SearchArchives for July 200829 July, 2008
Freedom the word for information overhaul
The first step towards sweeping changes to Freedom of Information laws have been taken with the Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner announcing that Ministers and Agencies no longer had the power to issue conclusive certificates to deny access to documents.
Senator Faulkner said existing certificates would be revoked.
He said the move was a major advancement towards restoring trust and integrity in the handling of Government information as it meant all decisions to refuse requests would now be subject to an independent review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
“The Government is committed to reforming the FOI Act and promoting a pro-disclosure culture across government,” Senator Faulkner said.
“In terms of existing certificates, they will be revoked if and when new applications are made for those documents which have been the subject of those certificates.
“I do stress, however, that the revocation of existing certificates will not affect the ability of decision-makers to claim exemptions under the FOI act where it is legitimate for them to do so.”
Senator Faulkner said the necessary legislation to make the changes would be introduced during the next session of Parliament and would include a number of additional measures relating to the AAT's procedures for handling FOI reviews, one of which was to have the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security provide evidence on national security documents.
“The abolition of conclusive certificates is the first stage of our proposed FOI reforms,” Senator Faulkner said.
He said the second stage would be unveiled later this year when an exposure draft of FOI reform legislation was released for public comment.
“We expect that after all submissions are considered, the Government will be able to introduce legislation containing the full package of FOI reforms in 2009.”
Among the reforms, which Senator Faulkner described as the most significant overhaul of the FOI Act since its inception in 1982, would be the creation of an FOI Commissioner.
“For the first time, there will be a statutory office-holder with responsibility for oversight of FOI across the Commonwealth,” he said.
“We also recognise that there needs to be more widespread acceptance of greater openness in government. Our reforms will promote that objective.”
In order to speed up the changes, Attorney-General Robert McClelland had asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to shelve the inquiry into FOI it was currently conducting.
“The ALRC was not due to report until December of this year,” Senator Faulkner said.
“Given the Government's proposed timetable, it's more sensible and appropriate that the ALRC review the FOI Act after the Government's reforms have come into operation. By then, the effects of the reforms and changes will be clearer.”
Senator Faulkner said making major changes to FOI was an election commitment.
“The Government's proposed course of action for delivering on its remaining FOI commitments, I believe will make Commonwealth Government more accountable, more open and more transparent.”
29 July, 2008
Defence Force targets women
The Australian Defence Force’s latest recruitment drive is targeting women with more than 200 female service personnel volunteering to share their experiences to attract new members to the Navy, Army and Air Force.
The new drive was launched by Air Commodore Margaret Staib at the 20th Women, Management and Employment Relations Conference, in Sydney recently.
Air Commodore Staib joined senior women in business including the Managing Director of Consumer Finance at the ANZ Bank, Jenny Fagg; Wendy McCarthy from McCarthy Management; and Professor Valerie Pratt from the Macquarie Graduate School of Management to discuss Leadership is Women’s Business – Challenges, Lessons and Anecdotes.
“Who better to discuss the women’s business of leadership and that the ADF equals opportunity, than a current serving one-star officer who is the Director General of Strategic Logistics,” said the Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon.
“The ADF offers women work that is challenging, social, rewarding, and family friendly,” Mr Snowdon said, “but we need to do more to promote the possibilities of Defence careers.
“It is that educational campaign in schools and communities which the Alumni servicewomen have taken up.”
He said more than 90 per cent of jobs in the ADF were open to women but they only made up 13 per cent of the regular forces.
“The number of women in the ADF is the same today as it was a decade ago, and the highest recruitment of women was 17.8 per cent of enlistments in financial year 1997-98,” Mr Snowdon said.
“It is time for that to change, and we aim for a 20 per cent intake of women by FY 2009-10.”
He said a strong ADF would harness the full diversity, ethnicity, and potential of the nation.
29 July, 2008
New sex plan has appeal
Progress towards equality of the sexes has stalled in Australia according to the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, so a new plan of action was needed and has been released.
Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick has outlined a plan of action to build gender equality based on priorities such as paid maternity leave, tackling sexual harassment and bridging the gender gap in retirement savings.
“The stories and ideas that people shared with me during my Listening Tour have shaped my plan of action,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“We have more work to do if we want to ensure women and men live in a fair and equal Australia.”
Speaking at the launch of the listening tour community report Gender equality: What matters to Australian women and men, Commissioner Broderick identified five areas where she would be focussing her efforts to improve gender equality in Australia:
“I can announce that I have commissioned a national survey to track trends on the extent of sexual harassment in Australia.”
She said there would be concrete programs to address each of the issues on the agenda and progress had already been made in some areas.
She said she would continue pushing for the implementation of a national paid parental leave scheme as part of a broader focus on achieving greater balance between paid work and family responsibilities.
“A federally funded scheme is good for families, good for business and good for the community,” she said.
“It gives mothers the chance to recover from childbirth, establish breast feeding and bond with their babies.
“It also increases the number of women returning to work.”
Both the Government and the Opposition welcomed the launch of the Listening Tour Community Report and the Plan of Action towards Gender Equality.
The Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek said the Commissioner’s work complemented Government priorities, particularly women’s economic security, safety, and full participation in every aspect of Australian life.
“The Government congratulates Commissioner Broderick on the agenda she has set and looks forward to collaborating with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to progress this plan of action,” Ms Plibersek said.
Shadow Minister for the Status of Women, Sussan Ley said the report presented key issues and a framework within which to develop policies that women in Australia need to help them live, work and raise a family.
“I strongly believe that when you have control of your finances, you have control of your life,” Ms Ley said.
“Therefore it is vital that Government develops a strategy for boosting retirement incomes for older women, along with increasing young women’s financial literacy.”
29 July, 2008
Archives sets record in record keeping
The National Archives of Australia has played a leading role in the publication of a global standard for recordkeeping software.
Working with the national archives of 11 nations, the NAA helped develop an agreed set of standards for software products being used to make and keep records.
Under the auspices of the International Council on Archives, the team finalised three related publications under the title Principles and Functional Requirements for Records in Electronic Office Environments.
Director-General of NAA, Ross Gibbs described the achievement as a “milestone for the archives industry.”
“Over the past decade some countries have issued their own requirements for software to manage electronic records,” Mr Gibbs said.
“Now the world’s archival institutions have agreed on a single set of standards.”
He said the collaboration promised significant benefits to the software industry, with an agreed set of requirements eliminating the confusion caused by varying standards.
“The National Archives of Australia is proud to have led the project, in cooperation with our Australian and New Zealand partner institutions, particularly Archives New Zealand and Queensland State Archives.
“We are particularly excited about the guidelines for managing records in business systems, which we feel is the way of the future.”
Mr Gibbs said the drafts generated significant interest from software vendors, consultants and archivists around the world and their comments were incorporated into the final publications.
The standard was launched at the 16th International Council on Archives Congress in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Held every four years, the Congress celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008, and attracted 1200 archivists from 138 countries. The ICA promotes the preservation, development and use of the world’s archival heritage.
The theme of the Congress was “Archives, governance and development: mapping future society.” It provided the NAA with an opportunity to collaborate and explore further ways of creating and preserving digital information.
Mr Gibbs said Australia would host the next (17th) ICA Congress in Brisbane in 2012.
29 July, 2008
Age research is old news
Research results from the Department of Health and Ageing has revealed that by the middle of this century, Australian men and women would live five years longer than they did now.
According to the Department, by 2045-50, Australian women would increase their life expectancy from 83.7 years to 88 and men from 79 to 84.1. Australians already enjoy the second longest life expectancy in the world at 81.4 years – after Japan.
According to the Department, Australian women in some parts of the nation like the Sunshine Coast and agricultural areas outside Perth, have among the longest life expectancies in the world.
It found that about 13 per cent of Australia’s population – around 2.8 million people - was aged 65 years or older and that this was expected to rise to 18 per cent by 2021 and to 26 per cent (around 7 million people) in 2051. The number of people aged more than 80 years would almost double over the next 20 years.
Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot released the Department’s data at the Ageing Population Summit and detailed the Government’s response to the challenge of an ageing population.
She said Australian life expectancy rates in Australia were to be celebrated.
“This is wonderful news and can be attributed to healthy lifestyles and medical advances in Australia,” Mrs Elliot said.
She said Government investments in aged and community care over the next four years would reach record levels with almost three-quarters spent on residential aged care.
“This is about planning for Australia’s future and the challenges of the 21st century,” Mrs Elliot said.
“We want to ensure that older Australians can live independent lives and age in their own homes, but also have the option to enter aged care homes if they need to.”
The research showed that centenarians were the fastest growing age segment of the Australian population with their numbers increasing by 8.5 per cent a year over the past 25 years.
The research found that two in every 10,000 Australians were aged at least 100.
It found that by 2050 this would be 23 in every 10,000 people. The number of Australians over the age of 100 was expected to increase from 2,860 today to 78,000 by 2055.
Mrs Elliott said the research also showed an increasing demand for aged care which meant Government expenditure could rise from the current three per cent of total Commonwealth revenues to nine per cent by 2050, if current policy settings remained unchanged.
29 July, 2008
No pay off in wage dispute
Industrial action being taken by Tasmania’s State Public Servants in pursuit of wages parity with other States is continuing with few signs it will be settled soon.
In a statement, Tasmanian Treasurer Michael Aird said the offer made to staff by the Government was fair and final, and allowed for a pay rise of between 20 and 29 per cent over the three-and-a-half year life of the agreement.
Staff have rejected the offer, saying they would still be behind their interstate counterparts. They have launched industrial action in pursuit of a better offer
The Community and Public Sector Union’s Tom Lynch told the ABC that situation had been brought about by the Government
“They have forced us into this industrial action,” Mr Lynch said, “and now they’re doing absolutely nothing to resolve it.
“They’re not even talking to us about it.”
He said the Government knew each offer it had submitted would be rejected.
“They have already delivered that for themselves. They delivered it for legal practitioners, for health professionals, for a whole range of people and they promised nearly two years ago to deliver to the rest of the Public Sector.”
He said the delays meant the Government would have to increase salaries by around nine per cent to bring them into line with the other States.
“You know the Government’s happy to take that money themselves and for the rest of the areas to get it but we’re going to back down on that,” he said.
“Our members are not going to do that.”
Mr Lynch said CPSU members in the Tasmanian State Public Service had worked hard to keep the State running in very difficult times.
“Now is the time when the good times in Tassie should be shared,” he said.
29 July, 2008
Schools sign up for voter enrolment week
The Australian Electoral Commission’s national Enrol to Vote Week is being held in schools across the country this week.
Over 1,650 secondary schools have registered to participate in the advertising campaign which aims to get eligible young people on the electoral roll and ready to vote in Federal, State or Territory and Local Government elections.
Electoral Commissioner Ian Campbell, said the Australian Electoral Commission was pleased so many schools across Australia were supporting the campaign.
“Elections can happen at any time so it is important for young people to know that they need to enrol and be prepared to vote,” Mr Campbell said.
“We’ve just had a Federal by-election and there are elections at all levels of government happening across Australia in the next 12 months so we are urging young people to enrol to vote during Enrol To Vote Week.”
Mr Campbell said the Australian Electoral Commission supported Enrol To Vote Week by providing enrolment forms, educational resources, promotional materials and other information to schools and online.
“Only three in four 18 year olds are enrolled to vote and we are hoping that Enrol To Vote Week will help boost the number of young people enrolled,” he said.
“Enrol To Vote Week targets 17 year olds too, who can enrol now so that they are ready to vote when they turn 18.”
Mr Campbell said the week would also remind Australians to update their enrolment details if they had changed addresses.
He said all Australian citizens aged 18 years and over were required by law to enrol and vote.
For more information on Enrol to Vote Week or to see a list of participating schools, visit http://enroltovoteweek.aec.gov.au or call the AEC on 13 23 26.
29 July, 2008
Water study laps up more time to report
The Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, has granted the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission more time to develop the water market and water charge rules for the Murray-Darling Basin.
Senator Wong said the extra time would allow for more stakeholder input.
The ACCC has been conducting formal consultations on both the water market and water charge rules in preparation for advising the Minister, as required under the Water Act 2007.
“Since April 2008, the ACCC has been conducting formal consultations on both the water market and water charge rules,” Senator Wong said. “Along the way, stakeholders have indicated that they want more time to consider the draft rules.
“In response to this feedback and at the request of the ACCC, I have decided to extend the deadline for the ACCC to provide its advice to the Australian Government.”
As a result of this extension, the ACCC plans to include an additional stage to consult with stakeholders on the water charge and water market rules.
The extra stage will give stakeholders four to six weeks to comment on a position paper that outlines the ACCC’s early policy position on key issues with respect to the draft rules.
“The ACCC will now adopt a three stage process, consulting on an issues paper, a position paper, and then a draft report and rules, before providing its final advice on the rules to the Australian Government,” Senator Wong said.
“Stakeholders will have a chance to provide feedback on every stage of the process ahead of the ACCC finalising its advice.”
She said as a result of the extension, the ACCC’s advice on the water market rules and the water charge rules would be provided in December 2008 and June 2009 respectively.
“The ACCC’s consultation process will be critical in informing future arrangements in the Murray-Darling Basin,” Senator Wong said.
She said more efficient water markets were an important element in the Government’s Water for the Future plan, which had four priorities: tackling climate change, using water wisely, supporting healthy rivers and securing our water supplies.
29 July, 2008
Bike day gets push from Minister
The Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, has launched National Ride to Work Day by urging all workers in the country to do something for their health.
Mr Garrett said the Federal Government supported Ride to Work Day as part the TravelSmart program which encouraged people to reduce their reliance on cars and when possible make smart travel choices to use public transport, cycling, walking and car pooling.
He said Ride to Work Day would be held on 15 October.
“There are already increasing numbers of people cycling to work and with a target of 50,000 participants this year I would encourage as many individuals as well as employers to get involved this year,” Mr Garrett said.
“This is a great opportunity for novice cyclists to try riding to work with the support of other more experienced riders and potentially making cycling the habit of a lifetime.”
He said as well as the physical benefits that could be achieved by riding a bike, the environmental benefits could also be significant with about 300 grams of greenhouse gas emissions saved per kilometre, for every vehicle that was taken off the road.
“Many of us are looking for ways to reduce our environmental footprint as we tackle the challenges of climate change and adopting two wheeled transportation over four, as often as possible, is a great option,” he said.
Organised by Bicycle Victoria, Ride to Work Day became a national event for the first time last year after running primarily in Victoria for a number of years.
Mr Garrett said people could register for this year’s National Ride to Work Day at: www.ride2work.com.au
29 July, 2008
Car safety system gets green light
The Commonwealth Government has joined an international push to adopt a worldwide standard for a computer-based vehicle stability system which helped drivers keep control of their vehicles in poor driving conditions and wet weather.
Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese said the technology had the potential save hundreds of lives each year and could soon be fitted as standard to all new Australian cars, 4WDs and utes.
“Along with other members of the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Standards, Australia has voted to adopt a new Global Technical Regulation on Electronic Stability Control systems,” Mr Albanese said.
“International research has found this technology has the potential to be the greatest innovation since the seatbelt in saving lives and making our roads significantly safer.”
He said research undertaken for the British Government found vehicles equipped with ESC were 25 per cent less likely to be involved in a fatal accident than those without it.
According to the US Department of Transportation, this technology, when fully deployed, could save up to 9600 lives annually. Mr Albanese said from 2011, ESC would be required on all new passenger vehicles sold in the United States.
He said ESC continuously monitored a vehicle’s speed, steering wheel angle, direction of travel and cornering acceleration. If this data shows the vehicle is at risk of skidding or overturning, the system automatically applies individual brakes to correct any deviation from the direction the driver wants to go.
“The new Global Technical Regulation opens the way for a detailed examination of the case for mandating ESC in Australia through the development of an Australian Design Rule (ADR),” Mr Albanese said.
“Within weeks, a Regulation Impact Statement assessing the potential ramifications for industry and the wider community of an ESC mandate will be released for public consultation.”
He said the RIS would look at a range of issues including whether the goal of safer vehicles could be achieved via non-regulatory means.
“If the case for an ADR is established, we expect to get the necessary legislation in place by the end of 2008.
“Already many Australians appreciate the safety benefits of ESC, with almost half of the new cars and 4WDs sold in December fitted with the technology.
“A growing number of manufacturers are voluntarily responding to the needs of the marketplace and including ESC as a standard feature in their latest models.”
Mr Albanese said the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations was a United Nations body charged with administering the 1958 Agreement on the Adoption of Uniform Technical Prescriptions for Vehicles and the 1998 “Global Agreement” on Global Technical Regulations for Wheeled Vehicles, Equipment and Parts.
He said 50 countries, as well as car manufacturers, consumers and road users, participated in its deliberations.
29 July, 2008
Reading promotion more than words
The annual month-long celebration of reading – Books Alive –has been launched for 2008.
Books Alive aims to introduce all Australians to the joys of reading, and includes a list of recommended books, a giveaway feature title, promotions, advertising and author tours throughout August.
Minister for the Arts, Peter Garrett, said there was no better time to start reading than during Books Alive.
“I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of the Books Alive guide, find a quiet spot, and discover the joys of reading,” he said.
“There are 50 books to choose from and there really is something for everyone.”
He said the books had been hand-picked by book-lovers for their quality, broad appeal and range of interests.
“The majority of books on the list are by Australian authors so it’s also a good opportunity to support our home grown writers.”
He said research commissioned for Books Alive 2008 found that Australia was already a nation of book lovers with around 92 per cent of people reading for pleasure in the past month and 63 per cent going into a bookshop.
The research results were welcomed by the Chair of Books Alive, Sandra Yates.
“While it’s great to see so many Australians love their books, there are many people who by lack of opportunity or inclination we’d like to invite to pick up a book over the next month,” she said.
She said Books Alive featured several exciting initiatives throughout August including:
The promotion would run from Sunday 27 July to Sunday 31 August.
29 July, 2008
New charge card to deal with parents
Centrelink has begun the roll-out of its new “BasicsCard” to be used by parents in need of income management.
The BasicsCard is to be used for buying essential goods and services through the existing EFTPOS network but would not be able to purchase alcohol, tobacco, pornography or gambling products, or used to withdraw cash.
The card was unveiled jointly by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin and the Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig.
Ms Macklin said the Commonwealth was determined to ensure people on income management could buy the essential goods and services they needed to improve the lives of their children and families easily.
“Income management is an important measure for ensuring welfare payments are spent in the interests of children and is a key plank of the Government's strategy to strengthen community safety and improve the protection of children,”Ms Macklin said.
She said income management ensured half of welfare payments were used to buy essential items.
She said a key benefit of the BasicsCard was that it could be reloaded from a recipient’s welfare payment each fortnight without the need to visit Centrelink.
Senator Ludwig said the card would significantly reduce red tape for retailers.
“Using it will involve the same simple process as any other EFTPOS transaction,” he said. “Stores will have special signs so customers can easily tell where they can use the BasicsCard.”
The Ministers said that for most customers, the BasicsCard would replace the existing income management system which used store cards and accounts.
They said parents would still be able to use store cards, direct payment to stores or retailers under certain circumstances.
The BasicsCard would be supported and supplied by the card transaction provider, Retail Decisions which would be responsible for providing the card itself and processing transactions through the EFTPOS system.
“The BasicsCard will provide a simpler system of income management for both customers and shops,” Senator Ludwig said.
“The current system has been difficult to use and costly for Government, imposing red tape on business as well as being time consuming for customers.”
Senator Ludwig and Ms Macklin said work associated with the BasicsCard rollout would begin immediately and the final rollout schedule would be determined in consultation with communities and retailers.
29 July, 2008
AGs to lift lid on suppression orders
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland has welcomed in-principle support for a national register of suppression orders by his State and Territory colleagues at a meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
“A national electronic register would reduce confusion, helping the media to serve the public’s right to know, while reducing the risk of suppression orders being breached,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Rudd Government is delivering on its election commitment to pursue reform in this area.”
He said a national approach would make it much easier for the media to find out whether a suppression order was in place for a particular court case and what jurisdictions would be affected.”
The National Register would be subject to the development of a proper legal and administrative framework.
Attorneys also asked for proposals to be developed on greater harmonisation of suppression order laws.
“In the 21st century, the media should not have to negotiate a maze of different laws and procedures when they are reporting on court decisions from around Australia.”
“A harmonised system for the granting, use and operation of suppression orders would help to avoid this.”
SCAG would examine proposals for the national register and options for harmonisation at its next meeting in November.
29 July, 2008
Melba collection hits right note
The National Library of Australia, in Canberra, has acquired a major collection of music, press clippings and other material shedding light on the life and times of legendary Australian singer Dame Nellie Melba.
The acquisition, from the Melba Memorial Conservatorium of Music in Melbourne, includes music manuscripts, photographs and programs and covers the period from 1891 to 2008. The collection also contains records and manuscripts that link Dame Nellie’s story with the history of the Conservatorium and musical training in Australia.
Director-General of the National Library, Jan Fullerton, described the Melba Conservatorium Collection as one of the most valuable in the country and said it would complement perfectly the Library’s existing Melba collections and its Australian music resources.
“It will also ensure that the collection is available for all Australians to use and appreciate,” Ms Fullerton said.
The Director of the Melba Conservatorium, Professor Mel Waters, said with the closure of the Conservatorium at the end of the year, his primary concern was that all the historical documents, artefacts and memorabilia collected during its 108 years, remained together as the Melba Conservatorium Collection. He said to honour her memory, a new Dame Nellie Melba Opera Trust would be created to support the University of Melbourne’s graduate training of opera singers.
“We are delighted that our collection of treasures will be housed at the National Library in perpetuity,” Professor Waters said, “and will receive the highest standards of archival and curatorial preservation and presentation for all time.”
The National Library’s Curator of Music, Robyn Holmes, said the Melba acquisition was more than just a musical story.
“It depicts not only the musical world of Melba, the international star, but shows Melba’s wider contribution to the development of Australian cultural life,” Ms Holmes said.
29 July, 2008
Mustard conference spreads it on thick
A conference on the science of using mustard and similar products to control pests in the soil has been hosted by the CSIRO and attracted participants from 22 countries.
Researchers, growers and industry specialists shared the latest research into the use of Brassica species, such as mustard, radish, or rapeseed, to manage soil-borne pests and weeds – a technique known as biofumigation.
According to the conference convener, CSIRO’s Dr John Kirkegaard brassica plants naturally released compounds that suppressed pests and pathogens, principally isothiocyanates (ITCs), which most people would recognise as the ‘hot’ flavour in mustard or horseradish.
“When ITCs are released in soil by green-manuring, soil-borne pests and pathogens can be suppressed and the yields of solanaceous vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants can be increased by up to 40 per cent in some cases,” Dr Kirkegaard said.
He said the technique was relevant to developed countries seeking alternatives to banned synthetic pesticides such as methyl-bromide, as well as poor farmers in developing countries who often had few alternatives for controlling serious diseases in their crops.
“It can provide economic and social benefits, as improved crop yields lead to increased incomes, as well as a range of environmental and health benefits from a reduced reliance on fumigants and pesticides.”
He said using brassicas to manage soil-borne pests was not new, but modern science was providing new insights and techniques to enhance the reliability of the effect as part of an integrated pest control strategy. He said brassicas could also provide other benefits to the soil as green manures.
Dr Kirkegaard said Australian scientists were at the forefront in this area of research.
29 July, 2008
Crossed lines in ACCC phone warning
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has moved to clarify a consumer warning it issued this month concerning hidden costs for smartphone users exceeding allocated data downloads.
The ACCC had said it was particularly concerned that consumers could be misled if they were not made sufficiently aware that data allocations could be exceeded and that this would come with significant costs.
In its clarifying statement, the Commission said it had referred in interviews to examples of the possible costs consumers could incur, but it was pointed out that some of the references “didn’t compare like with like”.
“The ACCC references were not intended to be seen as comparative or standard excess charges,” the Chairman of the Commission, Graeme Samuel said.
“[It] regrets any confusion this may have caused.”
He said the key message remained that consumers should identify the plan that suited them and keep an eye on their downloads to avoid expensive surprises.
“The ACCC is particularly concerned that consumers may be misled if they are not made sufficiently aware that their data allocations can be exceeded - at significant cost,” Mr Samuel said.
“In the case of smartphones, consumers can download greater amounts of information from the internet than ever before. With this, comes the potential for them to exceed their phone plan value and incur considerable additional charges.”
The ACCC asked carriers to advise how they intended to deal with this issue and what information they would be providing to consumers.
“There are now a number of 3G handsets available which allow consumers to access internet content, including multimedia. They are able to download high volumes of data quickly,” he said.
“Before consumers decide on which handset or plan to buy they should consider their likely data use, seek guidance from the retailer and then choose the most appropriate data plan.”
The ACCC said if consumers had any concerns about the charges associated with their data use, they should contact their service provider.
“The ACCC will remain vigilant in this new area and where it receives concern over inadequate disclosure of terms and conditions of data use, will act quickly,” Mr Samuel said.
He said more information about mobile phones and consumer rights is available from the ACCC website.
29 July, 2008
The Australian Safety and Compensation Council has published the latest edition of its Comparison of Workers’ Compensation Arrangements in Australia and New Zealand.
The Comparison provides a background to the evolution of workers’ compensation arrangements in Australia and New Zealand detailing the schemes, coverage, benefits, return to work provisions, self insurance, common law, dispute resolution and cross-border arrangements.
ASIC picks trainer
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has announced that Learning Advisory Services Australia Pty Limited has been selected as the successful tenderer to administer the ASIC Training Register.
LASA will be responsible for the administration of the ASIC Training Register, which includes assessing applications for entry of courses and assessment services on the register, assessing applications for re-registration of courses and assessment services, and handling enquiries about the ASIC Training Register.
Seacare awards on
The Seacare Awards and Conference, to be held on 16 October as a part of the National Safe Work Australia Week.
The event is also timed to mark the Seacare Authority’s Sea Safe Work Day.
Migrant English paper
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has called for responses to a Discussion Paper on the review of the Adult Migrant English Program.
The AMEP Review aims to address a number of issues associated with the delivery and administration of the program.
The Discussion Paper is a part of the AMEP Review’s consultation process which focuses on key issues raised in focus groups.
Local communities can now apply for funding under the Natural Disaster Mitigation Program.
The Government has invested $18.6 million into the program for 2008-09, with the money available to help communities better protect themselves against the effects of floods, storms, bushfires and other natural disasters.
Organisations eligible for funding include Local Councils, catchment management authorities, fire services and state emergency services and the funding can be used for risk management studies, warning systems, community awareness measures and structural works to protect against damage. The closing date for applications is 29 August 2008.
22 July, 2008
Minister softens on PS hard work
The Federal Government has once again congratulated the Australian Public Service on its hard work, long hours and dedication since the change of Government.
Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner assured senior staff of the Government’s gratitude at a meeting last week, recognising the upheaval caused by the change of Government and accepting that success would only be achieved if the Government and PS worked together.
“I acknowledge and appreciate how hard the APS has worked since the change of Government last year,” Senator Faulkner said.
“Over the past seven months I have seen, first-hand, the extraordinary and sustained commitment and dedication of many of you. I can assure you it is sincerely appreciated.”
Senator Faulkner recognised that the politicians who made up the Government came and went on the whim of the electorate but the Departments and Agencies that delivered public services were far more permanent.
“Ministerial tenures are frequently just blips in the life of Departments,” he said.
“Our politicians are elected democratically, our Public Servants never troubled by the need to seek popular approval.”
He described politics as “Hollywood for ugly people” and said the Government relied on a “partnership with the Public Service” to ensure that its policy programs were carried out.
“Politicians may be expert in politics but amateurs in administration beside their Departmental officers.”
He said the necessary partnership was likely to become more important as the future unfolded.
“The ever changing nature of the demands on the Public Service, the ever-changing aspects of government and policy, and the continuing rapid pace of technological and social change have made for a continually evolving range of problems,” he said.
“In the years ahead, our Public Service, and indeed our democracy, will depend increasingly on your ability, as Public Service leaders, to model the APS values, to inspire others to reach new heights of innovation and creativity, and to walk a very straight and steady line across the tightrope of being both frank and fearless and appropriately responsive.”
He said technological advances would make public administration easier in the future, but they would bring with them new demands and expectations.
“To be adaptable and responsive in this shifting environment, public administration must be carried out in innovative ways,” he said.
“Public Servants must be smart and creative, must negotiate the twin requirements of change and tradition.
“Public service leadership is critical in this process.”
Senator Faulkner identified a number of issues he expected would impact on the APS and demand high levels of adaptability such as new Freedom of Information rules, restrictions on political lobbying and learning to work with the new Government.
He said the Government had no choice than to rely on the APS and its capacity for vision, ability to inspire its workers and its commitment to the PS values.
“As you know,” he said, “there is only so much Government can do in changing the way things are done in the APS.”
22 July, 2008
Auditor persuaded on advertising plan
The Auditor-General has issued his first report on a Government advertising campaign, finding that the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ proposed campaign on the child care tax rebate fitted the new guidelines.
Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said he found nothing to suggest the Child Care Tax Rebate Advertising Campaign did not comply with the recently introduced Guidelines on Information and Advertising Campaigns by Australian Departments and Agencies.
Under the new rules, Government campaigns can only be approved if the Chief Executive undertaking the campaign certified it complied with the guidelines and relevant policies, and if the Auditor-General provided a report to the relevant Minister on his or her Department’s compliance with the guidelines for all campaigns with expenditure above $250,000.
Ministers could ask the Auditor-General to provide a report on campaigns valued at less than $250,000 or if they were sensitive in nature.
Mr McPhee said under the new guidelines, campaigns could only be approved if they met certain criteria.
“These guidelines state that campaigns should be instigated only where a need is demonstrated, target recipients are clearly identified and the campaign is based on appropriate research,” he said.
Mr McPhee said the campaign material should be relevant to Government responsibilities; presented in a fair, objective and accessible manner; should not be directed at promoting party political interests; should be produced and distributed efficiently; and all advertising must comply with legal requirements.
During his review of the Child Care Tax Rebate Advertising Campaign, Mr McPhee said he examined documents and records and interviewed Departmental staff who were involved with the preparation of the campaign.
“My primary responsibility is to express an independent conclusion as to whether anything has come to my attention to indicate that the campaign does not comply with the guidelines,” he said.
He said in the case of the Child Care Tax Rebate Advertising Campaign, nothing came to his attention.
Mr McPhee said the review was not an audit but was still conducted in accordance with the Australian National Audit Office’s Auditing Standards.
22 July, 2008
Guide presented to guide presentations
Guidelines for the presentation of documents to Parliament have been published by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
The 65-page Guide: Guidelines for the Presentation of Government Documents to the Parliament (including Government Responses to Committee Reports, Ministerial Statements,
Annual Reports and Other Instruments) covers all aspects of the presentation process, including why documents were tabled, when they could be tabled and the printing and publishing standards required to be met.
They cover Annual Reports, reports of Royal Commissions, Ministerial Statements, Responses to Parliamentary Reports and more, and provide advice on deadlines, ministerial approvals, overdue reports, Parliamentary Privilege, correcting errors, release prior to tabling and security issues.
The Guidelines say the Tabling Officer at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet would be responsible for coordinating the presentation and tabling of all Government documents with two important exceptions:
They say tabling documents in Parliament was an important way of keeping the community aware of Government activities and was a major source of information for MPs and Senators. It also placed information on the public record.
“Documents prepared for tabling are confidential (under embargo) to the Government until they are presented to the Parliament,” the Guidelines say.
“For that reason appropriate security must be in place until the document is tabled.”
It says documents must be appropriately packaged and labelled and delivered to each addressee by hand.
Copies of the Guidelines can be accessed on the PM&C website, www.dpmc.gov.au
22 July, 2008
Watchdog hangs up on Telstra AWA probe
The Workplace Ombudsman has rejected claims that telecommunications giant Telstra pressured hundreds of its workers to sign Australian Workplace Agreements just weeks before the agreements were to be scrapped.
In the biggest workplace rights investigation the Ombudsman had ever undertaken, more than 15,300 Telstra employees were contacted nationally in the six months from December 2007 when the investigation was begun.
The probe was initiated at Telstra’s request following reports that “considerable pressure” was being applied to staff to accept AWAs before they were to be dumped.
According to the Executive Director of the Workplace Ombudsman’s Office, Michael Campbell the Ombudsman “left no stone unturned in this investigation to ensure that Telstra employees have been afforded their workplace rights.”
Mr Campbell said evidence was collected from Telstra, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Communications, Electrical and Plumbing Union, the Community and Public Sector Union and the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers Australia.
He said direct contact was made with the Telstra employees who were offered AWAs between 1 September 2007 and 18 January 2008, and those who agreed to comment were either interviewed by phone or made written statements.
Mr Campbell said no evidence was found to support allegations that Telstra had applied any duress to any individual employee or groups of employees who were offered AWAs.
Similarly, he said it did not find evidence that either the ACTU, CEPU, CPSU or APESMA had acted recklessly by making false or misleading statements to Telstra employees.
“There is, however, a prima facie case against a single Telstra manager who allegedly sought to illegitimately influence three employees under his direct control,” Mr Campbell said.
“The Workplace Ombudsman is currently evaluating the evidence associated with the behaviour of this manager.”
Mr Campbell thanked all parties for their co-operation during the extensive investigation.
While the case was now closed, he said if further information came to light that substantiated a breach of the Workplace Relations Act, the Workplace Ombudsman had reserved the right to reconvene its investigations.
22 July, 2008
Payrise welcome in anyone’s language
Centrelink has announced an increase in payments to interpreters and translators who assist it in dealing with clients from non-English speaking backgrounds and translating documents from foreign languages.
Minister for Human Services, Senator Joe Ludwig, said the increase would benefit interpreters and translators who provided Centrelink with on-call services in more than 200 languages.
“It's vital Centrelink customers from non-English speaking backgrounds continue to access quality interpreting and translation services,” Senator Ludwig said.
The Senator said the minimum ‘standard’ and ‘complex’ translation fees would rise by around $2.50 and the minimum booking fee for on-site interpreting would increase by around $6.
He said the fee increase was “well overdue”.
“A comprehensive review of the fee structure conducted earlier this year discovered these on-site fees have been unchanged for nearly 10 years,” he said.
“In deciding to commit these funds, I have also put a process in place to increase interpreting and translation fees in line with the Consumer Price Index each financial year, commencing 1 July 2009,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said the review aimed to ensure the quality interpreter and translator panel for Centrelink's business continued.
He said Centrelink operated an in-house interpreting and translation service to help staff communicate with non-English speaking customers and to provide translation of documents.
“More than a million of Centrelink's 6.5 million customers were born in a country that does not speak English,” Senator Ludwig said.
“This investment of more than $300,000 will position Centrelink well for the challenges ahead as refugees and migrants from Africa bring a level of language diversity not previously seen in Australia.”
Senator Ludwig said Centrelink had developed a range of services for customers from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds, including bilingual recruitment strategies, a multi-lingual call centre, online resources and a multicultural communication strategy.
“Access to free on-site interpreters and translators are crucial when assisting non-English speaking customers,” he said.
“Centrelink has a long-standing and well deserved reputation for excellence in multicultural service delivery.”
Senator Ludwig said the fees would be paid by Centrelink to interpreters and translators selected from a panel of 2,500 around the country.
22 July, 2008
New program leads to APS leadership
A new study program to help groom future APS leaders has been unveiled with the support of the Australian Public Service Commission and Austrade.
The Global Leadership Practices Program (GLP) is being presented by international consultant Yellow Edge in association with the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong in Shanghai and has been designed to enhance participants’ capabilities in line with the APS Integrated Leadership System.
Yellow Edge spokesman, Andrew Simon said the program had been designed for high potential APS Executive Level officers and their State and Territory equivalents.
Mr Simon described the program as “groundbreaking” and said it would broaden personal and professional horizons to improve leadership and strategic capacities.
He said the Australia-China GLP program would concentrate on fostering a deeper understanding of leadership in a global economic and political powerhouse and provide insight into forms of Chinese leadership and their culture which could lead to new leadership methods in Australia.
Mr Simon said a two-day seminar would be held in Canberra and a five-day Global Leadership Practices Residential module at the Leadership Academy Pudong in Shanghai.
He said the module in China would include a study tour to Blue Scope Steel headquarters in Shanghai, Chinese Government agencies, networking sessions with senior Chinese officials and a recreation and cultural program.
Mr Simon said there would be a one-day report-back session in Canberra at the conclusion of the program.
He said the Canberra Global Practices Leadership Seminar would be held from 24 to 25 September, the Shanghai module would be held from 13 to 17 October and the debriefing session would be on 23 October, with the registration fee being $13,000 plus GST.
Further information was available by contacting Mr Simon on (02) 6273 0168 or email email@example.com
22 July, 2008
PS strikes out at industrial action
Public Servants in the Tasmanian Government have launched industrial action in support of a wage rise.
Members of the Community and Public sector Union in the island State have imposed work bans focusing on the collection of revenue following a vote that rejected a 20.1 per cent pay increase over four years. The workers were holding out for an additional four per cent.
State Premier, David Bartlett said the offer from the Government was “very good” and blamed the union for its members knocking it back.
“It will see a Public Servant who's currently earning $40,000 by the end of the agreement earning over $50,000," Mr Bartlett said.
"Unfortunately, every day that now ticks by will see 15,000 public sector workers not access those pay rises. They will now be delayed, delayed by the unions.”
General Secretary of the CPSU in Tasmania, Tom Lynch said the main sticking point was that the Government’s pay offer would not bring pay parity with interstate Public Servants for about two-thirds of the State’s PS workers.
He said the planned industrial action would be a blow to the State Government’s revenue raising activities.
“We want the Government to hear loud and clear that public sector workers believe that pay parity should be delivered and should be delivered now and they will take action in pursuit of that," Mr Lynch said.
"One of the things that public sector workers do right across the board is raise money for the Government by collecting tax income from the public, or from billing private companies or collecting money from the Commonwealth Government,
"We've targetted a number of areas where that occurs to cut of the supply of income."
Premier Bartlett disputed the union’s pay parity claims saying the Government wanted to see evidence that the proposed increase would not lead to parity with interstate wages.
"Six weeks ago I asked the public sector unions to provide me in a letter with details of their calculations for their claims that we were not meeting parity,” Mr bartlett said..
“They are yet to produce that data and I'm still waiting on the data and the ball is firmly in their court."
Mr Lynch said the unions had provided the Government with the information.
"Our analysis shows that Tasmanian public sector workers are 9 per cent behind their mainland counterparts," he said.
22 July, 2008
Table advice has legs
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has issued its first Tabling Circular for 2008.
Tabling Circular 1/2008 Tabling of 2007-08 Departmental and Agency Annual Reports has been issued for Parliamentary Liaison Officers and Tabling Officers and sets out the tabling process, delivery and distribution requirements and the important dates for tabling last year’s Annual Reports
According to the Circular, Departments and Agencies are required to make themselves aware of their relevant legislative requirements when arranging to table their Annual Reports but in any case, all reports are to be tabled by 31 October 2008.
The Circular sets out the processes for tabling reports when Parliament was sitting and when it was not.
“To streamline the process for tabling 2007-08 Annual Reports by Departments and Agencies due by the end of October, the same arrangements will apply to Annual Reports submitted out of sitting as apply to those submitted during sitting,” the Circular says.
“Namely, the PM&C Tabling Officer will undertake the internal distribution.”
The Circular includes an information table setting out the days copies of the Annual Reports could be delivered to Parliament House.
“Documents which fail to comply with labeling, weight and delivery requirements will be rejected,” it says. These reports must be repackaged and re-delivered within the appropriate times.
The Circular says Reports that arrive correctly would be tabled in the House of Representatives at about 3.30pm after Question Time Mondays to Thursdays and in the Senate, after Prayers on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Documents tabled in the House of Representatives on a Thursday will be tabled in the Senate on the next available tabling day.
“Documents presented out of sitting will be tabled in the House of Representatives on the next Tuesday of a sitting week.”
The Circular, which was available on the PM&C website www.dpmc.gov.au, includes seven attachments including checklists for tabling on sitting days or otherwise; a covering memorandum for the PM&C Tabling Officer; a transmittal letter to the President of the Senate; packaging labels and more.
22 July, 2008
No arguments over complaints policy
The Family Court of Australia has released a Feedback and Complaints Policy to strengthen its commitment to client service satisfaction.
The policy said if the Court failed to follow applicable policy or guidelines, an apology “must be given”, and complainants were to be kept informed of progress through appropriate correspondence.
According to the Court (FCoA), the policy applied to “any complaint made to the FCoA except where the complaint must be dealt with in a special way”.
The policy said complaints to be dealt with in a “special” way were those that involved legal or procedural requirements including staff grievances and complaints, monetary or legal claims against the Court, whistle blowing complaints or complaints regarding breaches to the APS Code of Conduct.
The policy said oral feedback and complaints would be dealt with as soon as possible, and where the matter was complex, complainants would be asked to write or email their complaint to the Court for further investigation.
The policy said any complaints about Court proceedings, including the conduct of judicial officers and delays in judgement, delivery or case results should be addressed to the Chief Justice.
According to the policy, people with complaints that fell outside the FCoA’s responsibility such as those relating to legal representation, solicitor/client costs and legal aid, should be informed of the correct body to make their complaint to.
The policy included a review system for complainants who were dissatisfied with the response they received and a section on how to regularly improve the complaints policy.
Under its policy, the Court is to log feedback and complaints to allow it to monitor the progress of matters, its performance and to identify trends in complaints or compliments.
The policy stated no response would be given to any “vexatious” complaints that lacked substance and supporting evidence.
A copy of the policy was available at www.familycourt.gov.au
22 July, 2008
Compo stats paint sorry picture
Figures released by the Australian Safety and Compensation Council have revealed that 16 out of every 1,000 Australian workers in 2005-06 were off work for a week or more on workers’ compensation.
ASCC Chairman, Bill Scales said the Compendium of Workers’ Compensation Statistics Australia 2005-06 reported a fall in incident rates for injury and disease in all industries since 1997-98, however claims for respiratory diseases, mental disorders and cancers had been increasing in recent years.
“The Compendium is an annual publication that provides a detailed analysis of compensated work-related injury and disease among employees in Australia,” Mr Scales said.
“This is the fifteenth report released as part of the Compendium series.”
He said the Compendium and other statistical reports enabled the ASCC to provide the most accurate information available in the area of work-related injury and disease.
He said the preliminary data for 2005-06 showed the top three industries for fatalities were the transport and storage industry with 41, construction with 33 and manufacturing with 28. He said of the total 231 deaths compensated, 93 per cent were men.
Trend data results showed all industries experienced a fall in incidence rates of injury and disease between 1997-98 and 2004-05, with the greatest falls being in mining, 45 per cent; construction, 27 per cent; transport and storage, 20 per cent; agriculture, forestry and fishing , 19 per cent; and manufacturing, 18 per cent.
The report found the proportion of claims for employees aged 45 and above increased from 33 per cent in 1997-98 to 39 per cent in 2004-05.
Mr Scales said the feature article in the latest Compendium explored the factors that influenced the time employees were away from work due to work-related injury or disease.
“The feature article reveals that most serious workers' compensation claims lasted a relatively short period,” he said.
He said 52 per cent of employees who lodged a claim were back at work within 4 weeks, and three-quarters were back within 3 months.
“We can see through findings in the Compendium that notable improvements are being made in some areas and industries,” he said.
“However more can be done to improve safety at work and reduce work-related death, injury and disease.”
Mr Scales said it was time to make workplace safety a priority.
He said ASCC initiative, National Safe Work Australia Week, would be held from 19 to 25 October.
22 July, 2008
Aviation rules hit new high
New rules making it easier for Defence Force aircraft engineers and those trained overseas to get jobs in the Australian aviation industry have been introduced by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
CASA has streamlined the procedures in place to recognise the skills and training of qualified aircraft engineers and thereby help boost the numbers of Licensed Aircraft Maintenance Engineers.
Chief Executive of CASA, Bruce Byron, said the changes would reduce the time and costs for the engineers to gain approval to work in the Australian civil aviation maintenance industry.
Mr Byron said the new procedures would mean qualifications gained overseas or by Defence engineers could be assessed before they came to Australia or left the Defence Force.
He said CASA would recognise engineers from Canada, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom without requiring further technical examinations.
He said the changes were good news for Australia’s aviation industry.
“The aviation industry always needs engineers and by cutting red tape we can open up new opportunities for new people with the right qualifications to fill critical vacancies,” Mr Byron said.
“Overseas aircraft engineers will find Australia a more attractive place to work and Defence Force engineers can move more smoothly into civilian occupations,” he said.
22 July, 2008
Christian tourists are heaven-sent
Tourism Australia has been busy on the internet in recent weeks helping the 125,000 overseas ‘pilgrims’ who visited Australia for World Youth Day plan their travels and also encouraging them to extend their visits.
The Agency plugged into the global networking sites Facebook and Myspace to attract and put its views to the pilgrims.
According to Tourism Australia, the Facebook ‘Australia fan page’ signed up over 10,000 official friends from around the world and was designed specifically to help World Youth Day pilgrims plan their visit.
The page featured hundreds of enthusiastic comments about pilgrims’ Australian travels along with helpful suggestions from locals and Tourism Australia.
The MySpace campaign promoted the Australian Working Holiday Visa program throughout English speaking markets.
It highlighted the opportunity for youths aged 18 to 30 to extend their holiday by taking up short term employment to experience closer community contact.
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Geoff Buckley, said the Agency had embraced social networking communities to appeal to young travellers via the “digital landscape”.
“To ensure Australia continues to attract young travellers from around the world, we’re committed to establishing opportunities to encourage authentic advocates of Australia to share their real life travel experiences online,” Mr Buckley said.
“For many pilgrims, World Youth Day will be their first visit to Australia and we hope that the same adventurous spirit that has led them half way around the world will entice them to extend their stay and see more of Australia, once the events in Sydney come to an end.”
Figures from the official World Youth Day tour operator, Harvest Tours, showed that 17,400 international travellers had booked pre or post touring through their company.
Destinations such as Brisbane, Melbourne, Cairns, Alice Springs, Uluru, Kings Canyon and the Blue Mountains proved popular.
Mr Buckley said the ‘Days in the Diocese’ program has also helped to showcase regional Australia, with 50,000 international visitors attending pilgrim events in Adelaide, Bathurst, Brisbane, Broken Bay, Lismore, Newcastle, Melbourne and Wollongong.
“World Youth Day will boost tourism figures in what is traditionally a quieter month for visitor arrivals and has provided a considerable opportunity for the Australian tourism industry,” he said.
“To leverage this, Tourism Australia has made a dedicated effort to communicate with young travellers in ways that will appeal to them most.”
22 July, 2008
New day surfaces for Merchant Navy
A new day to commemorate wartime service and sacrifice has been added to Australia’s calendar of commemorations with the Governor-General proclaiming 3 September each year as Merchant Navy Day.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, announced the proclamation in Adelaide saying it would allow Australia’s merchant seamen who served in war time to be officially recognised for their contribution and efforts.
Mr Griffin said the role of Australia’s merchant mariners in wartime was vital and often dangerous.
“During the Second World War they evacuated civilians from threatened areas, and transported supplies and personnel to and between areas of conflict,” he said.
Mr Griffin said 3 September was chosen as it marked the loss of the first Allied merchant ship on the very day World War II was declared in 1939. He said both the United Kingdom and Canada also commemorated Merchant Navy Day on 3 September.
During the two World Wars, thousands of Australian merchant mariners served on Australian, Commonwealth and Allied ships and merchant ships from other nations.
Mr Griffin said 435 Australians were known to have lost their lives serving in the Merchant Navy and that this year Merchant Navy Day would honour them in a way they deserved.
He said the national day of observance would not be a public holiday and would not detract from the importance of Anzac Day or Remembrance Day.
The MP for Port Adelaide, Mark Butler, and the Port Adelaide Seafarers Memorial Community Committee had already planned a march and commemorative service to mark Australia’s first national Merchant Navy Day.
Further details on other commemorative ceremonies would be published on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs website www.dva.gov.au as and when they were confirmed.
22 July, 2008
Food facility gets taste of renovation
The Department of Defence’s Food Science facility in Tasmania is to receive a $3.5 million upgrade.
Run by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, the facility focuses on research and development of nutrition for performance enhancement and improved food rations for soldiers. It also produces specialised food items for ADF combat ration packs.
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, said Defence was in the process of selecting consultants to prepare a project plan for redevelopment.
“Final approval of the redevelopment plan is expected in October 2009 for works to begin in 2010,” Mr Snowdon said.
He said the proposed funding would enable DSTO to modernise its facilities and equipment to improve and expand its research into the nutrition, health and performance of Australian soldiers.
Mr Snowdon said the chemistry and nutrition laboratories needed upgrading as did the food technology area used for the pilot production of new meal options.
“It’s vital these facilities are upgraded so that DSTO remains at the cutting-edge of nutrition and food technology research, and continues to provide a high level of support to the ADF,” he said.
“A recent example of this support has been the special prototype ration pack developed by DSTO Scottsdale to suit the needs of our soldiers operating in hot climates.”
Mr Snowdon said DSTO was working with the University of Tasmania, CSIRO and local industry to explore opportunities for collaboration on food technology and rationing systems.
22 July, 2008
Red tape closes on disclosure documents
Cutting red tape for first home savers will mean that 100-page Product Disclosure Statements would be reduced to four pages according to the Ministers for Finance and Corporate Law, Lindsay Tanner and Senator Nick Sherry.
The pair welcomed the new, shorter documents which they said were developed in anticipation of new First Home Saver Accounts.
Senator Sherry said many disclosure statements were between 50 and 100 pages long and “as readable as Latin” to the majority of Australians.
“This is unacceptable,” he said.
“Today's new disclosure statement passes my 'Burnie Pub test' as it's clear, simple and will improve Australians' access to cost effective financial advice”
Senator Sherry said the new PDSs would make it easier for people interested in using First Home Saver Accounts to understand and compare the products on offer.
He said key product information was provided in concise, plain English and could be read and understood in just a few minutes.
Mr Tanner said the First Home Saver PDS reforms and examples showed that product disclosure didn’t have to be long, complex and unreadable.
“These PDS examples are refreshingly short, clear and to the point,” he said.
Mr Tanner said the PDS was the first instalment of work from the Financial Services Working Group, which was established shortly after the Government came to office.
“Shorter, clearer disclosure statements will benefit consumers and industry by both improving investor protection and reducing red tape,” he said.
The PDSs were designed and consumer tested by a consultancy in close consultation with the FSWG and its Advisory Panel which consisted of industry and consumer representatives.
Senator Sherry said some members thought “four pages couldn’t be done”, but the FSWG had demonstrated it was possible to have short, simple disclosure that covered the things consumers needed to know before investing in a financial product.
He said the Government would monitor closely how consumers and industry responded to the First Home Saver PDS and apply their observations and findings to developing solutions for other products.
22 July, 2008
Aviation paper attracts a crowd
An issues paper exploring the future of the Australian aviation industry has attracted submissions from over 250 organisations, including Government Agencies.
Minister for Transport and Regional Development, Anthony Albanese said the response reflected the community’s keen interest in the immediate and longer term challenges facing aviation in Australia.
He said the Government issued the Paper in April.
“I am greatly encouraged by the constructive contribution all sections of the industry
and the broader community have made to this important policy development process,” Mr Albanese said, “and the quality of the submissions received.
“Amongst all the submissions, there is a widespread acknowledgement that if
Australia is to continue benefiting from the economic and social advantages of air travel then we need to start planning now.
“The previous short term, ad-hoc, problem by problem approach is longer tenable.” He said the comments received to date provided a valuable collection of views and ideas that would contribute to the a ‘Green Paper’ to be released for community and industry input in September.
“Ultimately, by the middle of next year this two-stage, consultative process will have led to the nation’s first ever aviation White Paper,” Mr Albanese said, “a document that will guide the industry’s growth over the coming decades.”
He said the submissions covered a wide range of issues including airport regulations; noise; safety; security; international and domestic air services policies; skill shortages; and environmental matters.
“More than ever, the aviation industry underpins domestic economic growth and provides an essential gateway to the global economy,” he said.
“At present, it directly supports nearly 50,000 jobs and contributes $6.8 billion to Australia's GDP.”
Submissions received on the paper can be downloaded from
Submissions can be downloaded from: www.infrastructure.gov.au
22 July, 2008
Pay scales published
Pay scale summaries for over 400 of the most commonly used industrial awards have been updated and posted on the internet by the Workplace Authority.
The new rates take effect from the first pay period after 1 October and include the decision of the Australian Fair Pay Commission to increase the standard Federal Minimum Wage by $21.66 per week for all employees on 38 hours per week.
The new pay scales could be accessed at www.workplaceauthority.gov.au
Kemp to head Institute
Former Senator and Minister, Rod Kemp has been appointed Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Public Affairs as of 1 August 2008.
Mr Kemp served as Senator for Victoria from 1990 to 2008, was assistant Treasurer from 1996 to 2001, and Minister for the Arts and Sport from 2001 to 2007. He was also Shadow Minister for the Environment.
Mr Kemp was the Executive Director of the IPA between 1982 and 1989, and said he was delighted to accept the position of Chairman almost 20 years later.
Former Senator Peter Durack, has died in Perth at 81.
Mr Durack spent six years as Attorney General from 1977 to 1983, held a State seat in Perth from 1965 to 1968 and was State President of the Liberal Party from 1968 to 1971.
Opposition Leader, Julie Bishop, said Mr Durack’s “wise council” would be greatly missed.
Cash and carry trial
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has approved a four-week trial by the Australian National Retailers Association of charging 10 cents for plastic shopping bags.
The trial, due to start in August, would take place at Coles, Woolworths and IGA supermarkets in the Victorian cities of Narre Warren, Wangaratta and Warrnambool.
The ACCC has sought submissions from interested parties by 28 July, with further information available at www.accc.gov.au
Nuclear talk at ANSTO
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation is holding another community discussion to show the public how nuclear science was been utilised to combat pollution and climate change.
The discussion sessions are held twice a year and give residents the opportunity to see what happens at ANSTO, and this time will include descriptions of the dismantling of a small 100 kilowatt research reactor.
The talks will be held on 28 July at the ANSTO’s Education and Tour Centre in Lucas Heights, NSW. More information is available from www.ansto.gov.au
Privacy quest extended
The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Karen Curtis, has encouraged secondary students to enter an international competition being conducted in the Asia Pacific as a part of Privacy Awareness Week.
Entrants to the competition need to submit a two-minute video about an aspect of privacy, such as how it did or did not affect them in their daily life.
The closing date has been put back to 8 August with winners announced during Privacy Awareness week, 24 to 30 August.
For more information visit www.privacyawarenessweek.org
AFP pots dope gene
The National Drug Law Enforcement Research Fund has supported the Australian Federal Police, the Australian National University and the Canberra Institute of Technology in compiling a national genetic database of cannabis samples to help track down suppliers.
The database, believed to be a world first, is the result of 15 years research.
It includes 500 plants seized in five States and Territories and could help break organised crime rings and identify legal hemp plantations being used as a cover for drug production.
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Director of Television, Kim Dalton, is to chair the not-for-profit ‘Freeview’ organisation, promoting the spread of digital television in Australia.
Freeview has been established with shareholders the ABC, SB, the Seven Network, the Nine Network, Network Ten, Prime, Win and Southern Cross.
An awareness campaign is to be launched in the coming months to ensure consumers were ready when all 15 Freeview channels became available next year.
Dance report on points
A four-year action plan for the Australian dance sector has been launched by the Australia Council for the Arts and Ausdance.
The plan outlines ways in which the sector could be developed to encourage it to become more vibrant, diverse and dynamic by 2012.
To obtain its goals, Dance Plan 2012 includes strategies such as increased investment, participation and education opportunities and providing sustainable career paths.
Climate conference for CSIRO
The Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO), is to help host an international conference next year on the extent of climate change impacts on the environment and its resources.
Greenhouse 2009: Climate Change and Resources is to bring climate experts to Perth to discuss climate impacts, mitigation and adaption strategies for industry, government and households.
Conference Convenor, Paul Holper from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, said the conference would be held in March.
15 July, 2008
Review blows whistle for whistleblowers
An enquiry is to be held into managing and protecting whistleblowers in the Australian Public Service.
Cabinet Secretary, Senator John Faulkner said the matter had been referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs with a request that it consider and report on a preferred model for legislation that would protect Public Servants making ‘public interest disclosures.’
Senator Faulkner said the Committee’s enquiry would be the first step towards introducing best practice legislation to encourage and protect public interest disclosures in Government ranks.
The move was in response to an election commitment.
Senator Faulkner said whistleblowing was the term commonly used to describe the disclosure of corruption or misconduct.
He said whistleblowing protection was about ensuring that there were appropriate processes in place, and protections offered, to facilitate the making of such disclosures.
“The Committee has been asked to report by 28 February 2009,” Senator Faulkner said.
“The Government will consider the Committee’s recommendations with the aim of developing legislation implementing strengthened whistleblower protections during the course of 2009.”
The Standing Committee has issued a statement on the reference saying it appreciated that evidence could exist which related to specific instances of whistleblowing but its task was to develop a model for future legislation.
“The Committee will not be investigating or pursuing specific cases,” the statement said.
“The Committee will consider such evidence only to the extent that it may assist in general matters of principle, policy or public administration relevant to the terms of reference.”
It invited public submissions, based on the terms of reference, to be lodged by Friday 8 August 2008.
“Whilst the Committee prefers for all information to be on the public record, it may consider, on an individual basis, the receipt of confidential submissions.”
The Terms of reference for the enquiry are available from www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/laca
15 July, 2008
Maternity leave a motherhood issue
A research project conducted by the Australian Institute of Family Studies has added fuel to the debate over improved maternity leave arrangements for Australian mothers.
The survey, which involved over 3,500 women, showed women with access to maternity leave had a better chance of returning to the workforce after taking time off to have a baby.
Institute Director, Professor Alan Hayes, said there was a need to understand what happened in the months after child birth.
“What women decide to do at this time can have repercussions for their longer term connection to the workforce and financial security, as well as their own wellbeing and that of their child,” Professor Hayes said.
Data drawn from the Parental Leave in Australia Survey, part of the Longitudinal Survey of Australian Children, represented the first up-dated analysis of maternal employment transitions in over 20 years.
The data found 2 per cent of mothers were in paid employment with a baby under one month old; 11 per cent returned to work by the time their child was three months old; 22 per cent were at work when their child was six months old, 44 per cent returned to work when their child turned one; and 54 per cent had returned to work by the time their child was 18 months old.
The study found women with access to a range of paid leave entitlements had the greatest chance of retaining their employment, as 83 per cent returned to work after 18 months compared to 77 per cent of mothers who had access to unpaid leave.
Around 50 per cent of respondents without access to any form of maternity leave returned to work over the same time period.
Professor Hayes said the participants were asked about their employment before and after having a child and about what type of leave they had taken.
He said the research found women who were not employed when pregnant had a slower shift into employment after having a baby, compared to women who were self-employed.
He said 84 per cent of women who were self-employed before having a child returned to work by the time their child was18 months, compared to 13 per cent of women who were not employed before having a child.
The report’s author, Institute Research Fellow, Jennifer Baxter, said some self-employed mothers were back at work three months after their child’s birth.
“Self-employed mothers may go back to work early because they don’t have access to any paid leave and they may need to keep their business going,” Dr Baxter said.
“Another factor could be that self-employed women have more flexibility and often work very short hours.”
Dr Baxter said by the time a child reached 18 months old, the majority of women who used some leave had returned to work, whether they had used paid or unpaid leave, or a combination.
She said a peak time of return to work was at the child’s first birthday which coincided with one year’s unpaid maternity leave.
“We found that more highly educated women tended to return to work sooner alongside those who were previously employed in the small business sector,” Dr Baxter said.
The study did not include all factors that influenced a mother’s decision to return to paid work.
“We know differences in attitudes are likely to be extremely important in explaining different patterns of return to work, most importantly, parent’s preferences for remaining at home,” Dr Baxter said.
A copy of the report was available from www.aifs.gov.au
15 July, 2008
Immigration powers migrate to delegates
A report that recommends the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship transfer responsibility for determining individual cases to his Department has been released by the Minister, Senator Chris Evans.
Senator Evans said the recommendations would reduce the number of Ministerial interventions and help restore integrity and transparency to the system.
He said he commissioned the report after concerns were raised about the processes used to decide individual immigration cases.
“While the Minister has the personal power under the Migration Act to grant, refuse and cancel visas, those decisions are non-compellable, non-reviewable and non-delegable,” Senator Evans said.
He said the Minister for Immigration was the only Minister to have such powers.
“Under the Act, the Minister is able to delegate most of those decisions to the Department where they are reviewable by Tribunals and the Courts,” Senator Evans said.
Businesswoman Elizabeth Proust was commissioned earlier this year to examine the extent to which the Minister should make personal decisions under the Migration and Citizenship Acts and the Migration Regulations and whether alternative arrangements could be pursued.
Ms Proust made six recommendations focusing on steps that could be taken to manage current processes and identify possible changes for the future.
“The Department has already implemented administrative improvements recommended by Ms Proust that streamline the way requests are made to the Minister and which ensure a timely assessment of such requests,” Senator Evans said.
“I have also taken steps to delegate some of the powers that I am able to delegate to the Department as recommended by Ms Proust.”
Senator Evans said Ms Proust had made recommendations for longer-term change, including transferring responsibility to the Department and the tribunals for individual case decision-making and limiting the scope for people to request an intervention by the Minister.
He said it was appropriate that the Minister retain personal discretionary powers in exceptional circumstances, including where citizenship was to be revoked or where matters of national security were raised.
“Ministerial intervention powers were originally intended to provide an outcome for unique and exceptional cases but there is now an industry in people appealing to the Minister,” Senator Evans said.
“There has been a substantial growth in the use of intervention powers over the last decade to the point where thousands of applications for Ministerial intervention are now made every year.”
Senator Evans said he had personally seen and finalised 472 individual intervention cases which had lead to the granting of 187 visas in the first quarter of 2008.
“Ministers should deal with issues of broad public policy. It is not the job of a Minister to decide thousands of individual visa cases,” he said.
Senator Evans said Ms Proust’s report would enable the use of Ministerial intervention powers to be restored to resolving exceptional and unforeseen cases.
He said he would be discussing the recommendations contained in Ms Proust’s report with relevant stakeholders.
Copies of the Proust report were available at www.minister.immi.gov.au
15 July, 2008
Mortgages the pay-off in ADF home scheme
The new Defence Home Ownership Assistance Scheme has commenced operation offering serving Members of the Defence Forces up to $705 a month to assist with mortgage repayments for 20 years.
Based on the length of their service and the cost of the property, the new DHOAS replaces the Defence Service Home Loans scheme and the Defence Home Owner Scheme and was being administered by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
According to the scheme’s project director, Robert McComas quoted in the Defence media, the new scheme was more flexible than the old and could be used to buy, build or renovate a house.
He said personnel who had served four years would be eligible to have their mortgages subsidised by $353 a month; eight years, $529 a month; and 12 years, $705 per month. Reservists would also qualify although their periods of required service would be longer.
Director of Housing and Removal Policy at Defence, Robert McKellar said the new scheme moved with interest rates and property prices, giving it significant advantages over the old schemes.
“They lost value over a period of time and were also restricted to a single provider and single loan product,” he said,
He said the new scheme offered a choice of three lenders who promised that their DHOAS loans would be better than, or at least equal to, other products they sold.
Mr McKellar said investment properties could be financed through the new scheme and first home buyers could roll some of their subsidy into a lump-sum which could be used as a deposit.
He said it would be easy for personnel to transfer to the new scheme and information sessions would be conducted around bases until September, explaining the scheme and answering questions.
More information about DHOAS was available from www.dhoas.gov.au or by phone on 1300 430 427.
15 July, 2008
Finance fee Circular fits the PS bill
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has issued a Circular detailing changes in the review and reporting arrangements for cost recovery proposals.
Circular 2008/08 has been issued to help Departments and Agencies understand the revised review and reporting processes and to comply with them. The new arrangements apply to all Agencies covered by the Financial Management and Accountability Act and the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act.
According to the Circular, the policy of cost recovery, introduced in 2002, has not been changed but the review and reporting arrangements have to improve Ministerial oversight of cost recovery activity and to increase the transparency of Cost Recovery Impact Statements (CRIS).
The changes took effect on 1 July.
Under the new arrangements, Agencies will be required to produce a CRIS for all new cost recovery plans expected to raise income of more than $10 million; their Ministers will be required to agree to the CRIS; and the Expenditure Review Committee will review it.
All CRISs should be published on the Agency’s website.
The Circular says that a CRIS would not be required if the cost recovery plan was not considered ‘significant,’ but it would still need to comply with the cost recovery policy.
The Finance Minister is able to require an Agency to produce a CRIS, but usually for activities that had not been considered before, were inconsistent with the cost recovery policy or which had not been considered for some time.
The Finance Circular can be accessed on the Finance website www.finance.gov.au
15 July, 2008
Handbook hands out handy advice
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has published an updated edition of its handbook for practitioners to promote high quality outcomes and consistent practice.
DIAC Secretary, Andrew Metcalfe, said the handbook would improve the Department’s engagement with stakeholders and promote high quality outcomes and consistent practice.
“The department needs to ensure we are working closely with relevant sections of the Australian and international community to take into account their views and experience,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“Stakeholders can help significantly in both regards if our relationships are robust.”
He said while the Government decided policy, the Department needed to optimise policy implementation practices and its advice to Government.
“It is a significant boost to the support available to staff to ensure quality outcomes in this aspect of the Department’s work,” he said.
Mr Metcalfe said the handbook was based on last year’s edition, but drew upon an international standard in stakeholder best-practice and was developed following substantial consultation.
He said eight departmental case studies were included to provide practical examples.
He said it also incorporated current thinking and Departmental practices and was produced as a part of an approach to identify key departmental stakeholders and emphasise the importance of their views.
A steering committee chaired by the Secretary oversaw the stakeholder management approach while business areas were responsible for their own engagement activity.
Mr Metcalfe said the efforts of the business areas were supported by agency mapping of stakeholders and identification of key issues to be integrated into planning.
He said training was provided and a series of internal seminars recently initiated.
Mr Metcalfe said community and stakeholder confidence was a high priority for the Department and that staff work and quality relationships built up that confidence.
“The handbook will also be useful for DIAC stakeholders, because it will provide them with a clear picture of the DIAC role, objectives and expectations in the engagement process,” he said.
Mr Metcalfe said the handbook was available from www.immi.gov.au
15 July, 2008
Finance Ombudsman is insurance policy
The Government has announced the creation of a new Ombudsman service for the Australian financial industry.
Minister for Corporate Law, Senator Nick Sherry, said the new Financial Ombudsman Service would take over from three separate non-Government dispute resolution schemes: the Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman, the Financial Industry Complaints Service, and the Insurance Ombudsman Service.
Senator Sherry said the merger would mean independent dispute resolution services for up to 80 per cent of Australian banking, insurance and investment disputes could be provided under one roof.
“The merger means that consumers - or for that matter, industry members who are unsure about where they can get information about dispute resolution - can be quickly referred to the service best suited to handle their complaint,” he said.
Senator Sherry said the Government was determined to update the regulation of financial services for the 21st century.
He said external dispute resolution services provided independent, free, fair and accessible dispute resolution for consumers who were unable to resolve a dispute directly with their financial service provider.
“Importantly, external dispute resolution services allow consumers to have complaints that would not normally be brought before a Court, due to the cost of legal proceedings, aired and resolved.”
He said mergers such as the Financial Ombudsman Service were backed by the Productivity Commission, which, in its Review of Australia’s Consumer Policy Framework, recommended the Government improve the effectiveness of external dispute resolution for consumers by consolidating existing bodies.
“Our financial services regime is based on the principles of transparency, fairness and consistency,” Senator Sherry said.
“External dispute resolution schemes like the new Financial Ombudsman Service play an important role in keeping the regime on a level playing field.”
15 July, 2008
Aviation workforce lands 5-year plan
Airservices Australia has released its five year workforce planning strategy, setting out the organisation’s challenges and strategies to attract and retain the skilled personnel it needs to service the aviation industry.
Chief Executive Officer, Greg Russell, said the strategy followed three years of intensive analysis of the labour market, world and domestic employment trends and their relationships with Air Traffic Control, Aviation Rescue and Fire Fighting and technology and engineering professions.
“This document is a blueprint that explains our workforce challenges and, more importantly, our strategy to build the workforce,” Mr Russell said, “including skills we will need to meet future service delivery and satisfy aviation industry demands.”
He said the new planning strategy was a commitment to Airservices Australia staff, customers and stakeholders.
“It covers the program of what I describe as ‘people initiatives’ that are now established priorities in our change program,” he said.
Mr Russell said Airservices was set to put $27 million back into the industry in 2008 due to continued strength in airways activity with the payment of a rebate to be brought forward to August this year.
The workforce strategy was released during the aviation industry conference, ‘Waypoint 2008’ which also featured the announcement of the winners of the Inaugural Chairman’s Awards for Professional Excellence.
The Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, Chairman David Forsyth and Mr Russell presented winners David Bargen, Jenni Birdsall, Vicki Huggins, Adam Martens, Pete McMahon, John Moores, Ken Owen and Adam Watkin with their awards.
15 July, 2008
Seasonal adjustment for economist’s book
A book by Austrade’s Chief Economist, Tim Harcourt has reached the Top Ten bestseller list for business books in Australia.
The Airport Economist, an informative and witty ‘tour guide’ offering Australian business people the motivation and advice necessary to help achieve export success, is - according to its author, Mr Harcourt - Australia’s answer to the US best seller, Freakonomics but with an export angle thrown in.
“The Airport Economist is fundamentally about Australians successfully engaging in the global economy,” Mr Harcourt said, “from Mary Nenke, a Yabbie farmer in Kukerin, to Kath & Kim, Australia has plenty to be proud of in our export success.”
Mr Harcourt said many of Australia’s 44,000 exporting companies had demonstrated Australia could compete internationally.
He said export success abroad meant better living standards for those back home, accounting for the title of the final chapter: ‘Exporting makes you effluent”.
“But even with a high dollar, increasing global fuel prices and geo-political instability out there, exporters and would-be exporters need to know that they are not alone,” Mr Harcourt said.
“Help can be provided by Austrade, EFIC and the like, and as The Airport Economist shows, exporters who stick at it, do succeed.”
Mr Harcourt said it was a matter of showing persistence and using Government architecture when needed – particularly in emerging markets.
He said increasing global engagement was good for businesses, workers and the Australian community as a whole.
“As a labour market economist I have found that exporters, on average, pay higher wages, provide better working conditions, invest in education and training and provide more job security than non-exporters,” Mr Harcourt said.
The Airport Economist was arranged as one continuous journey from Sydney to Singapore and ending up in Santiago by trekking through Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
It concluded with a focus on how award winning comedy show Kath and Kim had become the latest Australian export gem.
The book offered a combination of economic research, empirical observations, anecdotes and interviews with exporters, business people, celebrities, government officials and sports people and tried to break down economic jargon for students and aspiring small business exporters.
“I believe that economics education is very important for the future of this country,” Mr Harcourt said.
“Economics should be accessible, easy to read and most of all exciting and I hope that The Airport Economist helps demonstrate this.”
The Airport Economist, published by Allen & Unwin,was available at all book stores around the country.
15 July, 2008
Treasurer cashes in on IMF commentary
The Treasurer has welcomed comments from the International Monetary Fund which he said were a “strong endorsement” of the Government’s Budget and economic strategy.
Treasurer, Wayne Swan, quoted the IMF as saying in a recent report on a staff mission to Australia that budgeted reductions in public spending growth “illustrates the Government's commitment to help reduce inflation”.
Mr Swan said the IMF statement also noted that “as inflation accelerated over the past year, the RBA appropriately tightened monetary policy, and fiscal policy in the latest budget is providing needed support”.
He said the IMF found that by investing surpluses in the Building Australia Fund, the Health and Hospitals Fund and the Education Investment Fund pressure would be taken off monetary policy and increased infrastructure investment would result.
Mr Swan said the IMF report highlighted the Government’s reform program in areas such as tax reform, competition and regulatory policy, healthcare, education, infrastructure, emissions trading, water management and Commonwealth-State funding arrangements.
He said the Fund noted that successful implementation would enhance the economy’s flexibility, lift productivity, and foster labour force participation.
He said the IMF remarked on the resilience of Australian banks during the recent global financial “turmoil” and said Australian banks remained profitable and well capitalised.
“Asset quality is high by international standards, despite a marginal increase in non-performing loans,” Mr Swan said.
The IMF described the supervisory response to the current world-wide credit turmoil by the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority as “timely and appropriate”.
Mr Swan said the IMF welcomed plans to introduce a Financial Claims Scheme and to strengthen crisis management arrangements in the financial sector.
He said in its concluding statement, the IMF presented its preliminary assessment of Australia’s economic performance and policies which would form the basis of the Article IV report to be prepared by IMF staff
Mr Swan said the report would examine the issues in greater depth and provide the basis for a discussion of the Australian economy by the IMF Executive Board later this year.
He said under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, member countries undertook to collaborate with the Fund, and one another, to assure orderly exchange arrangements and to promote a stable system of exchange rates.
The IMF's bilateral surveillance of members' economic policies was directed at monitoring compliance with these obligations and providing advice on policy directions, Mr Swan said.
He said the release of the statement was consistent with the Government’s support for enhanced transparency of the IMF’s bilateral surveillance process, and that this was the first time an Australian Government had authorised the release of an IMF concluding statement.
15 July, 2008
Schools stats data goes to top of class
A school-based statistical exercise run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has been acclaimed as the most successful of its type in the world.
CensusAtSchool, a student-centred online data collection and analysis project, was accessed by over 44,000 Australian students in years four to 12 between 29 January and 4 July this year.
The results from a questionnaire completed by all students were now available as randomised samples, giving teachers and students across Australia access to real, raw and relevant data about Australian students for analysis.
ABS’s Teacher Consultant, Ian Wong, said the project was a great resource for teaching students about data and statistics in a way that was educational and fun.
“For the first time students can directly compare their responses from other students across the globe where CensusAtSchool is run,” Mr Wong said.
“They are also able to compare data from the 2006 CensusAtSchool project to research what has changed over time. The possibilities are endless.”
CensusAtSchool included data on student lifestyle, habits and attitudes and “contains a goldmine of information”.
The questionnaire responses showed over 73 per cent of students had broadband internet in 2008 compared with 53 per cent in 2006.
They found on average, a student’s favourite takeaway was pizza or pasta, and that most traveled to school by car.
Over 95,000 random samples had been downloaded since the Random Sampler tool became available in July 2006.
Further information on the census and the students’ responses was available from www.abs.gov.au
15 July, 2008
Police escort youth to IT conference
The Australian Federal Police are to take 10 young Australians to London to participate in an international congress on security in the online environment.
The congress is to be a world first aimed at giving youth a voice in how they were protected online.
The International Youth Advisory Congress (IYAC) is to bring together 150 youths from around the world to develop a strategy in partnership with law enforcement agencies worldwide to ensure online safety and security for young people.
AFP National Manager of High Tech Crime Operations, Assistant Commissioner Andrew Colvin, said the IYAC was an extraordinary opportunity for law enforcement agencies to listen to those who had grown up with the internet.
“We recognise that our investigators were not born in the internet era and that can make protecting today’s youth a challenge,” Assistant Commissioner Colvin said.
“That is where the congress can help us.”
Assistant Commissioner Colvin said the youth would come face-to-face with those responsible for internet safety and security including representatives from government, industry, law enforcement and media.
He said A Children and Young People’s Global Online Charter would be developed by the youths and law enforcement agencies and would be presented at the World Congress III Against Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents in Brazil in November.
Assistant Commissioner Colvin said the ultimate outcome was an amendment of the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child in 2009.
“We have to remember that enforcement activity alone will not solve this issue,” he said.
“Education, prevention and awareness among youth, parents, teachers and the community is required.
“Every youth we educate and make aware of risks involved on the internet is a youth potentially saved from becoming a victim.”
The congress, which is to run from 17-21 July is to be led by the United Kingdom Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and has been supported by the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), of which the AFP is a member.
15 July, 2008
Federation party for strong constitution
Activities to mark Constitution Day on 9 July, organised jointly by the National Archives of Australia and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, included a Forum and a Citizenship ceremony in Canberra.
Constitution Day commemorates 9 July 1900 when Queen Victoria gave Royal Assent to the British Parliament’s Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, the legal instrument that created the nation of Australia.
Speaking at the Forum, Cabinet Secretary and Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner said Constitution Day was an opportunity for all Australians to begin engaging with the Constitution and with the process of constitutional change.
“The creation of Australia’s Constitution was orderly, Parliamentary and profoundly democratic,” Senator Faulkner said.
“Our Constitution was drafted as neither an act of defiance nor one of reconciliation. “It was created by pragmatic idealists, crafting a blueprint for a new nation, combining high hopes with low compromises.
“Their vision – a nation for a continent – was a grand one.”
As well as taking part in the Forum, Senator Faulkner officiated at a citizenship ceremony where immigrants from Sudan, the Russian Federation, India, the United Kingdom, Belarus, Poland, China and Malaysia became Australians.
Senator Faulkner said the problems that had to be overcome by the framers of the Australian Constitution included the “finicky interrelations of multiple jurisdictions, competing agendas and different sized railway gauges.”
“Is it any wonder our Constitution is technical rather than sweeping, mechanistic rather than grandiose?” he said.
Senator Faulkner said the commitment of Australians to democracy was deep, longstanding and bordered on the radical.
“We have been world leaders in democratic innovations such as women’s suffrage, secret ballots, and compulsory voting,” he said.
“Any changes proposed for the Constitution can only hope for success if they pass the test of Australia’s instinctively democratic and egalitarian temperament.”
Senator Faulkner said the Constitution Day activities were aimed at encouraging Australians to understand more about the Constitution and how it related to their lives.
As a part of the activities, the Senator launched Making Australia Home, a project aimed at describing, preserving and digitising records held by the National Archives that tell the stories of 7 million immigrants who arrived in Australia during the twentieth century.
15 July, 2008
Wrinkles old hat in ageing campaign
A community campaign aimed at breaking down perceptions and stereotypes about mature age workers has been launched by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, gave ‘in-principle’ support to the Commission's campaign, saying the employment of mature men and women offered a wealth of experience to the workplace.
Federal Commissioner responsible for Age Discrimination, Elizabeth Broderick, said the education campaign, Mature Workers Mean Business, was targeted specifically at employers.
Commissioner Broderick said a range of print advertisements and web-based materials would be used to highlight the benefits of mature age workers and to address discrimination.
She said many older participants in her recent national ‘Listening Tour’ raised age discrimination as a barrier to full and equal participation in the workplace and other aspects of life.
“Some people told me that ageist assumptions and attitudes heavily impacted on their ability to find meaningful work, including misconceptions about being able adapt to change or wanting work at senior levels,” Commissioner Broderick said.
“Others recounted the barriers they faced in other areas of life, such as accessing public spaces or being awarded driver’s licences.”
Mrs Elliot said Australians were living longer, healthier lives and could have a number of productive years of work-life beyond the traditional retirement age.
“The knowledge, experience and wisdom of these older Australians will help improve our nation’s productivity,” she said.
Mrs Elliot said the Government was playing its part in promoting positive ageing by appointing Noeline Brown as Australia's first Ambassador for Ageing.
“The work being undertaken by the Ambassador complements this new campaign and I commend it to employers,” she said.
Commissioner Broderick said age discrimination was a real issue for mature aged workers in Australia.
She said in 2006/07, HREOC received 106 complaints under the Age Discrimination Act (2004), 66 per cent of which were made by people over 45.
Commissioner Broderick said 78 per cent of the complaints related to employment and 19 per cent related to the provision of goods, services and facilities.
“As we live and work for longer, it is crucial that older Australians of all ages are able to fully participate in society” she said.
“There is also a strong business imperative for employers to attract and retain mature age workers.”
The Commissioner said the issue of age discrimination was “perhaps one of the most significant social policy issues facing current and future generations,” and would be concentrated upon during her five year term.
Further information on the campaign was available from www.humanrights.gov.au/matureworkers
15 July, 2008
Innovation scorecard is no love-all for IP
A scorecard on the protection of intellectual property has shown years of steady growth but also that Australia lags behind other developed nations in its innovation effort.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr, said activity surrounding IP protection was one of the few measurable indicators of innovation across a range of industries.
“Boosting local innovation is one sure way to create competitive advantage in a globalised economy – and Australia’s innovation effort in recent years has been ordinary,” Senator Carr said.
“This scorecard shows that with the right innovation policy settings we can turn around some of the negatives, including boosting our relatively low levels of business investment in research and development and forging stronger links between public researchers and industry.”
Senator Carr said the scorecard showed Australia was recognising the importance of niche areas with the potential to create “competitive advantage”.
He said medical engineering had replaced transport as one of the top five technology patenting areas in Australia since the first scorecard was created in 2006, and that handling and printing technology had overtaken civil engineering, building and mining - traditionally Australia's leading areas of technological advantage.
“The scorecard shows Australia has improved in terms of patents granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office, up from 12th in 2004 to 10th in 2006,” Senator Carr said.
“The overall ranking of Australians receiving patent grants by the European Patent Office (EPO) remains the same in 2006 as in 2004 at 17th but the number of patents granted to Australians by the EPO grew by 77.5 per cent between 2002 and 2006.”
Senator Carr said the figures were encouraging, but indicated Australia needed to work harder to improve its place in the rankings.
He said it was important to keep up with Australia’s international competitors as they were working hard to develop new innovations
“One of the reasons I instigated the Review of the National Innovation System is to ensure that Australian innovators are able to meet the challenges being thrown down in a highly competitive global environment,” Senator Carr said.
He said a copy of the Intellectual Property Scorecard was available from www.innovation.gov.au
15 July, 2008
ACCC taps into water reports
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued two discussion papers on the proposed workings of the planned water market.
The Commission has sought submissions on the development of water market rules and on the development of water charge rules for bulk water suppliers.
It said the water market rules and charge rules formed key components of the Water Act 2007, which created new institutional and governance arrangements to address the sustainability and management of water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin.
Chairman of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel said the water market rules would ensure that policies or administrative requirements of operators of irrigation infrastructure who held a group water access entitlement on behalf of their member irrigators did not prevent or delay trade.
“The purpose of the water market rules is to free up the trade of water within the Murray-Darling Basin,” Mr Samuel said.
“A well functioning water market will contribute to improved water use efficiency as well as send clearer signals about efficient investment in water infrastructure assets.”
He said reducing restrictions on the trade of water would provide irrigators with greater flexibility in managing their water rights.
Mr Samuel said water charge rules which were applied consistently across the Basin would benefit water users.
“Bulk water charges that are cost-based and transparent will promote efficient investment in water infrastructure assets and facilitate the efficient functioning of water markets,” he said.
Submissions on the development of water market rules are to close on 15 August while submissions on the development of bulk water charge rules close on 18 August.
Copies of the papers and information on how to make a submission were available from the ACCC website www.accc.gov.au
Mr Samuel said the Water Act 2007 came into effect on 3 March 2008, and created new functions for the ACCC, including the development of water charge rules and water market rules for consideration by the Minister; and for the ACCC to monitor compliance with and to enforce those rules.
15 July, 2008
Pension review has hearing problem
Hearings into the Pension Indexation Arrangements for Australian Government Civilian and Military Superannuation Schemes have been rescheduled to 24 and 25 July.
The review is to be conducted by Trevor Matthews, who is to consider and report on whether the current Consumer Price Index pension indexation methodology should be maintained.
Pay performs for Secretaries
Heavenly coin for Mint
Award websites launched
Scientists clock off
Panel to beat skills
HQ gets OK at Defence
Helpline milks $5M
Young Corps goes green
ADFA opens up
Scholarships at APRA
Agreement sewn up to untangle red tape
State and Territory Governments have joined the Commonwealth in a concerted war against bureaucratic red tape.
A recent meeting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) saw across the board commitment to a Standardised Business Reporting (SBR) system which was expected to cut down on excess red tape.
The Commonwealth has committed $243 million to the system over four years.
In a joint statement, Treasurer Wayne Swan and Minister for Finance Lindsay Tanner said when fully implemented, SBR would save Australian businesses around $800 million annually.
“Current Government reporting requirements impose a major burden on business,” the Ministers said.
They said the Commonwealth was committed to reducing this burden.
The Ministers said SBR was working to a timetable that would ensure red tape was cut by July 2010 by removing unnecessary and duplicated information from Government forms and using business software to automatically pre-fill them.
It would also adopt a common business language based on international standards and align Government reporting with natural business processes.
They said it would also provide a single online sign-on, form validation and confirmation of forms receipt.
“In March 2008 COAG agreed to the Business Regulation and Competition Working Group’s Implementation Plan which includes SBR as part of its ambitious new regulation reform agenda covering 27 initiatives,” the Ministers said.
“To ensure a real reduction in the regulatory reporting burden facing businesses, SBR will be monitored closely by COAG’s Business Regulation and Competition Working Group. This working group is co-chaired by the Minister of Finance and Deregulation and the Minister for Small Business, Independent Contractors and the Service Economy.”
SBR was being co-designed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Government agencies, software developers, accountants, bookkeepers, and other business intermediaries.
A Business Advisory Forum had been established to ensure SBR stayed in touch with the needs of Australian business. Comprising representatives from a wide range of peak industry and professional groups, the Business Advisory Forum would assist with consultation, marketing and strategy implementation. It would also provide a conduit for engaging industry and business segments in SBR design.
Further details about the COAG communiqué, the SBR Program, and the SBR Business Advisory Forum can be found on www.sbr.gov.au
8 July, 2008
Review to search web for loopholes
A whole-of-Government review of e-security is to be conducted to counter growing threats to the nation’s electronic information networks.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland and the Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said Australia’s ever-increasing reliance on information and communications technology and the threat of a hostile online environment had prompted the review, which would assist the development of a national framework for securing Australia’s electronic networks.
“New and networked systems increasingly underpin our business and social interactions, but they also provide fertile ground for exploitation by cyber criminals”, Mr McClelland said.
“The e-security review is an opportunity to look at what help the Government can provide to develop a more secure and trusted electronic operating environment for both the public and private sectors.
He said the review would also consider whether Commonwealth programs could be better focused to deal with the ever-increasing range of online threats.
Senator Conroy said the review of e-security was a crucial step towards fostering confidence in using the internet for personal and business activities.
“A secure online environment trusted by the community coupled with the Government’s rollout of the National Broadband Network is critical to our nation’s continued social and economic prosperity,” Senator Conroy said.
They said a multi-Agency team, led by the Attorney-General’s Department, would conduct the review, which would be completed by the end of this year.
The Opposition’s Shadow Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Bruce Billson, and the Shadow Attorney General, George Brandis, welcomed the review, but said they were disappointed that the real and widespread community concern about personal online security was not expressly addressed in the review’s terms of reference.
Mr Billson said fears over cyber-stalking, bullying and harassment all featured prominently in his discussions with consumers.
“Consumers are worried about how traditional laws and protections support their personal security and wellbeing in the e-world,” Mr Billson said.
Senator Brandis said the Government could address these concerns by adding specific reference to cyber-bullying, stalking and harassment in the e-security review’s terms of reference.
8 July, 2008
Ministers sell new advertising rules
New guidelines for Government advertising have been released requiring campaigns to be certified as compliant by Agency heads and major projects to be previewed by the Auditor-General.
Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner, and Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, said the new procedures would give the community confidence that Commonwealth Government campaigns were legitimately authorised, properly targeted and non-political.
“The guidelines and certification process will ensure Government advertising and information campaigns provide objective, factual and explanatory information, free from partisan promotion of Government policy and political argument,” the Ministers said in a joint statement.
They said an election promise that campaigns over $250,000 would be scrutinised by the Auditor-General had now been met.
Included in the changes are the abolition of the Ministerial Committee for Government Communications (MCGC), and the Government Communications Unit (GCU) of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
“Coordination of procurement contracts and managing the policy and procedures for the development and implementation of Government advertising campaigns will be undertaken by the Department of Finance and Deregulation,” they said.
“In addition to increasing accountability and transparency, these new arrangements will also allow greater efficiency and savings through better coordination of Government’s requirements and procurement contracting arrangements.”
They said the new arrangements would also require Ministers to be briefed on the progress of campaign development, but responsibility for that development would be taken by the commissioning Department with assistance from Finance.
The guidelines require campaign expenditures to be published biannually.
The Ministers said the new guidelines were based on those developed by the Auditor-General in 1998. Those guidelines were refined by the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts and Audit in 2000.
They said the former Government did not adopt the Auditor-General’s guidelines despite conducting a number of campaigns.
While the Government recognised that advertising and information campaigns were necessary to inform the community of Government programs, and for operational activities of Agencies such as Defence recruitment, it believed campaigns should be politically neutral and not a weapon of political incumbency, the Ministers said.
“A new apolitical approach to Government advertising was desperately needed.
“The new guidelines reflect the Government’s commitment that public funds not be spent on political advertising dressed up as Government promotion.”
8 July, 2008
Guide to budgeting is money in the bank
The Australian National Audit Office has published a Better Practice Guide on developing and managing internal budgets.
In his 80-page Guide, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, said internal budgeting was a fundamental element of an organisation’s financial management framework.
“Effective internal budgeting will significantly contribute to the achievement of an organisation’s goals and objectives, particularly when embedded into corporate planning and aligned to the external budget,” the Auditor-General said.
“Organisations use internal budgets to establish and communicate funding priorities, support decision making, set financial controls, and monitor and report financial performance.
“Effective internal budget processes, which underpin the efficient allocation of resources, enable Australian Government organisations to more readily identify and respond to changes in environmental conditions and government priorities.”
He said the purpose of the Better Practice Guide was to assist organisations better manage internal budgeting activities. It discusses a range of principles and techniques designed to embed internal budgeting in an organisation’s planning, control and accountability systems and also notes the importance of cultivating an environment that encouraged effective internal budget practices - an element of which was to construct internal budgets with direct input from operational managers.
The Auditor said managers were more likely to achieve budget targets that had been agreed with them and were limited to those costs over which they had control.
“This Guide updates the Better Practice Guide on Internal Budgeting issued in February 2003,” he said.
“This Guide reiterates many better practices in the former version and takes into account developments in financial management and budgeting affecting Australian Government organisations since the release of the previous guide.”
He said while practices described in the guide generally applied to all Australian Government organisations, it was important that each organisation assess the extent to which the information provided was relevant, appropriate and cost-effective in light of their circumstances.
“The ANAO consulted with many Australian Government organisations and individuals to improve the usefulness of the Guide.
“I particularly appreciated the assistance of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Australian Taxation Office, National Library of Australia and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority for commenting on previous versions of the guide and/or providing examples of internal budgeting processes and practices,” the Auditor-General said.
Copies of the Guide can be downloaded from www.anao.gov.au
8 July, 2008
Commonwealth on top in States stakes
A survey of 1200 Australians has revealed high levels of confidence in the Commonwealth Government, with about half saying it was the most competent of the nation’s three levels of officialdom.
Conducted for Griffith University in Queensland, the Newspoll survey showed only 20 per cent believed their Local Councils were operating effectively and even less – 18 per cent – said the State Governments were.
Six per cent rated the Commonwealth’s performance as poor.
The poll, reported in the Australian newspaper and being published this week, found almost 80 per cent of Australians (79%) were in favour of the Commonwealth taking control of State-run programs if they were not being run effectively. Just 17 per cent disagreed.
More than 90 per cent of respondents were in favour of the different levels of Government working together to resolve important issues but over half of them (52%) said cooperation to date had been poor.
According to the university’s federalism project director, A.J. Brown, the results showed that health, education and public transport were the issues that dragged the State’s ratings down and the Commonwealth’s greatest challenge was to remain ‘in touch.’
Dr Brown said Local Government suffered because it was perceived to be corrupt, incompetent or under-resourced
“These results show there are great tensions ahead for Australia’s federal system,” Dr Brown said.
“Australians generally continue to hold State Governments responsible for many of the most important things in their lives, even though over a third of citizens clearly doubt the States’ capacity to deliver on them.”
8 July, 2008
Rural Health Office comes to town
The Department of Health and Ageing is to become home to a new Office of Rural Health.
Health Minister, Nicola Roxon announced the new Office saying it would drive rural health reform in response to an audit of the health workforce in rural and regional Australia.
“The audit found that the current supply of health professionals is not sufficient to meet current needs and the supply of health professionals in many rural and regional areas is low to very poor,” Ms Roxon said.
She said past Government policies had relied on outdated information when developing incentives for doctors and other rural workforce policies.
She said the Office of Rural Health would be operational immediately and would be located in the Department’s Primary and Ambulatory Care Division.
Ms Roxon said the Office would draw together rural workforce and rural service delivery programs and provide a focus for the reform of federal rural health policy and programs.
“As a first priority, over the next 12 months the Office will review the Australian Government’s 60 targeted rural health programs, as well as the classification systems that determine eligibility for rural program funding,” Ms Roxon said.
“Reviews of these programs are necessary to ensure that workforce programs and incentives respond to current population figures and genuine need, and that service delivery programs and rural health professionals can better respond to the needs of rural communities.”
She said it was vitally important that the expertise of health professionals and those involved in educating, promoting and recruiting the rural health workforce were involved in the significant work of the Office of Rural Health.
The Rural Doctors’ Association of Australia, the National Rural Health Alliance, the Council of Remote Area Nurses Australia, Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health, Rural Health Workforce Australia and the Australian Rural Health Education Network would be invited to work closely with the Department to develop a work plan and provide continuing advice as this work was progressed over the coming 12 months, she said.
There would be broader stakeholder consultation at appropriate stages throughout the process.
Ms Roxon said the Government was determined to ensure that all Australians could get the health care they needed, when they needed it.
“The Office of Rural Health is an important step towards that goal,” she said.
8 July, 2008
Comcare cuts costs on workplace safety
The Commonwealth’s workers compensation Agency, Comcare, has announced a 12 per cent drop in average premiums for 2008-09.
The Commonwealth rate for 2008-09 has now been set at 1.36 per cent, a 12 per cent reduction on last year’s rate of 1.55 per cent.
According to the newly-appointed Chief Executive of Comcare, Martin Dolan, the result stemmed primarily from a decrease in claims frequency, reflecting a reduction in the level of workplace injury.
“This positive result follows reductions in premium rates last year,” Mr Dolan said.
“Further improvement in health and safety outcomes, injury prevention and minimising lost time due to injury will be priority areas for the scheme in 2008-09.”
Mr Dolan said under Comcare’s premium scheme employers were financially accountable for the cost of work related injury and disease through the payment of an annual premium. He said this significant decrease was sure to be good news for Government Agencies looking for budget efficiencies, and rewarded their attention to workplace safety.
He said when standardised and compared to premium performance across jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand, the Commonwealth’s premium result continued to be the second lowest.
8 July, 2008
Nursing home claims put under microscope
Staff of the Department of Health and Ageing are to review thousands of funding claims from aged care providers to ensure that Government payments for services matched the level of care being given to the 170,000 Australians living in nursing homes
Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot, said the checks were to make sure, frail and older Australians in nursing homes were getting the care taxpayers were paying for.
“Good aged care providers have nothing to worry about from this process,” Ms Elliot said.
She said the people working in the nation’s nursing homes were dedicated, hard working and the “backbone of the sector.”
She said the review of funding claims would only support their valuable work.
Ms Ellliot said Commonwealth Nursing Officers planned to conduct 5000 reviews under the Resident Classification Scale (RCS) in all States and Territories. She said data from the Office of Aged Care Quality and Compliance within the Department of Health and Ageing showed 37 per cent of claims had to be downgraded by assessors after examination.
In addition, she said, there were some cases (3.9 per cent) where the aged care providers were found to be under-claiming and the Commonwealth ended up paying more.
Ms Elliot said the reviews of funding claims were responsible financial measures and were about accountability as funding for aged and community care over the next four years would reach record levels of more than $40 billion, with $28.6 billion of that to be spent on residential aged care alone.
“No Government in Australian history has spent more on aged care and community care than this one,” Ms Ellliot said.
“I have visited nursing homes in every State and Territory and I have seen world-class staff providing first rate quality care to residents. I always commend their great work.”
8 July, 2008
Audit report gives media complaints air
The Auditor-General has found that the Australian Communications and Media Authority adequately addressed the majority of complaints it received, but still had room for improvement.
In his report Regulation of Commercial Broadcasting, the auditor said ACMA was required to adhere to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which empowered broadcasters to respond to complaints from the public in the first instance, with only unresolved complaints passed to the Authority.
He said ACMA was required to respond to all complaints referred to it unless they were deemed ‘frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith’, and it relied on television viewers, radio listeners and industry stakeholders to inform it of alleged non-compliance.
The Auditor-General, Ian McPhee, said in the absence of complaints or other evidence of alleged breaches, broadcasters were, by default, assumed to be compliant.
“It is therefore important that ACMA and the broadcasters have effective systems, processes and procedures in place to handle complaints in a way that engenders stakeholder confidence and meets expectations,” Mr McPhee said.
He said more attention needed to be paid to the level of stakeholder dissatisfaction; the high number of complaints handling breaches identified by ACMA; monitoring whether broadcasters’ were publicising their codes and complaints procedures; and verifying complaint accuracy.
Mr McPhee said while the majority of complaints were well addressed, the timeliness of ACMA’s response to the complaints had deteriorated.
“The time taken to complete commercial broadcasting investigations has also increased, with each taking, on average, 21 weeks in 2006-07,” he said.
Mr McPhee said the Australian National Audit Office had identified a number of areas where ACMA’s investigation management could be improved, including investigating all prima facie complaints handling breaches by broadcasters, recording the decision not to investigate and offering complainants the opportunity to comment on procedural fairness.
“Improving the quality and accuracy of the data in its complaints and investigations management system would increase its effectiveness as a management tool,” he said.
Mr McPhee said ACMA did not follow-up with broadcasters to ensure enforcement actions for non-compliance had been implemented.
“However, some recent enforceable undertakings have required broadcasters to report regularly to ACMA on their progress towards compliance,” he said.
The audit found that in the 18 months since ACMA was established in 2005, it had acknowledged that its governance arrangements were not as effective as they could have been.
For this reason, Mr McPhee said, ACMA had reviewed and was implementing revised corporate governance performance management and risk management frameworks.
“The ongoing management of regulatory and operational risks needs to be incorporated into ACMA’s risk management strategies,” he said.
“This will position ACMA to respond to changing risks, and where necessary, adjust compliance strategies, priorities and activities.”
The Auditor made five recommendations to improve ACMA’s regulation of commercial broadcasting services.
The recommendations related to investigations, complaints handling processes, monitoring compliance, enforcement action and ACMA’s performance management and reporting.
The recommendations were supported by ACMA.
8 July, 2008
New land deal is landmark scheme
A national platform for the electronic settlement of all property transactions in the country has been approved by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
The move was welcomed by Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and Finance Minister, Lindsay Tanner who said a single national electronic conveyancing system was a significant step towards creating a seamless national economy.
The system, to be operational by March 2010, would provide an efficient online national platform to settle property transactions electronically; lodge instruments electronically with land registries; and meet associated duty and tax obligations electronically.
“The agreement to establish a national electronic conveyancing system is only possible because all States and Territories have agreed to cooperate together,” the Ministers said.
“A national electronic conveyancing system will mean consumers across the country will use the same electronic system to settle all property transactions.”
They said under the current system, every State and Territory had their own unique property conveyancing system with different processes and procedures, based on an antiquated system of paper-shuffling.
Industry groups estimated a national electronic conveyancing system could reduce the costs of buying and selling property by $250 million a year.
The Ministers said consumers would save money by spending less on legal and conveyancing fees and transaction costs such as bank cheques.
“This national system will mean that whether they buy a house in Darwin or Dubbo, Bundaberg or Ballarat, consumers will use the same online system to lodge and exchange all the documents, certificates and contracts needed to buy their new house,” the Ministers said.
The national system would require the establishment of an e-conveyancing entity which would be owned by all relevant jurisdictions.
“The new e-conveyancing entity board will be skills-based and include directors with banking, conveyancing, information technology and other relevant commercial skills, as well as directors with knowledge of State and Territory processes concerning land registries, duties and taxes,” the Ministers said.
They said Victoria was the only jurisdiction with an electronic conveyancing system that allowed property owners to complete transactions online.
“The entity is to assess the Victorian electronic conveyancing system ECV and, to the extent it is suitable, use it as the basis for the underlying software for the new national e-conveyancing system,” the Ministers said.
The Council of Australian Governments has agreed that the COAG Business Regulation and Competition Working Group would oversee the implementation of the new e-conveyancing system.
8 July, 2008
Scientists sign up to fight disease
A joint project between two of Australia’s leading Government science organisations has been announced to develop radioactive medicines to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) are to collaborate on developing radiopharmaceuticals using techniques to screen and evaluate the chemical properties of new imaging agents developed by ANSTO.
The agents will be used for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and Single Photo Emission Tomography (SPECT) imaging, in conjunction with Computed Tomography (CT).
Dr Marie Gregoire of ANSTO’s Radiopharmaceutical Research Institute said ANSTO would bring expertise in small animal imaging and provide data using existing and new molecular imaging agents, while CSIRO had the technological expertise to develop software to help analyse these agents and identify the successful ones.
“At the moment it takes a great deal of time to analyse imaging agents,” Dr Gregoire said.
“This is delaying the development of new and more sophisticated radiotracers to aid quick diagnosis and ultimately faster treatment of major diseases.
“The quicker we can ascertain a viable product the quicker it can be used in humans.”
She said the CSIRO biomedical imaging team at the Australian e-Health Research Centre would focus on image processing algorithms and software tools that were dedicated to in-vivo functional and anatomical imaging techniques.
CSIRO team leader Dr Olivier Salvado said CSIRO would develop new imaging analysis methods to accelerate the discovery of imaging agents by automatically identifying organs from small rodents, and computing their affinity with tissues and targets.
Dr Salvado and Dr Gregoire said the collaboration had two key objectives: to accelerate the screening of newly developed ANSTO radiotracers, and improve the characterisation of the best existing radiotracers through their ability to detect early changes in diseases and to follow-up the progression or recovery of diseases in animal models.
“Ultimately if we can improve and develop better radiopharmaceuticals for use in humans, there will be earlier diagnosis and treatment of disease,” Dr Gregoire said.
8 July, 2008
War memorials win fight for recognition
Memorials to Australian war heroes across the country are now eligible for formal recognition following the passage of new laws through Federal Parliament.
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said the new rules meant memorials outside Canberra would be recognised and the first would be one for Australian Ex-Prisoners of War in the Victorian city of Ballarat.
“The Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, built by the people of Ballarat, is a great tribute to the suffering and survival of Australian prisoners of war,” Mr Griffin said.
“Once the Bill receives Royal Assent, I will write to the Prime Minister and inform him that I am satisfied that the Ballarat memorial meets the criteria for consideration under the legislation and seek his agreement to declare the memorial a National Memorial.”
MP for Ballarat, Catherine King said once the legislation became law the people of Ballarat and the ex-prisoners of war community would be another step closer to having their memorial recognised as a National Memorial.
“I would like to recognise the Ballarat RSL, the Ex-Prisoners of War Association, and the City and people of Ballarat for their tireless efforts – their hard work is the real reason this monument will be recognised nationally,” Ms King said.
Mr Griffin said Australia had many fine war memorials that represented and commemorated the service and sacrifice of its fighting men and women, but cautioned that approval to be listed as a National Memorial would not be given to all memorials.
“There are strict eligibility criteria that memorials must meet before being considered under this legislation,” he said.
“The eligibility criteria include requirements that a memorial be of an appropriate scale, design and standard, and be dignified and symbolic,” he said.
“It must be a memorial for the sole purpose of commemorating a significant aspect of Australia’s wartime history and have a major role in community commemorations.”
In addition, the memorial must be owned or managed by an authority at the State, Territory or Local Government level and be maintained by that authority. He said if Local, State or Territory Governments who were responsible for a war memorial felt that it was eligible for national status, they were welcome to make an application for consideration.
Mr Griffin said the guidelines would soon be published on www.dva.gov.au to assist organisations interested in undertaking the process.
8 July, 2008
ACMA calls up new phone numbers
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has introduced a range of new geographic prefixes for telephone numbers in parts of NSW, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
According to the Acting General Manager of ACMA’s Inputs to Industry Division, Maureen Cahill, the need for new telephone numbers was growing due to increased demand for additional phone lines and competition between new telecommunications service providers.
“If a number looks unfamiliar, telephone users should check whether the number is correct rather than just replacing the new prefix with the old one,” Ms Cahill said.
She said the new numbers would only be issued to residents and businesses requesting new telephone services and no existing numbers would be affected.
She said residents and businesses would not have to change their existing telephone numbers and the new prefixes did not change the cost of calls.
Ms Cahill said however that some businesses using PABX and Commander systems might need to reprogram their systems to make calls to the new numbers and businesses should check with a customer equipment programmer if they required additional information.
ACMA provided the new telephone prefixes to the industry in 2007 and they were now being issued to consumers.
Geographic numbers are 10 digit numbers starting with (02), (03), (07) or (08), which are used for local services. Geographic numbers contain information about where the service is located, including the state and region, and may provide additional information about the general locality of the number.
In NSW, the prefix (02) 65 for Kempsey, Lord Howe Island, Muswellbrook, Singleton, Taree and Wauchope would now become (02) 55 and the (02) 68 number for Bourke, Condobolin, Coonamble, Dubbo, Forbes, Moree, Nyngan and Parkes becomes (02) 58.
In Queensland, (07) 46 for Charleville, Dalby, Dirrandandi, Goondiwindi, Inglewood, Longreach, Miles, Roma, Stanthorpe, Toowoomba and Warwick becomes (07) 45, and in South Australia, (08) 86 for Ceduna, Port Augusta, Port Pirie, Port Lincoln, Gladstone, Peterborough, Cook and Woomera becomes (07) 76 and the Northern Territory prefixes of (08) 89 for Alice Springs and Darwin becomes (08) 79.
Additional information on the new numbers can be found on ACMA’s website at www.acma.gov.au/Newnumbers
8 July, 2008
New patent rules are a good idea
New regulations governing the training and performance of patent and trade mark attorneys have been introduced by the national intellectual property manager, IP Australia.
Under the regulations, patent and trade mark attorneys would need to undertake compulsory continuing professional development activities each year to ensure they remain skilled to provide the best IP advice to Australian innovators.
The regulations change the pre-registration requirements for patent attorneys with a focus on a more skills-based approach to result in attorneys being better placed to provide high-quality assistance.
Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr said the intellectual property environment was always changing “…and it was important innovators had access to professional services which kept pace with the changes.
“Continuing professional development is essential,” Senator Carr said.
He said while many Australians sought to obtain IP protection without assistance from an attorney, the value of an attorney should not be underestimated.
“In the area of patenting, there is a real skill in ensuring the patent application is drafted in a way that offers the best protection for the inventor,” he said
“Robust IP protection is a critical foundation for business – if the foundations are weak, there may be difficulties in the future.
“Major problems can result if you fail to get IP issues right from the start,” Senator Carr said.
8 July, 2008
AusAID photos show aids to assistance
A photographic display being shown by Australia’s Agency for International Development (AusAID) reflects the nation’s international commitment to rebuilding people’s lives and alleviating suffering after disaster strikes.
The exhibition, Relief in Sight, was opened in Hobart by Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr.
“The exhibition is offering Tasmanians a rare insight into the role of volunteers and relief workers in restoring communities following disasters in the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr Kerr said.
“Without financial assistance from international donors such as AusAID, it is extremely difficult for communities to recover from a disaster.
“The loss of tools and essential work animals as well as the destruction and devastation caused to infrastructure, land and livelihoods is unimaginable.”
Mr Kerr said Relief in Sight explored the vulnerability and the strength of those affected by disasters.
He said one image that highlighted this was Unbroken which told the story of a young boy who bravely returned to his destroyed home in search of lost toys following the tsunami in the Solomons.
AusAID developed the exhibition with the help of World Vision, Australian Red Cross, SurfAid International, Red R Australia, Caritas Australia and Oxfam Australia.
The exhibition features a series of images of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami by award-winning Australian photographers Stephen Dupont and Rob Maccoll.
More information can be found at www.reliefinsight.com.au
8 July, 2008
Competition watchdog to get more teeth
Changes to the trade practices law could see the competition regulator enjoy much stronger powers to protect small business from the predatory practices of their larger competitors.
Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Graeme Samuel said the changes would overturn 30 years of market power misuse and inconsistent interpretation of the law by the Courts.
Mr Samuel said after decades of inconsistent interpretation of the Trade Practices Act and its predatory pricing and misuse of market power provisions, the Government was now preparing to remove blockages in the law that would allow the regulator to take more effective action on behalf of small businesses.
He said the ACCC had been actively working to assist small business on a number of fronts from protecting them from cartels, bullying conduct, misleading conduct and scams.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC took a holistic approach that recognised that small businesses were also consumers.
“Protecting their welfare means dealing with a number of issues, from scams to cartels, to bullying by other businesses,” he said.
“As spending contracts, businesses are likely to feel this pressure and are increasingly looking to the Trade Practices Act to ensure they are being adequately protected from unfair trading practices.”
He said with the strengthening of laws against the misuse of market power and predatory pricing, the ACCC was well placed to build on the strong work it already did to assist small businesses and give them an even better opportunity than they currently had to grow and prosper in a competitive market.
“Having long expressed their frustration at the inability of the predatory pricing provisions of the Trade Practices Act, and the lack of successful cases, small businesses are having some of those concerns now addressed,” he said.
“By identifying the real impediments that have prevented the law from functioning properly, the Government is promising to clear aside the last remaining major blockages that have prevented more successful cases from flowing.”
8 July, 2008
New APSED out
A revised APS Employment Database (APSED) manual 2008 is now available from the Australian Public Service Commission.
The main change relates to the way in which Agencies report data on temporary assignments to APSED.
There is also an updated definition of disability status.
Further information can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
ABC launches Hollowmen
GG website a winner
PS to strike for pay
CPSU backs women
War Memorial on holidays
Whale agreement signed
NT coin in mint condition
Tourism appoints agency
Retirees’ review points to new index
The indexation arrangements of Australian Government superannuation schemes are to be reviewed following years of campaigning by retired Public Servants.
Minister for Superannuation, Senator Nick Sherry announced the review, saying it would examine all Australian Government civilian and military superannuation schemes that were indexed to increases in the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
He said these schemes included the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme (CSS), the Public Sector Superannuation Scheme (PSS), the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Scheme (DFRDB), the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Scheme (DFRB), the Military Superannuation and Benefits Scheme (MSBS), the scheme under the Superannuation Act 1922 and the scheme under the Papua New Guinea (Staffing Assistance) (Superannuation) Regulations.
He said the review would be undertaken by actuary, Trevor Matthews, a former member of the Insurance and Superannuation Commission.
Senator Sherry said he had asked Mr Matthews to report on whether the purpose of indexation in the schemes met the obligations of the Australian Government as an employer and whether using the CPI to index the pensions was an appropriate measure and whether there were more appropriate measures.
He said the review would have regard to:
Senator Sherry said the Government had promised during the election campaign to review indexation arrangements for Government pensions and this move was in keeping with that pledge.
He said the review would commence this month and be completed by December.
Submissions from the public would be received until 19 July and Mr Matthews would hold public hearings on 8 and 9 July.
The address for submissions or comments was the Pension Indexation Review Secretariat, Department of Finance and Deregulation, John Gorton Building, King Edward Terrace, Parkes ACT 2600 or by email to email@example.com
Senator Sherry said the Terms of Reference for the Review were at www.finance.gov.au/super
1 July, 2008
Conduct warning for Ministerial staff
A code of conduct for Ministerial staff has been published.
Special Minister of State, Senator John Faulkner announced the new measure, saying it would apply to all staff employed under the Members of Parliament Staff Act 1984 and come into effect immediately.
“The Code reflects this Government’s commitment to integrity,” Senator Faulkner said, “and our expectations that Ministerial staff, who play such an important role working within Government, will understand and meet high standards in carrying out their duties.
“Further, to the extent that the Code deals with the relationships between Ministerial staff and the Australian Public Service, the Government’s goal of restoring the Westminster tradition will be advanced.”
He said the Code required Ministerial staff to behave honestly and with integrity and to perform their duties with care and diligence.
He said it also dealt with conflicts of interest and would require all Ministerial staff to provide statements of private interests to their employing Ministers.
The receipt of gifts and sponsored travel would need to be declared in writing to Ministers, and any outside employment would only be permitted with the written agreement of the relevant Minister.
Senator Faulkner said Ministerial staff would be expected to meet appropriate standards of behaviour in their dealings with others.
“In relation to the Australian Public Service, the Code requires that Ministerial staff be aware of the Values and Code of Conduct that bind Public Servants and the employees of Parliamentary Departments,” he said.
“I regard this requirement as an important element of the Code that will, as I have said, assist in strengthening the Westminster tradition under which the respective roles of ministerial staff and Public Servants are understood and respected.”
He said the Code also made clear that Ministerial staff in their own right did not have the power to direct APS employees.
Senator Faulkner said the Prime Minister had already indicated that Ministerial staff would not be authorised to make executive decisions as they were the preserve of Ministers and Public Servants.
“This Government believes that within Ministers’ offices, it is Ministers who must make executive decisions, and it is Ministers who are and who should be accountable for those decisions,” Senator Faulkner said.
1 July, 2008
FOI files detained at Immigration
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has defended itself against an Ombudsman’s report that found it was slow responding to Freedom of Information requests.
Ombudsman, Professor John McMillan, found DIAC had a “growing problem” of meeting FOI time limits, which was disadvantaging members of the public.
The Secretary of DIAC, Andrew Metcalfe, said however the Department had made significant improvements in its FOI response time and was already implementing all the recommendations the Ombudsman made.
“The Department has reviewed the way it conducts its business in relation to providing information to clients, particularly with a view to fulfilling information requests without going through the FOI process,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“For instance, State and Territory offices and overseas posts can now meet client requests for their international movement records outside the FOI Act after changes were made to the Migration Act. The client simply needs to approach their nearest DIAC office or post. This is likely to result in 7000 fewer FOI requests each year.”
Mr Metcalfe said the Department was providing intensive education to staff, along with clients and their representatives, on how to gain access to original documents and personal information. Staff were also being trained in what could be released under the Privacy Act, which could be an alternative to the more resource-intensive FOI process.
“This ensures clients are more likely to receive the information they want in a shorter timeframe and means a more effective use of Departmental resources. It’s a better outcome for all concerned,” Mr Metcalfe said.
“I welcome the Ombudsman’s advice and, indeed, we have accepted all his recommendations.”
Professor McMillan said the Ombudsman had been monitoring DIAC’s FOI processing since 2005 following complaints about delays.
“Freedom of information is a key feature of transparency and accountability in public administration,” he said. “The statutory time limits for processing requests and making decisions are an important aspect of FOI.”
He said his investigation identified a number of causes for the FOI delays in DIAC, including the increased number of FOI requests, the complexity of many of them, the number of locations at which records were held, the diffusion of data across electronic and hard copy files, poor communication between DIAC and FOI applicants, and the centralisation of FOI processing. A major problem was dealing with information under FOI which could be better dealt with as aside from the FOI Act.
The report recommended that DIAC conduct a wide-ranging review of its FOI and information disclosure processes having regard to specific recommendations in the report.
Professor McMillan said his report held lessons for all Australian Government agencies.
“Agencies must treat FOI as a core business activity that receives appropriate resourcing and managerial attention,” he said.
“FOI can impose complex demands on Agencies that require a concerted and high level response.
“There must be a cultural recognition within Government that access to information is both an important statutory right of members of the public, and an essential requirement for administrative transparency and open government.”
1 July, 2008
Ethical investment right on the money
The Government of the Australian Capital Territory is to be the first in Australia to sign up to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.
ACT Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope said by signing the Principles and not just “adopting” them, the ACT Government was publicly committing to ensuring that its investment operations incorporated environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.
“The ACT Government also commits to evaluating the effectiveness and improving the content of the Principles over time and believes that this will improve the ability of the Territory to meet its financial commitments as well as better aligning its investment activities with the broader interest of society,” Mr Stanhope said.
“I am pleased with the decisions made by the ACT Government in respect of ESG-related issues and risks for the Territory’s investments,” he said.
“These issues are at the forefront of the approach being taken by investors in incorporating consideration of ESG issues and risks, particularly government financial investments.”
Mr Stanhope said the number of global signatories to the Principles had increased over the past 12 months from approximately 200 - representing US$8 trillion - to more than 350 - representing US$13 trillion.
“I am pleased that the ACT Government will be in among the large number of good corporate citizens who have already become signatories to the UNPRI,” he said.
“The ACT Government is committed to responsible investment practice, and considering ESG issues and risks in the investment process is in line with mainstream investors.”
Mr Stanhope said the six recommendations the ACT Government had agreed to were:
1 July, 2008
Parliament House gets new playpen
Parliament House in Canberra is to add a 22-place childcare centre to its facilities.
The move was warmly welcomed by the Convenor of the Parliament House Childcare Reference Group, Senator Trish Crossin, and long-time campaigner for childcare services in the House, ACT Senator Kate Lundy.
According to Senator Crossin, Parliament House was one of the most significant work places in the country and the provision of a childcare centre “acknowledges the needs of families, particularly women, in achieving a balanced working life.”
Senator Lundy, who had campaigned for a childcare centre in Parliament House since being elected in 1996, said it was needed to serve the needs of employees with very young children.
She said the new Centre would have places available for children aged from six weeks to 18 months.
Both Senators said they were looking forward to the next challenge which was the development of a childcare facility for children up to age five.
They acknowledged the commitment by former politicians, press gallery, Parliament House employees and particularly their Labor Party colleagues for their campaigning efforts to have childcare facilities provided in Parliament House.
1 July, 2008
Mint coins new circulation policy
The Royal Australian Mint has introduced a new policy on the circulation of worn, damaged or mutilated coins.
The Mint’s new Worn and Damaged Circulating Coin Policy builds on a 2004 policy and provides advice and guidance to the public, businesses and other organisations about handling damaged coins.
According to the Chief Executive of the Mint, Janine Murphy, the aim was to ensure that only high quality coins remained in circulation.
“The new policy will assist in the effective removal of mutilated coins from circulation,” Ms Murphy said, “which maintains confidence in Australia’s currency and makes it more difficult to pass counterfeit coins.”
She said the circulation of worn, damaged or mutilated coins also hindered the smooth operation of coin-operated and coin-handling machines, and the new policy would help to address that.
She said worn, damaged and some mutilated coins could be deposited with an Authorised Deposit Taking Institution (such as a bank) and depositors would be credited with full value in most cases.
“However, depositors of mutilated coins will be required to complete a ‘Mutilated Coin Claim Form’ which their Authorised Deposit Taking Institution will forward to the Mint for processing,” Ms Murphy said.
“The Mint will accept these deposits if the claim form is completed in full and the coins are identifiable and suitable for recycling into new coins.
“A scrap value less a handling and administration fee will be paid to the depositor through their ADI after a mutilated coin claim has been accepted.”
She said the Royal Australian Mint did not accept deposits of coins directly from individuals, organisations or businesses.
The new policy would replace the “Mutilated Coin Policy” which was designed to help manage the risk to the integrity of Australia’s currency from the importation of large volumes of mutilated coins.
1 July, 2008
Carbon watchdog gets down and dirty
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a series of guides to assist consumers judge claims that products were “carbon neutral”.
ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel launched the aids saying there was a growing trend in the market to make claims about carbon neutrality and consumers were becoming increasingly concerned by them.
“The difficulties in understanding and verifying carbon claims give rise to concerns that consumers may be facing misleading and deceptive conduct associated with this emerging market,” Mr Samuel said.
In January this year the ACCC began consultations by inviting interested parties to respond to an Issues paper entitled ‘The Trade Practices Act and Carbon Offset Claims.’
“The ACCC consulted broadly with stakeholders including consumer groups, accreditation agencies, offset providers and corporate participants in carbon offsets schemes,” Mr Samuel said.
Carbon claims and the Trade Practices Act is a guide for business and industry and is intended to educate businesses about their obligations under the Act and to alert them to potentially problematic areas.
“The guide examines areas of concern identified in the consultation and submission process, including forward credited offsets, double counted offsets, low quality offsets and carbon neutrality.”
Mr Samuel said the Consumer Consultative Committee would have a particular interest in another guide: ‘Avoiding Hot Air: a Consumer Guide to Carbon Claims which will be published on the ACCC website as part of a new “environmental claims” section.
“This approach was taken so that complex and somewhat technical information could be broken down easily for access by consumers,” he said.
“The information addresses what carbon claims are and the ACCC’s role in regulating such claims.”
He said a list of useful links was also included.
The publications have been released in electronic format only as a way of respecting the environment and the changing policy landscape.
Mr Samuel said the ACCC was not advocating particular standards or entering the policy debate on climate change.
“Our focus is on ensuring that appropriate steps are taken by business so that claims of carbon offsets or carbon neutrality are not misleading and that these claims are clear and understandable for consumers.”
He said the ACCC had been active on “greenwashing” and since December had achieved a number of market outcomes relating to “green” claims.
He said it had issued updated guidance for businesses and industry on the use of general environmental claims in Green Marketing and the TPA as well as advice for consumers.
Mr Samuel said when doing this work, it became apparent that carbon offset claims were becoming a key area of concern.
“The ACCC guidance will provide a tool for consumers and business in navigating the sometimes murky waters of this new market,” he said.
1 July, 2008
Health tucks in Chief Nurse
Australia’s first Chief Nursing Officer has been appointed to represent the interests of the nation’s 200,000 nurses.
Health Minister, Nicola Roxon announced that the Executive Director of the Royal College of Nursing, Rosemary Bryant, would take on the role.
Ms Roxon said creation of the position was well overdue.
“There has been a Chief Medical Officer since 1985,” Ms Roxon said. “It’s time nurses got the recognition they deserve, too.”
As Commonwealth Chief Nurse (CCN), Ms Roxon said Ms Bryant would be a strong voice within Government on all issues relating to Australia’s nurses. She said she would also contribute to the maternity services review being conducted by the Government.
Ms Bryant was currently Executive Director of the Royal College of Nursing, and had worked in hospitals and community settings. She was previously the Director of Nursing Policy and Planning in the Victorian Government, and the Director of Nursing at Royal Adelaide Hospital.
Ms Roxon said he was elected as a member of the Board of the International Council of Nurses in 2001 and its Second Vice President in 2005. She has also provided advice to the World Health Organisation on nursing in Nepal.
As CCN, Ms Bryant would work towards building and strengthening the nursing profession as a career of choice.
She would also play a key role in developing a strategic and collaborative approach to national nursing policy across all jurisdictions as well as provide advice on key Government commitments, including the Government’s plan to bring 10,000 nurses into the health and aged care sectors through a combination of cash incentives and new graduate places.
1 July, 2008
Website dives in to water entitlements
A new website providing information on the Government’s water entitlement purchases is due to go live on 10 July.
The new ‘Water Entitlement Website’ would contain information on purchases made as part of the Government’s $50 million water entitlement buy-back to help return Murray-Darling Basin rivers to health.
Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong said the Water Entitlement Website would include aggregated data about each purchase including volumes, entitlement type, amount spent and water source. She said the confidentiality and privacy of sellers would be protected.
Aggregated data on current purchases would be available when the site went live, and this would be progressively refined and updated over time.
Senator Wong said the Government’s initial $50 million buy-back had secured entitlements to 35 billion extra litres of water for Murray-Darling Basin rivers from willing sellers. She said this was the first ever direct purchase of water by the Federal Government for the Murray-Darling Basin.
“Purchasing water from willing sellers is a crucial step in supporting healthy rivers and tackling the effects of climate change,” Senator Wong said, “priorities under the Government’s Water for the Future plan.”
She said a Stakeholder Consultative Committee had been appointed to assist in evaluating the success of purchases and to provide feedback on the design and implementation of the Government’s water purchase program into the future.
“Our water purchase program will mean that rivers in the Basin will get a greater share of water as it becomes available.”
She said under Water for the Future, the Government had set aside $3.1 billion to purchase water to put back in Murray-Darling Basin rivers.
In addition, the Government was investing $5.8 billion in sustainable irrigation infrastructure and initiatives to help communities make early adjustments ahead of expected caps on water extraction from the Murray-Darling Basin.
Senator Wong said a link to the new website would be available from 10 July from www.environment.gov.au/water
1 July, 2008
Union uniting with agenda for future
The Community and Public Sector Union has embarked on an ambitious program of tackling major workplace issues and has called on its expert members to lend a hand,
CPSU National Secretary, Stephen Jones has issued an invitation to the union’s members to assist in developing policy positions, exploring options and creating frameworks for the union – and Government – of the future.
The CPSU’s “Agenda for Change” would feature a series of ‘conversations’ around the nation to build on its strategic plan, developed at a meeting of the Governing Council earlier this year.
“Because of the nature of their work, many CPSU members are directly involved in finding solutions to the big challenges Australia faces,” Mr Jones said.
“These include global warming; health reform; skills; education; workplace relations; Indigenous disadvantage; telecommunications and infrastructure.”
He said the Federal Government appeared committed to developing long-term policies to meet those challenges and a new agenda for change would be needed in the union to bring them about.
“In this environment it is clear Australia needs a properly resourced public sector made up of skilled, educated, motivated, creative and well-paid workers, who are committed to long term outcomes,” Mr Jones said.
“Over the next few months CPSU members and activists will have the opportunity to shape a new long-term agenda for change.”
He said while the union would maintain its focus on the ‘core business' of improving pay and conditions, it wanted to explore with its members the options available for tackling a range of other issues including:
“Places may be limited so interested members and delegates are encouraged to register an ‘expression of interest' online to avoid missing out.”
He said conferences would be held throughout July and August in Melbourne, Bendigo, Traralgon, Albury/Wodonga, Newcastle, Parramatta, Canberra, Townsville, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide and Hobart and the expressions of interest could be made at
1 July, 2008
Officers ship out of HMAS Creswell
The Royal Australian Navy has celebrated the 50th anniversary of its Jervis Bay naval training station, HMAS Creswell, with the graduation of 109 new officers.
Aging from 17 to 45, the new graduates had completed the 22-week New Entry Officers Course (NEOC), which prepared them for life as an officer in the Navy.
Officers graduating from the course included a former barrister and an ex-Victorian Police Officer.
Each graduate had undergone intensive training in leadership, weapons, combat survival and life onboard a Navy ship and will now move on to further training in their chosen profession.
Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Russ Shalders, reviewed the parade on what was an historic day for the RAN College.
“This is a day to celebrate the graduation of 109 new officers and I congratulate them for completing their initial training and wish them every success in their chosen fields,” Vice Admiral Shalders said.
“This is also an important year for HMAS Creswell, as it marks the 50th anniversary since naval training returned to Jervis Bay.”
He said while the RAN College at Jervis Bay dated back to 1913, it moved to the Flinders Naval Depot south of Melbourne in 1930 because of budget cuts during the Great Depression. But he said Melbourne was never regarded as the true home of officer training as it lacked the easy access to deep water, required for sail training.
Vice Admiral Shalders said that in1958 the RAN College returned to Jervis Bay with the commissioning of Creswell, which was now the site for all initial entry officer training and leadership courses for senior sailors.
$83.6 million was being spent on an extensive refit of Creswell which included a brand new purpose-built gymnasium, larger classrooms, new sea survival and combat survivability facilities, better accommodation and upgraded infrastructure.
1 July, 2008
Calling costs up for do-not-call users
The cost to telemarketers of checking which phone numbers were on the Do Not Call register and which weren’t, are to be increased.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority has announced that the fees would rise, largely because demand for the service was underestimated when the initial fee models were developed.
According to ACMA the new fee scale reflected an election promise which became a Budget decision to require the industry to fully fund the direct costs of operating the Register from 1 July 2008.
ACMA said that before determining the new fees it consulted with industry on new arrangements and whether to spread return of over-recovered funds of $0.88 million across the next three financial years, or return them in one year, 2008-09. This over-recovery was also largely due to the demand for list-washing services being underestimated in the initial modelling.
ACMA said that consistent with the Australian Government Cost Recovery Guidelines, any over-recovered funds were required to be returned to industry.
it said that, overall, industry favoured spreading return of the over-recovered funds across the next three financial years as this would assist in minimising price fluctuations and deliver a relatively stable scale of fees for the initial four-year register contract period.
The Authority said the new fees scale entailed only a slight increase in annual subscription fees for accessing the Register in 2008-09 relative to 2007-08.
“As provided for under the Do Not Call Register Act 2006, telemarketers can submit their calling lists to the Register Operator for checking against the register. “This process of “washing” calling lists assists telemarketers to comply with the Act by avoiding registered numbers.
“To date, industry has submitted more than 1 billion telephone numbers for washing against the register.
ACMA said that since its launch a year ago, Australians had listed more than 2.4 million telephone numbers on the Do Not Call Register.
1 July, 2008
Aviation survey says safety flying high
A national survey for the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has found that the majority of Australians were confident about the safety of aviation but a sizeable number wanted CASA to supervise the airlines more closely.
A total of 78 per cent of Australians said they were completely confident or very confident about their safety when flying between Australian capital cities – up four per cent on the same survey conducted three years ago.
Sixty one per cent would like CASA to supervise the major airlines more closely to some degree.
Acting Chief Executive of CASA, Shane Carmody said the increasing confidence in air safety was extremely pleasing.
“This shows that the hard work put in by the aviation industry and CASA to maintain and improve safety standards and performance is recognised and valued,” Mr Carmody said.
“However, the results are no reason for the aviation industry or CASA to be complacent. We must continue to identify and manage risks if Australia’s high safety standards are to be maintained.”
Mr Carmody said confidence in the safety of flights in regional Australia had increased, with 64 per cent of people saying they were highly confident about their safety.
He said CASA commissioned Roy Morgan Research to conduct the national survey of attitudes to aviation safety, with 1526 people interviewed by telephone earlier this year.
He said the survey found 55 per cent of Australians believed flights between capital cities were safer than similar flights in other leading aviation nations, such as the United States. Only two per cent believed flights were less safe.
The number of people who were concerned about air safety remained very low, at five per cent – down one per cent on the 2005 survey. The reasons they gave for being worried about safety included psychological factors, mechanical problems with aircraft and human error.
The survey also found that the number of people concerned about terrorism fell from 52 per cent in 2005 to 16 per cent this year.
Fifty six per cent of the respondents said CASA was doing either a great or good job, a rating that had been steadily improving since the first survey was taken in 2000 when confidence in the regulator was measured at 33 per cent. In the 2005 survey support for CASA was also lower at 53 per cent.
Only four per cent of people said CASA was doing a poor job, another 34 per cent said the regulator was doing a reasonable job.
The survey found 92 per cent of Australians had flown during their lives and about half had flown in the past 12 months. Males were more likely to have travelled recently than women and, not surprisingly, wealthier people were more likely to have flown recently.
1 July, 2008
Curtain goes up on theatre ticket
The Canadian Government has presented the Australian National Library with an original copy of the earliest surviving document printed in Australia.
The theatre playbill, printed in 1796, advertises performances at the Theatre, Sydney, on Saturday 30 July of the same year.
It was found in the collection being held by Library and Archives Canada and was returned as a gift to the people of Australia by the Canadian Government in September last year.
The Library held a special event to mark the occasion with writer David Malouf and actor Amanda Muggleton bringing the playbill to life.
Ms Muggleton performed a piece from the advertised play, Jane Shore, while Mr Malouf spoke about the colony of the time when the playbill was printed. Dr Gillian Russell from the Australian National University discussed the history of early colonial theatre.
The playbill was printed in Sydney by convict George Hughes who operated Australia’s first printing press which came out with the First Fleet. It is believed that First Fleet Marine Officer and later third Governor of the NSW colony, Philip Gidley King, took the playbill with him when he visited England in 1796.
Director-General of the Australian National Library, Jan Fullerton, described the playbill gift as “extraordinarily generous and highly significant to the people of Australia”.
“The playbill will have a special place alongside other key documents such as Cook’s Endeavour Journal, William Bligh’s notebook and Eddie Mabo’s papers in our new Treasures Gallery due to open in 2010,” Ms Fullerton said.
The Canadian High Commissioner, Michael Leir, said he was very proud of the role Canada had played in returning an item of such historical significance to the people of Australia.
“Its repatriation is a reflection of Canada and Australia’s common heritage and strong historical links,” Mr Leir said.
“The playbill celebration marks another example of our enduring relationship which continues to bring our two countries closer together.”
1 July, 2008
Runway builder is runaway winner
The builder of the first aircraft runway in Antarctica has been awarded the 2008 Australian Antarctic Medal.
Matt Filipowski was responsible for all aspects of the work during the construction of Wilkins Runway during the summers of 2003/04, 2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08 and spent almost 90 per cent of his time in Antarctica at the runway site.
According to Environment Minister Peter Garrett, Mr Filipowski’s efforts had delivered an outstanding new capability for Australia’s Antarctic program.
“We will be able to do new and important science in Antarctica that would not have been possible in the past,” Mr Garrett said.
He said the landing of the first intercontinental jet aircraft at Wilkins Runway on 10 December 2007 and the arrival of the first official passengers on 10 January 2008 were historic milestones in Australia’s Antarctic endeavours. The last two continents on earth to be linked by an air passenger service were finally united.
“Matt has developed a vast knowledge of Antarctic operations and his leadership in the field has been of the highest order,” Mr Garrett said. “He is an exceptional example to expeditioners, and during the long, hard slog to build the runway he maintained a positive outlook in often difficult circumstances.”
Mr Garrett said The Australian Antarctic Medal was established in 1987 as an award in the Meritorious Service Awards category of the Australian Honours System. The Australian Antarctic Medal replaced the (British) Imperial Polar Medal and its variations which dated back to 1857 for service in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.
1 July, 2008
Veterans’ Council stands for attention
when the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, visits each State for talks in the coming weeks.
Mr Griffin plans to seek the views of veterans on the best way to give them a more effective voice at the highest levels of government.
“More than 100 individuals and organisations from all around Australia responded to a discussion paper on the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council on Ex-Service Matters released earlier this year,” Mr Griffin said.
“Their submissions demonstrate very strong support for the Advisory Council and its role, but have raised issues that need further discussion.”
He said there were a number of options on the table, including membership, appointment of the chair, how matters were referred to the Council, how it should operate and how it related to his Department.
“The Government is also reviewing all consultation mechanisms between the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the broader defence and ex-service communities.”
He said he wanted to ensure the Council met the needs of veterans and current and former serving members before its establishment later this year. These consultation meetings with veterans and the veteran community were essential to achieve that goal.
“I expect there will be a range of opinions and robust discussion, but I know that we all share a common goal of looking out for the best interests of all those who have served Australia in uniform,” Mr Griffin said.
“I encourage all veterans and members of the veteran community interested in the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council to attend the meetings and contribute.”
After consulting, he expects to be able to name the Advisory Council by the end of August. The consultation meetings would be held in each capital city during July and early August and further details, including copies of submissions, were available at www.minister.dva.gov.au
1 July, 2008
Science awards multiplies
More than 80 nominations have been received for this year’s Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science.
Regarded as the nation’s most prestigious science and science teaching awards, the winners will be announced at a dinner in the Great Hall of Parliament House on Thursday, 16 October with ABC presenter, Bernie Hobbs the MC.
Fraud statistics tell truth
Nearly $1 billion has been as lost as a result of personal fraud according to a study by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The first National Personal Fraud Survey found that 453,100 Australians lost on average $2,160 as a result of personal fraud in the past 12 months.
A total of 806,000 Australians reported they were victims of at least one incident of personal fraud in the past year with half a million Australians experienced some form of identity fraud.
Australia’s median age has increased to 36.8 years in the year ended June 2007, up from 35.9 years in 2002, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The median is the age at which half the population is older and half is younger.
The bureau also reported that Australia’s sex ratio (the number of males per 100 females) increased from 98.5 males per 100 females in 2002 to 98.8 males per 100 females in 2007.
Future Fund plunge
A transfer of $3.9 billion has been made to the Future Fund bringing the total value of its assets to $65 billion.
The transfer was the result of the collection of the Telstra 3 final instalment. With the Future Fund on track to fully-fund superannuation liabilities for Australian Government employees by 2020, the Government has indicated that future surpluses may be directed to other Government priorities, such as the three new nation building funds.
Reality check at ACCC
ASIC adds two
Battle day remembered
MyTime pilots supported
Passport ID improved