SearchArchives for July 2009
28 July, 2009
New accountability to
The Australian Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs, has called for a rethink on PS accountability systems to accommodate the diverse, joined-up and innovative approaches to policy implementation facing the public sector.
clear way for future
Speaking to the International Society for Systems Sciences in Brisbane, Commissioner Briggs said traditional bureaucracy, with traditional accountability and performance management processes was not well-adapted to the complex, whole-of-Government or cross-Government situations the modern Public service was being called on to deal with.
“In today’s environment, Public Servants are being asked to be more adaptive and inclusive,” Commissioner Briggs said, “yet in many cases they resort to traditional problem solving techniques.”
“The challenge for the Australian Public Service is to improve accountability in a manner that does not constrain our ability to provide advice and services in an innovative and agile way.”
She said when Government Departments or Agencies were operating alone and dealing with relatively straightforward problems, the traditional accountability and performance frameworks worked very well.
“Accountability problems arise when performance managed bureaucracies are asked to work across organisational or jurisdictional boundaries on joint problems that are complex in the sense of being decentralised or ambiguous,” she said.
“Accountability and performance management arrangements need to be taken into account in designing policy, because these influence how problems are understood and addressed.”
Commissioner Briggs said although there was a pressing need for more flexibility in PS management arrangements to cope with the new approaches, she was not calling for wholesale change
“Not all Public Servants will need to work in these ways all the time, and some staff may not be affected at all,” she said.
“But many Public Servants will be asked to deliver complex solutions in extremely short timeframes. Others will be confronted by ambiguous and complex problems at some point in their career.”
She said many will be required support Agencies in their struggle to find ways through new problems and to develop innovative ways of working.
“I am not suggesting that we need to give up on accountability and performance management, even for the most complex and ambiguous problems,” Commissioner Briggs said.
“I am convinced, however, that if the Australian Public Service is to meet its future challenges, we need to refine our accountability systems.”
The full text of Commissioner Briggs’s address can be accessed on the APSC website www.apsc.gov.au
28 July, 2009
The redundancy entitlements of staff of the Australian Public Service with prior service in the ACT Public Service may be affected by changes to the ACT Government’s Public Sector Management Standards.
on payout pay
A Circular issued by the Australian Public Service Commission says the ACT has discontinued its practice of contributing redundancy payments to APS staff with prior service in the ACT and this may impact on some APS staff.
The Circular, No. 2009/5, says the ACT Commissioner for Public Administration ceased offering the payments from10 June of this year and this was likely to affect the calculation of redundancy benefits fro certain APS employees.
The Circular says the entitlement of APS staff who joined the ACTPS when it was set up in 1994, and then elected to rejoin the APS, were not affected.
“Agency agreements and other instruments setting terms and conditions of employment will normally specify what types of prior service will be recognised as service for redundancy pay purposes,” the APSC Circular says.
“Historically, the APS-wide redundancy provisions … have provided that prior service with a State or Territory Public Service (including the ACTPS) will not be recognised for the calculation of an employee’s APS redundancy benefit.”
It says however that until 10 June, the ACT Government accepted that it could contribute to the redundancy payments of APS employees with prior ACTPS service who had returned to the APS and were then made redundant by their APS Agency.
It says this was a pro-rata amount and made in respect of the period of ACTPS service only.
“Recent changes to the Public Sector Management Standards means that the ACT will no longer contribute to an APS redundancy benefit where the APS employee has prior service with the ACTPS,” the Circular says.
It says however that the ACTPS would continue its long-standing recognition of prior APS service in cases where an employee is made redundant by their ACTPS agency.
“Employees moving to the ACTPS should be encouraged to confirm with their new employing agency what prior service will be recognised and what entitlements will carry over.”
The Circular suggests Departments and Agencies direct any enquiries to the APSC’s Employment Policy Adviceline (02) 6202 3859 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org but that they raise any specific questions about the ACT’s decision with the Employment Policy section of the ACT Chief Minister’s Department on (02) 6205 2664.
The Circular can be accessed at the APSC website, www.apsc.gov.au
28 July, 2009
Crackdowns on tax avoidance have raised over $313 million in liabilities and penalties, according to Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry.
tax take up
Senator Sherry said the audit results and other key details of the two programs used to target tax cheats had been published by the Australian Taxation Office in an online magazine.
He said the publication, Targeting Tax Crime, highlighted the whole-of-Government approach to fighting tax abuse.
“The tentacles of tax crime reach around the globe - and the Australian Government is at the forefront of international efforts against these illegal and immoral practices,” Senator Sherry said.
He said during the year ending 30 June 2009, Project Wickenby, which targeted a range of tax avoidance schemes such as the use of off shore tax havens, raised $230 million in tax liabilities and collected $40 million in cash.
Through Project Wickenby $159 million in tax was also collected from people in subsequent years.
Senator Sherry said ‘phoenix’ practices had also been targeted, raising over $83 million in tax and penalties within Australia.
“Phoenix companies are those which deliberately go into liquidation to avoid tax and other responsibilities, such as superannuation payments and service leave entitlements owed to employees,” he said.
“They then re-emerge as another corporate entity, but with largely the same management.”
Senator Sherry said tax avoiders involved in phoenix operations denied vital funds to Australian public services by cheating employees of wages, superannuation and other entitlements.
To date Project Wickenby has raised $406 million in tax liabilities and collected $117 million in cash.
Senator Sherry said Wickenby Agencies had also been responsible for restraining $76 million of assets under proceeds of crime legislation.
“The Rudd Government boosted the fight against tax crime in the Budget, with $122 million extra funding for Project Wickenby investigations over the next three years,” he said.
Targeting Tax Crime was available from www.ato.gov.au
28 July, 2009
PS blogger in line
An Australian Public Servant has been nominated for the international Top 10 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics award.
for online award
Craig Thomler, an Online Communications Manager for the Department of Human Services, was shortlisted for his blog, eGov AU.
Coordinated by PoliticsOnline and the World eDemocracy Forum, the award’s website says it aims to recognise “innovators and pioneers, the dreamers and doers who bring democracy online” and who influenced the world of ePolitics in 2009.
Mr Thomler, who has been in the Public Service for three years, said it was an honour to be nominated for the award.
“I noticed there was a lot of Government momentum to progress e-Government,” he said.
“I set out the blog to reach out and get some dialogue to occur between Public Servants on the Government’s agenda.”
Mr Thomler said initially attitudes towards his blog had been cautious as there were no guidelines in place regarding Public Servants utilising such a forum (though they have since been put in place).
He said he had originally based his guidelines on those from other countries such as the United States.
With 15 years’ experience working in an online capacity, Mr Thomler said he believed the internet played a major role in promoting communication between the Public Service and the community.
“The Government has made it clear it is supportive of the Public Service’s engagement with this media,” he said.
“I think the whole online sector is new and the biggest thing I’m looking at is how the Government moves towards greater advocacy of innovation across the sector.”
Mr Thomler said he thought some Public Servants avoided using online tools such as Twitter and YouTube because they were uncertain of guidelines.
“There is now a lot of guidance. This is a space we’re not going to get far in if we’re just talking…we have to use the tools,” he said.
“This is where our community is. It’s where our citizens are.”
Mr Thomler said Public Servants should visit www.apsc.gov.au or www.agimo.gov.au for more information on using online interactive tools.
28 July, 2009
The Australian Law Reform Commission is to develop a national legal framework to help tackle family violence.
to have impact
The ALRC welcomed the announcement by Federal Attorney General, Robert McClelland and the NSW Minister for Women and Acting Attorney General, Verity Firth that laws dealing with domestic violence, child protection, sexual assault and family affairs would be reviewed.
The Ministers said the report would address inconsistencies between Commonwealth and State laws.
President of the ALRC, Emeritus Professor David Weisbrot, said the current legal frameworks regarding family violence needed to be improved.
Professor Weisbrot said it was essential that the laws operated as effectively and consistently as possible.
“The protection of women and children is predominantly dealt with under State and Territory family and domestic violence laws and child protection laws,” he said.
“These laws vary across the jurisdictions, which may result in women and children being subject to different levels of protection depending upon where they live.”
Professor Weisbrot said there could also be problems with recognising and enforcing apprehended violence orders across State and Territory borders.
“Another key issue is how these laws interact with Commonwealth laws touching on family violence, such as the Family Law Act,” he said.
“The ALRC will explore whether the complexity of Australia’s federal system causes problems, such as inconsistent or incompatible protective orders; any duplication of effort by Federal, State and Territory Courts; or any gaps or inadequacies in the cooperation between those Courts and State and Territory Agencies.
“We will be working closely with our counterparts in NSW and around the country to ensure the adoption of an effective and truly national approach to these critical issues.”
Under the new Terms of Reference the ALRC will focus the interaction of State and Territory family violence and child protection laws and the impact of inconsistent interpretation or application of laws in cases of sexual assault occurring in a family violence context.
Community involvement in the review is being facilitated through the ALRC’s ‘Talk to Us’ website and planned future consultation papers.
The report is to be completed by July 2010 and will form part of a National Action Plan to address violence against women and children.
It follows the Time for Action report which was conducted by the National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children.
The Time for Action Report found there was a high level of complexity between Commonwealth and State laws aimed at protecting women and children.
28 July, 2009
Post Office wants
Australia Post has lodged an application to increase the basic postage rate by five cents.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will consider the proposal and will call for public submissions before making its decision.
Under the proposal, the basic postage rate would increase to 60 cents, effective from early 2010.
Group Manager of Letters for Australia Post, Allan Robinson said the increase would only be the third in 18 years.
“While we understand no-one likes a price rise, our history shows we only seek an increase to continue providing equitable access to basic letter services for all Australians,” Mr Robinson said.
“If the basic postage rate had kept pace with inflation over the last two decades, the price of the 55 cent stamp would actually now be 70 cents.”
He said the increase was needed to keep up with population growth in western Sydney, south-east Melbourne, south east Queensland and parts of Western Australia.
Mr Robinson said the growth would add 2.5 million new delivery points to the postal system over the 10 years.
“This growth is the equivalent to another Queensland or nearly four Adelaides being added to Australia Post’s network,” he said.
“At the same time, costs keep increasing, and growth in letters volumes has levelled out over the last five years, with a fall this year in line with general economic conditions.”
Mr Robinson said even with the proposed increase, Australia Post made no profit from its reserved letter service, with the cost of providing the basic postage service exceeding what many Australians paid.
“To send a stamped letter from Brisbane to Perth costs 71 cents, not the 55 cents paid,” he said.
“Australia’s basic postage rate would still be the third lowest in the OECD following the proposed increase.
“Australians have access to one of the most affordable and reliable letter services in the world.”
28 July, 2009
Health Week returns
Veterans’ Health Week has been reinstated, with the Minister announcing it will be held from 24 to 30 August.
for returned soldiers
Minister for Veterans Affairs, Alan Griffin said it would be the first time in eight years the event would take place.
Mr Griffin said it was an important initiative because it promoted a healthy lifestyle to veterans and their families.
“In a study of the health and wellbeing of Australian veterans, war widows and widowers, almost half (49 per cent) said they tried to make at least one change to improve their health in the past 12 months,” he said.
“Veterans’ Health Week is an opportunity to take a positive step to improve health and fitness, which can have significant long term benefits.”
Mr Griffin said the theme of the Week was ‘physical activity’ and aimed to encourage members of the veteran community to take part in regular exercise to live a stronger, healthier and happier life.
“Veterans’ Health Week highlights the importance of including physical activities as part of a regular routine, regardless of age or fitness level,” he said.
“During the Week, the veteran community can participate in walking groups, dance classes, laughter workshops, team sports and concerts as well as gain access to information on safety and health issues.”
Mr Griffin encouraged veterans to mark the Week in their calendars and to keep an eye out for activities in their area.
He said the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the local Veterans’ Affairs Network and the Veteran and Veterans Families Counselling Service offices had partnered with ex-service organisations to develop programs and events.
For more information go to www.dva.gov.au or to find out how to organise an event, contact the Department of Veterans’ Affairs on 133 254 (for metropolitan callers) or 1800 555 254 (for non-metropolitan callers). Northern Territory should call 1300 551 918.
28 July, 2009
Former Senator, Professor Robert Hill has been appointed Chair of the Australian Carbon Trust Board.
done and dusted
The Australian Carbon Trust is a new body that was established to help households reduce their carbon pollution.
The Trust’s headquarters are to be located in Brisbane, which is also home to the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility at Griffith University.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said Professor Hill would work with the Board to manage and implement the Trust’s two initiatives: the Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund and the Energy Efficiency Trust.
Mr Rudd said the Energy Efficiency Savings Pledge Fund would provide households with a web-based calculator so they could calculate their energy use and how much money they could save through energy efficiency activities.
“Individuals will be able to pledge the resulting savings, or any other amount, to the Pledge Fund to buy and cancel carbon pollution permits,” he said.
“This will enable individuals to directly contribute to achieving Australia's emissions reduction targets.”
Mr Rudd said the Pledge Fund would be entirely voluntary and contributions would be tax deductible.
He said the Energy Efficiency Trust would bring together public and private seed funding, business skills and culture and technical knowledge to aid investment in energy efficiency activities in commercial buildings and other business operations.
Mr Rudd said it would be developed in collaboration with the United Kingdom’s Carbon Trust.
The Australian Carbon Trust is expected be incorporated as a public company within the next six months, and a Board of Directors appointed.
Professor Hill was the Minister for the Environment from 1996 to 2001.
He recently returned from his post as Ambassador to the United Nations and is currently an Adjunct Professor in Sustainability at the University of Sydney’s US Studies Centre
28 July, 2009
Voting no barrier to
The Australian Institute of Marine Science is encouraging people to cast a vote for the Great Barrier Reef, which has been named as a finalist for the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature.’
The Great Barrier Reef has progressed to stage three of the process, making it one of 28 finalists that will be decided by a global popular vote.
CEO of the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Dr Ian Poiner said the Reef belonged among the wonders of the world.
Dr Poiner said AIMS understood the Reef was of “immense cultural and economic importance to Australia” and contributed around $5.8 billion to Australia's economy each year through tourism, agriculture, minerals, fishing and shipping.
“To us, the naming of the Great Barrier Reef as a 7 Wonder finalist makes perfect sense,” he said.
“We know how important it is, how vital it is to Australia’s economy, environment and culture and how vulnerable it is to change.
“It is also, without any doubt, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.”
Dr Poiner said marine scientists were drawn to the Reef due to its research challenges.
“From such inspiration have come many new insights into how coral reef ecosystems operate,” he said.
Dr Poiner said AIMS operated the Long-term Monitoring Program to regularly check on the health of the Reef and provide information on population trends in key groups of organisms.
He said the Institute was also rolling out the Great Barrier Reef Ocean Observing System which would provide a ‘digital skin’ for the Reef, and allow for more accurate forecasting and improved understanding of the processes that sustained the Reef’s biodiversity.
Dr Poiner said AIMS also ran water quality research programs to support Reef management and conservation and to ensure marine, coastal and catchment resources were used appropriately.
To cast a vote for the Reef, go to www.new7wonders.com
28 July, 2009
Mint aims high
The Royal Australian Mint has commemorated the 40th anniversary of the moon landing by issuing a 50 cent coin.
for moon coin
The new dodecagonal 50 cent coin will be a collector piece and will not be released into circulation.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Mint, Graham Smith said as the 50 cent coin had been in circulation for 40 years, it seemed a fitting way to mark the moon landing.
“Some of the first pictures from the Moon’s surface were sent around the world from Honeysuckle Creek near Canberra and the Royal Australian Mint is proud to officially launch its newest coin to celebrate this occasion,” Mr Smith said.
“Watched by six hundred million people, it is still a classic memory for many and I am pleased to release a coin which gives each Australian the opportunity to hold a piece of history in their own hands.”
He said the coin had been buried in a time capsule at Honeysuckle Creek along with other memorabilia, which will be dug up to mark the 100 year anniversary of Apollo 11 in 2069.
Mr Smith said the original 50 cent piece, which had been round and made of silver, was changed in 1969 to a cupro-nickel 12 sided coin to save money and make it easier to distinguish from the 20 cent coin.
“The large diameter of the 50 cent coin has been a grand canvas to create numerous commemorative designs over the past years,” he said.
“Coins from the Royal Australian Mint, and the themes they acknowledge, are always great mementoes of our rich and proud heritage and culture.”
The 2009 50 cent 40th Anniversary of Moon Landing coin was designed by Caitlin Goodall and depicts the lunar module in space on its way to Tranquillity base on the Moon.
Further information was available from www.ramint.gov.au
28 July, 2009
Families step out for
National Stepfamily Awareness Day was held on 26 July to recognise the support available to families.
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen, said it was important for parents to remember children in re-partnered families often faced certain stresses.
Mr Bowen said the Child Support Agency’s booklet, Me and my Changing Family, helped stepfamilies build healthy relationships and deal effectively with the tensions and challenges of new family arrangements.
“Merging two families or bringing a new partner into an existing family can present highs and lows as everyone – parents, new partners, kids and the extended family – gets used to new arrangements,” he said.
“The impact and pressures on children who are in a new step family can be significant.”
Mr Bowen said more than 200,000 hard copies had been distributed since the CSA launched the booklet three years ago, with thousands more downloaded from the web.
Steve Martin from Stepfamilies Australia said stepfamilies were more complex than their “biological equivalents.”
“Biological families have ‘family trees’, but stepfamilies have family forests,” Mr Martin said.
“National Stepfamily Awareness day is a chance for all stepfamilies to celebrate their success in creating, sustaining and nurturing their families.”
Mr Martin recommended parents obtain a copy of the CSA’s booklet or contact Stepfamilies Australia at www.stepfamily.org.au
Copies of the booklet could be downloaded from www.csa.gov.au
28 July, 2009
Program pays out
The Government is encouraging community organisations to get involved in the fight against global poverty, with the pilot of a new grant program.
on global poverty
Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan said community organisations could play an important role in spreading the anti-poverty message.
Mr McMullan said the program, Community Call to Action, would provide community organisations with up to $1.5 million in grants to raise awareness of global poverty and the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) within their communities.
“Last year the Prime Minister lent Australia’s support to the MDG Call to Action – the United Nations’ global campaign that asks people to ‘stand up’ for global poverty,” he said.
“Community Call to Action will support the global push to halve extreme poverty by 2015.”
Mr McMullan said funding would be available to organisations not already accredited by AusAID, including community groups, professional and peak bodies, membership-based not-for-profit networks and small business.
“Activities may include networking events that build links between organisations, conferences, seminars, workshops and special events,” he said.
“Some overseas development activities will be considered based on their ability to achieve good outcomes in addition to raising awareness about these important issues.”
Funding applications close on 7 September 2009, with further information available from www.ausaid.gov.au
28 July, 2009
School achievers in
High achieving year-12 students from across the country have been recognised in the Prime Minister’s Award for Skills Excellence in School.
class of their own
Designed to honour those who excel in vocational education training in schools, the Award categories include the top student in each State and Territory, top students from each represented industry area and the highest achieving Indigenous student.
The winners were selected from the highest achieving recipients of the Australian Vocational Student Prize.
The winning students received a certificate from Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and $2,000 on top of their Australian Vocational Student Prize Award.
In a joint statement, Mr Rudd and Minister for Education, Julia Gillard congratulated the students, saying the Awards promoted vocational education and training as a valuable pathway.
“The commitment of these students to learning exemplifies what the Council of Australian Governments’ Compact with Young Australians aims to achieve,” Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard said.
“The Compact encourages young Australians to realise their potential by entitling every Australian under the age of 25 to an education or training place.”
They said the Compact would help ensure young Australians had the necessary skills to play a productive role in Australia’s economic prosperity.
Winners of this year’s Awards included:
Highest Achieving Students in Industry Groups
Joanne Stevens - Mansfield Secondary College VIC (Agri-Food)
Sara Jane Janke - Chinchilla State High School QLD (Community Services and Health)
James Monks - Corrigan Assumption College VIC (Construction and Property Services)
Jesse Passon - Australian Technical College – Northern Adelaide SA (ElectroComms and Energy Utilities)
Heidi Henderson - Sheldon College QLD (Innovation and Business)
Benjamin Wheeler - Aldridge State High School QLD (Manufacturing)
Brianna Smith - Birchip P-12 School VIC (Services)
Joseph Daw - FCJ College, VIC (Transport and Logistics)
Highest Achieving Students in States and Territories
Luke Searle - St Francis Xavier College ACT
Jessica Baldwin - Bradfield Senior College NSW
Rebecca Tattingham - O'Loughlin Catholic College NT
Daniel Bunker - John Paul College QLD
Amy Michelle - Fromm Bordertown High School SA
Melanie McCoy - St Brendan Shaw-College TAS
Andrew Bennett - Ballarat Secondary College VIC
Jerrah Menary - Schools of Isolated & Distance Education WA
Highest Achieving Indigenous Student
Madilyn Yuke - Australian Technical College North Brisbane QLD
28 July, 2009
Healthy grants for
A range of new medical research projects have received funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council to help a variety of people including new born babies, Indigenous Australians, and those with sleep problems.
Six grants, totalling almost $15 million and up to $2.5 million each are to go to six new Centres for Clinical Research Excellence.
The Centres are to specialise in sleep health, with an emphasis on investigating the biology of sleep; major eye diseases; newborn medicine; oral health; and sexually transmitted and blood borne viral infections in Aboriginal Australians.
The Centres are expected to study the brains and lungs of newborn babies; rehabilitation for aphasia (the loss of ability to communicate due, for example, to brain injury); and the prevention and treatment of oral diseases.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mark Butler said the initiative would allow for high-quality clinical research to take place.
Mr Butler said the research was expected to lead to improved treatments for those attending medical facilities such as surgeries, hospitals and Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.
“The multidisciplinary research projects are patient oriented and will focus on translating the resulting evidence into practice as well as training future clinical researchers,” he said.
“Translating medical research results, or evidence, into clinical practice is one of the world’s most critical avenues for improving healthcare delivery,” Mr Butler said.
28 July, 2009
Health report shows
The National Health and Hospitals Reform Commission has reported on the state of Australia’s health system and has recommended major changes at the national and State levels.
system is unwell
Its report A Healthier Future for All Australians paints a worrying picture of the health system, claiming that public hospitals are inefficient, GP services are missing the mark, waiting lists are too long, there is a crisis in dental care and better performance data was needed to make important decisions.
Following an 18-month investigation in which it received over 800 submissions, the Commission made 123 recommendations including the establishment of a National Health Promotion Agency, a National Aboriginal Health and Torres Strait Islander Health Authority and ‘Denticare Australia’ linked to Medicare to ensure universal access to dental services.
The report was welcomed by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, who committed the Government to examining it in detail and responding in due course.
“Having reflected on the advice in the report, the Government faces three strategic options for the future,” Mr Rudd said.
“Our first option is a partial takeover of the health system.
“The second strategic option that grows from the report … (is) a second stage of reform in the full takeover of the funding for our hospitals system.
“Finally, there is a third strategic option available to the Government - one which the Commission explicitly recommends against - and that is undertaking both the above options simultaneously. This would give the Commonwealth full funding responsibility for all aspects of our health system.”
Mr Rudd said for a number of reasons, the Government would not be announcing its response to the report this year.
“The Government will leave each of these three options on the table for the next six months or so, as we engage in a detailed, direct consultation with the health sector and with communities around the nation,” he said.
“The Henry Review of our tax system reports later this year and will allow us to plan our long-term health reforms in the context of our long-term fiscal outlook, to ensure the sustainability of the health care system into the future.”
Mr Rudd said reforming the health system would be one of the hardest tasks to face the Government but the pressures of an ageing population, the need for prevention rather than cure and ensuring clear-cut delineations of responsibilities between the States and the Commonwealth demanded it be done.
The Commission’s report can be accessed at www.nhhrc.org
28 July, 2009
Schools vote for
This week is the Australian Electoral Commission’s national Enrol to Vote Week, running until 2 August in more than 1,700 secondary schools around the country.
The week involves the AEC working in partnership with the schools to encourage 17- and 18-year-old students to enrol to vote.
According to Electoral Commissioner, Ed Killesteyn, this year the AEC is focusing on increasing enrolment of 17-year-olds, adopting Enrolling to vote – something you don’t have to wait until you’re 18 to do as the theme for the week.
“Currently one in two 18-year-olds is not enrolled to vote,” Commissioner Killesteyn said, “and many 17-year-olds are not aware that they too can enrol.”
He said many 17-year-olds were still at school and likely to be eligible to vote for the first time at the next Federal election.
“We’re aiming to enrol them now so they will be automatically able to vote as soon as they turn 18,” he said.
Commissioner Killesteyn said the AEC was supporting Enrol to Vote Week with enrolment forms, educational resources, promotional materials and other information and AEC staff were visiting schools in their local area and helping students complete their enrolment forms.
He said the Week was once again well-supported by the schools with many in rural and remote areas taking part for the first time.
He said the Enrol to Vote Week website had more information about the event as well as a list of schools participating.
It could be visited at www.enroltovoteweek.aec.gov.au
28 July, 2009
Guarantee kicks in
The Guarantee of State and Territory Borrowing has commenced to help State and Territory Governments maintain their infrastructure investments.
Treasurer, Wayne Swan announced the Guarantee, saying it would support jobs and protect infrastructure development from the economic crisis.
The Guarantee will cover securities of a length up to 15 years including indexed securities and those that have cross default clauses.
Further information was available from www.stateguarantee.gov.au
Gravesite grants offered
The Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is offering grants to organisations to conserve the graves and memorial sites of eminent Australians.
It is the first time a formal avenue for maintaining the sites has been arranged, with up to $100,000 to be made available each year.
The funds will come from existing resources within the Department and can be used to conserve sites in Australia or overseas.
Heat put on hot water bottles
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has joined with State and Territory Fair Trading Offices to crack down on faulty hot water bottles.
The ACCC is to put suppliers and manufacturers on notice, with serious penalties in place for those who do not comply with safety standards.
In the past year 38 people have been hospitalised with serious burns caused by hot water bottles.
A brochure providing safety tips on hot water bottles was available from www.accc.gov.au
Lighthouse lights up
The National Maritime Museum will allow people to climb to the top of its historic lighthouse to celebrate International Lighthouse Day, which falls on 18 August.
The Sydney museum will give visitors access to the lighthouse on 16 August.
Morse Code experts will also help celebrate the day by setting up a stand to demonstrate their craft. For more information visit www.anmm.gov.au
Papua New Guinea’s Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, who cared for Australian soldiers during World War II, will be honoured with commemorative medallions.
The medallions will feature the image of a blind and barefoot Private George Whittington being helped by ‘Angel’ Raphael Oimbari, in a copy of a 1942 photograph.
The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels were Papua New Guinea citizens who carried supplies to Australian troops fighting in nearly inaccessible terrain and cared for wounded soldiers.
The Australian Government aims to honour all surviving Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.
Museum cuddles up to wool
A new exhibition at the National Museum of Australia has celebrated the history of wool.
A Fine Yarn: Innovations in Australia’s Wool Industry explores the role of wool in Australia’s social and economic history.
The exhibition focuses on the lengths the Australian wool industry has gone to in order to survive in a changing marketplace.
The exhibition is free and will be on display until 8 November, 2009.
ArtStart starts artists
Recent art school graduates will be able to apply for grants of $10,000 to help them start their careers.
The ArtStart grants aim to help young artists earn income or gain employment from their arts practice and to help them kick start their careers.
Applications for ArtStart grants are expected to close in early October 2009, with further information available from www.australiacouncil.gov.au
Indigenous programs funded
Three programs to help build successful and sustainable Indigenous communities will share $29.2 million in Government funding.
The Indigenous Broadcasting Program, the Indigenous Culture Support Program and the Maintenance of Indigenous Languages and Records Program will benefit from the grants.
Nine organisations working within the programs will receive the funding, with more information available from www.arts.gov.au
Film plans announced
Screen Australia has released its marketing programs which show a strong focus on the audience and growing the demand for Australian content.
Screen Australia has increased its budget for marketing by $2 million to help Australian productions reach a wider audience.
Screen Australia has also streamlined administration and reporting requirements.
A copy of the guidelines available from www.screenaustralia.gov.au
Trade forums coming
A new series of trade forums aimed at generating ideas for Australia’s international commercial engagement have organised by Austrade, the Committee for Economic Development and the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation.
The Trade 2020 forums will open in Melbourne on 26 August, followed by other cities before concluding in Canberra on 18 November.
The forums will look at how to better position Australia for success in the global markets such as supply chains, innovation, investment, climate change and finance
For more information visit www.austrade.gov.au
Tribunal looks at Somalia service
The independent Defence Honours and Awards Tribunal is to inquire into recognition of Australian Defence Force service in Somalia between 1992 and 1995.
The Tribunal will consider establishing a campaign medal for service in Somalia, with interested parties encouraged to make submissions before the closing date, 24 August.
Further information was available from www.defence.gov.au
Careers week for ICT
National ICT Careers Week has been launched to showcase the study and career opportunities available in information communications and technology for young people.
From 27 July to 1 August special events, activities and competitions will be available to youths interested in ICT.
For more information on event dates and locations visit www.ictcareersweek.info
21 July, 2009
PS challenged to
The Australian Public Service is facing unprecedented challenges on a number of fronts and needs to consider the next steps in its evolution according to the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Terry Moran.
Speaking to the Institute of Public Administration Australia recently Mr Moran said the rapidly ageing service, the economic crisis, the likelihood of deficit budgets ahead and the Government’s response to the global economic crisis, all added up to challenging times for the APS and ones which would have to be addressed without a great deal of spare money to spend.
“We face big challenges in the period ahead,” Mr Moran said.
“I believe we are at the point of needing to think about the next step in our evolution.”
He said the Government’s economic stimulus policies led to some of the biggest school and public housing building projects in the nation’s history, requiring close collaboration with State and Territory Governments as well as the private sector, the highest standards of probity and all in an atmosphere of getting the job done quickly.
“There was no time for business as usual,” he said, “no chance that Agencies acting alone or under conventional decision-making structures could get this job done.”
He said it revealed the challenges the modern Public Servants faced.
“They must respond swiftly - sometimes instantly - to government demands for action,” Mr Moran said.
“They must think in terms of outcomes, rather than processes.”
He said Public Servants needed to “get out of their silos, abandon turf wars, and work collaboratively across Departments” as well as with State and Territory Governments and the private sector.
“They must tackle challenges that are increasingly complex,” he said, “often global in nature.”
He pointed to climate change, water shortages, the economic crisis and swine flu as examples of policies demanding cross-border and cross-discipline responses.
“Public servants must also take a responsible but bolder approach to risk, recognising that governing always involves choices between competing priorities.”
Mr Moran said that to meet these challenges, the APS needed to improve.
“I would like us to unashamedly aspire to be the best Public service in the world,” he said.
“I think this is something we can do. But to do so, we will need to do better in four fundamental areas.”
He said those four areas were:
He said despite the challenges ahead and the improvements in the wind, the APS was well equipped to meet them.
- The quality of policy advice to Government must improve;
- The focus on service delivery must be strengthened;
- The APS must work tirelessly to put the citizen at the centre of programs and policies; and
- It must strive to attract and retain the highest quality people.
“My simple message is this – the Australian Public Service is not broken. It is not a renovator’s opportunity,” Mr Moran said.
21 July, 2009
Signing is good sign
The Department of Human Services has signed a Statement of Commitment to Reconciliation to demonstrate the importance of improving social, economic and cultural outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
for DHS commitment
The Human Services Portfolio consists of the Child Support Program and the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service Australia, along with Medicare, Centrelink and Australian Hearing.
Secretary of DHS, Helen Williams and the Heads of portfolio Agencies signed the Statement in the presence of the Chief Executive of Reconciliation Australia, Paul O’Callaghan.
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said the Statement committed the Human Services Portfolio to working collaboratively to improve service options and support for Indigenous people.
Mr Bowen said the Portfolio would also provide employment opportunities for Indigenous people and develop specific Reconcilation Action Plans by the end of the year, in consultation with Reconciliation Australia, Indigenous and non-Indigenous staff, stakeholders, customers and the community.
He said the Agencies, which dealt with millions of Australians, were well placed to help close the life expectancy gap for Indigenous Australians.
“As the service delivery arm of the Australian Government, the Human Services Portfolio is in a unique position to make a real difference through citizen-focused service options, particularly those which affect Indigenous Australians,” Mr Bowen said.
21 July, 2009
Carbon Institute off
The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute has been launched by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd at a function hosted by the President of the United States, Barack Obama and Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
the drawing board
The Institute, an international initiative led by Australia, aims to speed up the development of carbon capture and storage technology and reduce the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.
Mr Rudd said the Institute would play a significant role in helping the G8 achieve its goal of developing at least 20 fully integrated industrial-scale carbon capture and storage (CSS) demonstration projects around the world by 2020.
“Despite the growth of renewable energy, fossil fuels, especially coal, will continue to be a major source of energy for some time to come,” he said.
“Without global action like carbon capture and storage, fossil fuel emissions are forecast to increase by 130 percent by 2050.
“That is why Australia believes that CCS technology is so important.”
Mr Rudd said the Government had committed $100 million a year to support the institute and a further $2 billion to support the construction of CCS demonstration projects in Australia.
He said the Institute was a “practical demonstration of what can be achieved when global objectives are aligned.”
Mr Rudd said the Institute’s International Advisory Panel would be chaired by former President of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn.
New appointments to the Panel include the UK’s Lord Nicholas Stern; former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Claude Mandil; and Executive Director of the Indian Energy and Resources Institute, Dr Leena Srivastava.
More information is available from www.globalccsinstitute.com
21 July, 2009
Wave of approval for
The Australian Tsunami Warning System has passed its first test.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the effectiveness of the ATWS had been demonstrated following an undersea earthquake off the New Zealand coast.
Mr McClelland said the difficult nature of tsunamis meant it was important to warn communities of a possible threat as soon as possible to help them prepare.
“For this reason, Australia has robust arrangements for coordinating responses to tsunami warnings,” he said.
Mr McClelland thanked staff from the Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, Emergency Management Australia and relevant Agencies in NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and Norfolk Island for their work in the wake of the undersea earthquake.
He said the event confirmed “the ability of the system to detect a tsunami threat and provide quick warnings to relevant authorities, emergency agencies and the Australian public.”
Mr McClelland said the ATWS, provided through the Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Centre, operated around the clock to detect and verify tsunami threats to Australia as a result of earthquakes.
He said it delivered tsunami warnings to affected populations, and supported international efforts to establish an Indian Ocean tsunami warning system and the facilitation of tsunami warnings for the South-West Pacific.
21 July, 2009
Centrelink revs up
Centrelink has introduced a new search engine to assist its 6.5 million clients find information quickly and easily.
new search engine
General Manager of Centrelink, Hank Jongen said Centrelink’s website had around 140 million page views each year.
“Thanks to this new search engine, Australians will be able to find out more quickly the information they are seeking on the wide range of services that Centrelink delivers,” Mr Jongen said.
“Similar to commercial search engines, the new engine has a ‘Did you mean?’ facility, which provides suggestions in instances where misspelt words or phrases have been entered.”
Mr Jongen said the new search was just one aspect of improvements to Centrelink’s self-service suite for customers.
“These include allowing tripling our national fleet of self-service PCs, enabling e-service for nominees on behalf of customers, and upgrading the capability of customers to do their business with us online or on the phone via innovations like Speaker Verification,” he said.
“This kind of smart thinking means Centrelink people and resources are freed up to concentrate on more complex issues for customers, because people with simple enquiries can get help themselves - and at their own convenience.”
The new search engine, designed by Canberra firm Funnelback and approved by the Australian Government Management Information Office, has been operating since 21 June 2009.
The website was available from www.centrelink.gov.au
21 July, 2009
PM’s policy like
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has launched a blog on his new-look website.
falling off a blog
Mr Rudd said the interactive forum would allow the public to comment on the content of his online journal and discuss policy ideas.
“The blog gives the community the opportunity to provide comments and engage with each other about the policy debates shaping the nation,” he said.
“It also gives the Government another way to report back to the community.”
Mr Rudd said the blog supported a more accessible, open and transparent way of governing that would help “inform policy making through public engagement.”
He used his first blog, posted on 16 July, to discuss climate change and urge Parliament to support the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
The public has been given until 22 July to comment on the blog, with over 470 comments posted on line by 20 July.
Mr Rudd said comments must be no more than 300 words and would be subject to moderation “to ensure that the discussion does not include offensive or discriminatory language and to keep the discussion on topic.”
He said moderation would occur during business hours and that new comments would not be published outside of those times.
“Besides the blog, the new website allows visitors to view videos, browse through articles, multi-media presentations and archives, and keep up-to-date with the Prime Minister's work,” Mr Rudd said.
People who were previously subscribed to the website must resubscribe to post comments.
While Mr Rudd ‘tweets’ regularly and has over 193,000 followers, the Prime Minister’s office reportedly said new blogs would be infrequent.
21 July, 2009
Migrant Stats Unit
The National Migrant Statistics Unit has received funding to allow it to continue for a further three years after the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Australian Bureau of Statistics signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
gets the numbers
Under the MOU, both Agencies will contribute $1.3 million to the Unit which was established in July 2006.
Secretary of DIAC, Andrew Metcalfe said the Unit provided authoritative statistics on migration and ethnicity and statistical evidence to support migration programs and settlement.
Mr Metcalfe said it was important not to underestimate the role migration had played in Australia’s history and in shaping the nation
“Migration continues to play a vital role in terms of business, the workforce, education and society,” he said.
Australian Statistician, Brian Pink said reliable statistics were the key to providing information on migrants, their descendants and communities.
“That information is essential for policy development, service delivery, research and program evaluation,” Mr Pink said.
The Unit’s role includes developing statistical surveys relating to migrants and ethnicity; maintaining dialogue with stakeholders on emerging issues, data gaps and needs; developing statistical standards and analytical concepts; advancing migrant issues with the ABS; and facilitating client requests for data.
Further information was available from www.abs.gov.au
21 July, 2009
Reports deliver on
Two reports on the performance of Government programs in delivering services to Indigenous Australians have been released.
The Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the evaluation and audit reports would help the Government deliver better outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“The Federal Government delivers a range of Indigenous-specific services across Australia and it is important that we regularly evaluate the progress of these in achieving outcomes,” Mr Tanner said.
He said the two reports, Evaluation of Service Delivery in Remote Indigenous Communities and Performance Audit of Australian Hearing Specialist Program for Indigenous Australians, were conducted by the Office of Evaluation and Audit (Indigenous Programs).
Mr Tanner said the service delivery report examined 52 remote communities in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia.
The evaluation found a number of areas required improvement and contained eight recommendations, including the need for more face-to-face contact between Department staff and service providers, improved decision making processes and cultural competency training for program delivery staff.
The audit found while the hearing specialist program was providing more flexible and culturally appropriate services for Indigenous Australians, further “refinements” were needed to ensure increased effectiveness.
The audit report made eight recommendations including that the Office of Hearing Services and Australian Hearing agree on targets and revised reporting arrangements; review the roles and effectiveness of Indigenous Liaison Officer positions; and conduct a review of the information required to prioritise hearing services for Indigenous Australians.
The reports were available at www.finance.gov.au
21 July, 2009
Families booked for
The Australian Federal Police has announced it will use individual families to raise awareness of National Missing Persons Week (2-8 August) for the first time in Australia.
Coordinator of the AFP’s National Missing Persons Coordination Centre, Leonie Jacques said this year’s advertising campaign would focus on the disappearance of older people with dementia or memory loss.
Ms Jacques said families who had experienced older relatives going missing would appear in the advertisements which feature the tagline ‘Not knowing is like living in darkness’.
She said as Australia’s population continued to age it would become increasingly important to raise awareness of the disappearance of older people.
“Much to the surprise of the general public, out of the 35,000 people who are reported missing to police each year, a high percentage are older people with dementia,” Ms Jacques said.
“The more common symptoms of dementia are memory loss and wandering, which can lead to someone becoming a missing person.”
She said the advertisements included television, print and online media, as well as radio community service announcements and would encourage Australians to ‘keep an eye out’ for seniors with dementia.
The National Missing Persons Coordination Centre will join with Alzheimer’s Australia and Homelessness Australia to reach people who have family or friends with dementia.
For more information visit www.missingpersons.gov.au
21 July, 2009
Questacon has eye
A new exhibition exploring optical illusions has opened at Questacon in Canberra.
on optical illusions
The exhibition, Perception Deception, is a hands-on exhibit that allows visitors to experience how their brain can play tricks on them when it transmits information to the senses.
It features more than 40 tests, including 25 physical exhibits and 17 multimedia activities.
According to the Questacon website, the human brain has to edit, prioritise and even add information when dealing with the immense volume of sensory signals it receives every second.
“Our reality is really only our perception – and no two of us perceive things exactly the same way,” the website said.
A highlight of the exhibition includes the Ames Room in which visitors can have an experience like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and watch themselves grow taller or shorter as they walk from one end of the room to the other.
In another perception test, visitors will run their hands over hard wire to see if they can feel the Velvet Hand Illusion which is being researched by Japanese scientists to develop virtual reality experiences.
The Questacon website also features a selection of experiences including whether you can shape a word or if you really see what you hear.
It also compares your results to other online visitors.
The exhibition is on for a limited time. For more information go to www.questacon.edu.au
21 July, 2009
Book industry to
The Productivity Commission has recommended Parallel Import Restrictions for books be removed after conducting a review into book prices and restrictions in Australia.
turn over new leaf
The Commission said PIRs, introduced to provide territorial protection for the publication of Australian books, had put upward pressure on prices and meant consumers payed more for books.
The Commission’s report found the import restrictions benefited publishers and authors.
Deputy Chairman of the Commission, Mike Woods said a key concern was that consumers were paying higher prices for books, regardless of their cultural significance.
Mr Woods said the report found the restrictions were “a poor means of promoting culturally significant Australian works” as they did not differentiate between books of high and low cultural value.
“A second concern is that these costs to consumers generate greater benefits for overseas authors and publishers than they do for our local writers,” he said.
“In effect, Australian consumers are subsidising foreign book producers.”
The report found “the bulk of assistance leaks offshore” while “some flows to the printing industry.”
It said the system needed to be reformed to make books more affordable and remove constraints on book sellers.
Mr Wood said coupled with improved subsidy arrangements to address relevant cultural aspects of Australian literature, the reforms would “benefit the community overall.”
The Commission recommended a three year adjustment period, with the new arrangements reviewed after five years.
It also said current grants and financial assistance methods should be refined to better target the local writing and publishing industry.
The Australia Council for the Arts, whose Literature Board delivers grants to artists, expressed its concern at the Commission’s recommendations.
21 July, 2009
Drugs database gets
The Australian Crime Commission has announced the National Clandestine Laboratory Database now holds all State and Territory data.
final injection of data
Chief Executive Officer of the ACC, John Lawler said the Database, part of the ACC’s Australian Criminal Intelligence Database, would make it easier for law enforcement Agencies to access information on clandestine drug manufacture activity.
Mr Lawler said it would help limit the supply of amphetamines in Australia and gave a comprehensive picture of illegal drugs manufacturing across the nation.
“Clandestine laboratories are illegal operations in which drugs such as ice and MDMA or ecstasy are manufactured in an improvised laboratory environment,” he said.
“This national criminal intelligence holding brings together vital data from the combined work and expertise of Australian law enforcement Agencies.
“There is no other system with this type of capability in the world, and Australia is leading the way in recording and analysing clandestine laboratory data.”
Mr Lawler said the system was designed to allow police and forensic officers to record data about seized clandestine laboratories at the crime scene.
He said data included information on lab locations, people engaged in manufacturing the drugs, safety, types of laboratory reactions being used, methodology, exhibit details, on-site reports and photographs.
Mr Lawler said law enforcement Agencies would also be able to use the data to monitor and analyse trends involving bikies and other criminal organisations involved in illicit drug manufacturing.
The National Clandestine Laboratory Database was funded by the Attorney-General’s Department and developed and implemented by the ACC.
Further information was available from www.crimecommission.gov.au
21 July, 2009
Indonesia locks up
The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government is conducting a joint training program with the Indonesian Government to train and mentor Indonesian Transport SecurityOfficers.
Under the Australia-Indonesia Transport Security Officer Training Program the Indonesian officers will travel to Australia to shape their skills in transport security audit and compliance activities.
The program is being facilitated by the Department under the AusAID Australian Leadership Awards Fellowships Program.
Six officers from the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation have arrived in Australia to begin the five week education program.
The officers will undergo formal training, on-the-job experience and administrative duties focusing on aviation and maritime security.
It is being delivered through the Department of Infrastructure's State offices in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Under the program, Indonesian officers will also be given the opportunity to accompany Australian transport security inspectors to site visits of Australian airports, airlines, ports and ships.
The Indonesian officers will be given the opportunity to demonstrate their knew knowledge by contributing to capacity building within their own organisation while maintaining contact with Australian mentors at the conclusion of the program.
The initiative aims to improve transport security in Indonesia and build stronger connections between Australian and Indonesian Government officials.
21 July, 2009
New professors on
The University of Canberra is calling for applications for more than 30 new academic positions as part of a program to recruit and develop academic leaders.
course at university
The drive will be for Assistant Professors, Lecturers and Senior Lecturers as part of a program of academic renewal designed to accelerate the careers of University of Canberra academics.
It is accompanied by a 19 per cent pay rise between 2010 and 2012 expected to make the UC positions among the most well-paid in the country.
UC Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Parker said the renewal program would help address the ageing of the academic workforce.
"We are looking for ambitious, research-active academics who want be part of a high-performance, high-remuneration university with a bold vision and clear strategy," Professor Parker said.
"Early career academics can accelerate their careers through rapid promotion and intensive mentoring and development of their skills.
"The goal, from an employment point of view, is to provide a secure place for all staff who are good at their job and prepared to work hard."
He said the current recruitment process was for four professors and three associate professors in health and the University had recently made appointments in journalism and governance.
Information about the new jobs can be found at www.canberra.edu.au/hr/jobs
21 July, 2009
Compo committee to
The Steering Committee to review military compensation arrangements has been appointed and has met for the first time.
battle for veterans
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin said the Review would focus on the adequacy and suitability of military rehabilitation and compensation arrangements, including perceived disparities and inequities between legislative schemes.
Mr Griffin said the Review of Military Compensation Arrangements' steering committee would consider almost 50 submissions it had received from the service and ex-service communities.
“We need to ensure that the experiences of those who have been through the military rehabilitation and compensation system are considered as part of the Review, and I am grateful to those organisations and individuals who have made submissions,” he said.
“The Review is critical in identifying solutions for wider concerns relating to military rehabilitation and compensation.”
Mr Griffin said Steering Committee members had extensive knowledge of veterans’ entitlements, rehabilitation, safety and compensation law and policy.
He said as part of its investigations, the Committee would visit Defence Force facilities and hold consultations with current and former members of the ADF, ex-service organisations, key agencies and other stakeholders.
Mr Griffin said it would also consult with the Prime Ministerial Advisory Council on Ex-service matters and the Ex-Service Roundtable.
“It is a significant step by the Government towards addressing concerns with military rehabilitation and compensation legislation and the administration of the schemes,” he said.
Chair of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission, Ian Campbell will chair the Committee.
Other Members include Major General Craig Orme, Peta Furnell, Joan Ross, Michelle Baxter and Peter Sutherland.
The Committee is expected to report to Government in the first half of 2010.
For more information go to www.dva.gov.au
21 July, 2009
Paper points way for
A directions paper on the future of the digital economy has been released by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
Titled Australia's Digital Economy: Future Directions, it examines key areas of focus for Government, industry and the community in promoting Australia's success in the digital economy.
The paper features case studies of 12 Australians who have successfully engaged with the digital economy.
Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy said the digital economy was essential to Australia's productivity, global competitive standing and improved social well-being.
“It is the computers, the phones, our TVs, the networks and the banking systems that we use in our personal life and our business each day,” Senator Conroy said.
“In the future it will be so much more, connecting every part of our lives and providing new opportunities across society and the economy.”
He said the paper would identify the benefits of maximising investment in broadband and developing a “world-class” digital economy.
“Australia needs a digitally aware and enabling Government, a digitally confident, innovative and skilled industry and a digitally literate and empowered community,” Senator Conroy said.
“The paper explores the actions we need to advance to enhance these key factors for success.”
He said the paper had been developed in consultation with industry and other stakeholders.
The Australian Computer Society – the peak body for information and communication technology professionals – welcomed the launch of the paper.
Chairman of ACS, Kumar Parakala said the Society would focus its efforts on supporting Government and industry to develop three key areas – e-security, e-health and e-learning.
Mr Parakala said unlike other traditional sectors of the economy, the digital economy had “no barriers or ceilings to its growth” and that the paper illustrated the foundations were already in place for a developing a strong sector within Australia.
Further information was available from www.dbcde.gov.au
21 July, 2009
ABC staff in cancer fears
Melbourne-based staff of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation have met with ABC management to register concerns about the high rate of cancer cases diagnosed among staff at the Corporation’s Southbank site.
Staff are concerned the numbers may add up to a ‘cluster.’
Nolan on show at AWM
The Australian War Memorial is to display a selection of acclaimed artist Sidney Nolan’s Gallipoli series of paintings on 7 August.
The display of 81 works will be the first time for 30 years that some of them have been seen in public.
Mr Nolan donated 252 works to the Memorial in 1978 in memory of his brother, Sapper Raymond John Nolan, who drowned in an wartime accident just months before the end of WWII.
The display will run until18 November.
Enquiry into TV waste
The public has been invited to comment on a national approach to dealing with computer and television waste.
As Chair of the Environment, Protection and Heritage Council, the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett said it was important to include the public in finding a solution to unwanted televisions and computers.
The consultation will include the report on the Choice modelling study on recycling of televisions and computers, a Regulatory Impact Statement and a const benefit analysis.
Submissions close on 13 August 2009, with more information from www.ephc.gov.au
Citizens get coin
The 60th anniversary of the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1949 has been celebrated by the release of a commemorative $1 coin.
The coin features the Commonwealth Coat of Arms and the words 'Australian Citizenship'.
Under the act, all people born in Australian automatically become Australian citizens.
ACMA review of phone services
The Australian Communcations and Media Authority is undertaking a review on the use and management of directory assist and other operator services.
The Authority published a discussion paper on the operator services and the management of telephone numbers within them, known as ‘shared numbers.’
It received five submissions prior to the closing date.
Further information and a copy of the discussion paper were available from www.acma.gov.au
Post drops bags
Australia Post is to gradually stop supplying clients with plastic bags at its retail outlets to
help reduce its environmental impact.
The organisation made the decision after research showed over 95 per cent of clients would be happy to bring their own bags and supported reducing the use of plastic.
To reduce the number of bags used and to ease-in the change, post office staff stopped proactively offering plastic bags to customers in April 2009.
Comcover unveils courses
Comcover has announced its training and development courses for 2009.
Risk management, business continuity management, insurance courses and other specialist training programs have been included.
Further information is available from www.finance.gov.au
Business goes to sport
Austrade has launched an official business program for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games to help enhance trade and investment opportunities for Australian businesses in Canada.
The Business Club Australia initiative will be the focus of Australian business activities in Vancouver, working to turn the high profile sporting event into a long-term business connection.
Sixteen Australian businesses have secured Games related contracts with the Vancouver Organising Committee for the 2010 Olympics.
Further information was available from www.businessclubaustralia.com.au
ANZ market closer
Australia and New Zealand have taken steps towards creating a Single Economic Market.
At their annual bilateral meetings the two nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a trans-Tasman retirement savings plan to enable Australians and New Zealanders to transfer their retirement savings across the Tasman should they move.
The meetings focused on regulatory reform, Australia’s membership of the G-20 and its role in the global response to the financial crisis.
NFSA screenings doubled
The National Film and Sound Archive’s Arc Cinema has more than doubled its screenings since it was established two years ago.
The Cinema now hosts seven sessions per week which include Thursday and Saturday matinees and two sessions on Sunday afternoons.
The newly re-designed Arc Cinema Calendar for July/August 2009 was available from www.nfsa.gov.au
ABARE surveys farmers
The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics is to survey dairy and broadacre farmers across the country.
ABARE’s annual Australian Dairy Industry Survey (ADIS) and Australian Agriculture and Grazing Industries Survey (AAGIS) are to start mid-July and will involve interviews with farmer about their farms, production and profitability.
The surveys are expected to help develop strategies and research programs to improve farm efficiency and long-term viability.
14 July, 2009
Circular spills beans
Following recent issues with an unauthorised email and rumoured Public Service leaks, the Australian Public Service Commission has issued a Circular on the disclosure of official information.
on PS information
The Circular gives guidance on participating in political activities and outlines the difference between leaking and whistleblowing.
Group Manager of Ethics at the APSC, Karin Fisher said Circular 2009/4 also dealt with non-Government members of Parliament.
Ms Fisher reminded APS officers that while they should be apolitical and impartial, their responsibility was to serve the Government rather than the Opposition.
“APS employees should have little contract with Opposition or other non-Government parties as part of their duties,” Ms Fisher said.
She said if Public Servants received a briefing request from an Opposition MP, they must forward the details to the Minister for advice on handling.
“If there is any doubt about what can or cannot be released, then further guidance should be sought from someone in authority in the Agency,” she said.
Ms Fisher said there were specific conventions for briefing the Opposition before an election, and advised Public Servants to go to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s website at www.pmc.gov.au for further information.
She said while it was acceptable for Public Servants to participate in political activities and be a member of a party, participation needed to be “considered carefully having regard to an employee’s role and duties.”
“Engagement with Parliamentary Members, their staff or publicly promoting party or other views on certain issues may raise public perceptions of conflict of interest or partiality,” Ms Fisher said.
She also explained that someone who leaked information was “not a whistleblower”.
“A whistleblower is an APS employee who reports a suspected breach of the Code of Conduct to an authorised person within the APS,” Ms Fisher said.
“Whistleblowers maintain the integrity of the system by seeking to correct perceived wrongs through reporting to the proper authority.
“Leaking, on the other hand, involves the unlawful release of official information and is a breach of the Code of Conduct.
“Leaking, whatever the motive, destroys the trust between Government and the Public Service and makes it harder to carry out our responsibilities.”
Ms Fisher said serious leaks could “damage Australia’s national security or reputation” and “put the lives of Australian officials and others at risk.”
Instructions on obligations relating to Parliamentary Inquiries were also outlined, with Ms Fisher saying Secretaries must help Ministers provide factual information to Parliament regarding the operation of their Agencies.
She said further information on managing official information was contained in Chapter 3 of APS Values and Code of Conduct in Practice: Guide to official conduct for APS employees and agency heads available at the Public Service Commission website www.apsc.gov.au
14 July, 2009
New recruitment rules
New guidelines for recruitment advertising in the Australian Public Service have been announced by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.
to drive savings
Mr Tanner said the new Guidelines on Recruitment Advertising aimed to reduce waste and inefficiencies in Government spending when advertising APS job vacancies and employment opportunities in the print media.
He said the Government hoped to save millions of dollars a year under the new scheme.
Mr Tanner said the new framework covered the size of print media advertisements, the use of colour, the number of times a vacancy could be advertised and the use of composite advertising.
“The introduction of these guidelines will bring greater consistency to Government recruitment advertising and is expected to generate savings of approximately $7 million a year,” he said.
Special Minister of State, Senator Joe Ludwig joind with Mr Tanner in releasing the Guidelines, saying they would promote a more efficient and effective use of Government resources.
“While Agencies have their own cost saving measures in place, until now, no whole-of-Government framework for recruitment advertising existed,” Senator Ludwig said.
“These new guidelines will assist Departments and Agencies to achieve efficient, effective and ethical use of Government resources and value for money.”
The Guidelines came into effect on 1 July 2009 and were available online at www.finance.gov.au
The Minister said they would affect all Departments and Agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997.
14 July, 2009
New advance in
Agency Heads are now able to promote ongoing Australian Public Service employees who resume duties after acting as statutory office holders in APS Agencies without going through the normal advertising and selection processes.
In a new APS Circular, Group Manager of the Australian Public Service Commission’s Workforce Policy Group, Karen Wilson said the normal processes could be bypassed provided the Public Service Commissioner agreed.
Ms Wilson announced the amendments to the Public Service Commissioner’s Directions 1999 in Circular 2009/3.
She said despite the changes, normal promotion requirements should continue unless there was “clear-cut justification” for them to be waived.
“There should be no expectation that this provision will be routinely used for APS employees resuming duty after a statutory appointment,” Ms Wilson said.
“The new arrangements provide scope for an Agency Head, when filling a vacancy in their Agency, to consider whether the performance of a person in a statutory office warrants special consideration.”
She said there were several requirements to the provision, such as it only applying to statutory offices covered by the merit-based selection policy in which the Public Service Commissioner must be involved in assessing applicants for vacancies.
Ms Wilson said there was no provision for waiving the normal advertising and selection processes when a statutory appointee was not an ongoing APS employee on leave without pay.
She said the Commissioner must agree in writing before an Agency Head could proceed with a promotion.
The amendments came into effect on 29 June 2009 and more information is available at www.apsc.gov.au or by contacting the Employment Policy Adviceline on (02) 6202 3859.
14 July, 2009
Linking the Government’s $900 bonus to the lodgement of tax returns has helped boost the Child Support Agency’s debt recovery.
Minister for Human Services, Chris Bowen said the CSA had recouped $32.4 million in outstanding payments due to the significant increase in tax returns lodged last financial year compared to the same period the previous year.
“In the five months to 30 June 2009, there has been a doubling of both the number of tax intercepts and the amount of child support debt recovered,” Mr Bowen said.
“The lodging of returns has created greater opportunities for the Government to recover overdue child support, and the end beneficiary of these payments is of course the children of separated families.”
He said from February to May 2009 the CSA had recovered $25.3 million compared to $12.2 in the same period in 2008.
Mr Bowen said the CSA had the power to intercept tax returns if there was an overdue payment and had the ability to recover debt from bank accounts if no payment arrangements were in place.
“The CSA generally uses its powers to obtain funds from bank accounts only after discussion and negotiation with customers regarding payment has failed,” he said.
Mr Bowen said in the majority of cases, parents in separated families arranged their child support payments in either private collect arrangements or in a “timely fashion” through the Child Support Program.
“However, the level of outstanding child support is significant and it is important that the Child Support Agency continues to focus on recovering or collecting all outstanding payments,” he said.
14 July, 2009
Phone register leads
There are signs that the Do Not Call Register has been having a major impact on telemarketers, with consumer complaints dropping by 60 per cent.
to silent numbers
Chairman of the Australian Communications and Media Authority, Chris Chapman said the figure showed compliance by the telemarketing industry was improving.
“This very sizeable drop in complaints indicates that the telemarketing industry is getting the message and changing behaviours,” Mr Chapman said.
“Making prohibited calls to people on the register just isn’t worth it – you will get caught and you will get penalised.”
He said ACMA had combined ongoing education and information campaigns with enforcement action against businesses that failed to comply with the Do Not Call Register Act 2006 (the Act).
Over the past two years, ACMA has issued eight formal warnings, accepted eight enforceable undertakings and collected over $300,000 in penalties from businesses that have called people on the register.
ACMA has released a new Do Not Call Register Act 2006 Compliance Guide on its www.donotcall.gov.au website.
Mr Chapman said the guide was developed in consultation with the telemarketing industry and was a “one-stop-shop” for best practice compliance with the Act.
“The ACMA has looked to industry for what does work, and has observed through its investigations what doesn’t work,” he said.
“It has compiled this information into a simple step-by-step guide listing the measures that telemarketers can take to comply with the Act, to get it right, and save Australian citizens time and money.”
There are currently 3.5 million numbers on the Do Not Call Register, which was launched in May 2007.
Mr Chapman said registered people who received telemarketing calls they believed to be in breach of the rules could make a complaint to the ACMA.
He said people could register their domestic and mobile telephone numbers at www.donotcall.gov.au or by calling 1300 792 958.
14 July, 2009
The number of people accessing the Government’s Translating and Interpreting Service has hit record highs, with one million calls made in the last financial year.
is talk of the town
Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, Laurie Ferguson said TIS National was run by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to help foster communication between English and non-English speakers.
Mr Ferguson said the new figures were a milestone in the provider’s 36-year history.
“In 2008-09, TIS National has provided 17 per cent more telephone interpreting services than in the previous year,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said a growing number of non-English speakers were now more confident about using the Service.
“TIS National helps non-English speakers communicate with Government Departments, private businesses, emergency services and community-based organisations.”
“In many ways, interpreters help non-English speakers to participate more fully in Australian social and economic life,” he said.
Mr Ferguson said DIAC’s promotion of the service through its ‘I Need an Interpreter’ business-sized card, which featured an ‘I speak’ space for clients to include their native language, had raised awareness.
He also praised private enterprises for using the Service, saying they were doing the “right thing” by making efforts to help non-English speaking people.
According to Mr Ferguson, the highest demand languages were (in order): Mandarin, Arabic, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Korean, Persian, Turkish, Spanish, Greek and Russian.
The TIS National Contact Centre services all of Australia and provides phone interpreting in over 160 languages and dialects.
It could be contacted on 131 450 and on-site interpreting was also available by appointment.
14 July, 2009
Call to fence in
The Indigenous Land Corporation needs to become more accountable to overcome poor transparency and public scrutiny according to a discussion paper released by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
In Policy Change and the Indigenous Land Corporation, AIATSIS Research Fellow, Dr Patrick Sullivan said Parliament should review the purpose of the ILC.
The ILC, established in 1995 in response to the Mabo judgment, is responsible for acquiring and granting land for the social and economic benefit of Indigenous people who cannot claim their traditional lands under Native Title.
Dr Sullivan said the ILC had moved away from its original charter and now purchased fewer properties, often retaining them for its own purposes.
“The deliberations of the Board are not transparent, and the internal operations and financial strategies of the ILC itself are not easily understood from its Annual Reports,” he said.
“The Board appears to make its own decisions on Indigenous needs, possibly in consultation with Public Servants and Ministerial Advisers, without wide public scrutiny. “This is not a robust way of ensuring the maximum benefit for Indigenous people from the considerable resources that the Government has invested.”
Dr Sullivan said the ILC’s policy making processes needed to be more transparent and inclusive of Indigenous people.
He said it would be “timely” for Parliament to reconsider the aims of the ILC almost 15 years after its inception and should reconsider the ILC’s “internal governance and its external relations” with Indigenous clients, Indigenous Public Sector Agencies and the private sector.
The discussion paper is available at www.aiatsis.gov.au
14 July, 2009
Lexicon puts word on
Departments and Agencies are being urged to adopt consistent language when informing the public about terrorism and national security threats, issues and alarms.
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland welcomed a new project, the Lexicon of Terrorism, which focusses on how Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments use language to communicate issues relating to terrorism.
Mr McClelland said it would help Governments frame “effective public information messages” on national security issues by strengthening community harmony and “disempowering potential violent extremists.”
“Experience has shown that the language used to describe terrorism can be counter-productive,” he said.
“Certain words have the potential to glorify terrorism and terrorists, while others can cause anxiety among Australians and create divisions within and between communities.”
Mr McClelland said the description of combating terrorism as a “war”, and the word “jihad” to depict a struggle between religions or values were examples of language that would be examined.
“We need to use language that does not inadvertently glorify terrorism but rather describes it in terms of base criminal behaviour of the most reprehensible kind,” he said.
“We should also be conscious of not alienating broad ethnic and religious groups by labelling them in a way that causes prejudice or leads to misunderstanding.”
Victoria Police will lead the project in partnership with the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department, the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet and the Australian Multicultural Foundation.
Mr McClelland said community focus groups would be held, along with interviews with relevant Agencies.
He said academic research and public submissions were also expected to contribute to any recommendations made following the project.
Similar studies had been in conducted in other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom.
14 July, 2009
ASIC takes interest
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has released a guidance package to help workers access cheap and simple advice on superannuation investment.
in super investments
The release of the guidance package followed a year-long study by the Government’s Financial Services Working Group.
In order to facilitate simple super advice, ASIC has also released a ‘class order’ aimed at providing relief in certain circumstances for superannuation trustees from the personal advice requirements of section 945A of the Corporations Act.
Minister for Superannuation, Chris Bowen said the move would help superannuation fund members who had been unable to get advice on basic matters such as retirement savings to get it without having to pay unnecessarily high fees.
“Superannuation is the largest area of unmet need for financial advice, and the Government is determined to change this,” Mr Bowen said.
“This innovative solution will encourage superannuation trustees to engage more with their members and help them understand their superannuation investment.”
Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner said the guidance and relief package would provide superannuation funds and financial advisers with guidance on how to respond to inquiries for factual information and advice from fund members.
Mr Tanner said the guidance package had been developed in consultation with industry and consumers.
“The package represents a practical solution that will work for industry without reducing consumer protection,” he said.
“The package will provide certainty for industry that it can confidently provide advice to its members on matters such as choosing between investment options, the best form of super contributions, or suitable levels of insurance.”
More information about the package is available at www.asic.gov.au
14 July, 2009
Over 300 people braved Canberra’s cold weather to participate in the seventh annual Indigenous Australian Public Service Employees Network NAIDOC Touch Football Carnival.
kicks off NAIDOC
Starting off as a four team competition in 2003, this year the event attracted teams from 23 Australian Government Agencies.
A Spokesperson for the Australian Public Service Commission said the day was a fantastic opportunity to showcase how the PS was working to address reconciliation and to demonstrate respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and culture.
“A barbecue lunch was provided to help keep the energy levels of players and spectators up and all were treated to an address by Craig Leon, Chair of the ACT branch of the Indigenous APS Employees Network and a performance by the Black Cockatoo Didge Tribe,” the Spokesperson said.
“The fun side of the day however was all about touch football and this year, more than any other before it, the competition was fierce.”
The Spokesperson said the absence of last year’s winner, the Department of Defence, opened the competition up and ignited renewed hope from all contenders.
“The Attorney-General’s Department and the Royal Australian Mint once again fielded strong teams, but the teams from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and the ACT Government did not take a back step, cruising their way into the finals series,” she said.
“In the end, newcomers and short-priced favourites, the Australian Sports Commission proved too strong, defeating DIAC in an entertaining final.”
The spokesperson said the day was a “great success” and the Australian Sports Commission would be awarded with a morning tea and trophy.
14 July, 2009
New Stats website
Students and teachers have been given access to a new online resource to help them locate statistics on Indigenous population, education, health, housing and work.
has the numbers
The Australian Bureau of Statistics Education Services team has launched Indigenous Statistics for Schools, a free service available from its website www.abs.gov.au
The website provides data for students and teachers, along with links to original data sources.
ABS Director of Education Services, Paul Taylor said the resource would prove invaluable to improving upper primary and secondary students’ ability to understand data.
“By providing this resource, we also aim to improve students’ ability to appropriately and rigorously examine numerical data,” Mr Taylor said.
“As well, teachers will be able to find current data about Indigenous Australians much more easily.”
The resource introduces statistics about Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and includes explanations of statistical terms and background information for students on factors that can impact the collection, dissemination and interpretation of data.
It aims to provide a single, easy to use source of statistics about Australia's Indigenous population for students and teachers and to build on knowledge of how to use statistics appropriately.
Mr Taylor said general issues such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander identification (including the history of the Census questions on ethnicity), how Indigenous statistics are collected and the importance of accurate Indigenous statistics were also available from the Indigenous Statistics for Schools webpage.
14 July, 2009
Online kids have
A report by the Australian Communications and Media Authority has found children are becoming increasingly aware of the risks of cyberspace.
Click and Connect – Young Australians' Use of Online Social Media, found the internet was a key part of children’s lives and that most kids are savvy to online dangers.
According to the report, 75 per cent of children surveyed knew not to reveal personal information such as their address or phone number online, and remembered safety messages such as ‘people aren’t always who they say they are online’.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said another major finding in the report was the increasing importance of the internet to children’s social lives, with up to 97 per cent of 16 to 17 year olds using at least one social networking service.
“Most young people are using online technologies as a way to connect with their real world friends, with a small proportion—17 per cent of 12 to 17 year olds—using online social networking to build networks of new friends,” Mr Chapman said.
“Australian children demonstrate a good general knowledge of online behaviours that we might consider ‘risky’—they know what not to do.”
He said up to 78 per cent of parents also reported having a ‘high’ level of knowledge of online risks.
Mr Chapman said despite those figures, the report showed there was an ongoing need for cybersafety material that resonated with young people, as well an improved flow of information to parents.
“The ACMA cybersafety programs such as Cybersmart Detectives and internet safety presentations for parents, are on track to meet the information needs identified in the report,” he said.
Mr Chapman said the report findings would inform the development of ACMA’s new cybersafety materials, including a soon to be released cybersafety website.
For more information go to www.acma.gov.au
14 July, 2009
The Australian Social Inclusion Board has released a set of indicators on disadvantage and has reported on priority areas needing long-term action.
in inclusion report
The Social Inclusion Board was established as an independent body to advise the Government on how to achieve better outcomes for disadvantaged people.
Its Compendium of Social Inclusion Indicators said social inclusion included access to work, social support through family and friends and basic services such as health and education.
In a joint statement, the Minister for Social Inclusion, Julia Gillard and Minister for Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin said the report included data on key indicators of disadvantage, including access to work and services, health, social supports and how well local neighbourhoods were faring.
Ms Gillard and Ms Macklin said the indicators highlighted ongoing challenges.
“This report helps to clarify the nature of those challenges and support collaborative action across the whole community to further the Australian Government's Social Inclusion agenda,” the Ministers said.
“The Government, by the end of 2009, will develop a national statement on Social Inclusion to chart a long-term strategy towards making Australia a stronger, fairer society.”
Ms Gillard and Ms Macklin said the whole-of-Government strategy would help reduce homelessness, close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and create jobs and skills in local areas where unemployment and disadvantage were concentrated.
Ms Gillard said she had written to State Ministers for Social Inclusion to arrange to meet with them to “work through further action on social inclusion priorities.”
She said the Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann had offered to host the meeting.
Ms Gillard and Ms Macklin said the Government had already begun to address problems relating to social inclusion, highlighting its social housing investment, early learning framework and parental leave scheme.
14 July, 2009
Centrelink has celebrated NAIDOC Week by recognising staff members who made valuable contributions to Indigenous customers and communities.
At a special awards ceremony, Olympic hurdler Kyle Vander-Kuyp presented the inaugural Centrelink National NAIDOC Awards at the Agency’s National Support Office in Canberra.
Winners included Carmon Corderoy, an Indigenous Services Officer at Mount Druitt, NSW, who won the Individual Achievement in Indigenous Servicing category.
“I do my job because I love it,” Ms Corderoy said.
“To be recognised for doing something you love is a bonus.”
She said the staff at Mount Druitt worked with customers who depended on Centrelink payments to survive.
“If I am able to sit down with them and discuss their options, even if it’s just helping them access job seeking services, it can make a big difference,” Ms Corderoy said.
Acting Chief Executive Officer of Centrelink, Carolyn Hogg said NAIDOC week was an important celebration for Centrelink as many
of its staff and customers were of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage.
“Centrelink’s continued support of NAIDOC week provides staff with the opportunity to celebrate the culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Ms Hogg said.
Other winners included Mandy Barsa of Central and Northern Queensland, who received the Indigenous Employee Achievement Award; Debbie Mi Mi of North Australia who was Highly Commended; and the Tiwi Islands Remote Area Service Centre and Wadeye Remote Area Service Centre, which both won Team Achievement in Indigenous Servicing Awards.
Ms Hogg said Centrelink had Indigenous Services Officers in every State and Territory, four Indigenous call centres, remote area visiting teams, over 180 Centrelink agents in remote communities and an Indigenous cadetship program.
14 July, 2009
Women score points
One-hundred and thirty-two recipients have been awarded Sport Leadership Grants and Scholarships for Women.
in sporting grants
They will share in $500,000 worth of grants as part of an initiative of the Office for Women and the Australian Sports Commission.
The grants aim to help promote women in sports leadership.
This year, grants went to 74 individuals who received up to $5,000, 45 organisations allocated up to $10,000 and 13 scholarships of up to $30,000 over three years.
Minister for the Status of Women, Tanya Plibersek said she was pleased to see an increase in applications this year.
“The response was fantastic and the grants will develop skills for a variety of leadership roles,” Ms Plibersek said.
“For the first time, the funding includes scholarships for women to gain management and other qualifications to help advance them in the upper levels of sports administration.”
Minister for Sport, Kate Ellis said the grants would accelerate the careers of women in sport, saying that more women in senior positions were needed.
“These grants will equip and empower women to fill more decision-making roles and exert greater influence in the culture of sport,” Ms Ellis said.
She said the grants would support women from a variety of backgrounds, including 23 projects involving Indigenous women, 17 for women with disabilities and 24 for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“One example is former Paralympic swimming star Amy Winters, who is using her grant to study for a graduate marketing diploma,” Ms Ellis said.
“This will build on her expertise for the promotion and commercial development of the Australian Paralympic Committee.”
In the eight years it has been running, the initiative has provided approximately $3 million in grants to almost 16,000 women.
14 July, 2009
Waste watchers lend
The Government is seeking community feedback on its draft National Waste Policy Framework - Less Waste More Resources.
weight to report
Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett invited the feedback following the success of submissions and consultations to the original discussion paper.
“Community response to the discussion paper that paved the way for the development of this draft national policy framework has been very encouraging,” Mr Garrett said. “We are drawing closer to achieving a new, clearer direction for waste management - moving towards avoiding waste and actively using it as a resource.”
He said consultations had identified seven main themes to be addressed by the draft framework.
Mr Garrett said the new framework addressed taking responsibility; improving the market; pursuing sustainability; facilitating investment; reducing hazard; reporting on performance; and tailoring solutions.
“Receiving public comment on the draft framework is the next key step, and I encourage individuals, community groups, businesses, industry and Governments to continue this dialogue on waste and resource recovery issues,” he said.
Mr Garrett said State and Territory Environment Ministers would consider the new policy at their next meeting in November.
He said comments closed on 31 July 2009, with further information available by subscribing to the national waste policy e-news at www.environment.gov.au/wastepolicy
14 July, 2009
High Court history
The history of the High Court of Australia is on show at the National Archives.
The No Common Creation displayis part of Memory of a Nation, the permanent exhibition of treasures from the Archives’ collection.
The display features documents from three precedent-setting cases on industrial relations; the banning of political parties; a section on the first female High Court Judge, Justice Mary Gaudron; and information on Justice Michael Kirby, who recently deposited his personal papers in the National Archives.
Constitution Day marked
Ceremonies across the country have been held to celebrate Constitution Day, with 170 people from 40 countries becoming Australian citizens.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Australian citizenship, with over four million people becoming Australian citizens since 19479.
Constitution Day is an initiative of the National Archives of Australia, which works in partnership with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to promote the day.
The National Human Rights Consultation Committee has been granted a one month extension to its reporting date for the National Human Rights Consultation.
The National Human Rights Consultation aims to inform the Government on community views about how it should promote and protect human rights and responsibilities.
As part of the consultation process, the Committee has received around 40,000 written submissions and conducted 66 community roundtables in 52 locations across Australia.
It will now report to Government by 30 September 2009.
Guidelines to help protect non-profit organisations from financing terrorists have been released by the Australian Government.
The guidelines aim to encourage the not-for-profit sector to adopt a risk-based approach and to build awareness of the risk of being misused for the purpose of terrorism financing.
They outline best practice principles to reduce risk and help organisations to understand and comply with legal requirements in relation to terrorism financing.
For more information visit www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/npo
Journalists to sue
Journalists serving as temporary employees at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation before 1996 are being urged to contact a law firm preparing a class action to recover superannuation payments believed to be due following a recent High Court decision.
More information may be available from Andrew Rich on (07) 3220 2555.
Broadband feedback sought
Community feedback on the legislative framework for the National Broadband Network company is being sought by the Government to ensure it is “thoroughly considered.”
More information is available from the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy website www.dbcde.gov.au and written submissions will be accepted until 30 July 2009.
They can be submitted to email@example.com
Youth Week vacancy
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations is encouraging young Australians to apply for a role with the National Youth Week Planning Group for 2010.
The successful applicant will help increase Indigenous participation at the event.
Candidates must be aged between 15 and 24, and be an Australian citizen. Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians are encouraged to apply.
For more information go to: www.youthweek.com/getinvolved.html
The Australia Council for the Arts is to join with the Queensland Conservation Council to promote a mentorship program encouraging young and emerging artists to tackle environmental challenges in their work.
The $15,000 mentorships will see artists work with environmental activists to learn about issues such as climate change and biodiversity conservation to produce artwork bringing together the environment, community and art.
For more information go to: www.australiacouncil.gov.au
Twenty-two employers of Defence Reservists have travelled to the Solomon Islands as part of a three-day program to highlight the capability of Reservists.
Exercise Boss Lift saw participating employers visit the 4th Brigade, which is currently deployed to the Pacific country.
The three-day program highlighted the capability Reservists bring to the Australian Defence Force and how the skills Reservists gained from being in the ADF could benefit civilian employers.
Further information was available from www.defence.gov.au/reserves.
Health team set up
The Australian Sports Commission’s After-school Communities Program and Diabetes Australia have teamed up to help raise children’s awareness of preventative health measures.
The Turning to Sport for Good Health event is being held across the country during National Diabetes Week (12 -18 July).
Olympic champions such as Malcolm Page and David Crawshay will participate in the initiative.
Further information was available from www.ausport.gov.au/aasc
The Government has released a new Code of Conduct for the building and construction industry.
The guidelines cover the responsibilities of Australian Government Agencies as clients, project managers, contractors, subcontractors, consultants, related entities, industrial associations and employers in the construction industry.
They guidelines have been revised to reflect the Fair Work Act 2009 and suggestions made in the recent report, Transition to Fair Work Australia for the Building and Construction Industry.
The guidelines were available at: www.deewr.gov.au/building
7 July, 2009
A draft report on cutting red tape in the transport, education and energy sectors has been released by the Productivity Commission.
slashes at red tape
The report, Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business: Social and Economic Infrastructure Services Sector, found although the sectors recognised reforms were needed, they had not yet been successful in significantly reducing red tape.
It highlighted how the aged care, child care, education, telecommunications, energy and transport sectors could reduce their regulatory burdens in the future.
Commissioner Angela MacRae said reducing red tape would “enhance productivity, taking a burden off business while increasing the scope for better, cheaper services for consumers.”
Commissioner MacRae said the Productivity Commission found poorly designed regulation meant businesses faced duplicated reporting requirements, overly prescriptive regulations, narrow interpretation of regulations and a regulatory reaction to isolated events where additional regulation had been introduced across the whole sector rather than toward targeted areas.
The report identified a number of areas where regulations could be lightened to help businesses maintain and improve services.
It said clarifying the responsibilities between regulatory bodies in aged care and child care would decrease regulation as well as adopting a targeted, risk-management approach in regulation administration and increasing competition within the sector.
The Commission said increasing the regulatory flexibility of local content presence and content requirements for radio and TV would also benefit businesses, as would streamlining reporting requirements.
“It is important to ensure that the reforms are fully implemented in a timely fashion and in a way that minimises the regulatory burden,” the report said.
It found regulation of the social and economic infrastructure services sector was particularly heavy due to regulation used to promote competitive behaviour, government funding and cross-jurisdictional retailers.
The Productivity Commission has encouraged public comment on the draft, with submissions due by 31 July 2009.
Further information was available from www.pc.gov.au
7 July, 2009
Defence aims high
The Department of Defence has issued a capability plan as part of its commitment to building the Defence Force of 2030.
for new purchases
The Defence Capability Plan 2009 (DCP) sets out a detailed account of major capital equipment proposals for the coming four years and foreshadows likely needs in the years beyond.
According to Defence Minister, Senator John Faulkner, the document also outlines opportunities for local industry to play a role in securing Australia’s strategic future.
“This DCP contains 110 capability projects or phases,” Senator Faulkner said, “with a total budget of over $60 billion.”
He said that amount was greater than identified in an earlier document setting out expenditure between 2006 and 2016.
He said Defence expenditure was expected to increase by about 4 per cent a year for the next four years and create nearly 5000 new jobs, taking the number engaged in Defence programs from 29,000 now to nearly 34,000.
Senator Faulkner warned that the Department would be required to purchase as much “off-the-shelf” equipment as possible to keep costs down but with a view towards the risks that entails.
“Decisions to modify Military-off-the-Shelf or Commercial-off-the-Shelf solutions will need to be based on a conscious acknowledgement of the costs and benefits to the military outcomes,” he said, “and the risks involved.”
He said the White Paper identified a number of new programs for which local acquisition or construction was likely to be the preferred option.
“We will continue to engage with industry to ensure the ongoing relevance of the DCP process to the needs of the partnership between Defence and defence industry,” Senator Faulkner said.
“The information contained within this DCP is designed to allow the Australian public to see how their taxes are spent on the defence of Australia; industry to undertake strategic planning; and defence commentators to understand the future shape of the ADF.”
He said Defence would maintain an electronic version of the DCP and update itevery six months to reflect Government decisions. It will be accessible on the Defence Materiel Organisation website www.defence.gov.au/dmo and the Capability Development Group website www.defence.gov.au/Capability and updates would be advised through the D+I ePortal.
Full details of the Defence Capability Plan 2009 can be obtained by visiting www.defence.gov.au
7 July, 2009
The Australian Public Service Commission has released a paper on policy implementation from devolved Government, examining the challenges of ensuring successful arrangements, and the skills, leadership and capability required to meet them.
The term ‘devolved Government’ describes the approach of using non-Government or third sector organisations for delivering services such as social, health and education.
Public Service Commissioner, Lynelle Briggs said that while this approach had helped to better meet Government and citizen needs, problems could arise.
“Building the capacity to decide when to use devolved Government arrangements and to administer them effectively is a major task for any public administration,” Commissioner Briggs said.
The paper, Policy Implementation through Devolved Government, forms part of the Commission’s Contemporary Government Challenges series and addresses three key issues.
It explores the nature and extent of devolved Government (the practice of contracting for services); alternate policy implementation approaches; and how to make devolved Government effective.
It finds that the devolved Government approach has increased significantly in “scope, scale and complexity” in recent years and argues for a strategic, evidence-based approach to choosing and designing how Government would function, including using devolved Government approaches.
“A key challenge arising from this is devising ways to support accountability, performance and public confidence while allowing for innovation and locally designed solutions able to meet citizens’ needs,” the paper said.
It also said there was a need for greater attention to the implications for the Public Service should it operate under different implementation modes.
It examines the devolved Government approach within the context of key aspects of governance, including fit for purpose accountability; effective approaches to performance management; building Public Service capability; safeguarding citizen satisfaction and trust; providing for effective policy-driven interaction; and supporting non-Government providers.
“Devolved Government approaches involve a rethinking of the Public Service role from a doing to a more enabling one, with significant implications for Public Service structure, culture and capability as well as a tailoring of accountability and performance management frameworks,” the paper said.
“Harnessing citizen engagement and allowing for innovation and locally designed devolved Government solutions is a particularly complex challenge.”
The paper found trialling and evaluating approaches, and sharing experiences in delivering services efficiently and effectively was also needed.
“Demonstrated capacity in matching policy issues with appropriate implementation modes, including devolved Government, is seen as a hallmark of a high-quality Public Sector,” the paper said.
A copy of the paper was available from www.apsc.gov.au
7 July, 2009
New guidelines for the administration of Commonwealth grants have been announced by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Lindsay Tanner.
right on the money
Mr Tanner said the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines would promote the “consistent, transparent and accountable” administration of Government grants.
He said under the new Guidelines, the approver of a grant must record the basis for approving the proposal.
Mr Tanner said Ministers would have to advise him, as Minister for Finance and Deregulation, whenever they approved individual grants to organisations in their electorates.
“Approvals will only be given to spending proposals that demonstrate an efficient, effective and ethical use of Government resources and importantly, are in line with policies of the Commonwealth,” he said.
Mr Tanner said the new guidelines were part of the Government’s commitment to reforming Commonwealth grant administration following a report into the Regional Partnerships Program by the Auditor General in 2007.
He said the reform agenda for grant programs stipulated that Agencies publish the details of individual grants on their website as of 1 January 2009.
Mr Tanner said there had been some “systematic problems” with Commonwealth grant administration in the past.
He said the Government was acting on recommendations made in the Auditor General’s report along with a range of other initiatives to improve grants administration and to ensure Australian taxpayers received the “best possible” outcomes from Commonwealth grants.
Further information about the guidelines was available from www.finance.gov.au
7 July, 2009
Defence fires off
The Department of Defence is to commission a consultancy to explore options for Defence planning information to be more usefully provided to industry.
Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner said the Government would consider how the Defence Capability Plan 2009 (DCP) could be enhanced as a tool for industry.
Senator Faulkner said the Government was looking to improve the content, quality, presentation and utility of publicly available information relating to current and forward capability planning.
“The Government’s objective is to provide the Defence industry with substantive and reliable information about intended capability acquisitions, to help inform future investment decisions and to facilitate quality tenders for upcoming projects,” he said.
Minister for Defence Personnel, Materiel and Science, Greg Combet said the DCP contained industry sector charts that would provide “clear signals” for growth opportunities within the industry.
“From modelling that Defence has conducted, this DCP and the ongoing and new sustainment programs provide strong growth opportunities for Australian industry,” Mr Combet said.
He said growth would vary from sector to sector, but that local expenditure in the maritime sector was projected to grow by over 8 per cent per annum over the next four years due to projects such as the Air Warfare Destroyer.
“The ever increasing reliance on electronic systems with complex military equipment will also see a significant increase in local industry expenditure within the Electronic Systems Sector,” Mr Combet said.
“It is projected that local expenditure in the electronics sector will grow by about 4.8 per cent per annum over the next four years.”
Further information was available from www.defence.gov.au
7 July, 2009
The Australian Government has endorsed the strong anti-tax evasion measures resulting from an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conference in Berlin.
pack tax attack
Assistant Treasurer, Senator Nick Sherry said the Second Conference on the Fight against International Tax Fraud and Evasion delivered a tough message to the global community on tax havens, tax avoidance and tax evasions.
At the Conference, France and Germany’s Finance Ministers warned tax havens they would face sanctions unless they complied with international standards.
Senator Sherry said tax evasion risked not only domestic tax systems, but also the global economy.
“Tax havens, tax avoidance and tax evasion are unacceptable,” he said.
“The Berlin conference confirms the global commitment to stamp out these practices, and this is backed by all major economies, including Australia and many of our major partners.”
Senator Sherry said Australia was a long-standing supporter of the OECD Harmful Tax Practices Initiative, which aims to prevent tax avoidance and evasion through global standards promoting greater tax transparency and improved international cooperation.
“Australia continues to be an active supporter of international efforts to prevent tax evasion through agreements that allow for greater exchange of information between jurisdictions,” he said.
“In the last month, for example, we have signed just such an agreement with Jersey, and just last week we signed an important tax information agreement with Belgium.”
Senator Sherry said the Government was committed to ensuring the Australian tax system remained fair and equitable and that everyone paid their fair share of tax.
“The Government recognises that the fight against tax offences is a shared responsibility of all countries and territories and takes its own role in this endeavour very seriously,” he said.
“We support the conclusions of the Berlin conference and affirm its support for strong action, including the imposition of defensive measures where necessary, to establish a global level playing field on tax transparency.”
The Conference followed a Group of 20 Summit which resolved to increase pressure on tax havens in response to the global recession.
7 July, 2009
Fair Work Office on
Fair Work Australia officially started work on 1 July, with the Fair Work Ombudsman saying he was personally excited by the challenge of creating harmonious, productive and co-operative Australian workplaces.
The Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said Fair Work Australia would assume many of the functions of the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and would handle dispute resolution and unfair dismissal applications, as well as the collective agreement approval process.
An inaugural sitting was attended by the President of Fair Work Australia, Justice Geoffrey Giudice, Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and representatives from the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Australian Industry Group to mark the Agency’s commencement.
Mr Wilson said his role represented a significant opportunity to make improvements in Australian workplaces.
“The right to fair wages and conditions is enshrined in the new laws and we will be doing our best to make sure every worker and every workplace knows their obligations,” he said.
“We’ll also be helping Australians to develop more positive working cultures that help build sustainable improvements in productivity.”
Mr Wilson said the Fair Work Ombudsman had the capacity to strategically co-ordinate services in compliance, advice and education.
“We will provide best practice guidelines – simple and practical ideas for employers to implement in their businesses to create happier, more productive and more cost effective workplaces,” he said.
The Fair Work Ombudsman will also investigate allegations of discrimination in the workplace.
Mr Wilson said by streamlining functions, complainants were less likely “give up” because the complaints process seemed to difficult.
“We will be able to investigate the problem, address it and teach the parties how to prevent it from happening again,” he said.
“Moreover, we intend to use our public reputation as a strong regulator to disseminate advice about workplace discrimination, and in so doing, hope to prevent it from occurring in the first place.”
Three new websites have been established to provide information about the new workplace relations system: Fair Work Online (www.fairwork.gov.au), to provide information and advice about the new system; the Fair Work Ombudsman (www.fwo.gov.au), to help people understand their workplace rights and responsibilities; and Fair Work Australia (www.fwa.gov.au), the national workplace tribunal.
The new Fair Work Infoline phone number is 13 13 94.
7 July, 2009
Auditor buys into
An audit of procurement processes for major capital equipment in the Department of Defence has found poor record-keeping, poor management practices and non-adherence to written requirements.
In its audit report Planning and Approval of Defence Major Capital Equipment Projects the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) found that the Department had yet to implement all the recommendations of a 2003 review into its procurement processes.
According to the latest audit, Defence had established an “adequate administrative framework” for implementing its ‘two-pass’ approval process for major purchases, including high-level oversight, publication of a manual and establishment of the Capability Development Group (CDG).
It found that these measures would deliver effective outcomes “provided the framework is adhered to and underpinned by adequate and appropriate resourcing, support and training for CDG staff.”
The audit found however that as far as the cases it studied were concerned, the processes followed were different from those set out in the written guides.
“Poor record keeping in CDG meant that in most cases the ANAO was unable to determine whether Defence’s inability to provide key documents … was a consequence of poor records management practices or because the documents had not been prepared.”
It said that although Defence had agreed in 2004 to include the Department of Finance in its procurement approval processes from an early stage to ensure the Government received an independent evaluation of proposed costings, it had yet to do so.
“Defence has not implemented, nor set out, appropriate processes and procedures for the early and ongoing engagement of Finance in the development of cost estimates,” the audit report says.
“The absence of agreed processes and procedures, and of guidance for desk officers and their managers on the approach to be taken in this regard, means that Government may not be consistently provided with the level of independent capability development proposal costings envisaged by the 2003 Kinnaird Defence Procurement Review.
“Given the importance of effective planning and scoping to the successful delivery of capability, further attention to a range of issues is required to provide Government with assurance that the body of information provided to inform its decisions on major Defence acquisitions meets the standards previously set, and expected.”
Following its audit the ANAO called for improvements to the administrative framework, particularly to provide clear guidance on the key elements required by government for its approval processes; appropriate authorisation of the approaches adopted for particular projects; improvement of CDG’s recordkeeping policies; involvement of Finance in costing projects from an early stage; upgrading the training, resourcing and support for CDG officers; and ensuring the requirement of written guidelines be adhered to.
The full audit report can be accessed at the ANAO website www.anao.gov.au
7 July, 2009
Reef protection plan
A new era of cooperation between the Federal and Queensland Governments has been entered with the signing of an intergovernmental agreement to protect the Great Barrier Reef.
makes big splash
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd and Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh signed the Great Barrier Reef Intergovernmental Agreement to protect the Reef from the effects of climate change and declining water quality.
Mr Rudd and Ms Bligh said the agreement, which replaced the 1979 Emerald Agreement, provided a framework for the Governments to work together to confront challenges that were unheard of in 1979.
Describing climate change as “the single most significant threat to the future of the Reef”, they said it was essential for the two Governments to work together to confront new challenges.
“Neither Government can address these issues acting on their own,” the two leaders said.
Implementation of the Agreement is to be driven by the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Council, which met for the first time last week to discuss the challenges facing the Reef and to set joint action by the Australian and Queensland Governments in motion.
The Council will also cover the new Reef Water Quality Protection Plan, a new agreement between the two Governments on improving the quality of water going into the Great Barrier Reef Lagoon, and the protection of the Reef.
7 July, 2009
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has commenced digital radio services in major capital cities across the country.
hits the charts
Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott said switching on its digital service meant new and increased content for listeners.
While digital radio will initially be available only in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, the Government is considering extending services to other metropolitan centres and regional areas.
Mr Scott said the ABC would offer simulcasts of its existing ABC Radio services along with three new music stations: ABC Dig Music, ABC Jazz and ABC Country.
Director of ABC Radio, Kate Dundas said digital radio would allow the ABC to deliver a greater variety of content and to present special event broadcasts, including the planned uninterrupted coverage of the 2009 Ashes series.
Ms Dundas said other opportunities for the broadcaster included alternative programming choices on networks such as ABC NewsRadio during Parliamentary session broadcasts, and special event concert broadcasts from triple j and ABC Classic FM.
“With our new music services on digital radio joining the ABC broadcast family, we’re pleased to commence the Digital Radio roll-out,” she said.
“It’s the next exciting move in the ABC delivering audiences the high quality content they seek from us.”
7 July, 2009
A new peak advisory body to coordinate services for multicultural youth has been established by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs, Laurie Ferguson said DIAC had provided $285,000 to create the National Multicultural Youth Advisory Network (NMYAN).
Mr Ferguson said the two-year project, coordinated through the Diverse Australia Program, would help local communities address cultural, racial and religious intolerance.
“The Government has recognised the need for advocacy for young migrants and refugees in Australia and this project will play a significant part in improving the lives of these young people,” he said.
“The National Multicultural Youth Advisory Network will build the capacity of youth Agencies and networks around the country to meet the needs of young refugees and migrants.”
Mr Ferguson said the majority of refugees who travelled to Australia on humanitarian programs were under the age of 30.
“Along with other newly arrived young people with culturally diverse backgrounds, they face significant challenges when settling into their new country including learning English, negotiating the education system, coming to terms with a new culture and finding jobs and housing,” he said.
“Many of these young people have to deal with these issues without the support of family or the established networks that other young Australians are able to draw upon. “Unfortunately, they can also experience racism and discrimination along the way.”
The project is to be administered by the Centre for Multicultural Youth in Victoria, which will also develop the structures necessary to establish NMYAN as the national peak advisory body.
7 July, 2009
Red Nose Day
In an effort to raise money for the charity SIDS and Kids, Centrelink staff in Canberra have gone all out for Red Nose Day.
strikes a blow
Wearing red noses and making donations, employees raised more than $2,500.
Cherie Martin from Centrelink organised the fundraiser, and said staff purchased 15 boxes of merchandise, including pens, badges and the trademark red noses.
Ms Martin said the money raised would go towards helping SIDS and Kids save the lives of children from pregnancy, birth and infancy through to childhood, as well as supporting bereaved families.
“SIDS and Kids does fantastic work aimed at reducing sudden infant death syndrome both in our local Canberra community and throughout Australia,” she said.
“It’s great to see so many Centrelink staff at our offices at Tuggeranong and Woden supporting this worthwhile cause.”
Ms Martin said as many Centrelink staff had their own families, SIDS and Kids was a charity that “really hits close to home for most people.”
Centrelink’s efforts did not go unnoticed by Chief Executive Officer of SIDS and Kids ACT, Karen Faichney.
“SIDS and Kids ACT relies on support from the local community,” Ms Faichney said. “Without this support it would be difficult to provide the level of service we currently offer.”
Each year, SIDS and Kids ACT aims to reach 5,000 families with their educational services and provides bereavement support to more than 100 families in the ACT region.
Red Nose Day has raised millions of dollars for SIDS and Kids and has contributed to an 85 per cent reduction in cases of SIDS in Australia since 1989.
7 July, 2009
Learner driver plan
A new driver education program which will provide 200,000 free driving lessons to learners is being rolled out in Tasmania.
hits the road
Minister for Transport, Anthony Albanese said the keys2drive program would help combat road accidents by giving novice drivers extra incentives to gain on-the-road experience.
The program, which would move to other States and Territories from September, will provide a free lesson to learners and parents or mentors from an accredited instructor.
It will also provide parents or mentors with instructional material and practical guidance on how to provide effective supervision and training to a learner driver.
Under the program an interactive website has been established that features instructional videos, educational games and details of accredited driving instructors.
The program has also delivered the first national accreditation scheme for driving instructors.
Mr Albanese said young people were at greater risk of being involved in fatal car accidents than any other age group, with nearly a third of people killed on Australian roads between 16 and 25.
“We must and are doing more to prevent these tragedies,” he said.
“The program is a practical way of equipping young people with the skills they need for a lifetime of safer driving.”
Mr Albanese said the initiative was developed by the Australian Automobile Association, the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania and other motoring clubs around the country, with funding from the Federal Government and support from the driver training industry.
More information about the program is available from www.keys2drive.com.au
7 July, 2009
Tradies’ language is
Tradespeople migrating to Australia will now have to possess increased English language skills under changes administered by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. According to a spokesperson for DIAC, people applying for permanent General Skilled Migration visas would have to pass a language test showing they were competent in English, whereas previously they only needed to pass at the lower standard of vocational English.
in their own words
The spokesperson said those with competent English demonstrated an “effective use” of the language, in contrast to those with a vocational level, who generally had a “partial command.”
“Tradespeople lodging skilled migration visa applications overseas will be required to meet the new English language level under the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test,” the spokesperson said.
“This change will bring trade related occupations in line with the English language level required for all other occupations on the Skilled Occupation List.”
The spokesperson said research had found migrants who were proficient in English had better employment outcomes once they arrived in Australia.
Under the changes, a 4.1 per cent increase in the minimum salary levels for Temporary Skilled Overseas Workers was also introduced.
The spokesperson said this was consistent with the change in average employees’ total earnings since the level was last reviewed in August 2008.
The Department will also undertake more extensive skills assessments to confirm skills claimed by applicants, “for safety or to prevent fraud.”
“Changes have also come into effect that require employers of temporary skilled overseas workers to attest they have a strong record of and demonstrated commitment to employing local labour and non-discriminatory employment practices,” the spokesperson said.
“Australia is improving its skills assessment processes to provide for formal skills testing of some trade occupations.”
The trial of the new arrangements commenced on 1 July and is expected to be extended as capacities are increased.
7 July, 2009
A new resource to help students estimate the amount of financial assistance they are eligible for from the Government has been launched by the Minister for Education, Julia Gillard.
gets tick of approval
Ms Gillard said proposed reforms to Youth Allowance, including the estimator tool, would come into effect from 1 January 2010.
She said under the changes approximately 68,000 more students would be able to access Youth Allowance from next year and 35,000 existing recipients would receive increased payments.
Ms Gillard said prospective students could use the tool to enter their parents’ income and family type to gain an estimate of what support they were likely to receive under the changes.
“The Government's reforms will deliver more support for more students and target support to students who need it most,” she said.
“Many students who were previously forced to gain eligibility through the old independence criterion will now automatically be eligible to receive Youth Allowance as a result of the increases to the Parental Income Test.”
Ms Gillard said the proposed changes meant students living away from home would be entitled to student income support at higher family income levels than those who stayed at home.
She said the new parental income cut-off for families with two students aged 18 and over living at home would increase to almost $108,000 compared to the current cut-off of around $62 000.
“Families on low incomes will be better off than under the current system and the changes will be of particular benefit to rural and regional students,” Ms Gillard said.
“A family earning $50,000 with two students who have to move away from home may receive $18,145 a year in Youth Allowance payments alone. Total support, including scholarships and rent assistance, could be up to $33.436 for this family type.”
She said new scholarships would also be available to university students receiving student income support payments.
“All university students receiving student income support, around 146,600 students, will receive an annual Student Start-up Scholarship of $2,254,” Ms Gillard said.
“Students who need to live away from home to study may also be eligible for the new Relocation Scholarship of $4,000 in the first year of study and $1,000 each year following.”
The estimator is available from www.deewr.gov.au
7 July, 2009
ACMA calls for help
The Australian Communications and Media Authority is encouraging public comment on the role of the telecommunications industry in emergency calls.
with Triple 0 probe
The new draft Emergency Call Service Determination will set out specific requirements in relation to the making, handling and transferring of emergency calls.
The new draft Determination follows the 2008 review of the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2002.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the Draft 2009 Determination included a number of proposals, including obligations for the providers of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Out Only services, to provide access to Triple Zero or to inform their customers access was not available.
Mr Chapman said other proposals included bringing the obligations of mobile communication providers in line with other types of service providers’ and requiring carriers and Telstra, as the emergency call person for Triple Zero and 112, to minimise the number of non-genuine emergency calls from mobile phones.
“It is self-evidently vital that public interest protections, such as access to the emergency call services, are appropriately updated to take account of technological change, especially from increasing IP-based telephony,” he said.
Mr Chapman said the requirement to minimise non-genuine calls to the emergency call service supported recent industry initiatives.
“The continuing trend of fixed to mobile substitution increases the potential for an emergency call to be made from a customer’s home using a mobile phone,” he said.
“This is why new provisions are needed, to place effective customer information obligations on mobile service providers.”
Mr Chapman said the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission and the NSW Coroner’s inquest into the death of David Iredale, had increased public scrutiny of emergency calls.
“A number of matters raised, both in these forums and by those who made submissions to the ACMA’s review, are beyond the scope of the ACMA’s Determination and will ultimately need to be resolved by Governments,” he said.
“In the meantime, the ACMA will continue to address issues within its remit by working with industry and emergency service organisations, and also taking into consideration any recommendations coming out of these and other forums.”
The closing date for submissions is 21 August 2009, with further information available from www.acma.gov.au
7 July, 2009
New pensioner index
An information paper outlining the new Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index has been released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Information Paper: Introduction of the Pensioner Cost Living Index (PBLCI) was released after the Pension Review Report found an alternative to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was needed to respond to changes in the living costs of pensioners and other households receiving income support from the Government.
The paper outlines the new index, how it is calculated and its relationship to the CPI. It is available from www.abs.gov.au
New crime body
A joint body to fight organised crime has been set up by the Australian Federal Police, Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, Australian Crime Commission, NSW State Crime Command and the NSW Crime Commission.
The Joint Organised Crime Group will target organised drug crime in NSW to enable a more effective response to the changing nature of crime.
The collaborative efforts and collective powers of each Agency will be used to focus on drug importation and distribution within NSW.
Police warn on email
The Australian Federal Police has warned the public of a scam email claiming to be sent by the AFP.
The AFP said the email told recipients their credit card had been linked to transactions by a criminal organisation before instructing them to follow a link.
The AFP said recipients should delete the email immediately and should not respond to it or click on the link as the Police would not ask members of the public to disclose personal information about themselves via email.
Nominations for top awards
Nominations for the 2010 Australian of the Year Awards have opened, marking what will be the Award’s 50th anniversary.
Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd encouraged people to submit a nomination in one or more of the four award categories.
The Australian of the Year Award is open to all Australians; the Senior Australian of the Year recognises Australians aged 60 and over; the Young Australian of the Year acknoweldges Australians aged 16 to 30 years; and Australia’s Local Hero recognises Australians who make a real difference in their local community.
Nominations close 31 August 2009 with further information available from www.australianoftheyear.org.au
ANAO advises on SAP
The Australian National Audit Office has released a Better Practice Guide to help Government entities strengthen security and controls within the SAP system.
The SAP ECC 6.0 Security and Control Better Practice Guide aims to help staff identify and assess business impacts resulting from control weaknesses; increase awareness of risks to security and control within SAP; strengthen security controls to ensure user access to key transaction codes; and implement better practice procedures to improve delivery of financial processes.
Copies of the Guide could be accessed from www.anao.gov.au
ALRC talks on secrets
The Australian Law Reform Commission is seeking comment on its review of secrecy laws.
The ALRC has created an online discussion forum, ‘Talk to Us … about Secrecy’ to encourage community feedback on how to balance increased openness and transparency in Government with the need to maintain the secrecy and confidentiality of some Commonwealth information.
The Review of Secrecy Laws discussion paper made 65 proposals for reform.
Submissions on the proposals are due by 7 August 2009, with further information available from www.alrc.gov.au or by visiting the online forum at talk.alrc.gov.au
Medicare bank deal healthy
Australians appear to be embracing Medicare Australia’s electronic banking initiative, with the Agency recording its two millionth bank account detail from people choosing to have their rebate paid directly into their account.
This figure is up from 281,660 in November 2007, showing many Australians prefer to have their Medicare rebate processed on the spot when they use medical services.
Over one million transactions were made electronically across Australia in the last month alone.
ABC looking for stars
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation is looking for people from the Asia Pacific who have lived in Australia for less than five years to be part of a new television series.
Each week, the television stars will undertake different activities to discover more about Australia and garner a greater understanding of its culture.
Applicants must be between 18 and 40, speak English well, be outgoing and have the ability to travel and work in Australia.
For more information visit australianetwork.com
Research conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found one in four workers are casual employees, with 40 per cent aged between 15 to 24.
The figures were revealed in the ABS’s latest Australian Social Trends publication, which also found more young Australians were living with their parents than ever before.
In 2006 almost one in four people between 20 and 34 were living with their parents.
Levy rates announced
The Government has announced the financial sector levy rates for 2009-10.
Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law, Chris Bowen said in 2009-10, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority would collect $119.8 million compared to the levy requirements of $107.9 million last year.
The rates are used to calculate annual levies from the financial services sector to fund the operational costs of the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, and some functions undertaken by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Taxation Office.
For a full list of levies visit mfsscl.treasurer.gov.au