SearchArchives for January 2010
26 January, 2010
PM adds pressure
The Prime Minister has warned Government Departments to expect financial constraints as the economy recovers from the global financial crisis
to tight Budget
Calling for “fiscal discipline”, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Australia faced the challenge of an ageing population and cuts to Government spending.
In an Australia Day speech in Tasmania, Mr Rudd said previous levels of Government expenditure had been set during economic boom times and could not be maintained.
“While it is common for Governments to increase spending growth during times of financial crisis, Governments in boom times ought to exercise spending restraint,” he said.
Mr Rudd said new Treasury modelling prepared for the Third Intergenerational Report, Australia to 2050: Future Challenges, showed the rate of spending in the late 1990s and early 2000s had “locked in a permanently higher spending base.”
“This makes responding to the long-term structural challenges to fiscal policy caused by the ageing of the population even more difficult to meet,” he said.
He also foreshadowed a “different mix of Government services and support,” to deal with the changing population base, citing an increased need for health care, aged care and age pensions as people became older.
“We must also embrace new ways of delivering services to meet the changing needs of Australians in coming decades, as well as ensuring the cost-effectiveness of all publicly funded services,” he said.
“Some of the steps we must take to ensure fiscal sustainability will not be popular, but they will pay dividends over the longer term.”
Mr Rudd said a more productive economy was also necessary to help meet future challenges.
“The decisions we take in this new decade will shape Australia’s future for decades to come,” he said.
“That’s why I describe the decade ahead as the Building Decade: building stronger, more sustainable economic growth, building a sustainable budget strategy; building Australia’s future.
“Let’s roll up our sleeves and get on with our work in the building decade ahead.”
26 January, 2010
PS chimes in
Public Servants have featured prominently in the Australia Day awards this week with one receiving the highest honour of Companion in the Order of Australia (AC), six being made Officers of the Order of Australia (AO), another becoming a Member of the Order (AM) and 13 receiving Public Service Medals (PSM).
The honours were announced by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce.
COMPANION OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AC)
Chief Justice Robert FRENCH AC
For eminent service to the law and to the judiciary, to legal education and administration in the areas of constitutional, competition and native title law, and to legal reform.
Justice French is Chief Justice of the High Court
OFFICER OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AO)
Michael D'ASCENZO AO
For service to public administration, particularly through reform and innovative engagement with the taxation profession and other Government agencies.
Mr D’Ascenzo is the Commissioner for Ttaxation
Dr Stephen GUMLEY AO
For service to public sector management, particularly through leadership of the Defence Materiel Organisation, and the development and implementation of significant reforms in procurement and sustainment of military equipment.
Dr Gumley is CEO of the Defence Materiel Organisation
Dr Jeff HARMER AO
For service to public administration through leadership of key policy initiatives, particularly programs for housing assistance, child support, mental health, the disabled and insurance reform, and through initiatives for Indigenous Australian.
Dr Harmer is Secretary of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
Professor John McMILLAN AO
For service to the law as the Commonwealth Ombudsman, particularly in the areas of immigration and law enforcement, through leadership roles in professional bodies and as an academic.
Professor McMillan is the Commonwealth Ombudsman
Paul O'SULLIVAN AO
For service to public administration through significant contributions to the advancement of Australia's security and the development of international relations.
Mr O’Sulllivan is former Director-General of Security
Murray WILCOX AO
For service to the law as a Judge and a Law Reform Commissioner, particularly in the areas of environmental, native title and industrial law.
Mr Wilcox is a former Federal Court judge.
MEMBER OF THE ORDER OF AUSTRALIA (AM)
Barbara BELCHER AM
For service to public sector management and administration, particularly in the areas of policy development, advice and delivery and through the advancement of ethical standards and values.
Ms Belcher is a First Assistant Secretary, with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
PUBLIC SERVICE MEDAL
Rob BRAY PSM
For outstanding public service as a policy analyst and as a researcher, particularly in the areas of poverty and inequality.
Mr Bray is an advocate of approaches to the analysis of poverty that involve directly measuring financial stress and deprivation.
These approaches are the most significant advance in poverty measurement in the past 30 years, and Mr Bray’s analytical framework has made a unique contribution to understanding the practical impact of poverty in Australia.
His recent work on the Pension Review exemplified his ability to present complex technical analysis that is easily understood and clearly shows the impact of policy changes on individuals and the community.
The clarity and robustness of his analysis was pivotal in helping the Government through a very difficult policy development process which resulted in a decision to invest $14.2 billion over 4 years in pensions.
Keith Alexander BYLES PSM
For outstanding public service as a legislative drafter, particularly the legislation to implement the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and telecommunications and broadcasting reform.
Mr Byles is a First Assistant Parliamentary Counsel in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and recently drafted the primary legislation to implement the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and major reforms in the area of telecommunication and broadcasting.
These legislative packages comprised several very technical and complex bills and his ability to produce legislation in an extremely short period of time while also assisting departmental staff to refine their policy positions ensured that the very tight deadlines set by the Government for these key legislative measures were met.
Mr Byles’ drafting leadership has made a substantial contribution to the development of drafting techniques that improve the quality and comprehensibility of the Commonwealth statute book, and many of the techniques pioneered by him are now used in Commonwealth legislation.
Dr Michael Joseph COLLINS PSM
National Masurement Institute
For outstanding public service in the field of forensic science, particularly in the development of an international drug profiling program.
Dr Collins is one of Australia’s leading forensic scientists and is currently head of the forensic laboratory at the National Measurement Institute.
Over the past 5 years, he has turned a poor performing laboratory into one of the world’s best in the analysis of, and research into, illicit drugs.
Dr Collins’ work on profiling illicit drugs so that their geographic origin could be identified has given the Australian Federal Police an enormous boost to their intelligence activities in combating the supply of illicit drug materials to the Australian market.
He has also completely changed the nature of the laboratory’s operations so that accurate results are now delivered on time; turnaround times for samples have been reduced, increased security has been provided for samples and positive, client sensitive relationships have been established with major customers.
As a result of his outstanding scientific, management and people skills, the laboratory is now delivering enormous benefits to the Australian community and it has gained a national and international reputation for its work.
Myra Patricia CROKE PSM
For outstanding public service in establishing and managing the secretariat for the National Security Committee of Cabinet.
Details not available at the request of Ms Croke.
James Edgar DUFFY PSM
Australian Crime Commission
For outstanding public service in leading the Australian Crime Commission's operations in relation to serious and organised crime.
Mr Duffy is one of Australia’s most experienced and accomplished leaders in the fight against serious and organised crime and was responsible for leading multi-disciplinary teams involved in covert and overt operations against nationally significant crime.
Mr Duffy performed in exceptional circumstances that were of a highly sensitive and complex nature, and provided leadership that elevated team performance and led to new and innovative methods of gathering intelligence and evidence to disrupt serious and organised crime.
He excelled in the area of stakeholder management by improving the co-operation and coordinated efforts of federal, state, territory and private sector agencies, and this resulted in major disruption to serious and organised crime syndicates.
Carolyn HOGG PSM
For outstanding public service in leading significant improvements in the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of Centrelink's service delivery and customer support.
As Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Centrelink since 2004, Ms Hogg has demonstrated high levels of innovation and organisational leadership in the creation and development of customer service channel management and the design of future service delivery processes.
Ms Hogg conceived the idea of a ‘customer account’ which has significantly improved the approach adopted in dealing with customer enquiries, and widely influenced thinking in government on managing customer service expectations by providing a single mechanism to handle multiple customer issues at the one time.
Ms Hogg also led the development of the Concept Office and Lab’ in Tuggeranong which showcases the future of front-of-office service delivery and provides a useful tool for other government organisations to trial the development and delivery of new services.
Her personal contribution has been a key factor in Centrelink’s ability to deliver cost savings to government and excellence in customer service.
Dr James Bruce HORNE PSM
For outstanding public service in the area of water policy, use and management in Australia.
For the past 6 years, Dr Horne has made an outstanding personal contribution to driving water reform at the national level.
His high level analysis, innovative program design and clear assessment of the complex problems facing water management have been instrumental in designing policy solutions to provide greater security for Australian water users.
He has consistently championed the improved operation of rural water markets as the centrepiece of water management in Australia, and this has set Australia’s scheme apart from, and ahead of, many others in the world.
Dr Horne's leadership of the 2004 National Water initiative, the 2007 National Plan for Water Security and the 2008 Water for the Future priorities amount to a far-reaching and fundamental shift in the way that water is managed and used in Australia.
Arja Sinikka KESKI-NUMMI PSM
For outstanding public service in the development and delivery of Australia's humanitarian migration policies and programs.
As head of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Refugee, Humanitarian and International Division, Ms Keski-Nummi has been at the forefront of developing fairer and more humane policies for asylum seekers.
She has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities in implementing programs that have brought Australia into line with best international practice in providing support and assistance to those in need.
Ms Keski-Nummi has also played a constructive and active role in strategic domestic and international engagement on protection and resettlement issues.
As well as overseeing these major developments, she has played a strong personal role in achieving solutions in delicate individual cases for people who would have, without her help, been at very serious risk of harm.
Her leadership and work have made a major contribution to improving tangibly the lives of thousands of refugees who have sought protection and sanctuary in Australia.
Lyndall Jane SACHS PSM
For outstanding public service as Australia’s Ambassador to Lebanon, particularly
her leadership role in the evacuation of Australian citizens during the recent conflict between Lebanon and Israel.
As Australian Ambassador to Lebanon, Her Excellency Ms Sachs excelled in leading Australia’s diplomatic and consular presence through periods of conflict and political instability in a high-threat environment.
Soon after Ms Sachs took up her position as Ambassador in Beirut, she was faced with the outbreak of the Lebanese-Israeli conflict. Ms Sachs undertook the enormous task of organising the Australian Government’s evacuation of Australian citizens.
She put her own life at risk to ensure that Australians were informed of the evacuation arrangements that constituted one of the largest ever Australian consular operations.
Its success, and the welfare of the Australians who were assisted, depended on Ms Sachs’ stamina, her clear judgement and her ability to influence key government, commercial, humanitarian and diplomatic contacts in Lebanon. Ms Sachs was calm and steadfast under pressure and showed great leadership.
Mr Kevin Douglas SLADE PSM
Australian Hydrographic Office
For outstanding public service in the fields of hydrographic charting and nautical information.
Mr Slade is an expert in the naming, delimitation and depiction of maritime features.
His expertise in developing and negotiating national policies, standards and guidelines relating to geographic names for nautical charting purposes has made a significant contribution towards Australia’s spatial data infrastructure that continues to underpin safety of navigation for the mariner.
Mr Slade is also a highly regarded and well respected authority on the practical and legislative aspects of maritime and jurisdictional boundaries, and he has been pivotal in providing hydrographic input to the Australian Government and various inter-governmental agencies for the delimitation of maritime-bounded sea areas in the Australian Charting Area and adjacent countries.
His personal efforts have had a direct impact on improving navigation and ensuring protection of the marine environment.
Brian Robert STACEY PSM
For outstanding public service in the area of programs and services for Indigenous Australians.
Mr Stacey’s career in the Australian Public Service has been devoted to improving the welfare of Indigenous Australians.
He was the State Manager for the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs in the Northern Territory, and made a significant contribution to the planning, development and roll-out of a complex range of measures in a variety of remote and challenging operating environments.
He demonstrated exceptional leadership, outstanding stakeholder management and collaboration across different levels of government and with Indigenous organisations and communities, and a readiness to propose and implement innovative solutions to complex and challenging obstacles.
Mr Stacey’s personal input has had a major impact on improving social and economic outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Jody Louise SWIREPIK PSM
Murray-Darling Basin Commission
For outstanding public service in driving the Murray-Darling Basin Authority's Living Murray initiative.
Since 2006, Ms Swirepik has been responsible for the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s ‘Living Murray’Program, a $1 billion initiative aimed at securing and delivering environmental water to 6 icon sites along the Murray River.
In undertaking this task, Ms Swirepik has demonstrated strong project management, scientific and policy skills, excellent communication and negotiation approaches, and adept networking across Commonwealth and state jurisdictions.
The magnitude of this project is without precedent and, by bringing together jurisdictions, engineers, modellers, ecologists, river operators and communities, Ms Swirepik has played a significant role in framing the debate, demonstrating solutions and paving the way for fundamental reform within the required tight timeframe.
Kerrie Maree WESTCOTT PSM
For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of the Indigenous Communications Program.
Ms Westcott manages the provision of Indigenous community phones provided through the Indigenous Communications Program in the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
She designed the Indigenous Communications Program that provides public telephones, as well as internet and training to remote Indigenous communities across Australia. In driving the community phones element of this initiative,
Ms Westcott has continually pursued solutions that improve the program’s effective delivery and accountability. She has also remained focused on delivering practical benefits to remote Indigenous communities and achieving the Government’s objective of improved telecommunications. As a result of her dedication and commitment to improving the lives of Indigenous Australians, 237 robust community phones are being maintained in Indigenous communities, 25 mobile satellite handsets have been provided to more transient and smaller Indigenous communities, and a further 320 phones will be installed over the life of the program.
26 January, 2010
Parents educated on
The Australian Taxation Office has reported that only half the number of families eligible to claim a refund on children’s education expenses have done so, leaving the Government with $500 million in unclaimed funds.
The ATO is encouraging families to keep receipts from education-related expenses to allow them to make the most of the Education Tax Refund (ETR).
The ETR was introduced to take some of the pressure of school costs off families and offers refunds of up to $375 per primary school student and $750 per secondary school student.
According to figures released by the ATO, 794,720 claims for the Education Tax Refund had been processed by last November for 1,375,167 children.
However, it estimated that 2,669,000 children were eligible for the refund.
Of the children who received the benefit, around 740,000 were for primary school children and 635,000 for secondary school children.
The ATO said only $488 million of the projected $1.02 billion had been claimed in tax refunds.
It said of the ETR claims processed, 259,150 claims (32.6 per cent) were for the maximum entitlement and 535,570 claims (67.4 per cent) were for a proportion of the maximum entitlement.
The average amount claimed for primary school students was $246.99 while the average for secondary school students was $495.73.
The ATO said back to school expenses that could be claimed included the cost of buying, establishing, repairing and maintaining textbooks, computers, stationary, home internet connections and software.
“Families can claim the ETR if they have eligible education expenses and received Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A for the child that the expenses relate to,” the ATO said.
Families are also eligible for the refund if their children receive payments and allowances including the Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY and the Disability Support Pension.
Taxpayers have until March/April 2010 to claim out of pocket education expenses for the 2009 school year if they lodge their individual tax returns through a tax agent.
Further information was available from www.educationtaxrefund.gov.au
26 January, 2010
Oil leak sparks
The Agency that regulates safety laws for oil rigs has called for increased powers to allow it to improve the safety of offshore oil wells.
The move follows the 2009 oil leak at the Montara Oil Fields off the northern coast of Western Australia, which lasted from 21 August to 3 November.
Following the oil spill the Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson established a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the incident.
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) has lodged a submission with the Inquiry suggesting that regulation of the integrity of oil rigs be improved.
Chief Executive of NOPSA, Jane Cutler said that while the Authority was responsible for regulating OH&S laws for people at offshore petroleum facilities, its powers did not currently extend to the integrity of the wells themselves.
“The Authority is of the view that, if resourced and funded accordingly, it has the appropriate expertise and would be best placed to administer legislation relating to the integrity and safety of wells,” Ms Cutler said.
She said the Authority’s submission was based on what it considered was necessary to limit future oil spills.
“First and foremost, the titleholder of a well has primary responsibility for its integrity and ensuring operations relating to it and associated facilities are safe.
“However, NOPSA has also submitted to the Commission of Inquiry that it strongly believes there is a requirement for legislative change to create a more focused and better resourced administration.”
She said NOPSA was currently investigating last year’s oil leak to determine whether any occupational health and safety laws were breached by the rig operators or the West Atlas drilling unit.
Ms Cutler said although NOPSA’s own investigation was continuing, it was clear the leak occurred due to a failure in one of the wells.
She said on completion of the investigation, NOPSA would provide a brief of its findings to the appropriate Commonwealth authorities.
26 January, 2010
Standards take care
New national standards for the treatment of children in care are to be developed by all State and Territory Governments in the coming months.
of care concerns
Announced by the Federal Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin, the new standards are part of a push for common policies across the nation.
“Currently, child protection systems vary markedly across the country,” Ms Macklin said, “with each State and Territory having its own child protection policy, standards and legislation.
“We need national standards of care so children who cannot live with their families can grow up in a safe, secure environment.”
Ms Macklin said options being considered included best practice standards for assessing foster carers, appropriate training and support for carers and a benchmark for regular health checks for children in foster families.
“The tragic and apparently preventable death of a 12-year-old Northern Territory girl and the Coroner’s findings on her death show just how important it is for the health and welfare of children in care to be regularly monitored,” she said.
Ms Macklin said the standards also aimed to reduce disruption for kids in foster care.
She said a 2009 study showed children in foster care moved homes an average of 5.7 times in the past five years.
“By reducing the number of placements, children can have the stable and secure environment that’s essential for their long term development and wellbeing,” Ms Macklin said.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s (AIHW) report, Child Protection Australia 2008-09, over 34,000 children were living in out-of-home care at 30 June 2009, a 9.3 per cent increase from the previous year.
Spokesperson for the AIHW, Kate Valentine said while there appears to have been a rise in children needing protection, other factors could have contributed.
Ms Valentine said these factors included greater community awareness, a broadening of what is regarded as child abuse or neglect and changes to child protection policies.
She said the Institute’s report showed the rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care was over nine times greater than non-Indigenous kids.
Ms Macklin urged all stakeholders, including children carers, practitioners and organisations, to contribute ideas to help develop the national standards.
She said national consultations would start in February in all Australian capital cities, as well as four regional locations in Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.
The AIHW report was available from www.aihw.gov.au
26 January, 2010
ABC breaks news of
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has announced plans to launch a free-to-air 24-hour news and current affairs television channel by the end of this year.
new news channel
Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott said the channel would be broadcast around the clock, providing continuous coverage of breaking news from Australia and around the world.
“No media organisation in the country is better equipped to deliver this channel than the national broadcaster,” Mr Scott said.
“We can draw on the investment already made in the ABC, through its major newsrooms in every State and Territory, 12 international bureaux and 60 regional newsrooms, to deliver to Australians a top-quality 24-hour news service that is comprehensive, independent and up to the minute.”
Mr Scott said while many of the ABC’s existing news and current affairs programs would feature on the channel, new programs would also be developed.
He said the “engine room” of the new channel would be a continuous news centre in foyer of the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters in Sydney.
Mr Scott said the channel, to be broadcast on the ABC’s HD channel, would go ahead without additional Government funding for content.
The ABC’s Director of Television, Kim Dalton said the move was a sign that ABC TV was fully embracing the benefits of digital television.
“As the country’s leading multi-platform broadcaster, ABC TV offers viewers true choice – be it landmark Australian programming on ABC1 or our kids channel, ABC3,” Mr Dalton said.
“The addition of a news channel to our current line-up ensures that viewers can select the type of quality Australian content they want to watch and enjoy it both on digital television and online.”
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the new channel would be a welcome addition to Australia’s media landscape.
“The provision of news and current affairs is central to the ABC charter and the new news and current affairs channel will continue a great tradition of innovation at our national broadcaster,” Senator Conroy said.
“More Australians are enjoying the additional content and channels available on free-to-air digital television and this channel will provide another great reason to make the switch.”
26 January, 2010
New medical services that improve the treatment of wounded servicemen and women in the Australian Defence Force have been announced by the Minister for Defence Personnel, Greg Combet.
Mr Combet said the health and wellbeing of Defence personnel was a top priority for the Government.
“That is why we are putting considerable funding into new and improved Defence health initiatives,” he said.
Mr Combet said the initiatives included the ADF Rehabilitation Program, which would receive more than $150 million over 10 years to help ADF members return to service or transition to the care they need.
He said the program achieved an 87 percent return to work rate in 2009, which was above the national average for similar programs.
Mr Combet said the Government had also completed a review of mental health within Defence and had provided a further $83 million to implement its recommendations.
“This includes enhancing the mental health workforce, improving mental health training and expansion of programs to support members who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder,” he said.
“These funds are also targeted at improving the transition services provided to members.”
Mr Combet said the Government was exploring new health care technologies to support troops in the field, including digital radiology and enhanced surgical capability.
“We will continue to provide our personnel with world class health care, that is why we are also funding a comprehensive e-health system to improve the maintenance of ADF health records,” he said.
26 January, 2010
The Australia Council for the Arts is to review the effectiveness of protocols it introduced last year to protect the rights of children.
on child protocols
The protocols were developed by the Council at the request of the Federal Government and apply to all arts grants issued since 1 January 2009.
Chief Executive of the Council, Kathy Keele said the protocols had been designed to help artists and art organisations understand their legal obligations when creating, exhibiting or distributing creative works that involve children.
“They are not intended to stop controversial work but rather provide guidelines for artists, similar to those already existing for other professions working with children,” Ms Keele said.
“The two basic principles are that artists should know and follow existing laws, and obtain appropriate consents when working with children, or exhibiting or distributing images of them.
“In reviewing the Protocols, we’re interested to see, for example, what impact the consents and classification process has had on the content, costs and delivery of exhibitions.”
Ms Keele said as part of the review the Council would seek feedback from all organisations funded by the Council, State Arts Agencies and other stakeholders.
She said it would also examine the impact of the protocols on grant applications.
“The Australia Council is committed to a transparent process which ensures children are protected from abuse and exploitation, and to a process which ensures freedom of artistic expression.
“This review will reveal how much we delivered both these priorities.”
Ms Keele said the Council was also preparing a submission to the NSW Government in response to a proposal to remove the defence of “artistic merit” in child pornography prosecutions.
“We actually believe that the proposal, which will harmonise NSW laws with the Commonwealth on the definitions of child pornography, has the potential to be advantageous to genuine artistic expression,” she said.
“The arts community has a role to play in helping police and prosecutors develop clear guidelines concerning artistic intent, so law enforcers can better target the real child abusers.”
The review and any recommended changes to the protocols are expected to be completed by late February.
26 January, 2010
New draft laws that boost the powers of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to regulate operators in the Australian financial sector have been released for public comment.
worth the risk
Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen said the Bill would help Australia achieve a risk based, consultative regulatory framework that was consistent with international best practice.
Mr Bowen said the Financial Sector Legislation Amendment (Prudential Refinements and Other Measures) Bill 2010 would enhance APRA’s power to investigate and detect risks to prudentially regulated institutions and the financial system.
He said it would also help promote stability in the financial system and allow APRA to force institutions to comply with prudential requirements.
Mr Bowen said the draft Bill would allow APRA to act when regulated financial institutions were at risk of experiencing financial distress and would give it the power to administer the financial claims scheme which protects deposits of up to $1 million in Australian banks, credit unions and building societies,
It would also allow APRA to collect data need to identify and respond to developments in the financial sector.
Mr Bowen said the Bill would amend the financial sector levies frameworks recommended in the 2009 Report of the Review of Financial Sector Levies.
He encouraged interested parties to make submissions in response to the draft proposals or regulatory offsets.
Submissions close on 16 March 2010 and further information was available from www.treasury.gov.au
26 January, 2010
Councils urged to be
A campaign designed to encourage more women to serve on Local Government Councils has been endorsed by the Federal Government.
fair with fairer sex
Minister for Local Government, Anthony Albanese, announced the Commonwealth’s backing for the scheme in Sydney, and committed $500,000 to a range of projects to help women play a more active role in leadership and management at the Local Government level.
Mr Albanese said the 2010 Year of Women in Local Government would help encourage Councils to reflect the communities they represent by boosting female employment.
“Local Governments make an important contribution to the nation, delivering vital infrastructure and services, such as local roads, community facilities, environmental and waste services, child care and health and welfare services,” he said.
“However, less than a third of Councillors are women; 20 per cent of senior managers are women; and only seven per cent of Chief Executive Officers are women.”
Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek said many talented Australian women got their political start in Local Government.
“Councils are big employers in local communities,” Ms Plibersek said.
“Organisations that employ women and people from diverse backgrounds better represent and understand their community leading to better results.”
She said the Government had taken a number of steps to improve the way Councils engage with women.
Ms Plibersek said these steps included providing funding for a three-year gender equity program which would see Councils and Shires audited to determine the status of women in leadership roles.
Other measures include funding for scholarships, improved data collection on the status of women in the Local Government sector and identifying strategies to promote gender equity in Councils.
Further information on 2010 Year or Women in Local Government was available from www.lgwomen2010.org.au
26 January, 2010
Drivers have miles to
A new road safety survey has found that the biggest obstacle to lowering the nation’s road toll is the attitude of drivers who continue to speed, take risks, drive under the influence of alcohol or drive while distracted or tired.
go with road safety
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government commissioned the Social Research Centre to conduct a survey on drivers’ attitudes to road safety.
The report, Survey of Community Attitudes to Road Safety (2009) included the views of 1,615 Australians and found that while most were well informed about road safety and supported police efforts to catch and punish those who break the law, many admitted to breaking the law themselves.
According to the surveyalmost two-thirds of respondents (61 per cent) said they had used their mobile phone while driving, despite a high level of awareness (87 per cent) of the dangers involved.
The survey also found that one quarter of respondents believed it was alright to speed if “driving safely.”
Of the 16 per cent of respondents who had fallen asleep at the wheel, almost half (43 per cent) said they had done so more than once.
Six per cent said they “always, nearly always or mostly” drive at least 10 km/h over the speed limit, while four per cent believed they had driven while over the legal blood alcohol limit at least once within the past year.
The survey revealed existing traffic laws and enforcement practices had widespread support, with 98 per cent saying they approved of random breath testing.
The Social Research Centre said the results were similar to the 2008 survey on the same issue.
26 January, 2010
Justice report sees
A report into social justice and native title for Indigenous Australians has identified a positive shift in policymaking since the National Apology to the Stolen Generations and points to a more inclusive and promising future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Prepared by outgoing Commissioner for Social Justice, Tom Calma, the report focuses on the over-representation of Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system, the protection of Indigenous languages and sustaining Aboriginal homeland communities.
Commissioner Calma said that over the past year there had been “tangible” and “positive” signs the Government was working towards closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“For the first time in more than five years we have a national representative voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples currently being established,” he said.
“I believe the challenge for the future is to build on this momentum to overcome Indigenous disadvantage.”
In his report Commissioner Calma drew attention to the imprisonment rate of Indigenous people.
“Nationally, Indigenous adults are 13 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous people and Indigenous juveniles are 28 times more likely to be placed in juvenile detention than their non-Indigenous counterparts,” he said.
“I have been advocating for some time now for Australian Governments to consider a tried and tested approach known as ‘justice reinvestment’, which diverts a portion of the funds planned to be spent on imprisonment to local communities where there is a high concentration of offenders.”
Commissioner Calma said the Social Justice Report 2009, which is his sixth and final as Commissioner, was vital for anyone interested in the plight of Indigenous languages and highlighted the importance of ‘Homelands’ in providing social, spiritual, cultural, health and economic benefits to residents.
“Homelands are a unique component of the Indigenous social and cultural landscape, enabling residents to live on their ancestral lands,” he said.
“Policies which fail to support the ongoing development of Homelands will lead to social and economic problems.
Commissioner Calma also launched the Native Title Report 2009, which reviews developments in native title law and policy from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009.
“Significant improvements must be made to the native title system,” he said.
The Report makes 27 recommendations for reform of the native title system, including shifting the burden of proof and promoting broader and more flexible native title settlement packages.
“As I come to the end of my term, I urge Governments to listen to us and work with us,” Commissioner Calma said.
“Respect our voices, our rights, our lands, our resources and our waters.”
Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin welcomed the report, saying it acknowledged the investment being made by the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments to turn around Indigenous disadvantage.
“We recognise there is a lot more work to be done,” Ms Macklin said.
“Closing the gap will require a continued and concerted effort by all Australians over the long term.”
26 January, 2010
Tourism website hits
Tourism Australia has upgraded its Aussie Specialist website to help travel agents around the world sell the attractions of Australia to potential tourists and travellers.
Executive General Manager of Marketing at Tourism Australia, Nick Baker said the new website featured an Aussie Specialist training program, downloadable itineraries and video footage of the nation’s tourism highlights.
Mr Baker said the tool was a vital link to help the 23,000 travel agents around the world who specialise in Australian holidays to convert interest in the destination into sales.
“Aussie Specialists are a dedicated group of travel agents who are the frontline for selling Australian holidays to prospective travellers around the world,” Mr Baker said.
“These agents are hungry for knowledge on Australian travel experiences and are constantly looking to better serve the needs of their clients with information to improve itineraries and ultimately create better experiences for travellers to Australia.”
He said the new Aussie Specialist website aimed to ensure the program provides an engaging and interactive way for agents to learn more about Australia to help them to sell the destination to their customers with confidence.
Mr Baker said the website equipped agents with the knowledge and skills needed to sell Australia as a destination and featured several modules on different aspects of the country.
“In creating the new site we are also looking to generate new news about Australia at a time when there is a lot of competition between destinations for the tourist dollar,” he said.
The Aussie Specialist Program was created and is managed by Tourism Australia in cooperation with the State and Territory Tourism Organisations.
26 January, 2010
Art exhibit shows
The Royal Australian Mint is to hold an exhibition of art used in the manufacture of coins.
value of money
The Mint’s inaugural art show will be on display at its Canberra facility until 14 February, showcasing the talents of its long-serving designer and sculptor, Wojciech Pietranik.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said Striking Art: Lasting Impressions was a tribute to the “world-class, award-winning sculptor” who had made artistic contributions to the Mint and the Australian Community for two decades.
“It’s a great pleasure to congratulate Wojciech Pietranik on his service at the Mint and for his valuable contribution to the coining industry – and to Australian art,” Senator Sherry said.
“Over the years, Wojciech has created a unique collection of art leaving a lasting impression in the history of coin design in Australia.”
The exhibition – the first to be held in the newly refurbished Mint - features a volume of coins and medallions designed by Mr Pietranik for the Mint over the past 20 years, including commemorative coins for significant people and milestones in Australian history.
Senator Sherry said one of Mr Pietranik’s most memorable achievements was winning the Sydney 2000 Olympic Victory Medal Competition, receiving the honour of designing the victory medals presented to athletes at the Games.
The medal designs will be on display at the exhibition along with sculptures from his personal collection.
“The refurbished Mint is a modern and attractive tourist destination,” Senator Sherry said.
“The new surroundings provide a wonderful space for an exhibition of this standard and offer the promise of greater use of art and industry in the future.”
Mr Pietranik will appear at a special public event on 30 January at the Mint to share his thoughts on his work.
26 January, 2010
War memorial enlists
The Australian War Memorial has welcomed the 3-millionth visitor to its travelling exhibition program which first hit the road in 1997.
Head of Exhibitions at the War Memorial, Katherine McMahon said the travelling exhibition program was designed to give all Australians access to the AWM’s national collection of art, documents, photographs and relics.
Ms McMahon said the program had so far taken 34 exhibitions to more than 400 host venues across Australia.
“The travelling exhibition program gives more Australians the opportunity to see relics from our military history, and to learn about the contribution of Australian servicemen and women,” she said.
“It helps the War Memorial achieve its aim to commemorate the sacrifice of those Australians who have died in war, and to assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war.”
Currently six exhibitions are touring Australia: Framing Conflict Iraq and Afghanistan, A is for Animals, A digger’s best friend, George Lambert: Gallipoli & Palestine Landscapes, Gallipoli: A Turkish view and Sidney Nolan: the Gallipoli series.
Ms McMahon awarded the Gray family of Dubbo, who were the 3-millionth visitor, a special prize pack on 21 January when they arrived at the Western Plains Cultural Centre in Dubbo in NSW to see the Memorial’s A is for Animals exhibition.
26 January, 2010
Agencies plug into
The Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon, has visited the offices of Medicare Australia in Canberra to see for herself how a new, secure eHealth system would work for health care patients and professionals.
Ms Roxon said her visit showed how useful tools such as electronic health records, medications-management systems and electronic discharge, referrals and prescriptions would be. She said the new e-health system would improve patient care and efficiency.
She said unique healthcare identifiers would be assigned to all health consumers and professionals by the middle of the year, following the passage of the Healthcare Identifiers Bill 2010 and would be provided in addition to Medicare numbers to ensure security.
Ms Roxon said the Government was “committed to continuing implementation of eHealth to support a more effective health system.”
The Minister also held a roundtable with eHealth organisations and professionals last week to discuss the National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission’s (NHHRC’s) eHealth recommendations.
“The views of these key eHealth stakeholders are important as we consider the NHHRC recommendations,” she said, “and in developing strong foundations for Australia’s eHealth - such as unique ‘healthcare identifiers’ and secure messaging standards.”
She encouraged all Australians to send their comments and contributions to the debate on the health system to www.yourHealth.gov.au
26 January, 2010
Tender touch for gender panel
The Office for Women is to establish a panel of gender experts to support gender equality outcomes across Government.
The panel is to provide gender expertise to Federal Government Departments and Agencies through services such as research, evaluation, policy advice, developing gender mainstreaming educational materials and gender analysis training.
The Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs has invited organisations to tender for the provision of the panel, with further information available from www.tenders.gov.au
Defence pays up
The Department of Defence has advised that a payroll error has seen 63 personnel accidently overpaid by up to $9,000.
The Department said the cause of the accident was a manual input error and that information had been incorrectly entered into the pay system.
Defence is offering affected personnel a number of options for paying back the money to help avoid unfairly burdening families.
Schools site online
The Minister for Education has announced that the My School website will be launched this week, on Thursday 28 January.
The Minister, Julia Gillard, said the website would allow parents and the public to access useful, rich information about how their school is performing for the first time.
She said an important feature of the service would be the inclusion of how each school fared in the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) which would allow parents to compare schools.
Leadership meeting for CAPAM
The Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) is hosting a conference to help Public Servants improve service delivery.
The Conference, Enhancing Leadership in Citizen Service Delivery, is to be held in Botswana from 16 to 18 March and will address citizen service delivery objectives and challenges in Africa.
Further information was available from www.capam.org
The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has issued a warning against bringing illegal laser pointers into Australia, saying offenders could face fines of up to $110,000.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said almost 6,000 laser pointers (devices that use a highly focused beam of light) had been seized over the past six months compared to just 6,518 over the entire 2008-09 financial year.
Mr O’Connor said people bringing laser pointers into Australia could face prosecution if they did not have a permit.
Unis in the money
Australian universities are to receive a total of $1.42 billion in funding for research and research training this year.
The 2010 Research Block Grants will be shared by 41 universities and include projects such as the Research Training Scheme which meets the cost of tuition for postgraduate research students; funding for 3,069 Australian Postgraduate Awards; and an International Postgraduate Research Scheme to attract overseas research students.
A list of 2010 Research Block Grants was available from www.innovation.gov.au
Research vessel named
Two school students have won acompetition to name the Government’s new $120 million deep water research vessel.
Kirrily Moore of Tasmania and Clare Cameron of Queensland were named joint winners of the Float a Name competition, with their name, The Investigator chosen from 1,458 entries.
The original Investigator was sailed by Matthew Flinders when he circumnavigated Australia over 200 years ago.
Thumbs up for finance hub
A report commissioned by the Government in September 2008 has found Australia ‘arguably’ has the most efficient and competitive financial sector in the Asia-Pacific region.
Australia as a Financial Centre was conducted by the Australian Financial Centre Forum as part of the Government’s commitment to secure Australia’s future as a leading financial services hub.
The Government will consider the final recommendations of the Report before responding later in the year.
Copies of the report were available from www.treasury.gov.au
Chile welcome for tax treaty
The Australian and Chilean Governments have agreed on an income tax treaty, which will be the first between the two countries.
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the agreement would extend Australia’s tax treaty network in South America and reduce taxation barriers to trade and investment between the countries.
Senator Sherry said it would enter into force after approval by the Parliaments.
Defence recruits 264
The Australian Defence Force has appointed 264 high school graduates from across the country as Midshipman and Officer Cadets.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet said the Cadets had been through a highly competitive application process and had not only been accepted into the ADF, but also into the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
Mr Combet said upon graduation they were guaranteed a job in the Navy, Army or Air Force.
Law awards open
Nominations have opened for the 2010 Children’s Law Awards.
The awards recognise organisations or individuals who excel in representing, advocating or raising awareness of young people’s legal rights.
Nominations close on 19 February with the awards to be presented on 16 April.
Further information was available from www.ncylc.org.au
19 January, 2010
A plan to introduce simpler, whole-of-Government identification processes for members of the public contacting the Public Service online has been announced by the Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner.
is client ID plan
According to Mr Tanner, the new scheme would make dealing with Departments and Agencies online simpler and easier and would save money as well.
He said the new policy would reduce the number of authentication services (i.e. tools used to verify the identity of individuals or organisations online) used by Australian Government Agencies.
He said the new policy was in line with the Government’s agenda for improving the delivery of services to citizens.
“Increasingly, Australian Government agencies are offering individuals and organisations the opportunity to create online accounts through which they can access government services,” Mr Tanner said.
“Along with minimising duplication of authentication services in use by the Federal Government, the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) is currently developing solutions that provide people with the option of combining multiple accounts.”
Mr Tanner said as part of the policy, three leading Agencies would be appointed to manage the delivery of Government authentication services.
“Minimising the number of authentication services used by the Government will make dealing with Government online easier and it will save taxpayers money,” he said.
“Importantly for individuals and businesses, preserving privacy is at the core of this policy and lead Agencies will not have access to client information held by other Agencies.
19 January, 2010
Review lays down law
An independent review has recommended sweeping changes to the way the Australian Public Service purchases legal services.
on legal purchases
Conducted by Tony Blunn and Sibylle Krieger, the review of Commonwealth Legal Services Procurement found a “lack of strategic direction” and “inadequate attention” was being paid to procuring legal services for the APS and calls for a more coordinated and strategic approach.
“There is a strong case for greater coordination of the provision of legal services across the Commonwealth,” the review says.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the review examined existing procurement arrangements and provided advice on how the Commonwealth could most effectively purchase legal services.
“The report finds that the current system of Agencies individually tendering for legal services is very costly both to the Commonwealth and to external service providers,” Mr McClelland said.
“The review puts forward a number of recommendations which the Government will consider carefully as part of our commitment to closely monitor legal services expenditure and achieve greater value for taxpayers’ money.”
The review found that the demand for legal services across the Commonwealth had increased significantly over the past two decades and was not likely to lessen.
According to the review, the data collected by the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) on the demand and cost of legal services was insufficient.
“There is no reliable data on the cost to the Commonwealth of Agencies calling for and evaluating tenders for legal services, or to service providers in responding to requests for tender,” it says.
“Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests that the total costs to Agencies and service providers are substantial.”
The report also highlights a lack of clear standards against which to compare Agency performance.
“There are no accepted service-wide measures against which to assess whether Agency practices are appropriate or efficient, or that staff are appropriately qualified or relevantly trained and experienced, in relation to the levels of responsibility required of them in providing legal services,” it says.
The review said AGD did not have a clear leadership role or the “skills essential to any meaningful role” to help coordinate and manage legal services procurement.
Twenty-three recommendations were made to AGD, including standardising procurement management processes; defining and professionalising the role of in-house-lawyers; providing more guidance and assistance to Agencies; and introducing standards and suitable training for legal service providers.
The review also recommends the costs, demand and effectiveness of legal services within the Commonwealth be determined.
“Even under existing instructions and guidelines there would appear to be more efficient and probably cheaper procurement options,” it says.
Mr McClelland commissioned the review in March 2009 following an increase in legal services expenditure reported by Commonwealth Agencies for 2007-08.
The review team’s report could be accessed at www.ag.gov.au
19 January, 2010
FOI processes on
Requests for documents under Freedom of Information laws were processed faster in 2008-09 than in the year before according to the annual FOI report.
fast track to freedom
Cabinet Secretary, Senator Joe Ludwig said the report showed the Government’s attempt to build a pro-disclosure culture was on track, pointing to a 15 per cent increase in decisions on FOI requests within 30 days compared to the year before.
“I am encouraged by the significant improvement to reduce delays in responding to FOI requests,” Senator Ludwig said.
According to the report, Government Agencies in 2008-2009 received slightly fewer requests than the previous year, with a total of 27,561 lodged.
Centrelink received the majority of FOI requests (10,275), followed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (5,893) and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (5,970).
The report revealed that DIAC experienced the biggest drop in FOI requests, which was attributed to changes to the Migration Act 1958 which enabled international movement records to be requested without resorting to FOI applications.
Senator Ludwig said the majority of requests (80 per cent) were for personal information about the applicant and almost 94 per cent of requests finalised in the reporting period were granted in full or in part.
He said the Government had introduced a number of reforms to enhance PS transparency, including abolishing conclusive certificates under the FOI Act and the Archives Act 1983.
He said the FOI Report was an important publication which allowed scrutiny and transparency in the operation of the FOI Act.
“(It) also enables the Government to monitor and identify key areas for reform,” he said.
Senator Ludwig said the Government was pressing forward on its commitment for more openness in government.
“The Information Commissioner Bill 2009 and the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Bill 2009, introduced into the Parliament in November, will give effect to major reforms to the FOI Act,” he said.
The FOI Annual report 2008-09 is available at
19 January, 2010
Families wired for
The move towards applications for Centrelink payments being made via the internet continues to grow, with the Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen announcing that almost half of all family assistance claims were now being made online.
Mr Bowen said people were increasingly opting for internet services because of Centrelink’s improvements to its online system and the convenience it offered.
“More and more people are telling Centrelink they prefer to use the Internet to do their business,” he said.
“For example, around 80 per cent of first time mothers are choosing to lodge their claims online instead of using paper forms.”
Mr Bowen said people could claim a number of family payments online including Family Tax Benefit, Baby Bonus, Child Care Benefit and Maternity Immunisation Allowance.
He said the improvements made to Centrelink’s online services included transferring information provided by customers through an online claim straight into its record, and scanning paper forms into its computer system so staff could access the information electronically.
He said busy parents could also commence a claim, save the information and complete it at a later time.
“The 6,000 families claiming Family Tax Benefit online and 3,400 families lodging a paper form every week are benefiting from these changes by receiving their payments quicker, with more than 80 per cent of claims processed within 14 days,” Mr Bowen said.
He said 3.9 million customers were currently registered to use self-service options and over 24 million online transactions were completed during the 2008-09 financial year.
19 January, 2010
Diversity is true blue
A survey conducted for the Commonwealth’s National Australia Day Council has revealed that 9 out of 10 Australians believe recognising Indigenous culture is an important aspect of Australia Day celebrations.
part of Australia Day
Chief Executive of the NADC, Warren Pearson, said the results reflected a cultural shift in Australia.
“The survey results reflect the diversity of our nation now, the changing face of Australians and the huge shift in public understanding of Indigenous issues and growing appreciation of Aboriginal culture,” Mr Pearson said.
“What Australians are saying is not that we should recognise one thing over another, but that our national celebrations should reflect the many things that make Australia what it is.”
The survey also revealed that 89 per cent of Australians believed it was important to recognise the cultural diversity of our nation.
Mr Pearson said the sentiments were similar across all ages and demographic backgrounds, but particularly among those aged 18 to 34.
He said of those aged 18 to 34, 94 per cent said recognising Australia’s indigenous people and culture was important in celebrations compared to 88 per cent of those in the 50+ age bracket, he said.
“Similarly, 95 per cent of the younger generations supported the recognition of cultural diversity compared to 84 per cent of the older generation,” Mr Pearson said.
The survey also revealed that Australians perceived themselves as being laid back and easy going, with 44 per cent using terms such as “casual” and “relaxed” to describe their fellow country men and women.
Mr Pearson said almost half of all Australians - 44 per cent - believed reflecting on the nation’s past was the most important thing to think about on Australia Day, while 41 per cent said they looked to the future. A minority – 13 per cent – said the most important thing to consider was the present time, with the remainder being uncertain.
“It shows that we’re thinking about where we’ve come from and how we can make Australia a better place, rather than just enjoying the public holiday,” Mr Pearson said.
“Australia Day is the day we come together as a nation to celebrate Australia and being Australian.
“It’s wonderful that Australians see themselves as a united people made up of a rich mix of cultures and heritage and they want to celebrate their place in that mix.
“Australia Day means many different things to different people and now we’re seeing how much people value the many different influences which make Australia great.”
He said for more information about Australia Day events people could visit www.australiaday.org.au
19 January, 2010
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued its annual climate statement saying 2009 would be remembered for extreme bushfires, dust-storms, low rainfall, flooding and record-breaking heatwaves.
settles on 2009
According to the Bureau, it was Australia’s second warmest year since high-quality records began in 1910, with the mean annual temperature 0.9°C above the 1961-1990 average.
In its statement the Bureau said high temperatures had been particularly notable in the southeast during the second half of the year, with Victoria, South Australia and NSW all recording their warmest July-December periods on record.
The Bureau said extreme heatwaves that had affected southern Australia during late January and early February had set a new maximum temperature record of 46.4°C in Melbourne and had contributed to the Black Saturday bushfires.
Other standout weather events, according to the report, were a rare winter heatwave during August over large parts of inland Australia that resulted in Australia’s warmest August on record.
“Based on the analysis of daily (maximum and minimum) temperature data above and below set thresholds, there are clear upward trends in the number of hot events and downward trends in the number of cold events (over the period 1960 to date), consistent with the background of global warming,” the Bureau said.
It said 2009 ended Australia’s warmest decade on record. It was also a drier than average year for the southeast mainland.
“Based on preliminary data, the overall Australian mean rainfall total for 2009 was 453 mm, slightly less than the long-term average (1961-90) of 464 mm,” the Bureau said.
“During July to October 2009, serious rainfall deficiencies were experienced over large areas of Queensland and isolated parts of NSW, consistent with the development of an El Niño event during this time.
“The unusually dry and warm winter was associated with a series of dust-storms across eastern New South Wales and southeast Queensland in September and early October.”
The World Meteorological Organisation said 2009 was expected to be the world’s 5th warmest year on record, about 0.44°C above the 1961-90 average.
19 January, 2010
The national Heart Foundation is targeting Public Service offices to promote healthier lifestyles by becoming involved in organised walking programs.
takes PS pulse
National Senior Project Officer of Heart Foundation Walking, Michelle Wilson said 30 Government Departments across Australia had already signed up for the program which was based on a network of community-based walking groups aimed at encouraging people to be more active.
“In the past six months we have had over 30 new walking groups start in Government Departments across Australia,” Ms Wilson said.
“Many workplaces are encouraging staff to be more physically active and walking is a fun, free and social way to be active.”
She said volunteer Walk Organisers lead groups in their local area, and Public Servants were encouraged to become involved.
“Heart Foundation Walking Groups are a great way to meet people,” Ms Wilson said.
“Joining or starting a walking group in your area or workplace is easy and best of all it’s free.”
Ms Wilson said the Heart Foundation worked in partnership with Area Coordinators to establish walking groups in their local community.
“Area Coordinators may be from health or community centres, Councils or workplaces,” she said.
“These Area Coordinators work with the Heart Foundation to assist volunteer walk organisers to recruit walkers and establish groups.”
Ms Wilson said walk organisers were provided with resources, training and support to begin and maintain their group.
“They also receive complimentary merchandise as a ‘thank you’ for their role,” she said.
To become involved and find or start a group at your workplace, visit www.heartfoundation.org.au
19 January, 2010
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has released a set of guidelines to assist Agencies table reports and other documents in Parliament.
set table rules
Entitled Guidelines for the Presentation of Documents to the Parliament (including government documents, Government Responses to Committee Reports, Ministerial Statements, Annual Reports and Other Instruments) the 56-page guide discusses document presentation, publishing standards, deadlines, covering notes, Ministerial approvals, security arrangements and more.
The guidelines state that documents for tabling are confidential to the Government until presented to Parliament, and appropriate security must be in place until they are tabled, including informing courier companies of these requirements.
Completed reports should have Ministerial approval before being tabled and Departments should advise their Minister of any timing considerations, particularly statutory time limits for tabling.
Departments may seek advice from the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet if documents may require the protection of Parliamentary privilege, for example if they may be considered defamatory by certain people.
Documents must be made available online once they have been tabled in Parliament, and must be identical to the printed version.
The guidelines state that while documents can be presented when the Senate is not sitting, this option should be considered if there is a statutory or compelling need to present them. No such arrangements are in place for the House of Representatives.
Departments which fail to adhere to presentation requirements when printing or publishing documents may face additional costs if the document is to be included in the Parliamentary Papers Series. The Guide says they must be printed on International B5 size paper.
The guidelines also include deadlines – all annual reports should be tabled by 31 October, for example - however Departments unable to meet the deadline may seek an extension under the Acts Interpretation Act 1901.
Publication of the Guide follows an instance last year in which documents relating to treaty negotiations with foreign countries were accidentally tabled in Parliament.
The Guidelines can be accessed at www.dpmc.gov.au
19 January, 2010
Ring in new year by
Australia Post is urging people to recycle their old mobile phones through a free service it is offering to the public.
A spokesperson for the Post Office, Ruth Snelleman, said the service, MobileMuster, would make it easier for people to recycle the estimated 16 million old mobile phones sitting unused in Australian homes.
“If you collected all of these old phones and laid them out end-to-end, they would stretch from Brisbane to Adelaide,” Ms Snelleman said.
She said only nine per cent of phone users recycled their old mobiles despite the fact that 90 per cent of materials in the phones could be recovered and reused for new products.
“It’s not just the handset that can be recycled,” she said.
“The plastics and metals in mobile phone batteries, chargers and accessories can also be recycled.”
To recycle their mobiles, people can collect a satchel from their local Australia Post outlet and place the phone with the battery connected in one section of the satchel and accessories in the other section, and post it in any street posting box, she said.
“Old batteries can be recycled to make new batteries, circuit boards include small amounts of gold and silver that can be used to make jewellery, and handset casings include plastics that can be used to make fence posts,” Ms Snelleman said.
“The gold recovered from the estimated 16 million mobile phones in people’s homes could be used to create nearly 24,000 wedding bands.”
She said since joining the MobileMuster in May 2008, Australia Post had helped to recycle over 68,000 handsets, 69,000 batteries and more than 6,000 kilograms of accessories.
19 January, 2010
Ombudsman has fair
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has described a number of grant schemes administered by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Centrelink as unfair.
go at unfair grants
In his investigation, the Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, examined three grant schemes – the Murray-Darling Irrigation Management Grant (IMG); the Tobacco Grower Adjustment Assistance Package; and the Exceptional Circumstances Exit Grant.
Professor McMillan said his finding that grant guidelines and amendments had not been published in a timely manner was of particular concern.
“This is a concern because applications for government assistance have been rejected based on the application of rules not properly published,” he said.
In his report, the Ombudsman found that after October 2007 the guidelines for the Murray-Darling IMG were amended at least five times to redefine terms such as ‘farmer’ and revise various criteria, however the changes were not published on the DAFF website until November the following year.
Professor McMillan said some applicants under the Tobacco Grower Adjustment Assistance Package had experienced similar problems that put them at a disadvantage as a result of a rule that was announced months after growers accepted the package.
‘‘Some deceased tobacco growers, if aware of this rule, might have arranged their affairs differently to avoid or minimise the effect of a cap on the amount that could be received by the beneficiaries of their estates,” he said.
The Ombudsman also questioned whether DAFF’s Exceptional Circumstances Exit Grant would assist drought–affected farmers with significant long–term investments in farming to quit.
Professor McMillan said similar problems were revealed in an Ombudsman report on executive schemes released in August last year.
“The Executive Schemes report highlighted that the design and administration of funding schemes set up by executive action, rather than under an Act of Parliament, are often not as clear or ascertainable as in a legislative scheme,” he said.
“The policy documents that constitute an executive scheme are sometimes in a state of flux, or different versions of the scheme are applied by different decision makers, while the absence of formal review and appeal rights means that problems in drafting and administration are not identified and resolved at an early stage.”
The Ombudsman’s full report is available at www.ombudsman.gov.au
19 January, 2010
Child Support audit
An audit of the “most significant change” to the Child Support Scheme since its inception has found the Child Support Agency could have better managed the reforms which affected one third of the scheme’s clients.
finds reforms lacking
The audit, Child Support Reforms: Stage One of the Child Support Scheme Reforms and Improving Compliance, found it was difficult to determine if the reforms had achieved their desired results.
The report covers stage one of the reforms, which are to be undertaken in three separate stages.
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the reforms were being implemented to address concerns about the fairness and adequacy of the Child Support Scheme (CSS) and to assist women and children with financial support following separation or divorce.
Mr McPhee said a compliance program was also considered necessary to complement the Child Support Scheme Reforms (CSSR).
He said an Improving Compliance program was designed to address the growth in child support debt and to encourage parents to comply with policy and make child support payments on time.
The Auditor-General said while the reforms were lead by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the day-to-day management was undertaken by the Child Support Agency (CSA) in partnership with other Departments.
“As is common with the delivery of any major policy reform, the planning and implementation of stage one of the CSSR experienced some difficulties,” he said.
“Many of these issues, however, could have been better managed, or in some cases avoided, if weaknesses in both whole-of-Government and individual Agency governance and project management arrangements (such as risk management, communication and performance monitoring and reporting) had been adequately addressed.”
Mr McPhee said the CSA’s inexperience in implementing policy reform and its lack of a “robust project management framework” had contributed to the difficulties, as had the absence of Agency support agreements and insufficient risk management practices.
He said the Improving Compliance program was track to meet just one of three key outcomes.
He highlighted a lack of strategic planning and inadequate financial planning management practices for the poor results.
“The effects of these shortcomings include that some compliance risks to the Child Support Scheme remain unaddressed, and some individual projects have been unable to achieve their collection targets,” the Auditor said.
Mr McPhee made six recommendations, saying the CSA had “taken some steps” to improve operations, including a reorganisation.
The audit report was available from www.anao.gov.au
19 January, 2010
Binge drinking ads
A Government campaign to curb binge drinking among young people has hit the mark according to Minister for Health, Nicola Roxon.
send sobering message
Ms Roxon said new research revealed that the Don’t Turn a Night Out into a Nightmare advertisements, running on television and in night clubs, continued to remind people to drink responsibly during the festive season.
She said the independent evaluation involved interviews with 6,173 people aged between 15 and 25, as well as 2,390 parents of 13-17 year olds. It revealed the campaign had strong awareness in the groups it had targeted: young people between the ages of 15 and 25 (85 per cent), and parents of 13 to 17-year-olds (80 per cent).
Ms Roxon said significant findings of the survey included that around 40 per cent of young people who had never had an alcoholic drink thought the campaign had relevance to them. This increased to more than 60 per cent for those who had drunk or were drinking at high risk levels.
She said at least three quarters of those interviewed agreed that the television commercials made them think about the negative consequences of binge drinking, while about 30 per cent said they had curbed their drinking in response to the advertisements.
Parents said they had undertaken protective strategies related to their children’s drinking as a result of the campaign, such as setting a good example with their own drinking.
“Binge drinking is a community wide problem that requires a community wide response,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the Government had invested $14.4 million in community-level initiatives to confront binge drinking in partnership with sporting and community organisations, as well as $19.1 million to intervene earlier to assist young people and ensure that they assume personal responsibility.
“There is no doubt that this campaign has had an impact, but there is much more to be done to change Australia’s drinking-to-get-drunk culture,” Ms Roxon said.
19 January, 2010
New plan to get
A new management plan for the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Central Australia has been approved by the Minister for Environment and Heritage, Peter Garrett.
Mr Garrett said the plan had been prepared by the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Board of Management and included public comments from feedback received since July last year.
“Like the Board, I am also very conscious of the need to support tourism and to better integrate local culture with the economy,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the new plan included a requirement that clear preconditions be met before any plans to ban climbing on the Ayers Rock and these should include new visitor experiences.
Under the management plan, the climb will not be closed until at least one of three conditions is met – that the number of people climbing must drop from the current 38 per cent to less than 20 per cent; the attraction of the climb is no longer the major reason why people travel to Uluru; or a range of new experiences are in place for tourists.
“I have asked the Director of National Parks to work closely with the tourism industry to develop for the Board a set of clear criteria on how these preconditions will be measured,” Mr Garrett said.
“This will be a clear and transparent process, establishing robust benchmarks and independent surveys to measure climber numbers and assess the achievement of the other preconditions.
“Realistically, I would expect the climb to remain open for at least a number of years. The industry is guaranteed at least 18 months notice before the eventual closure so they have enough time to adjust their tour planning and marketing.”
Mr Garrett said in approving the plan he considered 172 submissions. Of these, 153 related to the climb - with 78 supporting and 75 opposing a ban.
“We need to reach out to the next generation of visitors the tourism industry tells us want outstanding new experiences when they travel, and more opportunities to experience Indigenous culture,” he said.
“I agree with the Board and the tourism industry on the urgent need to develop these new experiences, so that a reinvigorated Uluru maintains its place in the global marketplace.”
Mr Garrett said two tourism “heavy-weights” - John Morse and Rick Murray - had been appointed to work with local Indigenous communities and the industry to help establish new businesses.
Mr Garrett said he expected the measurement criteria for the preconditions to be finalised by the middle of this year.
19 January, 2010
States tap into
Three States and the Australian Capital Territory have signed water agreements with the Commonwealth to ensure the ongoing viability of the Murray-Darling Basin.
Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, said the Water Management Partnership Agreements with NSW, Victoria, Queensland and the ACT would lead to better water resource management and funding agreements for the Murray-Darling Basin. South Australia signed the agreement in November last year.
Senator Wong said a number of these programs and projects had already commenced.
“Under these Agreements, the Basin States will undertake a series of water reforms to ensure the sustainable use of Basin water resources, and help Basin communities adapt to the impacts of climate change,” Senator Wong said.
“The Agreements …now formalise the relationship with all of the Murray-Darling Basin States and Territory governments, setting out the terms of the Australian Government’s $3.7 billion commitment to fund significant state-based water infrastructure projects in Basin.’’
She said funding had been provided from the Government’s $12.9 billion Water for the Future initiative.
“With ongoing drought in some parts of the Basin, and the emerging effects of climate change, we face a monumental challenge in the Murray-Darling Basin,” Senator Wong said.
“This agreement sets the framework for our investment in irrigation infrastructure to help our farmers and regional communities and protect food security.’’
19 January, 2010
Investors gain from
New legislation to make it easier for taxpayers to defer capital gains made during takeovers or mergers has been announced by the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry.
capital gain reforms
Senator Sherry said the legislation would reform tax laws relating to scrip for scrip roll-over for takeovers or mergers that were approved under the Corporations Act 2001 (the Act).
“The scrip for scrip roll‑over is an important measure that ensures capital gains tax (CGT) is not an obstacle to takeovers and mergers,” Senator Sherry said.
“The roll-over allows investors who exchange shares in one company for shares in another to defer the realisation of any capital gains from this trade.”
He said current laws meant the scrip for scrip roll-over was not available to all shareholders, even if the merger or takeover was approved under the Act.
“The reforms will increase the scope of the scrip for scrip roll-over and allow a simpler and better financial transition for shareholders by deferring capital gains at the point of the takeover or merger,” Senator Sherry said.
“This is good news for shareholders, whether they are mum and dad investors or large, institutional investors.”
He said the new laws would better align the CGT scrip for scrip roll-over requirements with the Act and would make it easier for takeovers and mergers regulated by the Act to qualify for the roll‑over.
Senator Sherry said the Government would run a four-week consultation on the new laws, and that submissions could be made at www.treasury.gov.au until 5 February.
“The Government is committed to a program of consultation and an exposure draft of the legislation will be released later this year on the Treasury website,” he said.
Senator Sherry said the changes applied to CGT events that occurred from 6 January 2010.
19 January, 2010
Minister happy with
The Minister for Health has hailed the new year as another important one for reform of Australia’s health system, setting out a number of new arrangements coming into effect or planned for 2010.
healthy new year
The Minister, Nicola Roxon, said a particular highlight was the establishment of the first national Agency dedicated to the country’s health workers, Health Workforce Australia, which commenced on 1 January.
“HWA is set to provide national planning and support for Australia’s health professionals,” Ms Roxon said.
“Health Workforce Australia will produce more effective, streamlined and integrated clinical training arrangements and will support workforce reform initiatives.”
She said the new Agency would become operational from 27 January, with Mark Cormack appointed as CEO.
Ms Roxon said a national approach was needed to building up Australia’s health workforce, and that the HWA was a centrepiece of the Council of Australian Governments’ $1.6 billion health workforce reform package.
In other measures, nurses and allied health professionals would be eligible to able to apply for more than $118 million in a revised scholarships and support program and individuals with Epidermolysis Bullosa, which leaves sufferers with skin as delicate as butterfly wings, will have access to a new program that provides dressings that can cost up to $5,000 a month.
In addition, she said Australians accessing medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme would benefit from a new HIV medication being added to the Highly Specialised Benefits Scheme at an additional cost of $15 million over four years.
She said the Government would also improve the operation of the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS), providing $93 million over two years to develop and implement a new evidence-based framework for managing the MBS into the future.
“A new listing process will ensure a more robust evaluation process for decisions relating to the listing of MBS items,” Ms Roxon said.
She said the Government-funded seasonal influenza program has been extended, which includes pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged between 15 and 49, and people aged six months to 64 years who were at greater risk of severe influenza because of chronic conditions.
Ms Roxon said a major reform planned for 2010 that was not commencing was the Preventative Health Agency, which was set to be running from 1 January but which has been held up in the Senate.
“[The Preventative Health Agency] was to be a key weapon in the Government’s fight against obesity, chronic disease and alcohol and tobacco addiction,” Ms Roxon said.
She expressed the hope it would be passed without too much further delay.
19 January, 2010
2.0 report handed over
The Government 2.0 Taskforce has handed down its report on the potential of the Australian Government to utilise web 2.0 technologies.
The Government will now consider the recommendations of Taskforce’s report, Engage: Getting on with Government 2.0.
The Taskforce was appointed in June last year to examine ways the Government could expand the uses of Commonwealth information and improve its engagement with citizens.
The report is available at www.finance.gov.au
DVA dodges merger
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs is not to be included in the merger of Agencies within the Human Services portfolio.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said his Department was unaffected by the merger and would remain separate.
“The Government understands that the needs of veterans and the ex-service community are unique,” Mr Griffin said.
“We recognise that delivering an appropriate level of service for this group requires a Department with a discrete budget and awareness of the special circumstances that exist within this community.”
Call for Risk Officer
The Australian Risk Policy Institute has called for the establishment of a Chief Risk Officer for the Australian Public Service in its submission to the Advisory Group on Reforming the APS.
President of ARPI, Tony Charge said the position would strengthen the Government’s forecasting tools.
“A better anticipatory Public Service is better positioned to assist when catastrophes happen” Mr Charge said.
The submission could be viewed at www.arpi.org.au
Defence declares cyber war
The Department of Defence’s new Cyber Security Operations Centre in Canberra has officially opened.
Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner said the Cyber Security Operations Centre would develop capabilities to gain an edge in the cyber space domain and provide critical understanding of the cyber threat from sophisticated cyber attack.
The Centre is located within the Defence Signals Directorate and will employ around 130 information technology experts, engineers and analysts as well as staff from the Defence Intelligence Organisation, Australian Defence Force, Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Attorney-General’s Department, ASIO and the AFP.
Commission reports on pay
The Productivity Commission has released its final report on Australia’s director and executive remuneration framework, which was commissioned in March 2009 to address community concerns about excessive executive salaries.
The Commission found Australia’s corporate governance and remuneration framework ranked well internationally, but said it could be strengthened.
The Commission recommended board capacities be improved, conflicts of interest be reduced, stakeholder engagement be encouraged and disclosure be improved.
The report was available from www.pc.gov.au
AUSTRAC tests website
Australia’s anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing regulator, AUSTRAC, has invited visitors to its website to help improve it by participating in an online survey.
The survey is anonymous and is expected to take a few minutes to complete.
The view AUSTRAC’s website and participate in the survey, visit www.austrac.gov.au
Reactor attracts 10,000
More than 10,000 visitors toured the Lucas Heights facility of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation last year, a new record high attendance.
ANSTO said the figure represented an 18 per cent increase over the previous year.
Digital paper for comment
A green paper on the benefits and costs of maximising Australia’s ‘digital dividend’ has been released for public comment.
Digital dividend is the term used to describe the radio-frequency spectrum made available following the switchover to digital-only television.
Interested parties are invited to comment on the green paper by 26 February which can be accessed at www.dbcde.gov.au
Haiti redirects Clinton
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has postponed her visit to Australia as a result of the earthquake in Haiti.
Secretary Clinton had been due to attend the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations in Canberra on 18 January along with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who has also rescheduled his visit.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith said he looked forward to holding AUSMIN at a mutually convenient time later this year.
ABC office unveiled
Concept designs for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s new Queensland headquarters have been unveiled.
ABC Chairman, Maurice Newman and Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh said the purpose-built facility, located at Brisbane’s South Bank, would be a state-of-the-art broadcast centre, capable of meeting the ABC’s expanding technological and operating requirements.
The new building will be approximately 15,500 square meters in size and house up to 450 ABC staff and members of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO). It is due to be completed in late 2011 - early 2012.
Tax paper for comment
A consultation paper setting out proposed changes to tax laws dealing with controlled foreign company (CFC) rules has been released.
The paper looks at the modernisation of CFC rules that was announced in the 2009-10 Budget in a bid to ensure Australian businesses remain competitive in the global economy.
Submissions close on 1 March 2010, with further information and copies of the paper available from www.treasury.gov.au