SearchArchives for January 2008
29 January, 2008
Union Stabs Back At Government Cuts
The Community and Public Sector Union has expressed its concern at the impact of increasing cuts to the Australian Public Service and has called on the Government to make its intentions clear.
Acting National Secretary of the CPSU, Margaret Gillespie, said the Union had written to Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner requesting more information.
Ms Gillespie that during the election campaign Mr Tanner assured Public Servants the ALP's ‘razor gang' would find public sector savings by focusing on consultants and Government advertising, not redundancies.
“However, with 43 positions cut from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and 33 from the National Capital Authority in the last fortnight, it's clear that jobs are at stake,” Ms Gillespie said.
She said the announcement that cuts of $5 billion would be added to the $10 billion identified during the election campaign, left Public Servants questioning whether the pre-election commitment on redundancies still stood.
She said CPSU members were concerned that the extra cuts - on top of the one-off 2% increase in the efficiency dividend - would come at the expense of public sector jobs and services.
"The Public Service is not a magic pudding,” Ms Gillespie said.
“If the new Government is determined to make these savings, they must provide details about where the cuts will occur, how increased workloads will be managed, and how services will be delivered to the community with reduced resources.”
She also raised the question of how redundancies would be paid for, saying Agencies could face a “Catch 22’ situation by being forced to cut deeper into services and staff to pay for staff identified as redundant in the first place.
Ms Gillespie said the Union was meeting with Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs, to explore options for redeploying staff to other Agencies.
29 January, 2008
PS Chimes in For Gongs on Honours List
Distinguished Public Servants once again featured prominently in the Queen’s Australia Day Honours list.
A summary of those who were rewarded for their public service, including officers to receive the Public Service Medal, are listed below.
PS News congratulates each on their awards:
Rebecca Jane Allnutt
Alice Springs, NT
For outstanding public service in the delivery of improved hearing health in the Northern Territory, particularly amongst Indigenous communities.
Fadwa Musa Al-Yaman
For outstanding public service in improving the accuracy and reliability of the data on Indigenous Australians contained in information collections for health, housing and community services.
Barry James Blaney
For outstanding public service in the research and the development of enhanced production processes in primary industries.
Noel Humphrey Bowden
Mount Victoria, NSW
For outstanding public service in promoting the rights of people with an intellectual disability.
Robert Aubrey Bradshaw
Stuart Park, NT
For outstanding public service to the development of public sector administration in the Northern Territory.
Nancye Margaret Burkevics
For outstanding public service within the Australian Capital Territory Department of Education and Training.
Louise Anne Bye
For outstanding public service in enhancing the quality of education to Indigenous people in New South Wales.
Denis Arthur Byrnes
Albany Creek, Qld
For outstanding public service to local government.
Robert Ian Campbell
For outstanding public service in the administration of electoral processes in Australia and in the development and implementation of improved entitlements for Australia's veteran community.
Dermot David Casey
For outstanding public service in improving medical and psychological health services for people in immigration detention.
Andrew Frank Close
For outstanding public service in the development and use of computer-based systems to model water quality and water supply management within the Murray Darling Basin.
Colleen Dorn Dreis
For outstanding public service to the Legal Service Branch of the New South Wales Department of Housing.
Sophie Mary Dwyer
For outstanding public service in the field of environmental health.
John Herbert Eddy
For outstanding public service to education in Victoria, particularly in mentoring of staff and classroom teaching.
David Roy Filby
For outstanding public service to the Australian health care system.
Judith Elizabeth Flanagan
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of the Active After School Communities Program.
For outstanding public service in the provision of floral displays throughout Canberra, particularly the annual Floriade.
Brian Alexander Given
Lane Cove, NSW
For outstanding public service to the Office of Fair Trading within the New South Wales Department of Commerce.
Annette Maree Godfrey-Magee
For outstanding public service in the education of students with vision impairments.
Margaret Emily Hughes
For outstanding public service to education in New South Wales, particularly to the Dubbo School of Distance Education.
Mark Kevin Johnston
For outstanding public service to the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales, particularly on issues involving Indigenous communities.
Colin Arthur Judge
For outstanding public service to Sydney Water, particularly in media relations.
Gregory Stuart Martin
For outstanding public service in Western Australia, particularly in the areas of planning and road infrastructure.
Graeme Allan Matthew
For outstanding public service to teaching and student welfare, particularly at the Alfred Deakin High School.
For outstanding public service to Indigenous communities in South Australia.
Deirdre Anne O’Donnell
Kew East, Vic
For outstanding public service as the State Ombudsman for Western Australia.
Martin Lee Parkinson
For outstanding public service as a key contributor to the 2007 Report of the Task Group on Emissions Trading and, more broadly, to Australia's economic and financial relations.
Susan Joy Pidgeon
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of a range of Government funded services that assist families to build stronger relationships or those who are affected by family separation, particularly the establishment of Family Relationship Centres across Australia.
Finn Axel Pratt
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of significant and innovative reforms to public employment services and workplace relations in Australia.
Peter Alan Quiggin
For outstanding public service in delivering the Government's legislative agenda at a time of significant legislative change and in a number of critical areas.
Robert Bruce Read
For outstanding public service in assisting victims of crime, particularly for providing a direct and supportive environment at the time of crisis and in the long term.
Barbara Ann Richardson
For outstanding public service to natural resource management and environment protection in New South Wales.
Geoffrey Graham Rowbotham
For outstanding public service to the development of adult education initiatives within Training and Further Education.
Peter Gregory Rowley
For outstanding public service to the State Transit Authority in New South Wales.
John Anthony Ryan
For outstanding public service as head of the Secretariat for the Prime Minister's Review of Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy and in the development of policy in a range of critical areas, including energy reform, climate change and resources development.
Joan Beatrice Savic
For outstanding public service in the promotion and facilitation of best practice in privacy and freedom of information in Centrelink and throughout the Australian Public Service.
David Gordon Southgate
For outstanding public service in the development and management of the Australian Government's aviation environment reform initiatives, in particular the Transparent Noise Information Package software.
Baulkham Hills, NSW
For outstanding public service to rail transport in New South Wales, particularly to safety and consumer service.
For outstanding public service to Human Resource management within the Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services.
George Ernest Veitch
For outstanding public service in the field of financial management and budgeting.
For outstanding public service, particularly towards social issues affecting the community of South Australia.
John Richard Watkinson
For outstanding public service to the maritime industry and maritime safety.
Ruth Evelyn Weston
Glen Iris, Vic
For outstanding public service as a researcher and contributor to policy development, particularly in the areas of separation and divorce, family law, family relationships, fertility decision making and child support.
William Kenneth Woonton
For outstanding public service to Victoria's livestock industries and animal health.
29 January, 2008
Women Short Changed On Equal Payrates
A survey conducted for the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) has discovered that serious deficiencies still exist in the achievement of equal pay for women workers.
The new research was based on data collected for EOWA by Macquarie University and showed that even the most senior female executives in the top 200 companies in Australia were paid less than their male equivalents.
Released by the Minister for Women, Tanya Plibersek, the report, entitled Gender Income Distribution of Top Earners, showed that women occupied just 7% of the Top Earner positions in the big companies.
It showed that female Chief Financial Officers and Chief Operating Officers earned just half the wage of their male counterparts, and in human resource positions where women were more numerous, the pay gap was 43 per cent.
“In CEO positions a female CEO earns two thirds of the salary earned by her male counterpart,” Ms Plibersek said.
She said in nine out of 10 industry sectors, the female median salary was less than the male median salary and there was no industry in which women are more likely to be top earners than men.
“Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals that a full time working woman will earn, on average, 84 per cent of a full time working man’s wage,” Ms Plibersek said.
The Director of EOWA, Anna McPhee said the research showed that pay inequity started in a women’s first job and put her on the back foot for the rest of her career.
“The gaps between women’s and men’s earnings reflect a number of obstacles women still battle,” Ms McPhee said, “such as the undervaluation of women’s skills, women’s lower share of payments like overtime and bonuses, occupational and industrial segregation and lack of access to education.”
She said recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed a pay gap of 34.9 per cent between men and women’s average weekly earnings and another showed male graduates earned a higher starting salary and their salaries increased at a greater rate than women.
Ms Plibersek said the Government recognised the importance of women’s participation in the labour market to the nation’s productivity as well as the importance of paid work to the independence of women and the security of their families.
She said the Government was committed to reducing and eventually eliminating the earnings gap between male and female workers.
29 January, 2008
Development Council Developed
A new statutory Advisory Council is to be formed to drive planning for Australia’s infrastructure needs.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has announced the establishment of Infrastructure Australia saying it would be set up with 12 members and given the task of boosting the economy’s productive capacity, and unlocking infrastructure bottlenecks like clogged ports and congested roads.
Mr Rudd said the new body would be a key driver in the Government’s plan to fight inflation.
He said legislation establishing Infrastructure Australia would be introduced during the first session of the new Parliament.
“Infrastructure Australia represents a dramatic shift in national economic policy,” Mr Rudd said, “bringing national leadership to infrastructure development for the first time since Federation.”
He said the Council’s members would be drawn from industry, Government and Local Government, and chaired by a member from the private sector.
He said its tasks would include:
* Conducting audits to determine the adequacy, capacity and condition of nationally significant infrastructure;
* Develop an Infrastructure Priority List to guide billions of dollars of public and private investment; and
* Provide advice to Governments, investors and owners of infrastructure on regulatory reforms that could improve the utilisation of infrastructure networks.
Minister for Infrastructure, Anthony Albanese said the new body would be headquartered in Sydney as part of the Department of Infrastructure.
29 January, 2008
Review on Cards For Compo Scheme
The APS workers compensation scheme, Comcare is to be reviewed.
The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard announced the terms of reference for the review and invited written submissions from interested parties.
The review was prompted by the expansion of Comcare in 2006 to cover industries outside the APS and Ms Gillard said the review would ascertain whether Comcare was a suitable Occupational Health and Safety scheme and worker’ compensation system for the employees of the non-APS members.
Since its expansion, Comcare had admitted 19 private corporations with a further 15 eligible to apply. The private organisations are accepted as licensed self-insurers.
Ms Gillard said the Government was particularly concerned that all employees covered under the scheme were protected by rigorous OHS safeguards and appropriate workers’ compensation benefits.
She said the review would examine whether Comcare had the power and capacity to ensure self-insurers provided safe workplaces; why private companies sought self insurance with Comcare; the implications of expanding the scheme; any likely risk imposed on the Commonwealth or other members by the self-insurers; and the likely impacts on State and Territory workers’ compensation schemes.
Ms Gillard said the Government wanted to hear the views of all stakeholders so the review would be consulting nationally with relevant groups prior to finalising its recommendations.
Submissions to the review would be accepted until 29 February 2008 and should be forwarded to the Commonwealth Safety and Compensation Policy Branch, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Loc 64N31, GPO Box 9879, Canberra ACT 2601 or emailed to ComcareReview@dewr.gov.au.
A report is to be provided to the Minister by 31 July 2008.
29 January, 2008
Stats Finds Money the Root of Retirement
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that financial security was the most common factor people were using to decide when to retire from the workforce.
The Bureau said 44 per cent of men and 41 per cent of women reported that their financial position would be the main influence on their decision to retire, compared with 40 per cent of each gender saying they would work as long as they were healthy and around 12 per cent deciding they would retire because they had reached the eligibility age for the pension.
ABS said that in 2006-07 there were 3.2 million Australians over 45 in the workforce who intended to retire some time in the future and 3.1 million who had already retired. It said half of all retired people were aged 70 years and over.
“Almost half (49%) of the people currently in the labour force who intend to retire expect their superannuation to be their main source of income,” the ABS said.
“One in five (22%) expect the 'Government pension or allowance' and 12% did not know what their main source would be.”
The Bureau said over 93% of people intending to retire said they had contributed to a superannuation scheme at some time, compared to half (52%) of those who had already retired.
“Of the retirees who had contributed, 51% of men had contributed for 20 years or more compared to 22% of women.”
It said the most common form of pension would come from 'superannuation or annuity,' which was consistent with an increase in numbers of people participating in superannuation schemes.
The Bureau said 2 million people had retired in the past 20 years, the most commonly reported reason for leaving work being they had reached retirement age or were eligible for a pension.
The next most common reason related to health with 29 per cent of men and 19 per cent of women reporting they retired due to sickness, injury or disability. Only 10 per cent of men and 9 per cent of women reported they retired after being retrenched or dismissed.
Two thirds (66%) of retirees said their retirement income came from a Government pension or allowance with only 14 per cent supported from their superannuation. Eight per cent said they lived off 'dividends or interest.
Further details on the ABS study can be found in the report Retirement and Retirement Intentions, Australia, July 2006 to June 2007(ABS cat. no. 6238.0).
29 January, 2008
A Melbourne Court has dismissed an application by union officials to stop an investigation by the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner.
Justice Marshall affirmed the ABCC’s investigation was being conducted for a proper purpose and was a lawful investigation under the Building and Construction Industry Improvement Act 2005.
Justice Marshall dismissed the applicants’ claims and also ordered the applicants to pay the ABCC’s legal costs.
In his judgment the Judge said “the evidence does not support the proposition that the investigation would not have occurred but for a desire to question union officials about their attitude to co-operation with the ABCC”.
The ABCC’s investigation related to allegations of threatening, intimidating and prejudicial conduct towards two Bovis Lend Lease employees. The employees were witnesses in an Australian Industrial Relations Commission proceeding.
ABC Commissioner John Lloyd said the ABCC had postponed the examinations, pending the Federal Court decision.
“Today’s judgement demonstrates that the ABCC’s compliance powers are used lawfully and appropriately,” Mr Lloyd said.
He said the Commission used its compliance powers carefully.
“They are invoked only when all avenues of voluntary co-operation are exhausted and where there is a belief on reasonable grounds that information relevant to an investigation is being withheld.”
The ABCC’s compliance powers are based on those used by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. They are similar to the powers of other regulatory bodies such as the Australian Securities and Investment Commission and the Australian Taxation Office. Only the ABC Commissioner or his Deputy Commissioners may approve and conduct examinations.
Due to confidentiality provisions of the BCII Act, the ABCC was unable to comment on the investigation.
The AFP Graduate Program is expected to grow in number each year, with applications for the 2009 program to be advertised in April.
29 January, 2008
Take Strong Stand
A joint meeting of Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers with responsibility for disability has determined that a new era of cooperation has dawned.
The meeting, chaired by the Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin marked the start of talks on the fourth Commonwealth State and Territory Disability Agreement.
The Ministers formally agreed to the key priority areas which would guide the development of the Agreement.
Ms Macklin said the Australian Government was looking forward to working with the States and Territories, disability stakeholders and the community to get a better deal for people with disabilities.
Also on the agenda was the development of the Australian Government’s National Disability Strategy, which would provide leadership in disability policy and draw on the experience of States and Territories.
Ms Macklin said the National Disability Strategy provided an historic opportunity for the Commonwealth, States and Territories to work together with the community to ensure the needs of people with disabilities and their families were addressed through coordinated and comprehensive policy planning – across all Government Departments and services.
The National Disability Strategy and the CSTDA 4 were also vehicles through which Ministers could work together on the eight key priority areas identified by the Australian Labor Party prior to the Federal election:
* better measurement of current and future need for disability services;
* moving toward national population benchmarks for key disability service types;
* making older carers a priority for all disability services under the CSTDA;
* quality improvement systems based on the National Disability Service Standards for all Agreement services;
* improved service planning and strategies to simplify access to services under the CSTDA;
* focusing on early intervention, lifelong planning and increasing the independence and social participation of people with a disability;
* improved workforce capacities, and;
* access to services by Indigenous people with disabilities.
The Disability Ministers agreed to meet again in March to continue work on the new Agreement.
The AFP Graduate Program is expected to grow in number each year, with applications for the 2009 program to be advertised in April.
29 January, 2008
Industry Targeted In
Defence Export Plan
A new Defence Export Unit has been officially launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement, Greg Combet.
Mr Combet said the new Unit would engage with Government Agencies and industry-related Departments of the State and Territory Governments to encourage and promote cooperation on Defence industry export initiatives.
“The DEU demonstrates the Government’s commitment to working with Australian defence industry and it will make a real difference to the volume and value of Australian defence exports,” Mr Combet said.
The Unit’s work would include identifying future overseas opportunities for Australian defence companies and coordinating with other Australian Government agencies including Austrade.
Unlike previous initiatives in this area the DEU would facilitate a whole-of-Government approach to supporting Australian defence industry international marketing activities.
The Unit would engage with Federal Government Agencies and the relevant industry departments of the State and Territory Governments to facilitate cooperation on defence industry export initiatives.
The DEU will be headed by Terry Whelan, a very experienced senior executive who has successfully managed and directed national and global organisations and has considerable experience in the strategic and operational planning processes.
Over the past few years Mr Whelan has been a major proponent of establishing corporate partnerships on a global basis. His experience in the export environment comes from a close involvement with many companies whose main objective was to expand their business interests to other countries.
Prior to his taking up a position in private enterprise. Mr Whelan spent 21 years as an officer in the Australian Army seeing service in a variety of positions and locations.
29 January, 2008
AFL Kicks Goals for
The Government’s chief export agency, Austrade, is to attempt the most ambitious of Australian exports to the Middle East this month when it stages an exhibition match of Australian football featuring the Collingwood Magpies and the Adelaide Crows football teams.
The opening game in the Australian Football League’s 2008 NAB pre-season cup is to be held in Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, and neighbouring principality to Dubai, the region’s main commercial hub.
“An AFL match may seem at odds with perceptions of the United Arab Emirates – including Abu Dhabi and Dubai – until you take into account their remarkable success in diversifying their economies,” said Australia’s Consul General to Dubai and Middle East Senior Trade Commissioner, Kym Hewett.
“In neighbouring Dubai, around 50 new five-star hotels will soon be completed. Dubai Airport doubled in size six years ago and is being doubled again, and there are head-turning construction projects such as the Dubai Mariner Complex and the world’s tallest building, the Dubai Burj,” Mr Hewett said.
“Abu Dhabi itself is arguably the world’s richest city, and has embarked on its own dynamic path of redevelopment, including Saadiyat Island, a US$30 billion project that includes 29 hotels, three marinas, two golf courses, and housing for 150,000 people,.
Austrade’s Chief Economist, Tim Harcourt agreed that a rapidly transforming UAE’s openness to new influences was good news for the AFL – and Australian exports.
“In 2006-07 Australia’s exports to the United Arab Emirates grew by a staggering 45 per cent, with total two-way merchandise trade expanding by almost 70 per cent,” Mr Harcourt said.
“Australian food, fashion, services, and a wide range of products are increasingly in demand. There are also more than 12,000 Australian expatriates in the UAE, compared to just over 3000 six years ago.
“The great Australian game is also the perfect platform to promote the great Australian brand – and Australian business capability – to international audiences.”
More than 20 Australian companies have been involved in preparations for the AFL contest, making sure an Australian presence would be highlighted beyond the on-field action.
“Multiplex were involved in building the temporary stadium at Ghantoot Racing and Polo grounds, and Fosters will be providing alcohol at an associated event,” Mr Hewett said.
As part of a longer term strategy for international expansion, the AFL may also stage games in destinations such as London and Tokyo, with a possible eight overseas locations currently being considered for future matches.
29 January, 2008
Horse Experts Say
Flu has Bolted
Veterinary health authorities say they are on track to eradicate Equine Influenza from Australia by the middle of this year.
The nation’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Andy Carroll said the national eradication program for equine influenza was making excellent progress.
“It is an extremely positive sign that the number of infected properties is decreasing so quickly,” Dr Carroll said. “More than 97 per cent of previously infected properties are now cleared of the disease and it has been four weeks since the last reported case.”
Some weeks ago, NSW and Queensland eased restrictions on the movement of horses in several zones.
“Zoning effectively contains disease and is a key element of the EI eradication program,” Dr Carroll said. “Zoning continues to provide a technically sound basis for determining conditions for the safe movement of horses around Australia.
“This success will increasingly allow some horses that are vaccinated or blood tested positive to EI, to participate in horse sales, other sporting events and to move more freely around Australia.”
The National EI Management Group has endorsed a strategy to accelerate the eradication program of EI from Australia.
“The strategy sets out the rationale, necessary actions, required resources and costs, and key outcomes for an accelerated zone progression strategy to achieve EI eradication from Australia,” Dr Carroll said. “It also builds on the excellent progress made to date and takes into account the surveillance requirements necessary for proving freedom from EI.”
The Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases agreed to reclassify green zones to white in Queensland and NSW, from 1 February. Previous red zones in NSW at Dubbo, Wellington, Narrabri, Gunnedah, Parkes, Forbes, Walcha and part of the Grenfell district were also reclassified to amber.
Vaccinations continue in NSW and Queensland with more than 90 per cent of targeted horses having received their first vaccination and more than 80 per cent receiving their second vaccination.
Dr Carroll said while the eradication program was making excellent progress, it was vital to maintain strict biosecurity and movement restriction arrangements must still be adhered to, if Australia was to be successful in eradicating the disease by the end of March.
“We are winning the battle against EI, but it only takes one person to do the wrong thing and we could face a major setback,” Dr Carroll said.
“It is vital that anyone who suspects EI reports it immediately to 1800 234 002.”
29 January, 2008
School Stats Bring
Students to Census
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has launched its CensusAtSchool project for 2008, and this year it will have an international flavor.
CensusAtSchool encourages students from all around Australia to collect real data about themselves by completing an online questionnaire, similar to the Population Census.
When all the data is collected, students can work with it to answer questions about themselves, like “Does time spent playing computer games improve your reaction time?” or “Do students who earn more money spend less time doing homework?”
According to the ABS, last year, more than a quarter of Australia’s schools registered with the project and 112,000 students participated nationwide. Since then an additional 250 schools had joined up.
The ABS said that this year schools in New Zealand, Canada and the UK were also part of the CensusAtSchool project, allowing students to make overseas comparisons.
A popular reaction timer and concentration tasks had been included in the international question set and were expected to generate vigorous student participation.
There was also an expanded range of questions suggested by students on a range of issues such as water use, bullying, use of technology and climate change, and other new questions on health and well-being, financial literacy and sleep.
“CensusAtSchool helps students look at statistics not just as dry figures but as a gateway to discussion and analysis,” said the Director of the ABS Education Services Unit, Paul Taylor.
“The feedback we’ve had from teachers about CensusAtSchool 2006 has been enthusiastic, as CensusAtSchool works across a number of curriculum areas - information technology, maths, social sciences, health and physical education.
“Teachers also like it because students can relate to the information, which makes CensusAtSchool exercises more engaging than working from textbooks.”
The CensusAtSchool collection phase is open until 4 July and the results would be available for participating schools from 7 July 2008. Interested schools can join at any time before the end of the collection phase.
For more information see www.abs.gov.au/censusatschool
29 January, 2008
Car Scheme In
Need of Tune-Up
The Australian National Audit Office has found that a major scheme to support industry should be more transparent.
In its audit of the $7 billion Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme which rewards car makers with Customs credits to encourage investment and research, the ANAO found the scheme was insufficiently transparent, that checks and balances on payments needed to be tightened up and its interaction with the Australian Customs Services should be clarified.
The auditors’ report said the Scheme, which is administered by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research provided “hundreds of millions of duty credits” to the 245 participants, the largest slice of which went to the big four carmakers, Ford, Holden, Mitsubishi and Toyota.
“Duty credits have a nominal value of one Australian dollar,” the ANAO said.
“The Department issues duty credits to participants once the claim is received and subsequently checks the integrity of the claims.”
It said DIISR had distributed more than $3.4 billion in duty credits since the scheme commenced in 2001 but that its checking had uncovered incorrect payments of $141 million.
It said paying first and checking later allowed claimants to get their duty credits on a “timely basis” but it meant DIISR needed to manage the risk of mis-claiming.
It was critical of DIISR however for auditing recipients on only one occasion in the seven years of the Scheme’s operation.
“While it is a matter of judgment where the appropriate balance lies, the level of audit coverage is relatively light for such a significant program,” it said.
Particularly, the ANAO noted, one that operated on a ‘self-assessment’ basis.
The auditors also found a reluctance on the part of DIISR to publicly report – even to Parliament – on the details of the Scheme because of concerns over commercial sensitivities.
Their report said that in view of the fact that the scheme was a key assistance measure for a major industry and involved such a lot of money “there is scope to provide greater disclosure.”
The auditors found however that DIISR enjoyed well-developed processes to assess a claimant’s eligibility to claim the credits; to calculate the claims accurately; and to adhere to the funding limits of the scheme.
It said however that both DIISR and Customs needed to improve their processes for reconciling their records.
“At 30 June 2006 there was a variance of around $136 million between the expected balance of unused duty credits at Customs and the balance reported.”
The Auditors made three recommendations regarding the Scheme which were all agreed by the Agencies concerned.
29 January, 2008
Big Wigs Called to
The Attorney-General’s Department has called for applications for the position of Federal Magistrate.
The Department says there are 52 Federal Magistrates and the positions on offer were full-time, with four weeks annual leave, three months long service leave after 10 years in the job and a salary of $249,490.
The Department said the Federal Magistrates Court was established in 2000 and shared jurisdiction with the Family Court and the Federal Court. It handles less complex civil matters in family law and general Federal law.
Federal Magistrates are based in Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Launceston, Melbourne, Newcastle, Parramatta, Perth, Sydney and Townsville and all Federal Magistrates undertake circuit work. The Federal Magistrates Court does not have family law jurisdiction in Western Australia.
Federal Magistrates are empowered to hear cases across all areas of the Court’s jurisdiction but individual Magistrates tended to sit mainly in family law or general Federal law.
To be eligible to be appointed as a Federal Magistrate, a person must have been enrolled as a legal practitioner of the High Court or a Supreme Court of a State or Territory for at least five years.
In addition, Federal Magistrates must have the following personal and professional qualities to a high degree: legal expertise, conceptual, analytical and organisational skills, decision-making skills, the ability (or the capacity quickly to develop the ability) to deliver clear and concise judgments, the capacity to work effectively under pressure and to work across several areas of the Court’s jurisdiction, a commitment to professional development, interpersonal and communication skills, integrity, impartiality, tact and courtesy, and the capacity to inspire respect and confidence.
Expressions of interest and nominations should be forwarded, in duplicate, to Sandra Power, Assistant Secretary, Federal Courts Branch, Attorney-General’s Department, Robert Garran Offices, National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600 by 29 February.
29 January, 2008
All Ends Covered in
ACMA Spectrum Plans
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has unveiled a series of measures it says will increase consultation, transparency and accountability in the planning and management of the radiofrequency spectrum in Australia.
ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman said demand for spectrum was increasing.
“The range of stakeholders we are dealing with is both increasing and becoming more varied, and spectrum issues themselves are becoming increasingly complex,” Mr Chapman said.
“Efficient allocation and use of radiofrequency spectrum promotes economy-wide productivity gains. Our approach to spectrum management must allow these efficiency gains to be achieved, while recognising the interests of existing spectrum users.”
He said ACMA’s aim was to have the right kinds of arrangements and regulatory interactions to enable it to engage with all of its stakeholders in the best way it can.
The first element of ACMA’s new approach will be the establishment of a new advisory group, the Radiocommunications Consultative Committee, to replace two former consultative committees.
The aim of the Committee would be to foster interaction at a “peak” level.
An early issue for consideration would be variations to the Australian Radiofrequency Spectrum Plan that would flow from the outcomes of the 2007 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07), which concluded late last year in Geneva, Switzerland.
Mr Chapman said the committee’s work would be underpinned by working groups that looked at issues in both domestic and international spectrum management, a reflection of the increasing reality of convergence. The first meeting is planned for this month.
The second element of ACMA’s new approach to consultation is to be a radiocommunications conference - RadComms ’08 - to be held over three days in late April and early May in Melbourne. This conference will become an annual event and is designed to enable broad participation by a wide range of stakeholders and foster discussion of future trends and spectrum requirements for new services to assist in developing ACMA’s regulatory settings on these issues.
The third element of ACMA’s new approach will be the development and annual updating of a five-year rolling spectrum strategy plan.
Mr Chapman said the spectrum strategy plan would include, as far as is practicable, longer-term projections of spectrum demand on a band-by-band and by-type-of-service basis.
He said it was intended to give spectrum users the information they needed about the pressures on spectrum and the direction of ACMA’s work, so there could be meaningful interaction between industry and ACMA and among users themselves.
29 January, 2008
Facts Harvested For
Farm Safety Books
A joint venture involving the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation has released four new fact-books to assist in the battle to reduce farm-related deaths and injuries in Australian agriculture.
The booklets are the latest additions to the “Facts and Figures on Farm Health and Safety Series” produced by the Joint Research Venture for Farm Health and Safety, a collaborative partnership managed by the RIRDC.
The booklets are designed to raise awareness of farm health and safety issues and to better inform Government Agencies, farm groups and individuals when making government and industry policy on farm safety.
The new booklets are entitled: Traumatic deaths in Australian agriculture; ATV injury on Australian farms; Occupational Health and Safety risk in the Australian dairy industry; and Health and safety in older farmers in Australia.
RIRDC’s Acting General Manager of National Rural Issues, Jane Fisher, said the fact-books filled a need for accurate data on fatalities and injuries on the farm.
“Farmers and farm workers are more likely to be killed or injured than workers in almost any other industry in Australia,” Ms Fisher said.
“Governments and industry groups have been working for many years now to reduce farm accidents and these booklets are part of a series that will help better inform decision-making.”
She said the booklets were also designed to be used by educators and speakers to help raise awareness of the devastating cost of farm fatalities and injuries.
“For instance they highlight that between 2000 and 2005, 76 people died in accidents involving All-Terrain Vehicles and 53 of them were farm-related. The statistics show that 33 of the 76 fatal cases involved roll-overs.
“This sort of detailed information can be used to help educate farmers and farm workers and plan future policy in this area.”
The Joint Research Venture for Farm Health and Safety is a partnership between Meat and Livestock Australia, Australian Wool Innovation and the Grains, Sugar, Cotton and Rural Industries Research and Development Corporations, and is managed by RIRDC.
The Venture invests in R&D to enhance the wellbeing and productivity in rural industries through improved occupational health and safety and safe systems of work on farms.
Copies of the booklets can be obtained by calling RIRDC on (02) 6271 4160 or by visiting www.rirdc.gov.au
29 January, 2008
ABC cancer worsens
The independent investigator who probed into a cluster of breast cancer cases at the ABC’s Brisbane studios believes more women were affected in the outbreak than originally thought.
Professor Bruce Armstrong said he knew of 18 women who worked in the building diagnosed with the disease, instead of 16 which was the official figure.
Professor Armstrong said the extra cases made no fundamental difference to his findings because he already believed there was a real incidence of cancer at the site.
29 January, 2008
New rules for advisers
Companies carrying on the business of issuing or selling interests in managed investment schemes must now provide a designated service under item 35 of table 1 in section 6 of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006.
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC, which is Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, has announced the new regulations.
The latest in weather, climate and ocean research has been showcased at a meeting of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.
The conference was held at the Deakin University Waterfront Campus in Geelong, Victoria, and covered a wide range of topics including better understanding sea-level rises, coral reef bleaching, and characteristics of the recent La Niña phenomena.
Airport consultation takes off
The Sydney Airport Community Forum, has been re-established, the Government honoring an election pledge to restore the community’s role in decisions about the operation of the Airport.
Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said residents living around Sydney Airport had a right to be consulted on decisions that would ultimately affect their quality of life.
The first meeting of the reconstituted SACF is to be held on 15 February 2008.
22 January, 2008
Union Strikes While Government Hot
The Community and Public Sector Union has reported to members that it is working with the Federal Government to create a new industrial relations framework for the Australian public sector.
The Union expects new rules to be in place in February.
According to the CPSU, the Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations had stopped applying the previous Government’s bargaining policies although the provision of the Workchoices legislation would still apply until amendments were passed by Parliament.
“All bargaining will continue to operate under the constraints imposed by the current laws,” the Union said.
But it pointed out that DEEWR had issued advices to guide Agencies on the place Australian Workplace Agreements would play in current negotiations and would also e conducting information sessions. The new Federal Government has promised to abolish AWAs over time.
The Union said it was also working with the Government to ensure the Machinery of Government changes were implemented effectively and that the protected entitlements and conditions of affected staff were respected.
“CPSU’s message to the new Government and public sector management is that we believe a cordial and professional relationship should be the hallmark of industrial relations in the public sector,” the union said.
“Agencies should genuinely recognise and respect the role of workplace delegates and allow staff to speak to organisers without artificial barriers.”
The union maintained its opposition to the increased efficiency dividend, calling on the Government to resource the Public Service “appropriately.”
It said it had secured assurances that there would be no forced redundancies and that front-line service delivery would be quarantined from the cuts.
22 January, 2008
The cost of running the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been reduced by $57.25 million as part of the Government’s saving measures for the Australian Public Service.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced the cuts saying the Government did not believe they would adversely impact on foreign policy or its trade priorities.
“Approximately a third ($20.2 million) of the total will be saved through the implementation of the Government’s election commitment to reverse funding for the previous Government’s ‘Australia on the World Stage’ initiative and through reductions in other cultural relations funding,” Mr Smith said.
“In addition, $14.35 million will be saved through reductions in the Department’s administrative budgets. These reductions will largely be related to travel and representation funds.”
Mr Smith said there would be an impact on staffing levels with 20 Australia-based positions removed from DFAT’s overseas network by the end of this financial year, saving $18.7 million.
He said these positions were at a range of levels, covering administrative, policy and consular functions. The posts affected by the cutbacks would be Athens, Beijing, Berlin (two positions), Brussels, Cairo, Copenhagen, Kuwait City, London, Mexico City, Nairobi, Ottawa, Pretoria, Riyadh, Rome, Santiago de Chile, Seoul, Stockholm, The Hague and UN staff in Vienna.
Mr Smith said the Department would also implement a partial recruitment freeze which would result in 24 fewer positions in Canberra, saving $4.0 million.
He said all reductions in staffing levels would be accommodated through natural attrition with no staff being made redundant.
None of the budget cuts were security-related, Mr Smith said.
National President of the Community and Public Sector Union, Mark Gepp said the cutbacks would reduce services to Australian exporters and travellers.
“The positions and programs being cut exist to help Australians abroad and to help Australian companies do business abroad,” Mr Gepp said.
“It is not possible to cut $57 million from the Department’s budget without reducing the level of service and assistance available to Australians travelling and doing business abroad.”
Mr Gepp said the announcement came despite Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner promising after the federal election that DFAT functions would not be reduced, and the Government brushing off suggestions it planned to reduce the number of diplomatic postings as part of its cost-cutting measures.
“It is very difficult to square the Rudd Government’s commitments to an increased role for Australia in the UN, in Asia and the Pacific with this level of budget cutting,” Mr Gepp said.
22 January, 2008
Centrelink Childcare Easy as ABC
The staff of Centrelink are to enjoy greater options for their childcare needs under a new arrangement entered between Centrelink and ABC Learning Centres.
The company has been awarded a contract for the potential provision of childcare services to Centrelink staff around the nation.
Centrelink General Manager, Hank Jongen, said the availability of high-quality, affordable childcare was an important issue for staff with family responsibilities, an issue that Centrelink needed to address
“We recognise that balancing work and family responsibilities can be challenging and increasingly the onus is on employers to ensure staff have access to quality childcare services,” Mr Jongen said.
“For Centrelink, this issue is particularly relevant given 70 per cent of our workforce is female and a high proportion of those are aged between 25 and 45.”
He said the new childcare arrangement would mean Centrelink employees had more options to access childcare places for their children, including long day care and outside school hours care.
“Our staff will pay market rates for their childcare places. Employees can choose to either salary package their childcare fees, or claim the Child Care Benefit and the 30 per cent tax rebate.”
Mr Jongen said the new contract would enable Centrelink to work closely with ABC Learning Centres to establish childcare services in areas of high demand by Centrelink parents, such as Tuggeranong, near the organisation’s new national headquarters.
“I want to assure the community that children already enrolled at a childcare centre will not lose their place to the child of a Centrelink employee as a result of this agreement,” Mr Jongen said.
“Other Government departments already have similar arrangements in place for their staff. The Department of Defence currently offer their employees improved access to childcare services.”
He said many private organisations, including companies in the banking and telecommunications industries, also had this type of arrangement for their employees. He added that Centrelink was pleased to offer this option to employees and he hoped it would allow Centrelink to attract and retain staff, improve motivation and efficiency.”
ABC’s CEO (Global) Eddy Groves said ABC was committed to providing high-quality early childhood services to Centrelink families.
“Our first priority is always our children and families and the provision of places for Centrelink will be another example of ABC Learning Centres’ commitment to raising early childhood learning standards across Australia,’’ Mr Groves said.
22 January, 2008
Freedom of Speech Not Rocket Science
The rights of Public Service scientists to join in public debate in their areas of expertise are to be protected by new charters.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr announced the move saying the independence of public research institutions, and the right of their researchers to speak out, was to be protected.
Senator Carr said the Government had done away with contractual constraints which removed the ability of Non-Government Organisations to criticise Government policy on pain of losing public funding.
“It is not good enough to allow scientists and other researchers to comment on matters of public interest but then to quarantine them from contentious issues,” Senator Carr said.
He said the principles guiding such policy would encourage debate on scientific and other research issues of public interest and support the independence and integrity of public research agencies. He said the policy would also recognise that the Government remained responsible for the articulation, formulation and implementation of Government policy.
“Australians look to our scientists and researchers to contribute to our economic, social and environmental wellbeing and to expand our horizons of knowledge. This inevitably involves controversial interpretations.
“It is through the contest of ideas that we expand our understanding.”
Senator Carr said the value of scientific endeavour and importance of vigorous and transparent public debate, unfettered by political interference but subject to peer review, is something he had advocated for his entire public life.
“Governments are responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs that best address our future challenges,” he said.
“This means choosing between many policy options (and) having access to frank and fearless research is crucial in making the most informed choice.
“It is often in matters of contention and sharp debate that the knowledge and expertise of the scientific community is most valuable.”
Senator Carr said the charters would be developed in close consultation with public research institutions including CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Australian Nuclear and Science Technology Organisation.
“The Rudd Government is committed to a new era of scientific and public debate that is characterised by openness and vigour,” he said.
“We have already strengthened the independence of the Australian Research Council through the creation of an independent advisory council and through new measures to promote greater transparency in decision-making.”
22 January, 2008
Posties Compete for Stamp of Approval
Australia Post has begun the search for three Olympic champion posties to represent the organisation at this year’s Beijing Olympic Games.
The roles involve sorting and delivering mail for Australian athletes in the official Olympic village and is part of Australia Post’s overall sponsorship of the Australian Olympic team.
National Sponsorship Manager for Australia Post, Terry Hearity, said the corporation first introduced the program at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.
“In that first year, our posties sorted and delivered about 50,000 letters,” Mr Hearity said.
“At the last Olympics in Athens in 2004, volumes had grown to around 250,000 letters and cards.”
He said a lot of the mail was generated by the LetterLink program which encouraged children and young people from primary, secondary and special schools to write letters of encouragement to athletes.
“We then provide a postcard for team members so that they can acknowledge the letters they receive.”
Mr Hearity said that the competition was open to all of Australia Post’s 35,000 staff – not just existing posties.
“It’s a rigorous judging process that involves a written application, interviews at a State and Territory level; and then a final set of interviews at Post’s headquarters in Melbourne. The three posties we select are effectively ambassadors for the entire organisation.
“Once the people are selected, we run them through a special training program so that they can handle the job once they arrive in Beijing,” he said.
Entries close on 8 February 2008. The official launch of the LetterLink program will take place in July this year when special letter writing kits will be delivered to 10,000 schools around Australia.
In a separate deal, Australia Post also sponsors the Boomers basketball team which qualified for the Olympics last year.
22 January, 2008
Healthy Start for Medical ID Scheme
Medicare Australia has entered an agreement with the National E-Health Transition Authority to develop an identification system for healthcare users and providers.
The Ministers for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig, and Health and Ageing, Nicola Roxon, welcomed the new arrangement which they said would produce a system that accurately and uniquely identified people who received healthcare in Australia and the people who provided it.
They said the “Unique Healthcare Identifier” service was being developed to support progress towards a national Shared Electronic Health Records System.
“One of the key building blocks for the establishment of this system is the means for uniquely identifying patients and health professionals, which will ultimately reduce the possibility of information being sent to the wrong health professional or being assigned to the wrong patient,” Ms Roxon said.
She said NEHTA was a not-for-profit company established by the Australian, State and Territory Gvernments to develop better ways of electronically collecting and securely exchanging health information.
Under the contract with NEHTA, Medicare Australia would be responsible for the design, building and testing of the UHI service.
Senator Ludwig said Medicare Australia was uniquely placed to assist in accelerating the progress of e-health in Australia.
“My agency is looking forward to working closely with NEHTA, the States and Territories, as well as other key health stakeholders in the upcoming months on the initial design and development of the UHI service,” Senator Ludwig said.
“This project is a significant collaboration between state and federal governments to provide the building blocks for Australia’s e-health future.”
The Ministers said the UHI service was a Council of Australian Governments initiative.
22 January, 2008
APS Measured Up To Take on Trade
Public comment is being called on plans for the Commonwealth to take over the national trade measurement system.
Minister for Small Business, Craig Emerson made the call after the Council of Australian Governments identified trade measurements as one of the 10 regulatory “hotspots”.
Dr Emerson said a consistent trade measurement system was essential to ensuring that goods sold by measurement were accurately measured and labelled.
“Customers need to be assured that when packaging states that it contains a particular weight or volume, it is an accurate statement of the actual contents,” Dr Emerson said.
He said measurement of some kind was involved in trade worth about $400 billion a year to Australia, ranging from purchases at the local shop through to multi-million dollar international trades.
“The April 2007 COAG meeting decided that the Commonwealth should take full responsibility for the national trade measurement system, replacing the existing systems that cause unnecessary inconsistencies and costs for consumers, businesses and Government,” he said.
However, Dr Emerson described progress in implementing reform of the 10 hotspots over the past eight months as “underwhelming”.
He said he and the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner, would be working together to provide fresh impetus to the COAG regulatory reform program, reflecting the high priority that the Prime Minister and State and Territory leaders attached to cutting business regulation at the December COAG meeting.
Mr Tanner and Dr Emerson are to co-chair the COAG business regulation and competition working group.
The National Measurement Institute, a division of the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, will assume responsibility for trade measurement from 1 July 2010 and comments received during the consultation period will be carefully considered in the final drafting of the Commonwealth’s legislation.
“More than 100 individuals and organisations have already registered their interest in contributing to the process and I encourage others to do so,” Dr Emerson said.
The discussion paper is available from the NMI website at www.measurement.gov.au. Comments close on 8 February 2008 and anyone interested in participating further in developing the new system can register at www.consultation.business.gov.au
22 January, 2008
Mum’s the Word on Family Centres
The Attorney-General, Robert McClelland has pointed out that 75 new services were to open across Australia this year to support the well-being of families and children.
Mr McClelland said the new services included 25 Family Relationship Centres which would bring the national network to 65.
He said Family Relationship Centres were a first point of contact for people wanting information, advice and assistance with strengthening family relationships, preventing separation or resolving relationship difficulties after separation.
Fourteen Children’s Contact Services would enable the safe transfer of children and supervised visits when families separate. Fourteen Post Separation Cooperative Parenting services would provide education programs to help separated parents understand the impact their disputes can have on their children.
Twenty-two new early intervention services would provide individuals and families with the skills, education and counselling to develop and strengthen family relationships and prevent family breakdown.
The Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, said the early intervention Centres would complement the new Family Relationship Centres and Post Separation Services, offering an integrated approach to providing assistance at any point in the relationship cycle.
“The new services will be placed in areas of need and be available to anyone requiring assistance with family relationships, including information and referral, education and skills training counselling and Men and Family Relationships Services,” Ms Macklin said.
22 January, 2008
Watery Grave for Unwanted Ship
HMAS Adelaide has been decommissioned to become an artificial reef and dive attraction.
The oldest of the Royal Australian Navy’s Adelaide Class Frigates, HMAS Adelaide was relieved of her duties at her home port at HMAS Stirling, Western Australia, after 27 years of service.
The Department of Defence said HMAS Adelaide was a long-range escort frigate which had undertaken roles that included surface warfare, air defence, anti-submarine warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance. Adelaide was built in the United States at Seattle’s Todd Pacific Shipyard and was commissioned into the RAN on 15 November 1980.
The Department said the name Adelaide would not be missing from the Australian Fleet for long, with one of the new Canberra Class LHDs planned to bear the name.
The outgoing Adelaide is the second ship in the RAN to bear the name. The first Adelaide was a light cruiser that served in the RAN between 1922-1946, witnessing action in the Second World War.
The second Adelaide was one of the first RAN warships to be deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1990 as part of Operation Damask. Since then, Adelaide has been deployed twice more to the Gulf as part of Operation Slipper in 2002 and Operation Catalyst in 2004. The ship also assisted during both East Timor operations in 1999 and 2006.
Adelaide was also the ship that conducted the search and rescue of lone yachtsmen Thierry Dubois and Tony Bullimore from the Southern Ocean in 1997.
Adelaide’s new home would be the NSW Central Coast where it has been gifted to the NSW Government to be sunk off Terrigal.
22 January, 2008
Centrelink Callers Get Red Cross Lines
More than 20 Centrelink staff in NSW have joined a Red Cross telephone service that helps the charity stay in touch with some of the community’s socially isolated people.
Centrelink’s Sue Rapley, from Camden in Sydney, is a volunteer with the Red Cross's Telecross service which is a free daily phone service for people who feel isolated or may be at risk due to health problems.
Ms Rapley said she was proud to be involved with Telecross as it made her feel she was making a real difference to the lives of those who lived alone.
“When I first heard about this service, I knew I wanted to be involved,” Ms Rapley said.
“More staff then found out about Telecross and wanted to participate. Another 20 have since joined the Telecross team. It’s a wonderful experience to know you’re helping someone keep their independence with a simple phone call.”
She said the enthusiasm of her colleagues to become involved with Telecross highlights the caring nature of Centrelink staff, who volunteered in their own time.
“The calls don’t take much time but can brighten someone’s day,” she said.
Regional Manager of Australian Red Cross, Jennifer Savage, said volunteers like Ms Rapley were the key to the success of Telecross.
“It’s through the selfless actions of volunteers like Sue that Telecross can make such a big difference in people’s lives, even at times saving lives,” Ms Savage said.
People interested in volunteering or receiving calls from Telecross can call 1800 353 220.
22 January, 2008
Big Wheels Targetted In Cycling Drug Plan
The Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority has introduced a number of anti-doping initiatives to make the 2008 “Tour Down Under” the toughest ever.
Being held in South Australia this week (22-27 January), the 2008 Tour is the first stop on the International Cycling Union’s world professional cycling calendar and the first time that a UCI sanctioned ProTour event has been held in Australia.
The anti-doping initiatives announced by ASADA and the UCI include steps never before seen at a cycling event in Australia, including:
* introduction of the UCI’s Biological Passport Program which will involve mandatory blood profiling of every cyclist before the event;
* comprehensive and targeted urine testing before and during the event;
* placement of selected samples in “The Tank” (ASADA’s deep freeze storage facility designed to close the net on use of undetectable prohibited substances by freezing samples for future retesting with new technology); and
* sharing intelligence with the Australian Customs Service to enhance the interception at the border of any prohibited substances destined for the “Tour Down Under” and investigation of those involved.
ASADA Chairman, Richard Ings said the Authority was implementing every measure at its disposal to deter doping at this prestigious international cycling event.
“Clean cyclists coming to the ‘Tour Down Under’ can rest assured this will be an event where those contemplating doping will face greater scrutiny than ever before,” Mr Ings said.
“Through a combination of blood and urine testing, long-term storage of selected samples and existing partnerships with border control and law enforcement agencies, any professional cyclist attempting to dope at this event will face severe consequences.”
UCI President, Pat McQuaid said he was pleased to see the Union, ASADA and the event organisers working so closely and indicated that this would be a model for future cooperation between international sport and government.
“These initiatives to protect the ‘Tour Down Under’ from doping are a demonstration of what can be achieved when international sport and governments work cooperatively together,” Mr McQuaid said.
“UCI is absolutely committed to eliminating doping from our sport and we are pleased to partner with such a determined anti-doping body as ASADA to protect the integrity of cycling in Australia,” he said.
22 January, 2008
Returned Fossils Fuel Goodwill
The Australian Government has handed back a priceless collection of Chinese fossils illegally imported into Australia and seized by Police and other officials.
The 750 kilograms of dinosaur, mammal and reptile fossils were formally returned by Heritage Minister, Peter Garrett to His Excellency Zhang Junsai, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China.
“These fossils from provinces across China are of incredible cultural and scientific value to the People’s Republic and to the world,” Mr Garrett said.
“Ranging from dinosaur eggs to marine reptiles, fish and crustaceans, they are national treasures that tell a fascinating story about different geological periods and ancient environments.”
He said some were believed to be up to 450 million years old, and the rarest considered priceless because of their value to China’s scientific and cultural heritage.
Mr Garrett said the fossils were seized between 2004 and 2007 under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986, in a number of joint operations by the Australian Federal Police and the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. The most recent seizure took place in November 2007.
“Australia was one of the first countries to respond to China’s request for help in tracking down and returning their invaluable cultural heritage,” Mr Garrett said.
“The fossils were seized from eight different parties in nine separate seizures. They were forfeited to the Australian Government as the importers were unable to demonstrate that the fossils had been legally exported from China.”
He said China diid not grant permits for sale or permanent export and only allowed fossils to be temporarily exported for exhibition and scientific research.
“We have been delighted to work with the Chinese Government to return these illegal imports for preservation and research, to ensure they are protected for future generations,” Mr Garrett said.
“Our successful operations send a strong message to the world that Australia will not tolerate illicit trade in cultural heritage objects.”
The repatriation followed the return of 10,000 illegally imported Chinese fossils in September 2005. Other objects seized recently included 130 kilograms of dinosaur and plant fossils returned to the Argentine Republic in August 2007, 16 Dyak Skulls returned to Malaysia in May 2007, and an Asmat human skull from Papua returned to Indonesia in December 2006.
22 January, 2008
Meeting Lifts Clouds On Rainfall History
A conference on rainfall has been told that the key to successful Australian water management planning was accurately mapping and understanding current and past patterns of Australian rainfall
Dr Henk Heijnis, from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO, told the conference that such pre-requisites were necessary if scientists were to predict future rainfall cycles clearly.
“ANSTO, together with colleagues from Newcastle University and the Australian National University, has been monitoring modern stalagmite formation in caves for the past three years,” Dr Heijnis said, “to assess whether the chemistry from drip waters that create them, correlates with rainfall patterns supplied by weather bureau monitoring.”
He said if the stalagmite water drip factor was a mirror of modern rainfall monitoring, then by carbon dating older stalagmites scientists would be able to map rainfall patterns over thousands of years.
He said they could then establish the big picture of past rainfall cycles to ultimately produce better rainfall predictions.
The conference was held at the AINSE Theatre, at ANSTO, in Lucas Heights, Sydney.
Dr Heijnis said ANSTO was Australia’s national nuclear research and development organisation and the centre of Australian nuclear expertise.
22 January, 2008
Airline Staff Land New Drugs Regime
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority is to develop management programs for alcohol and other drugs across the aviation industry in a bid to make aviation safer.
CASA has promised to work closely with the aviation industry to produce the programs, which would be used by the holders of Air Operator Certificates and Certificates of Approval and will include drug and alcohol testing.
The programs would be supported by an industry wide education and awareness campaign.
According to CASA, all safety-sensitive personnel including flight crew, cabin crew, flight instructors, aircraft dispatchers, aircraft maintenance, aviation security, air traffic controllers, baggage handlers, ground refuelers and other personnel with airside access would be routinely tested as part of the program.
Organisations required to have a Drug and Alcohol Management Plan in place would be required to perform pre-placement, return to work and post accident/incident drug and alcohol testing of their safety-sensitive personnel. DAMP employers may also choose to conduct random testing of their employees.
A national random testing program would be conducted by an independent provider, contracted by CASA on a sample of all safety-sensitive personnel including those not related to a DAMP organisation. This program will cover a minimum of 5 per cent of sfety-sensitive personnel on an annual basis.
CASA said there would be no warning of testing, with only CASA and the testing provider knowing in advance of the tester’s arrival at a particular location.
The Authority said the maximum blood alcohol content limit for an employee in a safety-sensitive role would be less than 0.02 per cent, but an eight-hour rule for pilots would still apply. Persons performing a safety-sensitive function would be required to have no alcohol in their system and could not be impaired through previous alcohol use.
If employees tested positive, the outcome would depend on the situation when the test was made.
If the test occurred when they were airside, then the most important course of action would be for the employer to remove the employee from a hazardous situation immediately. CASA said future action would depend on the circumstances.
22 January, 2008
Rules Set Tone for Mobile Phone Content
New rules that introduce a uniform approach to restricting access to MA15+ and R18+ content on the internet or via mobile phones have been determined by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
It is the first time such access has been regulated.
The new Restricted Access Systems Declaration places obligations on all content service providers to check that individuals accessing restricted content provided in Australia are at least 15 years of age for MA15+ content or 18 years of age for R18+ content.
The new rules come into effect on 20 January 2008 and arise from legislation passed in July 2007.
According to ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, the new rules are similar to previous obligations governing stored content by providing that after receiving a complaint and investigating internet or mobile content, ACMA may require the service provider to either remove the content or place the content behind specified access restrictions.
“In developing these new content rules, ACMA was guided by its disposition to allow adults to continue to read, hear and see what they want, while protecting children from exposure to inappropriate content, regardless of the delivery mechanism,” Mr Chapman said.
“At the same time, ACMA has been conscious of avoiding unnecessary red tape for Australian businesses providing content.”
He said ACMA undertook extensive public consultation in developing the new rules and carefully considered concerns raised about their application to new types of online services such as user-generated content. The Authority would continue to liaise and consult with industry on those matters.
Mr Chapman said ACMA also made two associated changes to other legal instruments.
Existing rules about mobile premium services had been amended to remove content-related provisions, as those would be covered by the new legislation; and the Telecommunications Numbering Plan had also been varied to ensure that requirements for the use of particular phone numbers to assist consumers in recognising age restricted content supplied by premium SMS and MMS continued to operate.
He said those requirements had been removed from the mobile premium service rules by the amendment above.
22 January, 2008
Cash Watchdog Doesn’t Mint Words
The Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, AUSTRAC, has issued a warning to people travelling overseas for Chinese New Year that they needed to know and understand new laws governing the taking of funds into and out of Australia.
AUSTRAC Chief Executive Officer, Neil Jensen said that under the new law there were now two different requirements to report the movement of funds.
“Up to 110,000 travellers come to Australia from China, Hong Kong and Taipei during Chinese New Year,” Mr Jensen said. “Some of those travellers may be carrying gifts of ‘lucky money’.”
He said it was important they know the law about bringing funds into and out of Australia and they should also make sure family members visiting them in Australia know about it.
Mr Jensen said the new requirements were:
* When entering or leaving Australia travelers asked by a Customs or police officer if they were carrying travelers cheques, personal cheques, money orders, postal orders, promissory notes or any other bearer negotiable instruments of any amount were required to say so; and .
* they still needed to always declare amounts of $10,000 cash or more, or the equivalent in foreign currency.
Mr Jensen said the need to declare this amount of cash money applied to anyone entering or leaving Australia and they should do so without waiting to be asked by a Customs or police officer.
The new reporting requirements were introduced under the Government’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006.
“This law is already playing a vital role in preventing money laundering, the funding of terrorism and major crime,” Mr Jensen said.
If travellers do declare they are carrying $10,000 or more (or foreign currency equivalent) they will be asked to complete a Cross-Border Movement - Physical Currency $10,000 or More form. They will be given this form at the Customs examination area.
If they are asked to report their bearer negotiable instruments, they may be asked to fill out a Cross Border Movement - Bearer Negotiable Instrument Declaration form. A Customs officer or police officer will hand over the form at the Customs examination area.
There are no fees charged by AUSTRAC, Customs or the police for carrying, disclosing or reporting cash or bearer negotiable instruments. There is no limit to the funds that can be brought into or out of Australia.
Mr Jensen said reporting the funds did not mean they would be confiscated.
He said it was important the Government knew of the movement of funds into and out of Australia.
22 January, 2008
Hear, hear for world first
Australia now has the most advanced telephone hearing test in the world, developed by Australian Hearing and its research arm, the National Acoustic Laboratories.
People concerned about their hearing can now confirm or allay their concerns by calling a toll free phone number and responding to sounds played over the telephone.
The service can be accessed by calling 1800 826 500 toll-free and following the voice prompts.
CSIRO goes to water
The Commonwealth Scientific, Industrial and Research Organisation, CSIRO, is inviting the residents of Canberra to participate in a survey on how they want their drinking water used.
The Organisation wants to find out what Canberrans think about how water is managed in the region and how individuals and groups in the community could contribute to improvements in how the community used drinking water.
The survey is open to all residents of the ACT and can be accessed online until 10 February 2008 at www.csiro.org
Court judges material
The Federal Court of Australia has issued a new information sheet “What happens to material produced to the Court?” which explains happens to documents or things produced to the Court under subpoena.
The information sheet is available on the information for litigants section of the website www.fedcourt.gov.au
GG is cool first
His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery will be the first Governor-General of Australia to set foot in Antarctica when he travels there this week on the recently opened intercontinental air service from Hobart to the Wilkins Runway near Casey.
Significantly, 7 February will mark the 75th anniversary of the declaration of the Australian Antarctic Territory which accounts for 42 per cent of Antarctica.
Increase in medics
Reports from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare have shown that while an increase in the number of medical practitioners and nurses in Australia has been noted, a reduction in working hours meant the increase in full-time equivalent medical practitioners per 100,000 population was just 4 per cent.
An estimated 60,252 medical practitioners were employed in medicine in Australia in 2005 but the supply of GPs declined from 104 FTE per 100,000 in 2001 to 98 in 2005.
The Australian Film Commission is calling for writers with well-developed scripts to apply for its script development initiative, SP*RK.
SP*RK is an intensive development program for feature film scripts, with a week-long residential workshop that brought creative teams of writers, directors and producers together with local and international script advisors.
The SP*RK workshop will take place in June 2008. More information from the AFC.
Boxers to Institute
The Australian Sports Commission’s National Talent Identification and Development program is bringing 20 indigenous boxers and some of their coaches to the Australian institute of Sport in Canberra to take part in a training camp to identify boxers with potential to represent Australia.
The program will offer up to six scholarships for the best athletes emerging out of the week’s camp.
Editors in retreat
A partnership between the Australia Council for the Arts and the Australian Publishers Association is calling for editors to apply for a mentoring program.
The program is a six-day intensive retreat for 12 editors, to be held in May 2008 at Varuna, The Writers’ House in Katoomba, NSW.
The biennial program is the only training opportunity in Australia devoted to mentoring editors of quality fiction and non-fiction.
Acting Taxation Commissioner, Bruce Quigley has warned people to be cautious about claiming deductions for losses incurred under certain stapled security arrangements.
In these arrangements the company issuing the securities suggests that the investor may claim deductions for losses in certain circumstances.
Mr Quigley said those circumstances included the assignment, transfer or surrender of the note, or conversion or disposal of the stapled security.
15 January, 2008
New Scheme Super News For Defence
Plans to introduce a new superannuation scheme for members of the Australian Defence Force have been thrown open for public comment.
A five-month review of military superannuation conducted last year has reported that the current Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme (DFRDB) and the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme (MSBS) fell “well short of best practice superannuation” and did “not contribute significantly towards recruitment and retention” of service staff.
It recommended a new military super scheme that met six “guiding principles” that recognised the unique nature of military service and reflected contemporary best practice.
The six principles to be included in the ideal scheme included flexibility, simplicity, adequacy, tailored to the military, attractiveness and financial sustainability.
“To meet the guiding principles the new scheme should have a contemporary approach to providing for retirement income by being a taxed, funded, defined contribution scheme,” the report of the review team said.
It said the new scheme should provide an accumulation retirement plan based on employer and voluntary contributions as well as generous benefits for death and disability.
“The unique nature of military service involves the significant risk of death and disability,” the report said. “These characteristics have been, and should continue to be, reflected in military superannuation.”
It said all current ADF members should have the option of transferring to the new scheme from the DFRDB or MSBS as well as some reservists and that membership should also be available to the spouse and dependent children of a serving ADF member.
“Members who leave the ADF but retain funds in the scheme can also choose to have contributions from future employers directed into their accounts,” it said.
The report said the increased benefits of the proposed scheme would be paid for by reallocating risk.
“The apparent inconsistency of many ‘winners’ and few ‘losers’ but with the same long term cost to Government is explained by the transfer of risks from Government to members.”
If adopted, the new scheme would start taking members in the first half of 2009 and is estimated to cost $7-8 billion in the first two years.
The report says the source of this funding should be the Future Fund which was specifically set up to meet the unfunded superannuation liabilities of the public sector.
Comments on the proposed scheme will be accepted by the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel,Warren Snowdon until 31 March 2008.
Mr Snowdon said the new Government would consider its attitude to the proposals when the consultation period closed.
15 January, 2008
Capital Plans For Canberra Centenary
Plans are beginning to take shape for the 100th anniversary of Australia’s Capital City, Canberra, with the ACT Government advertising for consultants to suggest major projects to mark the Centenary year.
ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope said the advertisements would call for expressions of interest from companies or people with the relevant skills and experience to work on the celebrations.
Canberra will turn 100 on 12 March 2013.
“We have reached a particularly important phase in our preparations and over the course of 2008 will explore a number of priority projects and associated costs,” Mr Stanhope said.
“Extensive community consultation has given us an excellent base to work from. Many ambitious projects were put forward and it is now time to examine these in detail and begin the real work of building an exciting program of celebrations, activities and projects.”
Mr Stanhope said the first phase of the procurement activity would be to test the market nationally to gauge the skills and experience of the consultancy sector.
“Australia boasts great expertise in areas such as project management, feasibility and scoping studies, and event management,” he said.
“We want to tap into this wealth of knowledge to help produce a truly memorable year of celebrations and leave a lasting legacy for the ACT.
Expressions of interest are due by 7 February 2008 and further information is available from the ACT Government’s Procurement Solutions website at www.procurement.act.gov.au
15 January, 2008
Clouds Lifted Over Nuclear Plant Tours
Australia’s only nuclear reactor, OPAL, in Sydney’s Lucas Heights is throwing open its doors for school holiday tours.
School children and their parents can tour the reactor and other exciting science facilities at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, ANSTO, on New Illawarra Road, southern Sydney.
According to ANSTO, touring the facility would help visitors find out how radiation worked and how radioactive waste was safely managed. It would also let them in on climate change research using nuclear techniques to determine rainfall patterns and greenhouse gas levels going back many hundreds of thousands of years.
ANSTO said the OPAL reactor was used to produce nuclear medicines and to irradiate products such as silicon used in electronic equipment. The neutrons it produces were re also used for research into structures (eg aeroplanes and turbines), obesity and plastics.
Students can also learn about the many other applications of nuclear science including:
* reducing the need for pesticides by controlling fruit fly larvae population;
* irradiation of rubber tyres to increase toughness;
* using radioisotopes to detect when bottles of beer and other food and drink containers are filled to the correct level;
* smoke detectors which are powered by tiny low-powered radioisotopes
tracing air and water pollution and identifying its sources; and
* determining the age of artefacts such as Ned Kelly’s armour and old bones.
ANSTO manages a 70 hectare campus at Lucas Heights and with 1000 staff is Australia’s’ centre of nuclear innovation. As the primary supplier of nuclear medicines, ANSTO makes more than half a million doses every year.
The two-hour tours run every Tuesday and Thursday at 10am and are free to the public but must be pre-booked by calling (02) 9717 3111.
Closed footwear must be worn, (no high heels) and children under 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. There is free parking on-site.
15 January, 2008
Caught But No Court For OHS Breach
The Department of Defence has entered an Enforceable Undertaking with Comcare following charges it failed to observe its duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1991.
The undertaking has been accepted by Comcare as an alternative to pursuing proceedings against the Department in the civil Courts.
According to Comcare, an investigation into an accident involving a Unimog
vehicle that occurred in June 2005 near Townsville, Queensland revealed the Department had not provided adequate training and instruction to staff required to carry out roadside repairs on the vehicle in a safe manner.
A member of the Australian Defence Force was seriously injured in the accident.
Comcare said its investigation found the injured Australian Defence Force member had not been adequately trained to repair the vehicle safely and had not been appropriately supervised while undertaking the repairs.
“The investigation concluded that Defence had breached its duty of care to its employee under section 16(1) of the Act,” Comcare reported.
The Agency said Defence acknowledged its OHS failures, accepting them as consistent with the findings of the investigation and its conclusions.
“Comcare acknowledges the willingness of Defence to respond positively to the identified breaches of the Act and notes that it has commenced actions to address the issues identified.
“Defence has undertaken to review the Australian Army’s risk management framework and work with Comcare to design and conduct a significant research project into Occupational Health and Safety.”
It said the project would focus on developing improvement strategies for
implementing OHS policies and procedures at the workplace level.
In addition, Comcare said Defence had also undertaken to review the procedures relating to the type of repair conducted on the Unimog vehicle and amend its policies and procedures. It would then provide training to all Defence Force and civilian vehicle mechanics on the new procedures.
It would also remove from service the item of equipment that contributed to the accident.
The legally enforceable undertaking is available for viewing on the Comcare website at www.comcare.gov.au
15 January, 2008
Weather Bureau Observes its 100th
The Bureau of Meteorology celebrated its 100th anniversary on 1 January and a calendar of celebrations has been planned across Australia for the coming year.
In February a specially commissioned history of the Bureau of Meteorology The Weather Watchers by David Day will be officially launched by Melbourne University Press.
In March the Centenary of the Bureau will feature as part of the celebration for World Meteorological Day and in August the Bureau will open a number of its offices to the local community for a special 100th Birthday Open Day including science talks and demonstrations.
According to the Bureau, its 100 years have seen it develop into a strong and innovative national science organisation that has adapted to the environmental challenges facing Australia.
Right across the country, it says, Bureau volunteers, contractors, and staff work around the clock to provide Australians with accurate weather, climate, hydrology and ocean services using equipment as simple as rain gauges through to the latest satellite technology.
Every day of the year, weather forecasts made by the Bureau are broadcast via radio, television, newspapers and the Internet to millions of Australians who use them to help plan their day-to-day activities.
It says today’s Bureau is much more than a weather service – it is an all natural hazards warning service for severe weather, floods, fire and tsunami. This role has been recently enhanced to include a leading role in making available the water information needed for national water management.
The Bureau is also the nation’s climate and oceanographic forecaster, and a research and development institute.
From the very early days of meteorological science in Australia, the Bureau has been at the forefront of much innovation that is now used internationally – from the use of upper air measurements right through to the development of numerical weather prediction. Recently the Bureau continued this tradition by launching the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research in partnership with the CSIRO.
15 January, 2008
Warm Welcome for Antarctic Flights
Passenger flights to Antarctica have finally been introduced, the first flight taking off from Hobart on 10 January.
Environment Minister, Peter Garrett was among the passengers, travelling with the Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, Dr Tony Press, Chief Scientist Professor Michael Stoddard, senior project leaders, researchers and support and operational personnel.
“This is a tremendously exciting time in Australian Antarctic history,” Mr Garrett said. “A permanent direct air link with Antarctica has been a long-held dream.
“To be able to fly scientists and other Antarctic personnel to Antarctica in a matter of hours, rather than 10 or more days by ship, opens up a whole new chapter in our scientific effort on the frozen continent.”
The Minister was greeted on his arrival by Casey Station Leader Dr Jeremy Smith. He then took a tour of the facilities at Wilkins Runway and met the runway construction crew.
The Airbus A319 has undergone a number of proving and training flights to Antarctica since November in the lead-up to the historic flight.
Australian aviation company, Skytraders, operates the aircraft on behalf of the Australian Antarctic Division.
The flight left Hobart when the temperature soared above 30 degrees and, four-and-a-half hours later, it landed on Wilkins Runway in minus 17 degrees.
15 January, 2008
Deer Old Recipes in Venison Cookbook
A new recipe book funded by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation is expected to boost the demand and sale of venison in Australian restaurants.
Fallow Venison – 38 Inspirational, delicious recipes for all has been developed with the support of leading chefs in the Adelaide region and was designed to encourage more chefs to consider the benefits of fallow venison and boost restaurant and consumer demand.
The recipe book was produced by the National Fallow Alliance.
The book was part of a wider RIRDC and industry strategy to improve market demand for deer products, boosting profitability and sustainability in the deer industry.
RIRDC’s Senior Research Manager for Established Industries, Annette Sugden said creating demand for venison through the recipe book was just one way RIRDC was helping the industry to grow.
“We are working with industry to improve supply chain efficiency and co-operation, quality management, value-adding and marketing,” Ms Sugden said.
“The establishment of the NFA last year was part of this process and it’s pleasing to see the alliance is now working to promote their own venison through initiatives such as this recipe book.”
Marketing Manager of the National Fallow Alliance, Chris Tuckwell said the recipe book was an important step in encouraging chefs and consumers to try fallow venison and to demonstrate its “all season” versatility and ability to be an important part of modern healthy diets.
“Fallow deer are one of the two major deer breeds in Australia and the venison they produce is lean, tender and delicately flavoured,” Mr Tuckwell said.
“The recipe book shows that fallow venison is economical, easy to prepare and delivers health benefits – as well as being versatile and tasty.”
He said the book also provided information on cooking techniques, nutritional information and showed the major cuts of fallow venison.
“The recipes range from traditional favourites such as Fallow Venison Wellington to more exotic dishes such as Seared Miso Crusted Fallow Venison and Fallow Venison Carpaccio and demonstrate the variety of dishes that can be prepared with fallow venison.”
Ms Sugden said the RIRDC would continue to invest in research and development with industry to ensure it had a sustainable and profitable future.
Copies of the recipe book could be obtained through RIRDC by calling (02) 6271 4160 or visiting the website at www.rirdc.gov.au.
15 January, 2008
Students Find Gold In Geoscience Labs
Graduates and cadets from Geoscience Australia have been working side by side with secondary students exploring for gold in Western Australia.
The 40 or so students, from all over Australia, were in Canberra for the 2008 National Youth Science Forum and visited GA as part of the Forum when the interaction occurred.
During a half-day workshop the students used real data from the goldfields to conduct hands-on laboratory work to achieve their golden goal.
Students were guided by Geoscience Australia graduates, cadets and geoscientists who provided an insight into geoscience research and the variety of careers and opportunities available in the geosciences.
The students were shown how Geoscience Australia offered career opportunities, how its annual graduate intake worked and told about a new cadetship scheme which offered placements to students from the Australian National University and the Canberra Institute of Technology.
The National Youth Science Forum is a two-week program held in Canberra in January each year and is designed for students moving into Year 12 who were considering careers in science, engineering and technology.
15 January, 2008
Mint Makes Money From Old Coat
The Royal Australian Mint in Canberra has marked the new year with a special commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Australian Coat of Arms.
According to the Chief Executive of the Mint, Janine Murphy, Australia’s first Coat of Arms was granted by King Edward VII, seven years after Federation on 7 May 1908.
“It incorporates the Cross of St George in the centre with the familiar kangaroo and emu supporting the shield,” Mrs Murphy said.
“In 1912, it was replaced by a version incorporating the State emblems.”
She said the 2008 design paid tribute to the original Coat of Arms.
She said the new collectible coin bore the “C” for Canberra mintmark, which denoted its place of minting. “These coins will be the only coins in 2008 permitted to bear the ‘C’ mintmark symbol,” she said.
“I am proud to be unveiling our newest coin design,” Mrs Murphy said. “With this new coin, each Australian has the opportunity to hold a piece of history in their very own hands.”
Mrs Murphy said at the beginning of each year coin collectors lined up from 8am for the rare opportunity to be amongst the first people in the world to mint their own coin.
She said a lucky visitor to the Mint also had the honour of first operating the press, making history and taking home a very special memory and collectible coin.
The first 100 visitors through the door also took home a special memory; an official certificate proving they were among the first to visit the Royal Australian Mint in 2008.
The Mint is open to the public from 9am to 4pm on weekdays, and 10am to 4pm on weekends and public holidays. For more information, or to purchase a collectible coin commemorating the Coat of Arms’s centenary, visit the Mint at www.ramint.gov.au, or call 1300 652 020.
15 January, 2008
Job Finder Found Out For Good Job
Twenty years of helping people find new careers has won Centrelink’s Olivia Cruz of NSW an Appreciation Award for service.
Ms Cruz, who works from the Agency’s Career Information Centre in Haymarket , was previously with the former Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.
Ms Cruz, 56, said it was the small things which still made her day.
“A Central Coast woman visited us almost 20 years ago when she was in high school to look for career information,” Ms Cruz said.
“She recently returned with her two sons because she wanted them to have the same experience. It’s amazing how the Centre can create history for families, with all Centres open to anyone not just Centrelink customers.”
She said the Centres also offered career information programs for community groups, special needs organisations, mature-age people returning to work, parents and students. Topics covered included general skills in making career choices, preparing resumes and addressing job selection criteria.
Last year, more than 98,000 visitors used the free service through the Australia-wide network of 12 Centrelink Career Information Centres.
Ms Cruz said specialist staff were on hand to help customers choose a career that suited their interests and skills and information was available on the current labour market as well as Government services, community assistance programs and educational institutions as well as computerised, audio-visual and printed resources.
Centrelink’s Sydney Career Information Centre is located at 10 Parker Street, Haymarket and is open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 5pm. Other locations may be found at www.centrelink.gov.au
15 January, 2008
Research Council To Get Council
An independent advisory council has been appointed for the Australian Research Council.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, announced the establishment of the ARC Advisory Council which he said would provide advice to the Chief Executive Officer, Professor Margaret Sheil, on key research issues.
Senator Carr said the Advisory Council would be chaired by Professor Sheil and would provide non-binding strategic and policy advice on issues relating to the mission of the ARC, policy matters concerning innovation, research and research training, and matters associated with the evaluation of quality and outcomes in an international context.
“Research is not a political plaything to be toyed with at the whim of the Government,” Senator Carr said.
“Research is a matter of vital national importance, the outcomes of which have a significant impact on Australia’s ongoing prosperity and standing in the world.”
He said it was the Government’s responsibility to seek and respect the views of those individuals most able to provide valuable insight into the issues faced by researchers and shape an environment that would deliver the best possible results for all Australians.
In appointing the Advisory Council members, Senator Carr said he honoured a commitment to consult and obtain advice from people who reflected the breadth and diversity of Australia’s research interests.
He said the first ARC Advisory Council comprised individuals with backgrounds that encompassed academia and industry and represented a broad cross-section of research disciplines.
The members of the Council - each appointed for up to three years - are:
Professor Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University;
Dr Elizabeth Jazwinska, from Johnson & Johnson Research Pty Ltd;
Professor Stuart Macintyre, Ernst Scott Professor of History at the University of Melbourne;
Professor John Ralston, Director of the Ian Wark Research Institute at the University of South Australia;
Professor Margaret Seares, Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Western Australia; and
Professor Arun Sharma, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research/Commercialisation) at the Queensland University of Technology.
15 January, 2008
Cancer Campaign Puts Heat on Sun Exposure
The Commonwealth has launched a cancer prevention campaign aimed at warning young people of the danger of sun exposure.
Health Minister, Nicola Roxon officially opened the campaign saying it focused on the dangers of repeated and unprotected exposure to the sun.
“Preventing disease is pivotal to the Government’s health policy,” Ms Roxon said.
“A growing number of Australians are developing chronic diseases and dying prematurely from lifestyle-related illnesses which could be prevented. Skin cancer is preventable – provided we make smart and healthy choices when exposing our skin to the sun.”
She said the National Skin Cancer Awareness Campaign especially aimed to make young people aware of the five effective ways to protect themselves from the sun:
* seek shade;
* wear sun-protective clothing that covered as much of the body as possible;
* put on a broad-brimmed hat that shaded the face and neck;
* wear wrap-around sunglasses; and
* apply SPF30+ broad-spectrum water-resistant sunscreen every two hours.
Ms Roxon said that melanoma, the most life-threatening skin cancer, was the most common cancer in the 15 to 24 year age group, with 213 new cases in 2003.
She said melanoma was the tenth most common cause of cancer death overall in Australia, with a total of 1,146 deaths (382 females and 764 males) in 2003.
She said the 13 to 24 year age group was the primary target audience for the campaign because it was the group that had been least likely to use adequate protection, and had the highest frequency of sunburn.
“Cumulative sun exposure over years, even without sunburn, can result in skin damage, skin cancer and premature ageing,” Ms Roxon said.
“As repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation increases the risk of getting skin cancer, the campaign will focus people’s attention on the amount of time they spend unprotected in the sun.”
She said the Government’s campaign would feature graphic television and print advertising that reinforced the vital message that young people in particular were vulnerable to life-threatening skin cancers.
15 January, 2008
ASIC Resolution for New Year Campaign
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is using the concept of New Year resolutions as a means of improving people’s financial positions.
Acting Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Delia Rickard outlined six financial resolutions she said could make a big impact on personal finances.
“Just a little effort can make a big impact on your finances,” Ms Rickard said. “Add some, or all, of these six simple financial resolutions to your list for 2008 and see what progress you can make in a year.”
The resolutions are:
* Work out your financial goals and objectives:
Once you know what you’re trying to achieve with your savings and investments, it will make it much easier to work out a plan and stick to it. You may want to set up a more secure or comfortable retirement, pay for your children’s education, or just want to open up more choices about how you spend your life.
A financial adviser can help you work out your financial goals - make sure your financial adviser is licensed by ASIC.
* Take stock of your financial situation and consider diversification:
Most Australians have money invested in one or more super funds, and many also own shares or an investment property. It’s important to take stock of your financial situation from time to time and the new year is a good opportunity to do that.
By working out what you own and what you owe, you can work out how much you can afford to invest.
You should also consider diversification, which is spreading your investments so you don’t have “all your eggs in the one basket”.
* Control your debts: Getting your debts under control is the first step to taking charge of your finances, and credit cards are one of the most expensive ways you can borrow money. Use ASIC’s online budget planner to work out a budget that allows you to make more than the minimum payment, and stop using your card.
Use alternatives to credit such as cash, EFTPOS or debit cards and lay-by for the post-Christmas sales.
* Learn more about investing:
Investing can be fun, and there are many organisations running courses ranging from lunchtime information sessions run by the Australian Securities Exchange through to university courses. Many adult education centres and evening colleges run courses on investing basics.
There are also some excellent websites with information about investing.
*Watch out for financial scams:
While most Australians invest confidently and successfully, it’s always good to know how to spot, and avoid, a financial scam.
Warning signs include offers that are urgent, secret or something involving less risk and effort than real investments. Remember the golden rule, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a lie.
* Get the most from your superannuation:
Keep as few super accounts as possible. Combining your super accounts could save you fees and charges, and help you keep track of your super.
Make sure your fund knows your Tax File Number. It helps you make sure your super is taxed at the special low rate and ensures you are not subject to extra restrictions on making contributions.
Find out about what investment options your super fund offers. You may find you can select an investment option that is better suited to your stage in life.
15 January, 2008
Wheat Experts Get Ear of Government
A committee of experts is to be set up to advise the Government on management issues for the Australian wheat industry following reforms to its marketing arrangements.
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Burke, said effective delivery of industry development functions such as strategic planning, receival standards, grains varietal development and generic promotion were vital to the industry’s long-term success.
“Historically, many of these services were provided by the current single desk holder, AWB International, which will no longer hold the monopoly for wheat exports once the Government’s reforms are implemented,” Mr Burke said.
“The establishment of the expert group heralds the beginning of the end of AWBI’s export monopoly. The expert group will advise me on how these critical functions can best be delivered.”
Mr Burke said many in the $4.3 billion industry already recognised the need for change in the delivery of the wheat industry’s development functions.
“This expert group will provide the chance for senior people across the industry to contribute to these reforms,” he said.
“A priority for the group will be to prepare and circulate a public discussion paper to ensure that everyone in the industry has an opportunity to comment on these issues.”
The group will report to the Minister by 24 April, 2008.
Mr Burke said advertisements calling for expressions of interest in joining the Industry Expert Group have been run in rural and metropolitan newspapers with the deadline for registering 18 January.
The terms of reference for the group can be found on the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website at www.daff.gov.au
15 January, 2008
Schools Step Up To Meet Walk Challenge
The winners have been announced in the Department of Health and Ageing’s “Around Australia in 40 Days Challenge”.
Minister for Health Nicola Roxon congratulated the winners saying the event was open to teams of high school students in years 7, 8 and 9, and attracted about 35,000 students from more than 300 schools.
“For 40 days they recorded the number of steps they took each day and entered them online,” Ms Roxon said. “(This) let students see how far they had travelled on a virtual route around Australia.”
She said a quarter of Australian children were overweight or obese and physical activity – along with healthy eating – could help to maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of poor health later in life.
“Promoting a healthy relationship with food and exercise early in a child’s life is part of our plan to tackle the obesity problem in Australia,” Ms Roxon said.
“As a major first step, we will raise the status of obesity to a National Health Priority Area, ensuring it is at the forefront of the national health agenda”
She said healthy and active children were more likely to grow into healthy and active adults, reducing the burden on their loved ones and on the health system.
Ms Roxon congratulated all the students and schools who took part in the Challenge, the winner from each State and Territory receiving $10,000 in sporting equipment from Hart Sport, and the runners-up received $2500 in sporting equipment.
The winning schools were:
Winner - Brindabella Christian College, Lyneham;
Runner-up - Merici College, Braddon.
Winner - St Paul’s College, Walla Walla;
Runner-up - Bulli High School, Bulli.
Winner - Matthew Flinders Girls Secondary College, Geelong;
Runner-up - Wesley College, Glen Waverley.
Winner - San Sisto College, Carina;
Runner-up - Texas State School, Texas.
Winner - Loreto College, Marryatville;
Runner-up - Tyndale Christian School, Salisbury East.
Winner - Mount Lawley Senior High School, Mt Lawley;
Runner-up - Christmas Island District High School, Christmas Island.
Winner - Flinders Island District High School, Whitemark;
Runner-up - Clarence High School, Bellerive.
Winner - St Philips College, Alice Springs;
Runner-up - Taminmin High School, Humpty Doo.
15 January, 2008
High-Tech Centre for Materials Innovation
An $82 million Defence Materials Technology Centre is to be established in Melbourne to drive innovation in Defence technology.
Announced jointly by the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, and the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, the new Centre is to be a collaborative venture with Australian industry and the research sector.
The Ministers said it would focus on four research programs:- air platforms, maritime platforms, armour applications and propulsion systems.
Mr Snowdon said a number of significant outcomes would be delivered through the Centre.
“The Centre will deliver improved armour protection for military personnel carriers - vital for the protection of Australian troops deployed around the world - and new high-tech materials for use in major Defence acquisitions such as the Joint Strike Fighter.
“To nurture the innovation needed to maintain Defence capability and to address the skills shortage in this area, an education and training program will also be designed. The goal of this program will be to produce engineers and scientists with skills attractive to the Defence industry and other research providers.”
Mr Snowdon said small to medium enterprises would benefit from the Centre through the establishment of a technology transfer program to help them compete in the global manufacturing market.
Senator Carr said the new Centre marked an important milestone in the Government’s commitment to improving Defence capability through innovation.
“The Centre will enhance the nation’s Defence capability and Australia’s international reputation for innovation by bringing together the combined expertise and resources of key industry representatives, universities and publicly funded research agencies,” Senator Carr said.
He said a key element of the collaboration, and a cornerstone of the research, would be the adoption and application of world leading materials engineering capabilities. He said tese would be used to develop, integrate and validate new materials and manufacturing technologies across existing and planned Defence platforms and structures.
“The technology transfer program will ensure that the Centre’s benefits will spread well beyond the Defence industry,” Senator Carr said.
“It will assist areas as diverse as civilian aerospace and power generation, as well as in general manufacturing industries.”
He said the Centre would primarily be located in Victoria and would receive Australian Government funding of $30 million and a further $52 million from the collaborative partners which included major companies such as BAE Systems Australia, GKN Aerospace, BlueScope Steel, Surface Technology Coatings, Thales Australia and the Cooperative Research Centre for Advanced Composite Structures.
15 January, 2008
Bargaining brings 4.4%
The Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining report for the September quarter has been released showing an average annualised wage increase for Australian Public Service agreements lodged between 1 October 2006 and 30 September 2007 as 4.4 per cent.
This was up from 4.2 per cent in the previous 12 months and compares with the private sector equivalent of 3.8 per cent year on year.
The report prompted the Community and Public Sector Union to declare that public servants were getting above average pay increases.
630 fill Defence gap
The Gap Year program to give school leavers paid opportunities to try out careers in the Australian Defence Force generated more than 4260 inquiries and 1318 applications by 20 December last year.
Defence processed acceptances for approximately 630 applicants.
The program initially offered 100 positions in the Navy, 500 in the Army, and 100 in the Air Force. From 2009, Navy would offer 250 positions, Army 500 and Air Force 250.
IPAA minds to meet
The Institute of Public Administration Australia (ACT Division) is to hold a “Meeting of the Minds at Ainslie Football Club on Friday 28 March.
Some of the topics to be covered include: “An inventive look at rhetoric and reality in the public sector” and “The future – for our nation, for public service”.
Inquiries to the IPAA on 6251 6060.
ATO assures on floods
The Australian Tax Office has assured those affected by the recent floods in Queensland and NSW that they don’t need to worry about their tax at this time. Acting Tax Commissioner, Bruce Quigley said anyone having problems meeting their tax obligations because of the floods, or who had recently received a letter or notice from the ATO, should call 13 11 42 to make arrangements to meet their individual circumstances.
A photographic exhibition coming to the Australian National Maritime Museum documents the dangerous industry of shipbreaking in Bangladesh.
Photographer Andrew Bell visited the mudflats on the Bay of Bengal where more than 40,000 workers dismantle unwanted oil tankers, passenger liners and fishing boats.
Steel Beach - Shipbreaking in Bangladesh opens to the public on 8 February 2008 and will remain on view until 30 March. Admission will be free.
ACCC meets costs
+-The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has consented to orders in the Federal Court that the remaining parts of an appeal against the Australian Competition Tribunal’s 2005 decision on the Moomba to Sydney Pipeline Access Arrangement be dismissed.
The ACCC has agreed to the payment of costs of $370,000 to EAPL the pipeline owner.