SearchArchives for February 2010
23 February, 2010
The Superannuated Commonwealth Officers’ Association has reported an angry backlash from its members following a recent ABC-TV current affairs program which highlighted current Public Service pension indexation arrangements.
cards on index
Federal President of the SCOA, Annette Barbetti, said the program’s website was “flooded” with criticisms and questions for the Government which had promised to improve the situation prior to the 2007 election but had yet to do so.
Dr Barbetti said the program’s compere, Tony Jones, said that thousands of SCOA members had emailed the program expressing their concerns.
She said 300,000 retirees received a pension averaging less than the combined married rate of Age Pension.
Dr Barbetti said the pensions were indexed by reference to the Consumer Price Index, which the former Government discarded as the sole means of indexing other Government funded pensions more than a decade ago.
“During the election campaign, Kevin Rudd and his Labor colleagues sent letters and emails to many of these people right around Australia promising fair pension indexation if Labor won office, which undoubtedly swayed many voters,” Dr Barbetti said.
“These people know that their pensions have increased by only half the percentage of other Government funded retirees’ pensions over the last 20 years.
“They are rightly saying that they are being treated as second class Australians.”
Dr Barbetti said the members wanted to have their standard of living maintain parity with that of other Australians.
She said they were not asking for special treatment, only the fairness that they were promised prior to the 2007 election.
Dr Barbetti said the Government had accepted a lone actuary’s advice not to change existing pension indexation arrangement, despite the recommendations of 29 Senators, involved in three separate inquiries, who recommended a wage-related index.
23 February, 2010
Budget adding up to
The Community and Public Sector Union has warned its members they are likely to face the “toughest Federal Budget in decades”.
trouble for union
According to the union, cutbacks, unfilled positions and overstretched workers were already evident in APS offices.
It said it would soon be lobbying Members of Parliament and Ministers to ensure they understood the issues involved and would be putting a case for adequate funding and practical reform directly to the decision-makers.
In a statement, the CPSU said the Government’s billion dollar stimulus package had helped Australia escape the worst of the global financial crisis and avoid the “massive unemployment seen across the world.”
“But the stimulus spending also has put enormous downward pressure on all future public spending decisions,” it said.
“Over the next few years Governments here and around the world will be focused on moving out of deficit - which means increasing pressure to reduce costs and deliver savings.”
The CPSU said it had delivered a pre-Budget submission to the Government that highlighted its priorities, including funding, jobs and services.
It called for the remaining 1.25 per cent efficiency dividend on APS Agency budgets to be removed and that a joint review of APS wages and classifications be conducted.
The CPSU said it also wanted a commitment to explore options for a Service-wide pay and conditions agreement and adequate funding for Agencies to allow them to fully supplement wages and increase paid parental leave.
23 February, 2010
A review of regulatory reform in Australia conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has found the nation to be a role model for other OECD countries.
gets good report
Entitled Towards a Seamless National Economy, 2009 Review of Regulatory Reform: Australia, the report is the OECD’s first ever review of regulatory governance in Australia.
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner commissioned the review in 2008 but it was one of 27 undertaken by the OECD on member countries and other nations.
Mr Tanner welcomed the findings as “highly encouraging” saying the OECD rated Australia among the best it had reviewed.
In its report, the OECD said Australia was one of the most successful in weathering the Global Financial Crisis.
“Mature regulatory settings and a strong fiscal position have worked in Australia’s favour,” the report says. “It was among the few OECD countries which did not enter a recession.
“However Australia still has a challenge to lift productivity to return to a higher long-run growth path and continued future prosperity.”
The report examined Australia’s regulatory governance system, including special topics on competition policy, market openness and Federal-State regulatory issues.
It found the Government had laid out an “ambitious regulatory reform agenda to build a seamless national economy and unleash productivity.”
The OECD said while the Government was focusing on designing regulation and reducing the costs and complexities for business and the non-profit sector, a culture of continuous improvement supported by evidence-based decision making needed to be embedded more strongly in Government practices.
The report said Ministers and their Departments needed to be more clearly accountable for the quality of regulation in their portfolio.
It made a number of recommendations to help the Government improve regulatory reform.
It suggested the Government improve its relationship with businesses and local communities to help identify reform opportunities and that it enhance the transparency of Regulatory Agencies.
The Government said it would use Web 2.0 technologies to allow business to engage directly with Government and would require Commonwealth Departments and Agencies to outline how they will regulate to minimise unnecessary costs and burdens on business and the not-for-profit sector.
The OECD review and the Government’s response were both available from www.finance.gov.au
23 February, 2010
Comcare is to take an officer of the Australian Federal Police to court for unintentionally discharging his pistol in the AFP’s Canberra Headquarters in 2008.
fire for firing gun
Chief Executive of Comcare, Paul O’Connor said the safety regulator’s investigation had found that while the AFP had appropriate safety systems and training in place, the employee’s actions had created the risk of injury to himself and other employees.
“Employers have the duty to put in place effective safety systems to protect workers from harm at work – and that has occurred here,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Equally, employees must be aware of their serious obligations under workplace safety laws to prevent dangerous situations.”
He said the officer had unintentionally discharged his weapon in an open-plan office and that the bullet had lodged in a desktop.
He said no-one was hurt in the incident but four other AFP employees were nearby at the time.
He said Comcare found that while the AFP had not breached its general duty of care under federal law and had taken reasonable steps to prevent such incidents, the officer had breached his duties and the incident was a “direct consequence” of the way he transported, stored and then reloaded his pistol.
Mr O’Connor said the civil proceedings would allege the officer did not take reasonable practicable steps to avoid creating a risk to the health and safety of others in the workplace.
He said the maximum penalty for this type of breach by an individual employee was $9,900.
23 February, 2010
Solicitor raises bar
The Australian Government Solicitor is to expand its legal training outside the boundaries of the Australian Public Service by conducting courses for members of the private sector and others seeking high quality legal training.
for legal training
The AGS has been conducting courses for Government employees for over a decade, all of which have been run by experienced lawyers, and in that time has built up a reputation for being clear, up-to-date, informative and entertaining.
“The great news for those seeking high-quality legal training is that, as a result of recent changes, AGS is now able to provide legal training to members of the private legal profession, students and the broader public as well as to those working in Government,” the AGS said in a statement.
It said upcoming courses included an intensive administrative law course, Excellence in Government Decision Making which would run in March.
The course will be presented by senior AGS solicitors and counsel with experience in the areas of law being discussed and administrative law litigation.
The course is expected to focus on the fundamentals and practicalities of administrative law with an emphasis on decision-making principles.
The AGS said it would also hold a two-day administrative law symposium in March that had been designed to introduce participants to the principles of administrative law in the Commonwealth and NSW. Topics would include privacy, freedom of information and national security.
For more information go to www.ags.gov.au
23 February, 2010
The Productivity Commission is to launch an inquiry into the economic and policy rationale for Australian Government investment in rural research and development.
checks rural research
The inquiry will also look at interactions and possible Government and program overlaps to ensure best value for research and spending.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke said investment in research and development was undertaken primarily through Rural Development Corporations (RDCs), State and Territory Governments, the CSIRO, the tertiary education sector, cooperative research centres and private sector businesses.
Senator Sherry and Mr Burke said that under the terms of reference, the inquiry would also examine the appropriate level of balance between public and private investment, and consider the current model’s effectiveness in improving competitiveness and productivity.
They said the Government collected industry levies for research and development and matched expenditure on research and development on a 1:1 basis, up to 0.5 per cent of industry gross value of production.
Total expenditure in 2006-2007 was about $1.6 billion while in 2008-09, expenditure by RDCs on research and development was about $460 million, including $207 million from the Australian Government.
The Productivity Commission will hold hearings as part of its inquiry and is expected to produce a draft report for public comment before delivering a final report to Government in February 2011.
23 February, 2010
The Australian Sports Commission has launched a new online resource to help engage more sportspeople from culturally diverse backgrounds.
get free kick along
Officially unveiled by the Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis, the All Cultures program aims to connect people from new migrant groups with their local sporting clubs.
“As the composition of our community continues to evolve then so must Australian sport,” Ms Ellis said.
Pointing to figures that show new migrants are two-thirds less likely to be involved in sport than other Australians, Ms Ellis said she wanted to make sure people from different backgrounds could reap the health and social benefits of sport.
“Many of our grassroots and elite sports are missing out on the new skills and greater participation rates that the involvement of people from diverse origins can bring,” she said.
“I want to see a multicultural sporting landscape that includes players, coaches, officials, administrators and supporters from different cultural origins.”
Ms Ellis said the Australian Sports Commission’s All Cultures program hoped to boost participation by providing advice to the Australian sporting sector about how to be more inclusive.
She said new online resources on the Commission’s website included videos detailing existing multicultural sport programs and useful tips for clubs, coaches and officials.
All Cultures Ambassadors have been appointed and include Brazilian-born Collingwood Football Club defender, Harry O’Brien.
Ms Ellis said the Department of Immigration and Citizenship was working closely with the Australian Sports Commission to promote the All Cultures resource to schools and community groups.
The resources were available from www.ausport.gov.au
23 February, 2010
Nature study in
A new program to document plants and animals living in properties across Australia’s National Reserve System has been launched by the Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett.
class of its own
Mr Garrett said Bush Blitz would be led by the Australian Government and bring together BHP Billiton, non- profit conservation research organisation Earthwatch and rangelands survey group the National Scientific Reference Site Network.
“Bush Blitz is nature discovery on a huge scale,” Mr Garrett said.
“Teams of scientists will scour hundreds of reserves and expect to find hundreds of species that are completely new to science,” he said.
“In this International Year of Biodiversity, Bush Blitz scientists will provide the baseline data that will help us protect our biodiversity.”
Mr Garrett cited ongoing threats from climate change as pressing reasons to “rev up” scientific understanding of Australia’s plants and animals.
“This is an investment in science-based decision making that will pay off for generations to come,” he said.
Mr Garrett said while Australia was home to more than 560,000 native species, only one-quarter of this biodiversity had been scientifically documented.
He said Bush Blitz would be supported by CSIRO, museums, herbaria and Governments across the country with dozens of Australia’s top scientists and corporate volunteers.
He said a Bush Blitz report, Focusing on the Landscape: Biodiversity in Australia’s National Reserve System, assessed the state of knowledge of biodiversity in the National Reserve System and was based on records of 20,146 terrestrial fauna and flora species.
He said the report found over 88 per cent of the plants and animals were adequately or well-represented in the reserve system, but that there were still important knowledge gaps to fill.
The report was available from www.bushblitz.org.au
The Federal Government is investing $6 million in the program while BHP Billiton is investing $4 million.
23 February, 2010
A discussion paper calling for public comment on proposed changes to the General Skilled Migration points test has been released by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans.
to be tested
Senator Evans said the current points test required potential skilled migrants who were not sponsored by an employer to accumulate 120 points based on qualifications, skills and English proficiency.
“The application of the current points test has not always led to outcomes that are consistent with the objectives of selecting skilled migrants with high value skills to meet Australia’s economic needs,” the Minister said.
Senator Evans said under the current scheme a foreign student with a short-term vocational qualification and one year’s work experience in Australia would be put ahead of a Harvard-educated environmental scientist with three years’ relevant work experience.
He said the test should select migrants most likely to secure skilled work to ensure Australia gets “the best and brightest.”
Senator Evans said the review would examine whether some occupations should have more points than others, whether sufficient points are awarded for work experience and English language skills, and if points should be given for qualifications from high quality overseas universities.
He said certain principles would underpin a new points test to ensure it would result in the selection of applicants who offered the most “human capital”, could operate flexibly and would not exclude desirable applicants from offshore or in Australia.
The Senator said it should also enable applicants with high value attributes across a number of areas such as English ability, academic qualifications and work experience to achieve the maximum number of points, and not give undue weight to any single factor.
The discussion paper, developed following consultations with Federal, State and Territory stakeholders, was available from www.immi.gov.au
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is expected to report to Government on the outcomes of the review in May, while public submissions close on 12 March.
23 February, 2010
Crime pays for new
Australia’s first data centre for illicit drugs has been opened in Sydney.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor officially launched the Australian Illicit Drug Data Centre (AIDDC), saying it would help the Australian Federal Police and other law enforcement agencies by improving their intelligence about the drug supply chain.
Mr O’Connor said the Centre would collect and analyse scientific data on the purity, method of production and likely origin of illicit drugs.
“This will help police develop a more comprehensive intelligence database which tracks illicit drugs along the entire supply chain, from the source country to the street,” he said.
“This will in turn, provide vital information in the identification and prosecution of the criminals involved.”
Mr O’Connor said information from the Centre would also help with the development of national policies to combat the manufacturing and supply of illicit drugs in Australia.
Two new projects are to be produced at the Centre - the Enhanced National Intelligence Picture on Illicit Drugs and the National Drug Precursor Risk Assessment Capability.
”This information will help both Federal and State police clarify links and drug supply chains between organised criminal groups operating across Australia,” Mr O’Connor said.
“It is fitting that the Drug Data Centre will be funded from the proceeds of crime—effectively using money seized from criminal enterprises to combat the serious criminal trade it came from.”
23 February, 2010
Gains all round in
A plan to strengthen the relationship between Government Agencies and the nation’s not-for-profit sector is to take a step forward on 17 March.
On that day, a national ‘Compact’ between the Government and the sector would be signed at Parliament House in Canberra.
Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector, Senator Ursula Stephens said the Compact had been developed following extensive consultations between the Government and the sector
“The Compact will become the foundation from which together we can better serve the Australian community - from providing homelessness services and helping new migrants to settle in Australia, to protecting our environment and enriching our cultural life,” Senator Stephens said.
“The not-for-profit sector makes an extraordinary contribution every day to Australians across the country.
“The Compact gives us a great opportunity to build on already strong partnerships to tackle key social, environmental challenges.”
Senator Stephens also announced the creation of a National Compact Sector Advisory Group, saying the Government would work with the Group to implement the Compact’s principles and aspirations.
She announced that the founding member of the Graham (Polly) Farmer Foundation which supports Indigenous youth, Dr Ron Edwards would chair the Advisory Group.
Senator Stephens said the compact launch and signing ceremony would be a “landmark day for both the community and the Australian Government”
She said a National Compact Consultation Report outlined the Compact and consultations, and was available from www.fahcsia.gov.au
23 February, 2010
Students line up
An upgraded internet safety program for schoolchildren has been launched by the Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor.
for online safety
The ThinkUKnow program, being rolled out in schools nationally, is designed to help children think before they act online.
Developed by the Australian Federal Police and Microsoft, the program involves volunteers providing free interactive training sessions to ensure parents, carers and teachers can educate children about cyber-safety.
Police Commissioner, Tony Negus said while the internet was a wonderful tool for parents and children, it also included dangers.
“This program aims to open the lines of communication between parents and children about online safety,” Commissioner Negus said.
“The hope is that young people will be confident going to their parents when they have a problem online, and parents will have a better understanding of how to deal with these issues and where they can go for help.
“The AFP will also continue to work closely with industry, Government and local and international law enforcement Agencies to protect children online through education initiatives and operations against online sex offenders.”
Microsoft’s Chief Security Advisor, Stuart Strathdee said simple actions such as keeping the family computer in the living room instead of in a child’s bedroom, could make the internet safer for children.
“We teach and encourage children to look and listen before crossing the road and the same basic principles apply when it comes to the Internet,” Mr Strathdee said.
“Through ThinkUKnow, we’re advising parents, carers and teachers to take an active role in their children’s online lives, just as they would in real life.”
Already operating in NSW, Victoria and the ACT, the program will be rolled out in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory throughout the year.
Further information was available from www.thinkuknow.org.au
23 February, 2010
Red tape cut enables
Ex-Service personnel with disabilities who access income support are to be spared medical reviews at Centrelink for their Disability Support Pensions.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said that from next month, veteran pensioners assessed as Totally and Permanently Incapacitated (TPI) would not face a Centrelink medical review to access their pension.
Mr Griffin said TPI pensioners currently had to endure repeated Job Capacity Assessments to keep their Disability Support Pensions.
He said these assessments were “unnecessary”, as the veterans had already been through a rigorous assessment process to access DVA benefits.
“Since coming to Government we have sought to reduce the barriers facing veterans and injured ex-serving personnel seeking compensation and income support,” Mr Griffin said.
“Today’s announcement immediately assists around 1,100 veterans on a Centrelink Disability Support Pension and has the potential to benefit many more into the future.”
He said the Government had established an Interdepartmental Working Group to simplify the “bureaucratic maze” facing veterans and ex-serving personnel, making it easier for them to access entitlements and streamlining arrangements across Agencies.
“I am pleased with our progress to date but more will be done in our efforts to support our veterans and defence personnel,” Mr Griffin said.
23 February, 2010
Students blossom in
The latest graduates of the CSIRO’s Student Volunteer Botanical Internship Program have completed their seven-week course in Canberra.
CSIRO plant course
Internship Coordinator, Bronwyn Collins said the 10 students from around Australia took part in research projects and herbarium collection management at the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research.
“They also gain other career skills such as writing grant proposals, public speaking and job applications,” Ms Collins said.
She said the program was a joint venture between CSIRO Plant Industry and the Australian National Botanical Gardens and over 250 students had completed the program since 1993.
She said they were given the opportunity to work closely with researchers and conservation managers to help them gain important career skills.
“The program aims to prepare students for a career in a botany-related field, focusing strongly on practical experience,” Ms Collins said.
“They especially enjoy the field trip to Jervis Bay where they can really demonstrate what they’ve learnt during the Program.”
Intern Alicia Brown from Monash University said the program was an excellent opportunity that gave students the chance to gain hands-on experience that university courses could not provide.
“It has been good to see what scientists actually do in this field,” Ms Brown said.
23 February, 2010
Paper hits home
A discussion paper setting out options for a national framework that will support and serve homeless people has been released by the Minister for Housing, Tania Plibersek.
Ms Plibersek said the paper examined ways to establish a National Quality Framework and sought the views of homeless services and homeless people.
She said the Government would hold 17 public consultations around Australia on the framework, with the first already held on 19 February in Canberra.
“The workshops are for people who are homeless, service providers, community groups and others with an interest in improving the quality of services for people who are homeless,” Ms Plibersek said.
“It is particularly important to involve mainstream services – hospitals, mental health facilities, employment services and schools - as well as specialist homelessness services in these workshops, because people experiencing homelessness often require a range of different services.”
The Minister said the workshops would provide a forum for people to discuss what Australia needs to deliver a high quality service to people experiencing homelessness.
She said focus groups and interviews would also be held with homeless people.
Ms Plibersek said establishing the framework would occur in two stages.
She said the first stage would be the workshops and consultation and the second would take place in mid 2010 and be based on options for creating the framework, as identified during consultations.
The paper, A national quality framework to support quality services for people experiencing homelessness – A Discussion Paper was available from www.fahcsia.gov.au
23 February, 2010
Book Group to have
A new Book Industry Strategy Group is to be set up to help Australian publishers come to grips with the internet.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said the Book Industry Strategy Group would bring together industry representatives to develop ways to address supply chain integration issues and develop viable business models for the digital age.
Announcing the strategy group at the Digital Revolution: Publishing in the 21st Century symposium in Melbourne, Senator Carr said it would focus on collaboration, transformation and future sustainability.
“The written word may be almost as old as human civilisation itself but this doesn’t mean we can ignore the very real and very rapid advances being made in digital publishing technologies,” he said.
“We are moving into an environment in which the printed book is just one platform among many.
“We have a proud and distinguished literary history in this country thanks to the work of generations of talented authors, publishers and local book manufacturers.”
Senator Carr said Australia had the only dynamic and growing independent book selling sector in the English-speaking world.
“I want to keep it that way. We must be prepared to seize the opportunities the digital revolution is offering,” he said.
The Senator said he wanted to see book printers, publishers, distributors and retailers collaborate with each other and take responsibility for transforming their industry to ensure it has a sustainable future.
“I am giving this strategy group a very clear mandate – I don’t just want a report, I want a way forward,” he said.
The Book Industry Strategy Group is expected to give its advice to the Government within 12 months.
23 February, 2010
Medibank Private stays public
Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner has announced the Government intends to keep Medibank Private in public ownership.
Mr Tanner said a publicly owned Medibank Private put downward pressure on health insurance premiums and encouraged innovation in the private health insurance market.
He said the Opposition’s plan to privatise Medibank Private would cost the Budget millions of dollars in forgone dividends.
UK relations hit 100
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith has visited London to mark the centenary of Australia’s diplomatic presence in the United Kingdom.
“Australia House is now the longest, continuous diplomatic site in the United Kingdom,” Mr Smith said.
He also launched a historical publication, The High Commissioners: Australia’s Representatives in the UK, 1910-2010, which was prepared jointly by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies at King’s College, London.
UN Conference coming
Australia is to be the host of a major annual United Nations Conference on global health issues.
The conference will be held in Melbourne from 30 August to 1 September 2010, and will mark the first time Australia has hosted a UN event of this size, and only the third time this Conference has been held outside of the UN Headquarters in New York.
A major aim of the 63rd UN Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organisation Conference is to attract the participation of non-governmental organisations in the Asia-Pacific region.
Archives branches out
A new book published by the National Archives offers advice to the public on how to look after their family treasures.
Keeping Family Treasures is an illustrated guide on how to keep family heirlooms safe and provides advice on how to preserve letters, albums, photographs, diaries, notebooks, scrapbooks, objects, fabrics, audio tapes, video tapes and CDs, DVDs and home movie films.
The book was available through the National Archives’ e-shop for $24.95, at www.naa.gov.au
Austrade has released the Government’s first-ever comprehensive publication on Islamic finance, a booklet that highlights the opportunities Shariah-compliant investment and banking offer Australia’s financial services market.
The publication, Islamic Finance, discusses finance that is based on the principles of Islamic Shariah law, which prohibits the earning of interest, and focuses on profit sharing based on buying and selling tangible assets such as property.
Minister for Trade, Simon Crean launched the booklet, saying Australia was well positioned to service around 1 billion Muslims who lived in the Asia-Pacific region. The booklet was available from www.austrade.gov.au
Apprenticeships kick started
Over 14,000 apprentices have signed up for the Government’s Apprentice Kickstart bonus, which ends on 28 February 2010.
Under the program, employers get $2,350 when they employ an apprentice aged between 15 and 19 in an eligible trade and receive a further $2,500 when the apprentice completes nine months.
The program aims to sign up 21,000 young apprentices.
Drugs going down
The Australian Institute of Criminology’s annual Drug Use Monitoring in Australia report has revealed a significant decline in the use of methamphetamines and other illicit drug types among police detainees.
The survey showed that after five years of significant levels, methamphetamine use fell in 2008 by five percentage points from the previous year. Cannabis and heroin use was also down.
The report involves police detainees at nine sites around the country providing a urine sample and completing a voluntary questionnaire about their drug use. The full report was available from www.aic.gov.au
Science prizes open
Members of the public have been encouraged to nominate ‘science champions’ for the 2010 Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.
The prizes are the most significant science prizes in Australia and include five categories: Prime Minister’s Prize for Science ($300,000); Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year ($50,000); Science Minister’s Prize for Life Scientist of the Year ($50,000); Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools ($50,000); and Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools ($50,000).
Nominations close on 21 May. For more information visit www.innovation.gov.au
Blood samples banked
The CSIRO has launched a collaborative research cluster between with Monash University, Melbourne University, the Australian National University, the Menzies Research Institute (Tasmania) and the ASPREE Healthy Ageing Biobank Cluster to establish a ‘biobank’ of blood samples to advance research into the prediction and early diagnosis of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer.
Blood samples will be collected from over 10,000 healthy elderly Australians.
Senior researcher at CSIRO’s Preventative Health Flagship, Dr Trevor Lockett said researchers were particularly interested in using the Biobank to improve the methods used to diagnose colorectal cancer, Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases and obesity-related disorders.
Crime study out
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released the results of the 2008-09 Crime Victimisation Survey, which found Australian households experienced around 1.6 million incidents of malicious property damage.
The survey found 912,500 households (11 per cent) were victims of at least one incident of property damage and 527,400 Australians aged 15 and over were a victim of at least one physical assault in the 12 months preceding the survey.
The survey was available from www.abs.gov.au
Fisheries profits up
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics has found profitability improved in three key Commonwealth fisheries since the Securing Our Fishing Future structural adjustment package concluded in November 2006.
The fishery concession buyback scheme was designed to help fishing businesses voluntarily exit the industry.
ABARE’s report into the scheme, Impact of the structural adjustment package on the profitability of Commonwealth fisheries, found profits increased by between $3.9 million and $20.4 million and boat numbers fell by between 16 and 40 per cent. The report was available from www.abare.gov.au
Organ Donor Awareness Week
Australian Organ Donor Awareness Week is being held this week, from 21 to 28 February.
This year’s theme is ‘family discussion’, with the Government urging those who are planning to become an organ donor to let their families know to ensure they give their consent to doctors.
The Australian Organ Donor Register is administered by Medicare Australia and more information was available from www.medicareaustralia.gov.au or www.donatelife.gov.au
Agreement with Austria
A social security agreement between Australia and Austria is expected to eliminate double superannuation coverage between the two countries.
To commence from mid next year, the agreement will ensure that when employees are sent temporarily to work in the other country, compulsory superannuation and social security contributions will no longer be made into both countries’ systems.
Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen said the agreement would improve economic links by reducing costs for businesses operating in Australia and Austria.
Upgrade at ADFA
The Australian Defence Force Academy has announced a four-year plan to upgrade its cadet accommodation in Canberra.
The $35 million project will see 12 accommodation blocks upgraded, which include 576 bedrooms as well as bathrooms and common areas and the installation of external solar collection panels and energy-efficient lighting.
16 February, 2010
New enrolment laws
The laws governing Federal elections are to be amended to allow new voters more time to enrol before an election.
rolled out for voters
Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig announced the move, saying Electoral Rolls would now remain open for new voters for seven days following the issue of the election writs.
Senator Ludwig said the extension restored the law to its pre-2007 condition and fulfilled an election promise.
“This Bill will ensure that no unnecessary hurdles are placed in the way of ordinary Australians who simply wish to exercise their democratic right to vote,” senator Ludwig said.
He said the changes made prior to the 2007 election had “disenfranchised many potential voters.”
He said restoring the 7-day opportunity would give people sufficient time to get their name on the electoral roll for a federal election.
Senator Ludwig said the Government was also repealing the rule that forced provisional voters to provide identification.
“At the 2007 election, about a quarter of provisional voters were unable to produce evidence of identity on polling day,” he said.
“With only 20 per cent of electors producing evidence after the election, 27,000 votes weren’t counted in the 2007 election.”
In other changes, the Electoral Referendum Amendment (Close of Rolls and Other Measures) Bill 2010 also limits political parties to endorse only one candidate in each electorate, as well as allowing voters to update their enrolment electronically.
Senator Ludwig said the Government was committed to “facilitating and protecting enrolment” and removing unnecessary barriers that prevent people from voting.
16 February, 2010
E-health has numbers
Every Australian is to be issued with a new 16-digit identification number as part of the move towards a national e-health system.
in new ID scheme
Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon said the move would create an integrated and consistent e-health system, giving confidence to consumers and providers.
Ms Roxon said Individual Healthcare Identifiers (IHI’s) would be provided in addition to Medicare numbers, creating a single process to identify patients and providers.
She said the legislation introduced last week would help prevent the inaccuracies and inefficiencies found in the current system, where a patient visiting a doctor has a different identifying number on their health record from that of the number at the pharmacy where they get their prescription filled.
Ms Roxon said these disparities put patients at risk of mismatched records and duplicate medical tests.
The Minister cited the Health and Hospital’s Reform Commission, which found the availability of person-controlled individual health records was “one of the most important opportunities to improve the quality and safety of health care, reduce waste and inefficiency, and improve continuity and health outcomes for patients.”
Ms Roxon said minor amendments would also be made to the Privacy Act to ensure the Federal Privacy Commissioner could act against individuals or companies that misused an individual’s healthcare identifier.
16 February, 2010
Powers allowing the Australian Taxation Office to examine the books of businesses without their permission have been given the thumbs up by the Taxation Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan.
inspect by the book
In his Australian Taxation Office: Use of access without notice powers report, Professor McMillan confirmed the ATO had established “appropriate procedures” for exercising its ‘access without notice’ powers.
He said the powers allowed the ATO to enter a business or private premises without the owner’s permission to examine and copy documents dealing with income, indirect, pay as you go, fringe benefits and energy–related taxes and superannuation.
Professor McMillan said his findings were based on his observations of a random audit conducted by the ATO in 2009 and a review of other documentation.
He said that during the audit the ATO undertook a coordinated, simultaneous multi–site access without notice visit in several States.
“The ATO takes the use of its access without notice powers seriously and has established a set of sound guidelines and manuals to assist its staff to apply the powers,”
“It’s pleasing to note also that the ATO’s activities generally comply with the principles outlined in the Administrative Review Council’s report The Coercive Information–gathering Powers of Government Agencies and the Ombudsman’s Lessons for public administration.”
Professor McMillan said his investigation was the second Ombudsman inquiry into the ATO’s access without notice powers in the past 10 years.
“It confirms that taxpayers can feel confident that the ATO is exercising these powers in the manner in which it should,” he said.
Professor McMillan said it was “right and proper” that the ATO used its access without notice powers only in exceptional circumstances such as the belief documents might be destroyed if notice was given, concerns over fraud or evasion and inappropriate secrecy by the taxpayer.
The Ombudsman recommended the ATO could strengthen its commitment to public accountability through greater transparency in its Annual Report, finetuning its Access and Information Gathering Manual and improving its electronic case management filing system.
The ATO agreed to the recommendations.
The report is available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
16 February, 2010
An independent inquiry into the Green Loans program has been announced by the Minister for Environment, Peter Garrett, following reports the scheme had been poorly managed.
Mr Garrett said the program offered households the chance to get free advice on the best and most effective ways of improving the energy efficiency of their homes.
He said, as part of the process, the households underwent an assessment for energy and water saving measures and could then apply for zero-interest loans to pay to install some of the measures.
Mr Garrett said there were issues with the accreditation of assessors and the contracts and procurement processes entered into during the program’s final design stages.
He said the inquiry would examine these matters as well as other concerns regarding call centre wait times and resourcing.
“It clear that some elements of the program are not working as effectively as they should,” Mr Garrett said.
“In particular, it is clear there is room for improvement in relation to the call centre for assessor and householder bookings as well as to speed up the issuing of household assessment reports.”
The audit is to be conducted by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
According to evidence given before Senate estimates hearings, assessors were being paid late and there had been a low uptake of the zero-interest loans despite the large number of assessments that have been requested.
The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts was expecting to undertake 360,000 assessments over four years but in less than a year had conducted140,000.
It had set aside funding for 70,000 loans over the four years and of the 20,000 expected to be taken out so far, only 1,000 have been approved.
According to the Minister, there were 5,000 assessors accredited under the Green Loans program.
Secretary of the Department, Robyn Kruk, said the program was operating with ‘‘significant challenges’’.
Ms Kruk said payments to assessors were supposed to be made in 30 days but that they had been “‘too low and too slow” due to a surge in demand for assessments.
The Green Loans program commenced on 1 July 2009.
16 February, 2010
Weekly payments are
New rules to allow welfare recipients to receive income support payments weekly instead of fortnightly have been announced for Centrelink.
order of the day
Minister for Community Services, Jenny Macklin said the Social Security and Family Legislation Amendment (Weekly Payments) Bill 2010 would help vulnerable people, particularly those at risk of homelessness, better manage their money.
Ms Macklin said Centrelink officers would identify customers who found budgeting difficult and offer them the weekly payment option.
“This reform will target vulnerable Australians who find it difficult to budget and often end the fortnight with no money in their pockets and bills left to pay,” she said.
“These changes will help ensure people have regular access to money to purchase food, clothing and medicines, and keep up with regular payments such as rent.
Minister for Housing, Tanya Plibersek said the weekly payments would help those struggling to pay rent in housing.
“Homelessness is a national priority and these changes will make sure that people are balancing their money across the fortnight, making it easier to stay on top of rent and mortgage repayments,” Ms Plibersek said.
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said the new system would allow Centrelink to respond better to customer needs.
“The Government is committed to improving service delivery for all Australians,” Mr Bowen said.
“This includes tailoring Centrelink’s services to assist the most vulnerable people in our society by providing them with more options.”
16 February, 2010
An audit of Geoscience Australia has found it effectively provides information and services to Government Agencies and organisations, but could improve some services and planning processes.
is down to earth
Geoscience Australia is responsible for providing geoscientific and geospatial data and services to Government Agencies, industry and the general public.
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said although the work undertaken by Geoscience Australia, such as mapping, measuring sea depth and capturing satellite imagery was valuable, the organisation needed to enhance its strategic planning process.
“Feedback from Government Agencies and key industry stakeholders confirmed that Geoscience Australia’s work is valued and often essential to their outcomes,” Mr McPhee said.
“Notwithstanding this positive feedback, Geoscience Australia’s website, its key interface with customers, is complex to use and more data and information could be made publicly available.”
The Auditor-General said the management of many product and services projects lacked project plans, risk assessments and key performance indicators.
“Geoscience Australia could more effectively report its achievements by aggregating project‐level key performance information such as time, cost, client satisfaction and outcomes,” Mr McPhee said.
He said there had been no assessment made of Geoscience Australia’s information management environment and little focus had been placed on addressing information management issues.
“In addition, there is no inventory that documents the purpose, extent and nature of Geoscience Australia’s data and information holdings and physical collections,” he said.
Mr McPhee said GA was not well positioned to maintain and store its data or make informed decisions about data accessibility and should consider developing an inventory.
“Overall, Geoscience Australia has a sound governance framework but there is scope to enhance its strategic planning process,” he said.
The Auditor-General made four recommendations aimed at improving strategic planning, information management, government client‐relationships and performance reporting.
GA agreed to implement all four recommendations.
The full audit report was available from www.anao.gov.au and was prepared by an audit team of Donna Hanson, Cameron Mathie, John Wickerson and Barbara Cass.
16 February, 2010
A consultant reviewing the operation of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 has reported on consultations undertaken for the review.
The consultant, KPMG has released a report which found some stakeholders wanted the EOWW Act to be strengthened to help it achieve equality for women in the workplace, rather than focus on creating equal employment opportunities.
The report found coverage was also of concern, stating that while the EOWW Act applies to all organisations with over 100 employees; it estimated 34.6 per cent of covered organisations did not report to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA).
In other findings, contributors to the report had mixed views on the requirement for employers to develop workplace programs to promote equal employment opportunity.
“While the requirement to develop such programs is generally supported, views on the effectiveness of the programs developed are divergent,” the report says.
“An observation can be made however, that generally, reporting organisations support the arrangements for workplace programs more than reporting to EOWA, and those organisations with the highest level of compliance with the EOWW Act are more likely to agree that workplace programs have a positive equal opportunity impact.”
It said a large proportion of employees were not involved in developing the programs or were not aware of employee involvement in program development.
“Many stakeholders proposed changes to the workplace programs so that they are simpler, set measurable targets and actions, and provide a stronger driver for change in organisations,” the report says.
The KPMG Consultation Report found while most contributors to the review thought the Act was fulfilling its role, perceived constraints included the legislative framework and resourcing.
The majority of reporting organisations found EOWA’s role in supporting and advising valuable, its feedback and advice effective, and its role in education and raising awareness important.
While many stakeholders, including experts, individuals, women’s organisations, trade unions and employees, believed EOWA should remain a separate and independent statutory authority, others felt it would be more effective if it was placed within an alternative portfolio of Government.
The review received 136 submissions and the consultant surveyed 744 reporting organisations and 859 employees.
Five Roundtables involving 98 people were held around Australia, and 21 experts and stakeholder representatives were interviewed.
A copy of the Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999 - KPMG Consultation Report could be accessed at www.fahcsia.gov.au
16 February, 2010
A former Judge and the current Office of the Privacy Commissioner have been honoured internationally for their contributions to the advancement of privacy issues.
for privacy pioneers
Leading privacy lawmaker and former High Court Judge, Michael Kirby was awarded the Electronic Privacy Information Centre’s 2010 International Privacy Champion Award for his role in developing the 1980 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data.
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis said she could think of no one more worthy of the award.
“Mr Kirby’s long and illustrious career in the law has seen him make outstanding contributions on a large range of issues, not least among which has been privacy,” Ms Curtis said.
“The OECD Guidelines have become the basis for privacy laws in Australia and across the world and Mr Kirby’s significant role in their development cannot be overstated.
“Mr Kirby was the recipient of my Office’s inaugural Australian Privacy Medal in 2008, and I am delighted that his contribution has now been acknowledged at an international level.”
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner was also recognised for its Australian Privacy Awards and Medal programs, being shortlisted for PublicAffairsAsia magazine’s international Gold Standard Awards 2009.
Ms Curtis said the awards recognised excellence by business, Government Agencies, political groups and NGOs in the field of Government relations, public affairs, corporate social responsibility and corporate communications.
The Office was one of three shortlisted in the ‘Stakeholder engagement category’ which acknowledges excellence in a communications campaign.
“The Australian Privacy Awards and Medal are a world first,” Ms Curtis said.
“It is the first time that a country’s privacy regulator has hosted such programs to reward good privacy initiatives in the corporate, not for profit and Public Sectors, as well as acknowledging the work of an individual in the privacy sphere.”
16 February, 2010
Camera trial to
A trial of bushfire detection cameras in fire-prone areas of Victoria and New South Wales has been announced jointly by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland and the respective State Ministers responsible for forests and emergency services.
zoom in on fires
The cameras allow continuous monitoring of bushland and automatically detect smoke and lighting.
Precise information on the starting point of the fire gives fire fighters the chance to get to the scene of the emergency as quickly as possible.
The trial, to commence this week in the Otway Ranges in Victoria and near Tumut in NSW, will run till the end of April, with a possible one month extension.
In a joint statement, Mr McClelland and the Victorian Minister for Emergency Services, Bob Cameron, and New South Wales Minister for Forest Resources, Ian Macdonald, said the trial would be conducted in two parts, with locations chosen to provide broad area coverage and the opportunity for controlled testing.
In Victoria, 12 cameras will be trialled at four locations covering the Otway Ranges at Mt Porndon, Crowes Lookout, Peters Hill and Mt Cowley under ‘real conditions’ without the use of controlled burning.
In NSW, three cameras will be trialled at Mt Tumorrama in the Tumut region under ‘controlled conditions’ which will include test burning to evaluate the performance of the system under simulated conditions.
The Ministers said the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre would evaluate the trial by comparing the effectiveness of different camera systems and examining their ability to accurately detect fires, avoid false detections, and their potential to be integrated into existing emergency management processes.
The Federally-funded trial will cost around $3 million, with coordination and facilitation provided by the Victorian and New South Wales Governments.
16 February, 2010
ASIO keeps terror
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has warned a Parliamentary Committee that Australia was set to remain a terrorist target for the foreseeable future.
Presenting a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS), ASIO said the likelihood of a home-grown terrorist attack was high.
ASIO’s submission to PJCIS’s review, entitled Administration and Expenditure No. 8, examined the organisation’s activities during 2008–09.
“Security threats to Australia and Australian interests evolved further in 2008–09,” the submission says.
“As in previous years, the new dimensions of threats built on – rather than replaced – existing elements, adding new layers of complexity to the challenges of terrorism, espionage and foreign interference.
“Australia will remain a terrorist target for the foreseeable future.”
The submission said terrorism related activities within Australia would continue and there was a high likelihood of local terrorist groups emerging “from time to time.”
It said ASIO’s investigative and operational activity in 2008–09 had focused on a Melbourne-based group of Islamic extremists and their alleged planning for an armed suicide assault on an Australian military facility.
“Espionage and foreign interference directed against Australia and Australian interests will continue with new technologies allowing new and different forms of undeclared intelligence activity,” the submission says.
ASIO’s funding for 2008-09 was $361.73 million, a 19 per cent increase from the previous year.
The submission was available from www.asio.gov.au
16 February, 2010
Electrical inspections of homes supplied with foil-based insulation as part of the Government’s Home Insulation Program have been ordered following fears that safety standards may have been compromised.
Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett called for the inspections, saying a sample audit of homes had uncovered instances in which the insulation was ‘live’.
Mr Garrett suspended the use of foil under the program, saying householder safety was the “absolute priority” under the program.
“That is why we have already raised safety standards, making them tougher than those in the Australian Standards and the Building Code,” he said.
“This full program of electrical safety inspections for foil insulation reinforces that commitment.”
Mr Garrett said the inspections would be rolled out in two ways: householders would be able to engage any licensed electrician to conduct the safety checks and where necessary rectify the work and the Government would engage organisations to ensure all homes with foil installation installed under the program were inspected.
He said the Government would write to all homes with foil insulation installed under the Home Insulation Program (HIP) to advise them of the situation and their options.
A hotline has also been set up to provide information to affected householders.
Mr Garrett said in houses where electrical safety issues were identified, the problems would be rectified and the Government would attempt to recover the costs from the installer, including by withholding payments for other installations.
The Minister said installers who had not complied with program guidelines would be deregistered and have their details included on a name and shame register.
“I have made it clear from the outset that the Government would not hesitate to make changes to this program to improve householder and installer safety,” he said.
“It is why we banned the use of metal fasteners for foil last year and commenced an immediate inspection program of 10 per cent of roofs with foil insulation.
“Unfortunately, despite these strong measures we are still seeing evidence of foil installations which do not meet clear program requirements.”
Mr Garrett said mandatory training standards for all insulation installers commenced on 12 February.
He said further information could be obtained by contacting 131 792.
16 February, 2010
ACMA switched on
The Australian Communications and Media Authority marked last week’s Safer Internet Day on Tuesday by promoting the message ‘Think before you post’ in a number of educational activities in schools across Australia.
to cyber safety
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said Safer Internet Day was a way to teach children the responsible use of online technologies.
“The theme ‘Think before you post’ is an essential message for young people,” Mr Chapman said.
“While many claim to know the risks of posting too much personal or inappropriate information online, they may not always translate that into safe online behaviour.
“Thinking about the consequences before hitting ‘post’ may help to minimise negative experiences online.”
As part of the Day, a national ‘Cybersmart Detectives’ activity was held for over 800 primary school students, while on the Cybersmart website, videos produced by young people on safe internet use were released.
Mail outs of posters and other cybersafety materials were also sent to all Councils and public libraries.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the message of ‘Think before you post’ was important and could help reduce negative experiences.
“It is important to remember that once something is posted, it can be online forever,” Senator Conroy said.
He released an ACMA report on cybersafety that identified education, research, consultation and technological tools as essential to combating risks online.
“It also highlights that we all have a role to play in managing online risk, including Governments and regulators, operators of online services and users themselves,” the Senator said.
As part of Safer Internet Day, ACMA teamed up with the police, Bravehearts, MySpace, the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, Internet Industry Association, Microsoft, Internet Games and Entertainment Association, Yahoo!7,Google and Telstra.
The report, Online risk and safety in the digital economy, was available from www.acma.gov.au
16 February, 2010
Misplacing a pen or stapler in the workplace may soon be a thing of the past if a promising mini-sensor project being developed by CSIRO is a success.
is right on track
The new technology is called the FLECK™ Nano, and allows temperature and power to be monitored so small objects can be tracked.
CSIRO ICT Centre researcher, Phil Valencia said the nano was a miniature version of FLECK sensor nodes that independently record environmental conditions and then cooperate with each other to wirelessly send their data to a collection point.
Mr Valencia said while the idea for the technology had been around for some time, it was not yet available for every day office items.
“We’re aiming to enable a level of ubiquitous sensing that hasn’t been experienced yet and see how it impacts on day-to-day office activities,” he said.
Two university students have been working with Mr Valencia on the project – the Australian National University’s David Kooymans and the University of Queensland’s Blake Newman.
Mr Kooymans is working on reducing the energy demands of the FLECK Nanos.
“They communicate with a node in a known location using radio waves,” Mr Kooymans said.
“The more frequently location information is updated the more useful the other data becomes, but the transmitters consume a high proportion of energy so there’s a trade-off to be negotiated there.”
Mr Valencia said Mr Newman was looking for ways for the FLECK Nano to ‘scavenge’ energy from the environment.
“You don’t want to be changing batteries in thousands of little devices so we are designing energy scavenging circuitry that will make power from whatever source it can,” Mr Valencia said.
“If a device doesn’t need much power, it’s amazing how much energy is all around just waiting to be tapped.
“For example, a FLECK Nano attached to a stapler on a desk in a windowless office is able to function if there is enough light to work by.”
16 February, 2010
More security flown
Security at Australian airports is to become tougher under a package of new measures announced by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.
in for airports
Mr Rudd said the $200 million package would include increased policing at airports, enhanced screening procedures and better international cooperation.
He said the number of people selected for explosive trace detections would increase and that $28.5 million would be spent on introducing new screening technologies such as body scanners, next generation multi-view x-ray machines and bottle scanners that can detect liquid-based explosives.
Mr Rudd said privacy measures would also be put in place to ease concerns about body scanning technologies.
The Prime Minister said screening at more regional airports would be fast-tracked and the number of firearms and explosive detection dogs at major international airports would be increased.
In an effort to enhance international cooperation, Mr Rudd said the Government would spend $18.2 million on engagement in the Asia-Pacific region to improve security on international flights.
He said Customs would also get new technology to allow it to assess larger numbers of passengers more quickly and share relevant data with intelligence, border management and law enforcement Agencies.
Mr Rudd said the moves to beef up security were consistent with the 2009 Aviation White Paper and the National Security Advisor’s review of aviation security in response to the attempted Christmas Day terrorist attack on a United States-bound flight.
16 February, 2010
A report prepared for the Minister for Innovation has called for a strategy to inject a new, interested attitude towards science into Australia’s classrooms, boardrooms and lounge rooms.
down to a science
The report, Inspiring Australia: a national strategy for engagement with the sciences, was launched at the 2010 Australian Science Communicators National Conference.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr said the report’s recommendations were important to the future of innovation in Australia.
“Inspiration is too important to leave to chance,” Senator Carr said.
“Igniting the imagination of the next generation of young scientists and researchers is absolutely critical to Australia’s future prosperity.
“To fully realise the social, economic and environmental benefits of our significant investment in science and research, we must communicate and engage the wider community in the sciences.”
Senator Carr said Australians must continue to value scientific endeavour and that an increase in national and international interest in Australian science and scientists was needed.
He said the report would help increase engagement with the sciences at all levels of society and would help encourage young people to follow a career in science.
The report was available from www.innovation.gov.au
16 February, 2010
Safety net widens
A world-first pilot program addressing cyber safety for students is to run in 164 schools across Australia.
for internet use
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard said the schools participating in the $3 million national initiative would implement policies and practices to support the safe, smart and responsible use of technology.
Ms Gillard said the schools would be provided with web resources to allow them to create an approach to cyber safety that met their individual needs.
“There is no one size fits all approach to bullying in schools but we are determined to provide teachers and school leaders with a range of tools to help them deal with bullying,” she said.
“Government and non-Government primary and secondary schools in urban, rural and remote Australia will participate in the cyber safety pilot which will run until 30 April 2010.
“The project will help clarify the role that schools play in ensuring responsible and safe use of technology.”
Ms Gillard said the pilot aimed to make cyber safety an integral part of student wellbeing practices in schools by improving cyber safety curriculum and increasing teachers’ skills in the area.
She said the program would also help schools work with parents and the community
“Content for the initiative has been informed by extensive research and by a number of cyber-safety experts from across Australia,” Ms Gillard said.
“The Government is deeply concerned about the emergence of cyber-bullying in our schools and the impact it is having on students.”
She said the outcomes of the pilot would be independently evaluated and used to inform the Government’s review of the National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF) which is expected to be completed in June 2010.
Schools to be included in the program include three from the ACT, 43 from NSW, 4 from NT, 27 from Queensland, 17 from SA, 11 from Tasmania, 45 from Victoria and 14 from WA.
The initiative was developed and conducted by child safety charity, the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
The pilot’s announcement comes as the Government seeks to establish a Joint Parliamentary Standing Committee on Cyber Safety to help make the internet safer for youths.
16 February, 2010
Super has bad year
Total superannuation assets fell by $66.4 billion to $1.07 trillion for the 2008/09 financial year, according to figures released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority in its Annual Superannuation Bulletin.
The APRA said the assets of Public Service funds fell by 10.3 per cent to $153 billion while the funds’ average rate of return was 12.3 per cent.
For the year to 30 June 2009, $20.3 billion were contributed to PS funds out of a total $112.2 billion in contributions made across all superannuation entities in Australia.
Customs sets up in KL
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has established a post in Kuala Lumpur to combat maritime people smuggling in the region
Staff at the newly-opened post will also focus on other border issues such as counter proliferation and counter terrorism.
The post is also expected to increase knowledge sharing between Australia and Malaysia.
HSA changes name
Health Services Australia (HSA) has changed its name to Medibank Health Solutions.
All 13 HSA offices will now be known as Medibank Health Solutions, with extra signage to be used to assist clients. All telephone numbers will remain the same.
Information pamphlets for clients outlining the changes and listing nearby office locations were available at Departmental and Medibank Health Services office locations and www.medibankhealth.com.au
The Rock Eisteddfod Challenge is to receive $700,000 in funding from the Government in 2010.
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard said the Government had written to organisers to confirm this year’s funding and had extended its commitment to support the challenge in future years.
The Rock Eisteddfod dance challenge for school students aims to develop health, life skills and creative thinking in young people.
Defence denies Chinese label
Minister for Defence, Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet has assured the public that all Defence combat uniforms are made in Australia after reports circulated that some combat uniforms were made from Chinese fabric.
Mr Combet said there was never a requirement to use Chinese fabric on combat clothing.
“The Government is committed to giving Australian products a fair go, as long as local industry is competitive on schedule, cost and capability,” he said.
Disability parking scheme
A national parking permit scheme for people with disability is a step closer, with the Government releasing a summary of consultations on the proposed scheme.
The plan aims to create a more consistent system for the estimated 900,000 disability parking permit holders across the country.
The final scheme is expected to be agreed on this year. The consultation report was available from www.fahcsia.gov.au
Fourteen new trainees have started with Airservices Australia and will complete a two-year Diploma of Electronics and Communications Engineering at TAFE NSW’s Riverina Institute.
The course is designed to give trainees the skills they need to maintain Australia’s high-tech air traffic control equipment
Airservices said it would offer 18 training positions a year for the next three years as part of its regional skills development program.
Birds top stamp poll
The Australian Songbirds stamp issue has been voted favourite for 2009 by the nation’s stamp collectors.
The Scarlet Honeyeater design, part of the Australian Songbirds stamp issue, was voted the overall favourite stamp for the year.
The stamp issue was illustrated by wildlife artist Christopher Pope.
More training for schools
Secondary schools in remote Indigenous communities are to get new or upgraded trade training facilities over the next 10 years.
The Trade Training Centres in Schools Program allows secondary schools to apply for funding of between $500,000 and $1.5 million.
The Commonwealth is working with the States and Territories to support and accelerate applications from schools in the 29 Remote Service Delivery communities.
Airservices Australia has announced a three-year sponsorship agreement to support the education of the next generation of pilots.
Airservices said it would fund 10 Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) scholarships each year to allow RA-Aus to provide young recreational flyers with $2,500 each to subsidise the cost of flight training lessons.
More information on the scholarships, which are available to students aged 15 to 20, is available from www.raa.asn.au
Library records stolen memories
To commemorate two years since the Government apologised to members of the Stolen Generations, the National Library of Australia has launched a special website featuring oral history interviews with people who were affected by the policy.
The Bringing them Home interviews were conducted under an oral history project that was funded by the Commonwealth in 1997.
The projected aimed to collect and preserve the stories of affected Indigenous people and others, such as police, missionaries and administrators.
The interviews could be accessed through the Library’s online catalogue which was available from www.nla.gov.au
9 February, 2010
The Community and Public Sector Union has called for a return to centralised wage-fixing in the APS with a service-wide agreement on pay and conditions and a review of classifications and wages.
centre of union plan
In its submission to Treasury on the 2010-11 Budget, the union calls for a “more unified and cohesive APS” and an end to “inequitable outcomes on pay.”
According to the CPSU, the current system which requires the APS to negotiate around 100 individual agency agreements is inefficient and unfair.
“The APS is a single employer,” the union says. “However it does not act as such.”
According to the union, individual agency bargaining wastes time, money and resources.
“Bargaining processes are duplicated in each Agency, diverting critical resources away from delivering on the Government’s policy and Budget priorities,” it says.
“Decentralised bargaining in the APS has led to inequitable outcomes on pay and corroded the work level standards that underpin the APS classification structure.”
The union says Government Agencies now compete against each other to recruit and retain skilled workers.
“Such competition is particularly insidious where there is a tight public sector jobs market,” it says.
The CPSU points out that the maximum pay rate at the APS5 level differs by $13,800 between the lowest and the top.
“A system that rewards employees of the same employer with significantly different payrates is neither fair for employees nor efficient.”
The union makes 13 recommendations in its submission – which include doing away with the efficiency dividend; funding Agencies adequately for the tasks they’re given; and clamping down on outside contracts – and calls for a joint union/Government review of the APS classification structure and wages.
“Disparities in remuneration and erosion of the classification system have a negative impact on the APS and its employees,” the union says.
“A review would allow for a thorough examination of pay differentials for work performed at the same APS levels.”
According to the CPSU, restoring a common classification system to the APS would assist mobility and help revive the one-APS culture.
“It is therefore essential that a review of wages and classifications be conducted,” it says.
The full CPSU submission can be accessed at www.cpsu.org.au
9 February, 2010
More recipients of Australia Day Achievement Medallions have come to light since PS News published the first official list last week.
shine at DEWHA
This week it’s the turn of the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts.
The medallions are provided to Government Agencies across Australia to acknowledge outstanding performance by staff members and are reserved for the highest level of recognition.
The recipients from DEWHA in 2010 are:
Pamela Clelland Gray
EPBC Act Review Team
Traveston Crossing Dam Team
NSW Arts and Culture Network Team
Disability and the Arts Strategy Team
Tas van Ommen
Environmental Stewardship Section
Program performance -Monitoring Evaluation Reporting and Improvement (MERI) Team
ICT Sustainability Section
Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions Team
NAIDOC Week 2009 Organising Team
Heritage Stimulus Projects Team
International Projects Team - International Heritage and Policy Branch
Mai Linh Huynh
Teams and individuals delivering the “National Waste Policy - Less Waste More Resources”
Montara Oil Spill Taskforce
Australian Biological Resources Study Team
Environmental Resource Information Network Marine Team
AEEB - Lighting Team
CIPB - Smart Grid Initiative
Dr Bill Lilley
Land Form Project Team
On-Farm and Strengthening Basin Communities teams - On Farm Irrigation Efficiency
Stengthening Basin Communities
With special mention to: the Cities and Towns and the On-Farm Pilot projects teams
National Water Planning Guidelines Team
Water Group Communications Team
Jennifer van den Tol
9 February, 2010
The Federal Opposition has floated plans to cut Public Service staffing in a bid to fund its $3.2 billion carbon reduction scheme.
opposed to PS cuts
Shadow Minister for Finance, Senator Barnaby Joyce made the comments in a speech to the National Press Club last week.
Senator Joyce said the only way future Public Service jobs could be saved was to “control costs now.”
“If you don’t control costs now, you are putting at risk more people in the Public Service,” he said. “You’ve got to cut the suit to fit the wearer.
“We want to maintain the capacity to support everyone.”
Senator Joyce also suggested making cuts to the foreign aid budget.
Asked to confirm the job cut plan, Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott said the Coalition had no plans to cut foreign aid spending, but did not rule out cuts to the PS, saying only that the Coalition “supported the Public Service.”
Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner called on the Opposition to clarify their plans for the Public Service.
“In a period of rising unemployment, drastically slashing Public Service jobs makes no sense,” Mr Tanner said.
“The Coalition needs to come clean with details of how many public service jobs they intend to cut and the impact those job losses will have on public service delivery.”
Deputy Secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, Nadine Flood said she was baffled by Senator Joyce’s comments.
“‘Australia is facing many serious challenges like climate change, an ageing workforce, the education revolution and health reform,” Ms Flood said.
“Having a well-resourced and independent Public Sector is crucial to finding our way through this.”
9 February, 2010
The Australian Law Reform Commission has called for a new tier of public enquiry to be established to provide an alternative to Royal Commissions.
finds room for more
Following a nine-month enquiry, the ALRC’s report Making Inquiries: A New Statutory Framework makes 82 recommendations for reform.
President of the ALRC, Professor Rosalind Croucher said a key recommendation was to amend the Commissions Act 1902 (Cth) and rename it the Inquiries Act to establish the two tiers of public inquiry - Royal Commissions and Official Inquiries, each with defined coercive and investigatory powers.
“Whenever there are controversial issues that cannot be satisfactorily dealt with by the Courts or the political process, there are inevitably calls for a Royal Commission,” Professor Croucher said, “although not all such issues warrant such an elaborate inquiry.”
“Royal Commissions should be reserved for the highest form of inquiry dealing with matters of substantial public importance, which may warrant the abrogation of certain privileges and protections, such as the right against self-incrimination.
“Official Inquiries would provide a more streamlined, cost-effective and flexible alternative to resolve matters of public importance, but which do not require extraordinary powers, such as those abrogating fundamental protections available to inquiry participants.”
She said other ALRC recommendations focused on openness and accountability including the publication of inquiry reports and monitoring resulting activities.
“While accepting or rejecting recommendations made by an inquiry will always be a matter for the Australian Government, it should be required to publish an update on the implementation of recommendations of an inquiry that it accepts,” Professor Croucher said.
“This should happen one year after the tabling of a final report of a Royal Commission or Official Inquiry, and periodically thereafter, to reflect any ongoing implementation activity.”
The ALRC also called for new legislation to ensure the prompt tabling of Royal Commission and Official Inquiry reports in Parliament; the publication of a summary of costs of Royal Commissions and Official Inquiries; and a framework for the protection of protected national security information utilised in proceedings.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the Government had commissioned the report following issues identified in the Report of the Inquiry into the Case of Dr Mohamed Haneef which needed more detailed exploration.
Mr McClelland said the Government would carefully consider the ALRC’s report, which was available from www.alrc.gov.au
9 February, 2010
The Productivity Commission has launched a new internet blog site to encourage community involvement in its public consultation process on the Murray-Darling Basin and to encourage the public to contribute comments and ideas for the final reports.
to get ideas flowing
The Commission launched the site with a discussion on the Draft Report from the Study into Market Mechanisms for Recovering Water in the Murray-Darling Basin.
The blog highlights seven key recommendations and findings that the Commission is keen to receive public feedback on.
Comments can be made on the Commissioner, Neil Byron’s introduction to the blog, as well as key recommendations and findings.
People who log into the blog can participate in a poll on the recommendations; respond to other people’s comments; vote to agree or disagree on comments; and will soon be able to complete a survey.
The Commission’s blog moderator, Sally Rose said the initiative aims to make it easy for interested parties to understand and respond to the Draft Report’s most important points.
Ms Rose said the blog aimed to encourage more Australians to participate in the public consultation process and have their views considered.
She urged interested parties to contribute to the blog to help ensure it was a success.
The blog closes on 26 February.
Blog users must register and log in at blog.pc.gov.au in order to participate.
9 February, 2010
A new task force charged with reforming the Defence Force payroll system has been announced by the Minister for Defence Personnel, Greg Combet.
to pay dividends
Mr Combet said the ADF Payroll Task Force and other reforms would help fix current deficiencies in the system.
“Continuing problems in the area of pay for the ADF are unacceptable to the Government,” Mr Combet said.
“It is also unacceptable to the individuals and their families who are paid incorrectly, and who are required to enter into repayment arrangements.
“The Government understands that the volume of manual transactions, which last year amounted to over 3 million, means human error is always a possibility. But the number of incorrect payments is unacceptable.”
He said the Task Force would drive the ongoing reform of the ADF pay and personnel processes and would report to Ministers on a monthly basis.
He said a key reform was the consolidation of all military payroll processing under one area of responsibility, which was expected to be implemented within 18 months.
The Task Force is to be established within the next three months and will be co-chaired by Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Lieutenant General David Hurley and Deputy Secretary (Defence Support), Martin Bowles.
Mr Combet said the Task Force would have responsibility for a number of initiatives, including establishing a small specialist deployed civilian payroll administration cell to ensure consistency between the in-theatre and in-country payroll processing.
Quality assurance checks of International Campaign Allowance payments would also be made, while a common customer access channel will be promoted, including the 1800 DEFENCE number for members and their families to contact about pay related issues.
Mr Combet said there would be a review of the payment of deployed allowances to ensure members were being paid correctly, and that quality assurance processes would be improved.
“The initial steps of the Task Force will include remediating pay issues that arise for individual ADF members, including the recent overpayment of the International Campaign Allowance,” he said.
“Additionally, the Government has endorsed a long term plan which would replace Defence’s current three pay systems with a more modern personnel ICT system.
“This will result in complex transactions and manual processing being undertaken by one central authority, not fragmented as is currently the case.”
9 February, 2010
Coin to celebrate
The Royal Australian Mint is to strike a commemorative 20-cent coin to mark the Centenary of the Australian Taxation Office.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said there would be a number of special events in 2010 to celebrate the ATO’s centenary, leading up to its 100th birthday on 11 November.
“The Tax Office’s establishment in 1910 within Treasury as the Land Tax Office marked a significant development in the fledgling Federation,” Senator Sherry said.
He said the Office was created by Prime Minister Andrew Fisher as a way of funding social policies such as the aged and invalid pensions.
“Of course, 11 November has since become Remembrance Day, and in deference to the fallen and to war veterans, the Tax Office will mark its 100th birthday on the following day, 12 November,” Senator Sherry said.
“The Mint and Tax Office both fall within my portfolio responsibilities as Assistant Treasurer and it’s great to see the two Agencies involved together in an event of national significance such as this.”
He said about five million 20 cent pieces would be minted and released in the second half of the year.
The coin is to feature the phrase “Working for all Australians”, with the remainder of the final design to be developed in consultation with Mint designers and the Tax Office.
9 February, 2010
Report makes noise
Safe Work Australia has released a report dealing with the dangers of loud noise in the workplace.
about loud workplaces
The report, titled National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Report: Noise Exposure and the Provision of Noise Control Measures in Australian Workplaces, was developed from the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance survey.
The Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips said the report aimed to outline the demographic and employment characteristics of workers who reported exposure to loud noise.
Mr Phillips said the report also looked at the types of noise control measures that were provided in workplaces.
He said the study would help Governments and employers to produce better targeted occupational health and safety policies and campaigns to reduce the risk of workplace noise injuries.
“It is concerning that more is not being done to eliminate or reduce the exposure to noise in the workplace when occupational noise induced hearing loss is an entirely preventable but irreversible condition,” Mr Phillips said.
“In 2007-08 it led to more than 3,600 workers’ compensation claims, amounting in $41 million in worker’s compensation payouts.”
He said the report found that between 28 and 32 per cent of workers surveyed were likely to work in an environment where they were exposed to loud noise.
It found male workers were more likely to report exposure to noise than their female counterparts, while young workers were more likely to report exposure than older ones.
People who worked night shifts were also more likely to report being exposed to loud noises.
The worst industries for exposure were manufacturing and construction.
The report found that of the exposed workers, only 41 per cent said they had received training in noise injury prevention.
9 February, 2010
Tax hits back
Internet users have been warned of a new email phishing scam that claims to be from the Australian Taxation Office.
on email attack
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the emails used the lure of a tax refund to attempt to steal people’s personal information.
“This particular scam is quite sophisticated and uses convincing fakes of what could be easily mistaken for Australian Tax Office web pages,” Senator Sherry said.
He said the emails used the ATO’s logo, a false ATO email address as the sender, and included the words “tax refund” in the subject heading.
Senator Sherry said the email included the following text: “General information about e-tax, including the demonstration, benefits of using e-tax, computer and eligibility requirements, and security.”
He said there may be variations to the text but that the emails asked people to enter their email, name and date of birth to search for any refund owing.
The email then directs them to a bogus Tax Office website and asks for personal and credit card details.
He said reports indicated that the emails were being sent out in high volumes.
“Anyone who receives the email should delete it immediately,” Senator Sherry said.
“The Tax Office never sends emails asking people to provide personal information or credit card details.
“You should always be wary of unsolicited emails claiming to be from the Tax Office, particularly those that encourage you to follow embedded links to other sites.”
Senator Sherry advised anyone who had provided their credit card details on the site to contact their credit card provider.
Further information on the scam was available from www.ato.gov.au
9 February, 2010
Digital audit gives
An audit into the process for inviting submissions to build the National Broadband Network in 2008 has found the Department of Broadband, Communication and the Digital Economy failed to provide adequate guidance to interested parties.
In his audit report, The National Broadband Network Request for Proposal Process, Auditor-General Ian McPhee found the Request for Proposal (RFP) process lacked the necessary detail to allow proponents to submit competitive and commercially viable proposals.
The RFP process was eventually cancelled
Mr McPhee said the scrapped process cost over $30 million and that all six submitted proposals failed, including a bid put forward by Telstra that was excluded for failing to meet the minimum conditions for participation.
“DBCDE’s costs were some $17 million and the proponents’ costs (where advised) ranged between $1 million and $8 million,” Mr McPhee said.
He said as the RFP period progressed, it became “increasingly obvious” to the Department that the likelihood of a successful outcome was decreasing.
He said the Government could have varied the RFP document and process when it became apparent that proponents were looking for clearer directions but if it did so, it would have needed to extend its timetable for submissions.
“Proponents would have had an opportunity to submit better developed and more competitive proposals had they received greater clarity as to how the information requested was to be used when assessing proposals against the RFP’s multiple objectives and criteria,” he said.
The Auditor-General listed a number of issues with the RFP including problems with non-Telstra proposals; the pressures of the Global Financial Crisis; and the technology to be used for the network.
Mr McPhee said the compensation non-Telstra proponents would have to pay to Telstra for the right to use its assets and gain access to its customer access network was not fully analysed at the time.
He made no recommendations to assist the Department because the RFP process had been finalised.
“Nevertheless, the audit emphasises the importance of Departments gaining, as early as possible, a sound understanding of the implications of those risks that are critical to the success of major tender processes,” Mr McPhee said.
He said his full report was available from www.anao.gov.au
It was produced by an audit team consisting of Grant Caine, Karla Rayner, Will Fitzgerald and Barbara Cass.
9 February, 2010
Ombudsman stamps on
An Ombudsman’s call for Australia Post to update 22-year-old compensation levels for lost parcels has been rejected.
Post Office message
The Postal Industry Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan said he disagreed with Australia Post’s decision that the compensation levels were adequate and should not be reviewed after all this time.
Professor McMillan released his report, Determining levels of compensation for loss or damage of postal items, on the issue.
“Postal customers would expect that the level of compensation for service failure would be reconsidered in light of changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or at least be reviewed whenever the cost of basic postage is reviewed,” he said.
“If present compensation levels are adequate, that should be explained following a proper review.”
Professor McMillan suggested compensation levels be looked at by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission whenever it considered proposals to increase the basic postage rate.
He said the maximum compensation for items sent by ordinary post in 1987 was $50 but in 2010, with inflation, the real value had halved.
The Ombudsman said if the pricing had kept pace with the CPI, the figure would be over $100 today.
Professor McMillan said the maximum basic compensation for registered post and cash on delivery items was set in 1996 at $100 but that as CPI had increased by 39 per cent since then, $100 in 1996 was now worth only around $70.
He said customers could choose to buy ‘Extra Cover’ of up to $5,000 for an item.
“One result of the declining real value of compensation for ordinary items is that people must now buy more expensive products and services to secure the same level of cover,” Professor McMillan said.
“This can disadvantage residents of remote, regional and rural Australia, in particular, who may have only limited access to postal services run in competition with Australia Post.”
He rejected Australia Post’s suggestion that compensation provided for ordinary items should be set as a proportion (half) of that for registered items.
‘This forges an unwarranted link between compensation for Australia Post’s monopoly of the ordinary letter service and the registered service that is open to competition,’ he said.
The Ombudsman said 2,219 complaints about Australia Post were made to the his office in 2008-09, 21.2 per cent of which concerned loss of a postal item.
The report was available from www.ombudsman.gov.au
9 February, 2010
Security monitor to
The appointment of a National Security Monitor to review counter-terrorism and national security legislation is a step closer with the Senate passing enabling legislation.
track terror laws
Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig said the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor Bill 2009 would establish an independent monitor to examine the nation’s counter-terrorism and national security legislation.
“It is the Government’s objective to strengthen the ability of our law enforcement and security agencies to fight extremism, while protecting the rights of all Australians,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said the legislation would help to ensure current laws were effective, accountable and consistent with international obligations.
“The Monitor will review the legislation annually, and report his or her findings to the Prime Minister and the Parliament,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The Monitor must also consider if our counter-terrorism and national security legislation remains necessary and contains appropriate safeguards for protecting individuals’ rights.”
“This new position will be vital to providing public confidence in our national security laws.”
Senator Ludwig thanked members of the Senate’s Finance and Public Administration Committee for the inquiry they conducted into the Bill.
9 February, 2010
An agreement between the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments to cut red tape and streamline the environmental assessment of a major State planning program has been hailed as “new era” in Commonwealth-State collaboration.
cuts red tape
The Victorian Government’s program, which aims to accommodate Melbourne’s growing population, has been assessed through a federal ‘strategic assessment’ process to enable sustainable, environmentally friendly long-term development.
Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, said this was the first strategic assessment in Australia to reach the endorsement stage.
“This is a great step forward for the Australian and Victorian Governments,” Mr Garrett said, “to work together with this modern, flexible and sensible approach to planning, which allows national environmental issues to be considered early on in the State planning process and cuts red tape.
“The approved program includes large areas for the establishment of environmental offsets and provides important protections for nationally protected species through the retention and management of secure conservation reserves and other mitigation measures.”
Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Gavin Jennings said the program considered the long-term cumulative effects of development on the environment as well as sustainable economic development.
Mr Jennings said it was important to consider environmental protection as a whole before development began, as opposed to individual projects as they arise.
“The result is a dramatic increase in the protection of key biodiversity sites around Melbourne and represents a significant commitment from Government to the protection of a large number of threatened species, including birds, fish, reptiles and plants,” he said.
Mr Jennings said the establishment of new national grasslands reserves would increase the area of temperate grasslands in permanent protection from two to 20 per cent, and the area of grassy woodlands from three to five per cent.
Victoria’s Minister for Planning, Justin Madden said the program would provide certainty to developers, landholders, planners, industry, communities and Governments for long-term growth.
“Melbourne’s population is set to grow to an expected five million people by 2030,” Mr Madden said.
“The program identifies areas suitable for future development to accommodate this growth, and those with environmental values that need protection.
An information sheet on the strategic assessment was available from www.environment.gov.au and www.dse.vic.gov.au
9 February, 2010
Moves to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission and replace it with an equally effective Fair Work – Building Industry Inspectorate have gained ground, with the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, saying she will propose changes to legislation to ensure the Inspectorate has the powers to do its job.
closer to rubble
Ms Gillard said the legislation was part of the Government’s commitment to abolish the ABCC.
She said existing coercive powers would be maintained with the new Fair Work – Building Industry Inspectorate, along with safeguards recommended by former Federal Court judge Murray Wilcox.
Under the amendments, the Minister would have the power to direct the Building Inspectorate about the allocation of resources, ensuring they were targeted effectively to combat unlawful behaviour in the building industry and ensure those who broke the law faced “tough and decisive” action.
Ms Gillard said this would target the “unlawful” industrial action taking place in northern Western Australia.
Other changes include giving the Director of the Building Inspectorate the power to intervene in proceedings for contempt of Court where building industry participants do not comply with a court order, and to take action against them.
“The changes should send a signal to those who would break the law in the building industry that there will be repercussions,” Ms Gillard said.
9 February, 2010
PM pitches deal
A new international agreement to build the capacity of the Pacific Islands to play cricket has been signed by the Prime Minister and heads of Cricket Australia and the International Cricket Council.
for Pacific cricket
The Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd signed the agreement at the Prime Minister’s XI cricket match in Canberra along with Chief Executive of Cricket Australia, James Sutherland and President of the International Cricket Council (ICC), David Morgan.
“Sport is widely recognised as a vital tool in building stronger communities, not least through providing opportunities for youth leadership and achievement,” Mr Rudd said.
“The partnership will give players, leaders, administrators, coaches and officials opportunities to progress to levels beyond community competitions, as well as strengthening the sport at the grassroots.”
Under the program, the Government will provide up to $1.6 million and will initially focus on Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa and Solomon Islands.
The partnership involves the ICC’s East Asia-Pacific development program and CA, along with AusAID and the Australian Sports Commission.
It is part of the Australian Sports Outreach Program, which works in partnership with local authorities and communities in developing countries to help strengthen local communities.
At last year’s Pacific Islands Forum, Mr Rudd announced $26 million in sports-related assistance to Pacific Island countries, including $15 million over five years for sports partnerships between Australia and regional sporting federations in the Pacific.
The first Pacific Sports Partnership was signed last year with the Football Federation Australia and the Oceania Football Confederation.
Mr Rudd said other partnership agreements with netball, rugby league and rugby union were expected to be completed early this year.
9 February, 2010
NAIDOC Week to mark
NAIDOC Week 2010 is to adopt the theme “Unsung Heroes - Closing the Gap by Leading Their Way’ and inaugurate a new award for protecting the environment.
The National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee Day (NAIDOC) showcases Indigenous people’s achievements and their contributions to the nation.
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said the contribution of Indigenous Australians to conservation would be the focus of this year’s celebrations, while the new Caring for Country Award would emphasise their work in preserving the nation’s unique flora and fauna.
“In communities across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are showing the strong leadership that’s essential for real and lasting change,” Ms Macklin said.
“Not only are they making a difference in their communities, they are invaluable role models for new generations.”
Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett said the new award acknowledged the leadership role taken by a number of Indigenous people in tackling some of Australia’s biggest environmental challenges.
“This award will help recognise and celebrate some of that excellent work and the important contribution is makes to the health of our natural landscapes,” Mr Garrett said.
National NAIDOC Committee co-chairs, Anne Martin and Ben Mitchell said this year’s theme rewarded the people who made a difference to the community, often without any formal recognition.
Nominations for the 2010 National NAIDOC Poster Competition and Awards are also open, with Indigenous Australians encouraged to nominate fellow community members.
The winning design will be awarded a $5,000 prize.
The competition ends on 31 March, while nominations for the 2010 Awards close on 30 April.
NAIDOC Week begins on 4 July and winners of the National NAIDOC Awards will be announced at the Awards ceremony in Melbourne on 9 July.
Further information on the Week was available from www.naidoc.org.au
9 February, 2010
Register registers milestone
Four million people telephone numbers have now been registered on the Do Not Call Register, which protects people from unwanted telemarketing calls.
Chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, Chris Chapman said the figure was a milestone for the Register which was established in 2007.
Mr Chapman said those who had placed their phone numbers on the register during its first year would need to re-register their numbers this year as registrations expire after three years.
The site could be accessed at www.donotcall.gov.au
Sun targeted for safety
Safe Work Australia has released a new report on workers who are exposed to direct sunlight.
The report, National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Report: Exposure to Direct Sunlight and the Provision of Sun Exposure Controls in Australian Workplaces, was written by the Cancer Council Victoria.
It found male workers were more likely to be exposed to sunlight, along with workers in industries such as agriculture, forestry, fishing construction and recreational services.
The report, the first national study on workplace ultraviolet radiation exposure from direct sunlight across all industries, is available from www.worksafe.gov.au
Talks on Knowledge Centre
Consultations have begun on a feasibility study into a National Indigenous Knowledge Centre to promote Indigenous cultures and knowledge in the community.
The idea for the Centre was first raised at last year’s 2020 Summit.
Community consultations will be led by the Indigenous leader and academic, Dr Jackie Huggins. Submissions close on 31 March 2010 and further information was available from www.slq.qld.gov.au
Data no go
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has decided not to allocate a television channel for the datacast.
ACMA announced its policy when approving an extension to the Sydney datacasting trial service, which has been broadcasting data via radio waves since 2003.
The trial includes services such as National Indigenous television, the Australian Christian Channel and Teachers TV and has been extended to 30 April 2010.
AEC releases records
The Australian Electoral Commission has released the 2008-2009 annual financial disclosure returns from political parties for public inspection.
The documents cover the returns of political parties, associated entities, donors and third parties who engage in political expenditure.
They are available from the AEC website, www.aec.gov.au
Airservices fly in
The Airservices Flight Inspection Service is visiting regional Australia this month to check navigation aids.
The routine checks are conducted to ensure the accuracy of over 500 pieces of critical air navigation equipment.
The Inspection Service will carry out 26 separate routine or special flight inspections at various locations in NSW, Western Australia and South Australia.
Military centre turns 1
The Asia-Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence in Queanbeyan has marked one year of operations.
The Centre’s mission is to support the development of national civil-military capabilities to prevent, prepare for, and respond more effectively to foreign conflicts and disasters.
In its first year the Centre established important links with regional bodies, the United Nations and other key international organisations.
Australia will commence negotiations to update its tax treaty with Austria in March.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said modernising the treaty would enhance Australia’s economic and trade relationships with Austria.
Senator Sherry invited interested parties to provide comments by 8 March. A copy of the current tax treaty was available from www.treasury.gov.au
2 February, 2010
Comcover to chance
Comcover has announced that its annual Risk Management Benchmarking survey is to run from 1 to 26 March this year.
The Benchmarking Program allows member Agencies to measure the establishment and appropriateness of their enterprise-wide risk management frameworks, programs and systems.
In a statement on its website, Comcover said Agencies would be able to identify areas for improvement and prioritise their risk management activities for the coming year.
It said Agencies could also gain a discount of up to 10 per cent on their insurance renewal premium, based on their performance.
According to Comcover the 2010 program would introduce five levels of risk management maturity against which Agencies would be measured throughout the survey.
“These maturity statements will allow Agencies to measure their current risk management performance and identify opportunities and areas for improvement to progress to their desired state of risk management capability.”
It said the Benchmarking Program would measure Agencies’ performances against 10 elements including policy and objectives; accountability and responsibility; integration; review and evaluation; positive risk culture; resourcing; communication and training; risk assessment; risk profiling and reporting; and business continuity management.
“Each element will assess a different aspect of an Agency’s risk management framework, and consider how well the Agency supports their staff to better manage risk,” the statement said.
“Agencies will also be able to tailor their Agency’s report with access to an online reporting tool enabling them to compare their performance with all other participants and their peer groups.”
Comcover said Agencies involved in the Benchmarking Program needed to complete an online survey, the responses to which would be analysed by Comcover’s service provider, Deloitte, and validated to ensure the accuracy and transparency of results.
Following completion of the validation process, participating Agencies will be provided with a final report, including survey responses, to allow them to compare their performance with the total population and their peer group.
Comcover said Primary Risk Management contacts within member Agencies would be sent a link and password to the survey in late February.
Further information is available from www.finance.gov.au
2 February, 2010
PS pinned down with
The National Australia Day Council has announced the winners of its 2010 Australia Day Achievement Medallions, provided to Government Agencies across Australia to acknowledge outstanding performance by staff members.
Australia Day medals
The medallions are reserved for the highest level of recognition for staff and are usually presented in association with Australia Day events.
The recipients of the medallions in 2010 are:
Aboriginal Hostels Limited
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
AusAID’s Pacific Islands Forum Team:
Financial and Management Accounting Section:
AusAID Samoa Tsunami Team:
Azaria Lesa-Ah Kau
Meipo Meredith - Anitmea
Leota Valma Galuvao
Zimbabwe program Team:
Sri Lanka Team:
Chandrika De Alwis
Australian Customs Service
Airport Planning System (CAPS) Project Team
William Wai-Lam Kwong
Cargo Intervention Strategy
Centralisation of Refunds Project
Design and Corporate Project Office
International Maritime People Smuggling Branch
People Smuggling Intelligence Analysis Team
Staff of the Christmas Island District Office
Mah Toon Cheong
Kwong (Eric) Chong
Tan Ngiap Choo
Strategic Border Management Plan & Border Protection Service Outlook 2020
Australian Electoral Commission
Australian Government Solicitors
Australian National Audit Office
Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation
Australian Public Service Commission
Thomas Von Fintel
Australian Securities & Investment Commission
Donna Van Aals
eBusiness Critical Situation Team
Summer School 2009 Team
Credit Policy Build Team
PJC Submission Team
Opes Prime Team
Australian Sports Commission
Australian Taxation Office
Matt Walsh Authorised Officer DRA (NSW)
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry
Department of Broadband, Communications & the Digital Economy
Kirsten Dal Santo
Shailla Van Raad
Department of Defence
Kym Van Wetering
Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
Imed Ben Hamed
Department of Health and Ageing
2009 Fujitsu/Health Hartley Challenge Cycling Team
Health Reform Taskforce Communication team
Pandemic H1N1 (2009) Emergency Response Team
Department of Immigration and Citizenship
Adelaide IHSS Team
Advance Passenger Processing Team
All staff who contributed to the departmental response to the Flemington incident
Business Liaison and Systems Taskforce
Cabinet and Ministerial Support Team
ACTRO Citizenship Test Review Implementation Team
Communication and Change Taskforce and User Centred Design Branch
Departmental Response to Irregular Maritime Arrivals Discretionary Compensation Team
Irregular Maritime Arrivals People Plan Development Team
Jakarta Team (compliance and operations)
Manila Permanent Entry Team
New Delhi Integrity Section
New South Wales Compliance Case
Resolution Branch Office of the MARA Taskforce
Pacific Seasonal Labour Project
People Trafficking Team
Permanent Skilled Entry Section
Returns and Removals Operational Support Section
Revenue Receipting Project Team
Settlement Planning and Information Section
Siebel Development and Support Section
Staff involved in the development, design and production of The Australian Journey - Muslim Communities
Teams who contributed to the development of the Worker Protection Act and implementation of subsequent initiatives
Tender Management Branch Thursday Island Office and Movement Monitoring Officer (MMO) Network
Western Australia Health and Performance Team
Department of Innovation, Industry Science & Research
Liz De Hoog
Jasmine De Martin
Andy Minh Trieu
Department of the House of Representatives
Family Court of Australia
Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia
Natasha Lee Wright
National Childcare Accreditation Council
Hwe Hwan Ong
National Film and Sound Archive
Oral History Team
Video and Telecine Services
National Gallery of Australia
National Health and Medical Research Council
National Museum of Australia
Rowena Dickins Morrison
Office of National Assessments
Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor General
Office of the Privacy Commissioner
2 February, 2010
My School goes to
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has launched its My School website which allows parents, teachers and the community to compare schools.
top of the class
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard launched the website at Tempe High School in Sydney, saying it contained important information about Australia’s 10,000 schools.
The website reportedly had nine million hits on its first day.
Ms Gillard said visitors to the site could access details on how many students were at a school, the number of teachers and the school’s numeracy and literacy performance.
She said schools could be compared with neighbouring schools and up to 60 statistically similar schools.
“By comparing statistically similar schools, it will be clear which schools are doing well and which schools need an extra hand,” Ms Gillard said.
She said the Government was prepared to inject funding into schools struggling to perform, and was investing $550 million to improve the quality of teaching and school leadership, along with more than $2 billion to boost literacy and numeracy, assist schools in low socio-economic communities and improve teacher quality.
Ms Gillard said the Government wanted to ensure “every Australian child in every school receives a world class education.”
“My School delivers more information about our schools than parents and the nation have ever had before and will help drive further improvements to Australia’s education system,” she said.
“Together with record investment in school infrastructure and a new National Curriculum, this new era of transparency will deliver an Education Revolution to all Australian schools.”
My School could be accessed at www.myschool.edu.au
2 February, 2010
The Department of Climate Change has invited Australian scientists and weather experts to become involved in the next big climate change assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC.
for weather experts
In a statement, the Department said IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report would detail the state of climate change knowledge and would be developed from 2010 to 2014.
The DCC said the report’s authors would be faced by a demanding task.
It said the chosen authors would most likely have to attend five international author meetings and prepare their designated section of work.
The Department is to operate as the National Focal Point for IPCC activities and was looking for Australian experts to perform as Coordinating Lead Author, Lead Author and Review Editor.
It encouraged interested parties to complete a nomination form and apply for the positions.
The DCC said the Government would select nominees to put forward to the IPCC based on selection criteria and that the IPCC Bureau would then select these positions.
The Department said subject to ministerial approval, successful nominees would be provided with grants to support travel and living expenses when attending IPCC meetings, but funding would not cover costs associated with nominees’ regular professional engagements such as salaries.
Nominations close on 19 February 2010.
Completed nomination forms and requests for further information should be emailed to email@example.com. Further information was also available from www.climatechange.gov.au
2 February, 2010
ACMA wired for
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is to make use of the latest in computer-based social networking tools to engage better with its clients and stakeholders.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ACMA, Chris Chapman said he recognised the importance of using new applications such as Facebook, Twitter, wikis and blogs to provide the public with more open access to Government information and processes.
Mr Chapman said that former Executive Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, Tom Burton had been appointed to drive the Gov2.0 and engagement strategy.
He said Mr Burton had spent several years implementing Web2.0 and Gov2.0 practices as On-Line Director for the Center for American Progress, a think tank run by President Obama’s Transition Chief, John Podesta.
“I am delighted we seized the moment and engaged Tom, given the imminence of his return,” Mr Chapman said. “Tom is extremely well credentialed for the role.”
Mr Burton said he was looking forward to lifting ACMA’s communications and media engagement and opening its channels for “genuine dialogue.”
“Rapid changes in media and communications markets are fundamentally changing communication and media industry and consumer behaviour,” he said.
“New web tools are now available to engage and dialogue with a broad range of users and stakeholders.
“These give users quick and easy access to Government and in turn help inform and drive better decision-making for Government and its Agencies.”
Mr Burton said he had been particularly impressed by the report of the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which he said provided a comprehensive
2 February, 2010
A report on the effectiveness and efficiency of Government services across the nation has been released by the Productivity Commission.
into PS services
Report on Government Services 2010 was produced by a Steering Committee comprised of Senior Officials from the Federal, State and Territory Governments and is the fifteenth edition of the report.
The Committee was chaired by the Chairman of the Productivity Commission, Gary Banks.
Mr Banks said the report aimed to promote debate about the performance of Federal, State and Territory Governments across Australia
“Improving Government services is important to us all: everyone relies on these services at different life stages, and the services are particularly important for more disadvantaged members of society,” he said.
The report includes chapters on early childhood education and training, justice, emergency management, health, community services and housing.
It measures Government performance in each area, comparing the role and responsibilities of State, Territory and Federal Governments.
“Government services, including the services covered in this Report, are vital to the community’s wellbeing,” the report says.
“Governments need to know whether their policies are effective and being implemented efficiently, and whether services are reaching those people for whom they are intended.”
Mr Banks said the report devotes particular attention to mainstream services delivered to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other disadvantaged groups.
“This Report contains additional reporting by Indigenous status on, for example, achievement of VET qualifications and access to Extended Aged Care at Home Dementia services,” he said.
The report also looks at improving Government service provision to promote social and economic benefits
“Traditionally, much of the effort to improve the effectiveness of Government services has focused on increasing the level of resources devoted to them,” it says.
“Improving Government services is also important economically: Governments spent over $136 billion on the services covered by this Report, around 13 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product.”
The Report on Government Services was originally commissioned in 1993 by the former Heads of Government, now known as the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
After a major review during 2009, COAG confirmed the report “should continue to be the key tool to measure and report on the productive efficiency and cost effectiveness of government services.”
The Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision included representatives from the Federal Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Treasury and Finance and Administration; and State and Territory Departments of Premier and Cabinet and Treasury and Finance.
The report is available from www.pc.gov.au
2 February, 2010
Gender on top of
A program promoting female leadership in the Royal Australian Navy is to be expanded.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Greg Combet said the Navy Women’s Leadership Program was the first of its kind in the Australian Defence Force and had involved 28 women in 2009.
“The program provided the opportunity for female leaders, from the rank of Leading Seaman to Commander and APS equivalents, to participate in five Australian Women and Leadership Forum events,” Mr Combet said.
He said the Government was committed to improving opportunities for women in the ADF to undertake leadership roles.
He said the Women’s Leadership Program would be conducted in 2010, and for the first time would include a women’s mentoring program for an additional 50 Navy women.
“The new mentoring program is highly regarded and has been implemented in many corporate and Public Sector organisations around Australia, as part of gender diversity strategies to help women achieve their career potential and counter the gender imbalance in the workforce,” he said.
“The female officers, sailors and Public Servants who completed the program provided extremely positive feedback and have indicated strong enthusiasm and motivation to implement their new skills in the workplace.”
Mr Combet said the program followed the objectives of the Chief of Defence Force Action Plan for the Recruitment and Retention of Women in the ADF, and was being run as part of the New Generation Navy initiative in a bid to improve the Navy’s culture, leadership and structure.
2 February, 2010
The Australian Institute of Criminology is conducting an online survey into consumer fraud for the Australasian Consumer Fraud Taskforce.
truth on scams
The Taskforce has invited consumers to participate in the survey to help it obtain information on what scams people have received and how they responded to them.
It said gathering the information would help to improve the prevention, detection, investigation, and prosecution of scam offenders.
The Taskforce was founded in 2005 with the aim of reducing the number and impact of frauds and scams, and to create a yearly co-ordinated consumer information campaign.
It comprises 20 Government Agencies and Departments in Australia and New Zealand with responsibility for consumer protection.
The taskforce said the online survey was part of this year’s awareness campaign and was voluntary and only took a few minutes to complete.
Responses will remain anonymous, will not be disclosed to third parties and will only be used for statistical analysis.
The survey includes questions on whether people have received particular scams, such as emails involving Nigerian money transfers or unsolicited notifications of lottery wins, and if and how they responded to them.
It also asks if people have ever disclosed personal details or sent money to the scammers.
The survey also looks at reasons for not responding to the scams or not reporting them to relevant Government Agencies.
The survey results are expected to be released later this year and to participate, visit www.aic.gov.au
2 February, 2010
Law system reports
Three reports evaluating aspects of Australia’s family law system have been released by the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
are all in the family
Mr McClelland said the reports focus on how the Family Law Courts deal with family violence cases and found that further progress was needed to ensure the cases were responded to effectively.
“The reports provide a comprehensive and objective analysis of the family law system against the aim of providing fair and sustainable solutions for families, while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of children,” Mr McClelland said.
He said the Evaluation of the 2006 Family Law Reformsby the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) examined the impacts of changes to family law.
Mr McClelland said some of the changes included introducing shared parenting; requiring separating parents to attend family dispute resolution before Court; and establishing Family Relationship Centres to provide information, advice and assistance to families.
He said the AIFS report found the idea of shared parental responsibility was widely supported but was often misunderstood to mean equal shared care time and had led to unrealistic expectations among some parents.
The AIFS reported that the majority of parents in shared care arrangements believed they were working well but identified concerns where an ongoing fear of violence existed.
The report also found there had been a shift away from using the Family Law Courts and that more separated parents were using dispute resolution services.
Mr McClelland said two reviews, Family Courts Violence Review, conducted by Professor Richard Chisholm and Improving Responses to Family Violence in the Family Law System, conducted by the Family Law Council, addressed the effectiveness of legislation and Court practices involving cases of family violence.
“The Government is committed to improving the family law system so that separated families can effectively access the help they need and disputes can be resolved in the best interests of children,” he said.
Mr McClelland said the Government would consider the findings and recommendations of the reports before responding.
Copies of the reports were available from www.ag.gov.au
2 February, 2010
Partnerships between the Government, not-for-profit sector and some businesses have been identified as drivers in a recently-released Government vision for social inclusion.
in social inclusion
Minister for Social Inclusion, Julia Gillard released the national statement on social inclusion, A Stronger, Fairer Australia, at the inaugural Social Inclusion Conference in Melbourne.
Ms Gillard said the statement was about maintaining a commitment to fairness and inclusion in everything the Government did.
In a joint announcement the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, the Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion, Senator Ursula Stephens and Ms Gillard said social inclusion meant ensuring no Australian was left behind.
They said each Australian needed to be given the opportunity, resources, capability and responsibility to learn, work, connect with others and have a say in community life.
Ms Gillard, Ms Macklin and Senator Stephens said the social inclusion vision set out a new approach to breaking down the barriers between the most disadvantaged Australians and participation in society.
“Despite a strong economy in recent years, disadvantage still prevents many Australians from getting a fair go,” they said in a statement.
Ms Gillard said the Government would address disadvantage, which resulted in lower productivity, chronic health problems, welfare dependence and fractured communities.
She said the social inclusion strategy would create partnerships between Government, the not-for-profit sector and businesses that have the greatest experience in addressing disadvantage.
The statement was available from www.socialinclusion.gov.au
2 February, 2010
A partnership between Tourism Australia and the Australian tourism industry has been formed to make the most of the global economic recovery.
set to take off
Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson said the $20 million partnership would help encourage travel to Australia.
“This boost to tourism funding comes at a very important time,” Mr Ferguson said.
“As the global economy continues to recover and people again start to travel for business and leisure, both Government and the private sector need to be on the front foot in presenting Australia as an attractive and compelling destination.”
He said the funding included $9 million from the Government for a short-term campaign and $11 million from airlines and State and regional tourism organisations.
“This funding will support marketing campaigns throughout the first half of 2010 in international markets, it will support charter flights for the Chinese New Year period, and importantly, it will also fund initiatives to stimulate domestic business travel which fell away badly in 2009 as a result of the economic downturn,” Mr Ferguson said.
The Minister said Tourism Australia had secured campaign activities with 11 airline partners, seven State tourism organisations and two regional tourism offices for the tourism recovery effort.
The $20 million campaign activities include campaigns in key markets such as New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Gulf region to help improve consumer confidence.
Mr Ferguson said Tourism Australia would also provide marketing support for 24 special charter or supplementary flights, bringing more than 7,000 additional seats into Australia from Greater China and Japan in February and March.
“To assist the Business Events sector recovery, Tourism Australia will deliver a $2 million program of initiatives with industry partners to stimulate domestic business events travel,” he said.
“An extensive program, aimed at boosting delegate numbers at events and also on stimulating regional business events travel is planned.
“Thirteen projects are under consideration with the Convention Bureaux and State tourism organisations collectively matching Tourism Australia’s $1 million spend.”
2 February, 2010
Wrinkles ironed out
The Department of Health and Ageing has published its 2010 directory of services for older Australians.
directory for oldies
Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot said the Directory of Services for Older People 2010 provided important information for older people and their families and included chapters on accessing aged care, legal rights, finance and health.
“Knowing what assistance is available from the Government and where to go to get that assistance is very important for older Australians and their families,” Mrs Elliot said.
“The directory is an easy-to-read source of information providing a brief summary of the service and its contact details to help people identify and contact the program or service that may be of greatest assistance to them.”
Mrs Elliot said the directory also included a section on services that helped to protect the rights of older people.
She said it had been printed with a spiral binding, larger print and tabs to make it more accessible.
Mrs Elliot said the Government was committed to helping older people access the services they need.
She said copies of the directory were available by contacting the Aged Care Information Line on 1800 500 853, the Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centre on 1800 052 222, or visiting www.health.gov.au
Braille and audio versions on CD were also available.
2 February, 2010
New finance powers
Changes to the law that would beef up the investigative powers of the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and increase penalties, have been announced by the Minister for Financial Services, Chris Bowen.
right on the money
Mr Bowen said the proposals would increase the maximum criminal penalties for individuals and corporations that breach market misconduct provisions.
“These changes will ensure that ASIC is properly equipped to investigate and prosecute serious corporate misconduct which has the potential to cause significant harm to the economy and investors,” he said.
“The increased penalty provisions send a clear message to those who seek to profit from these types of market offences that behaviour that undermines the proper functioning of our financial markets will not be tolerated.”
Under the changes, financial penalties for individuals would increase to $500,000 or three times the profit made or loss avoided, whichever is greater.
For corporations, the penalty would be the greater of $5 million, three times the profit made or loss avoided, or 10 per cent of the corporation’s annual turnover during the period the breach occurred.
Mr Bowen said the maximum term of imprisonment for these offences would increase from five years to 10 years.
He said ASIC would be given the power to access telecommunications interception material collected by the Australian Federal Police under a Court-issued warrant, and that ASIC’s search warrant powers would be enhanced to reduce the chance of information being destroyed before a warrant is issued.
“Importantly, these reforms will bring ASIC’s investigative powers into line with other regulators, such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission,” Mr Bowen said.
The Government is expected to release an exposure draft of the proposed changes later this year.
2 February, 2010
Healthy start for
A peak national body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers has been launched with Commonwealth assistance.
new health body
Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers’ Association would provide the nation’s 1,600 Indigenous health workers with a “strong professional voice.”
Mr Snowdon said the Association would also provide advocacy, mentoring, information and support for the health workers.
He said the health workers provided front line services in urban, rural and remote Indigenous communities and helped promote health awareness, set an example for their communities and bridged cultural gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“On a practical level, they assist doctors and nurses and allied health professionals on a day-to-day basis, and do everything from bandaging and taking temperatures and blood pressures through to taking blood samples,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said the Government was providing $1.2 million over three years to establish the Association.
“Until now the Northern Territory has been the only jurisdiction with a registration board for clinical health workers,” the Minister said.
“The Association will look at national registration and accreditation strategies for the next two years, and help establish upskilling and training support to ensure there’s consistency nationally.”
Mr Snowdon said the Association would be governed by Board members elected from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers across Australia.
An inaugural Annual General Meeting is expected to be held in mid 2010.
An interim board is currently operating and has its office in Canberra.
Further information was available from www.natsihwa.org.au
2 February, 2010
Austrade guide shows
The Australian Trade Commission, also known as Austrade, has published a guide for foreign investors on how to establish or expand a business in Australia.
tricks of the trade
The guide, published in association with law firm DLA Phillips Fox, offers an overview of Australia and its laws and regulations.
National Manager for Investment at Austrade, Nicola Watkinson said the guide, Doing Business in Australia, also included information targeted at the infrastructure and construction industries.
Ms Watkinson said the guide provided a wealth of practical advice for international investors.
Chief Executive of DLA Phillips Fox, Tony Crawford said there were significant opportunities available for foreign investment in Australia.
Mr Crawford said opportunities to invest in the infrastructure and construction sectors were particularly rife.
He said there had been an increase in major infrastructure projects in Australia but that there were only a limited number of construction and infrastructure companies operating in the market.
“This means that opportunities abound for international providers,” he said.
Doing Business in Australia was available from www.dlaphillipsfox.com
2 February, 2010
Amendments to the Trade Practices Act have been foreshadowed to give the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission more power to reject company acquisitions that could affect competition at a local level.
to get more teeth
Minister for Competition Policy and Consumer Affairs, Dr Craig Emerson said the amendments would deal with creeping acquisitions, where large companies buy several smaller businesses to increase their market share.
Dr Emerson said the ACCC would be able to reject a proposal if it substantially lessened competition in a local, downstream market (for example the local retail liquor market) or in a broader, upstream market (for example the liquor wholesaling market).
“This comes after private legal opinion questioned whether the ACCC has the power to consider effects on competition in local markets, suggesting it can examine impacts only in regional markets and the national market,” Dr Emerson said.
“The Government’s pro-competitive reforms will clarify that the ACCC, in deciding whether an acquisition would substantially lessen competition, can examine the impact on any market – local, regional or national.
“For example, in reviewing acquisitions of childcare centres or supermarkets, the ACCC could consider the impact of these acquisitions on competition in smaller, local markets.”
Dr Emerson said the Government would also give the ACCC power to examine the acquisition of Greenfield sites, undeveloped land earmarked for industrial or commercial developments.
He said while the ACCC already considered it had the power to review the acquisition of Greenfield sites, this had been questioned by legal advisers.
“If the ACCC is challenged on this in the future, the Government will not hesitate to confirm this power,” Dr Emerson said.
“This will ensure the ACCC can review acquisitions by the major supermarket chains of interests in new sites to investigate whether such acquisitions could substantially lessen competition.”
He said the Government wanted to open opportunities for competition in grocery retailing by removing anti-competitive barriers to entry.
“For example, the Government wants to ensure that no supermarket (including large supermarket chains) can dispute the ACCC’s power to consider decisions to buy up land in a local market area to keep out new competitors,” Dr Emerson said.
He said the Federal Government would consult with State and Territory Governments on the amendments and had already received submissions from the ACCC.
2 February, 2010
Briggs for IPAA seminar
The Chief Executive of Medicare Australia,and former Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs is to present a speech on 21st Century Service Delivery at a breakfast seminar hosted by IPAA ACT.
The seminar will be held from 7.30am to 9.00am at the Southern Cross Club Woden in Canberra on 25 February.
Registration details and further information were available from www.act.ipaa.org.au
Skills study raises problem
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released data showing seven out of 10 Western Australians have insufficient problem-solving skills for everyday life.
The ABS analysis showed that in prose, document, numeracy and health almost half of Western Australian adults (15-74) were found to be below the minimum literacy requirement deemed necessary to function effectively in society.
The analysis also found individuals with poor literacy were more likely to watch television and less likely to enjoy reading or to use a computer or the internet.
The levels of adult literacy in Western Australia were generally found to be similar, or slightly above, the national average.
Day attracts citizens
Almost 16,500 people from 144 countries became Australian citizens on Australia Day.
More than 350 ceremonies were held across the country, with the largest ceremony in history held at Wanneroo, Western Australia where some 2,600 people became citizens.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Senator Chris Evans, said becoming a citizen showed commitment and loyalty to Australia and the desire to share a common future.
Air controllers flown in
A small team of Defence Air Traffic Controllers has been deployed to earthquake-stricken Haiti following a request from the United States of America.
To date Australia has pledged $15 million in emergency relief and rehabilitation assistance in response to the earthquake.
RAAF Air Traffic Controllers have previously been deployed in Baghdad, Sinai, Somalia, East Timor, Solomon Islands, Banda Aceh and Sudan.
Darwin keeps NORCOM
The Australian Defence Force’s Northern Command (NORCOM) Headquarters is to remain in Darwin.
The Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner said the Government had decided it was in Australia’s best interests for NORCOM to remain in Darwin after considering Defence, border protection and Government priorities,
NORCOM commands and coordinates Defence activities across the north of Australia, including border protection operations and ADF disaster and emergency management response.
Volunteers have text appeal
Six volunteers who helped correct millions of lines of online text in the National Library of Australia’s Newspaper Digitisation Program have been presented with special Australia Day awards.
The top text correctors who made the program’s Hall of Fame were Julie Hempenstall (Victoria), Maurie and Lyn Mulcahy (Queensland), Fay Walker (Queensland), John Hall (Victoria) and Ann Manley (NSW).
More than 5,000 online users have volunteered to correct text for the Library’s newspaper digitisation program which began two years ago.
Treasury invests in lenders
In a bid to boost competition in the mortgage market, the Treasurer, Wayne Swan has announced five smaller lenders will receive up to $3.4 billion in funding.
Mr Swan said Liberty Financial, Resimac, Members Equity Bank, Firstmac and AMP Bank would receive the funding as part of the Government’s investment in residential mortgage-backed securities.
The investment is expected to help the five businesses lend money at competitive interest rates to help increase competition and place downward pressure on mortgage rates.
Researchers get healthy fellowships
Nine of Australia’s best health and medical researchers have been awarded National Health and Medical Research Council Australia Fellowships.
The Australia Fellowships are Australia’s most prestigious awards for excellence in the fields of health and medical research and recognise researchers who tackle some of the biggest health issues facing society.
Recipients of the Australia Fellowship each receive a specially minted commemorative medal and $4 million in funding towards their nominated research project.
The recipients for 2010 were:
Professor Francis Carbone - University of Melbourne; Professor Michael Good - Griffith University; Professor Christopher Goodnow - Australian National University; Professor Martyn Goulding - University of Queensland; Professor Shaun Jackson - Monash University; Associate Professor Paul Keall - University of Sydney; Professor Charles Mackay - Monash University; Professor John Mattick - University of Queensland; and Professor Mark Smyth - University of Melbourne.