SearchArchives for July 2006
25 July 2006
Gov’t Businesses Not-For-Profit According to Productivity Report
The Productivity Commission has found that most Government trading enterprises (GTEs) were not profitable and failed to achieve commercial rates of return in 2004-05.
The report, Financial Performance of Government Trading Enterprises 2000-01 to 2004-05, also looked at the capital structures of GTEs and capital withdrawal by State and Territory governments.
In preparing its report, the Productivity Commission examined 85 GTEs with assets of more than $186 billion and $63 billion in revenue, accounting for 86 per cent of all revenue generated by government owned businesses.
It found that in 2004-05, aggregate profitability increased in the electricity, water and urban transport sectors compared with the previous year but declined in the railways, forestry and ports sectors.
It said that despite some improvement, a majority of the monitored GTEs failed to obtain commercial rates of return in 2004-05.
The Commission also found that the proportion of GTEs falling below the commercial threshold had not changed significantly for more than a decade.
Productivity Commissioner Mike Woods said that the decision by the Council of Australian Governments, (COAG) to reinvigorate reform through a new National Reform Agenda was timely because of the performance of the GTEs and the lack of long-term improvement.
"The Commission’s continued monitoring of GTEs will assist in evaluating the progress and gains from further infrastructure reforms," Mr Wood said.
Financial performance monitoring of GTEs was part of the Commission’s research into the performance of Australian industries and the progress of microeconomic reform. The monitored GTEs provided services in key sectors of the economy — including electricity, water, urban transport, railways, ports and forestry.
Mr Wood said this highlighted the need for continued reforms by States and Territories to improve the performance of their trading enterprises and ensure they earned an appropriate return on tax-payer funded assets.
The report found that the electricity sector as a whole had experienced substantial increases in profits, up 68 per cent in real terms from $1.5 billion in 2000-01, to more than $2.6 billion in 2004-05.
It said that cost recovery was a measure of the ability of a GTE to generate adequate revenue to meet expenses.
A cost recovery ratio below 100 per cent suggested that a GTE was unable to meet its operating costs even before the cost of servicing debt was taken into account. Most electricity GTEs recovered between 100 and 150 per cent of operating costs.
In public transport, the report found patronage decreased for the sector as a whole in 2004-05.
25 July 2006
Changes a Tonic to Health Workforce
Australia’s health workforce is to be strengthened under reforms agreed at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.
There will be more doctors and nurses and a better trained and more responsive health workforce with the Commonwealth contributing $300 million over four years to the reforms.
The changes include a single national accreditation scheme for health education and training and it was also agreed to implement a standard national process to assess overseas-trained doctors.
Under the reforms, States and Territories will contribute to improving the health workforce, with guaranteed support for clinical training and doctor intern places to match the 205 new medical places offered by Commonwealth. A taskforce on the national health workforce would be established to advise on workforce innovation and reform.
There will be a new Medicare item for practice nurses, registered Aboriginal health workers and nurse practitioners to provide ongoing support for patients with chronic disease on behalf of general practitioners.
To attract and retain more general practitioners with procedural skills in rural areas, an alternative pathway to vocational recognition is to be created, recognising the special skills involved in rural practice.
From January 2008, medical specialist trainees could be placed in outpatient departments, Aboriginal Medical Services, private hospitals and private practices, as well as public teaching hospitals.
25 July 2006
Police Line Up For Commissioner’s Awards
Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty has presented staffwith awards from the Commissioner’s Honours List at a ceremony at Parliament House.
AFP staff were honoured for their work investigating international terrorism and people smuggling, intercepting major drug importations and developing cutting edge forensic techniques.
Peacekeepers and those working offshore in difficult environments were also praised.
Commissioner Keelty said the awards reflected outstanding professional behaviour and individual acts of bravery, with some staff putting the protection of others before their own safety.
“We are here to celebrate a committed work force that continually goes beyond the call of duty – be that on the front line, or behind the scenes developing the tools required for policing," Commissioner Keelty said.
“This year’s awards also recognise long standing commitment to the AFP with members receiving awards for 10 and 15 years diligent service.”
The awards included medals, commendations, and citations for bravery, conspicuous conduct and excellence in overseas service.
For the first time 10 Humanitarian Overseas Service Medals will be awarded, on this occasion to police involved in the response to the Boxing Day Tsunami in December 2004.
25 July 2006
Dingo To Be Face of Census Ads
Television presenter Ernie Dingo is to host the advertising campaign for the 2006 Census the Australian Bureau of Statistics has announced. The national Census will take place on 8 August and the television commercials featuring Mr Dingo will go to air from 25 July.
Australian Statistician, Dennis Trewin, said Ernie Dingo enjoyed a uniquely broad appeal across the entire Australian population and the ABS believed the public at large would quickly identify with him “as he invites us to do our bit for Australia's future by completing the Census form”.
The ABS had also chosen Euro RSCG Australia as its advertising agency for the Census campaign which will feature64 Mr Dingo in television, radio and print advertisements.
“Ernie Dingo has the credibility to help all sections of the Australian public realise just why it is important for them to fill in their Census forms,” Mr Trewin said.
“Data from the Census is used for planning vital community services including education and health services.”
He said the Bureau believed Mr Dingo’s participation in the campaign would help maximise public participation when it came to filling in Census forms.
“This is essential to a quality Census which depends on a very high count.”
Mr Trewin said that the selection of Ernie Dingo to present the Census advertising was consistent with the central communications strategy of the ABS which involved a more “humanised” approach to getting out essential Census messages.
According to the Chief Executive of Euro RSCG Australia, Brendan Tansey, the strategic and creative challenge was clear: “We needed to maximise participation across geography, demography and culture,” Mr Tansey said.
“In the campaign development, our research showed we should focus on people’s sense of responsibility to the future of Australia. So, we told people there’s something in it for them, completing the Census form is their duty to Australia, and the information they provide will remain confidential. Ernie Dingo was the perfect choice for delivering those messages in a personal, credible and motivating way.”
Mr Trewin said the previous “Pins” campaign was very effective for the period in which it ran, but it was time for a change and the ABS was very happy with Euro’s selection of Ernie Dingo to help inform the public about the Census.
25 July 2006
AIS Still Sweet on Oranges at Sport
The Australian Institute of Sport has cleared the air over media reports that it had called on sporting teams to replace half-time oranges with sports drinks or lollies saying it intended no such thing.
Institute Director, Professor Peter Fricker said the AIS did not endorse such a move and comments by nutritionist Michelle Cort had been taken out of context.
“AIS Nutrition does not advocate that lollies and sports drinks should be given to children at half time, instead of the traditional oranges,” Professor Fricker said.
“No studies have ever been conducted at the AIS regarding oranges as part of an athletes’ refuelling strategy during exercise.”
He said the AIS recognised that oranges were a nutritious source of carbohydrate.
“The comments made to the media relating to carbohydrate consumption during exercise referred to the elite athlete population at the AIS, not for children playing social or even competitive sport.”
Professor Fricker said a false impression had been created about children and nutrition during sport.
The AIS Sports Nutrition Department’s role was to provide appropriate, cutting-edge sports nutrition advice to its scholarship holders and elite sporting organisations.
AIS guidelines for athletes focussed on strategies to enhance carbohydrate availability during exercise and research showed that this could provide a number of performance benefits.
The AIS argued that performance improvements could also result from ingestion of drinks during exercise lasting more than about 40-60 minutes. Theoretically, athletes should aim to drink enough to offset most of their fluid losses.
Carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks (sports drinks) were generally more effective than plain water. Sports drinks were a convenient and effective way of obtaining both carbohydrate and fluid simultaneously during exercise or breaks in play.
AIS Nutrition advised that other carbohydrate sources, including glucose-based lollies and carbohydrate gels, could also be used by the elite athlete population as an effective means of re-fuelling during exercise.
The AIS emphasised that food and fluid consumed during competition were part of a specific short term strategy aimed at maximising performance at a specific time.
These were not strategies advised as a long-term approach to day-to-day eating.
25 July 2006
Back to the Future for Federation Council
A Council for the Australian Federation has been formed by Premiers and Chief Ministers to regenerate the political strength of Australian States and Territories. It is the first of its kind since Australia became a federation in 1901.
All State and Territory leaders would be members of the Council and a small secretariat is to be established in Canberra, with costs to be shared among States and Territories. The chair would rotate among members on an annual basis.
Acting ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher said the council was designed to become a clearing house for ideas and policy formulation.
"While recent Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meetings have become co-operative and productive, the State and Territory leaders believe the new council will make it work even better," Ms Gallagher said.
"The reality is that at present, arrangements for discussion, information-sharing, strategic negotiation and achieving consensus among states and territories is not well organised," she said.
The Council will meet once or twice a year to find the best common position among the States and Territories on COAG agreements with the Commonwealth and reach joint agreements on cross-jurisdictional issues where a Commonwealth imprimatur was unnecessary or had not been forthcoming.
It will also develop better procedures for the States and Territories to share and exchange information and identify best practice policy and programs. Ms Gallagher said it also anticipate future developments within the federal system, including Commonwealth decisions that might have a significant impact on the States and Territories.
The Council has been called a “Labor mates club” by some commentators since it did not include the Commonwealth among its membership.
Acting Opposition Leader in the ACT, Richard Mulcahy said the Council would only be concerned with bashing the Commonwealth Government.
"There could be an argument for the States and Territories to form a group if this were a case of genuinely representing the needs and views of their respective legislatures," Mr Mulcahy said.
But he said that what was being proposed was an alternative Commonwealth, a federation of the Labor States and Territories against Australia's federal legislature.
"This amounts to nothing more than political point-scoring and will create a new Labor mates' club," he said.
The proposed agenda for the first meeting included indigenous issues, the National Reform Agenda, federal proposals to override State/Territory legislation and water and energy reform.
The secretariat will cost $1.3 million to set up and $1 million in annual running costs.
25 July 2006
Award for Bringing Plane Safety to Book
An Army officer has received national recognition for his contribution to aviation safety.
Colonel Peter Murphy was awarded the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) 2005 Field Safety Award for his role as the driving force behind Focus on Human Factors in Aviation Safety, a book that has been acclaimed around the world.
RAeS representative Robin Stanier said Colonel Murphy was commended for his voluntary involvement in a project to produce a definitive reference on human factors in aviation.
“Without his initiative and drive this project would not have been published,” Mr Stanier said. “It is difficult to imagine a more significant contribution to safety in Australian Defence Force (ADF) aviation in 2005."
Colonel Murphy acknowledged the contributions of many people in making the book a success.
“It was a truly collaborative effort by all my authors, with more than 20 people from both within and outside Defence – all Australian – contributing to the publication,” Colonel Murphy said. “I am just pleased that it seems to be highly valued domestically and internationally.”
The RAeS Field Award for Flying Safety is open to members of the ADF, including foreign exchange and loan personnel, Defence civilians and Defence contractors and their staff.
Commanders and supervisors within squadrons, ground support units and agencies that support flying operations are invited to submit recommendations for the 2006 RAeS award by January 31, 2007.
25 July 2006
Businesses to Profit From New Austrade Link
Australian businesses entering international markets stand to benefit from an expanded business services network following an agreement between Austrade and accounting firm KPMG to work together providing a range of professional advisory services and support, market research and promotional activities.
Chief Executive of Austrade, Peter O’Byrne said the new alliance with KPMG would benefit Australian businesses by improving their understanding of the international marketplace and providing the necessary tools.
“Austrade is delighted to be working with KPMG to promote awareness of the benefits of exporting,” Mr O’Byrne said.
He said the new relationship would lead to the provision of valuable services, advice, networks and support which would better equip Australian businesses looking to expand into international markets.
KPMG’s National Managing Partner – Regional Markets, David Dunn, said the new arrangement would lead to more opportunities for Australian businesses to grow in Asia.
“Going into new markets may be daunting for some, but by leveraging the combined resources of Austrade and KPMG, companies can increase their knowledge, confidence and resources to capitalise on the enormous potential of international, and in particular, Asian markets,” Mr Dunn said.
The agreement between Austrade and KPMG is a part of Austrade's Corporate Partnerships Program, where the organisation joins with private sector service providers on a non-exclusive basis to boost services for Australian business internationally.
25 July 2006
Review Looks at Film Development
Minister for the Arts, Senator Rod Kemphas launched a review of the effectiveness and appropriateness of Government funding for Australian film production.
Senator Kemp called on film industry professionals and interested parties to respond to a review saying it would take a broad‑ranging look at the effectiveness of Government support, both direct and indirect, including taxation incentives.
“The Australian Government has a strong record of support for our film sector and this review will provide options on the best and most effective ways of targeting that support in the future," Senator Kemp said.
He released an issues paper detailing the way members of the public could make submissions to the review.
“The purpose of the review is to improve the long term viability and effectiveness of the Australian film industry to help it grow and prosper,” he said.
The review would outline the Government’s policy objectives for the Australian film industry, analyse the state of the industry and examine the support measures for funding films and the structures that underpin them.
The Minister said a major focus would be the very low and declining level of private sector investment in the industry and the review would develop possible options for improving the effectiveness of tax incentives and other Government support measures.
Future funding for the film industry would be considered in the light of the outcomes of the review.
Senator Kemp said that the findings of the current review of the 10BA and 10B tax incentive schemes, which was examining issues relating to clarity of the schemes’ operations, would inform the broader review.
25 July 2006
Stamp of approval for Australia Post
Australia Post has been recognised for its efforts in encouraging mature-age employment, named as an “Employer Champion” by the Minister for Ageing, Kevin Andrews.
Employer Champion Awards are a Government initiative to recognise businesses with a formal mature-age employment strategy and which employ staff at a range of ages with at least 20 per cent 45 and over.
Managing Director of Australia Post Graeme John said the organisation had a strong culture of workforce support.
“We understand that attracting, retaining and effectively managing people from across all age groups is critical to our future,” Mr John said.
As part of a recent initiative Australia Post surveyed older members of its workforce to understand better the needs of that group. It conducted age audits and profiled the entire organisation to provide greater understanding of job divisions, by age.
“This information has helped us build a better understanding of what is important to our people as they near retirement age,” Mr John said.
Australia Post also surveyed staff who had stopped working within the past five years, to get a clearer picture of the “retirement experience” within the company.
“Reviewing the experiences of staff, present and past, assists us in future planning of our workforce and provides us with the tools to better facilitate individual requirements for staff as they get older,” he said.
Australia Post was one of the first organisations in Australia to talk publicly about the importance of mature workers to Australia’s future.
25 July 2006
Harsh Judgement for Federal Sentences
The Australian Law Reform Commission has called for an overhaul of the system for sentencing federal offenders, saying the system needed greater consistency, fairness and clarity.
ALRC President, Professor David Weisbrot, said there was compelling evidence of inconsistent treatment of federal offenders, as well as a range of gaps, uncertainties and problems in the way the federal system meshed with the States and Territories.
“Most federal criminal matters are heard in State and Territory courts," Professor Weisbrot said. "This means we have a situation where offenders who have committed the same crime can receive very different outcomes based solely on the State or Territory in which they are sentenced.
"That’s clearly not fair."
He said Australia’s federal criminal justice system had evolved significantly over the past 20 years.
"Having carefully considered the evidence, we have formed the view that the current system for sentencing federal offenders simply isn’t up to the task.”
The report, Same Crime, Same Time: Sentencing of Federal Offenders, included a detailed analysis of more than 25,000 fraud and drug cases handled by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions between 2000 and 2004.
The research is the first to look at federal sentencing outcomes and showed a significant disparity in both the type and the severity of outcomes for federal offenders across tate and territory lines.
The report makes 147 recommendations, including introducing a new Federal Sentencing Act to promote consistency, clarity and transparency and developing a database of federal sentences for use by judicial officers.
It recommends introducing a Sentence Indication Scheme to provide offenders with an indication of their sentence if they were to plead guilty, possibly avoiding costly court trials and distress to victims.
It also calls for a federal parole authority and an Office for the Management of Federal Offenders.
Inquiry head Brian Opeskin said that one of the problems with current federal sentencing legislation was its complexity.
“A clear and concise Federal Sentencing Act would eliminate confusion and ambiguity and lead to more consistent outcomes,” Mr Opeskin said.
“Similarly, a database of federal sentences would make it easier for judges and magistrates to determine whether they are exercising their sentencing discretion in a way that is consistent with their colleagues.”
He said there was also a need to bring the system for parole decisions into line with arrangements in most States and Territories.
“Decisions about parole of federal offenders are currently made by a Departmental officer on the basis of an offender’s paper file."
"It would be preferable for these decisions to be made by a federal parole authority involving broad community representation and the opportunity for the prisoner to be heard."
An Office for the Management of Federal Offenders would ensure administration of the increasingly complex system was adequately resourced, allowing better tracking of federal sentencing decisions and of offenders who served their sentences in the States and Territories, he said.
The ALRC held more than 80 meetings with interested parties and received 98 written submissions, including 16 from federal offenders, during the two-year inquiry.
25 July 2006
ADF Targets Schools for Leaders
The inaugural Australian Defence Force Leadership and TeamworkAwards have been launched by Chief of Army Lieutenant-General Peter Leahy in Melbourne.
The award scheme has been introduced to highlight the achievements of young leaders in years 10, 11 and 12 around Australia, with winners announced at school speech nights during October.
Under the program, school principals will be asked to nominate one student from each year who will then, dependent on year level, be awarded a cash prize of up to $500 and a certificate of commendation.
Speaking to students and staff at the launch at Buckley Park College, Lieutenant-General Leahy said that the Australian Defence Force was committed to encouraging leadership and teamwork as integral parts of personal development and community spirit.
“We understand that leadership walks hand in hand with teamwork and in light of this are rewarding young people who have displayed these qualities in their schools and local communities," Lieutenant-General Leahy said.
The program will continue for at least three years with funding secured for awards for more than 23,000 Australian students.
Schools across the country will take part on a voluntary basis at the discretion of individual school principals.
25 July 2006
Warning on Fly-By-Night Travel Scams
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has warned consumers to beware of fake company internet sites offering discounted domestic flights, saying they were the latest scams to hit Australia.
ASIC took the chance to warn against scammers posing as registered Australian companies.
According to ASIC Deputy Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Delia Rickard, a company called New Flights Limited was advertising discounted flights to consumers via its website, www.newflights.net and allegedly trading from a Bondi, NSW, address. Use of the term “Limited” created the illusion that consumers were dealing with a company registered in Australia when in fact Ms Rickard said, the perpetrators were based in America and were purchasing the tickets using stolen credit cards.
“Travelers today are accustomed to cheap internet deals, frequent flyer schemes and budget airlines,” Ms Rickard said.
“However, in light of this, consumers need to be aware of fake companies advertising on the internet, which promise to save you hundreds on your flight but leave you stranded at the airport with nothing but a worthless ticket.”
She said one of the simplest ways to ensure travellers didn’t get burned by a holiday scam was to check that the provider of the discounted airfare was indeed a registered company.
“The terms ‘Limited’ or ‘Pty Ltd’ may have the effect of making you believe that the offer is genuine, but it could be a ploy to trick you into a scam.”
Ms Rickard said this particular website had since been shut down but people should be wary about copycat sites popping-up.
Readers with any doubts about an offer or company can conduct a free search on the National Names Index on ASIC’s website or call 1300 300 630 to find out if a “company” really is a “company”.
“A quick check may prevent you from falling into a trap and help you to take off sooner and enjoy your hard-earned holiday,” Ms Rickard said.
25 July 2006
History on Top in Curriculum Summit
An education summit is to be heldtolook at ways ofreintroducing the teaching of Australian History into the school curriculum.
Education Minister, Julie Bishop will host the summit which will be aimed at strengthening the place and maintaining the integrity of Australian history in schools.
Ms Bishop said the time had come for a renaissance in teaching Australian history in our schools.
“It is essential that we put a structured narrative back into the teaching of Australian history so that by the time students finish secondary schooling, they have a thorough understanding of their nation's past, and how we have become a modern liberal democracy," Ms Bishop said.
“Young Australians should study the past to understand the present, so that they can make informed decisions for the future.”
She said she would invite leading Australian historians and public figures who promote the study of history as well as educational leaders to the summit in Canberra on 17 August.
“The summit will focus on ways in which the teaching of Australian History can be strengthened in our schools," she said.
Participants will consider two papers: one on what is currently set to be taught in primary and secondary schools, and the second on the rationale for, and outline of, a narrative approach to Australian history in schools.
Ms Bishop said the Government was keen to work with states and territories, non-Government educators and history teachers to promote the renaissance of Australian history.
“I will also be encouraging State education authorities to make the teaching of Australian history a critical part of the syllabus," she said.
“I will also seek feedback from interested bodies on the teaching of Australian history in order to advance the work of the summit.”
Australian History Summit participants are expected to include Andrew Barnett, Geoffrey Blainey, Geoffrey Bolton, Bob Carr, Inge Clendinnen, Kate Darian-Smith, Nick Ewbank, John Gascoigne, Jenny Gregory, Gerard Henderson, John Hirst, Jackie Huggins, Paul Kelly, Jennifer Lawless, Mark Lopez, Gregory Melleuish, Margo Neale, Geoffrey Partington, Lisa Paul, Peter Stanley, Tom Stannage and Tony Taylor.
25 July 2006
Crystal a New Sign of the Times
A new protective symbol for neutral and independent humanitarian services has been recognised under the eneva Convention.
Air Forec News reports that the Red Crystal would be used in situations where the Red Cross was not respected or where it was perceived to have an adverse political or religious connotation. Since 1929, the recognised symbols of protection have been the Red Cross and Red Crescent with medical facilities, personnel and members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement displaying the symbols to signify they were entitled to protection under the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC).
The LOAC contained rules for the protection of medical personnel, equipment, transport and facilities which meant that such facilities and personnel should not be attacked. Members of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement provide neutral and independent humanitarian services and are protected under LOAC.
Late last year, signatories to the Geneva Conventions agreed to adopt the Red Crystal as the third and final protective emblem for use in conflict. Therefore, the Red Crystal should be recognised as a protected symbol in the same manner as the Red Cross/Red Crescent.
Australia is a signatory to the protocol and it will take effect under Australian law in due course. The new symbol did not affect the status of the Red Cross/Red Crescent and Air Force News said Australia would continue to use the Red Cross.
25 July 2006
Broome Swept up in Fish Fight
An improved facility for processing illegal foreign fishermen in Broome, WA, was another milestone in the Government’s illegal foreign fishing plan according to Customs Minister, Senator Chris Ellison.
Senator Ellison was speaking during a visit to the complex at Willie Creek near Broome.
The $1 million upgrade of the short-term holding centre was the latest development in the Government’s plan to combat illegal foreign fishing in Australia’s northern waters.
Senator Ellison said the Government intended doubling the number of illegal foreign boats that were apprehended in Australian waters each year.
He said the centre at Willie Creek was the first of several to be completed, with others at Gove and Weipa due for completion by the end of 2006.
The Minister said the Government was moving quickly to implement its new measures announced in the budget as part of a $388 million package to combat illegal fishing.
Customs could now charter long-range helicopters to respond to foreign vessel landings and abandoned boats and would soon tender to establish a long-term helicopter response capability.
He said in August, Customs would tender to establish an accredited list of providers for towing and support vessels, enabling the Department’s and the Navy’s assets to return to patrol duties more quickly. In October, they will tender for a large patrol and response vessel to support northern maritime operations until January 2008.
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is to set up vessel destruction facilities with the capacity to destroy more than 700 vessels a year.
While in the Kimberley, Senator Ellison met with the indigenous Bardi people of One Arm Point to discuss border protection including the sea ranger program.
25 July 2006
Pregnancy advisory committee named
The National Pregnancy Counselling Expert Advisory Committee has been appointed for an initial period of a year.
The committee will advise the Department of Health and Ageing on the establishment of the National Pregnancy Support Helpline to provide telephone counselling and information services and on the development of the new Pregnancy Support Counselling Medicare Item.
The Committee will be chaired by Dr Andrew Pesce, from Westmead Hospital and its members will be: Professor Helen Christensen, Rosemary Bryant, Jenny Brandon-Baker, Dr Leslie Stephan, Dr Veronica O’Connell and Professor Harvey Whiteford.
NIDA GM to Australia Council
Elizabeth Butcher has been appointed to the Australia Council’s Theatre Board. Ms Butcher has been the general manager of the National Institute of Dramatic Arts for 37 years.
Parry reappointed to Literature Board
Glyn Parry has been reappointed to the Australia Council’s Literature Board.
Mr Parry has written a number of books for teenagers and children and has won awards including the Western Australian Premier’s Award and many notable mentions from the Children’s Book Council.
His appointment is for one year.
Legal eagles land on bench
The Attorney General has announced a number of appointments to the Federal and Family Courts.
Philip Burchardt, David Halligan, John O'Sullivan and Heather Riley have been appointed Federal Magistrates, Mr Halligan filling the vacancy left by the appointment of Judy Ryan to the Family Court of Australia.
Dr Chris Jessup QC, John Middleton QC and Richard Tracey QC have been appointed judges of the Federal Court of Australia, in Melbourne, Mr Middleton filling the vacancy left by Justice Crennan’s appointment to the High Court of Australia.
National Health and Medical Research Council
Membership of the NHMRC’s Research Committee has been announced.
The Research Committee will provide support to Professor Warwick Anderson who commenced as CEO of the NHMRC in June.
The appointees are Professor James Best (Chairman), Dr Jon Currie, Professor Tim Davis, Associate Professor Jacinta Elston, Professor Ian Frazer, Associate Professor Matthew Gillespie, Professor Robert (Bob) Graham, Elizabeth Grant, Professor D’Arcy Holman, Associate Professor Bronwyn Kingwell, Professor Margaret O’Connor, Professor Kerin O’Dea, Professor Sally Redman, Dr Nicholas Samaras, Professor Peter Silburn and Professor Ron Trent. Appointments are for thee years.
25 July 2006
Booz Allen Hamilton Get Access to card
The Minister for Human Services, Joe Hockey, has announced the appointment of Booz Allen Hamilton as lead adviser for the implementation of the health and social services Access Card. The contract, worth $4 million for the next three months is to outline the implementation plan, business architecture, technological specifications and budget.
ASADA welcomes Sailor sanction
The Chairman of the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, Richard Ings, has welcomed the Rugby Union’s sanctioning of star Wendell Sailor who tested positive to the drug Benzoylecgonine a metabolite of cocaine, and will be ineligible to compete in any sports until April 2008.
“Mr Sailor’s sanction for the use of cocaine is a further strong reminder to all athletes of the serious consequences under the WADA Code for those caught using illicit drugs,” Mr Ings said.
Australia gives $2.5M to ME victims
The Australian Government is to provide $2 million to Lebanon and $500,000 to Israel for humanitarian relief following the unrest in the region, AusAID has announced.
The Agency would also provide $2 million through the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements.
Security Guard joins queue at Centrelink
The Community and Public Sector Union has reported that a security guard has been appointed to a Centrelink office in Melbourne following threats to staff.
The Union said officers at the Newmarket Centrelink Office had been subject to brawls, bomb threats and bullying by customers and that a staff-initiated petition led management to appoint the guard.
Centrelink CEO Hank Jongen said posting the guard was an interim measure and the situation would be monitored. He stressed it was unrelated to the recently introduced Welfare to Work reforms."
Australia Post backs basketballers
Australia Post is to sponsor Australia’s national basketball team, the NBL Boomers. The naming rights deal will run for two and a half years, the team to be called the Australia Post Boomers.
The arrangement will be in place while the team takes part in the World Championships, Four Nations Tournament and 2008 Beijing Olympics.
New WIPO Executive Program
Applications are being received for places on the new Executive Program of the Worldwide Academy of the World Intellectual Property Organisation. The program will take place at the WIPO Geneva headquarters in September and more information is available on the WIPO website.
Salary bungle affects hundreds
A payday printing error that affected end-of-year salary summaries for hundreds of ACT Government workers has been rectified with up to 20 per cent of staff delayed five days in lodging their tax returns.
Staff with reportable fringe benefits were issued with replacement summaries.
25 July 2006
Secretary of the Department of Immigration, Andrew Metcalfe explains what’s needed to restore the fortunes of a Department torn apart by criticism and complaint. This week Part 1: Preparing for Change
An overview of organisational change within the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and its implications for other agencies
By Andrew Metcalfe.
In July it will be 12 months since Mick Palmer reported on his inquiry into the Cornelia Rau case.
In the time since then there has been a lot of change in DIMA –short term wins, longer term development, structural change, an expanded SES, improved governance and a focus on planning for a DIMA which has a service ideology that integrates policy, programmes and delivery. There is much more to do – our focus is very much on the future. We are working very closely with our Minister and our Parliamentary Secretary in driving this reform and improvement program.
Today I want to share with you the key parts of this story because, while much of what we have done has been specifically about the way DIMA delivers its programs, some of the issues will resonate with all of you. The Palmer Report, and the later Comrie Report on the Vivian Alvarez case, shone a spotlight on areas where DIMA had clearly made mistakes.
These reports both had concerns that certain areas of the Department had an assumption-based, unquestioning culture. They pointed to a culture that was overly self-protective and defensive, a culture largely unwilling to challenge organisational norms or to engage in genuine self-criticism or analysis.
But more broadly the reports raised issues beyond immigration compliance and detention: they focussed more generally on leadership, governance, training, systems support, the relationship between policy development and implementation, client service delivery and records management. These are issues which we all confront every day in each of our agencies.
At my very first Portfolio Secretaries’ meeting last July, (the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet) Peter Shergold led a discussion on the implications these conclusions held for all Commonwealth agencies. I know that many of you have looked closely at your own operations in light of the issues raised.
When we were developing our reform and improvement agenda, we spoke widely to many agencies that had themselves undergone substantial change. There is much we can learn from each other.
Where have we come from?
Change is a fact of life in any organisation, only the drivers and the speed it is implemented vary.
At DIMA, change was driven by the almost unprecedented criticism in the Palmer Report. From that point, change has been happening at a rapid rate.
There was the departure of the senior leadership team and my return to the Department after some years away at Prime Minister & Cabinet dealing with a wide range of issues around national security, international, ministerial and parliamentary affairs.
A new (to DIMA) Deputy Secretary, Bob Correll, joined DIMA the same day that I commenced as the Secretary. With Abul Rizvi, then acting Deputy Secretary, we had to quickly re-establish some normality to the Department, all the time knowing that it was a far from benign operating environment. Neil Comrie was expected to report shortly on the Vivian Alvarez case and a further 200 or so cases had been referred by the Government to the Ombudsman.
Where we have come from is important. Electronic visa processing and moving much of the overseas visa application processing to our offices in Australia has changed the way we work. Large numbers of unauthorised boat arrivals from the late 10s and the subsequent policy changes meant we had to be flexible and responsive. It was perhaps in meeting those challenges that we let ourselves concentrate too much on crises and took our eye, in some key areas, off “business as usual”.
Who are we in DIMA?
I want to talk for a moment about “business as usual”, and effective corporate governance in DIMA, and the kind of organisation we are.
We are both a policy and a program agency and a service delivery agency. Many services we deliver directly. However, much is outsourced. In terms of procurement, we are the second largest Commonwealth agency by number of contracts and fourth largest by dollar value.
Staff numbers are currently around 6000.
We have a presence in every State and Territory and in some of the most remote parts of Australia – about half of DIMA staff work in the State and Territory network.
Over 160 Australian based staff work with about 700 locally engaged staff in our overseas network located in more than 60 countries.
The people who work in this wide network are my most valuable asset. They are rightly proud of the work we do in delivering the Government’s strong migration, citizenship, settlement and multicultural programs. And in many of these programs we are widely recognised as world leaders.
Developing the change agenda
The conundrum for me on my appointment to this job last July was to recognise this excellence and level of achievement, but at the same time to be clear to staff right across the Department that Mick Palmer’s very significant and critical findings and recommendations were not just about isolated pockets of activity or one specific case.
Mr Palmer talked about an organisation that was “process rich and outcomes poor”. Reform was clearly required across the organisation and I needed all staff to understand this and help me achieve the necessary changes and improvements.
As we all know, the Government accepted the findings and recommendations of the Palmer Report, and later those of the Comrie Report and has so far committed $231 million over five years to implement a substantial reform and improvement package, comprising well over 60 initiatives.
Developing the package had to be one of my first priorities – the Minister had a commitment to come back to Government with an implementation plan to respond to the Palmer Report by September. We had about 10 weeks to pull the plan together.
At the very least the change agenda needed to address the specific concerns in the Palmer and Comrie Reports, but to be truly effective, it needed to address the broader issues – around leadership and governance, staff training and support, developing a client service focus and better systems to allow these things to happen.
I also knew that there would be further scrutiny of the Department’s past activities, so our response had to position DIMA for the high likelihood of further criticism. It had to be a comprehensive response, but one that is easily understood, both internally by my staff – many of whom were still reeling from the impact of sustained public criticism – and externally by those who have a legitimate interest in DIMA. We eventually called it “Palmer Plus”, because it was about much more than responding to the 49 Palmer recommendations.
The Change Management Taskforce
One of my very first steps was to establish a small, high level Change Management Taskforce – a temporary think tank if you like - to support me and the executive team in developing the framework for change. I drew on people from outside the organisation, to bring a fresh perspective, as well as committed staff from inside DIMA to bring an understanding of the business and the Department’s culture.
The Taskforce was an additional capability not tied up in the day to day running of the business – and clearly I needed to implement change, while not for a minute letting slip the reins on the very busy operational load I’ve already described to you.
We met – me, the Deputy Secretaries and the Taskforce – every morning at 8.30 for the four months the Taskforce existed. These meetings were critical – we used them to craft the messages that would go out to staff, cut through any road blocks, calibrate all the different streams of activity underway, make sure we were all on the same page, and develop the program for change as a team.
*This is an edited version of the first part of a speech given by Andrew Metcalfe, Secretary, Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, at the SES breakfast series on 2 May, 2006.
In the final part next week, Mr Metcalfe outlines DIMA’s Framework for Change
18 July 2006
PS to Show Lead in Workplace Safety
Government Departments and Agencies have been put on notice that they must be the leaders in Occupational Health and Safety if the community is to follow.
A new booklet published by Comcare has made it clear that Government organisations should champion OHS-friendly workplaces.
The booklet entitled Government Leaders Safety Leaders says that creating an effective and efficient safety, rehabilitation and return to work culture within an organisation sends a message to staff that they are respected, valued and important.
Developing a strong safety and injury management culture relies on commitment and leadership from senior management, the booklet says and Government organisations had the potential to champion change beyond their own organisations by leading by example.
The booklet says Departments and Agencies can demonstrate the advantages of excellent OHS and injury management performance and encourage performance improvement in industries with which they deal, either as employers or clients.
It goes on to show how to do this.
Comcare has developed a model of best practice to assist Government organisations in better practice OHS and injury management based on leading by example and highlighting commitment, systems review and improvement, accountability measures, executive information and incentives.
Discussion of better safety and injury management issues at high-level meetings helps to raise the profile of OHS, the booklet says.
It says raising an organisation’s OHS profile assists in shifting perceptions of workplace health and safety from regulatory compliance to strategic management.
The booklet also provides a list of practical tips for getting ensuring OHS and Injury Management are added to the executive agenda.
These include making OHS and injury management a standing item on agendas of
executive meetings and appointing a senior executive as accountable for the effectiveness of the organisation’s OHS and injury management systems.
It also suggests considering OHS and injury management implications when developing organisational change and human resource and performance management strategies.
The booklet encourages organisations to allocate resources to identify, assess and remedy areas of risk and to require line managers to report to the executive on workplace injuries, steps taken to prevent further injury and rehabilitation support provided to injured employees.
It suggests progress be detailed in quarterly and/or annual reports.
To bring home the message to senior staff, the booklet suggests the agency’s claims insurer and/or injury management service provider be invited to address an executive meeting to discuss the organisation’s injury and claim trends and costs.
The booklet also looks at systems review and improvement, accountability measures, executive information and incentives.
18 July 2006
ABC Goes For Doctor on Cancer Scare
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has appointed an independent panel of experts to investigate the incidence of breast cancer at the corporation’s Brisbane premises at Toowong.
ABC Managing Director Mark Scott told staff in Toowong that a Review and Scientific Investigation Panel would be set up immediately.
“This expert panel will have three key tasks,” Mr Scott said.
* Review the scientific evaluation of work undertaken to date on this matter, including the 2005 efforts to attempt to identify any cause for the cancer clusters at Toowong
* Advise the ABC on what other appropriate measures could be taken to identify any cause for the breast cancer occurrences at Toowong; and to
* Advise the ABC on a course of action based on the findings of the evaluation and testing undertaken above.
Mr Scott said the Panel would be chaired by one of Australia’s foremost authorities on the causes and control of cancers, Dr Bruce Armstrong, and include Dr Norman Swan, ABC producer and presenter of the Health Report. Other persons will be nominated to the panel by Dr Armstrong.
“In light of the very concerning news that another staff member was diagnosed with breast cancer, I have commissioned a panel of experts to investigate if there is any evidence of a possible linkage between the incidence of breast cancer and the Toowong site,” Mr Scott said.
“All ABC staff know and admire the work of Dr Norman Swan as one of Australia’s most respected medically qualified journalists, known for his fearless investigative reporting. I am delighted that Dr Swan has agreed to bring his expertise to this Panel.”
Mr Scott said the ABC would continue to support its colleagues while the investigation was taking place.
“We have arranged free mammograms for all women working at the Toowong office and a free counselling service will also be available to all staff and their families until the findings of the investigation are handed down.”
18 July 2006
Regulator’s Nuclear Reaction Positive
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has been given the go-ahead to operate a second nuclear research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney. Approval to commission the new facility was given by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).
Executive Director of ANSTO, Dr Ian Smith, said the granting of the licence to the Organisation would allow it to operate its Open Pool Australian Light-water reactor (OPAL) and took Australian science one step closer to the start of a new era.
He said the OPAL reactor would increase ANSTO’s capacity to supply Australia and the region with important radiopharmaceuticals and also provide Australian scientists with the world leading capability to apply nuclear research to biotechnology, food and molecular biology, nanotechnology, health, environmental management and engineering.
“This research will result in tangible social and economic benefits for Australia,” Dr Smith said.
He said the licence was granted following examination of evidence presented by ANSTO, including cold commissioning tests. ARPANSA was advised by overseas consultants including a review team from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Dr Smith said granting the licence meant ANSTO could now load nuclear fuel and begin its second commissioning phase, where further testing would take place to ensure performance met expectations.
In early 2007, when this was complete, the current ANSTO reactor, HIFAR, would shut down.
He said OPAL and its complementary facilities are already attracting interest from scientists around the world.
18 July 2006
Postal Ombudsman Expects to Deliver
A new postal industry Ombudsman has been welcomed by both postal and courier operators.
Announced by the Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, the new scheme would investigate complaints against couriers and postal services, including Australia Post.
The first Postal Industry Ombudsman would be the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan.
Professor McMillan said the scheme would be voluntary for couriers and postal operators but participants in the industry would benefit by joining.
"Customers of the postal operator will be able to approach an independent watchdog when things go wrong," Professor McMillan said. "Membership of the scheme shows a strong commitment to customer service and a willingness to be accountable to customers.”
He said consumers would have increased confidence in using a business, knowing that there was an external body that could investigate problems and find a resolution, he said.
Professor McMillan would add the Postal Industry Ombudsman duties to an already crowded duty statement which includes his roles as Commonwealth Ombudsman, Defence Force Ombudsman, Taxation Ombudsman, Immigration Ombudsman, ACT Ombudsman and Law Enforcement Ombudsman.
He said the Postal Industry Ombudsman took the office of Commonwealth Ombudsman in a new direction – from handling complaints about Government Departments and Agencies to handling complaints about private sector businesses.
"All these different functions deal with different issues and require different knowledge,’’ Professor McMillan said.
“But (it entails) the same expertise in investigation and complaint handling.”
Managing Director of Australia Post, Graeme John, welcomed the new Ombudsman saying the office would provide a credible and independent third party to investigate and report specifically on postal industry customers’ complaints
“In the past we have had fewer than 20 formal written queries from the Commonwealth Ombudsman per year, but some of these have led us to address specific issues and correct inconsistencies in our services,” Mr John said.
18 July 2006
Media Watchdog Gets Sharper Teeth
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is to get flexible new powers to regulate the broadcasting industry.
Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan said the need for more powers at ACMA had been “clear for some time” if the agency was to enforce existing broadcasting laws more effectively.
“That is why the Government released a discussion paper in November 2005 and consulted widely with industry and consumers on how to best equip ACMA to regulate the broadcasting industry,” Senator Coonan said.
ACMA’s current broadcasting regulatory powers concentrated on the higher end of the scale meaning that criminal penalties or cancellation of a broadcasting licence were often unworkable responses to minor incidents where offending behaviour was not repeated, she said.
"In most cases, the new powers are similar to those that ACMA already uses in its role as the regulator of telecommunications services," she said.
The additional powers included civil penalties for a range of breaches where only criminal sanctions were currently available, giving ACMA greater flexibility to address non-compliance.
They enable ACMA to obtain injunctions where commercial broadcasting services were being provided without an appropriate licence and to accept enforceable undertakings from industry in relation to its role in regulating the broadcasting, datacasting and internet content industries.
ACMA would also be empowered to issue infringement notices for minor breaches of the Broadcasting Services Act related to reporting requirements.
“The Government is introducing these changes to enable ACMA to be more responsive, particularly when it comes to ensuring compliance with broadcasting codes of practice and licensing conditions,” Senator Coonan said.
18 July 2006
ABC Digs Digital TV Changes
Managing Director of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,Mark Scott, has welcomed a commitment by the Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, to remove genre restrictions on the digital channel ABC2.
The decision was announced as part of the Government’s overhaul of media policy and affirmed the ABC's key role in driving the change to digital television by providing attractive new digital content, Mr Scott said.
"Fresh new content is an important driver for the take-up of digital television," Mr Scott said. "ABC2 is providing an additional service to our audience who purchase a set top box or who receive the digital channel via a pay platform."
Mr Scott said the service included new programming from regional Australia where the ABC was a key player in guaranteeing diversity, providing local news and community information, accessing archival content and bringing stories from outside the capital cities to the whole nation.
"However the current restrictions on what we can show on ABC2 limit the potential of the channel," he said.
The ABC welcomed the removal of the current restrictions and would continue to argue that the most effective option to encourage consumers to switch to digital TV would be to remove the genre restrictions altogether, he said.
"The ABC has shown, through initiatives such as ABC2, our broadband content initiatives and our successful podcasting service that we are at the forefront of the digital media changes."
18 July 2006
Grave Damages Avoided
The Australian Government is to provide more than $5000 to help restore the London graves of two of the nation’s first Prime Ministers, Sir George Reid and Andrew Fisher.
Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell said the funding would be given to the Office of Australian War Graves for the restoration work.
“Both Sir George Reid and Andrew Fisher made a significant contribution to the early development of the Australian nation and its new Federal constitution,” Senator Campbell said.
“The restoration of their graves is important to protect their heritage values, but more importantly to honour the memories of two great Australians.”
Sir George Reid, Australia’s fourth Prime Minister and leader of the Free Trade Party, served as PM from 18 August 1904 until 5 July 1905. He was also Australia’s founding High Commissioner in London, serving from 1910 until early 1916. He died in 1918.
More than $1400 would be available to clean the base and granite of Sir George’s grave in London’s Putney Vale Cemetery, re-seal surfaces and repair damaged areas.
Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister for three terms, 1908-09, 1910-13 and 1914-15, also serving as Treasurer during all three terms. He was a founding member of both the Labor Party in Queensland and of the federal parliamentary Labor Party.
“A number of important projects were undertaken during his terms in office, including the establishment of the Royal Australian Navy and the Commonwealth Bank, founding the federal capital of Canberra, and the introduction of maternity allowances,” Senator Campbell said.
“International and imperial relations were also a feature64 of Andrew Fisher’s Governments. His Government took office a month after World War I began and directed the early offensive operations carried out in New Guinea. The Fisher Government also sent the first Australian troops to Egypt, from where they were despatched to Gallipoli.
“Andrew Fisher died in 1928 and is buried in Hampstead, London. More than $3500 will be used to restore the grave, including fixing kerbs, re-laying the paving, and cleaning the area.”
Funding would be provided through the Australian Government’s Commemoration of Historic Events and Famous Persons program.
18 July 2006
Customs’ Breeding Goes to the Dogs
Customs has reached a milestone in its detector dog breeding program with the birth of its 1000th puppy.
The black female Labrador was one of nine pups delivered at Customs National Breeding and Development Centre in Melbourne.
The pup, which has been named Spirit of Australia, will join the long list of puppies specially bred and groomed to help protect Australia’s borders from the importation of illegal narcotics, firearms and explosives.
Manager of the National and Breeding and Development Centre, John Vandeloo, said the birth represented the success of the program in reliably breeding quality canines for use as detector dogs.
“This is a proud and significant birth in Customs path-finding journey in the production of quality community protection detector dogs,” Mr Vandeloo said.
Spirit’s mother Meg, is a successful brood bitch at the Centre while her father is a young operational dog, Webby, who recently made a significant heroin detection just one month after graduating from detector dog training.
The Australian Customs Service was the first border protection agency in the world to develop a successful selective breeding program for detector dogs.
Its development in 16 followed an intensive three-year study that identified the required genetics for breeding, and the best environmental influences for training, of detector dogs.
The breeding program is now the only source of Customs detector dogs.
Many other agencies also use dogs bred by Customs, including the Australian Army, Royal Australian Air Force, Australian Federal Police, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and State and Territory police, and correctional services.
Customs had also provided both puppies and trained detector dogs to other countries including the United States, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Saipan and Japan.
18 July 2006
Defence Joins War on Unhealthy Workplaces
Military and civilian personnel in the Australian Defence Force can expect healthier and safer workplaces following the opening of the new Defence Centre for Occupational Health (DCOH).
Officially opening the Centre, the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson said health and safety would be a top priority.
“This dedicated new centre aims to prevent health problems and tackle both short and long-term health challenges,” Mr Billson is reported as saying in Army News.
The Centre, in Canberra’s Brindabella Park, is a small organisation of OHS professionals and administrative support that eventually will be able to draw in expertise as needed.
Mr Billson said military operations and exercises carried an element of risk.
“Those put in harm’s way in the service of our nation must be supported by an organisation continually striving for excellence in occupational health and safety management,” he said.
Defence’s Director-General, OHS and Compensation, Steven Grzeskowiak said the centre aimed to prevent occupational illness, disease and injury through effective application of hazard identification, risk management principles and engagement with people.
“This includes our military members, civilian employees, reservists, cadets, visitors, contractors, and members of the public affected by our activities,” he said.
"This easily exceeds 100,000 people at any given time.”
18 July 2006
Scientist to Lecture on Fusion Confusion
Australian scientist, Dr Barry Green is to return home for a lecture tour explaining the possibilities of nuclear fusion as the world’s answer to the energy crisis.
Dr Green will be in Australia from 26 July until 18 August and his visit is being welcomed as a way of launching discussions on Australia’s role in the fusion debate before a federally-supported workshop on the topic is held in October.
Fusion is the process which powers the sun and the stars and if harnessed on earth, would provide millions of years of base-load energy, with zero greenhouse gas emissions.
A recent agreement signed with countries representing more than half the planet's population has set the path to bring fusion power to reality by building the world's largest science experiment, the next step fusion energy experiment, ITER.
But despite the fact that fusion was discovered in Australia, this country is not yet part of ITER.
Once operating ITER will demonstrate the viability of fusion power by delivering
significant power gain – a world first.
Dr Green was involved in the ITER project as an advisor to the European Commission Directorate in Brussels, that coordinated all European energy research. During his visit to Australia he will put forward the important scientific advances, challenges and outline the future of fusion power.
The lectures begin in Perth on 26 July and more information is available from www.ansto.gov.au/ainse/fusion/workshop.html
18 July 2006
Families in Friendly Firing Line at Defence
Defence Force families are to benefit from $946,000 in Family Support Funding grants, recently announced by the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson.
Mr Billson said the Government recognised the contribution and sacrifices made by the families of Australia’s Defence Force personnel and the grants would make life easier for them.
“Those who have pursued a military career have chosen not only a job but also a special way of life,’’ Mr Billson said.
“For their families, this can mean frequent postings around Australia and a significant amount of time on their own while their loved ones are deployed on operations and exercises.”
He said the grants would provide money to develop programs and activities that best suit the needs of ADF families within their local communities.
“Fifty-seven Defence family support groups in all states and territories, as well as in Malaysia, will benefit from a total of $946,000 in Defence grants this financial year,” Mr Billson said. The grants assist Defence family support groups to make use of neighbourhood houses and community centres, undertake programs and activities such as craft groups, playgroups, assisting children with special needs and producing newsletters.
“These important projects will help Defence families stay connected with their local communities and assist them to better deal with the challenges of a highly mobile Defence lifestyle,” Mr Billson said.
18 July 2006
Crime Commission to Spearhead Indigenous Task Force
The Australian Crime Commission is tolead a joint-agency intelligence task force to address violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities.
The National Indigenous Violence and Child Abuse Intelligence Task Force has been welcomed by Indigenous Affairs Minister, Mal Brough and Justice Minister, Senator Chris Ellison who said it would collect, analyse and disseminate intelligence to Commonwealth, State and territory law enforcement agencies, providing a whole of government response to violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities and monitor organised criminal activity relating to drugs, alcohol, pornography and fraud.
The task force would be resourced by the Commonwealth, States and territories and include involvement from the Australian Federal Police, State and territory police forces and other agencies.
Mr Brough said agreement to create the task force followed presentation of a $130 million package to the Inter-Governmental Summit on Violence and Child Abuse in Indigenous communities. He said the intelligence unit would be a key component in restoring law and order in Indigenous communities and protecting women and children from violence and abuse
The objectives of the task force included improving the national coordination of the collection and sharing of information and intelligence on violence and child abuse in remote and urban indigenous communities.
The task force would also enhance national understanding of the nature and extent of violence and child abuse in remote and urban indigenous communities.
Mr Brough said the task force would consist of at least 35 officers, including experts from the ACC and Australian Institute of Criminology and officers from the AFP and State and Territory Police Forces.
“Safety should be a fundamental right for all Australian citizens. This measure will help to encourage witnesses to come forward and to ensure perpetrators are brought to account,” Mr Brough said.
18 July 2006
Union Redefines “Counter” Terrorism
The public sector union is concerned that resource levels at Centrelink could be inadequate to deal with the Government’s new welfare-to-work program and may lead to increased customer frustration and aggression against staff in Centrelink offices.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) fears that frontline staff in Centrelink may become targets for customers whose benefits are affected by the tougher Welfare To Work provisions.
The union has called for more resources, support and training to ensure Centrelink staff were not put at risk of physical harm.
The Agency has rejected the union’s fears, General Manager, Hank Jongen saying Centrelink had been provided with “significant” resources to implement and deliver the reforms.
CPSU National Secretary, Stephen Jones said major policy changes such as welfare-to-work can lead to confusion and frustration in Centrelink offices.
"In the past, this has unfortunately led to incidents of workplace aggression," Mr Jones said. "We are concerned that not enough support has been provided to manage a significant policy change like welfare-to-work."
Mr Jones said there were already long queues in Centrelink offices and staff were feeling the strain of operating in an under-resourced environment.
"Welfare-to-work means more customers will be forced to attend Centrelink offices more often. We are concerned that this will make an already challenging situation unworkable."
Centrelink’s Hank Jongen said staff and customer safety were high priorities for the Agency and there had been no indication to date of any increase in aggression since the new rukles bagan non 1 July.
“We’ve developed a new service model to help staff deliver these changes to customers,” Mr Jongen said.
“Front line staff will not be making decisions about whether customers have failed to comply with the new rules. Specialised teams, located in area offices, will now thoroughly investigate each case before any penalty is imposed.”
He said Centrelink was committed to reducing incidents of customer aggression and already had a range of procedures in place.
“Centrelink deals with tens of thousands of customers every day, and violent incidents are certainly not the norm.”
Mr Jones said the CPSU wanted to ensure its members worked in a safe environment.
He said the union had asked Centrelink to review its health and safety procedures and set up a joint working party to review customer aggression guidelines but so far the agency had not agreed.
"Centrelink has so far to failed to even provide information about health and safety risks," Mr Jones said.
Mr Jongen said the Agency was always looking to improve its OHS policies and procedures and input from the CPSU was welcome.
18 July 2006
New Scheme is Super Safe
The Australian superannuation industry's new licensing system is up and running, with the transition completed by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).
Of 325 applications received by APRA, 307 trustee companies received the new Registrable Superannuation Entity (RSE) licence, while 17 applications were withdrawn and one was rejected as it did not fully meet the criteria.
Collectively, RSE licensed trustees manage around 6900 RSE registered funds - including about 6300 small APRA funds (SAFs) - with combined assets of around $500 billion out of a total of $905 billion in super funds. Exempted funds and self-managed super funds, neither of which were APRA-regulated, account for the remainder.
APRA deputy chairman Ross Jones said the move meant one of the Government's major reforms in superannuation safety had been implemented.
"The superannuation industry is now licensed and prudentially regulated in a similar way to banking and general and life insurance," he said.
The government required RSE licensing of superannuation trustees to enhance the safety of members' funds. Licensees must comply with new standards covering proper governance, managing relationships with third parties, maintaining adequate resources and implementing sound risk management systems.
At the start of the two-year transition period, 1200 trustees operated around 9000 funds, including SAFs. Many trustees decided not to apply for an RSE licence and transferred and wound-up funds under their trusteeship.
Of those trustees which did not apply for a licence, 145 were unable to wind-up the entities under their trusteeship before the end of the transition period on 30 June due to reasons beyond their control. APRA therefore entered into undertakings with them so they could continue their wind-ups post 30 June. Members of these funds have already been transferred to RSE registered funds.
However, another five trustees did not make adequate arrangements for their funds. APRA has had to appoint acting trustees to these funds to ensure an orderly exit. Mr Jones said it was disappointing these trustees did not fulfil their obligations over the past two years, but noted the interests of the members are being safeguarded by the appointment of the acting trustees.
"The end of the transition period is a significant milestone, but it also marks the start of more risk-based supervision of the superannuation industry for APRA," Mr Jones said.
"In one sense, the real work is about to begin to ensure trustees meet the obligations to which they have committed themselves," he said.
18 July 2006
Band on the Run to China
The Australian Army Cadet Band has been toChina performing at the 2006 Beijing International Youth Festival.
The festival brought together young people from all over the world to foster a greater understanding of China through its youth in the lead-up to the 2008 Olympic Games.
The 36 NSW Army Cadets are aged between 12 and 18 years of age.
They travelled around Beijing with Chinese youth ambassadors, experienced the ancient capital culture at many of China’s famed tourist destinations and showcased their own talents on a world stage.
“The Australian Army Cadet Band – Sydney is the first ever Cadet music ensemble to travel to China as an invited guest,” said Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator Ian Macdonald.
“Marching through Tiananmen Square playing Waltzing Matilda while flying the Australian flag is something this diverse group of youngsters will never forget,” Senator McDonald said.
The youth festival took place this month and focused on strengthening mutual understanding and communication between youth in an atmosphere of fun, friendship and harmony.
Army Cadet Units are established in communities and schools throughout Australia providing opportunities for young Australians to set personal challenges and grow through adventurous and fun activities in a military setting.
18 July 2006
18 July 2006
Time Travel for Tourism Minister
A new fossil cave in the Alice Springs Reptile Centrewhich displays prehistoric reptilian fauna from several prehistoric periods has been opened by Small Business and Tourism Minister, Fran Bailey.
Congratulating the Centre director, Rex Neindorf on the completion of the project, Ms Bailey presented him with an AusIndustry certificate recognising his contribution to tourism in the region.
The construction and fit out of the fossil cave display room was assisted by a $95,000 grant from the Australian Tourism Development Program.
"For anyone visiting this part of Australia, the Alice Springs Reptile Centre is a must see," Ms Bailey said.
The Australian Tourism Development Program began in 2004 and has funded 88 projects worth more than $14 million under the program.
Ms Bailey also took part in the national small business roundtable in Alice Springs, speaking with local small business people about issues affecting their enterprises.
Discussions also looked at ways government could improve conditions for small business owners, she said.
ASIC prosecutors have busy quarter
The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has recorded its busiest quarter for prosecutions in relation to summary offences committed by company directors and other officers.
In the three months to June 2006, ASIC prosecuted 161 defendants in relation to 300 contraventions of the Corporations Act, with fines and costs totalling $333,790.
Guide for Indigenous business
FairStore, a best practice guide for businesses servicing Indigenous communities in rural and remote areas of Australia has been issued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
The guide was developed in consultation with other Commonwealth and State/Territory consumer agencies as part of the National Indigenous Consumer Strategy. It would help businesses and their staff comply with fair trading laws, warranties and refunds and the provision of store credit or “book-up”.
The new guideline replaces Storecharter and is available free through the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502, or via the ACCC website.
SA marine communications contract
Airservices Australia has won a $1.55 million contract to provide marine safety and distress radio communication services for South Australian coastal waters.
Chief Executive of Airservices Australia, Greg Russell said the High Frequency service would be available 24/7 for all vessels operating off South Australia and was designed to meet the requirements specified for all States under the National Standard for Coast Radio Networks.
Moore Back at ABC
Business journalist Ali Moore will return to the ABC to present a new nightly business news and current affairs program, Lateline Business to launch on 14 August.
The program would flow directly out of Lateline to form a late-night news hour and would cover and analyse investment and business news, including keynote interviews.
Ms Moore recently left the Nine Network.
Portrait Gallery builders named
John Holland Pty Ltd has been selected as the construction contractor for the new National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.
One of Australia’s oldest and most experienced contractors John Holland Pty Ltd has a track record of successfully completing large, complex and technically challenging projects including major public projects such as the new and permanent Parliament House.
The National Portrait Gallery is to be built in Canberra’s Parliamentary Zone, adjacent to the High Court of Australia and the National Gallery of Australia.
Tax help for those in need
Volunteers trained by the Australian Tax Office were now available to help low-income earners prepare their tax returns free of charge.
Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, Megan Yong said the volunteers had been trained to help people with straightforward tax returns, baby bonus applications as well as those eligible for franking credits who did not have to lodge a return.
The volunteer program, which is in its 18th year, helped more than 75,000 taxpayers last year including those from Indigenous or non-English speaking backgrounds and those with disabilities.
Tax Help would be available by appointment at community-based facilities such as senior citizens clubs, Indigenous and ethnic community centres until the end of October.
Enquiries can be made on 13 28 61.
18 July 2006
Advancing Leadership Development Practices
By Ian Harris
I would like to begin by discussing whether leadership is innate or acquired.
Like many questions, I think there is some truth in both of these possibilities.
Take, for example, Alexander the Great. He had a pretty good start in life. He was the son of Philip of Macedon and he was a pupil of Aristotle. He fulfilled, so I am told, the fable of the Gordian knot, which I think was a knot attached to an ox cart. It was fabled that whoever undid the knot would be the ruler of Asia.
Alexander came up with his sword and cut the knot in two, which proved that he was more a person of action than an intellectual deknotter. I think that shows that people who have a good start in life also have the opportunity to acquire and grow in leadership.
I remember that, as a young boy, one of the films I saw was a film about Disraeli and Gladstone. I remember seeing the speaker on the screen saying: “The eyes to the right; the nose to the left”. I thought it was a pretty funny sort of face that would be split in that way, but from the number of times I have since heard: “The ayes will pass to the right of the chair and the noes to the left”, I have realised that it is an old parliamentary saying.
Disraeli, I think, was also the person who said: “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” There is some truth in this statement.
My belief is that there are characteristic genetic traits that help people become leaders, and there are certain trappings of office that assist people to perform leadership functions. But the bottom line for me is that leadership can be cultivated and can be learnt.
The House of Representatives is a 1901 Department and was originally under the Public Service Act. We are one of three Parliamentary Departments. There are about 185 staff plus 150 Members, and the Department’s main purpose is to support the House of Representatives in all its functions: in its Chamber operations, legislative functions, international relations and committee functions.
The goal is to provide excellent advice and services through capable and committed staff.
I gained from the culture of the system as it was when I joined. I suppose I used the system to the maximum advantage to me. But when I became Agency Head I set about to change the culture of the organisation.
There is a huge outburst of energy within a Department when an Agency Head who has been with the agency for over 40 years retires. I sought to make the most of this outburst of energy to change the culture of the organisation.
One of the ways I was attracted to do this was through the Investors in People process. This is an internationally recognised standard; an international standard against which we could judge our people initiatives. I do not think it has been marketed quite so well in Australia, and I have to say that we were a little tentative when we first began.
There are three areas and 10 indicators of performance. These have been outlined in our annual report. We report against Investors in People indicators in our annual report. They are all related to improving the performance of the organisation in planning, performing and reviewing the actions.
We underwent a diagnosis in August 18. I must say that some of our senior staff were at that stage very unsupportive of going down the Investors in People path. We started out very tentatively, but I feel that there has now been an overall acceptance of the whole process. There has been ownership throughout the whole department.
When we began, we established an Investors in People steering committee. This went across the Department, ranged in classification and areas. We established four working groups - one on leadership, one on planning and evaluation, one on communication and one on training and development. We have an annual audit after accreditation.
I must say that I think we were a little bit tentative, a little bit frightened of seeking accreditation. I think we were frightened of failing. I think we were frightened of the way that our staff would view us if the management of the Department were to judge itself against an international standard and found to be wanting.
I wish now, with the benefit of hindsight, that we had been assessed earlier, because not gaining accreditation - and I think we probably would have gained it - is not such a bad thing; it just means that there are other areas that you have to attend to. Gaining accreditation also means that there are areas that you have to attend to.
Every year we have an annual audit, which is done on a random sample of interviewing staff by the Investors in People organisers, to see how we are keeping up to our goals. I have to say that IiP has been such a success that it is now taken for granted. Many of the new staff who come into the department are impatient, but I think you would all know that with any organisations you have to do lots of new things, but you also have to have respect for the people who are comfortable doing things in the traditional way.
Every year I give an address in which I tell people where I think the Department is going in the next 12 months, and every year I have to begin by reminding them that that address and many of the things that are operating in the Department are a result of Investors in People. They have become so embedded in the culture that they are now taken for granted at almost every step.
We did put a big emphasis on leadership in our Investors in People process. An important part of our leadership initiatives is evaluating our leadership.
In 18, when we started out on the diagnosis, we set out to find out what leadership meant to both us and our staff. We had a staff survey. A random sample of 20 per cent of staff was asked that question. They identified 13 skills and behaviours which were then made available to the wider department for comment. All of this work was done by the Leadership Working Group.
We asked our staff to rate the importance of the 13 identified skills and behaviours and to rate their supervisor’s performance against each trait, and a five-point scale was used. Some surveys also asked staff for a rating on their individual SES managers and on me as Agency Head.
The important thing we were doing was measuring the importance of that trait or characteristic to staff and the way the staff saw their leaders performing against particular traits or characteristics. So we were interested in measuring the difference between perception and importance, and then we were publishing the figures.
In 18 we established our benchmark, because we had in mind making this a long-term project and over time seeing if in fact we were improving and in which areas we were improving. We compared the top two ratings and the average performance was ignored.
For the first four surveys, we believed it was important to measure staff’s perceived performance of their manager against their own expectations of all skills and behaviours. As I said, the gap between the importance and the performance was the crucial factor.
So far we have conducted five surveys - in 18, 19, 2001, 2003 and last year. We have taken a consistent approach with our surveys so that we could compare like with like. The 2005 survey only measured the major streams: being effective, having effective working relationships and having personal drive and integrity. We have decided to resume annual surveys from 2006.
The leadership satisfaction index showed us the measurement of the top of the two points in the performance rating scale. The leadership satisfaction index was established to track staff’s perceived performance over a period of time.
Hand in hand with these statistics is a Departmental philosophy that leadership extends throughout the Department. The people who often would not see themselves as performing leadership roles have had it stressed to them that, where two or three people are sometimes assembled together, somebody is exercising a leadership role. People have accepted that — have accepted being evaluated and have accepted the opportunity to comment on others in that role.
We developed a leadership statement in 2002. It is the benchmark. In operating on this basis within our department, we think we have a shared understanding of critical success factors.
The context of all this is capability and performance, Parliamentary service values and leadership integral to the Parliamentary service values. Many from the Public Service would be aware of the Public Service values. Ours are very similar except that we substitute the Parliament in total, which includes the Government rather than being directed at supporting the Government alone.
The leadership performance assessment is an integral part of the annual work performance assessment cycle and it is normally completed by the entire working group. However, we are very much aware of the tyranny that can sometimes be exercised in assessments by teams, so we also have the possibility for individuals to submit their own assessments of the leader, and I am aware of at least one example where an individual thought that a senior group did not give enough credit to the manager for certain aspects of the manager’s performance. That individual submitted a separate assessment which built up the assessment and was regarded by the supervisor as well as the group performance, and it is provided to the supervisor’s manager prior to the commencement of the individual assessments.
I will just conclude with a comment on corporate leadership. One concept that I have been stressing within the Department is corporate leadership, just as Qantas is a corporate leader in safe air travel and McDonalds has one for food that is fast and cheap, the House of Representatives had a reputation for being a corporate leader in accuracy. In 1972, when I joined the organisation, it had a strong corporate record of processing information accurately.
On Friday afternoons when we were checking legislation after a week of late sitting nights and there was a risk of falling asleep, I was constantly told about a man who was hanged for the lack of a comma. But I must say that, in just over 100 years, we have sent two pieces of legislation to the Governor-General for royal assent that have had errors in them. That may not seem a lot with the volume of legislation, but for people involved in the process it is two too many - and I must say that one of them happened on my watch.
So I was keen for the House to maintain its image as a corporate leader in accuracy, but I was also keen for the House to be regarded as a corporate leader in its staff development, including the development of leaders at all levels throughout the organisation. Personally, I welcome growth in individual leadership because through it all of our staff are on the path to corporate leadership.
To sum up: growth in individual leadership, I think, at whatever level within the Department, is leading to growth in corporate leadership in the Department, and that essentially is what this talk is about - that I do believe that people can grow. People can be educated, people can learn to be leaders and you can evaluate that growth and you can look at ways to improve.
So I thank you very much for the opportunity to be here with you and I thank you for your attention.
*Ian Harris is the Clerk of the House, Department of the House of Representatives. The above is an edited version of a speech he gave at a Leadership Development Network seminar: Advancing leadership development practices on 12 April, 2006
11 July 2006
Agency Turns up Heat on Global Warming Crisis
The Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE)has found that much more needs to be done to avoid the future impacts of global warming and that Governments had a key role in coming up with the policies and technologies needed.
Launching the report Technology: Its Role in Economic Development and Climate Change ABARE Executive Director, Brian Fisher said global energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions were projected to grow significantly in future as third world countries developed and that steps needed to be taken to expand the use of low emission technologies and the capture and storage of carbon.
“Collaborative, multilateral technology agreements, such as the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate, can play a key role in reducing emissions by increasing the development, uptake and transfer of clean technologies across a range of sectors,” Dr Fisher said.
He said ABARE’s modelling indicated that if low emission technologies such as hybrid vehicles and advanced electricity generation plant could be expanded worldwide, and key regions were to use carbon capture and storage technologies in the electricity sector, the level of global greenhouse gas emissions expected by 2050 could be reduced by about 26 per cent.
“This equates to a reduction in global cumulative greenhouse gas emissions of about 14 per cent or 110 gigatonnes of carbon equivalent over the period 2001 to 2050,’’ he said.
Dr Fisher emphasised that while there could be some slowing in the growth of greenhouse gas emission by the use of clean technologies, the ABARE report showed the problem was still expected to grow.
“In order to achieve emissions cuts greater than are analysed in ABARE’s report, concerted efforts by industry and government would be required to develop and transfer an additional portfolio of technologies across a wider range of sectors than has been analysed,’’ he said.
Dr Fisher called on Governments to establish international policy environments conducive to the development and transfer of low emissions technologies across all sectors of significant economies, and said future strategies and technologies for adaptation to climate change should become an increasingly important part of measures to address future climate change.
“Concerted efforts by industry and government would be required to develop and transfer an additional portfolio of technologies across a wider range of sectors than has been analysed,” Dr Fisher said.
11 July 2006
Super Not Super For Women
The issues affecting women in retirement can be very different from those affecting men according to a new report from the Australian Government’s Women’s Leadership and Development Program.
The report said that over the past decade, female participation in the labour force had increased by more than 960,000 new entrants but women were more likely than men to have interrupted career patterns and work on a casual or part-time basis. This could affect women’s ability to accumulate adequate resources for their retirement.
The report was released by the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Women’s Issues, Julie Bishop, at the at the Financial Services Institute of Australasia’s Saving the Future Summit.
“Aspects of Retirement for Older Women has been produced by Diana Warren for the Australian Government as part of the Government’s Women’s Leadership and Development Program,” Ms Bishop said.
“I congratulate Diana Warren for putting together this high quality research publication on such an important topic, and I am confident this research will enable individual women and their advisers to look realistically at how they can improve their lives in retirement.”
The study is based on the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey which was funded by the Government as a household-based study collecting information about economic well-being, labour market dynamics and family dynamics.
The report found that:
- More people, particularly women, were transitioning to retirement, rather than working full-time and then retiring full-time. It said this had important implications for superannuation policy and for flexible employment policy.
- There were key differences in men’s and women’s reasons for retirement. While health was the most common reason both men and women gave, it was more common for women to say they retired for family and lifestyle reasons, and men more commonly gave job related or financial reasons.
- Women generally expected to retire at a younger age than men, and partnered women expected to retire slightly earlier than single women.
- A small proportion of men and women retired due to pressure from their employer or others at work or because they could not find another job. A slightly higher proportion retired because they were made redundant. This had important implications for human resources policy in workplaces, particularly in the face of an ageing workforce.
- More women than men were pressured by their spouse to retire.
- Compared to women with partners, women who were separated, divorced or never married had lower levels of life satisfaction, while being widowed did not have a significant impact on life satisfaction in retirement.
- For men, having a partner who was still employed had a negative impact on their life satisfaction in retirement.
- The difference in men’s and women’s situations was largely due to the differences in superannuation savings – a result of women’s career interruptions due to family responsibilities and lower average wages compared to men.
- Compared to couples and single men, it was more common for single women to say they had to sell their home or move to lower cost accommodation because of their financial circumstances.
The report is available in electronic and hard copy formats, from the Government website at http://www.ofw.facsia.gov.au/publications
11 July 2006
New Deal For Returning Soldiers
The Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston has announced further improvements to the Australian Defence Force’s repatriation procedures for members who die on duty overseas following the completion of Brigadier Liz Cosson’s report following the death of Private Jake Kovco.
Brigadier Cosson, assisted by an independent medical specialist Professor Donald Sheldon, was appointed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the mishandling of the repatriation of Private Kovco’s body from the Middle East.
Air Chief Marshal Houston said Brigadier Cosson found that the failure to repatriate the body of Private Kovco was a direct result of two fundamental errors in the repatriation process:
- the wrong body was produced by civilian mortuary staff for identification; and
- the body produced was incorrectly identified as being Private Kovco.
“The inquiry also found weaknesses in ADF policy and procedures for mortuary affairs which created conditions conducive to failure,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
“As a result of her findings, I have accepted all of the report’s 28 recommendations which will further enhance the ADF’s procedures for handling the remains of ADF personnel who die whilst on duty overseas.”
A copy of the final Cosson report has been provided to the Kovco family. Air Chief Marshal Houston said he had once again apologised to them for the distress the error has caused.
While awaiting the Cosson report, Air Chief Marshal Houston introduced immediate changes to the ADF’s repatriation process, some of which were also been recommended by Brigadier Cosson. These included: wherever practicable, bodies of ADF personnel be carried on military aircraft, at least two ADF personnel accompany a body being returned to Australia, and, where possible Defence should also avoid using non-military mortuaries in the Middle East.
A full copy of the Cosson report has been provided to the Board of Inquiry investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Private Kovco and subsequent repatriation. The Board is expected to consider the evidence and may make recommendations as part of their deliberations.
A copy of the executive summary and the findings and recommendations of the Cosson report can be obtained from www.defence.gov.au/publications/kovco.pdf
11 July 2006
Oh Brother: TV Rules Not OK
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is to undertake a detailed review of the free to air television code of practice and its powers may be enhanced following an incident on the Ten Network’s reality TV program Big Brother.
Communications Minister, Senator Helen Coonan ordered the review and said also that legislation would be introduced into Parliament to extend content regulation to video streamed on the internet.
In its investigation into the incident, ACMA noted that because the material had not been broadcast by Channel Ten on television but was instead streamed live on the web around 4.30am on a Saturday night, the standards applying to free to air broadcasts did not apply.
Schedule 5 of the Broadcasting Services Act (the Act) regulated online content and empowered ACMA to review instances where online content may be inappropriate against the standards set out in the National Classification Code. However, it applies to material stored and made available for viewing on the internet.
ACMA found that while the live internet stream could have been seen by paid subscribers watching at that time, the material was not stored on the Big Brother website and therefore was not internet content under Schedule 5.
“A number of other websites and media outlets had subsequently made footage of the incident on the Big Brother set available for viewing,” Senator Coonan said. “However, I am advised that the material was subsequently removed from those websites after I wrote to the relevant news outlets asking that the material be taken down."
The matter reinforced the need for changes to the Act to ensure new services offered over the internet and mobile devices were subject to the same content restrictions that applied to television broadcasts, she said.
The Minister said the legislation was being drafted and would be introduced to Parliament as soon as possible.
“Given the community outrage about this matter, it would appear the codes applying to television program classifications may also be out of step with community standards," she said.
“I think we need to consider whether the current approach to the classification of reality programming is appropriate.
“Sexual impropriety and the exploitation and humiliation of women is not a joke, nor is it something that should be used to sensationalise news coverage or garner ratings,” she said.
11 July 2006
Defence Organisation Comes Out Fighting
The Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) has defended itself against claims it had “stuffed up” the provision of clothing and personal equipment to the Defence Force, saying media reports of a confidential meeting with suppliers were unbalanced.
Chief Executive of DMO, Steve Gumley said he called the meeting to discuss procurement issues but also to brief industry representatives on actions being taken by DMO management and to enhance the relationship between DMO and industry.
But he said the material published in the Age and Sydney Morning Herald did not represent a balanced summary of the meeting or its key messages.
Dr Gumley acknowledged there had been shortcomings in DMO’s management of clothing procurement and detailed actions implemented or under consideration to address them. He said DMO had taken significant steps to enhance the staffing, management and governance of its clothing supply area.
He said the shortcomings related to procurement processes and had not impacted on the support provided to ADF forces overseas.
"The requirements of our troops overseas have been met, in terms of the quantity and quality of equipment," Dr Gumley said. "Our troops deployed on operations have received, and continue to receive, the best combat gear available."
Defence has acknowledged there had been difficulties in the timely supply of some items of clothing and personal equipment to troops training within Australia, he said.
"These shortcomings have to be overcome, by the joint efforts of DMO and industry."
Dr Gumley discussed with the industry representatives some specific instances of inappropriate actions on their part. He said he was open and direct in his comments, acknowledging past deficiencies and shortcomings on the part of both DMO and industry.
His key message was a call for a more unified effort between DMO and industry to ensure that the support needs of the ADF continue to be met. He said the discussion focused strongly on action being taken and further options to be considered.
"It is very disappointing that a recording was made of the meeting and that its privacy was breached in this manner," he said.
"The Age/SMH story presents a catalogue of problems and criticisms, rather than a more balanced account of firm management action being taken to address identified problems."
He said the issues have been subject to DMO management action since late 2005 and also led to an independent review, the report of which is currently with Defence Minister Brendan Nelson.
11 July 2006
Call to Speak Up for Science
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is urging scientists, researchers and support workers to make their voices heard in a Government review of support for science and innovation in Australia.
In March 2006 the Government tasked the Productivity Commission with reviewing and evaluating the effectiveness of government support for science and innovation in Australia.
The CPSU wants to ensure that scientists, researchers, and science support workers make a strong contribution to this study and the ongoing debate.
"It is an opportunity for members to raise their voices about the quality or otherwise of their work environments,’’ the CPSU said.
“After all (that) is where science and innovation is supposed to happen."
The terms of reference of the study included the economic impact of publicly supported science and innovation; adequacy of benchmarked outcomes; impediments to effective innovation; and the improvements that can be made.
They also look at evaluating and improving decision making and program design and reporting on the broader social and environmental impacts of public support for science and innovation in Australia.
The CPSU has asked its members and other interested employees to provide comments and concerns for an initial submission to the study. The due date for submissions is 28 July 2006 and the CPSU is advising people to provide their comments by no later than Wednesday 19 July 2006.
Interested people could provide specific comments on the proposals or general comments about their experiences and concerns regarding science and innovation in Australia.
The issues paper is available from 1300 137 636 or by logging onto www.pc.gov.au/study/science/issuespaper/index.html
Police Please Me Says Minister
11 July 2006
Australia’s police forces have won praise from the Commonwealth for their initiatives in Indigenous policing, police information and intelligence systems, missing persons investigation and firearms management.
Justice Minister, Senator Chris Ellison welcomed the decisions taken at the Australasian Police Ministers’ Council meeting, saying day-to-day policing across Australia would be more efficient and safer as a result.
Senator Ellison said resolutions were reached in a number of areas, including a national roll out and cost sharing arrangement for CrimTrac’s Minimum Nationwide Person Profile (MNPP) initiative.
He said the decision cleared the way for the system which would boost crime clear-up rates, enhance investigation efficiency and provide a safer working environment to every front-line officer.
“CrimTrac was established to facilitate data and information sharing for Australia’s police,” Senator Ellison said. “The support MNPP provides will be accurate, immediate and tangible for the men and women who need it most.”
The Commonwealth provided $11 million for a successful New South Wales and Victoria pilot and had offered an additional $7.4 million for the national roll-out.
Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania will roll out the MNPP over the next year, with NSW, NT and Queensland joining by mid 2008.
In the area of indigenous violence and child sex abuse, the council made a proposal for consideration by the Council of Australian Governments this month.
It proposed an intelligence taskforce on Indigenous violence and child sex abuse with a dedicated national capacity to collect, collate, analyse and share information about family violence and child abuse in remote Indigenous communities.
“Such a taskforce would provide all jurisdictions with better information to target communities experiencing the most serious problems and a better basis for developing policing strategies in this difficult and complex area,” Senator Ellison said.
Commonwealth funding and personnel from the Australian Crime Commission, the Australian Federal Police and the States and Territories are also proposed.
The Federal, State and Territory governments agreed in principle to a business case to examine the cost of designing and implementing a national firearms management system.
Senator Ellison said he was pleased that States and Territories had agreed to contribute to this vitally important project.
“I also note that members of the Sporting Shooters and Firearms Advisory Council, which includes representatives of sporting shooters, firearms dealers, manufacturers, importers, exporters, farmers, the security industry and film armourers, have actively and constructively contributed to the discussions about a national system,” Senator Ellison said.
11 July 2006
Links Missing From ICT Plans
Procurement plans for Information and Communications Technology projects across the APS for the coming year are well down on last year according to Government ICT market researcher, Intermedium.
According to Intermedium’s Director, Judy Hurditch, ICT plans published by Commonwealth Agencies for 2006-07 contained a number of major projects but those outlined by big agencies were well below what could have been expected.
Intermedium found over 100 agencies had published their plans by 1 July, the list including 29 procurements by the Department of Health and Ageing, nine by the Bureau of Statistics and 14 at the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
Ms Hurditch said the lead agency in co-ordinating publication of the procurement plans, Finance and Administration, once again set the example with a well-presented plan listing 70 projects, 15 of which were for ICT products and services.
She said however that the absence of any ICT procurements amongst Defence’s 43 projects was the biggest surprise considering the Department reported ICT contracts worth $831 million in 2004-05, accounting for 28% of the Government’s total ICT contract value that year.
“It is implausible that Defence does not plan any approaches to the open market for its ICT needs in 2006-07,” Ms Hurditch said. “Defence reported 1,581 contracts worth more than $80,000 for the 2004-05 year, so it is likely that there are procurements that could have been included Defence’s procurement plans.”
She said it was a similar story at Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Department listing only four ICT projects this year – including a software panel, a national telecommunications network, and an electronic document system.
“Once again, it is highly unlikely that this is the sum total of DIMA’s ICT needs,” Ms Hurditch said, “notwithstanding its People and Systems Project, which will be consuming most of its attention.”
Intermedium reported that Centrelink listed six ICT projects, including satellite broadband, data mining, Interactive Voice Recognition, spatial analysis and a new staff access card in their procurement plans.
Ms Hurditch expected to see over 600 planned ICT procurements listed this year which was in keeping with the volume last year.
“Despite the fact that Agencies are under no obligation to proceed with any listed procurement, they are still a sales planning resource that cannot be ignored,“ she said.
Ms Hurditch said an ongoing difficulty for suppliers caused by the progressive updating of plans was the volume of changes that could be expected each month. She said Intermedium noted more than 45 changes per month last year, including new opportunities, timing changes, deletions and the maturation of planned procurements into tender processes and award of contract.
“Companies will need to continually monitor agency plans to ensure they don’t miss any crucial updates,” she said.
Ms Hurditch said in order to meet the need for faster and easier access to ICT procurement plans, Intermedium had developed a comprehensive guide and update service to the planned procurements – scout IT, which was available now.
11 July 2006
Management Turbulence in Tourist Body
Tourism Australia has marked its second birthday by restructuring its operations overseas.
Managing Director, Scott Morrison said the organisation would split its operations in UK/Europe and Asia to create four new operational regions – UK/Ireland, Continental Europe, North Asia and Australasia (including South Asia).
"Our global strategy is in place – with a focus on yield and dispersal that positions Australia as a destination that competes on the quality of our experience, not the price of the ticket," Mr Morrison said.
Tourism Australia chairman Tim Fischer said the So Where The Bloody Hell Are You? campaign had generated real momentum, getting people around the world excited again about visiting Australia.
“It has been a busy and challenging first two years but Tourism Australia has delivered much, with more in the pipeline,” Mr Fischer said.
“Our focus has also meant increasing our commitment to our big markets – our top seven – that deliver more than two thirds of the tourism business.
"Within this group we have made a major investment to secure our base markets in Japan, the UK, New Zealand and the US, realise growth opportunities in China and Korea, and add to our dispersal performance through an increased focus on European markets – especially Germany," he said.
In Continental Europe, Tourism Australia would double staff numbers for the Frankfurt office (from four to eight) including a new Regional Manager, Europe. All operational activities for Continental Europe would be run from the Frankfurt office and marketing; public relations and partnership activities currently run from London are to shift to Frankfurt. The new positions have already been advertised.
In London, staff numbers are to be reduced and the office focus on UK, Ireland and Nordic countries.
In Asia, Mr Morrison said, the region would be split into North Asia and South Asia with North Asia becoming a stand alone region comprising China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Mr Morrison said the change predominantly involved the removal of the top tier of regional management in Asia and associated roles that oversaw both of the regions. He said individual country teams and sub-regional teams in North Asia and South Asia were largely unaffected.
A new role of Executive General Manager, Global Operations is to be based in Sydney and will be advertised.
South Asia would become part of a new Australasia Region to include NZ and the Gulf countries as well as India, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
"The new structures will better equip us to meet the challenges ahead and we look forward to continuing to work with our industry both in Australia and overseas as we get on with the job," Mr Morrison said.
11 July 2006
Prized Memory at Military College
The Royal Military College, Duntroon, has honoured the memory of a fallen comrade by awarding one of its graduates the inaugural Captain Stevens Memorial Prize.
Formerly in the “Other Ranks”, Captain Tim Stevens graduated from RMC in June 11 and died five years later in the Black Hawk helicopter crash while serving with the Special Air Service Regiment.
Captain Stevens’ wife, Ann and RMC Commandant Brigadier Chris Appleton presented the inaugural prize to Staff Cadet Jasmin Coric at a ceremony in June.
According to a report in Army News Brigadier Appleton served with Captain Stevens when the latter was an infantry soldier in Townsville and again, at Duntroon.
“It is awarded to the graduate, who, like Tim had served previously as a soldier, that best exemplifies the qualities and values that the Army seeks in its officers,” Brigadier Appleton said when presenting the Prize.
“At RMC he distinguished himself as an outstanding student, a champion swimmer, and a brilliant rugby player.”
Moving from Croatia to Australia in 2000, Staff Cadet Coric served in Darwin as a signaller for four years. Reaching the rank of corporal he won Junior Non-Commissioned Officer of the year at his unit in 2004 and entered RMC in January 2005.
About to graduate as a Lieutenant in signals, he was proud to be the first recipient of the award.
“I’m honoured that I have been judged as such, because that is one of the things that I do stand for – Army values,” Staff Cadet Coric said.
“Being an ex-OR and receiving this award and this being the only award which actually awards the ex other rank, and that it also resembles the life of the late Captain Stevens – I am really honoured,” he said.
11 July 2006
On Course For New University Deal
Tertiary students will have greater choice when Australia's higher education market diversifies following an agreement signed by State, Territory and Federal Government ministers.
The Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA) agreed to new national protocols for higher education approval processes that would allow high quality higher education providers to accredit their own courses, bypassing costly and time consuming reaccreditation processes run by state Governments. Currently only universities and a handful of other institutions established by State or Commonwealth legislation can accredit their own courses.
In addition, MCEETYA has agreed to specialist institutions using a university title, which could lead to a Sydney University of Performing Arts or a Western Australian University of Minerals and Resources, for example.
This change will bring Australia into line with overseas practice and provide significant additional diversity and choice within Australia’s higher education sector.
The new protocols also clarify requirements for overseas higher education institutions seeking to operate in Australia, and reduce research and higher degree teaching requirements for new universities in their first five years of establishment.
The revised protocols are due to be implemented by the end of 2007, pending legislative change in all jurisdictions. A review will take place no later than 2012.
11 July 2006
Mining Town Hits Gold After Tragedy
The $8 million Beaconsfield Community Fund is taking applications for funding to assist development initiatives in and around the Tasmanian mining town that was the centre of a cave-in and dramatic rescue in April and May.
Miner Larry Knight lost his life when a tunnel collapsed on 25 April and his colleagues Brant Webb and Todd Russell were trapped underground for two weeks. Operations at the mine site have since been severely disrupted and staff laid off.
The $8 million Australian Government fund was announced by the Prime Minister immediately after the extraordinary events. The Government will work closely with the West Tamar Council.
Industry Minister, Ian Macfarlane, said advertisements for project applications would appear in local and national papers, with applicants given four weeks to apply for assistance under the fund.
"Merit-based grants are available for a range of economic, social and culturally related projects in the town to help the community get back on its feet after the recent tragedy," Mr Macfarlane said.
"Projects will be considered in two broad categories – either growing or securing sustainable jobs for the Beaconsfield community, or enhancing community facilities in the town, including those with historic or cultural value," he said.
West Tamar Mayor, Barry Easther, said the Council was working closely with the Australian Government to ensure the projects selected for funding would be of immense value to the Beaconsfield community.
"We are determined that the Beaconsfield community is given every opportunity to get back on its feet," he said.
Round One of the fund closes on 25 July 2006 and depending on the response, a second round may be called in August 2006.
More information about the Beaconsfield Community Fund is at www.industry.gov.au.
11 July 2006
Saving Tax Makes Common Cents
It's the start of a new financial year and ASIC is urging taxpayers to take a few small steps to improve their financial situation.
"Many people will find they have more money in the hand from cuts in personal income tax rates and the changes to the family tax benefit," said Delia Rickard, ASIC's Acting Executive Director of Consumer Protection. "ASIC is encouraging consumers to make the most of any tax gains and consider how they can benefit most financially."
She said putting this extra money, no matter how small the amount, to good use before it is spent can make a big difference to people’s financial positions over the long term.
Ms Rickard said ASIC’s consumer website, FIDO, contained a range of tools and calculators to help people better understand the impact of the financial decisions they make. According to Ms Rickard, some of the options were:
Make extra contributions into your super by using money from the tax gains to make extra contributions and boost your super balance. She said people were never too young to start saving for their retirement, and by doing it now meant they wouldn’t miss what they don’t see. She said a taxpayer could also make a contribution into a spouse’s superannuation and depending on their income, might also receive a government co-contribution.
Combine your super funds by combining super from previous jobs into one fund so it can grow without paying multiple fees. Ms Rickard suggests an initial check to make sure there aren’t large exit fees or that valuable benefits, such as insurance are not lost.
Use ASIC's super calculator which can help compare the impact of choices on final super benefits. For example if a taxpayer aged 20 put just $10 extra per week after tax into super that would add another $72,000 to his or her superannuation by retirement, assuming he or she earned $50,000 a year (just less than average weekly earnings), started with nothing in the account and chose a growth investment strategy, stayed in a lower cost fund and retired at 60. That taxpayer would also be eligible for a Government co-contribution.
Increase your loan repayments is another good use for any extra cash, whether it’s your home loan, credit cards or other loans. A small increase in credit card repayments, or an extra repayment a year on a home loan, can save thousands in interest and reduce the term of the loan. Ms Rickard said FIDO's credit card calculator could help manage credit cards and other loans.
Start saving now, no matter how little and one of the easiest ways to save is to have the money taken directly out of your pay and paid into a high interest savings account. FIDO's compound interest calculator can show how savings can grow.
Do your budget at the same time as you do your tax return by spending some time thinking about how much income was received over the year, and whether you are you happy with where that money went. For people who would like more control over their day-to-day finances, doing a budget can show where they might have some spare cash. Ms Rickard said FIDO's budget planner could do the maths for anyone.
Start to invest by making sure you understand the risks involved. Decide what you’re willing to invest and what you’re willing to lose if things go wrong. Check out FIDO's risk/return calculator to check whether the return you are offered on a particular investment is reasonable.
Ms Rickard said more savings and investment tips were available by visiting FIDO at www.fido/gov.au or calling ASIC’s infoline on 1300 300 630.
ASIC also has a free booklet, Your Money which has practical tips for easing financial strain and making the most of your money.
11 July 2006
Environment the Winner from Dead-Set Cerf
Australia’s most pressing environmental challenges are to be explored by three world-classmulti-disciplinary research hubs, who will receive funding from the Government’s $100 million Commonwealth Environmental Research Facilities (CERF) program.
Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell said the three hubs would be the first to receive funds from the program which assists research into current and emerging environmental challenges and development of environmental policy.
“These recipients will receive a total of $23 million to establish hubs, or networks, of Australia’s top scientists, universities, government agencies and community partners," Senator Campbell said.
The experts will come together for four years to expand Australia's knowledge on key challenges.
“The hubs will explore how we can make better environmental decisions and planning in our sensitive tropical and coastal areas."
Senator Campbell said the research would give environment managers new tools to improve the sustainability of agricultural landscapes in Australia’s temperate regions.
“These are vital policy and management matters which we need to get right; they are central to the future of our land and people," he said.
Research Hub for Applied Environmental Decision Analysis: University of Queensland Professor Hugh Possingham will receive $6.9 million to establish a research hub addressing Australia’s environmental planning, decision making and policy approaches. For the next four years, Prof Possingham will lead 12 principal researchers and up to 60 research fellows and PhD students from Victoria, Queensland and Canberra institutions in the development of a range of tools and techniques to help environment managers overcome management and policy challenges.
Researchers will test their methods on a range of persistent environmental challenges including feral animal control, managing invasive species in the Australian alps, fire management in urban/rural overlap areas and environmental river flows to improve the management of these challenges.
Research Hub for Tropical Rivers and Coastal Knowledge (TRACK): Seven researchers from Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland will receive $8 million to improve management information for northern Australia’s catchments. TRACK will bring together Australia’s leading tropical river and coastal scientists and managers to address environmental issues facing Australia’s northern river catchments.
The area covers between the tip of Cape York Peninsula in Queensland and Broome in Western Australia and includes the Fitzroy, Daly, Mitchell, Ord, East Alligator, Gregory and Nicholson rivers. It is home to the world’s oldest living culture and contains the world’s most significant concentration of river catchments still retaining their ecological integrity.
Research Hub for Landscape Logic: Linking Land and Water Management to Resource Condition Targets: University of Tasmania Professor Ted Lefroy will receive $7.9 million to establish a research hub that will develop tools to improve the sustainability of natural resource management practices. He will lead 24 researchers across seven institutions and six regional catchment management organisations including the North East, Northern Central and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Agencies in Victoria, and the NRM North, South and Cradle Coast in Tasmania.
This hub will develop a practical approach to natural resource management by identifying the links between land management at paddock, farm and forest block level, and landscape health at catchment and regional levels, improving returns from existing and proposed public investments in natural resource management.
11 July 2006
Grants for the Write Stuff
The Australian Film Commission has announced five new fellowship grants for writers to develop feature64 film scripts.
Beneficiaries of the grants include Cannes Camera d'Or winner Shirley Barrett, AWGIE Award-winner Louise Fox and the winner of the 2005 AFI Award for Best Screenplay in Television, Jacquelin Perske.
Teams awarded Fellowships were AFI Award-winners for best origibal screenplay, Stavros Kazantzidis and Allanah Zitserman and Academy Award nominees Anthony Lucas, Mark Shirrefs and Julia Lucas.
The Writer Fellowships acknowledge the achievements of Australian writers who have won significant local and international awards and/or achieved commercial success. The program supports the development of distinctive features at an early stage on the basis of track record and the strength of the story idea.
AFC Acting Director of Film Development, Lori Flekser, said the Commission was delighted to support these talented Australian writers in development of their screenplays. "Australian film scripts have gone from strength to strength in recent years, and we hope that initiatives such as the AFC's Fellowship program will continue to play a part in supporting the work of successful scriptwriters," Ms Flekser said.
Projects include Bonaparte's Retreat by Shirley Barrett, about a 64 year-old lint-removal salesman suddenly forced to forge a relationship with his two young Mennonite daughters whom he hasn't seen for 10 years and In Fig Tree by Stavros Kazantzidis and Allanah Zitserman, in which a man takes his dysfunctional family away to Fig Tree, an idyllic country retreat, where they find themselves caught up in a parricidal plot in which Fig Tree is to be torched, with someone inside.
11 July 2006
Scientists Make Meal of Project
Scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)and CSIRO have signed an agreement to investigate food molecules with a view to eventually make designer dinners.
“This research will provide Australian scientists with the ability to design new foods with improved taste, texture and health-improving qualities,” said ANSTO Executive Director, Dr Ian Smith.
“We will be conducting cutting-edge research to understand the structure of ingredients that go into food and aspects of food safety.”
The partnership brings ANSTO’s capabilities in characterising materials together with CSIRO’s broad food research capabilities.
Initial research into the structure of food molecules will study starch in relation to its nutritional benefits in reducing the risk of colorectal cancer and diabetes.
Dr Smith said that while using neutrons to study food may seem unusual, neutrons had the unique ability to identify the location of different atomic components in food, particularly water molecules.
“ANSTO’s contribution will be to take neutrons produced by its OPAL reactor to conduct sophisticated measurement science via advanced neutron scattering techniques,” he said. “This will allow us to unlock the secrets of complex food structures, how these are altered by food processing and how such modifications affect nutrition and long-term health. The work will be complemented with state-of-the-art X-ray scattering facilities.”
CSIRO Group Executive for Agribusiness, Dr Alastair Robertson, said there was a pressing need for fundamental research into the correlation between the nanostructure of food and its physical and biochemical properties so scientists could model, predict and control the behaviour of food raw materials and ingredients subjected to processing.
“CSIRO brings to this project detailed knowledge in food, nutrition, food processing and the methods to solve the problems associated with manufacture while ANSTO will provide the physical understanding of structural events in processing and the changes that occur in foods,” he said.
“The project also aims to understand how the structure of food-proteins is affected by water and the changes that occur during processing, particularly as this relates to the development of new products which meet the quality and nutritional expectations of the consumer."
Dr Robertson said the techniques would provide the foundation of understanding other complex food problems such as food spoilage and microbial growth and would prove highly valuable in food processing and even in the processes of the digestive tract.
11 July 2006
Who’s who and who's moving in the PS
Members of theNHMRC’s Health Ethics Committee have been announced.
The appointees are Professor Colin Thomson (Chairman), Dr Rosanna Capolingua, Sharon Caris, Christopher Coyne, Associate Professor Terry Dunbar, Father Gerald Gleeson, Professor Paul Griffiths, Barry Maley, Professor Margaret O’Connor, Dr Gregory Pike, Professor Peter Sainsbury, Dr Marion Scarrabelotti, Dr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini and Dr Nikolajs Zeps. All appointments are for three years
Members of the NHMRC’s National Health Committee the next three years have been made.
The appointees are: Professor Colin Masters (Chairman), Dr Kathryn Antioch, Dr Katrine Baghurst, Dr John Carnie, Dr Jon Currie, Ms Terry Dunbar, Rebecca James, Dr Anne Johnson, Dr Mark Wenitong, Professor Harvey Whiteford and Dr Helen Zorbas.
11 July 2006
New centres to support families
Fifteen Family Relationship Centres have been established nationwide to help Australian families who need assistance with relationships.
Acting Attorney-General, Senator Chris Ellison said the Centres would make it easier for families to find out about and use new and existing relationship services and were the cornerstone of the Government’s new Family Law system.
Changes to the law, supported by the new Family Relationship Services, were part of a new system of cooperation that the Government hoped would lead to a change in the culture of Family Law.
The new centres are located at Penrith, Lismore, Sutherland Shire and Wollongong in NSW; Mildura, Sunshine, Frankston and Ringwood in Victoria; Strathpine and Townsville in Queensland; Joondalup in WA; Salisbury in South Australia; Hobart in Tasmania; Darwin in the Northern Territory ; and Canberra.
The Family Relationship Advice Line number is 1800 050 321 and the service is available 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday and 10am to 4pm Saturday.
Good Morning Vietnam - and Cambodia
Radio Australia has moved from shortwave broadcasting to online technology and local FM rebroadcasting to develop new audiences in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Cambodian broadcasts will revolve around the successful placement of Khmer content on “third-party” FM platforms in Cambodia. The geographic coverage will be 70 per cent and the population contact is estimated to reach 85 per cent.
In Vietnam, the declining popularity of SW broadcasts and the surging demand for online services has opened the path for a live interactive “Australia – Vietnam” information and cultural exchange web portal. The new service is located at www.bayvut.com
Sensis on Airservice’s radar
Sensis Corporation is to supply and support Advanced Surface Movement Guidance and Control Systems at Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney airports, expected to be operational by 2008.
The system will replace existing surface surveillance radar, providing air traffic controllers with a comprehensive view of the airports for enhanced operational efficiency and safety in all weather conditions.
Airservices is also to establish an A-SMGCS support facility at Melbourne Airport to provide logistic support to the installed systems.
Bungendore HQ contract signed
The Department of Defence has signed a contract for the construction and operation of the new, state-of-the-art Headquarters Joint Operations Command facility at Bungendore, NSW, with Praeco Pty Ltd.
Praeco will be required to build, operate and maintain the new headquarters facility for the 30-year contract term. Defence has retained the responsibility for the procurement, installation and maintenance of the command, control, communications, computing and intelligence (C4I) systems for the facility.
The project is on course for Defence staff to start moving in towards the end of 2008, providing Defence with its first fully integrated, strategic and operational level command and control headquarters.
Building safety into workplaces
A Comcare plan to adopt the National Standard on Construction Work into the Commonwealth is open for public comment.
Proposed to be enforced by regulation the code would address the concerns of death or serious injury raised by both the Cole Royal Commission into the Building Industry and workplace safety authorities and would ensure that safe work practices were followed.
More information is available from Comcare’s website and comments would be received until 12 August.
Panel to ensure $16 million spent wisely
The Department of Defence is moving to a new national Strategic Supplier Arrangements panel for the provision of office requisites and janitorial products.
Defence spends more than $16 million annually on its office and janitorial requirements and the successful panellists are Corporate Express Australia Limited and OfficeMax Australia Limited.
The standing offers commenced on 1 July 2006, for an initial term of three years with a further two one-year extension options available to the Commonwealth.
As a minimum, the two panellists are to ensure that 10 per cent of the value of supplies provided to Defence is provided by small and medium enterprises.
4 July 2006
New ID Scheme on the Cards
The Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn, has released a series of major documents in the ongoing move towards greater e-business and computer-based security.
The Australian Government Smartcard Framework, the Australian Government e-Authentication Framework (AGAF) for Individuals: Overview and Principles, and the first five elements of Identity Management for Government Employees (IMAGE) have all been released, prompting Mr Nairn to comment on the Government’s commitment to the smart technology of the future.
“(These) all represent significant commitments on behalf of the Government towards improving the way we conduct business,” Mr Nairn said.
“The vision for the Smartcard Framework is to ensure that Government adopts a consistent and interoperable approach to the use of smartcard technology.”
He said the Australian Government Information Management Office began work on the Smartcard Framework before the Government decision on the Health and Social Services Access Card.
“Importantly, the framework will assist agencies to utilise smartcard technology so that personal information can be appropriately secured and partitioned from other information on the smartcard.”
Releasing the ‘Overview and Principles’ section of AGAF for Individuals, Mr Nairn said the document dealt with the full range of issues associated with people logging onto e-Government websites - a key part of the e-Government strategy.
“This document is the first element in a framework that will provide guidance to agencies whose online services require authentication of an individual’s identity,” he said.
Mr Nairn also released key elements of the IMAGE framework dealing with identity management of APS employees saying IMAGE would standardise identity management policies and practices for employees and contractors in the public sector and in the longer term provide capability for enhanced interoperability across the Government.
He said IMAGE envisaged that a smartcard would be a key element of the solution, providing both evidence of identity and access control. The Smartcard Framework would be a key reference document as the specifications for the IMAGE card were defined. Mr Nairn said this would be a different smartcard from the Health and Social Services Card - the key point is that the Smartcard Framework is broader than just the Access card and can deal with more than one card.
Mr Nairn also released a third part of the Smartcard Framework Standards and Model Specification for public comment.
4 July 2006
Outsiders OK For Inside Jobs
The Minister for the Public Service, Kevin Andrews, has confirmed there has been no change to the policy or legislation governing citizenship requirements in the Australian Public Service.
Mr Andrews confirmed that the Public Service Act required that an APS employee be an Australian citizen unless the agency head concerned considered it would be appropriate to employ a non-citizen.
A circular issued recently by the Australian Public Service Commission reminded agency heads that they had the flexibility to employ a person who was not an Australian citizen and could decide to do so to meet the particular needs of their agency.
The decision could be made, for instance, to counter a shortage of the skills or professional qualifications required to perform particular duties, and there may be a range of circumstances where it was appropriate to engage a non-citizen.
The Commission said a decision to engage a non-citizen must be made only after ensuring that the person had, or was eligible for, temporary or permanent residence in Australia, and was able to obtain the appropriate work rights.
Mr Andrews said this stance did not represent any change to the policy or legislation governing citizenship requirements in the Australian Public Service.
4 July 2006
Airservices in Spin Over Solomons Contract
The Auditor-General has been asked to investigate a contract entered by Airservices Australia to provide air traffic services to the Solomon Islands.
The Minister for Transport, Warren Truss has called on the Auditor to conduct a performance audit of ASA’s administration of the contract under which $2.2 million was paid to third parties at the request of Solomon Islands Government officials.
Chief Executive of ASA, Greg Russell welcomed the enquiry.
Mr Truss said the payments were not made in strict accordance with the contract but the Agency had acted in good faith.
An internal investigation within Airservices in 2003 found that between 18 and 2003 the contract payments had been made to third parties involving fees collected from international airlines. Mr Truss said these payments were stopped immediately.
“ASA made these payments on the specific request and with the specific approval of the relevant SIG Civil Aviation officials but they were not made strictly in accordance with the contract,” Mr Truss said.
“The contract should have been varied to address this situation.”
He said the Auditor-General of the Solomon Islands had conducted a broad inquiry into civil aviation matters in the Solomon Islands, including the ASA contract and that investigations conducted to date had identified that ASA and its staff acted in good faith in administering this contract
A subsequent Australian Federal Police investigation in 2005 did not identify any information or activity that constituted an offence.
“To ensure the highest standards of Australian financial accountability, and to satisfy myself as the responsible Minister, that any irregularities had been properly identified and appropriate governance measures and remedial action put in place, it is appropriate that the Australian Auditor General undertake a performance audit of the administration of this contract.”
“The Auditor General has agreed to do so.”
Mr Russell said with the benefit of hindsight it would have been better if the payments had not been made but they were authorised at the time by senior Solomon Islands Government officials.
“It is clear Airservices internal processes at the time were inadequate. However, I am satisfied that our corporate governance procedures have been significantly improved, and we would welcome any suggestions for further improvement from the Audit Office.”
Under the contract, ASA provided air traffic control for aircraft flying over the Solomon Islands and collected fees for that service.
4 July 2006
Short Order Savings for House Department
Amalgamating the Joint House Department with the Departments of the Parliamentary Library and Parliamentary Reporting Staff to form the Department of Parliamentary Services in 2003 has returned savings to the Commonwealth but not of the order predicted.
An Auditor-General’s report into the performance of DPS tabled in Parliament said that of the $5-$10 million in annual savings expected to come from the amalgamation and other efficiencies, only $2 million could be seen as directly attributable to the amalgamation and that was offset by the $1.6 million cost of amalgamating in the first place.
The auditor pointed out however that Budget cuts of $6 million a year to the Parliamentary Departments since 2004-05 had been absorbed with minimal disruption of services.
According to the auditor the goal of setting up a shared services centre for the (now) three Parliamentary Departments was hampered by the Departments of the Senate and House of Representatives choosing to adopt different human resource and financial management systems.
“This has not provided a foundation for the Parliamentary Departments to efficiently move in the future towards a shared services centre,’’ the auditor said.
He acknowledged the significant efforts the staff of DPS had expended forming the new Department but believed a more formal planning process could have been established for the task.
On the issue of measuring satisfaction levels and the costs of client services, the auditor made his one and only recommendation.
“There is scope to improve how service levels are measured by including timeliness or responsiveness indicators as part of quality assessments,’’ he said.
The auditor said an independent survey could measure client satisfaction across all DPS services and suggested a survey of the 41st Parliament to measure post-amalgamation satisfaction.
The auditor also looked at the ongoing issue of accommodation in Parliament House reporting that there had been nine such reviews since 1984.
“Parliament House is a unique work location,’’ the auditor said. “Central to all of the accommodation reviews is the shortfall in accommodation space.”
He said there were numerous factors contributing to the lack of accommodation in the House, including increased numbers of Parliamentary staff and Parliamentary Secretaries and the changing needs of the Department’s clients.
He said staffing numbers in the Parliamentary Departments had not declined significantly since the first review of efficiencies was conducted in 2002.
DPS agreed with the auditor’s recommendation saying the development of measurable indicators for the nature, timeliness, numbers and cost of its key services would assist in monitoring and reporting and would be generally useful.
“DPS also agrees that these indicators should ideally be developed in consultation with key stakeholder groups.”
4 July 2006
Union Thrust at Cuts
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) has branded changes to the ACT Public Service announced in the recent ACT Budget as an “administrative nightmare.”
The Union said plans to cut staff and restructure the entire ACT PS would take months to complete and could lead to chaos if not properly thought out and implemented.
The CPSU was concerned that the lack of a centralised, coordinated framework would have lasting effects on the ACT PS which could be felt for years.
Union representatives met with senior ACT Government people and tabled a blueprint for a dedicated taskforce to coordinate the 300-plus job losses centrally in a transparent, coherent and efficient manner.
Key points included in the blue[print were:
• provision of information to the taskforce
• departments to provide a list of all positions currently vacant
• departments to provide a list of all positions currently filled with contract or non ongoing staff
• departments to provide detail on draft restructure proposals including loss of function/workload, job locations (work unit/s), numbers, classifications and associated duty statements
• departments to identify number of employees (by classification) seeking voluntary separation or redeployment.
The CPSU said that jobs lost to existing employees should be minimised by making positions currently vacant redundant in the first instance where appropriate.
It said ongoing employees should be given preference for employment over non-ongoing employees. Employees seeking redeployment at level be considered in isolation from employees seeking promotion in a restricted merit based process.
The Union said that to minimise uncertainty and unrealistic expectations Agency-based open discussions regarding voluntary redundancies should be minimised until consultation through the taskforce had concluded.
The CPSU said the proposed taskforce should monitor and report weekly on key indicators to agreed stakeholders.
Eligible non-permanent staff were also urged to join the PSS superannuation scheme before 1 July to lock in the 15.4 per cent employer’s contribution rate which was cut for new starters in the Budget to nine per cent.
4 July 2006
Line of Communication Open at ACMA
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has adopted a new multi-strand consumer consultation process.
Aimed at gathering consumer and community perspectives on communications issues the new consultation process includes a revised Consumer Consultative Forum which will bring together representatives from consumer groups, industry and regulatory agencies to discuss issues affecting consumers..
ACMA chair Chris Chapman said the organisation would continue its usual public consultative processes, seeking specific input and advice on issues under consideration but the new Forum would be launched immediately. Mr Chapman said it would be supplemented by specialist experts
"The Consumer Consultative Forum should provide an enduring opportunity for consumer representatives to join industry representatives and regulators in actively engaging on consumer issues," Mr Chapman said.
He said ACMA would focus on issues affecting the medium and long-term interests of consumers and was looking for people who could demonstrate a broad interest in issues affecting Australian consumers of communications services.
"This could be people from organisations representing the end-users of these services or it could be academics or researchers with an interest in consumer issues."
At the same time, ACMA was also seeking expressions of interest from people and organisations to form a specialist expert resource list.
"We are also looking for individuals and organisations with an interest and expertise in particular issue steams – such as disability, rural and remote, low-income, indigenous, youth and senior issues," Mr Chapman said.
"Here, we intend to engage a broad range of people to assist ACMA with particular streams of work."
Expressions of interest for the new Consumer Consultative Forum and the specialist expert resource list close on 31 July 2006 and selection criteria are available from Rebecca Symons at ACMA.
4 July 2006
Pay Up as Tax Down
Tax cuts come into effect next pay with almost every taxpayer in the country likely to benefit.
Announced in the recent Budget and costed at $36.7 billion over the next four years, the cuts mean an employee on average weekly earnings will pay $1209 less tax this year than he or she would have in 15-96, indexed for inflation
Under the new arrangements, low-income earners will pay no tax until their annual income exceeds $10,000.
Those on the lowest tax rate of 15 per cent will not move into a higher tax bracket until their taxable income goes past $25,000 and those on the 30 per cent tax rate will not pay a higher marginal tax until their taxable income goes past $75,000.
For those on the two top tax rates, both the rate is cut and the threshold is increased meaning that staff earning between $75,000 and $150,000 will see their rate of tax drop from 42 to 40 cents, and those on the top rate pay 45 cents on every dollar over $150,000.
According to the Treasurer, 80 per cent of Australian taxpayers now face a top marginal tax rate of 30 per cent or less.
In addition, a range of measures to make life easier for families have also been introduced, including an increase in the maternity payment (Baby Bonus) – from $3,166 to $4000 and more generous Family Tax Benefits to support Australians raising children. The maximum payment per child (under Part A) has increased from about $2,400 in 16 to more than $4,200 a year now and the maximum FTB Part A benefit will now be available to families with an income up to $40,000.
The Large Family Supplement will now include families with three or more children, providing assistance to nearly 350,000 additional Australian families with a payment of an extra $248 a year and the limit on subsidised outside school-hours child care and family day care places has been abolished. This is expected to increase the number of childcare places to more than 700,000 by 2009, up from 307,000 in 16.
A bonus payment has also been made to recipients of the Carer Payment and Carer Allowance.
4 July 2006
Defence Minister Fires Off Newsletter
Defence Minister Brendan Nelson has launched a new monthly electronic newsletter designed for people with an interest in defence issues.
Dr Nelson said Defence Direct would be a valuable resource for Defence Force members and their families who wished to stay informed on defence matters, particularly in this time of high operational tempo.
He said it would provide a summary of each topic with links to related newspaper stories, ministerial releases and photos, allowing readers to explore the topic further if they choose.
“This e-newsletter comes at a time when around 4000 Australians are deployed on operations to protect our borders, help create stability in our region, and fight the war on terrorism,” Dr Nelson said.
“I am conscious that while everyday Australians have first-hand experience with our health and education systems for example, they may not be able to relate to defence issues in the same way.”
He said Defence Direct would seek to provide a simple summary, along with links to further information.
The first edition focused on operations and outcomes from the recent Budget.
Subscriptions are free and may be arranged by visiting www.minister.defence.gov.au
4 July 2006
Bra Maker Hooks onto Sports Commission
The Australian Sports Commission and lingerie manufacturer Berlei have announced a three-year partnership in which the Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) Biomechanics Unit will work with Berlei’s product design team to test and further develop sports bras for all Australian women.
The partnership will provide the AIS with leading edge sports bra designs before they are available to the commercial market.
The arrangement will see all female AIS athletes professionally fitted for sports bras and provided with a product range to suit the variety of activities likely to be undertaken in everyday life, training and competition.
Berlei has been making bras for 95 years and the company’s General Manager, Bernadette Hannagan said the greatly expanded relationship with the AIS will mean better bras for Australian women.
Melbourne Commonwealth Games long jump silver medallist Kerrie Taurima described the partnership as a possible performance boost in the lead up to Beijing.
"When you are standing on the track, about to jump, you need to know that you’ve done everything possible to achieve your best—part of this is knowing you’ve got the right gear and that it is providing the support and performance you require," Ms Taurima said.
Tests of Berlei’s 2007 range will begin at the AIS this month.
4 July 2006
ASIC Sets New Standards
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has launched a service charter outlining a range of standards and principles aimed at improving its services.
Chair of the Commission, Jeffrey Lucy, said the service charter was part of ASIC’s Better Regulation initiatives and was an important step in the organisation becoming more transparent and accessible to its stakeholders.
Mr Lucy said the charter set out what the many thousands of Australian companies, financial services businesses and professional service providers could expect from their dealings with ASIC.
“It identifies how long it will take to process applications or requests,” Mr Lucy said. ASIC will also report on its performance against key efficiency indicators in its annual report.
Mr Lucy said ASIC will continue to demonstrate its commitment to better regulation
by delivering further key projects, including publishing information about how ASIC works, makes decisions and approaches its legislative functions and reducing the number and types of documents it publishes into smaller and more readable sets.
"We are looking at how we do things to find ways to do them better," he said.
"The improvements outlined in Better Regulation will be an important part of our agenda for the coming 18 months and will assist us in our goal to be a strong, fair and progressive regulator."
4 July 2006
IP Making its Mark on Trade
IP Australia is searching for Australia’s favourite trade mark as one way of celebrating their 100th anniversary.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Bob Baldwin said the first federal trade mark was launched 100 years ago and IP Australia would run the competition to find out which one registered since was the most popular.
Mr Baldwin said the agency would commemorate 100 years of Australian endeavour through trade marks by encouraging all Australians to vote online to determine the nation’s favourite trade mark.
Mr Baldwin began the voting process at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art on 4 July and everyone else could visit www.ipaustralia.gov.au/tmcentenary and follow the prompts to nominate their favourite, with the winners announced in August.
The top 10 trade marks for voting have been narrowed down from a possible 40 with the help of prominent Australians Carla Zampatti, Ken Done, George Gregan and Siimon Reynolds. Only trade marks that were first used or registered in Australia were considered.
The top 10 trade marks to be voted on are:
ABC, Arnott’s, Penfolds, Qantas, RM Williams, Vegemite, Weet Bix, Wallabies, Woolmark, David Jones
Mr Baldwin said trade marks were important to Australia, both economically and socially.
"Good trade marks are often the most valuable asset of a business," he said.
While many trade marks comprised words, slogans or logos, Mr Baldwin said it had been possible since16 to register sounds, smells, three-dimensional shapes, aspects of packaging and colours, or a combination thereof.
In 2004-05, IP Australia received 86,668 trade mark applications and registered 50,123 trade marks.
Examples of registered trade marks include:
• in 12, Eagle Boys Pizza registered the 'pink glow' for its restaurant lighting in Australia;
• Coca-Cola has a registered trade mark for the shape of its bottle. It was first registered in Australia as a device in 1934, then as a shape in 18;
• in 1907, Arnott's registered its logo of a parrot eating a biscuit in Australia;
4 July 2006
Ombudsman in Tax Attack
The Taxation Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, has released his annual activity report covering complaints about taxation and the issues he dealt with during 2005.
Professor McMillan’s report, Taxation Ombudsman Activities Report focuses on the practical assistance the office provides to taxpayers to find sensible solutions to their tax problems. Another theme running through the report was the complexity of the tax system and the impact this has on taxpayers and practitioners, as well as on the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The report highlights problem areas such as difficulties encountered by taxpayers with superannuation and the ATO accounting system, issues with ATO record keeping and problems that can arise from automated mass processing.
The report also looks at the Taxation Ombudsman’s role in the context of tax administration and relationship with the ATO’s other external scrutineers – Parliament, the Board of Taxation, the Australian National Audit Office and the Inspector-General of Taxation.
Case studies include complaints about referral and advice, working around a problem, independent assurance, consistency of decision making, unanticipated consequences of complex legislative schemes and limits of government responsibility.
Future directions for the office in the tax area are included, together with an outline of the project program, with details of the 2006-07 program available shortly.
Professor McMillan is also the Commonwealth Ombudsman
4 July 2006
Austrade Banks on HSBC Deal
International banking giant HSBC has entered an agreement with Austrade to help Australian businesses achieve internationally.
The bank is the first major international bank to join Austrade’s Corporate Partnerships Program, where a range of professional development programs, information resources and cooperative marketing initiatives would be shared.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Austrade’s Managing Director, Peter O’Byrne, said Australian businesses would benefit from the new partnership as it brought together the trade services and global reach of two international organisations.
“Together, Austrade and HSBC have the international networks and expertise to help more Australians succeed in overseas business,” Mr O’Byrnre said.
“Austrade is already working with HSBC in many regions such as Latin America, and this agreement creates an important new framework to further extend and deepen our cooperation and enhance the range of assistance we offer to Australian businesses.”
Chief Executive of HSBC Australia, Stuart Davis, said the combination of Austrade’s international business knowledge and HSBC’s understanding of trade financial products would be an invaluable growth tool for Australian exporters.
“This agreement turns what has always been a positive and productive relationship between Austrade and HSBC into one with definite steps to optimise the support we both provide to Australian exporters,” Mr Davis said.
The activities covered under the agreement include professional development for staff at both Austrade and HSBC on aspects of international business and on banking issues for exporters.
The agreement between Austrade and HSBC is a part of Austrade’s Corporate Partnerships Program which signs up private sector service providers on a non-exclusive basis to enhance understanding of exporting in the business community and extend services available to Australian businesses looking to grow internationally.
4 July 2006
Tourism Campaign Sets Sail on New Channels
Australia's tourism messages could reach up to 150 million potential visitors following a new advertising and promotion deal between Tourism Australia and television’s Discovery and National Geographic Channels.
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Scott Morrison said the new arrangement would showcase Australia as a tourism destination to a potential worldwide audience of high yielding consumers and will complement Australia’s ‘So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?’ tourism advertising campaign.
“Australia’s best prospects are a group of global consumers called experience seekers, who travel more widely, spend more, see more and stay longer,” Mr Morrison said. “(They) are also regular and heavy consumers of Discovery and National Geographic.”
He said Australia was already a powerful “brand” with experience seekers but needed to work on increasing their actual intention to come and experience what it had to offer.
Executive Vice President of Discovery Networks Asia, Tom Keaveny, agreed that Australia had many unique elements, citing its people and culture to the amazing landscapes and wildlife.
“The partnership between Discovery Networks Asia and Tourism Australia goes beyond a traditional spot and sponsorship deal,” Mr Keaveny said.
“(It is) capitalising on the synergies between the two brands and pushing the boundaries on integrating Australia with the Discovery Networks viewer experience.”
General Manager of International Advertising for National Geographic, Declan Moore said the program spanned print, television, online and experiential marketing activities and harnessed the full array of National Geographic brand assets.
Major initiatives of the partnership included:
• A series of programs on Australia as part of Discovery Destination Week.
• A 60 minute documentary on the Great Australian Cattle Drive.
• Australia featured in the 5 Takes television series, backed by comprehensive online activity.
• American Chopper TV series.
• Australian Expert Vignettes – a series on Australians who work in one field but have a hobby in another, to run on the National Geographic Channel.
• Australia map and advertorials on Australian experts in National Geographic magazine.
• Sam Abell’s Photographic Exhibition: Photographs of Australia taken by a top National Geographic photographer.
4 July 2006
Census Taking Form
The 2006 Census is to be more accessible to people with print or language disabilities than any of its predecessors, the Australian Bureau of Statistics working with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission on a range of initiatives to ensure people with a disability had access to information about the Census and how to fill in Census forms
Head of the Census team, Paul Williams, said access to the Census, which is to be held on 8 August, would be the best ever.
“The ABS is committed to communicating effectively with householders with a disability,” Mr Williams said.
He said the ABS would provide information on the Census in formats that meet the needs of individuals with a print, language or hearing disability/impairment.
The Australian Electoral Commission and the ABS Statistical Publishing Development Team had been consulted for advice to assist with the development of the strategy and Vision Australia assisted with advice and testing of the web forms.
Advice had also been received from Better Hearing Australia, the Victorian Deaf Society and the Australian Captions Centre to better understand the needs of the hearing-impaired community.
Mr Williams said the eCensus option would allow the Census form to be filled out online and independently by people with a print disability. It is usable with the screen readers JAWS and Windows Eyes which verbally reproduce what appears on a computer screen. Supporting material would also be available in Braille and in large print.
In addition, print alternative formats of the Census guide and Census form would be available on request.
Mr Williams said the ABS was determined that everyone have the opportunity to participate in the Census of Population and Housing on 8 August.
4 July 2006
Speed Thrills on the Information Super Highway
The take up of broadband services has passed three million connections according to the latest Australian Competition and Consumer Commission Snapshot of Broadband Deployment.
Just four years ago there were less than 200,000 broadband services in Australia.
“Australia was already in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development top five for growth in broadband take-up, and the latest figures show that this actually accelerated in the last quarter,” said the Minister for Information Technology, Senator Helen Coonan.
The take-up of broadband increased by an impressive 1.38 million connections or 78 per cent over the year from March 2005 when there were just 1.77 million services connected.
According to the ACCC, at the end of March 2006 there were 3.16 million broadband services connected across Australia.
ACCC Commissioner Ed Willett said the take-up of ADSL services outstripped other broadband technologies with an increasing number of customers electing a wireless connection.
“Take up of other broadband technologies, including wireless, grew by 34 per cent in the quarter, albeit off a low base,” Mr Willett said.
Senator Coonan said the figures demonstrated that the Government’s investment in broadband infrastructure was paying off.
“With a further $3.1 billion already committed to improving communications services across Australia, we can expect even greater take-up in the future,” she said.
“To support the further expansion of high-speed internet in Australia I have under development a Broadband Blueprint. This will provide a national framework to ensure the rollout of broadband supports Australia to become a world leader in the development, rollout and use of next generation broadband.”
Senator Coonan said the Government was seeking Expressions of Interest from industry to test the feasibility of funding larger scale infrastructure projects under the $878 million Broadband Connect program.
“I am encouraging interested parties to put forward ideas, plans and possible project proposals to help inform the final design of the Connect Australia program,” Senator Coonan said
4 July 2006
Members of theNHMRC’sHuman Genetics Advisory Committee have been announced.
The appointees are: Professor Ron Trent (Chairman), Dr Kristine Barlow-Stewart, Dr Rosanna Capolingua, Professor Don Chalmers, Dr Sally Goold OAM, Dr Sandra Hacker AO, Associate Professor Jane Halliday, Belinda Hope, Professor Jonathan Izant, Professor Siaw-Teng Liaw, Emeritus Professor Jack Martin AO FAA FRS, Reverend Martin Robinson, David Shaw and Professor David Weisbrot AM.
Food Standards board named
The Board of Food Standards Australia New Zealand has been named.
The Board is: The Hon Rob Knowles (Chairman), Elaine Attwood, Dr John Craven, Dr Laurence Eyres, Peter Milne, Graham Peachey, Ms Hikihiki Pihema, Owen Symmans, Dr Michele Allan, Dr Katrine Baghurst, Peter Boyden and Dr Peter Williams.
Joseph Gersh, Andrew Lumsden and Marian Micalizzi have been reappointed to the Australian Reinsurance Pool Corporation or a further three years.
The ARPC was established by the Terrorism Insurance Act 2003 to administer the Australian Government’s terrorism insurance scheme. Through the ARPC, insurers are able to reinsure any liability for losses arising from declared terrorist incidents under the scheme.
New and old at AAT
Four new part-time members of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal have been appointed and four existing members reappointed.
. Dr Kerry Breen, Dr Timothy Hawcroft, Timothy Jenkins and Professor Peter Reilly AO join the Tribunal as part-time members and Deane Jarvis, Bruce Pascoe, Dr John Campbell and Ann Cunningham have been reappointed.
Dr Breen has been appointed full-time Deputy President in South Australia, Mr Pascoe a part-time senior member in Victoria, Dr Campbell a part-time member in NSW and Ann Cunningham moves from part-time member to part-time senior member in Tasmania.
All the appointments and re-appointments will commence on 1 July 2006.
Deputy Chair for Arts Council
Joe Gersh has been appointed Deputy Chair of the Australia Council for the Arts for a three-year term.
Mr Gersh is the Chairman of the National Institute of Circus Arts and Chairman of Artbank and repalces retiring Deputy Chair, Terry Arcus.
Salusinszky booked for Literature Board
Dr Imre Salusinszky has been appointed Chair of the Australia Council’s Literature Board for a three-year term.
A journalist with The Australian since 2003 Dr Salusinszky served on a committee of the Literature Board, between 12 and 14.
He is currently on the editorial advisory committee of Quadrant and HEAT, a showcase for Australian contemporary writing.
4 July 2003
Busiest airports get radar upgrade
Airservices Australia has signed a multi-million dollar deal with electronic systems group Thales for the supply of new generation radars at eight of Australia’s busiest airports.
Commencing next year, the project involves the replacement of 15-year-old radars at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Cairns, Coolangatta and Canberra with the latest in aircraft surveillance technology.
Chiko on a roll
The Australian Film Commission and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have launched Chiko Accidental Alien, an animated interactive online children’s game at abc.net.au/chiko.
The project is the fifth to be launched from a slate funded under the AFC and ABC New Media and Digital Services Broadband Production Initiative (BPI), and is the first broadband interactive game to be produced from the BPI.
Infused with humour that will entice game lovers of all ages, Chiko Accidental Alien immerses players in a rich narrative-driven animated environment. The multi-level game-play follows the adventures of an inquisitive 13-year-old boy, Chiko, as he finds himself at the controls of a spacecraft en route to a fun park on the far-off peanut-shaped planet of Squerx.
Indigenous legal services
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Incorporated has been awarded the contract to provide legal aid services for Indigenous Australians in Tasmania.
Attorney General, Philip Ruddock announced the decision, saying the Centre had provided Indigenous legal aid services in Tasmania for more than 32 years.
He said the announcement marked the finalisation of the move to Contracts for Service for the provision of legal aid services for Indigenous Australians nationally.
$2 million for Menzies Trust scholarship
The Government has announced a $2 million endowment for the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Trust scholarship program.
The program would provide opportunities for Australian postgraduate students to undertake further study at universities in the United Kingdom, and contribute to stronger links between the two nations.
The endowment will allow up to six scholarships annually for Australian students to study in the United Kingdom.
More information is at www.menziesfoundation.org.au
Sports House ahead of the field
The School of Sport and Recreation Management in Melbourne will boast state-of-the-art training facilities to provide industry specific and practical training opportunities in management, and professional development to assist people in sport and fitness occupations.
The Commonwealth invested $636,072 in the refurbishment of Sports House, which will also accommodate administration facilities for the 2007 World Swimming Championships Corporation and Sports Medicine Australia.
4 July 2006
This is part one of an edited speech given by Lynelle Briggs, Public Service Commissioner, on February 21, 2006, at the Australian New Zealand School of Government/Prime Minister and Cabinet conference, Project Management and Organisational Change.
I would like to begin by echoing Dr Peter Shergold’s sentiments that project management and implementation are not simply about technique, but are about the much harder job of changing our organisations. This leads neatly to the question of why do we need to change? What problems, what issues, what challenges are we responding to?
The answer to these questions will, of course, vary depending on the very specific contexts of our agencies, and the public sector jurisdiction in which we work. There are, however, a number of ‘generic’ factors common to Australia and other advanced countries that are driving change across Australia’s public sector.
I want to look briefly at those that I regard as especially important for organisational change. They are:
community or citizen expectations,
challenges to implementation,
complex, difficult and seemingly intractable, or “wicked”, problems, and
political interest and will to improve the realisation of policy goals.
Australians are much more sophisticated consumers of government services than they were only a few decades ago. They are much better educated, much wealthier and benefit not only from a supportive social safety net, but also from the convergence of new administrative law in the 1980s and widespread access to media and information and communication technologies.
With this improvement in Australian’s standard of living, our focus has switched from the Government providing the basic fundamentals of health care, shelter and welfare towards the overall quality and standard of government services.
Yet, as we have become wealthier and more sophisticated, we are no happier and we demand more from governments than ever before. The Australian community now expects high quality, seamless, accessible and responsive service delivery….and that’s how it should be!
At the same time, the Australian public sector has become more efficient, effective and innovative at delivering government services. It is, then, somewhat paradoxical that successive governments at all levels in Australia have been bedevilled by implementation problems or by programs going off the rails.
There is no one particular cause, more a reflection of a multitude of sins - for example, where policy design has failed to properly take account of the challenges to implementation, resulting in cost overruns, unexpected delays and poor outcomes; or where officials have failed to get across to governments the problems of underinvestment in essential aspects of programs; or where we haven’t appreciated the time that it might take to get key stakeholders on side; or where officials haven’t kept their eyes on the target or have let the ball drop; or where we have simply failed to appreciate the higher standards demanded of us today.
Everyone knows that the world is changing constantly. Many of us have trouble just keeping up and, yet, the spot light is on all of our organisations’ performances and how they might be improved, in the wake of productivity requirements, tighter budgets, higher community expectations and so on. Our goal really should be to move from a leading edge public sector, where we are now, to an outstanding one. That’s why organisational change is so closely linked with effective program management.
Complicating the picture even further are what Peter Shergold describes as ‘wicked problems’ - complex and intractable issues, such as the health and economic well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, balancing environmental protection and economic growth, social under classes and welfare dependency and national security; problems that are seemingly resistant to government intervention.
These are the sorts of problems that urgently need to be both the focus of new thinking (informed by past experience) and subject to leadership that employs dynamic and citizen focussed techniques - that are integrated and coordinated across agencies and jurisdictions. On top of that, there needs to be a commitment to directing the right level of resources to the task.
It is in this context that we have seen, in Australia and around the world, a focus on connecting government; on whole of government solutions to hard problems; on working across agencies and across jurisdictions; and on horizontal governance that involves stakeholders in the design, planning and implementation of government programs.
We are, of course, also seeing new and innovative approaches in many areas, but the point is that there is more to do, and there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. Many of these ‘wicked’ problems - addiction, obesity, welfare dependence - require behavioural change. Much of the recent policy design in these areas is underpinned by notions of shared responsibility and self reliance, and an acknowledgement that governments can’t achieve their objectives without the support and involvement of the community, or without increased cooperation and collaboration between sectors and agencies—more “co-productions” (as ANZSOG is known to describe them).
This approach is evident, for example, in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities where communities make commitments (to improve school attendance, reduce drug and alcohol use, for example) and governments undertake to provide services or funding to assist the community to achieve their objectives (through Regional Partnership Agreements and Shared Responsibility Agreements).
Political Will and Interest:
Responsiveness to the elected government was a key theme of the watershed report of the Coombs Commission into Australian Government administration in the mid-70s, and was generally understood in terms of how the Government’s intentions were translated into policy.
What we are seeing today is a determination by the Government to have greater influence on the timely and effective delivery of their policy interventions. Governments want to see some ‘bang for their bucks’ - clear improvements as a result of their interventions. They do not want to see their money frittered away or unspent through poor planning or bureaucratic time wasting or incompetence. Indeed, Peter Shergold said recently that “[e]very government knows that its future depends not only on how wisely it makes decisions but on how effectively its public service delivers them”.
It’s, therefore, not surprising that the Australian Government has moved to push for a greater focus on Government outcomes and to make some important structural changes at the delivery end.
It has established the Cabinet Implementation Unit, within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to encourage earlier and more effective planning for implementation of public policy decisions delivered through government programs and services.
It is implementing the findings of the Uhrig Review of Corporate Governance of Statutory Authorities and Office Holders to clarify lines of accountability between agencies and Ministers and relationships between agencies and their portfolio departments.
What we are seeing here is a determination to get the right governance arrangements in place, as a foundation for improved delivery and implementation of the Government’s policy initiatives. This is not a shift away from devolution, but an enhancement, with a focus on achieving better results for the Australian community within a devolved environment.
To this end, in 2004 the Government created the Department of Human Services, which brings together six agencies, as a means to improve co-ordination between them, improve their responsiveness to Government direction, and to raise the quality of the services they deliver. The Prime Minister said at that time: "[O]ne of the things we lack in the public service both at a Commonwealth and a State level is a consolidated focus on the efficient and timely and sympathetic delivery of services. We tend to look at service delivery as an afterthought rather than as a policy priority."
Of course, the political interest in the nuts and bolts of public administration is not limited to Australia. In the UK recently the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee launched an inquiry into the place of strategy and planning in government. It will explore, among other things, whether strategic planning is too centralised, or not centralised enough; how people are best trained to carry out strategic planning; and whether Parliament should have a greater role in the strategic planning process.
It raises in my mind that classic question of when is it appropriate to bring project management skills into the policy process? I guess, the answer must surely be, as soon as possible - the two are, after all, part of a wider program management continuum.
Next week in part two of her speech, Commissioner Briggs outlines her views about what an evolved concept of program management