SearchArchives for January 200927 January, 2009
PS staff cuts are jobs well doneThe Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner has claimed that most of the Government’s Public Service job-cuts have been realised without wholesale PS sackings or redundancies.
He said the majority of Agencies and Departments had managed to absorb the cuts and where some had lost staff, others had picked them up.
"Canberra has had a very over-heated job market until very recently,” Mr Tanner said. “It's had the lowest unemployment rate of just about anywhere in the country.
“In the Budget last year we reduced it a little bit by a few thousand. Even if there are slight reductions in employment in the Public Service, it’s still going to be at very strong levels compared with five or 10 years ago."
He warned however that the Government would continue to look for savings.
"I am of course the guardian of the meat axe and we have done a lot of work to reduce inefficiency, reduce spending and so on," he said.
“It is hard going.”
"We did produce very substantial savings - about $5 billion worth of spending cuts in the budget last year - and we've got further efficiency cuts this year; the second stage of the razor gang."
27 January, 2009
PS chimes in for gongsPublic Servants featured prominently in the Australia Day awards this week with three becoming Members of the Order of Australia and 15 receiving Public Service Medals.
The honours were announced by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.
MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA
Peter Francis CONRAN
Former Prime Minister’s Office, ACT
For service to the executive arm of government, particularly through advisory roles and to strategic policy development and implementation, and to intergovernmental relations at both state and federal levels.
Mr Conran was Secretary to Cabinet in the Office of the Prime Minister from 2003 to 2007.
Alastair MacDonald MILROY
Australian Crime Commission, NSW
For service to national crime investigation and prevention, particularly through the Australian Crime Commission, and to the fostering and development of law enforcement and government inter-agency relations and co-operation.
Mr Milroy is Chief Executive of the Australian Crime Commission until February.
Gregory Lawrence URWIN PSM
Deceased, late of ACT
For service to international relations through contributions to the promotion of regional co-operation and development as Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Mr Urwin was Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat from 2003 to 2008.
PUBLIC SERVICE MEDAL
For outstanding public service in assisting the effective transition of migrants and refugees into the Australian community.
Ms Axarlis-Coulter is seen as a leader in multicultural servicing at both the national and state level. She has provided quality advice and innovative strategies to assist Centrelink clients and has been instrumental in developing protocols for the servicing of refugees.
Ms Axarlis-Coulter was a driving force behind Centrelink’s participation in the organisation of the African Resettlement Conference held in Melbourne in 2007 which brought together key stakeholders including community leaders to communicate, share information and make recommendations to support the settlement, training and employment of the African Australian communities.
She has strengthened Centrelink’s language services capability through the expansion of the agency’s interpreter panel with a focus on new and emerging communities. Ms Axarlis-Coulter’s representation on inter-agency bodies and her personal efforts have ensured that issues facing clients and communities from diverse cultural and language backgrounds are at the forefront of decision making in Centrelink, Victoria.
Paul Geoffrey BURNARD,
Foreign Affairs and Trade, ACT
For outstanding public service in advancing Australia's foreign relations in the strategic, economic and security policy fields.
Details not available at the request of Mr Burnard.
Michael Joseph CALLAGHAN
For outstanding public service in the reform of the financial and superannuation sectors in Australia.
Mr Callaghan has made an outstanding contribution to the reform of the financial and superannuation sectors in Australia.
His personal contributions to the Wallis inquiry into the Australian financial system, the former government's response to the Asian financial crisis, the enhancement of working arrangements between the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and reforms to superannuation are substantial achievements.
His work has contributed to the robustness of financial institutions in Australia and their ability to weather recent financial turmoil.
Mr Callaghan has also provided high level strategic direction of the overall economic policy agenda and its interface with the realities of the political debate, particularly in his roles as Chief of Staff to the former Treasurer and as an Executive Director in the Treasury.
Mark Ernest CUNLIFFE
Defence , ACT
For outstanding public service in the provision of high level legal advice in the Department of Defence, particularly in relation to Australian Defence Force deployments overseas and reform of the military justice system.
As Head of the Legal Division in the Department of Defence Mr Cunliffe has taken the quality, usefulness and strategic awareness of the legal support provided by his team to a new level.
He provides high level legal advice to ministers, the Chief of the Defence Force and the Department covering a broad spectrum of complex and sensitive issues, including international and humanitarian law on military and peacekeeping operations and many legal issues.
He has been closely involved in supporting the planning and conduct of Australian Defence Force operations in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan and in major reform of the military justice system.
He has championed initiatives that have improved the transparency, accountability and effectiveness of the Department’s external legal panel arrangements so that they are now identified by others as a model for what can be achieved.
Jennifer Anne GRANGER
Australian Taxation Office, ACT
For outstanding public service in the administration of taxation in Australia and internationally, particularly in the area of compliance.
As the Second Commissioner, Compliance in the Australian Taxation Office Ms Granger has been instrumental in delivering greater transparency and openness of ATO’s compliance activities.
She has undertaken extensive engagement with over 10,000 stakeholders and developed an annual compliance program that demonstrates that the ATO has a balanced, economy-wide approach to its compliance activities.
As a result of her work, the ATO has become more externally focused and this has led to significant improvements in governance arrangements and administrative processes and enabled the ATO to become more efficient and cost effective.
She led the overall strategy and collaborative arrangements for the development of e-tax which is now used by over 2 million Australians and has also made a major contribution to international activities in the areas of fraud, evasion and global tax compliance.
Louise Helen HAND
Foreign Affairs, ACT
For outstanding public service as Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in leading a whole-of-government approach to inter-agency work which has delivered significant outcomes for Australia and Indonesia.
As Deputy Head of Mission at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta Ms hand has demonstrated outstanding judgment, interpersonal skills, drive and energy in managing and improving Australia’s relations with Indonesia.
She led the development of a whole-of-government management approach to interagency work which is highly effective, reflects best practice and has delivered significant and ongoing outcomes across a broad agenda.
Her sustained efforts have contributed to a substantial reduction in illegal fishing in Australia’s northern waters in the last 2 years with key results including a significant reduction in sightings, interceptions and apprehensions of vessels fishing illegally and Indonesian co-operation to undertake a public information campaign to raise awareness about illegal fishing issues.
Dr Thomas Joseph HATTON
For outstanding public service in leading ground breaking research into current and future water availability and management in Australia.
For the past 20 years, Dr Hatton has led research and development in the fields of salinity and water management and his work has directly underpinned national environmental policy development and implementation.
He has he played a key leadership role in the Murray-Darling Basin Sustainable Yields project which is the most comprehensive and technically challenging water modelling project ever undertaken in Australia.
His efforts have positively changed the way in which CSIRO conducts its scientific research, collaborates with partners in multiple jurisdictions, communicates to the wider community and delivers policy to meet the needs of the Australian Government.
Vincent Joseph LAZZARO
Australian Bureau of Statistics, Victoria
For outstanding public service in extending and significantly improving the statistical information available for decision making in Australia.
As Director of the Victorian office of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Mr Lazzaro guided a relationship between the Victorian office of the ABS and the Victorian Government which has become a model for productive statistical collaboration.
His achievements include developing a network of out-posted ABS officers in the Victorian Government to develop the ‘Growing Victoria Together’ initiative which created a set of valuable new statistical measures that have underpinned the targeting and implementation of the Victorian Government’s 10 year strategic vision.
He also played a key role in the development of ‘Community Indicators Victoria’ as a sustainable platform for the dissemination of a comprehensive suite of local community well-being indicators.
Jacqueline Sue McRAE
Prime Minister and Cabinet, ACT
For outstanding public service in managing the planning, operational readiness and delivery phases of the Australia 2020 Summit and APEC 2007.
Ms McRae played a key leadership role in the planning, administration and logistics for the Australia 2020 Summit and APEC 2007.
Her responsibilities at the summit included establishing and managing the processes for consideration of nominations and over 8,000 written submissions, developing an effective interactive summit website and arranging transport, catering and a workforce.
As Deputy Head of the APEC Task Force, Ms McRae was involved in all aspects of the event.
She built and fostered close working relationships that crossed jurisdictional consultation, coordination and co-operation and her energy, dedication and high level strategic planning and administrative skills were crucial to the success of the events.
David Joseph MARTINEK
Defence Materiel Organisation, NSW
For outstanding public service in the field of aircraft corrosion control and management.
As a technical officer in the Tactical Fighter Systems Program Office in DMO at the RAAF Base Williamtown, Mr Martinek has responsibility for the management of environmental degradation issues associated with the RAAF F/A-18 fleet.
In this role he established an Environmental Degradation Management system that is a benchmark for the in-service EDM management of fixed wing air platforms and is developing and publishing the first F/A-18 Corrosion Prevention Control Plan which is a ‘one-stop-shop’ manual for engineers and maintainers that can be easily referenced to ensure best practice EDM techniques are used.
He also implemented a maintenance system for the F/A-18s which reduced annual aircraft down time from 41 days to 5 days for one aspect of the aircraft.
His corrosion management strategies were estimated to have saved $159,000 in repairs and increased aircraft availability by an estimated 127 days.
Nina Alexandrovna MITROPOLSKAYA
Australian Trade Commission, Moscow
For outstanding public service in facilitating trade and investment opportunities for Australian businesses in Russia and strengthening the Australia-Russia bilateral relationship.
As the senior locally-engaged employee at the Australian Trade Commission in Moscow Ms Mitropolskaya has made an outstanding contribution to the Australia-Russia bilateral relationship over 20 years.
She has assisted in facilitating billions of dollars worth of Australian exports and investments to Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union and played a leading role in trade facilitation activities around APEC when a major business delegation accompanied President Putin to Australia.
She organized a program of visits and business networking opportunities for Russian mining, agribusiness and food and beverage companies that led to direct business outcomes for Australian companies.
She also organised an Australian agribusiness delegation to Russia and Ukraine.
The quadrupling of exports to the Russian Federation in recent years can be directly attributed to the efforts of Ms Mitropolskaya.
Craig Andrew STOREN
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, ACT
For outstanding public service as Chief Finance Officer in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, particularly the implementation of significant financial and personnel changes and delivery of a complex budget package.
As Chief Finance Officer in the DEEWR Mr Storen saw his Budget increase from $21.7 billion to $44.8 billion following the Machinery of Government changes that followed the new government in December 2007.
As a result, he faced considerable challenges integrating the incompatible financial management and business processes from the old departments into a single financial management system.
His financial knowledge, open and collaborative working style and ability to translate policy positions and apply them to complex financial systems and structures were crucial to this process.
He devised a new accommodation strategy for approximately 6,000 staff in locations around Australia and led the preparation and delivery of the ‘Education Revolution’ and changes to employment services.
Alan Leslie STRAY
Australian Transport Safety Bureau, ACT
For outstanding public service in improving aviation safety in Australia and Indonesia.
As a Commonwealth air safety investigator since 1987, Mr Stray has led approximately 100 significant air safety investigations and associated safety actions in Australia.
His personal efforts have developed Australia’s reputation nationally and internationally as a world leader in aviation safety.
He played a key role in the investigation into the crash of the Garuda aircraft in Indonesia in March 2007, including the retrieval of flight data and cockpit voice recorders and their subsequent analysis.
He wrote what was received as a credible final report of the investigation.
His contribution has been instrumental in changing attitudes to aviation safety
David John TUNE
Prime Minister and Cabinet, ACT
For outstanding public service in the development of significant economic and social policy reforms in a way that models whole-of-Government service.
As Deputy Secretary in the Treasury Mr Tune made an outstanding contribution to the Council of Australian Governments reform agenda.
He was responsible for driving reforms in education and workforce participation as well as major changes to Commonwealth-State funding arrangements in the areas of Specific Purpose Payments and National Partnerships Payments.
COAG’s reform agenda has benefited from Mr Tune’s energy, intellect, leadership and his ability to marshal support across government for challenging policy reforms.
His work has delivered major gains to the Australian economy and improved policy outcomes and he also played a key role in developing major taxation policies, including an overhaul of family and childcare assistance.
Raelene Susan VIVIAN
Australian taxation Office, ACT
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of significant reforms to the taxation arrangements governing superannuation.
As Deputy Commissioner of Superannuation in the ATO in 2007, Ms Vivian was given the task of implementing the government’s plan to simplify and streamline superannuation in Australia.
As a result she was required to implement the new laws into the superannuation administration system, work with Treasury to ensure the policy was administratively feasible and ensure the Australian community and superannuation industry were prepared for the changes.
She created the Super Simplification Program which involved developing a robust governance framework; processes and guidelines for budget scrutiny; complex technical specifications; multi-layered reporting to government; and risk and issue management procedures.
She also developed the ‘Better Super’ campaign to introduce the changes to the community.
27 January, 2009
Recruitment measures measure upThe Australian Public Service Commission has published a guide for Agencies and Departments to assist them measure the effectiveness of their recruitment processes.
Entitled Recruitment: Do you measure up? the Guide addresses the Commission’s belief that many agencies are failing to get the most from their recruitment efforts.
It identifies and explains a number of measures that can be used across the APS to evaluate recruitment practices.
According to the Guide, the search for quality staff in the APS has become more competitive, recruitment advertising has become more expensive and although the APS is being promoted as a great place to work with family friendly and flexible policies, “this investment … is being undermined by poor internal recruitment practices”
The Guide complements a recent audit report that assessed recruitment processes in the APS as well as other documents published by the APSC.
“There is no ‘right’ list of related measures for an agency to analyse,” the Guide says.
“Agencies should take a holistic perspective to measurement by selecting a variety of measures (such as cost, time and satisfaction) and setting targets that are most relevant to their particular circumstances, business outcomes and data available for analysis.”
With respect to cost, the Guide says higher costs may be driven by process inefficiencies, poor technology, ineffective advertising, excessive allowances or travel expenses, or other factors.
“Recruitment costs must be considered in light of the potential costs and benefits of acquiring high–quality candidates,” it says.
It recommends a target of 45 days between the beginning of the recruitment process and the new starter commencing for non-SES positions and under the heading of “satisfaction” says any employee who voluntarily leaves within the first year of service can be interpreted as a poor recruitment decision.
The Guide says that the relevance and usefulness of the recruitment measures can be improved if aligned to specific business objectives or strategic initiatives.
The new guide and other related publications can be accessed at the APSC website, www.apsc.gov.au
27 January, 2009
Career websites on ladder of successAustralian Public Service Agencies have performed well in the 2008 e-Career Awards with four taking gold awards for their recruitment websites.
Founder of the awards, Dr Ann Villiers, said the Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs Service, CSIRO and the Australian Bureau of Statistics provided “excellent career information” online.
“These Agencies take a one-stop-shop approach to providing career information on their websites,” Dr Villiers said.
“They explain and illustrate what career paths are available, provide helpful information to job applicants, and make it easy to locate information needed to make career and job decisions.”
She said web pages were rated for home page identification, career information, job vacancy information, corporate information, and clarity and access.
She said more work was needed to improve Government Career websites, as 50 per cent of websites judged came out on a bronze level, the lowest of the gold, silver and bronze categories.
“This research establishes that Government career websites are, in general, neither greatly informative nor especially creative,” Dr Villiers said.
“Most websites would benefit from some strategic attention that focuses on the purpose of a career website and how it supports HR and business objectives.
“We know what the top attraction attributes for the Public Service are, so we might expect agencies to use their career websites to highlight how staff can make a difference, to describe career pathways, outline development opportunities, and help applicants prepare quality applications.”
27 January, 2009
Defence sets sights on problem solvingA new organisation has been established in the Department of Defence to integrate and improve the management of complex defence procurement projects.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, and Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement, Greg Combet, announced the initiative saying they expected the new organisation to resolve ongoing problems with purchasing and project management.
The new organisation, to be known as the Defence Systems Integration Technical Advisory, is to be a joint venture between the Defence Materiel Organisation and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation,
It is expected to enhance the way integration risks are identified, understood and managed.
Mr Snowdon and Mr Combet said systems integration issues caused significant delays in major defence acquisitions and platform upgrades.
“This new venture has been established to enhance the way that integration risks are identified, understood and managed,” Mr Snowdon said.
Mr Combet said the new unit would monitor and assess integration risks and provide advice to project teams and decision-makers.
He said the unit’s work was also expected to include examination of complex systems integration issues, performing systems engineering analysis and evaluating alternative capability solutions.
“It is expected to contribute significantly to these organisations’ ability to deliver first-rate capabilities to the Australian Defence Force, on time and on budget,” Mr Combet said.
“In line with recommendations of both the Kinnaird and Mortimer reviews, it is also expected to further enhance the interaction between DMO and DSTO and contribute to Defence’s risk reduction efforts in the early stages of major projects leading up to final Government approval.”
He said the new unit would be led by Dr ‘Nanda’ Nandagopal, who has worked for Defence since 1989, and would initially be based at DSTO Edinburgh in South Australia.
27 January, 2009
Commission to review Commissions ActThe Australian Law Reform Commission is to review the Royal Commissions Act 1902.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, said he had asked the Commission to look into a number of issues including whether some inquiries could be better served by less formal alternatives.
“Royal Commissions have been an important means of inquiry and source of advice to Government since Federation,” Mr McClelland said.
“But they have tended to be highly technical, time consuming and expensive.”
He said the inquiry by John Clarke into the Dr Mohammed Haneef case had brought the issue into the spotlight.
“Mr Clarke indicated in his report that having powers under the Royal Commissions Act would not have overcome some particular difficulties raised in that inquiry,” he said.
“Less formal inquiries in other areas may nonetheless benefit from having some of the powers of a Royal Commission, including the ability to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents as well as protection from suit for defamation.”
President of the ALRC, Professor David Weisbrot, welcomed the review saying the Commission would focus on a number of matters.
Professor Weisbrot said those issues included whether an alternative form or forms of Commonwealth executive inquiry with statutory foundations was needed; the need for special powers for national security inquiries; finding an appropriate balance between powers for persons undertaking inquiries and protections of the rights and liberties of persons interested in them; and information disclosure.
The Commissioner in charge of the new inquiry, Professor Les McCrimmon, said there were a number of lessons to be learnt from problems thrown up by recent inquiries.
“These difficulties have included the power to compel the provision of information, a lack of power to investigate breaches of the Act, the adequacy of penalties for a failure to comply with the Act, and the ability of Royal Commissions to communicate information about unlawful behaviour to law enforcement bodies,” Professor McCrimmon said.
In carrying out its review, the Commission is to identify and consult with key stakeholders, including Commonwealth, State and Territory Agencies.
Its final report is to be completed by 30 October 2009.
27 January, 2009
Course on course for human resourcesExpressions of Interest have been invited for participants in the Australian Public Service Commission’s Human Resource Capability Development Program.
Created specifically for human resource practitioners and managers in the APS, the HR Capability Development Program is based on the HR Capability Development Model and has been conducted in Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne a number of times.
According to the program coordinators, demand for places often exceeds the number available.
The program is described as practical in its approach and design with a focus on developing HR skills. It does not explore HR theory in depth or focus on the theoretical or operational aspects of different HR practices but instead helps participants develop the capabilities necessary to understand key business issues in their agencies and how those issues affected HR services and initiatives.
Participants in the program learn how to build effective working relationships; be persuasive; influence the HR agenda; develop and present business cases; and evaluate the outcome of their initiatives.
The course is divided into two levels, a Foundation program that develops fundamental capabilities of HR practitioners and an Extension program for more senior and experienced practitioners.
More details of the program can be obtained from the APSC at www.apsc.gov.au
27 January, 2009
Masses tune into broadcasting paperA discussion paper on the future of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) has attracted over 2,400 submissions which have been posted on the internet.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, released the submissions saying the number and quality confirmed the ABC and SBS were two of Australia's most important and loved public institutions.
“The great wealth of commentary made to this public consultation is a testament to the passion Australians have for the ABC and SBS,” Senator Conroy said.
“These submissions will help shape our national broadcasters over the next decade and ensure their future strength and independence as they continue to play a central role in Australia's emerging digital landscape.”
He said the Government announced the public consultation with the release of a discussion paper, ABC and SBS: Towards a digital future, in October 2008.
He said the consultation called for submissions on how the ABC and SBS could best respond to the challenges and opportunities of the emerging digital, online and global media environment.
“I expect the submissions will spur some lively debate about the future of national broadcasting.”
Senator Conroy said he had noted the interest a number of submissions showed in the national broadcasters providing a diversity of high quality programming and content, including children's programming, Australian drama and content in languages other than English.
He said the Government would consider the submissions in the next funding round for the ABC and SBS and consider policies for the long-term future of public broadcasting.
The submissions were available for viewing at www.dbcde.gov.au/abcsbsreview
27 January, 2009
Farm researchers thrive in IndonesiaThe Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research has marked the 25th anniversary of its association with Indonesia by attending a reception in the country, hosted by Australia’s Ambassador Bill Farmer.
Chief Executive of ACIAR, Peter Core said the Centre had a broad partnership in agricultural research with Indonesia and was investing almost $11 million in projects and training activities this year.
Mr Core said the partnership included collaborative programs across provinces and with the three main Ministries – forestry, fisheries and agriculture.
Ambassador Farmer said Indonesia was ACIAR’s largest partner country, reflecting the strong levels of cooperation in reducing poverty and developing agriculture, fisheries and forestry in Indonesia.
“The work ranges from improving export market access for commercial Javanese mangosteen growers, through to improving basic food security for subsistence highland communities in Papua,” he said.
Mr Core said ACIAR had helped over 50 Indonesians complete post-graduate studies in Australia, many of whom were now making a “valuable contribution to Indonesia’s economic and social development.”
Mr Core and Mr Farmer acknowledged the contribution made by ACIAR stakeholder manager, Mirah Nuryati, during her 17 years working for ACIAR in Indonesia.
Ms Nuryati had been awarded the Australian Public Service Medal for her outstanding public service in the development of collaborative agricultural research projects between Australia and Indonesia.
27 January, 2009
New citizens rock up on rollThousands of the nation’s newest citizens have enrolled to vote at Australia Day citizenship ceremonies around the country.
Australian Electoral Commission staff attended the ceremonies to assist the new Australians with their enrolments.
Newly-appointed Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn, said the new citizens would join 9,500 who made the same commitment to Australian democracy on Australia Day last year.
“It’s important to stress that electoral enrolment does not happen automatically as a result of becoming an Australian citizen,” Commissioner Killesteyn said.
“By completing one enrolment form you register to vote in Federal, State or Territory and Local Government elections.”
He said he looked forward to seeing Australia’s newest citizens “embrace our democratic system” and reminded all eligible Australians to enrol to vote and to make sure their enrolment details were up-to-date.
“It’s compulsory for all Australian citizens aged 18 years and older to enrol to vote, as you cannot vote in Australian elections unless you are enrolled,” he said.
Commissioner Killesteyn said to enrol or update enrolment details and addresses, an enrolment form needed to be completed.
He said forms were available from any AEC office, Australia Post, Medicare, Centrelink and online at www.aec.gov.au
The website has information translated into 21 languages and contact details for the telephone interpreter service.
27 January, 2009
Race is on for sports awardsThe Australian Institute of Sport has announced the finalists for its 2008 Athlete of the Year Award.
Six Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games stars are in the running for the top sporting award.
Matthew Cowdrey (Paralympic swimming), Heath Francis (Paralympic track and field), Anna Meares (track cycling), Brenton Rickard (swimming), Jared Tallent (track and field) and Ken Wallace (flatwater canoe) are finalists for the honour.
AIS director, Professor Peter Fricker, said Ms Meares, who made a comeback from a neck injury to claim a silver medal in Beijing, was vying for back-to-back titles after sharing the award with walker Nathan Deakes last year.
However, Professor Fricker said Ms Meares faced strong competition from the other five contenders, all of whom won multiple medals in Beijing.
“The Olympic and Paralympic Games were the pinnacle events of last year and the AIS played a major role in Australia’s success on the greatest sporting stage,” he said.
“The AIS continues to be a world leader working with sports to develop elite talent and the class of 2008 reflects this high standard.”
He congratulated all the finalists for serving their sports and country with “such distinction.”
In other awards, Olympic sailing gold medalists, Nathan Wilmot and Malcolm Page, are in the running for their third AIS Team of the Year title in four years.
The 2008 AIS Awards will be presented at the AIS Arena in Canberra on Wednesday 4 February, 2009.
27 January, 2009
Actors play part on new stampsAustralia Post has released its 2009 Australian Legends postage stamps featuring four academy award-winning Australian actors Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Geoffrey Rush.
Managing Director of Australia Post, Graeme John, said the 2009 Australia Post Legends were admired around the world for their achievements.
“These four outstanding Australians have captured the imagination of millions of people around the world with their award-winning performances,” Mr John said.
The actors were honoured at Australia Day events, each presented with 24-carat gold replicas of their stamps.
Ms Kidman said she hoped her children would one-day have an opportunity to stick her stamp on their mail.
“I want my children to live here at certain times of their life and see how wonderful it is,” she said.
“It would be lovely for them to lick a stamp, put it on an envelope and say ‘that’s my Mum’.”
Ms Blanchett said she was very excited about featuring on a stamp.
“I am utterly, deeply, humbled and chuffed by the fact that I’m a stamp,” she said.
“I’m going to be licked by millions of Australians and I can’t wait.”
Ms Blanchett said she was proud to help bring the value of the arts in Australia into the public arena.
Mr Rush said he was delighted about being on a stamp, having grown up in the 50s and 60s when “the only person on a stamp was the Queen.”
“It’s a classy thing to know you’re on security paper,” he said.
The four actors featured on eight 55 cent stamps, a first day cover and a set of
A biography, Shining Lights: Australian Legends of the Screen, by entertainment writer Michael Adams, accompanies the stamp issue.
The stamps and book could be purchased online at www.auspost.com.au
27 January, 2009
Film shines light on Australian tourismThe blockbuster film Australia has managed to keep the country’s profile high around the world despite the global financial crisis, according to the managing director of Tourism Australia, Geoff Buckley.
Mr Buckley said editorial coverage about the country as a travel destination generated as a result of Baz Luhrmann’s film and Tourism Australia’s campaign had already reached a combined audience of over 580 million people.
“Our international offices are reporting very significant interest in the country from media and travel companies as the film opens around the world and Tourism Australia’s ‘Come Walkabout’ campaign rolls out,” he said.
“Whilst we are realistic that the global financial crisis will result in a decline in international visitors to Australia in 2009, we believe that by keeping Australia front of mind amongst consumers we can minimise the impact of the crisis this year and lay a foundation for a return to growth in 2010.”
Mr Buckley said columnist for The News of The World, Robbie Collins told his readers, “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and when you get home you’ll be straight online, looking for cheap deals to Sydney.”
He said visitor numbers to the Tourism Australia website from markets where the movie and campaign were released had increased by about 17 per cent from the previous December, a traditionally slow month.
“The December figures are the highest numbers in 12 months, and we expect these figures to continue to rise during our traditionally busy period between January and March,” Mr Buckley said.
He said Australia had ranked No. 1 in each of the three weeks since opening in Spain, Sweden and Denmark and still ranked near the top of the box office in other key markets including Germany, France, the UK and New Zealand.
The film is yet to open in major markets like Japan, Italy and China.
“To date tens of millions of people around the world have spent their hard-earned dollars to go to a cinema to see a film that showcases the land and the people of Australia. That is a big win for the country,” Mr Buckley said.
“In just one case in the US an Aussie specialist travel agent took a group of clients to the movie and by the end of the evening had booked a $50,000 trip to Australia.”
27 January, 2009
School gardens get seeding fundsUp to 190 Government primary schools across Australia are to take part in a program promoting the benefits of growing, preparing and sharing fresh food.
The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program is to be funded by the Commonwealth to help tackle childhood obesity by giving children hands-on experience in healthy eating.
The program’s namesake, Stephanie Alexander, said the program had been operating in Victorian schools for seven years and had made children more aware of the natural world and healthy foods.
“They consistently try new foods and new dishes with interest and curiousity, they handle tools in the garden and knives in the kitchen with respect and with confidence, they approach both garden and kitchen classes with enthusiasm and anticipation,” she said.
“The garden becomes a place of beauty and is visited constantly by the students even when they do not have classes, and they love to cook and take pride in presenting beautiful platters of food to be set out in the centre of the table for everyone to first admire before they tuck in.”
She said children in years 3 to 6 would get the opportunity to work in a garden, harvest the food, cook it in a teaching kitchen and sit down with other students and parents to taste and enjoy what they have made.
Demonstration schools are to be set up as models for interested schools to visit and act as a training centre for schools joining the program.
Nine schools in South Australia, nine in Queensland, one in the Northern Territory, eight in Western Australian, eight in New South Wales, and two in Tasmania are to receive a grant of up to $60,000 for kitchen and garden infrastructure.
The next round of grants is expected to open in mid-2009, with further funding rounds in 2010 and 2011.
27 January, 2009
Chinese lawyers make case for visitA contingent of nine legal professionals from China has been invited to visit Australia under an initiative of the International Legal Services Advisory Council.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, said the group would be the third to take part in the Australia–China Legal Profession Development Program, which was supported by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Law Council of Australia.
Mr McClelland said over four months from February, the Chinese visitors would undertake training and work in a range of areas of law, including placements with private enterprise and Government Agencies.
“The program is aimed at developing links between the legal professions of both countries, promoting understanding of each country’s legal system and providing assistance to China in its process of legal reform through the participants undertaking placements in areas where Australia has acknowledged expertise,” he said.
“This program has been highly successful in promoting cross-cultural understanding of Australian and Chinese legal systems and institutions.”
Mr McClelland said participants would develop their professional skills, exchange knowledge and form ongoing links with their Australian counterparts, “strengthening the legal ties between our two nations.”
He said the program was run in conjunction with the Chinese Ministry of Justice and the All China Lawyers Association and was supported by AusAID through the Australian Leadership Awards – Fellowships and the Australia–China Environment Development Program.
27 January, 2009
Green car plan gets green lightPublic consultation sessions have been announced to discuss a Framework Paper on the Government’s $1.3 billion Green Car Innovation Fund, aimed at encouraging the design, development and manufacture of low-emission, fuel-efficient cars and components in Australia.
Minister for Innovation, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr, invited public participation in the sessions which are to be held in February in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth.
“The Framework Paper outlines how we propose to implement and operate the fund, and we are keen to hear people’s views on these proposals,” Senator Carr said.
“The consultations, like the car plan itself, are about working in partnership with industry to ensure we have a modern automotive sector, providing high-skill, high-wage jobs for the future.”
He said the 2½ hour consultation sessions, which would be held between 2 February and 10 February, were designed to help make the automotive industry more economically and environmentally sustainable by 2020.
“Feedback from the consultation sessions, combined with feedback from the written submissions I called for in December, will inform the finalisation of the program guidelines for the fund.”
Bookings for consultations could be made by phoning the AusIndustry hotline on 13 28 46, online at www.ausindustry.gov.au or by emailing email@example.com
Written submissions will be accepted until 12 February 2009.
The Fund is a 10-year program expected to commence on 1 July 2009.
27 January, 2009
Moon calendar out
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority has announced that its 2009 Moon Phase calendar is now available.
The calendar can be downloaded www.afma.gov.au
House overhauls website
The United States White House has launched a new-look website following the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
The website is similar to Mr Obama’s election campaign site and highlights four of the main points made during the campaign: change, economy, transparency, and public service.
Members get club back
The Australian Securities and Investments Commissionhas amended the registration of the North Melbourne Australian Rules Football Club from a private company to a public one based on membership.
North Melbourne had been owned by a limited number of shareholders for the past 20 years but they agreed to return it to its members last year.
Dutch return heritage
Australia is set to receive its largest maritime artefact endowment ever with artefacts recovered from four Dutch shipwrecks found off the West Australian coast coming home.
The Government of the Netherlands offered to transfer its portion of the find to Australia to keep them as close to the shipwrecks as possible.
Minister for Heritage, Peter Garrett, said the transfer would allow for greater study of the collection, and stressed the Netherlands would continue to have access to the artefacts.
The “deeming” rate for investment returns earned by pensioners has been reduced to four per cent for investments over the threshold limits of $41,000 for singles and $68,200 for couples.
Acting Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Tanya Plibersek, announced the change, saying it meant some pensioners could receive an increase in their pension following a reduction in their assessable income.
She said payments affected by the deeming rate included means tested pensions, Disability Support Pension, Carer Payment, and Veteran Service Pensions.
Police catch own
A staff member of the Australian Federal Police has been arrested and charged with stalking and possession of steroids.
The 25-year-old Canberra man has been suspended from duties as an AFP employee.
Playwrights go online
The Australia Council for the Arts has launched a new website to help Australian playwrights sell and promote their productions.
The site, www.australianplays.org, features over 1,500 Australian playscripts and is an initiative of the Australian Script Centre.
It was launched in New York as a part of the recent Australia Week program.
Navy tries new direction
A new Navy recruitment campaign has commenced with an advertisement representing a “radical new direction” from past campaigns.
The ad features the winners of the Navy Song Battle, New Empire, and introduces viewers to the crew of HMAS Ballarat.
The ad was designed to deliver insight into Navy life, allowing the viewer to see the fast pace life in the Navy takes.
Antarctic Fellow named
The Australian Antarctic Arts Fellow for 2009 has been announced.
Visual artist Stephen Eastaugh will be the first Arts fellow to spend a year in Antarctica to help promote Australia’s Antarctic program and its contribution to the world stage.
Mr Eastaugh will spend the year at Mawson station, where he will produce a major body of paintings, keep a web diary, give radio interviews and research and draft an Antarctic artist's book.
ICT briefing for industry
The Department of Finance and Deregulation’s Information Management Office has invited the information and communication industry to an industry brief on implementing the ICT reform program.
The brief will cover the progress of the Government's ICT Reform Program and its implications for industry, including the development of client and supplier codes of conduct.
It will be held at the National Museum of Australia's Visions Theatre on 30 January 2009 from 1.30 to 3.30pm.
Coins fly to pole
Five hundred collector coins from the Royal Australian Mint have been taken on a commemorative flight over the Antarctic marking the centenary of the attainment of the South Magnetic Pole.
The coins were presented in special montages and would be available to the public later this year.
The third coin in the Polar Series, Antarctic Explorers, was also aboard the Royal Society of Victoria’s South Magnetic Pole Centenary Flyover last week.
In recognition of the centenary, the Antarctic Explorers coin features members of the 1907-09 Ernest Shackleton Expedition: Sir Douglas Mawson, Tannat Edgeworth Casey and Forbes Mckay, who were the first group to reach the South Magnetic Pole.
20 January, 2009
Workloads don’t work says PS CommissionerPublic Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs has warned the Federal Government that the constant high workloads being placed on the APS are unsustainable.
Commissioner Briggs told the Australian Financial Review over the holidays that the Government should either reduce demands on the APS or increase salaries so that senior staff don’t move on.
Her warnings were echoed and endorsed by the Community and Public Sector Union, but were downplayed by the Government.
Acting National Secretary of the CPSU, Mark Gepp said the APS was at “breaking strain.”
“It can't absorb any more work, it certainly can't absorb any more funding cuts, Mr Gepp said.
He said the increased efficiency dividend imposed by the Government last year had already seen staff leave.
“When you're constantly being asked to work 24/7, when you're part of an organisation that is constantly reviewing many things, when you're part of an organisation that requires you to work for days on end sometimes without a break in the most extreme cases, people say well, gee can I continue to do this?” he said.
“The big concern for all of them that we're talking to is at the very least that they are aware that there's a razor gang out there, sharpening their funding knives for yet another round of cuts.
“That is simply not tolerable.”
He said Commissioner Briggs wasn’t the first to point out that funding cutbacks were doing more harm than good.
"We've got all departmental heads all saying the same thing, so the drums are beating loudly and they are all playing the same tune.
Mr Gepp said the Government needed to stop the cuts, restore essential services and work to maintain PS jobs.
“Importantly,” he said, the Government should remember that PS staff “are not robots."
Acting Prime Minister, Julia Gillard rejected the claims saying there would be no easing of pressure on the APS to perform.
She said the Australian people expected the Public Service to work hard, particularly on challenging issues like the global economic crisis.
20 January, 2009
EGovernment nets most callers: surveyA Department of Finance and Deregulation survey has found more Australians now contact the Government via the internet than they do by phone or in person.
Commissioned by the Australian Government Information Management Office in the Department of Finance and Deregulation, the survey was the fourth in a series exploring Australians’ use and satisfaction with e-Government services.
Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, said the survey results showed the increasing importance of online service delivery and the potential for new technologies to play a role in helping Governments engage with citizens.
“Research such as the Interacting with Government study highlights the opportunities we have to improve Government services by applying new technologies, providing secure and trusted environments and making the ways of interacting with Government simple, convenient and easy to use,” Mr Tanner said.
“Citizen-centric delivery of Government services is evolving; Governments must continue to keep pace with technological change and meet public expectations about how Government services should be delivered.”
He said the Government would conduct trials involving Web 2.0 technology use in community consultations as a result of the Interacting with Government: Australians' Use and Satisfaction with e-Government Services – 2008 survey results.
Mr Tanner said the results showed older Australians were using the internet more, and Australians of all ages were using it to contact the Government.
He said new technologies were being used by all age groups across all regions of Australia.
Mr Tanner said many people who used the internet to contact Government also used blogs, social networking websites and wikis.
Interacting with Government: Australians' Use and Satisfaction with e-Government Services – 2008 was available from www.finance.gov.au
20 January, 2009
Door slammed on open plan officesOpen plan offices have been found to contribute to workplace stress and sickness with a Queensland researcher saying the results of a recent study were “absolutely shocking”
According to researcher Vinesh Oommen of the Queensland University of Technology's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, a review of global research into modern office design has found that open plan layouts lead to lower worker productivity and higher stress levels.
"The evidence we found was absolutely shocking,'' Dr Oommen said.
"In 90 per cent of the research, the outcome of working in an open-plan office was seen as negative, with open-plan offices causing high levels of stress, conflict, high blood pressure, and a high staff turnover.”
He said the level of noise alone in open plan offices caused workers to lose concentration, pulling down productivity levels.
“There are privacy issues because everyone can see what you are doing on the computer or hear what you are saying on the phone, and there is a feeling of insecurity,” he said.
Dr Oommen said the likelihood of workplace conflict increased because of the irritation caused when other people’s phones rang and this led to higher blood pressure and sometimes anger and violence.
He said the probability of picking up contagious diseases was also increased as viruses and bugs could move quickly through the workforce.
"Based on these findings, I think employers around the country need to rethink the open-plan environment in their offices,'' he said.
Dr Oommen said the research found that the traditional office design of small, private closed offices was better for most workers,
He said some employers were motivated to introduce open plan layouts due to cost considerations.
“Using open-plan designs can save 20 per cent on construction,' he said.
More details of the study can be found in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management.
20 January, 2009
Conference planners launch paper chaseThe Institute of Public Administration Australia has called for papers for its 2009 National Conference which is to be held in Brisbane this November.
Exploring the theme ‘The Changing Public Sector Climate’, the Institute has encouraged Public Service practitioners and academics to propose papers focusing on future directions and challenges facing the PS.
Conference Organiser, Cath Healy of the IPAA Queensland, said proposals adopting a comparative perspective and addressing the implications of research and practice for public administration would be particularly welcome.
Ms Healy said the conference would look at addressing issues of capability; collaboration; clients and community; cost; strengths and weaknesses; international influences; identifying sustainable solutions to public problems; and challenges in public sector management.
Ms Healy said it would examine how these themes influenced Public Service functions and how it carried them out.
She said the conference would try to identify new challenges likely to emerge and how the sector could respond to them.
Ms Healy said any proposals should be submitted to the National Conference Organising Committee by Friday 27 February 2009.
“If you are interested in submitting a paper for consideration, please submit an abstract of up to 300 words (in electronic form compatible with MS Word), accompanied by the form which can be obtained from the website,” she said.
“At the conclusion of the conference, accepted papers will be published with permission on the IPAA conference website, www.ipaanationalconference.org.au”
Ms Healy said some papers could also be accepted for publication in the Australian Journal of Public Administration or Public Administration Today.
The 2009 IPAA National Conference will be held from 19 to 20 November 2009 at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre at Southbank.
20 January, 2009
DIAC opens doors to ICT recruitsThe Department of Immigration and Citizenship has embarked on a national recruitment drive to rebalance its information technology workforce and replace many contractors with permanent staff.
Over 60 positions have been identified for information technology specialists ranging from help desk support officers to senior technical specialists on six-figure salaries.
A Departmental spokesman said the move was consistent with the outcome of last year’s Gershon review, which found Government ICT systems could be more efficient.
“This is a better use of taxpayers’ money and has ongoing benefits in staff retention, development of the organisation's IT maturity and corporate knowledge,” the spokesman said.
“DIAC needs to enhance its IT capability and is offering employment opportunities across a broad range of IT areas.”
He said the Department wanted all IT professionals to build their careers and develop and retain their skills base within the organisation.
“We are committed to well-trained and supported staff,” he said.
Of the Department’s 7,000 employees, over 1,000 were from the IT sector and were situated in over 100 locations in Australia and overseas.
“Investing in ongoing positions will help DIAC manage its business-as-usual IT operation more efficiently; it is better management of our skills base and ensures our operations are sustainable – all consistent with key tenets of Sir Peter Gershon’s review,” the spokesman said.
The Gershon review, delivered to the Minister for Finance last August, identified seven critical areas for reform, including a reduction in the proportion of contractors in the IT workforce.
Vacancies at DIAC ranged from IT help desk support officers on packages of $53,000 a year through to senior Java technical specialists, among others, on arrival packages of more than $140,000.
20 January, 2009
AGS and Uni lay down Admin lawThe Australian Government Solicitor has joined with the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Law to present a week-long intensive course in administrative law.
Entitled Excellence in Government Decision-making, the course is the first of its kind and was unveiled by High Court Justice Bill Gummow in November 2008.
AGS Senior Specialist, Tim Moe, said the course would bring practitioners, the Law Faculty and leading Australian figures in administrative law together for the first time.
Mr Moe said administrative law touched on all aspects of Government, and was directly relevant to all Public Servants and the legal staff of Agencies and Departments.
“The course is suitable for lawyers and non-lawyers and will maintain a varied and interesting pace throughout the week,” he said.
“Participants will gain considerable insight into the theory and practice of administrative law, and into the relevant legislation, recent cases and policy perspectives.”
Mr Moe said the new course would run from 30 March to 3 April 2009, and would provide coverage of merits review, judicial review, Ombudsman, Freedom of Information and Privacy.
The cost of the course was $3,450 and covered the five days of instruction provided.
“The Commonwealth Solicitor-General, Stephen Gageler would speak on the first day of the course, with other speakers to include Tom Howe, the Deputy President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Stephanie Forgie; and Professor Triggs,” Mr Moe said.
He said Judges, AGS practitioners and other Law Faculty would also present sessions. “Participants in the course may choose to receive a Certificate of Completion from AGS and the University of Sydney or can (at no extra cost) complete an item of assessment through the University and obtain University credit for the course (as a postgraduate subject) at Diploma or Masters level.”
He said attendance at the course represented an historic opportunity to be involved in the first collaborative and intensive course in administrative law.
The AGS and the Faculty of Law invited all Public Servants to join them in Excellence in Government Decision-making.
20 January, 2009
Designers size up obesity problemThe Australian Safety and Compensation Council (ASCC) has continued its exploration of the impact of overweight and obesity on Australian workers by looking at how the increasing size of Australians is being reflected in workplace design.
Chairman of the ASCC, Bill Scales, said the accuracy of anthropometric data was an emerging issue for designers and for the Council.
Mr Scales defined anthropometric data as the measurements of the human body used by designers when planning such things as office products, spaces and systems.
He said the ASCC report Sizing Up Australia: How contemporary is the anthropometric data Australian designers use? followed up on earlier work into the implications of overweight and obesity for occupational health and safety and for workers’ compensation.
He said this work was important in light of findings by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2008 that 7 million Australians aged 18 years and over were overweight or obese, an increase of 2.8 million over the previous 15 years.
“Australia’s anthropometric dimensions have changed due to improved nutrition, increasing rates of obesity, ageing and different migration patterns,” Mr Scales said.
“A number of emerging issues including the extent of overweight and obesity amongst the Australian workforce may have implications for the designers of workplace equipment and products.”
He said the Council’s initial research suggested that existing Australian anthropometric data did not adequately represent the current Australian workforce, findings confirmed by designers who admitted they were concerned that the data they were using was out of date or inaccurate.
“They (the designers) want access to data which accurately reflects the current body shape of the Australian workforce,” Mr Scales said.
“More accurate Australian anthropometric data and tools will help our designers make workplaces safer,” he said.
20 January, 2009
Solar research to shine at InstituteA new solar energy institute has been announced for Newcastle, NSW as part of the Government’s plan to fast-track solar research.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson, said the Australian Solar Institute would be housed in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's Energy Centre and be funded with monies from the Energy Innovation Fund.
Mr Ferguson said the Institute would build on other energy-related programs including the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Solar Rebates, the Renewable Energy Target and accelerated funding for renewable energy projects.
He said the Institute would provide “vital support” for researchers and help solar power become cost competitive with other energy sources.
“The Government believes cost competitiveness is achievable and that solar power is a commercially viable energy option for the Australian community,” he said.
“The Institute will support this innovation drive through greater collaboration between Australian and international researchers in solar energy technologies in addition to providing funding for research and development of solar thermal and solar photo voltaic technologies across Australia.”
Mr Ferguson said as part of the initial funding, $5 million would be provided to support a crystalline silicon pilot line at the University of New South Wales, $5 million to establish a solar thermal tower at the CSIRO in Newcastle and $5 million to help establish a world-class process and characterisation solar research facility at the Australian National University in Canberra.
“Australia has a proud history as a solar innovator,” he said.
“The Australian Solar Institute will again put Australia at the forefront of this vital renewable energy technology.”
He said Jenny Goddard would chair the Institute's Establishment Committee and Dr Bruce Godfrey would be interim executive director.
20 January, 2009
Phone companies not getting the messageThe Australian Communications and Media Authority has revealed that the majority of telephone subscribers complaining about breaches of the Do Not Call Register were complaining about the activities of telecommunications companies.
ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman, said 55 per cent of complaints were against telecommunication companies (telcos) promoting phone plans and other related services.
“Consumers register their telephone numbers because they want to reduce the number of telemarketing calls they receive and it is unacceptable to see that some telcos are not respecting that decision,” Mr Chapman said.
“Businesses have had ample time to adjust to the new laws and by now should have robust compliance measures in place.”
He said ACMA had completed a round of formal investigations focusing on telcos.
“Over the past 12 months, ACMA has issued four infringement notices to telecommunications companies, including a $147,400 penalty paid by Dodo Australia in October 2008,” Mr Chapman said.
“ACMA has accepted enforceable undertakings from Dodo Australia, Astron Communications and People Telecom. Formal warnings have also been issued to Global Telelinks, Ezycall and m8 Telecom.”
He said to improve telecommunications compliance, ACMA had embarked on a campaign that included formal investigations, warnings, detailed letters putting individual providers “on notice,” and an industry newsletter providing practical advice on adhering to compliance requirements.
“Where reselling arrangements exist, we are looking for companies at the top end of the marketing chain to take a lead role in insisting on high standards of compliance amongst the businesses that depend on them,” Mr Chapman said.
He said during 2007/08, 28,804 complaints had been received, 23,336 of which raised potential breaches of the Do Not Call Register Act and/or Industry Standard and were handled by ACMA.
The remaining 5,468 were handled by the register operator.
Mr Chapman said ACMA estimated 5 per cent of the businesses complained about were responsible for about 70 per cent of the total complaints received.
20 January, 2009
Agency achievers achieve awardsThe General Manager of the Child Support Agency has announced his outstanding achievement awards for 2008.
Matt Miller recognised 19 staff members and teams for excellent individual and team performance out of over 250 nominations nationwide.
Mr Miller congratulated the winners on their exceptional innovation, passion and commitment in delivering excellent customer service and support to separated families during one of the biggest reforms in Australian child support history.
He said Elizabeth Petryk from NSW took out the highest award for her significant contribution in delivering the new Child Support Scheme Reforms.
Sally Scifo from Specialised Services, Melbourne, won the individual section in the collection category and Fiona Mikulas from Customer Services, Parramatta, NSW took out the manager section.
The Intensive Debt Collection group from Brisbane brought home the team section award.
Mr Miller said Kerry Edwards from Customer Services, Adelaide won the individual section for excellent customer service while Michele Downie and Maria McInnes from the Personalised Services and the State Manager’s Unit, Hobart, were awarded the managers section title.
The Change of Assessment group in Brisbane took out the team section.
David Prendergast, NSW’s Stakeholder Engagement Officer, received the individual section award in the connection category and Elizabeth Petryk, the NSW State Customer Matters Service Manager, brought home the manager section title.
The Toowoomba Regional Services Centre took out the team title and Megan Miller, Customer Services Officer Cairns, was named winner of the individual section in the communication awards category.
Scott Ferguson the Team Leader for Cairns brought home the manager section title and Catherine Cue and Karen Hicks, Customer Services Officers Melbourne, claimed the team title.
Mark Morrison from Business Strategy and Development Toowoomba, took out the top award for the individual section in the capability category while David Sippel, Director of the National Compliance Team Sydney, won the manager section.
The Customer Services Leadership Team Victoria claimed the team title.
A special “Change Award” was presented to Julie Steel from the Information and Communications Team in Canberra and the Product Development and Quality Assurance Team within Scheme Reforms in Canberra.
20 January, 2009
Attorneys put case for ANZ law linkAustralia and New Zealand are to join forces to resolve cross-Tasman legal disputes more efficiently and simply.
Australian Attorney-General, Robert McClelland, and New Zealand Minister for Justice, Simon Power, announced that complementary legislation would be introduced in each country to make resolving legal disputes across the Tasman cheaper, more efficient and less complicated.
Mr McClelland and Mr Power said the reforms would strengthen co-operation between the countries and reflect the nature of the trans-Tasman relationship.
They said the relationship was already strong and featured similarities between the two legal systems and confidence in each others’ judicial and regulatory institutions.
“With the global financial crisis likely to increase the number and complexity of legal disputes, it is more important than ever that legal processes are simple and affordable,” Mr Power said.
Mr McClelland said the Regulatory Enforcement Treaty would allow certain fines imposed in one country to be enforced in the other, improving the effectiveness, integrity and efficiency of Trans-Tasman markets.
“Making it easier and more cost effective for Australian and New Zealand businesses and individuals to resolve disputes will further encourage trade between our two countries,” he said.
The treaty includes a number of innovative measures such as expanding the range of court judgments that can be enforced across the Tasman and simplifying the process for doing so.
The legislation would implement the Trans-Tasman Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement Treaty that was signed in July 2008.
The reforms were based on recommendations made in December 2006 by the Trans-Tasman Working Group on Court Proceedings and Regulatory Enforcement.
The Working Group undertook public and stakeholder consultation before finalising its recommendations.
20 January, 2009
Lost superannuation plan strikes goldA plan to consolidate workers’ superannuation entitlements by linking them to Tax File Numbers has been announced by the Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Senator Nick Sherry.
Senator Sherry made the announcement after revealing the number of “lost” superannuation accounts in Australia hit 6.4 million in 2008, an increase of 5.2 per cent and valued at $12.9 billion.
“Using tax file numbers to re-unite people with their lost super would be a more efficient and cost effective way to solve the problem,” he said.
“The Government has released a consultation paper asking the industry for ideas on how this can best be done.”
Senator Sherry urged Australians to use the New Year to look for and find their outstanding superannuation entitlements.
“Having money sitting in three, four or more places means your retirement income gets eaten away by multiple, often high, fees and charges, and that's not in your interest,” he said.
“My preference is for the Government to develop a system that automatically consolidates people's lost accounts, but with an opt-out for those who choose not to take part.”
Senator Sherry said in the meantime investors could use the current Australian Taxation Office system, ‘SuperSeeker’, to find any lost super and begin consolidating it into their current account.
“The ATO's SuperSeeker looks for your lost super in real time and can instantly provide you with possible matches,” he said.
“It is a free service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Senator Sherry said those most likely to have lost superannuation were people who had changed jobs or addresses.
“It's possible to also be listed on the register as a lost member if your super fund has been unable to contact you or has not received super contributions or a rollover for you in the past five years,” he said.
To use the SuperSeeker tool, visit superseeker.super.ato.gov.au or phone 13 28 65.
20 January, 2009
Mint making money from new coin designsThe Royal Australian Mint has unveiled its new $1 coin design for 2009, commemorating 60 years of the Australian Citizenship Act.
Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Graham Smith, said the 2009 Citizenship coin design featured the smiling faces of the first Australian citizens in 1949, each as individual as the country they originated from.
Mr Smith said their raised hands symbolised their pride in becoming an Australian citizen, now linked symbolically to create the star of Federation.
“Sixty years ago in 1948 the Australian Citizenship Act was brought into effect,” he said. “To date more than four million people have taken part in the affirmation ceremony. Citizenship gives a sense of belonging, a chance to make a commitment to Australia and its values and to share the role of building Australia and its future.”
Mr Smith said he was proud to be unveiling the Mint’s newest coin design which celebrated Australia’s unity as a country
“By unveiling this new coin design each Australian has the opportunity to hold a piece of history in their own hands,” he said.
“The collectible coin bears the 'C' for Canberra mintmark, which denotes its place of minting.”
Mr Smith said these coins would be the only coins in 2009 permitted to bear the 'C' mintmark symbol.
He said each year, coin collectors lined up from as early as 8am on 1 January for the opportunity to be amongst the first people in the world to mint the first coin for the year.
20 January, 2009
Old House visitors vote with their feetVisitors to Old Parliament House in Canberra have been promised a new, unique and exciting visitor experience in the months ahead as the iconic heritage building undergoes a transformation.
Deputy Director of Old Parliament House, Kate Cowie, said since the building opened in 1927 as the “Provisional” Parliament House there had been much debate about its role and function and this had taken on a sharper focus after the Federal Parliament moved to its permanent site at Capital Hill in 1988.
“Over the past 20 years this debate has intensified with people from around Australia sharing ideas and dreams about what Old Parliament House should be used for,” Ms Cowie said.
She said specific plans for Old Parliament House were in the final stages of development and would be announced in February.
Ms Cowie said visitors could enjoy activities at the historical building that included House Play, a role play that allowed visitors to travel back in time by dressing up in costumes.
She said there were plenty of stories about drama and passion to discover on tours and walks through the offices and corridors where Australian political events, leaks, scoops and scandals were reported.
Ms Cowie said visitors could interview politicians in a real recording booth and discover how the press interacted with politicians to inform Australians about political issues.
She said a visit to the Australian Prime Ministers Centre to discover quirky facts about former Prime Ministers gave a fascinating insight into the lives of the men.
Ms Cowie urged visitors to get in quick and be among the first to take a brand new Little Builders tour, or to see the popular Billy Hughes at War exhibition before it closed on 1 February.
Old Parliament House has won awards as a tourist attraction for brining stories of Australia’s political past to life.
20 January, 2009
Watchdog opens door on detention centresThe Human Rights Commissioner has called for improvements to Australia’s immigration detention centres following an inspection of the facilities between June and September last year.
Commissioner Graeme Innes said while improvements had been made to how immigrants in detention were being treated, there were still some areas of concern.
Mr Innes called on the Government to translate its “new direction” into policy, practice and legislative change as soon as possible.
“We are still seeing children being held in detention facilities, people being detained for prolonged and indefinite periods and dilapidated detention centres being used for accommodation, and now we also have the disturbing reality that the massive prison-like Christmas Island facility is open for business,” he said.
Mr Innes said the report recommended minimum standards for conditions and that the treatment of persons in immigration detention should be legislated. It called for the Migration Act be amended to make immigration detention the exception rather than the norm.
He said the report also recommended the decision to detain a person be subject to prompt review by a Court, detention of people on Christmas Island should be ceased, and that recommendations by the national inquiry into children in immigration detention should be implemented by the Government.
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Citizenship said it welcomed the report.
“While the AHRC recognises many of the immigration detention reforms that have already been introduced, the report also highlights a number of other areas requiring further improvement,” he said.
“Many policies such as children not being detained in detention centres and detention only being used as a last resort – and for the shortest possible time – are already in place, while others are under active review and development.”
DIAC said despite concerns all unauthorised boat arrivals would continue to be detained and processed at Christmas Island for health, identity and security checks.
Mr Innes said the dilapidated infrastructure at some of the mainland detention centres was particularly worrying, and parts of Villawood in NSW were the worst of all.
The Department said it was in the “planning and approval stage” of the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre redevelopment following the Government’s decision to progress the project for consideration in the 2010 Budget.
“These works will improve the amenity for clients accommodated there, create a better visitors’ facility and include refurbishment of internal spaces and the outdoor recreation areas and courtyards.”
20 January, 2009
Post Office to deal with card problemAustralia Post has been called on to review the way it informs people they have received a parcel or item of registered mail following a surge in complaints to the Postal Industry Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman, who is also the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, has released a report making a number of recommendations about Australia Post’s practice of “carding”.
Professor McMillan said the issue was significant as carded items such as parcels and registered mail were usually the more valuable mail.
He said the majority of complaints were about postal items that should have been carded but were left at premises and damaged, broken open or stolen, and instances where no card was left and the addressee was unaware the item was awaiting collection.
“In some complaints, the mail item was returned to the sender, a card was left in a mailbox with no attempt made to deliver the item, even though the addressee was home at the time, a carded item could not be found at the post office on presentation of a card and was deemed ‘lost', or a carded item was given to someone unknown to the addressee,” Professor McMillan said.
He recommended Australia Post review its carding and delivery practices to see if operationally and commercially viable improvements could be made.
Professor McMillan said Australia Post had responded positively to the report, and advised that a national communications program would be undertaken to provide better guidance to parcel delivery officers on some of the identified issues.
He said Australia Post would also consider a longer term plan of introducing notification cards with peel-off barcodes to improve the identification of carded parcels.
Professor McMillan said his office would continue to monitor complaints about carding and delivery of postal items.
20 January, 2009
Redundancy Direction upgraded
The Public Service Commissioner’s Directions covering the engagement of staff who had received redundancy benefits in the previous 12 months have been amended to include former staff of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission.
As a joint Commonwealth-State Commission until last year, staff of the MDBC were not Commonwealth Officers but following its reformation as the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, they now are.
A small number declined the offer of appointment to the APS and accepted redundancy payments instead, bringing them under the provisions of the amended Direction.
AIRC archives expanded
ILandmark industrial law cases have been made more readily available, with the updating of the Sir Richard Kirby Archives website at the Australian Industrial Relations Commission.
The updated site contains 35 new cases.
The archives provide access to a range of material including documents, photographs and oral history interviews as well as the Australian Industrial Registry.
For further information contact the AIRC’s national librarian on (03) 8661 7823 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Names taken for Justice body
Nominations are being accepted for membership of the newly-formed National Indigenous Law and Justice Advisory Body.
The new body has been set up to provide high level policy advice to Government to assist it closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.
Nominations from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with experience in law and justice matters across a range of disciplines will be accepted by the Attorney-General’s Department until 27 February.
More information is available from the Department on (02) 6218 7068 or by email at email@example.com
DVA deems rates lower
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has announced that the ‘deeming’ rate for investment returns earned by DVA pensioners has been reduced to four per cent for investments over the threshold limits of $41,000 for singles and $68,200 for couples.
The rate below the threshold is to remain at three per cent.
The change will come into effect on 27 January.
More brass for police
A National Police Service Medal is soon to be awarded to State, Territory and Federal Police who stand out from the crowd in the line of duty.
The separate medal has been created to recognise the unique role Police Officers play in the preservation of peace, the protection of life and property and the maintenance of law and order throughout Australia.
Police would have to serve 15 years to be eligible, with the first awards expected to made in the second half of 2009.
Program for languages
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies is helping preserve and revive Australian Indigenous languages through an online program entitled AUSTLANG.
The AUSTLANG program allows people to search for Australian Indigenous languages by language name, place name or by navigating Australia through Google Maps.
The program then provides detailed information on the language, including language names, documentation, resources, location, number of speakers, language programs, researchers, classifications and state of endangerment for each language.
AUSTLANG can be accessed at www.austlang.aiatsis.gov.au
Gulf veterans for study
The Repatriation Medical Authority is seeking submissions on Gulf War Syndrome as it prepares to investigate and re-examine the illness.
Minister for Veterans' Affairs, Alan Griffin, said Australian Gulf War veterans suffering ill effects from their service, including symptoms associated with Gulf War Syndrome, had access to compensation and health care through the Repatriation system.
Interested parties could make a submission before 29 May by visiting www.rma.gov.au
Australians travelling to the United States for less than 90 days will now be required to provide all 10 fingerprints to the US’ Electronic System for Travel Authorisation.
The US Department of Homeland Security made the changes following security upgrades at major ports of entry.
Travellers will also be required to provide basic travel and eligibility information online.