Opposition Labor pushed for reform, and now in Government, Labor is achieving a fairer, more transparent and accountable military justice system,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The Defence Legislation Amendment Bill 2008 strikes the right balance between effective discipline and the rights of those individuals who are subject to it.”
He said the court martial system was now gone and military justice now offered the same rights to a fair hearing as civilian justice.
“This Bill extends those reforms to the summary discipline system, where many military offences are first dealt with.”
“Amongst the reforms is the right in all cases to appeal summary authority convictions to a Military Judge of the Australian Military Court, and the right to choose trial over summary discipline in all but a number of minor offences.”
He said he would also ensure rules of evidence still applied.
“While simplified, this means evidence in summary proceedings must be relevant, reliable, sufficient, and consistent.”
Through the Bill, a maximum three-month time limit would be set between the laying of charges and the trial by a summary authority and, as with civilian practice, will allow the possible suspension of whole or a greater range of punishments.
“These initiatives, and many more incorporated in the Bill, aim to streamline and improve the ADF discipline system,” Mr Snowdon said.
26 February, 2008
Archives Floods Web
With Wet Dox Advice
The National Archives of Australia is helping people restore personal information and records damaged in the recent floods.
Newly-released information on the NAA website outlines practical steps that can be taken to recover wet documents as well as water-damaged photographs, CDs, videos, tapes, books and magazines.
“Important personal papers such as passports, wills or certificates can get wet from a variety of sources,” said Ian Batterham, the National Archives’ Specialist Conservator, “from dramatic floods to leaking pipes.
“These events are all termed floods, and all present the same dangers to vital personal papers.”
Mr Batterham said that advice on the website included what should be retrieved first and how to dry out material.
There were also sections on how to salvage records other than paper and other precious items and tips on how to remove the dirt and debris that often accompanied flood water.
“When it comes to saving personal memories after the devastation of flood, the key is to act quickly and on good advice,” Mr Batterham said.
“Natural disasters cannot be prevented, but their effect on personal collections can be significantly minimised.
“While it may appear that they simply need a ‘good dry out’ or ‘can be dealt with later’, without proper care items will deteriorate rapidly and extensively and may not be recoverable.”
He said the new advice was an easily accessible and authoritative source for anyone needing to rescue damaged documents.
Apart from fire, he said water was the most destructive element that could affect personal archives.
“If left wet, paper quickly weakens and water soluble inks would run.
“Mould often creates irreversible damage as it grows, staining and digesting the paper.
“Photos and books or pamphlets that were water damaged can become permanently stuck together.”
To access the new information, visit the national archives website at www.naa.gov.au and follow the links to advice on salvaging flood-damaged records.
26 February, 2008
Families the Target
Of Defence Memorial
The families of Defence Force staff have been officially recognised at the Australian war Memorial with the unveiling of a plaque and a garden seat.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon joined the Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General Ken Gillespie; the Director of the War Memorial, Major General Steve Gower, and members of Defence Families of Australia in a ceremony at the Memorial.
“In war and in peace, the men and women of our Australian Defence Force have been supported by their families,” Mr Snowdon said.
“The work they do would not be possible without the love and understanding that families give.
Today provides a long overdue opportunity to recognise the families’ contribution.”
Mr Snowdon said there were many challenges that went with being in the Australian Defence Force family.
“Our families face frequent relocations, they have to deal with a family member being away from home on training or deployment for weeks or even months at a time – all these factors add up to an increased level of pressure,” he said.
“We are committed to easing these pressures as much as we can, but the first step is to recognise the contributions of our families.”
The plaque accompanies a bench seat in the War Memorial’s Sculpture Garden.
“By establishing this seat here in the sculpture garden we seek to remind the visitors to this place that every person who serves in the Australian Defence Force carries with them the love, the hopes and the fears of a family,” Mr Snowdon said.
“We thank these families for their service to our country.”
26 February, 2008
High Court Jogs UN
Memory with Archive
The archives of the High Court of Australia have been added to the Australian register for UNESCO’s Memory of the World program.
Memory of the World is a record of significant heritage documents from all countries and is maintained by the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as its equivalent to the World Heritage List.
The announcement that the High Court archives were to be added was made at the National Archives of Australia during the final session of UNESCO’s third international Memory of the World Conference, Communities and Memories – a Global Perspective in Canberra.
The High Court archives date from 1903 to 2003 and are jointly held by the National Archives and the High Court of Australia.
They include important documents on significant cases such as the Mabo case, which recognised native title; the Tasmanian Dam case, which stopped the Tasmanian Government from proceeding with the Franklin Dam; and the Communist Party case, which declared that the Menzies’ Government’s Communist Party Dissolution Act was invalid.
These cases are on display in the Memory of a Nation exhibition at the National Archives in Canberra.
According to the Director-General of the National Archives, Ross Gibbs, the High Court archives are a rich and authoritative source of original documents and include Judges’ notebooks, correspondence, reports, audio tapes, images and much more.
“They show a distinctive contribution to the development of a democracy which is uniquely Australian,” Mr Gibbs said.
He said the records had a high degree of integrity and were particularly significant to the deliberations and outcomes of the High Court and the continued development of the body of Common Law in Australia
Find out more about the landmark High Court cases online or by visiting the National Archives in Canberra. National Archives now has four sets of records listed on its Australian Memory of the World register including rare and significant documents associated with the Australian Constitution, Walter Burley Griffin’s planning drawings for Canberra and records of displaced persons coming to Australia after World War II.
26 February, 2008
Student Fact Sheets
Show Rights Stuff
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission has released a series of fact sheets to help university and high school students and their teachers understand complex issues surrounding human rights.
“Human rights affect everyone, everywhere, every day, but many people are not sure of their meaning, and the implications of protecting them,” said Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes, who noted there was a shortage of information in this area.
“Our aim is to make this complex topic easy to understand. Students can use the fact sheets as research tools, and teachers can utilise them as resources.”
There are eight fact sheets available on the HREOC website, including:
* Defining human rights
* Human rights origins
* Human rights philosophies
* The emergence of rights in law
* The international bill of rights
* How States commit to human rights treaties
* Australia and human rights treaties
* Promoting and protecting human rights in the UN system.
The fact sheets are supported by Case Studies: Complaints about Australia to the Human Rights Committee, and the Human Rights secondary sources reference list.
“2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Commissioner Innes said.
“It is important that we ensure people, particularly young people, understand human rights, and what their protection means to their lives, and the lives of others.”
The Commissioner said the easily understood fact sheets would encourage teachers to include human rights studies in classroom discussion and debate.
The facts sheets can be found on the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission website, www.humanrights.gov.au which also has a students’ section.
26 February, 2008
Business Bought in
To Draft IR Laws
Two new Advisory Groups have been set up to assist the Government draft new workplace relations legislation.
The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, and Minister for Small Business, Craig Emerson, announced the new bodies jointly: a Business Advisory Group and a Small Business Working Group.
The Government said it wanted to work consultatively and collaboratively on the substantive legislation which would deliver Labor’s Forward with Fairness Policy.
The Business Advisory Group would be chaired by John Denton, the CEO of Corrs Chambers Westgarth, a major law firm with expertise in industrial relations.
The Ministers said Mr Denton had a strong personal involvement with the Business Council of Australia.
Heather Ridout of the Australian Industry Group would be a key member of the Group and would play an important role linking the Business Advisory Group to the statutory body the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council.
The Business Advisory Group would include representatives of the construction, mining, transport, hospitality, retail, banking, labour hire and the media industry.
The Ministers said a Small Business Working Group would also be created to advise specifically on Labor’s new unfair dismissal system, Fair Dismissal Code and other matters of particular concern to small business.
They said the Small Business Working Group would be chaired by the Minister for Small Business and would include peak small business organisations.
In addition, as part of formal consultations, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Australian Council of Social Services would be consulted, particularly on the question of the low-wage workers.
The Ministers said the National Workplace Relations Consultative Council would continue to meet as the statutory body comprising representatives of ACCI, the AI Group, the ACTU, AMMA, the BCA, the MBA and NFF.
Members of the Business Advisory Group are to be John Denton (Chair), Heather Ridout, Dr Ron Silberberg, Bill Healey, Margy Osmond, Julie Mills, Ron Finemore, Paul Fegan, John Hartigan and Greg Paramour.
The Small Business Working Group would be made up of Gary Black, John Hart, Simon Ramsay, Greg Holmes, Bryan Stevens, Pearce Makin, Kieran Schneemann, Peter Bush, Andrew Arkell, and Tony Steven.
26 February, 2008
Internet Report to
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has reported to the Government on international developments in internet filtering technologies and other safety initiatives.
Minister for Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy welcomed the report Developments in Internet Filtering Technologies and Other Measures for Promoting Online Safety, saying it drew together key trends and made observations about content, communication and e-security risks online.
“The Government’s cyber-safety plan presents a comprehensive range of measures that involves education, international co-operation, research, law enforcement and internet service provider filtering,” Senator Conroy said.
“ACMA’s report also identifies that there is no silver bullet solution to the problem of online risks, especially as there is a shift from webpages to interactive internet technologies, such as chat rooms.”
He said the Government and the ACMA report also agreed on the importance of education, and information and empowering people to manage online risks.
“A large component of the Government’s cyber-safety plan is raising awareness of online safety issues and providing information on the strategies that can be undertaken to mitigate against these risks,” Senator Conroy said.
“However, there are ever-evolving risks that arise when online.”
He said the Government was committed to ongoing research and industry consultation through a new consultative working group and youth advisory group.
ACMA’s report noted that a number of overseas countries currently filtered their content with ISPs in a number places like the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway and Finland, successfully introducing ISP level filtering.
“The Government is undertaking a number of activities to inform the development of an implementation framework for ISP filtering, including extensive consultation with industry and examining overseas models,” Senator Conroy said.
“These filtered services will provide protection for children from internet websites containing harmful content,” he said.
26 February, 2008
Defence finalist in safety awards
The Department of Defence has two finalists in the upcoming Australian Safety Compensation Council’s Safe Work Australia Awards.
Army Captain Sharryn Batt and the Navy’s Amphibious and Afloat Support Group are past recipients of the Defence Safety Awards, and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission Safety Awards.
They are now competing nationally for the Safe Work Australia awards that recognise excellence at the Government, organisational and individual level.
Rau row almost over
Lawyers for Cornelia Rau have accepted an offer of settlement made by the Commonwealth last month to resolve Ms Rau’s compensation claim.
The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, told the Senate Estimates Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs that he had made it a priority to move on the resolution of “legacy cases” that had beset the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in the past.
The terms of settlement remain to be finalised and must be approved by the Supreme Court.
Library distance display
A new exhibition at the National Library of Australia entitled Bridging the Distance, tells the story of how Australians have learned to cope with the tyranny of distance.
Through more than 150 pictures, photographs, manuscripts, objects and books, from the Library’s collection, Bridging the Distance highlights the growth of transport by rail, boat and car and the development of the aviation industry, and explores what distance means for us and our lives.
It will be on show at the Library in Canberra from 6 March.
Disability strategy announced
A new strategy to look at ways of helping people with a disability or mental illness to find or retain employment has been announced.
The National Mental Health and Disability Employment Strategy will be developed in close consultation with people with disabilities, employers, disability employment service and training providers.
It will help identify why people with a disability and mental illness find participation difficult and put in place strategies to address those challenges.
Consultations are to begin in April and be held in the capital cities of each State and Territory with the strategy to be released by the end of the year.
Archive remembers Smoky
The National Film and Sound Archive joined the nation in celebrating the life and career of country music legend Smoky Dawson who died at the age of 94.
Over a performing career spanning more than 70 years, Mr Dawson made recordings in 78rpm, LP and CD modes and also had his own radio and TV series - even his own comic. The nonagenarian made his last recording in 2005.
The NFSA holds more than 550 items in the Smoky Dawson collection, including more than 80 disc recordings dating from the early 1940s through to 2005, radio and TV shows, scripts, photos, sheet music, and even his Amy hat from his days in Borneo with the First Australian Army Entertainment Unit during World War II.
Designers vie for peace
The four teams competing to design the Australian Peacekeeping Memorial have been named.
They are Moloney Architects, IM Architecture Studio, Mode Design and Super Collosal.
Chairman of the Memorial Project, Major General Tim Ford (Ret’d) said each of the four had come up with a very different response to the design that will be built on Anzac Parade, Canberra.
He said the Project wanted a memorial which present and future veterans of peacekeeping operations could identify with.
Ex-Service paper out
A discussion paper inviting views on the structure, terms of reference, powers, functions and form of the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council on Ex-Service Matters has been released.
The Paper also proposes a review of consultative mechanisms between the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the ex-service community.
It has been distributed to ex-Service organisations and is available online at www.dva.gov.au to allow for community comment which would be received until 28 April 2008.
CASA opens IT portal
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority plans to launch a Self Service Portal, an internet-based tool designed to help users conduct their business with CASA more efficiently.
CASA said the portal would be initially launched in mid-2008, with the ability the view and update information and then, over the course of the year, features would be expanded.
In the first stage of the portal release more than 20 pieces of an individual’s aviation data will be accessible.
Plans for Norfolk Is
The Australian Government has prepared a draft amendment to the management plan for the Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area on Norfolk Island.
KAVHA is on the National Heritage List.
Members of the general public, both on Norfolk Island and elsewhere, who have an interest in the KAVHA Management Plan, are invited to provide written submissions relating to the draft plan by close of business, Monday, 17 March 2008.
Australian writers have been invited to enter the inaugural Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.
Two tax-free national literary prizes of $100,000 each are being offered as prizes, one for fiction and the other non-fiction.
Intended as prestigious literary awards the PM’s awards are the nation’s most generous and were designed to recognise Australia’s great talent and foster new generations of writers.
Authors, publishers and literary agents are eligible to enter books written by living Australian citizens and permanent residents and two judging panels will comprise three members of national standing each.
19 February, 2008
Heated Calls for
PS Wage Freeze
Opposition and Democrats politicians have called for wage freeze for the APS following the Prime Minister’s announcement that MP’s were to receive no salary increases for 15 months as an example to the community.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, told backbench MPs that their salaries of $127,060 p.a. were to remain unchanged until mid 2009 as a step in the fight against inflation.
Former Liberal Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey said the best way for the Government to set an example would be to include the Public Service in the wage freeze but he predicted that wouldn’t happen.
“If the Government is trying to set an example it will extend the pay freeze to beyond just politicians to the people who actually do have an impact on economic management,” Mr Hockey said. “And that’s the Public Service.”
“But they won’t do that because this is all part of a stunt.”
Australian Democrats Senator Andrew Murray was also critical of the wage freeze saying it was an “an empty pollie-bashing gesture” unless it was to be matched by real action.
He too called for a PS wage freeze.
“It is in the power of the Prime Minister to order that the many thousands of Federal public sector workers earning more than $127 060 have no wage increase this year,” Senator Murray said.
"It is in the power of the Prime Minister to call an urgent meeting of COAG to ask Premiers and Chief Ministers to order that every State and Territory MP and the tens of thousands of State and Territory public sector workers earning more than $127 060 have no wage increase this year.”
19 February, 2008
AWAs Off the Air for
APS in New Scheme
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Julia Gillard, has announced that Australian Workplace Agreements had been banned from the APS as part of the Government’s overhaul of industrial relations.
While the broader Australian workforce would begin phasing out AWAs, Ms Gillard said the APS would lead the way by ensuring no new AWAs were issued across the Service.
She made the announcement in Parliament on Wednesday 13 February.
"Today, I announce that on and from this date there will be no new AWAs in the Australian Public Service," she said.
Transitional arrangements for the rest of the workforce included the phasing out of AWAs, introduction of an interim no-disadvantage test and commencement of the award modernisation process.
“When the Prime Minister became Leader of the Labor Party and I became Deputy Leader in December 2006, we promised to abolish Australian Workplace Agreements,” Ms Gillard said.
“Labor always maintained its belief that this country should have a fairer, simpler and more balanced workplace relations system.”
She said the Australian people voted for that policy which would lead to fairness and flexibility in workplaces.
“They want to see a workplace relations policy for the long-term, not a political football.”
National Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Stephen Jones, welcomed the announcement saying it would make the APS a fairer and more inclusive place to work.
"This is an important development for workplace relations in the Public Service,” Mr Jones said.
“Obviously there’s plenty of detail to examine and we'll need to consider the impact of this change for APS employees in a wide range of circumstances.
"We will be working hard to ensure the rights of Public Servants are respected regardless of the way they are employed and we'll continue to provide practical advice to members,” he said.
19 February, 2008
Head Selection Rules To Have More Merit
The selection and appointment of Heads of Agencies have been overhauled with the Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner, announcing strengthened transparency and merit based selection procedures.
Senator Faulkner said the new arrangements would apply to Agency heads and holders of statutory offices working within or closely with APS Agencies.
They would not apply to the Secretaries of Departments.
“Under the new arrangements all relevant positions will be advertised, the assessment process will be based on merit, and each process will be oversighted by the relevant Departmental Secretary and the Public Service Commissioner,” Senator Faulkner said.
“In each case the relevant Minister will receive a considered report based on a process that applied merit and openness - but he or she will remain responsible for the appointment decision.”
Senator Faulkner said appointments would normally be for five years, but could be for other periods if requested by the prospective office holder or required by the supporting legislation.
The new arrangements would also require that Ministers ensure existing office holders were given reasonable notice as to whether or not they would be reappointed.
Senator Faulkner said there would be some limited exceptions to these arrangements.
“A Minister may not wish to advertise a particular position in special circumstances, for instance where there is another office holder at a similar level who could be moved to the position,” he said.
“Any exceptions will require the Prime Minister’s approval. As well, where a board is responsible for appointments, it will have responsibility for the process.”
The new arrangements, which meet an election commitment, would come into effect immediately and would be fully implemented by 1 July this year.
The full list of current offices to be covered, and those excepted to be covered, is at www.apsc.gov.au/apsprofile/agencyheadselection.htm
19 February, 2008
Finance Aiming High
With Airline Circular
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has issued a Circular setting out a requirement that Departments and Agencies shop around for airline fares.
First Assistant Secretary, Procurement at Finance, John Grant, has reminded Agencies of the need to achieve value for money when booking official travel.
“Agencies achieve value for money in official air travel by purchasing the Best Fare of the Day,” Mr Grant said in the Circular.
“The BFOD is the cheapest fare which suits official requirements.”
The Circular points out that value for money is enhanced in Government procurement by:
* encouraging competition by ensuring non-discrimination in procurement and using competitive procurement processes;
* promoting the use of resources in an efficient, effective and ethical manner; and
* making decisions in an accountable and transparent manner.
In assessing the BFOD, it will be appropriate to consider, but not be limited to, such things as health and safety issues for officers requiring certain facilities; ability to provide connecting flights; achieving work-life balance or having carer responsibilities (ie. flights outside of business hours); the provision of relevant in-flight services, such as meals, that can affect the total cost of travel; and the relevant opportunity costs and benefits of travel (ie. agency costs per hour of person travelling).
Mr Grant said that if an Agency did not obtain the BFOD, the decision and the reasons for doing so must be documented.
He said where discounted fares could offer substantial savings on regular “fully flexible” fares, a decision to purchase would depend on the circumstances surrounding the travel, such as flight schedules, the risk of travel changes/cancellations and the charges and conditions relating to those changes.
“Agencies could regularly review their history of air travel to determine which types of official travel carry a low risk of change/cancellation, for example trips to conferences or regular meetings may be altered infrequently, while travel for ad-hoc business meetings may carry a higher risk,” Mr Grant said.
The Circular also made the point that where Frequent Flyer Points where awarded for official air travel they were not to be used for private purposes.
19 February, 2008
High Standard Paper
Sets New IR Minimums
A discussion paper outlining 10 minimum “standards” for employment in Australia has been released for public comment.
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard said the National Employment Standards, included in the paper, contained the key minimum entitlements for all Australian employees from 1 January 2010 onwards.
“The NES will provide a simple, fair and flexible safety net for all employees, without the administrative complexity and machinery rules that are a feature of the current Work Choices system,” Ms Gillard said.
“This expanded safety net of entitlements will not only benefit those employees who rely on it, but will be better for employers who will have a simple, straightforward set of minimum conditions that are easy to apply and comply with.”
The Government has invited employers, employees, and the community to provide feedback on the draft NES with the aim of making it easier for employees to understand, and for employers to apply.
The discussion paper outlines each of the 10 NES entitlements in detail, and highlights particular areas that stakeholders and interested parties might wish to comment on.
The 10 National Employment Standards are:
* Maximum weekly hours of work
* Requests by parents for flexible working arrangements
* Parental leave (and related entitlements)
* Annual leave
* Personal/carer’s leave and compassionate leave
* Community service leave
* Long service leave
* Public holidays
* Notice of termination and redundancy
* Fair Work Information Statement
Ms Gillard said the Government was particularly interested in hearing about the interaction of the NES with atypical working arrangements and the operation of the NES for those employees who were not covered by an award.
Public comment from interested stakeholders will be taken until 4 April 2008.
The Government plans to consider all submissions received in developing the final NES to be introduced into Parliament later this year as part of substantial workplace relations reforms.
The discussion paper is available on the internet at: www.workplace.gov.au
Submissions can be provided electronically to NES_comment@deewr.gov.au
19 February, 2008
No Apology for
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has revealed that on the day the Prime Minster made the historic apology to the Aboriginal community for past wrongs, the AIATSIS library in Canberra was already holding 461 Sorry Books signed by thousands of Australians saying the same thing.
The Institute said its collection of Sorry Books had powerful historical and social significance as the personal responses of hundreds of thousands of Australians to the unfolding history of the Stolen Generations.
Many more Sorry Books dating from the 1998 campaign were yet to be located, but it was estimated that the entire movement generated perhaps half a million signatures.
“These Sorry Books are the Australian people’s apology,” said Jan Lyall, Chair of the UNESCO Memory of the World Australian committee.
“They date from the 1998 campaign for government leadership in acknowledging Australia’s historical treatment of Aboriginal people.
“These books contain statements of sorrow from people across the country.”
UNESCO’s Third international Memory of the World Conference: Communities and memories - A Global Perspective being held in Canberra this week is to feature the announcement of new additions to the Australia Register and for the first time, items for the Regional Asia Pacific Register.
The AIATSIS Library would be happy to add more of the missing Sorry Books to its collection and has asked anyone with information about them to contact its library on firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (02) 6246 1182.
Various volumes of the Sorry Books are on display in the AIATSIS Library and selected messages can be read in an AIATSIS online exhibition at http://www1.aiatsis.gov.au/exhibitions/sorrybooks/sorrybooks_hm.htm
19 February, 2008
Message Missing at
Post Office: Union
Australia Post has been accused of continuing to advertise vacant positions to be filled using Australian Workplace Agreements in apparent contravention of Government policy.
The Communications Electrical Plumbing Union, which represents Australia Post workers across the nation, has levelled the charges saying the Corporation was pushing the hardline policy.
NSW State Secretary of the CEPU, Jim Metcher, said it appeared Australia Post management were setting out to defy the new Government.
“It is one thing for businesses like Telstra and the Commonwealth Bank to defy the will of the people, it is another thing altogether for a Government-owned business to be pushing AWAs,” Mr Metcher said.
“Postal workers are rightly confused and angry when it comes to seeing their job promotions being advertised on AWA terms and conditions.
“On one hand Postal workers hear AWAs are dead and buried yet on the other hand continue seeing Australia Post executives’ decisions to advertise job promotions under AWA terms and conditions.”
Mr Metcher called on Australia Post management to explain to the new Government why it should set itself outside the mainstream of workplace laws and in direct defiance of the Federal Government’s mandate.
“If a Federal Government cannot enforce its IR Policy onto all Commonwealth Government sections including Australia Post, then how does it expect Australian working families to believe their IR Policy position is bona fide in the build up to an expected new IR legislation?” Mr Metcher asked.
19 February, 2008
ASIC to Treasurer:
You Can Bank on Us
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission believes it is well-placed to respond to the Treasurer’s request for information about bank charges in the Government’s bid to make it easier for bank customers to change banks.
Chairman of ASIC, Tony D’Aloisio said the Commission would begin the review of bank fees and charges immediately and would focus on making clear and comparable information available to the market as soon as possible
“We have already begun collecting data on them and will, as part of our consultation, announce a tight timetable to complete the review,” Mr D’Aloisio said
“ASIC will consult with industry and consumer groups to examine the level of exit and entry fees on home loans, the industry rationale for charging them, how they work in practice and the current disclosure of these fees.
We will also look at the exit and entry fees on home loans in other countries so we can see how Australia compares.”
Mr D’Aloisio said that ASIC had also committed to enhancing the complaints mechanisms available to consumers on banking products and services to ensure consumers were directed to the right regulator or disputes scheme if they felt they had problems.
“Our 1300 telephone number for complaints will ensure there is a single point of entry for complaints.
“Consumers will either get the right advice from ASIC or will be directed to the agency that can best provide assistance; for example, the ACCC on competition issues, the banking and Financial Services Ombudsman or State regulator.”
Mr D’Aloisio said ASIC hoped that by analysing the complaints it received, it would be able to better understand the types and level of consumer concerns on banking issues.
This would further assist ASIC in targeting regulatory work in the consumer market.
He said that this work fitted well with ASIC’s consumer protection role and responsibility for financial services.
The project team is to be headed by ASIC’s Greg Kirk who would report to ASIC’s Deputy Chairman and head of the Retail Investor Taskforce, Jeremy Cooper.
19 February, 2008
Science Centre has
Formula for 20
The National Science and Technology Centre, Questacon, turns 20 this year.
According to the Minister for Small Business, Dr Craig Emerson, who launched the birthday celebrations, the anniversary provides a special opportunity to celebrate Questacon’s achievements and successes and consider how it could contribute to important agendas for the future of the nation. “Questacon aims to build a better future by inspiring all Australians to increase their understanding of science and innovation,” Dr Emerson said.
He said Australia was facing a decline in the number of students pursuing further studies in science, mathematics and technology and Questacon’s exhibitions and programs were designed and delivered to make science and technology exciting and engaging.
Questacon opened in 1988 as a joint Australia-Japan Bicentennial Project. The Japanese Government and business community contributed half the cost of the building, the headquarters for Questacon’s national and international operations.
With Australian Government funding through the Australia Japan Foundation, the 20th anniversary year plans to feature a number of events to build on Questacon’s special relationship with Japan.
Events will include Japanese secondary students’ participation in the Questacon Smart Moves Invention Convention, a science communicator exchange and a traditional Japanese mechanical technologies workshop for primary school students.
More than 6.8 million people have visited Questacon in its 20 years, with a further 14.9 million engaging with a travelling exhibition or program across Australia.
Questacon’s exhibitions have toured to 31 countries.
19 February, 2008
Police in Space
Urge Cyber Savvy
The Australian Federal Police have used Safer Internet Day to urge the community to exercise the same precautions on the Internet as they do in the “real world”.
National Manager of High Tech Crime Operations with the AFP, Kevin Zuccato said this was the fourth year Australia had participated in the awareness day, which is run in more than 50 countries to highlight the importance of internet safety.
“Life online is what you make of it,” Assistant Commissioner Zuccato said, “just like in the real world there are simple steps you can take to ensure you have a safe internet experience.
“It is important to ensure that the public is educated on internet safety and that children know how to use the internet safely.”
He said Safer Internet Day aimed to raise awareness of issues affecting children online through a blogathon designed to generate world-wide discussion with young people on important internet safety issues.
“The day also encouraged people to learn more about how they could protect themselves online”.
Assistant Commissioner Zuccato said the AFP worked with other Australian Government agencies, including the Australian Communications and Media Authority, local and international law enforcement agencies, the private industry, non-government organisations and the wider community to try to ensure children were safe online.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said children would take away important cybersafety messages from the Safer Internet Day activities and would have a broader understanding of the impact of their behaviours in the online environment.
“Cybersafety education is critical in ensuring children enjoy safe internet experiences and know how to protect themselves from threats,” Mr Chapman said.
“ACMA’s program forms an integral part of the Government’s overall cybersafety strategy.”
From a global perspective, the AFP also worked closely with the Virtual Global Taskforce, with objectives to make the internet a safer place. The VGT website (www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com) is a “one stop shop” where people could access information about how to safely use the internet.
Assistant Commissioner Zuccato said people concerned about internet material that they believed may be prohibited could report it to the ACMA at www.acma.gov.au.
“If you were being targeted by inappropriate or illegal material, or if you knew of a child being targeted by suspicious activity, you could report it to the AFP.”
19 February, 2008
Planet to Book
The Head of Environmental Research at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Professor John Dodson, has been chosen to write two chapters of a UNESCO-sponsored book, International Year of Planet Earth.
The book will highlight key areas that must be nurtured or addressed if the world is to sustain itself.
The chapters will be written by well-known experts like Professor Dodson who have specialised in earth sciences as academics, teachers, commentators and science writers.
Professor Dodson said he was honoured to be invited to contribute to the publication about climate change, which he considered to be one of mankind’s most serious challenges.
He believed that changes to the climate resulting from human activity would demand significant life-style and policy adjustments.
“My two chapters outline what the world’s climate change challenges are and some of the steps we need to take to address them,” Professor Dodson said.
“The way our climate has evolved and changed over the centuries is all recorded, whether by man or the planet itself, and now there are many records that track climate changes over many hundreds, even millions of years.”
He said by using science to map patterns and date climatic events scientists could track climate variability over many cycles and create models to simulate them.
“The other area of climate change I explore in the chapters is how societies have adapted, or failed to adapt, with climate change,” he said.
“This is a fascinating area of research and one that particularly applies to modern man.”
He said the Mayans of Central America were an example of a race which failed to adapt to climate change when they faced drought which extended over decades or more. In the end, climate change destroyed their society, he said.
“The changes we may need to make include cutting back energy and water consumption, discovering new natural resources, recycling more,” Professor Dodson said.
“The future depends very much on the choices and decisions we make now and in the very near future.”
Planet Earth also focuses on many other issues such as water resources, discovery of new natural resources, improvement in understanding evolution, health and much more.
The many new efforts and initiative being undertaken by a range of international organisations and industries are also strongly featured.
More information is available from www.yearofplanetearth.org
19 February, 2008
Hot Stuff for GA
Australia’s satellite mapping resources have been enhanced following Geoscience Australia’s addition of a new Indian remote sensing satellite to its stable.
The Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, said the satellite, Resourcesat-1, would be used by Commonwealth and State governments for exploration, topographic mapping, monitoring of crops and forests, and to map floods and fires in emergency situations.
“Remote sensing information is a vital resource for monitoring changes in the land, the coastal zone, and at times for emergency response,” Mr Ferguson said.
“Australia relies heavily on this type of satellite information, particularly from the US Landsat satellites. Having access to more sources means more effective and reliable monitoring for Government and industry sectors.”
Mr Ferguson said the addition was an important step for Australia because the US Landsat satellites were “not in the best of health.”
“This new source will ensure we can continue to do our business in the unfortunate event that they fail,” he said.
“Resourcesat-1 will provide satellite images that are similar to Landsat, but with the advantage of more frequent coverage.”
He said access to Resourcesat-1 was part of Geoscience Australia’s Landsat data contingency plan, meaning Australia could continue its Earth observation programs even if the US Landsat satellites failed.
Mr Ferguson said Australian Governments used thousands of images from Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 each year, but with these systems starting to fail, the Government wanted to make sure there was no gap.
“Due to a technical fault that occurred in 2003, the quality of images from Landsat 7 has been affected. Landsat 5 is now 24 years old, quite remarkable considering it was only designed to last two to three years.
“In October 2007, it suffered a battery problem, from which it is yet to fully recover.”
Geoscience Australia planned to use its ground-stations at Alice Springs and Hobart to receive moderate resolution data from two of the cameras on board the Indian satellite: the Linear Imaging Self Scanner (LISS-3); and the Advanced Wide Field Sensor (AWiFS).
LISS-3 has a resolution of 24 metres with a 140 km swath and a 24 day revisit cycle. AWiFS resolution is 50 to 70 metres with a 740km swath, enabling repeat images on a weekly basis.
“This development sees further diversification of the sources of imagery being received by Geoscience Australia, which is also one of only four world-wide Data Nodes for the Japan Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS),” Mr Ferguson said.
19 February, 2008
ACCC Freshens Advice
On Green Ad Claims
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has updated its advice to businesses and industry on using environmental and green claims in their marketing.
ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel said the Commission had produced Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act in response to the increasing use of green claims in advertising by businesses seeking to differentiate themselves and their products from their competition by means of environmental claims.
“Businesses are aware that consumers are concerned about the environmental impact of the goods they purchase,” Mr Samuel said, “and therefore look to promote the environmental benefits of their products.”
He said consumers should be aware however that “green” and other environmental claims were often based on complex scientific principles, making it difficult to assess their accuracy or to compare one claim against another.
He said green claims were now made about a larger product range than ever before, from small household items to major whitegoods and appliances.
He said environmental concerns, such as water or energy efficiency, were a major factor many consumers considered when evaluating products to purchase.
Mr Samuel said it was essential that consumers had accurate information on which to base their decisions.
He said the publication aimed to educate businesses about their obligations under the Trade Practices Act 1974 and to assist manufacturers, suppliers, advertisers and others to assess the strength of any green claims they made.
This would help to improve the accuracy and usefulness to consumers of their labelling, packaging and advertising.
The release of Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act followed recent ACCC action over potentially misleading environmental marketing claims in the energy industry.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC continued to scrutinise the green claims made in a variety of markets and would take appropriate action against any business making misleading or unsupportable environmental claims.
Green Marketing and the Trade Practices Act was available on the ACCC website at www.accc.gov.au.
Hard copies could also be ordered through the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502.
19 February, 2008
Archives on Record
With February Find
The National Archives of Australia has chosen to feature a 1977 LP record, Silver Jubilee Australian Top 20 as its February Find of the Month.
The Top 20 album was released to mark the Queen’s 25th anniversary Silver Jubilee with proceeds from its sale being donated to the Silver Jubilee Appeal for Young Australians.
Director-General of the Archives Ross Gibbs said the LP was chosen not only for its royal significance, but also for the the legendary faux pas committed by television’s Countdown presenter, Ian “Molly” Meldrum, when he interviewed the patron of the appeal, Prince Charles.
While the Prince’s interview with Meldrum was pre-recorded, Meldrum’s nervous errors still made it to air and have since become a memorable TV moment.
In the interview Meldrum made continual nervous errors and, when lost for words referred to the Queen as Charles’s “mum”, to which Prince Charles replied “You mean Her Majesty the Queen…”.
The inside of the Silver Jubilee Australian Top 20 record cover features a “Sergeant Pepper-style” collage of stars of the 1970s including Sherbet, Skyhooks, Little River Band, Dragon, Air Supply, Ariel, Supernaut, Hash, the Ferrets, Flash in the Pan, Ol’ 55, AC/DC, John Paul Young, Mark Holden, Marty Rhone, Richard Clapton, Marcia Hines, Renee Geyer, Jon English and the Ted Mulry Gang.
“The Australian record industry collaborated to produce the album, several record companies and all the artists, song writers and publishers involved donating their contributions to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal for Young Australians,” Mr Gibbs said.
The February Find of the Month can be viewed at www.naa.gov.au or the original seen by visiting the National Archives in Canberra, at Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes.
19 February, 2008
East Timor Tribute
Trouble in Paradise
The National Film and Sound Archive is to highlight the history of East Timor’s struggle for independence next week when it focuses on the music and politics of Australian composer, humanitarian and activist Martin Wesley-Smith.
Wesley-Smith is part of a family of three remarkable brothers whose lives and art have proclaimed the cause of liberation for Timor Leste (East Timor) for more than 30 years.
Identical twins Martin (composer) and Peter (librettist), and their older brother Robert, the renowned civil rights activist based in Darwin, have presented Timor’s struggle at concerts and events throughout the world.
All three brothers, along with their 91-year-old mother Sheila, will be present at the NFSA for the event.
According to the President of Timor Leste, Jose Ramos Horta “Martin Wesley-Smith is the model political artist.
“He creates works of art which are political, and manages to make politics artistic. He is a true creator, activist and humanitarian. All at once.
“He and his brothers are treasures of our country.”
For this concert Martin will be joined by cellist Julia Ryder and clarinettist Ros Dunlop from Sydney, each of whom have made extensive studies of the fast-disappearing folk traditions of Timor.
They plan to present three virtuosic works for instruments, recorded sounds and images.
According to NFA publicity, Martin Wesley-Smith’s music draws on hymns, freedom songs, Indonesian military music and radio broadcasts (many from the NFSA archives) as well as the sounds and images of village life, documenting the long struggles of the Indigenous peoples of Timor Leste and, now, West Papua.
Manager of the NFSA’s Recorded Sound Branch, Vincent Plush, said while Martin Wesley-Smith’s music included the politics in full measure, ultimately it was the art which impressed most.
Mr Plush is himself a composer who attended Adelaide University with the Wesley-Smith twins.
“Martin’s best pieces take the breath away, leaving both a warm inner glow and a lump in the throat,” Mr Plush said.
The Tears of Timor is part of a three-year project by the NFSA and the National Library of Australia to acquire and preserve the audiovisual archive of Wesley-Smith.
The Tears of Timor will be staged on Friday 22 February 2008 in the NFSA’s Arc cinema.
Bookings can be made on (02) 6248 2000 and intending patrons need to be aware that the disturbing nature of some of the sounds and images makes the event unsuitable for children.
19 February, 2008
Marine Food Expert
In for the Krill
A scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division has been awarded an international fellowship to study the food source ‘krill’ in the Southern Ocean.
Dr Andrew Constable has received a 2008 Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to help ensure that the rapidly growing Antarctic krill fishery will not impact negatively on the recovery of threatened whale populations or the survival of other Antarctic creatures.
Only two inches long, Antarctic krill are a primary food source for the world’s largest animals, and the foundation of the food web in the world’s coldest place.
Dr Constable said krill were increasingly sought by commercial fishing fleets for use in fish-food, pharmaceutical applications, and human consumption.
“Most of the larger Antarctic animals, the seals, whales and seabirds as well as less well-known fish and squid, depend directly or indirectly on Antarctic krill as a food source,” Dr Constable said.
“There is rising concern that the dual threats of climate change and over-fishing will lead to the collapse of the krill population and perilous impacts to the ecosystem.”
Dr Constable, a leader in the Antarctic Marine Ecosystems Program of the Australian Antarctic Division and the Cooperative Research Centre for Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems, plans to use his Fellowship to create a flexible fishery management model that takes a whole ecosystem approach to krill management.
“As factors such as predator numbers, krill abundance and climatic conditions change over time, this computer-based model will allow us to see the impact of tightening or loosening krill fishery restrictions so that we can minimise negative effects on the Antarctic ecosystem.”
He said climate change also added a degree of uncertainty when trying to assess sustainable rates of krill harvesting.
“Given the rapid expansion of the krill fishery, it is urgent that we design an effective and inclusive management strategy to allow sustainable harvesting of krill populations while also preserving the unique web of life in the Antarctic.”
Dr Constable is among five of the world’s most innovative and progressive thinkers in ocean science to receive the three-year, US$150,000 Fellowship in support of critical marine environment conservation initiatives around the world.
The Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation has been awarded to more than 100 leading marine scientists, economists, attorneys, and other ocean conservationists from 27 countries.
Designed to support innovative work, the program provides flexible support of projects through which Fellows develop and implement solutions to critical challenges in the marine realm.
19 February, 2008
GG meets the Smiths
The Governor-General is to throw open his official residence in Canberra on Sunday 2 March for a day of activities to aid the Smith Family.
Government House will be open – inside and out – from 10 to 4 for a garden party and guided tours.
Included in the activities will be an art show, all-day concert, displays and exhibitions and the Lions Club will be selling food and refreshments and local winemakers sharing their produce.
Government House is opened to the public only twice a year.
Tourism’s bloody review
A review of Australia’s Tourism promotion program is expected to scrap the "Where the bloody hell are you?" campaign.
Tourism Australia has told advertising industry sources that the $180 million campaign was to be reviewed with the current contract expiring on 30 June.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd is on record as being critical of the campaign saying while in Opposition: “We shouldn’t be saying ‘where the bloody hell are you?’, but ‘thanks for visiting, see you next time’.”
Post delivers increase
Australia Post has set the ball rolling to increase the cost of a postage stamp from 50 to 55 cents.
The Corporation has lodged an application for the increase with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission claiming increased fuel, wage and transportation costs had forced its hand.
The last price increase was in 2003.
Grocery issues out
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has released an issues paper relating to its inquiry into grocery prices.
The paper outlines issues on which the ACCC is seeking information and describes how submissions can be made.
Copies of the issues paper can be downloaded from the ACCC website, www.accc.gov.au and comments will be received until Tuesday, 11 March 2008.
Apology day to last forever
The National Film and Sound Archives is to ensure that the images and sounds of National Apology Day will be preserved for future generations
NFSA's Curator of Indigenous Collections, Liz McNiven said all electronic media coverage of the event would be fully archived as part of the National Collection.
Ms McNiven said the NFSA was committed to a program which had already seen significant cultural material restored to its traditional owners.
“The apology is proving to be a great catalyst for progressing this work," she said.
Privilege for Agencies
The Attorney General has tabled the Australian Law Reform Commission’s report into legal professional privilege in Parliament.
The report examines the application of client legal privilege to Commonwealth investigatory functions and considers the current law and possible reforms.
The Attorney thanked the ALRC for its work and said it had made significant recommendations in relation to the powers of Commonwealth Agencies.
The report is available on the ALRC’s website www.alrc.gov.au
Horse flu help
Centrelink has advised people affected by the outbreak of Equine Influenza they had until 14 March 2008 to apply for assistance.
Centrelink General Manager, Hank Jongen said people who thought they might be eligible for either the Equine Workers Hardship Wage Supplement Payment or the $5000 Business Assistance Grant should contact the Agency.
Site grows on grains
A new website detailing trials of grain growing has been launched by the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
The new National Variety Trials site will give grain growers considering which variety to grow in winter a new resource to help compare issues such as disease tolerance, agronomic traits and yields in their local area and across the country.
The NVT website can be found at www.nvtonline.com.au
12 February, 2008
Razor Gang Scratches Cost Cutting Surface
The Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, has announced the first round of cost savings for the APS, outlining measures expected to save $643 million over four years, including $243 million in the current financial year.
Mr Tanner described the cuts as “modest” compared to what was foreshadowed for the 2008-09 Budget.
“We need to make tough decisions and make smart investments to put maximum downward pressure on inflation,” he said.
“These $643 million savings are an initial and modest down- payment on those that will be announced on Budget night.”
Among the cuts he announced were $5.9 million in additional resourcing for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission; $5.1 million from Centrelink for call centre supplementation and $1.7 million for transitional accommodation at the Tuggeranong Office Park; $5 million by cancelling the establishment of an Asia-Pacific Network for Energy Technology; $5 million from scrapping the Innovation Ambassador program; $4.9 million by shelving a communication campaign on child support reforms, and $700,00 from a consumer education campaign about Netalert.
Mr Tanner said the Government had a five-point plan to fight inflation which included a Budget surplus of at least1.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product; new incentives to encourage private savings; overcoming the skills shortage ; tackling infrastructure bottlenecks and providing practical ways for people to re-enter the workforce.
12 February, 2008
PM's Head off as Secretary Goes
Outgoing Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Peter Shergold, has described his job as the most powerful Public Servant in the land as a “lonely” one.
“I found leadership of the Public Service to be a lonely job,” Dr Shergold said in a speech he delivered on his last day.
“There have been few days when I have not found something to worry about.”
Dr Shergold, who left the APS at the end of his five-year contract to set up a Centre for Social Impact at the University of New South Wales, is to be replaced by the Secretary of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet, Terry Moran.
Dr Shergold said after five years at the top of PM& C, and 21 years in the APS, the decision to leave was a hard one.
“For the first time in my life (at age 60) I thought it sensible to plan my career.”
He described the role of the Public Servant in today’s bureaucracy as “not a job for everyone” because it required staff to serve successive Governments with equal commitment, to work only in a way that was responsive to Government direction and to yield influence and persuasive power away from the public gaze.
“It requires a toughness and fortitude that, without good leadership, can descend into employee cynicism.”
He said Public Servants had an obligation to present strongly argued policy advice, to suggest alternatives, to interpret facts objectively and to ensure the consequences of actions were foreseen.
But they were not the decision makers.
“However frank, robust and compelling their advice, it must always be the Government they serve which makes the political decisions.
“Public Servants who come to believe that they have a view of the national interest superior to that of the elected Government need to leave.”
Dr Shergold admitted there had been administrative failures on his watch but said the willingness of the Agencies concerned to acknowledge their failings and set about overcoming them suggested a Public Service that was addressing its performance.
He said he was proud to lead the team at PM&C who, after the recent change of Government gave an “outstanding ovation” to former Prime Minister John Howard when he visited the Department to thank them during the election campaign, and who then gave “similarly enthusiastic applause” to the incoming Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd when he visited as well.
“It was clear that those who worked in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, no matter what political views they held, fully understood that they served the Prime Minister of Australia,” Dr Shergold said.
He expected to continue working with public policy makers in his new role.
“You have not seen the last of me!” he said. “Our paths will continue to cross.”
12 February, 2008
Plug into ICT
A new apprenticeship scheme for IT staff in the APS is expected to deliver up to 60 jobs for young people.
Announcing the $15 million program, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, said it would provide real career opportunities in the Information and Communications Technology sector.
“This program directly addresses the ICT skills shortage in the APS,” Mr Tanner said.
“It is all about investing in skills and investing in young Australians.
“The initiative also highlights the benefits of Agencies working together to provide opportunities, produce efficiencies and develop important workforce skills.”
Mr Tanner said the four-year program would be coordinated by the Department of Finance and Deregulation.
Work placements and the academic component of the program would begin this month. During their training, apprentices would receive important “on-the-job” experience with an APS Agency and graduate with a nationally-recognised qualification providing them with the essential foundations to pursue an ICT career in the APS.
He said the initiative followed a range of practical programs the Government was introducing to address skills shortages. These included:
* The Trades Training Centres in Schools Plan which would see new trade centres built in Australia’s 2650 secondary schools;
* An on-the-job Training Plan to ensure students involved in trades training received one day a week of on-the-job training for 20 weeks a year;
* The plan to turn every secondary school in Australia into a digital school by giving every student in years 9 to12 across Australia access to their own school computer; and
* The establishment of Skills Australia.
Mr Tanner said Excelior Pty Ltd which was part of the SKILLED Group has been selected to deliver and administer the initiative. As a national provider of Australian apprenticeships, Excelior will work in partnership with the Canberra Institute of Technology.
12 February, 2008
Year of Statistics
Brought to Book
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released its 2008 Year Book which Australian Statistician, Brian Pink said was a “magnificent window into Australia.”
Mr Pink said it showed where Australia had come from and where it was going.
He also announced that all 90 volumes of the Year Book Australia, going back to the first edition published in 1908, were now available free of charge from the ABS website.
According to Mr Pink, some of the more interesting statistics included in the Year Book were:
* The increase in Australia’s fertility rate in recent years following a long period of falling fertility. In 2005 the fertility rate reached around 1.8 babies per woman on average. Fertility after World War II peaked at 3.5 babies per woman in 1961.
* Australians were living in larger houses and fewer people were living in them. Since 1976 the average number of bedrooms per dwelling has increased (from 2.8 to 3.1 in 2005-06). However, during the same period the average number of people per household has declined (from 3.1 to 2.5).
* Australians were becoming better water conservators. Households reduced their water consumption by 8 per cent between 2000–01 and 2004–05 (from 2278 gigalitres to 2108 gigalitres).
* The population has more than doubled in the past 50 years, to 20.7 million in 2006. Natural increase has been the main growth factor, at around 60 per cent.
* In 2006, nearly a quarter (24 per cent) of all Australians were born overseas, and 26 per cent of people born in Australia have at least one parent born overseas.
* Marriages are lasting longer on average: 8.8 years from marriage to separation in 2005 compared to 7.9 years a decade ago, or 12.6 years from marriage to divorce (11.9 ten years ago).
* Average real disposable household income in Australia in 2005–06 was 10 per cent higher than in 2003-04. The Australian Capital Territory had the highest average household incomes, 22 per cent above the national average.
* Twenty-two percent of women and 19 per cent of men have a bachelor degree or higher. Ten years ago, the figure was 13 per cent for both men and women.
* Nearly two-thirds (63.5 per cent) of children aged 5-14 years participated in organised sport outside school hours when last surveyed. Participation peaked for boys aged 10 and girls aged 9.
* Seventy per cent of Australian households had access to a computer and 60 per cent had home Internet access. Household access to the Internet has grown from 1.1 million households in 1998 to 4.7 million in 2005-06.
12 February, 2008
Fine Print Big Issue
For Finance Group
A Financial Services Working Group has been established in the Department of Finance and Deregulation to look at key issues in financial services advice and disclosure.
Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner said the Group would consist of senior officers from Treasury, the Department of Finance and Deregulation and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and was prompted by the Government’s commitment to slashing the lengthy, complex and unreadable disclosure documentation in financial services.
“Reform of financial services disclosure requirements is the first instalment in the Rudd Government’s deregulation agenda,” Mr Tanner said. “Cutting red tape will reduce costs for business, investors and consumers.”
Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Nick Sherry, jointly announced the decision with Mr Tanner, saying “Complex and lengthy documents, often between 50 and 100 pages, are unreadable to most people.
“Unreadability of disclosure documents has been a factor in some investors’ losses.”
The Ministers said the Working Group would carry out its work with industry and consumer groups and they encouraged stakeholders to engage in the process.
“I have asked the Working Group to initially focus on solutions that would shorten financial product disclosure documents in superannuation and would improve Australians’ access to cost effective financial advice,” Senator Sherry said.
Senator Sherry said the Working Group’s tri-partite membership would ensure that solutions would achieve the Government’s goals in relation to investors, be readily enforceable by the regulator and were in line with the Government’s business deregulation agenda.
“I am committed to ensuring this project delivers significant benefits to the Australian people and I will be monitoring the Working Group’s progress closely,” Senator Sherry said.
12 February, 2008
Vic Head Heads North
To Head Up PM&C
The new Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is to be Terry Moran, from Victoria.
Mr Moran takes up the job on 3 March, replacing Dr Peter Shergold who has resigned after heading PM&C since February 2003.
Mr Moran is currently Secretary of the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet and has been Chief Executive at four public sector organisations over the past 20 years.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said that throughout his career Mr Moran had gained substantial experience in both central and service delivery agencies.
“Mr Moran has a demonstrated ability to develop and implement sustainable administrative outcomes for addressing complex policy challenges,” Mr Rudd said.
“He will be well placed to administratively assist the Rudd Government’s objective to build a modern Australia capable of meeting our future challenges.”
In a public service career which began in Canberra in early 1973 as an administrative trainee with the Public Service Board, Mr Moran has worked at the Commonwealth level twice and for nearly half his public service career.
Mr Rudd said Moran had played a strong role in the emergence of the National Reform Agenda and a succession of plans for Victoria which provided a strategic framework for all Departments and Agencies within and between Governments.
He had consistently advocated a new approach to Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments working together to improve the delivery of basic government services for all Australians.
Mr Moran was also instrumental in establishing the Australian and New Zealand School of Government which is a joint initiative of six Governments and 10 universities and in four years enrolled more than 1000 public servants in programs designed to prepare them for future leadership roles in public policy and public sector management.
In June 2006 Mr Moran was honoured as an Officer in the Order of Australia for service to public sector leadership in key policy areas and program implementation at State and national levels.
His appointment was welcomed by the Community and Public Sector Union with National Secretary Stephen Jones congratulating him.
“Mr. Moran has a distinguished public service background and we are looking forward to establishing a productive working relationship,” Mr. Jones said.
He said Commonwealth public sector workers were looking for leadership in rebuilding the integrity of the Public Service.
“The challenge for Mr Moran will be in fostering an environment where the Australian Public Service truly lives up to the APS values,” Mr. Jones said.
The Prime Minister formally acknowledged the contribution Dr Shergold made during his tenure as Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
“Dr Shergold’s professionalism and leadership earned him great and deserved respect both within the Australian Public Service and beyond,” Mr Rudd said.
“I wish Dr Shergold well in his new role at the University of New South Wales.”
Jenny Goddard would continue as Acting Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet until Mr Moran arrives.
12 February, 2008
The Government’s general insurance fund, Comcover, has invited Departments and Agencies to take part in its annual Risk Management Benchmarking program.
The project gives Agencies the opportunity to review and benchmark their risk management framework, processes and practices against other Agencies and previous years’ performances.
According to Comcover, more than 500 Australian Government Agencies had participated in the program since its launch in 2001.
It said many had identified the program as an excellent planning and analysis tool providing them with constructive and professional feedback on their performance as well as identifying opportunities for improvement.
Results over the years indicated that risk management practices across the Australian Government were improving and steadily “maturing”.
Benchmarking is also supported by the Australian National Audit Office.
A statement from the ANAO said that if it was done well, benchmarking could inform decision-making and improve understanding of performance.
“It can ‘put numbers on the table’, dispel myths and lead to informed debate about performance,” the ANAO said
“A Benchmarking study that uses robust and assured quantitative (and qualitative) data can be the catalyst to cause agencies to look objectively at their own performance, accept the need for change and identify the strategies for doing so.”
Participation in Comcover’s Risk Management Benchmarking program was open to all the insurance fund’s members and provided an insight into an Agency’s effectiveness in establishing a process for managing risk; a base-line from which Agencies could assess their risk management practices and performance; and eligibility to receive a discount on the following year’s Comcover insurance premium.
According to Comcover, the program involved completing an online survey which assessed the Agency’s risk management framework over five key result areas: Risk Management Governance, Risk Sharing, Business Continuity Management, Communication and Training; and Monitoring and Review.
The survey responses are then analysed by Comcover’s service provider, Standard & Poor’s, followed by a validation process to ensure accuracy and transparency of results.
At the completion of the validation process, participating Agencies are provided with a final report, including survey responses and notified of their premium discount.
Comcover said the report allowed Agencies to compare their performance against the total population and their peers.
12 February, 2008
Border Security Site
Australia’s National Security website has gone international.
The Attorney-General’s Department has announced a significant enhancement to the site, equipping it with a worldwide technical support system.
Graham Fry, from the Department, said that a global service provider had been working closely with AGs over the past year to upgrade the site and would continue to support it for the next two years.
Mr Fry said the National Security website offered a single access point for counter-terrorism information from the Australian Government. In the event of an incident, the National Security website would provide up-to-date information on coordination arrangements and the national counter-terrorism plan.
“We felt it was important the National Security website could continue to be available to the public during an incident,” Mr Fry said.
“Security incidents raise a great deal of public concern.
“In turn, that can generate huge numbers of visits to our website.”
He said the consultants had delivered a solution which would keep the site available even under such intense pressure by using a network of thousands of servers in approximately 70 countries to route requests, balance loads and improve performance of the website.
Director of the company that developed the solution, Stuart Spiteri said he recognised the importance of supplying the latest information to visitors of the National Security website and .the need to keep the site up and running around-the-clock, regardless of internet conditions.
The National Security website, which is administered by the Attorney-General’s Department, is available at www.nationalsecurity.gov.au
12 February, 2008
Cooking With Gas
A policy paper on mandatory corporate reporting of energy and greenhouse gas emissions data has been released, moving the nation one step closer to a national emissions trading scheme.
Minister for Climate Change, Senator Penny Wong said the release of the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting System, Regulations Policy Paper was the next important step in creating a national framework for corporations to report greenhouse gas emissions and the actions they take to reduce emissions.
“The new national reporting system will provide the data needed to underpin Australia’s national emissions trading scheme,” Senator Wong said, “which is a major part of the Australian Government’s commitment to action on climate change.”
She said the policy paper outlined proposed approaches to detailed reporting requirements including the scope of data subject to mandatory reporting, detailed definitions of terms such as facilities and emissions, registration and deregistration information, as well as reporting requirements for greenhouse gas offsets, and actions to reduce or remove emissions.
“A new streamlined reporting system will be good news for business,” Senator Wong said. “Moving to a single system will cut duplication in reporting and reduce the cost burden currently imposed by the patchwork of separate greenhouse and energy programs.”
She said it was the first time public information on the greenhouse and energy performance of large companies across the Australian economy had been provided to the community.
Eligible Australian corporations would be required to report on their emissions and energy for the 2008-09 financial year, with the first reports submitted by 31 October 2009.
“Consultation is a key part of this process,” Senator Wong said.
“I encourage interested individuals and organisations to provide feedback on the proposals presented.”
She said interested individuals and organisations planning to submit views on the proposals presented in the policy paper should do so by 27 February 2008.
Information sessions would also be held in capital cities before that deadline.
More information was available from www.climatechange.gov.au
12 February, 2008
New look for ABC TV
ABC Television has unveiled a new look for 2008, rebranding itself as Australia’s only multi-platform, multi-channel, free-to-air broadcaster.
Director of Television, Kim Dalton, said that in 2008, ABC TV would give viewers more choice than ever.
“We are helping to reshape the way people use and interact with television by giving them more programs, more ways to view them, and more flexibility around when and how to watch them,” Mr Dalton said.
“We have deliberately chosen an alternative path to other Australian networks – embracing true multi-channelling.”
He said the renamed channels ABC1 and ABC2 would each offer distinctive Australian programming with much of it being available on demand, online, as downloads, and streamed.
“And this is just the beginning!” he said.
Mr Dalton said it all began with ABC1 – the channel has undergone a name change but would continue as Australia’s pre-eminent provider of quality television.
He also announced a series of new talk-based initiatives, saying the ABC would continue to present news and current affairs programs.
“I want ABC TV to be the destination of choice for the important discussions and debates about the big issues that affect us all,” Mr Dalton said, “where they are in the foreground and up for discussion.”
He said ABC2 was the free digital-only channel which gave viewers an entertaining, energetic and exciting alternative.
12 February, 2008
Film Bodies Develop
Under New Laws
Public comment is being called on plans to make the National Film and Sound Archive a statutory authority and to create a new screen agency called Screen Australia.
Minister for Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, has invited the Australian film industry and the public to comment on the legislation that would lead to the changes.
“Legislation which I propose to bring before the Parliament very soon will establish Screen Australia as the primary body for direct funding to our film industry,” Mr Garrett said.
“It will also provide a higher profile for the National Film and Sound Archive as it continues to develop and maintain its outstanding collection and deliver public access and outreach programs.
Mr Garrett said he wanted Screen Australia to be established and structured in a way that would make it easier for the skilled professionals working in Australia’s film and television industry to attract the support they needed.
“I’ve sought public comment on these two Exposure Bills to ensure these important changes are in line with what the public and industry need.”
The new Screen Australia, which would commence work on 1 July, would have a strong cultural focus as well as support the development of a sustainable Australian screen industry by strengthening screen businesses. It would bring together the main functions of the Australian Film Commission, the Film Finance Corporation Australia and Film Australia Limited.
Mr Garrett said the new agency would continue the work of those agencies, such as supporting productions of national significance and public interest and providing practitioner and industry development, access programs and promotional activities.
Under consequential legislation, Screen Australia would administer the new Producer Offset.
Public comment on the draft legislative provisions is sought by 12 February 2008.
Visit www.arts.gov.au/film to view the draft legislation and for the details of how to make a response.
12 February, 2008
Stage is Set For
Wild West Study
A joint strategic assessment of the Kimberly by the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments has been commenced with the aim of protecting the area’s natural and cultural heritage.
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett and WA’s Acting Minister for State Development, John Kobelke said the joint strategic assessment was a major leap forward in resolving the tension between development and conservation.
“For the first time, a Federal and State Government have agreed to undertake a strategic assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act,” Mr Garrett said.
“We are making sure we understand in advance the region we wish to protect, before choosing a site for future industrial development.”
Mr Garrett said The Kimberley had outstanding landscapes and wildlife, glorious coastal stretches and invaluable Indigenous and historic heritage.
“It also contains massive reserves of oil and liquefied natural gas, of huge economic value to the nation and offering financial benefits to local Indigenous communities,” he said.
Mr Garret said neither Government wanted “piecemeal project development”, with multiple ports and processing plants along the Kimberley coast.
He said rather than dealing with a growing number of development proposals in an ad hoc way and risking the slow destruction of the environment and heritage, both Governments would proactively use Federal environment law to ensure that any future development had a minimal impact.
Mr Kobelke said the first part of the assessment would identify a site for a single common-user LNG hub for the Browse Basin.
He said the area to be studied stretched from south of Broome to Cape Londonderry on the Timor Sea.
“We are trying to minimise the impact of development on the natural and cultural environment by finding the most appropriate location for a common-user processing hub.
We will also consider locations outside the West Kimberley region,” Mr Kobelke said.
“The identification of a hub will be followed by a wider strategic assessment of the Kimberley, in consultation with conservation groups, industry and Indigenous landholders.
This will give us a detailed picture of all the region’s environmental assets including national and international heritage values.”
Mr Garrett said the historic agreement represented a true “milestone for development planning in Western Australia and Australia generally.”
12 February, 2008
Gives Same Sex Pat
The Human Rights Commissioner has congratulated the Australian Capital Territory Government for planning to legalise parental leave for both partners in a same-sex relationship.
Commissioner Graeme Innes said the welfare of the child should be paramount.
“When you deny parental leave to same-sex parents you inevitably sacrifice the best interests of the children being raised by that couple,” Commissioner Innes said.
He said the ACT Government should be applauded for its vigilance in removing discrimination against same-sex couples from its own laws.
“The fact remains, however, that discrimination against same-sex couples continues to exist under Federal legislation, which covers most people in the ACT,” Commissioner Innes said.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission released its Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report in June 2007, which identified 58 Federal laws that discriminated against same-sex couples in the areas of work and financial entitlements.
He said HREOC remained in discussions with the new Federal Attorney-General about when the 58 discriminatory laws would be amended.
“We look forward to the day when the Federal Government removes this discrimination against the more than 25,000 same-sex couples in Australia,” Commissioner Innes said.
The Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report can be accessed on the HREOC website at www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/samesex/index.html
12 February, 2008
Takes to Regions
The Independent Review of Regional Telecommunications has begun a program of public meetings in regional Australia.
Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy welcomed the move, saying public contributions would assist the Regional Telecommunications Review Committee accurately assess the adequacy of telecommunications in regional, rural and remote Australia.
“I am confident that the consultation process that the Committee has established, which extends through to May, will provide a strong platform for the Committee to develop a comprehensive Report for the Australian Government to consider,” Senator Conroy said.
“Given the importance of the Committee’s work I have extended its life and now look forward to receiving its report in August 2008.”
He said this move would enable the Committee to take into account other Government policies that would improve regional telecommunications across Australia, such as the National Broadband Network which would bring fibre-to-the-node broadband services to 98 per cent of the population.
The Regional Telecommunications Review Committee planned to start its public meetings in Western Australia, with the first meeting occurring in Albany and an additional 18 being held over the next four months.
“I encourage people to participate in the meetings to ensure the Committee is fully informed of the telecommunications issues facing regional Australians,” Senator Conroy said.
Further information about the Review and the dates of the meetings are available from the website at www.rtirc.gov.au or by freecall phone 1800 064 851.
12 February, 2008
Eye in the Sky
Focused on Bush
An Australian bushfire tracking system was the inspiration behind a new space-based international Earth observation network designed to detect and monitor natural disasters in the Asia-Pacific region.
Called ‘Sentinel Asia,’ the network of information-delivery websites has its roots in the Australian bushfire tracking system, Sentinel Hotspots, which was developed in 2002 by CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and the Australian Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation.
According to the coordinator of Australia’s input, senior CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research scientist Dr Alex Held, the new system will be critical for providing information on wildfires, flooding, drought, and landslides in our region, where the events can be seen in real time.
“Australia has had a pivotal, strategic role in developing the system,” Dr Held said, “which has the potential to benefit billions of people in our region by assisting authorities in a recovery response.”
He said the concept of Sentinel Asia was to provide online information from Earth observation satellites in “near real-time” through a network of webGIS services such as the Australian Sentinel Hotspots system.
Initially supported by the Japanese Government through the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Sentinel Asia aims to show the value of Earth observation data for disaster management in the region.
Dr Held said the system had been activated 10 times by seven countries including Australia in the past 12 months, mostly in response to earthquakes and floods.
He said planned improvements included further nodes in other countries, the use of high bandwidth communications satellites to provide information more quickly, and access to a wider range of Earth observation satellites.
Dr Held said many of the causes and impacts of natural disasters, including droughts, were observable, often in real-time, from space by orbiting or geostationary Earth observing systems.
“When efficiently combined with modern information-distribution methods, this data can be sent rapidly to affected communities and local emergency agencies in some cases as early-warning before the disaster occurs, or as post-disaster maps, to assist in recovery operations,” he said.
The system largely uses free-to-air satellite imagery produced by Earth-observing satellites operated by the US, Europe, Japan, India and, in the future, other countries in Australasia which were planning satellite launches.
12 February, 2008
Antarctic Coin is
Cold Hard Cash
A $5 coin has been launched at the head office of the Australian Antarctic Division in Hobart.
The Polar Series of coins marks The 4th International Polar Year 2007-2008.
According to the Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Nick Sherry, who unveiled the silver proof coin, Australia had a proud history of exploration and ongoing involvement in Antarctica, and it was “fantastic” that the Royal Australian Mint had produced the coins.
Senator Sherry said the Mint worked with The Royal Society of Victoria on the coins, which were produced as part of an international program in which a number of countries issued silver proof coins commemorating the Year.
He said the new coin was the first in a series of three coins in the Polar Series and featured a foreground image of the Antarctic Skua in flight.
These large heavily built birds had a reputation for being fierce and aggressive, symbolising the need for strong survival instincts in order to live in the harsh Antarctic environment.
The background image shows Australian Antarctic Territory and the scientific research stations.
Senator Sherry was joined at the launch by the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Australian Mint, Janine Murphy; the Acting Director of the AAD, Virginia Mudie; the Chief Scientist at the AAD, Professor Michael Stoddart; the Vice President of The RSV, Captain Bill McAuley and David Dodd, the Society’s IPY Science Program Advisor.
Captain McAuley is Leader of The RSV’s polar expedition which is planned to depart for The Antarctic in December.
Professor Stoddart is the leader of another major IPY project – the Census of Antarctic Marine Life.
“The series of IPY coins is a fitting means by which the Australian community can commemorate the International Polar Year 2007-2008 and the hard work and dedication of the many Australians who have explored and studied Antarctica,” Senator Sherry said.
12 February, 2008
Statements go GFS
The Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner has announced that Government monthly financial statements for 2007-08 have been re-designed to provide Government Finance Statistics (GFS) information only.
Mr Tanner said that while past statements were based on Australian Accounting Standards, all analysis and commentary was on a GFS basis.
He said as a result of a change in accounting policy by the Government which was included in the Consolidated Financial Statements 2006-07 published on 20 December 2007, these statements would now include GST as an Australian Government tax with associated payments to the States and Territories treated as a grant expense.
Airline held up
The Government has supported Virgin Blue’s re-entry into the Canberra-Sydney route, with the Minister for Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner saying the move would benefit leisure travellers as well as Government and business travellers.
Mr Tanner said in order to promote continued competition the Government would require Departments and Agencies to use Virgin Blue and any other smaller airlines for at least 25 per cent of their total work-related travel on the Canberra-Sydney route.
Kids’ art goes to court
The Family Court of Australia has invited school-aged children to enter an art competition, with the theme “Reaching out to those who are important to you”.
Children must attend either a primary or secondary school and prizes will be awarded in each State and Territory.
Winners will be announced on the Court’s website during Law Week 2008 which runs from 12 to 18 May. More information from the Court’s website at www.familycourt.gov.au
Black art a winner
The National Museum of Australia has reported that almost 50,000 people have visited Papunya Painting: Out of the Desert, an exhibition showcasing colourful canvases from the early days of the Papunya Tula art movement.
The exhibition presents the work of Aboriginal artists and their supporters between 1974 and 1981, revealing a living culture and the people behind the stories.
The Museum said Papunya Painting was popular with visitors of all ages: adults were mesmerised by the large-scale canvases while children enjoyed solving the clues and learning about the paintings along the Papunya honey ant trail.
Car crash costs $50M
The Australian and South Australian Governments have announced a $50 million package to support workers and the region affected by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation’s decision to close its Tonsley Park vehicle assembly plant at the end of March.
The package includes up to $10 million for intensive assistance to workers and a $40 million South Australian Innovation and Investment Fund to strengthen South Australia’s manufacturing base, creating new jobs and boosting new investment in innovation.
Mitsubishi Motor Corporation’s decision will result in approximately 930 direct job losses, comprising 600 plant positions and 330 administrative and professional jobs.
Model Earth symposium
CSIRO plans to host a symposium in May, focusing on Earth System modelling, a new area of science requiring collaboration among many disciplines.
Five key themes will be addressed in the symposium: geodynamics; seismology and damage mechanics; fluid dynamics including atmospheric and marine sciences and industrial mixing; material science; and the mathematical basis for complex systems and non-equilibrium thermodynamics.
A better understanding of the complexities of the Earth System is widely recognised as a high priority in the geoscience community.
The National Health and Medical Research Council has allocated $75 million to support the career development of Australian health and medical researchers and the continued growth of Australian research excellence.
Funding was provided to 379 researchers who applied for a range of grants administered by the NHMRC.
The NHMRC plays a critical role in identifying priority areas for further research attention and ensuring that the research efforts are focused appropriately on both preventative approaches and treatment.
Further information on specific projects can be found on the NHMRC’s website at www.nhmrc.gov.au
Medal for moth book
A senior CSIRO entomologist, Dr Marianne Horak, has won a major international award – the inaugural JO Westwood Medal – for her book Olethreutine Moths of Australia.
Dr Horak’s book is the first to provide detailed descriptions of Australia’s 90 olethreutine moth genera in a single comprehensive volume.
Deputy Chief of CSIRO Entomology, Dr Gary Fitt, said that in addition to being an important reference for taxonomists, the book also makes this economically important group accessible to non-specialists involved in identifying moths, particularly for pest control purposes.
Expenditure of $1 million has been announced to improve safety and access for 25 airstrips in remote and isolated parts of Australia through the Remote Aerodrome Safety Program.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese said people living in remote Australia deserved safe and well-maintained airstrips because they were a vital link to food, medical supplies, mail and essential personnel such as teachers, doctors and nurses in remote Australia.
Mr Albanese said the Government would work closely with State, Territory and Local Governments to boost safety at remote airstrips
5 February, 2008
Jobs Unplugged in
Defence IT Pl
The Department of Defence is to lose 388 jobs as a result of outsourcing information and communications technology services for 460 Defence bases.
As a result of the decision, another 238 Defence Force personnel are to be reassigned as well.
The sweeping change was instigated by the former Federal Government with the incoming service provider expected to offer jobs to most of the Defence staff affected.
According to a spokeswoman for Defence quoted in the Canberra Times, every effort would be made to redeploy and public servants electing not to go to the new provider but about 60 per cent were expected to move.
The Community and Public Sector Union has taken an interest in the matter but at this point appears unconcerned that staff’s rights may not be protected.
A spokesman for the National President of the Union, Mark Gepp said the Department had been working hard to see a smooth transfer take place and was doing a good job for its employees.
The Department had allowed the new company to visit its sites and encourage staff to transfer across and Mr Gepp’s spokesman said it was meeting obligations under its agreement with the Union and in some cases, surpassing them.
“They’re going out of their way to accommodate people’s choices,” the spokesman is reported as saying.
“That said, there is still the possibility that some people may be displaced as a result of this.”
Moves to outsource the ICT services date back to 2005 when tenders were called and attracted six potential providers. Affected staff at Defence were informed of the decision to go ahead a year ago.
The Defence spokeswoman said the contract had yet to be signed but the Department had developed a comprehensive transition strategy for affected staff that included retraining, redeployment and allowances in the case of redundancy.
The new contractor has promised to match the salary and superannuation benefits of staff who transferred.
5 February, 2008
Sets High Standard
Airservices Australia has been honoured with an Aviation Technology Achievement Award for 2008.
The international award was bestowed on the air traffic control Agency for its work in air traffic management, safety and the environment by the United States-based Air Transport World magazine.
“The Airline Industry Achievement Awards are considered to be the ‘Oscars’ of the international airline industry and recognise excellence in the global commercial airline industry,” said the Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese.
“This major award is a tribute to the hard work of Airservices staff in improving the safety and efficiency of air travel in Australia and regionally.”
He said only two weeks ago he opened a cutting-edge training simulator for Airservices Australia at Melbourne Airport which would expand even further the skills of the nation's air traffic controllers, pilots and technicians.
Mr Albanese said Airservices had long been recognised as a world leader in improving the safety of the travelling public by developing and adopting new aviation technologies, including surveillance, communications, safety monitoring and air traffic management tools.
“In recent years, Airservices has also put considerable effort into improving the efficiency of air traffic management to help alleviate the impact of aviation emissions on the environment,” he said.
Perry Flint, the magazine’s Editorial Director, said Airservices was a leader in a number of crucial aviation safety areas.
“Among its achievements is participation in the first commercial landing using the GNSS Global Landing System; its innovative use of Flex Tracks, providing airlines with more efficient routings that reduce fuel burn and CO2 emissions; and the rollout of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast in Australia,” Mr Flint said.
The magazine’s Awards edition said Airservices was “setting the pace in a host of important technologies and operational procedures while safely managing airspace over 11 per cent of Earth’s surface”.
“For its continuous focus and pioneering efforts in delivering the latest technology while working with airlines to reduce navigation charges, Airservices Australia is a deserving recipient of ATW’s Aviation Technology Achievement Award.”
The award will be presented at a Gala Awards Presentation in Singapore on 18 February.
5 February, 2008
Tip-Off Plan Is
Tip of Wedge
A plan to involve Centrelink staff in tipping off police in suspected child abuse cases has rung alarm bells at the Community and Public Sector Union.
While welcoming the initiative on the one hand, the Union has raised questions of legal, safety and privacy issues on the other.
The Australian newspaper reported that the Government had commissioned a paper, to be delivered by March, designed to overhaul the child protection system and identify ways the Commonwealth could increase its role in tackling the problem.
“The Commonwealth, in the past, really hasn’t thought about how we can use our existing resources and existing infrastructure with things like Centrelink to bring all that to bear,” the Minister for Family and Community Services, Jenny Macklin is reported as saying.
“We have a number of family support programs and Centrelink is the agency that really is in contact with people who have a range of pressures on their family life.”
But CPSU Deputy President, Lisa Newman, called on the Government to ensure any new role for Centrelink would be properly resourced in terms of staffing and training.
“If this initiative is to have any chance of success, it needs to be adequately funded,” Ms Newman said. “The last thing Centrelink needs is another program without enough resources.”
According to the CPSU, Centrelink social workers already referred suspected cases of abuse to relevant State Government agencies.
“In these situations, Centrelink staff observe stringent privacy protocols. So we are keen to know how these arrangements would need to change under the new proposal.”
She said the CPSU welcomed the Government’s proposal for better coordination between State and Federal agencies and new ways of pursuing the protection of Australian children.
“We urge the Government to ensure the views, experiences and insights of frontline workers in Centrelink are included in any new policy and legislation,” Ms Newman said.
The newspaper reported that the Government had promised to address Centrelink’s workforce needs, such as recruitment and retention of highly trained child protection officers.
Ms Macklin has promised to overhaul the family and parenting support programs to help prevent child abuse and neglect and has met with representatives from the Coalition of Organisations Committed to the Safety and Wellbeing of Australia's Children to discuss the development and implementation of a national child protection framework.
Ms Macklin has outlined the areas she will change, including the better targeting of Commonwealth family support services and reductions in duplication with State and Territory programs.
5 February, 2008
Poll Payments Posted
For Public Perusal
The Australian Electoral Commission has posted the 2006/07 financial disclosure returns from political parties for the past year on its website for public inspection.
The information gives details of the major political donations made to the parties and associated entities in the past year.
The annual returns are on the Australian Electoral Commission’s website at http://fadar.aec.gov.au/
The Commission said returns for the 2006/07 financial year include 49 political party returns, 218 associated entity returns and 194 donor returns. For the first time, people who engaged in political expenditure were required to lodge a return and 51 did so.
The returns reveal that total receipts disclosed by political parties in the 2006/07 financial year were over $127 million compared to $74.5 million for 2005/06.
For associated entities, the total declared receipts increased from $113.3 million in 2005/06 to $637.9 million in 2006/07 – largely as a result of the increase in the number of associated entities.
At this time last year, the AEC had received 80 political party returns, 89 associated entity returns and 317 donor returns.
The Commission attributed the increase in associated entity returns since last year to the broadening of the definition of associated entity to include trade unions affiliated with the Australian Labor Party.
The decrease in donor returns is a result of the new increased disclosure threshold (more than $10,300 for 2006/07) applying for the full financial year. During the 2004/05 financial year, the last to use the old threshold, there were 1286 donor returns. In 2005/06, when the new threshold applied for half the year, the number declined to 317 donor returns.
5 February, 2008
Bring Insourcing In
The Australian Human Resources Institute has reported a move away from the practice of outsourcing, saying many private industry firms were rethinking their “core business” and bringing outsourced function in-house.
The AHRI is the national association representing human resource and people management professionals.
According to the report Remote control in the current edition of the Institute’s magazine hrmonthly, a number of firms had admitted to making outsourcing mistakes.
The Managing Director of internet service provider, iinet, Michael Malone said some large European Telcos, TeliaSonera being one, had reduced their outsourcing. “They outsourced some call centre functions but have now moved them back in-house. Their principle today is that any touchpoint with customers must be company-owned,” he said.
Other firms got it wrong for different reasons, according to associate professor of IT strategy at Deakin University, Anne Rouse, who wrote of a security guard firm that outsourced its payroll but found that its own system, which was reliable and efficient, had helped the firm attract good staff.
The director of professional services at the Queensland University of Technology’s IT faculty, Greg Timbrell, pointed to companies that redefined their core business to enable them to outsource more functions.
“A bank’s core business, for example, may once have been transaction processing …but if you redefine it as risk management, it gives a CIO licence to outsource what might once have been considered core systems,” Dr Timbrellsaid.
Partner in accounting firm KPMG, James Hunter said that the cultural fit between the outsourcing and outsourced companies was critical, and he made it a practice always to involve a senior HR person in any outsourcing deals to ensure that the people issues were given due weight.
The experts quoted in the report agreed that many outsourced decisions were strategically flawed and made to support a decision already made rather than to satisfy a considered cost-benefit analysis.
Some functions were heavily outsourced, industrial catering and office cleaning for example, and most large firms outsourced at least one function. Seventy-five per cent of outsourcing expenditure came from firms with more than 500 employees. The report said that those firms accounted for less than 0.2 percent of the total market by number.
5 February, 2008
Green Recruits For Thin Blue Line
The Australian Federal Police has unveiled its first ever graduate program, attracting nine new starters to a 12-month induction program.
AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty welcomed the seven female and two male graduates to the organisation during a morning tea at AFP Headquarters in Canberra.
“Each of the graduates has undertaken a rigorous and competitive selection process just to be here today,” Commissioner Keelty said.
“I look forward to seeing them develop professionally as they rotate through different areas of the organisation in what I expect will be a revealing and interesting year for them.”
Mr Keelty said the AFP was conscious in its recruiting strategy to ensure wherever possible its workforce was representative of the community it served.
“So it is particularly pleasing to see so many women among the graduates, which gives me optimism about balancing gender representation in law enforcement in the future.”
The graduates will undertake three four-month work rotations in different areas of the AFP, including Protection, ACT Policing, the International Deployment Group, Forensic and Technical Services, Human Resources, Internal Audit, and the Chief of Staff and Chief Operating Officer Portfolios.
AFP National Manager of Human Resources Will Jamieson said many of the AFP’s sworn and unsworn personnel were university graduates but this is the first time a graduate program has been conducted.
“The introduction of a graduate program ensures the AFP remains competitive with other Government Agencies in attracting the highest quality of recruits from Australian universities,” Commander Jamieson said.
The graduates were aged between 21 and 25 and included five people from the ACT, two from NSW and one each from Victoria and South Australia. They were among 382 graduates who applied for the program.
Each of the graduates has performed exceptionally well in wide range of study areas, including forensic science, psychology, law, criminology and business.
The AFP Graduate Program is expected to grow in number each year, with applications for the 2009 program to be advertised in April.
5 February, 2008
A Melbourne Court has dismissed an application by union officials to stop an investigation by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner.
Justice Marshall affirmed the ABCC’s investigation was being conducted for a proper purpose and was a lawful investigation under the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005.
Justice Marshall dismissed the applicants’ claims and also ordered the applicants to pay the ABCC’s legal costs.
In his judgment the Judge said “the evidence does not support the proposition that the investigation would not have occurred but for a desire to question union officials about their attitude to co-operation with the ABCC”.
The ABCC’s investigation related to allegations of threatening, intimidating and prejudicial conduct towards two Bovis Lend Lease employees. The employees were witnesses in an Australian Industrial Relations Commission proceeding.
ABC Commissioner John Lloyd said the ABCC had postponed the examinations, pending the Federal Court decision.
“Today’s judgement demonstrates that the ABCC’s compliance powers are used lawfully and appropriately,” Mr Lloyd said.
He said the Commission used its compliance powers carefully.
“They are invoked only when all avenues of voluntary co-operation are exhausted and where there is a belief on reasonable grounds that information relevant to an investigation is being withheld.”
The ABCC’s compliance powers are based on those used by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. They are similar to the powers of other regulatory bodies such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian Taxation Office. Only the ABC Commissioner or his Deputy Commissioners may approve and conduct examinations.
Due to confidentiality provisions of the BCII Act, the ABCC was unable to comment on the investigation.
The AFP Graduate Program is expected to grow in number each year, with applications for the 2009 program to be advertised in April.
5 February, 2008
Take Strong Stand
A joint meeting of Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers with responsibility for disability has determined that a new era of cooperation has dawned.
The meeting, chaired by the Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin marked the start of talks on the fourth Commonwealth State and Territory Disability Agreement.
The Ministers formally agreed to the key priority areas which would guide the development of the Agreement.
Ms Macklin said the Australian Government was looking forward to working with the States and Territories, disability stakeholders and the community to get a better deal for people with disabilities.
Also on the agenda was the development of the Australian Government’s National Disability Strategy, which would provide leadership in disability policy and draw on the experience of States and Territories.
Ms Macklin said the National Disability Strategy provided an historic opportunity for the Commonwealth, States and Territories to work together with the community to ensure the needs of people with disabilities and their families were addressed through coordinated and comprehensive policy planning – across all Government Departments and services.
The National Disability Strategy and the CSTDA 4 were also vehicles through which Ministers could work together on the eight key priority areas identified by the Australian Labor Party prior to the Federal election:
* better measurement of current and future need for disability services;
* moving toward national population benchmarks for key disability service types;
* making older carers a priority for all disability services under the CSTDA;
* quality improvement systems based on the National Disability Service Standards for all Agreement services;
* improved service planning and strategies to simplify access to services under the CSTDA;
* focusing on early intervention, lifelong planning and increasing the independence and social participation of people with a disability;
* improved workforce capacities, and;
* access to services by Indigenous people with disabilities.
The Disability Ministers agreed to meet again in March to continue work on the new Agreement.
The AFP Graduate Program is expected to grow in number each year, with applications for the 2009 program to be advertised in April.
5 February, 2008
Industry Targeted In
Defence Export Plan
A new Defence Export Unit has been officially launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement, Greg Combet.
Mr Combet said the new Unit would engage with Government Agencies and industry-related Departments of the State and Territory Governments to encourage and promote cooperation on Defence industry export initiatives.
“The DEU demonstrates the Government’s commitment to working with Australian defence industry and it will make a real difference to the volume and value of Australian defence exports,” Mr Combet said.
The Unit’s work would include identifying future overseas opportunities for Australian defence companies and coordinating with other Australian Government agencies including Austrade.
Unlike previous initiatives in this area the DEU would facilitate a whole-of-Government approach to supporting Australian defence industry international marketing activities.
The Unit would engage with Federal Government Agencies and the relevant industry departments of the State and Territory Governments to facilitate cooperation on defence industry export initiatives.
The DEU will be headed by Terry Whelan, a very experienced senior executive who has successfully managed and directed national and global organisations and has considerable experience in the strategic and operational planning processes.
Over the past few years Mr Whelan has been a major proponent of establishing corporate partnerships on a global basis. His experience in the export environment comes from a close involvement with many companies whose main objective was to expand their business interests to other countries.
Prior to his taking up a position in private enterprise. Mr Whelan spent 21 years as an officer in the Australian Army seeing service in a variety of positions and locations.
5 February, 2008
AFL Kicks Goals for
The Government’s chief export agency, Austrade, is to attempt the most ambitious of Australian exports to the Middle East this month when it stages an exhibition match of Australian football featuring the Collingwood Magpies and the Adelaide Crows football teams.
The opening game in the Australian Football League’s 2008 NAB pre-season cup is to be held in Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, and neighbouring principality to Dubai, the region’s main commercial hub.
“An AFL match may seem at odds with perceptions of the United Arab Emirates – including Abu Dhabi and Dubai – until you take into account their remarkable success in diversifying their economies,” said Australia’s Consul General to Dubai and Middle East Senior Trade Commissioner, Kym Hewett.
“In neighbouring Dubai, around 50 new five-star hotels will soon be completed. Dubai Airport doubled in size six years ago and is being doubled again, and there are head-turning construction projects such as the Dubai Mariner Complex and the world’s tallest building, the Dubai Burj,” Mr Hewett said.
“Abu Dhabi itself is arguably the world’s richest city, and has embarked on its own dynamic path of redevelopment, including Saadiyat Island, a US$30 billion project that includes 29 hotels, three marinas, two golf courses, and housing for 150,000 people,.
Austrade’s Chief Economist, Tim Harcourt agreed that a rapidly transforming UAE’s openness to new influences was good news for the AFL – and Australian exports.
“In 2006-07 Australia’s exports to the United Arab Emirates grew by a staggering 45 per cent, with total two-way merchandise trade expanding by almost 70 per cent,” Mr Harcourt said.
“Australian food, fashion, services, and a wide range of products are increasingly in demand. There are also more than 12,000 Australian expatriates in the UAE, compared to just over 3000 six years ago.
“The great Australian game is also the perfect platform to promote the great Australian brand – and Australian business capability – to international audiences.”
More than 20 Australian companies have been involved in preparations for the AFL contest, making sure an Australian presence would be highlighted beyond the on-field action.
“Multiplex were involved in building the temporary stadium at Ghantoot Racing and Polo grounds, and Fosters will be providing alcohol at an associated event,” Mr Hewett said.
As part of a longer term strategy for international expansion, the AFL may also stage games in destinations such as London and Tokyo, with a possible eight overseas locations currently being considered for future matches.
5 February, 2008
Horse Experts Say
Flu has Bolted
Veterinary health authorities say they are on track to eradicate Equine Influenza from Australia by the middle of this year.
The nation’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Andy Carroll said the national eradication program for equine influenza was making excellent progress.
“It is an extremely positive sign that the number of infected properties is decreasing so quickly,” Dr Carroll said. “More than 97 per cent of previously infected properties are now cleared of the disease and it has been four weeks since the last reported case.”
Some weeks ago, NSW and Queensland eased restrictions on the movement of horses in several zones.
“Zoning effectively contains disease and is a key element of the EI eradication program,” Dr Carroll said. “Zoning continues to provide a technically sound basis for determining conditions for the safe movement of horses around Australia.
“This success will increasingly allow some horses that are vaccinated or blood tested positive to EI, to participate in horse sales, other sporting events and to move more freely around Australia.”
The National EI Management Group has endorsed a strategy to accelerate the eradication program of EI from Australia.
“The strategy sets out the rationale, necessary actions, required resources and costs, and key outcomes for an accelerated zone progression strategy to achieve EI eradication from Australia,” Dr Carroll said. “It also builds on the excellent progress made to date and takes into account the surveillance requirements necessary for proving freedom from EI.”
The Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases agreed to reclassify green zones to white in Queensland and NSW, from 1 February. Previous red zones in NSW at Dubbo, Wellington, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Parkes, Forbes, Walcha and part of the Grenfell district were also reclassified to amber.
Vaccinations continue in NSW and Queensland with more than 90 per cent of targeted horses having received their first vaccination and more than 80 per cent receiving their second vaccination.
Dr Carroll said while the eradication program was making excellent progress, it was vital to maintain strict biosecurity and movement restriction arrangements must still be adhered to, if Australia was to be successful in eradicating the disease by the end of March.
“We are winning the battle against EI, but it only takes one person to do the wrong thing and we could face a major setback,” Dr Carroll said.
“It is vital that anyone who suspects EI reports it immediately to 1800 234 002.”
5 February, 2008
School Stats Bring
Students to Census
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has launched its CensusAtSchool project for 2008, and this year it will have an international flavor.
CensusAtSchool encourages students from all around Australia to collect real data about themselves by completing an online questionnaire, similar to the Population Census.
When all the data is collected, students can work with it to answer questions about themselves, like “Does time spent playing computer games improve your reaction time?” or “Do students who earn more money spend less time doing homework?”
According to the ABS, last year, more than a quarter of Australia’s schools registered with the project and 112,000 students participated nationwide. Since then an additional 250 schools had joined up.
The ABS said that this year schools in New Zealand, Canada and the UK were also part of the CensusAtSchool project, allowing students to make overseas comparisons.
A popular reaction timer and concentration tasks had been included in the international question set and were expected to generate vigorous student participation.
There was also an expanded range of questions suggested by students on a range of issues such as water use, bullying, use of technology and climate change, and other new questions on health and well-being, financial literacy and sleep.
“CensusAtSchool helps students look at statistics not just as dry figures but as a gateway to discussion and analysis,” said the Director of the ABS Education Services Unit, Paul Taylor.
“The feedback we’ve had from teachers about CensusAtSchool 2006 has been enthusiastic, as CensusAtSchool works across a number of curriculum areas - information technology, maths, social sciences, health and physical education.
“Teachers also like it because students can relate to the information, which makes CensusAtSchool exercises more engaging than working from textbooks.”
The CensusAtSchool collection phase is open until 4 July and the results would be available for participating schools from 7 July 2008. Interested schools can join at any time before the end of the collection phase.
For more information see www.abs.gov.au/censusatschool
5 February, 2008
Car Scheme In
Need of Tune-Up
The Australian National Audit Office has found that a major scheme to support industry should be more transparent.
In its audit of the $7 billion Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme which rewards car makers with Customs credits to encourage investment and research, the ANAO found the scheme was insufficiently transparent, that checks and balances on payments needed to be tightened up and its interaction with the Australian Customs Services should be clarified.
The auditors’ report said the Scheme, which is administered by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research provided “hundreds of millions of duty credits” to the 245 participants, the largest slice of which went to the big four carmakers, Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi and Toyota.
“Duty credits have a nominal value of one Australian dollar,” the ANAO said.
“The Department issues duty credits to participants once the claim is received and subsequently checks the integrity of the claims.”
It said DIISR had distributed more than $3.4 billion in duty credits since the scheme commenced in 2001 but that its checking had uncovered incorrect payments of $141 million.
It said paying first and checking later allowed claimants to get their duty credits on a “timely basis” but it meant DIISR needed to manage the risk of mis-claiming.
It was critical of DIISR however for auditing recipients on only one occasion in the seven years of the Scheme’s operation.
“While it is a matter of judgment where the appropriate balance lies, the level of audit coverage is relatively light for such a significant program,” it said.
Particularly, the ANAO noted, one that operated on a ‘self-assessment’ basis.
The auditors also found a reluctance on the part of DIISR to publicly report – even to Parliament – on the details of the Scheme because of concerns over commercial sensitivities.
Their report said that in view of the fact that the scheme was a key assistance measure for a major industry and involved such a lot of money “there is scope to provide greater disclosure.”
The auditors found however that DIISR enjoyed well-developed processes to assess a claimant’s eligibility to claim the credits; to calculate the claims accurately; and to adhere to the funding limits of the scheme.
It said however that both DIISR and Customs needed to improve their processes for reconciling their records.
“At 30 June 2006 there was a variance of around $136 million between the expected balance of unused duty credits at Customs and the balance reported.”
The Auditors made three recommendations regarding the Scheme which were all agreed by the Agencies concerned.
5 February, 2008
Big Wigs Called to
The Attorney-General’s Department has called for applications for the position of Federal Magistrate.
The Department says there are 52 Federal Magistrates and the positions on offer were full-time, with four weeks annual leave, three months long service leave after 10 years in the job and a salary of $249,490.
The Department said the Federal Magistrates Court was established in 2000 and shared jurisdiction with the Family Court and the Federal Court. It handles less complex civil matters in family law and general Federal law.
Federal Magistrates are based in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta, Perth, Sydney and Townsville and all Federal Magistrates undertake circuit work. The Federal Magistrates Court does not have family law jurisdiction in Western Australia.
Federal Magistrates are empowered to hear cases across all areas of the Court’s jurisdiction but individual Magistrates tended to sit mainly in family law or general Federal law.
To be eligible to be appointed as a Federal Magistrate, a person must have been enrolled as a legal practitioner of the High Court or a Supreme Court of a State or Territory for at least five years.
In addition, Federal Magistrates must have the following personal and professional qualities to a high degree: legal expertise, conceptual, analytical and organisational skills, decision-making skills, the ability (or the capacity quickly to develop the ability) to deliver clear and concise judgments, the capacity to work effectively under pressure and to work across several areas of the Court’s jurisdiction, a commitment to professional development, interpersonal and communication skills, integrity, impartiality, tact and courtesy, and the capacity to inspire respect and confidence.
Expressions of interest and nominations should be forwarded, in duplicate, to Sandra Power, Assistant Secretary, Federal Courts Branch, Attorney-General’s Department, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600 by 29 February.
5 February, 2008
All Ends Covered in
ACMA Spectrum Plans
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has unveiled a series of measures it says will increase consultation, transparency and accountability in the planning and management of the radiofrequency spectrum in Australia.
ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said demand for spectrum was increasing.
“The range of stakeholders we are dealing with is both increasing and becoming more varied, and spectrum issues themselves are becoming increasingly complex,” Mr Chapman said.
“Efficient allocation and use of radiofrequency spectrum promotes economy-wide productivity gains. Our approach to spectrum management must allow these efficiency gains to be achieved, while recognising the interests of existing spectrum users.”
He said ACMA’s aim was to have the right kinds of arrangements and regulatory interactions to enable it to engage with all of its stakeholders in the best way it can.
The first element of ACMA’s new approach will be the establishment of a new advisory group, the Radiocommunications Consultative Committee, to replace two former consultative committees.
The aim of the Committee would be to foster interaction at a “peak” level.
An early issue for consideration would be variations to the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan that would flow from the outcomes of the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07), which concluded late last year in Geneva, Switzerland.
Mr Chapman said the committee’s work would be underpinned by working groups that looked at issues in both domestic and international spectrum management, a reflection of the increasing reality of convergence. The first meeting is planned for this month.
The second element of ACMA’s new approach to consultation is to be a radiocommunications conference - RadComms ’08 - to be held over three days in late April and early May in Melbourne. This conference will become an annual event and is designed to enable broad participation by a wide range of stakeholders and foster discussion of future trends and spectrum requirements for new services to assist in developing ACMA’s regulatory settings on these issues.
The third element of ACMA’s new approach will be the development and annual updating of a five-year rolling spectrum strategy plan.
Mr Chapman said the spectrum strategy plan would include, as far as is practicable, longer-term projections of spectrum demand on a band-by-band and by-type-of-service basis.
He said it was intended to give spectrum users the information they needed about the pressures on spectrum and the direction of ACMA’s work, so there could be meaningful interaction between industry and ACMA and among users themselves.
5 February, 2008
Facts Harvested For
Farm Safety Books
A joint venture involving the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation has released four new fact-books to assist in the battle to reduce farm-related deaths and injuries in Australian agriculture.
The booklets are the latest additions to the “Facts and Figures on Farm Health and Safety Series” produced by the Joint Research Venture for Farm Health and Safety, a collaborative partnership managed by the RIRDC.
The booklets are designed to raise awareness of farm health and safety issues and to better inform Government Agencies, farm groups and individuals when making government and industry policy on farm safety.
The new booklets are entitled: Traumatic deaths in Australian agriculture; ATV injury on Australian farms; Occupational Health and Safety risk in the Australian dairy industry; and Health and safety in older farmers in Australia.
RIRDC’s Acting General Manager of National Rural Issues, Jane Fisher, said the fact-books filled a need for accurate data on fatalities and injuries on the farm.
“Farmers and farm workers are more likely to be killed or injured than workers in almost any other industry in Australia,” Ms Fisher said.
“Governments and industry groups have been working for many years now to reduce farm accidents and these booklets are part of a series that will help better inform decision-making.”
She said the booklets were also designed to be used by educators and speakers to help raise awareness of the devastating cost of farm fatalities and injuries.
“For instance they highlight that between 2000 and 2005, 76 people died in accidents involving All-Terrain Vehicles and 53 of them were farm-related. The statistics show that 33 of the 76 fatal cases involved roll-overs.
“This sort of detailed information can be used to help educate farmers and farm workers and plan future policy in this area.”
The Joint Research Venture for Farm Health and Safety is a partnership between Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and the Grains, Sugar, Cotton and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporations, and is managed by RIRDC.
The Venture invests in R&D to enhance the wellbeing and productivity in rural industries through improved occupational health and safety and safe systems of work on farms.
Copies of the booklets can be obtained by calling RIRDC on (02) 6271 4160 or by visiting www.rirdc.gov.au
5 February, 2008
ABC cancer worsens
The independent investigator who probed into a cluster of breast cancer cases at the ABC’s Brisbane studios believes more women were affected in the outbreak than originally thought.
Professor Bruce Armstrong said he knew of 18 women who worked in the building diagnosed with the disease, instead of 16 which was the official figure.
Professor Armstrong said the extra cases made no fundamental difference to his findings because he already believed there was a real incidence of cancer at the site.
New rules for advisers
Companies carrying on the business of issuing or selling interests in managed investment schemes must now provide a designated service under item 35 of table 1 in section 6 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006.
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC, which is Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, has announced the new regulations.
Former public servant turned prominent efficiency trainer, Tony D’Arcy has died in Brisbane from cancer.
Responsible for training thousands of public servants at all levels in personal efficiency through his company PEP Worldwide, Mr D’Arcy, 55, made a valuable contribution to the performance of the PS and included among his pupils a number of Departmental secretaries and Agency heads.
Mr D’Arcy and his wife, Gaye, moved from Canberra to Brisbane at Christmas.
The latest in weather, climate and ocean research has been showcased at a meeting of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.
The conference was held at the Deakin University Waterfront Campus in Geelong, Victoria, and covered a wide range of topics including better understanding sea-level rises, coral reef bleaching, and characteristics of the recent La Niña phenomena.
Airport consultation takes off
The Sydney Airport Community Forum, has been re-established, the Government honoring an election pledge to restore the community’s role in decisions about the operation of the Airport.
Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said residents living around Sydney Airport had a right to be consulted on decisions that would ultimately affect their quality of life.
The first meeting of the reconstituted SACF is to be held on 15 February 2008.