SearchArchives for July 2011
29 July, 2011
PS communication is
Official communication by Public Service agencies lacks clarity and is not accessible to the people who need it most according to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher.
off air: Ombudsman
Mr Asher made the comments in a speech in Canberra last week.
“Government agencies must place a greater emphasis on social inclusion when approaching policy and service delivery,” Mr Asher said.
“Central to this is improving the way government agencies communicate with people.”
He said many of the complaints about Agencies his office received arose from poor communication which he suspected was partly because many Agencies saw the way they communicated as a side issue to the services they provided.
“I suspect that for every complaint we get, there are maybe 10 we don’t,” he said.
“In general terms, I believe that the people we don’t hear from are the people we should be hearing from most, because they are likely to be those members of our community who are the most marginalised and disadvantaged.”
He said among the common examples of poor - even lazy - communication were computer-generated form letters; people being sent too much correspondence, or too little, or none at all; call centre staff who didn’t have enough information or authority; and not providing translations or interpreters.
Mr Asher called for a unified approach across the government to make communication clear, accessible and two-way and he recommended a shift in attitude to complaint-handling, saying it was a “strategic resource”.
He advised policy makers to take happiness and wellbeing as their starting points when developing and implementing policy and service delivery, saying a proper complaints handling procedure ensured that community feedback led to improvement in the provision of services.
The full transcript of the Ombudsman’s speech can be accessed at this PS News link.
29 July, 2011
New PS survey
A new report into community attitudes towards the Australian Public Service has been published by the Centre for Policy Development (CPD).
The published report Attitudes toward the public service was partly funded by the Community and Public Sector Union and is an edited extract from a larger work being compiled by the CPD.
The survey of attitudes was informed by other research projects conducted by a range of organisations over more than two decades.
The researchers said the breadth and diversity of those sources allowed them to identify trends with a degree of confidence.
Their report said that while attitudes toward public services were well researched, available surveys did not provide an exhaustive picture and further research was “definitely warranted”.
The report presented a summary of attitudes about the Public Service based on the perspectives of community members, Australian politicians and Public Servants.
It found that most Australians supported Government exercising an active role in society and there was strong community preference for public (rather than private) sector agencies.
It said despite community preferences for Government to deliver its own services, outsourcing and privatisation still took place.
The report found that Australians were generally supportive of increased Public Service funding, even if it meant higher taxes, and a majority had reservations about the practical importance of a Budget surplus.
Its finding that the public held Public Service Agencies in higher regard than major companies was notable for the fact that mainstream media communicated primarily negative stereotypes of Public Servants, which politicians reinforced.
It said past studies of APS employees presented contradictory impressions with surveys by the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) for example, presenting a largely positive picture and those by the Community and Public Sector Union a significantly less positive impression.
The report recommended as a solution to the problem that a standardised national survey of Australian citizens’ views on the APS be conducted.
More information on the interim report is available from the Centre’s website at this PS News link.
29 July, 2011
Census gets numbers
The 100th national Census has been officially launched for 2011 by the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten.
for 100th launch
Mr Shorten said the Census would be taken on Tuesday 9 August and provide a snapshot of who Australia was as a nation.
“It sheds light on our communities, towns, cities and homes,” Mr Shorten said.
“It also allows us to see where we have come from as a nation and helps us navigate our way into the future.”
He said according to the 99th Census, there were 105 people in Australia who spoke a made-up language at home and while he wasn’t entirely convinced by the statistic it was a good example of how the Census had evolved since the first national Census was completed in 1911.
Mr Shorten said in 1911 Australia’s population was almost four and a half million Andrew Fisher was Prime Minister. The average weekly income was four pounds 13 shillings.
He said a century on the population was just over 22 and a half million, the nation had its first female Prime Minister, and the average family weekly income was $1,171.
He said the Census was the largest peace-time operation in Australia and this year 29,000 collectors would “leave no stone unturned” to get an accurate count of everyone in Australia on Census night.
Mr Shorten said 14.2 million Census forms would be delivered to Australia’s 9.8 million households with more than 46 million pages of data transported and processed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
He said this year almost 30 per cent of the population were expected to fill out their forms online using eCensus, which would provide a fast, easy and secure alternative to the traditional forms.
“I encourage everyone in Australia on Census night to take part, and help ensure this 16th national Census is as successful as the first national Census 100 years ago,” Mr Shorten said.
More information about the Census could be obtained from the Australian Bureau of Statistics at this PS News link.
29 July, 2011
Reviewer sets sail
A review of the National Water Commission has been ordered to assess its effectiveness and the continued relevance of its role.
for Water Commission
The NWC is charged with promoting water reform objectives and outcomes.
Announcing the review, Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said it would be conducted separately from the Commission and was required under the National Water Commission Act 2004.
Senator Farrell said he had appointed Dr David Rosalky to conduct the review.
“Dr Rosalky brings a wealth of expertise to the job, including more than 30 years experience in senior government positions in Australia and Canada,” Senator Farrell said.
“He has conducted reviews of public policy and expenditure programs and is a visiting fellow in policy and governance at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the ANU.”
He said Dr Rosalky would conduct the review on behalf of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and would be supported by a secretariat in the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities which would be accountable to the reviewer.
“Given the national significance of managing Australia’s water resources wisely, this review is a very timely opportunity to consider what roles and functions will assist the ongoing process of water reform,” Senator Farrell said.
He said the report from the review would be provided to COAG by the end of the year.
29 July, 2011
Unholy findings in
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has delivered a stinging criticism against the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for its management of the National School Chaplaincy Program.
According to the Ombudsman, Allan Asher, the Department “must improve its management and oversight” of the program.
Emphasising that the merits of the program itself were a matter for Government and not the subject of the investigation, Mr Asher said that although it may be a complex program to administer, the Department must do more.
“This report is concerned with such issues as problems with the application process, parental consultation, funding agreements, and complaint handling,” he said.
“Our focus was on ensuring the program makes effective and efficient use of public money.”
Mr Asher said his investigation was prompted by a report from the Northern Territory Ombudsman which identified issues with the administration of the Chaplaincy Program which she said she was unable to investigate due to lack of jurisdiction.
After Mr Asher’s investigation a series of recommendations were made including that DEEWR consider giving guidance to schools; that it review the code of conduct; amend the program guidelines; implement more robust mechanisms to capture and manage complaints; and work towards a review of funding agreements.
In its response, the Department broadly agreed with the recommendations.
Minister for Education, Peter Garrett welcomed the report saying the Ombudsman had made some useful recommendations.
Mr Garrett said he knew there was room for improvement in some of the administrative aspects of the scheme, and work was already underway to deal with it.
He said a discussion paper had been released earlier this year on the future of the program and he was currently considering the results of the consultation.
“The Government is extending the school chaplaincy scheme to 2014 and expanding it to 1,000 additional schools,” Mr Garrett said.
“We remain committed to ensuring as many schools and students as possible receive the benefits of what has been a successful and valuable program,” he said.
The full Ombudsman’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.
29 July, 2011
An agreement with the Government of Malaysia to divert refugees seeking asylum in Australia has been signed by the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen.
Mr Bowen said the agreement would help combat people smuggling and provide protection for genuine refugees.
Mr Bowen said the arrangement demonstrated the resolve of Australia and Malaysia to break the people smugglers’ business model, stop them profiting from human misery, and stop people risking their lives at sea.
He said it provided for the transfer from Australia to Malaysia of up to 800 irregular maritime arrivals and formalised Australia’s commitment to accept 1,000 additional genuine refugees from Malaysia every year for the next four years.
Mr Bowen said the agreement increased Australia’s overall annual humanitarian intake to 14,750 places and reaffirmed Malaysia’s commitment that transferees would be treated with dignity and respect in accordance with human rights standards.
He said it required Malaysia to respect the principle of ‘non-refoulement’, the key tenet of the Refugee Convention, and that asylum claims continue to be considered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
He said the transfer arrangement between Australia and Malaysia also provided that arrivals be subject to pre-transfer assessments; that transferees be regarded as lawful in Malaysia and exemption under the Malaysian Immigration Act and Passports Act; and that they be accommodated initially in a transit centre in Malaysia for up to 45 days, with support from the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Mr Bowen said following initial processing, transferees would move into the community, with work rights, access to education and health care and would receive no preferential treatment in the processing of their claims or arrangements for resettlement over other asylum seekers in Malaysia.
The Minister said oversight and advisory committees, including representatives from Australia, Malaysia, the UNHCR, IOM and others, would provide ongoing advice to both Governments on day-to-day management of the arrangement and the ongoing welfare of transferees.
The transfer arrangement can be accessed at this PS News link and the operational guidelines at this PS News link.
29 July, 2011
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service promising to continue to work collaboratively with Customs so the two organisations can consolidate their strong working relationship.
at cutting edge
Secretary of DAFF, Conall O’Connell said that while the Agencies already worked closely together at airports, seaports and mail centres, the MOU would allow them to become more effective and efficient in their individual and joint operations.
“This MOU paves the way for us to share intelligence and information, strengthen border operations and compliance systems,” Dr O’Connell said, “and use a common approach to risk management.”
He said the MOU would further the Agencies’ support for one another’s role in protecting Australia’s borders.
Chief Executive of Customs, Michael Carmody, said that officers from Customs and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) formed a major part of the frontline defence against illegal movement of goods and people across Australia’s international borders.
“Together our officers contribute to the safety, security and commercial interest of Australians, protecting our borders, economy, biosecurity, and health,” Mr Carmody said.
He said the MOU would support both Agencies’ focus on an intelligence-led, risk-based approach to border security.
“A risk-based system moves away from 100% intervention at the border and focuses on the pathways, people and goods that pose the highest risk to Australia’s biosecurity, environment, health and safety,” Mr Carmody said.
He said this “smarter system” was also seeing a faster clearance of cargo, passengers and mail through the border and was reducing the costs for compliant clients.
D O’Connell said the MOU demonstrated a whole-of-government approach to border operations and could be inspected on the DAFF website this PS News link.
29 July, 2011
Governments chip out
The Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments have entered an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the forestry industry in Tasmania and achieve significant environmental outcomes.
A Heads of Agreement was signed by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Premier of Tasmania, Lara Giddings.
“In the face of changing market conditions, both in Australia and around the world, it has become clear that the pressure on the Tasmanian forestry industry in its current form is not sustainable,” the two leaders said.
“Today’s agreement will secure jobs, ensure a sustainable forestry industry, and achieve iconic environmental outcomes by protecting High Conservation Value forests and remaining old growth forests for future generations.”
Ms Gillard said the Heads of Agreement was backed up by funding of $276 million to support workers and their families affected by industry restructure.
She said under the agreement the Australian and Tasmanian Governments would provide up to $85 million in immediate assistance for workers and contractors who lost their jobs and livelihoods.
She said the agreement would also facilitate sustainable opportunities for the Tasmanian forestry sector; see the Tasmanian Government reserve and protect 430,000 hectares of native forest; and receive $120 million in Australian Government investment over 15 years, including $20 million in 2011-12, to develop and diversify the Tasmanian economy to drive new job opportunities.
Ms Gillard said the Commonwealth would provide funding to implement the Heads of Agreement including the costs of activities such as working with communities through the transition and providing voluntary compensable exits to sawmillers wishing to leave the native forestry industry.
She said the agreement meant the forestry industry could continue on a sustainable footing, and guaranteed ongoing supply for existing businesses that were critical to supporting jobs and regional communities in Tasmania.
Both leaders said they expected the Tasmanian Parliament to pass the required legislation by 30 June 2012.
29 July, 2011
And in Other News...
Forecasters say no
Staff of the Bureau of Meteorology have voted down their proposed enterprise agreement with a 83% ‘No’ vote.
It is believed to be the highest ‘No’ vote recorded for a Federal agency.
The Community and Public Sector Union says close to 70,000 PS staff are in agencies where agreements had been rejected.
Builders on Twitter
The Office of the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABCC) is now on Twitter.
ABCC will be using Twitter to share breaking news, useful guides and information, and provide followers with updates on the ABCC’s actions as a full service regulator.
The Office said over the coming months the ABCC planned to connect with building and construction industry participants through other social media services.
The ABCC Twitter account is accessible through the tag @abcc_gov_au
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has produced an online video for parents to advise them on how to keep their children safe online.
How Cybersmart are you? aims to educate parents to recognise the signs of cyberbullying and the actions they can take.
For more information visit PS News link.
Native Title winners
The Federal Court has recognised native title rights for two Aboriginal communities in Victoria and Queensland.
The determination recognises the non-exclusive native title rights of the Gunditjmara and Eastern Maar Peoples over 13 square km of land and sea in Eumeralla (Yambuk) Coastal Reserve in South West Victoria and finishes a claim process begun by the Gunditjmara peoples in 1998.
The Court also recognised a claim by the Juru People for 86 square km of land and waters within Cape Upstart National Park, north of Bowen in North Queensland.
The action was commenced in 1997.
Campsites, cultural venues, cellar doors, heritages sites and other tourism attractions have been given a boost from $8.5 million in grants from the TQUAL program.
17 projects across Australia received the support to lift the quality and variety of Australia’s tourism experiences.
The grants are a part of the National Long Term Tourism Strategy to help address the lack of investment in tourism which is more pronounced in regional Australia.
Grant recipients can be found at PS News link.
Anzac awards announced
This year’s Anzac Day Schools’ Awards have been announced by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon.
The annual Awards encourage students to learn about Australia’s wartime history and develop relationships with their local veteran and current serving communities.
Mr Snowdon said this year 18 winners across the country shared in $20,000 of prize money, funded by the Australian Government’s Saluting their Service commemorations program.
For more information visit PS News link.
Breakthrough for disabled
A new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that the program of reducing the number of young people with disability in residential aged care has made important progress.
The report Younger People with Disability in Residential Aged Care: Update from the 2009-10 Minimum Data Set said the number of people under 50 in nursing homes had reduced from 1,007 in July 2006 to 715 in June 2010 – a 29 per cent drop.
Previously this week...
Indigenous preference now in place
Agencies subject to the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 are now required to apply the Indigenous Opportunities Policy (IOP) to procurements valued at or over $5 million ($6 million for construction) in regions where there are significant Indigenous populations.
To assist Agencies carry out there obligations, the Australian Indigenous Minority Supplier Council (AIMSC) is to host information sessions about the IOP throughout Australia with the first to be held in Canberra on 18 August.
For more information or to register for the event visit the AIMSC website at this PS News link.
Teslstra offshores 300
Telecommunications giant Telstra is to send up to 300 administrative jobs offshore.
The outsourced positions are to be staffed by Indian suppliers, some of whom already have contractual arrangements to provide similar services to the company.
According to press reports, Telstra staff will be entitled to apply for the overseas jobs and could be assisted with relocation costs.
Defence to share facilities
Australia and the United Kingdom are to share defence research facilities to enhance cooperation in science and technology and reduce operating costs.
Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for reciprocal access to each other’s science facilities and equipment.
The agreement will also provide for sharing of information between DSTO and Dstl.
A new and simplified approach to applying tariff concessions to Australian businesses importing products has been announced by the Ministers for Industry and Customs.
The Customs Tariff Act 1995 provides a wide range of tariff concessions which reduce or remove the normal rate of customs duty that would otherwise apply.
These concessions lower costs for businesses importing goods, but trying to find the right concession can be a lengthy and complex process.
The reforms will reduce the existing tariff concession schedule to about half the current number of items and improve the clarity and usability of the Act.
Boost for filmmaker fund
An ABC fund to raise money for young film makers has reached $600,000 following a $200,000 donation from the Australia Council for the Arts.
The Hive Production Fund was launched earlier this year to support the production of selected arts-based films and documentaries.
The fund enhances cross pollination between the performing and visual arts, literature and film and assists in producing one-off, ambitious arts films with the resulting works to have world premieres at the 2013 Adelaide Film Festival and screen on ABC TV.
Remote energy plan
Remote Indigenous communities will be able to access clean, affordable and reliable 24-hour power supplies as part of the Clean Energy Future reforms.
The new Remote Indigenous Energy Program will provide financial support to communities to install renewable energy generation systems like solar panels and wind turbines with about 50 remote Indigenous communities to receive assistance.
Communities will be identified based on need and remoteness with the primary target to be remote Indigenous communities that still rely on diesel generators for their power supply.
ACMA helps e-marketers
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has launched a new campaign aimed at assisting businesses to e-market successfully.
Successful e-marketing…it’s about reputation, offers information and advice to e-marketers, and shows how compliance with the Spam Act can enhance a business’s reputation.
More information about the initiative, including ACMA’s ‘e-marketing blog visit this PS News link.
26 July, 2011
New Comcare Centre to
Comcare has established a new Centre of Excellence in Mental Health and Wellbeing at Work following a dramatic increase in the number of claims for workers compensation based on mental stress.
put stress to the test
The Centre brings together research bodies, employers, workers and health practitioners in an effort to identify solutions to mental health issues in workplaces.
General Manager of Work Health and Safety with Comcare, Neil Quarmby said poor health caused by job stress was fast becoming one of the biggest threats to health and safety in the Public Service workplace.
He said the new Centre of Excellence would help Comcare provide support to PS employers and frontline managers.
“Clearly this trend could have serious consequences for employees and employers through serious health issues and a significant loss in productivity,” Mr Quarmby said.
“I am keen that employers get the message that health and safety at work is not only a physical issue but also increasingly involves mental health as well.”
He said Comcare figures revealed that over the past 12 months, mental stress claims accounted for almost 22% of all serious claims that involved one week or more time off from work.
He said employers needed to urgently address and manage psychosocial risk factors in the workplace and learn to recognise the signs of mental ill health among their employees.
Mr Quarmby said such signs could include not getting things done; withdrawal from colleagues at work; inability to concentrate; increased consumption of caffeine, cigarettes or alcohol; conflict; uncharacteristic mood swings; and unplanned absences from work.
He said the Comcare analysis showed that while work pressure was previously the main cause of serious mental stress claims, the proportion of serious mental stress claims in the past 12 months relating to harassment or workplace bullying had increased to a level equal to that of work pressure.
Mr Quarmby said there was a growing awareness of workplace bullying and harassment among workers which was one of the reasons for the rise in mental stress claims.
26 July, 2011
Voting concerns mar
The Community and Public Sector Union has registered concerns with the Australian Electoral Commission over the conduct of recent ballots for industrial action in two Departments that returned ‘No’ votes.
The union has complained that some of its members in the Department of Immigration and Citizenship and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service failed to receive voting papers in time.
“The protected action ballot was unsuccessful in both agencies because the total number of returned votes narrowly failed to meet the threshold of 50 per cent plus one required,” the union says on its website.
“The outcome in Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) was around 80 votes short of the threshold and in Customs it was around 110 votes short.”
The union says up to 350 DIAC staff in overseas or remote detention centres did not receive a ballot paper at all, or did so too late, as did several hundred other DIAC staff stationed overseas.
It said many Customs personnel deployed on vessels at sea for up to six weeks were also affected as were “dozens” of city-based union members in both agencies who received their ballot papers on the last day for voting.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said the union was concerned that so many members lost the opportunity to exercise their right to vote simply because they worked in remote or inaccessible places.
“Our members in Customs and Immigration are frustrated and angry that their right to take industrial action has been denied because the system can’t cope with such a complex workforce ballot,” Ms Flood said.
“This problem is also the result of Fair Work Act provisions which require protected action ballots to be held in-face or by post.
“These provisions are inadequate for large, national organisations with staff in many locations.”
She said if electronic voting was permissible for ballots on new agreements, it should also be permissible for protected action ballots.
Ms Flood said the Electoral Commission had confirmed that of all the ballots received on time, 80 to 90 per cent were in support of industrial action.
“Despite the setback with the voting process, the CPSU is determined to continue its campaign for better outcome for employees,” Ms Flood said.
“Negotiation has always been our preferred option to end this pay dispute, and it remains so. However employees have a right to take industrial action, if necessary, to win a better deal.’
The union has sought an urgent meeting with the AEC.
26 July, 2011
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has found that almost half the private companies doing business with the NSW Public Service believe it to be corrupt.
in NSW PS procurement
The anti-corruption watchdog found almost a third of the companies in NSW refused to bid on Government contracts due to their concerns.
The ICAC has called for more procurement leadership to counter the perceptions.
In its research report entitled Corruption risks in NSW Government procurement: Suppliers’ perceptions of corruption, ICAC surveyed 1,500 suppliers and found that 55 per cent were of the view that improper favouritism was a feature of NSW Government procurement with 48 per cent saying gifts and benefits worth more than $20 needed to be offered to win contracts and 39 per cent saying unequal information was provided to bidders during the tender process.
It also found tenderers expected confidential supplier information to be leaked prior to the close of the tender.
“The ICAC has identified procurement as a major risk area for corruption in the NSW public sector,” the report said.
“Each year, approximately 12 per cent of complaints received by the ICAC include allegations of corruption in NSW Government procurement and approximately 30 per cent of our public inquiries make findings of corrupt conduct related to NSW Government procurement activities.”
The Commission said its research showed that suppliers and PS procurement practitioners shared a general feeling of confusion about the best way to handle procurement, where information should be made available and why some decisions were taken.
“Another concern was that there is a widespread lack of compliance with procurement policy procedures and there is an absence of sanctions within the system.”
ICAC made seven recommendations to the Government which included developing a simplified regulatory framework for procurement; clearly distinguishing between mandatory obligations and advisory guidelines; allowing a minimum number of exemptions; and establishing a centralised investigation/complaint management function with the explicit role of monitoring the procurement compliance of Agencies.
ICAC also recommended the new complaint management function have the capacity to receive, access and manage reports about breaches of compliance.
The full ICAC report and its recommendations can be accessed at this PS News link.
26 July, 2011
The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts and Audit has approved a new version of the document Requirements for Annual Reports published by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
for Annual reports
The new 41-page guide sets out all the requirements of Departments and Agencies preparing Annual Reports for presentation to Parliament, particularly new ones for the current year.
The guide is updated annually to take account of changes to reporting requirements prescribed in legislation or arising from new policy or recommendations of Parliament, the Audit Office or others.
The 2010-11 Requirements for Annual Reports identifies three main changes for the coming year relating to the Commonwealth Disability Strategy, Social Inclusion and Freedom of Information.
With respect to the Commonwealth Disability Strategy, the requirement that agencies report on the implementation of the Commonwealth Disability Strategy in their annual reports has been discontinued.
The guide says the policy intent of the CDS has been replaced by the broader goals of the National Disability Strategy.
For social inclusion, the annual report must include a review of how the Department has performed during the year in relation to its Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with the report aimed at providing an assessment of how far the agency has progressed towards its prescribed outcomes.
The guide also says the annual report must include other information on matters required by legislation including occupational health and safety issues; freedom of information requests (up to 30 April 2011); advertising and market research; and ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance reporting (for some agencies).
The guide can be downloaded from this PS News link.
26 July, 2011
Public consultation is to be sought on the introduction of a legal right to privacy in Australia.
in public eye
Minister for Privacy, Brendan O’Connor said a public issues paper would be issued canvassing the prospect of introducing a statutory cause of action for serious invasions of privacy.
“Right now there is no general right to privacy in Australia, and that means there’s no certainty for anyone wanting to sue for an invasion of their privacy,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The News of the World scandal and other recent mass breaches of privacy, both at home and abroad, have put the spotlight on whether there should be such a right.”
He said the Government strongly believed in both the principle of freedom of expression and the right to privacy and any changes to the law would have to strike a balance between the two ideals.
“We know that privacy is a growing concern for everyday Australians – whether it is in our dealings with individuals, businesses, Government Agencies or the media,” Mr O’Connor said.
“Privacy is emerging as a defining issue of the modern era, especially as new technology provides more opportunities for communication, but also new challenges to privacy.”
He said he was keen to hear from everyone with a stake in the privacy debate, including individuals, businesses and the media.
He said the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2008 report into privacy laws made 295 recommendations for changes to privacy regulation and policy, including a proposal to introduce a statutory cause of action for serious breaches.
He said it was important to note that there were laws in place to deal with criminal offending related to privacy breaches using the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act, which outlawed phone tapping and other misuse of communications services, as one example.
26 July, 2011
New Defence alumni a
A new alumni website has been launched for former members of the Australian armed services.
service for Services
Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon launched the website saying it would help keep ex-Navy, Army and Air Force personnel in contact with one another.
Mr Snowdon said the new Defence Alumni Network (DAN) would provide great opportunities for both Defence and Ex-service personnel.
“For the first time, ex-service members will have access to their own alumni network that enables them to keep in contact with mates who have also left the Navy, Army and Air Force,” he said.
He said the website would enable members to share photos and stories, as well as keep abreast of current events and the latest opportunities within Defence.
It would also provide Defence with the opportunity to keep in touch with its alumni and re-engage with people who may want to rejoin the Service.
“We know there comes a time for most personnel where they will explore careers outside the ADF,” Mr Snowdon said.
“What we would like to do is to maintain links with them so that when they have tried something new, gained additional skill sets, and are looking for their next opportunity Defence is front and centre in their minds.”
Mr Snowdon said DAN was currently available to all ex-permanent Navy, Army and Air Force personnel.
He said after completing a verification process and having access granted online members could start utilising DAN straight away.
The network can be accessed at this PS News link.
26 July, 2011
After school sports
The Australian Sports Commission’s after-school activity program is to be increased by 159 new sites.
score extra venues
The Active After-school Communities (AASC) program is currently in place in more than 3,000 schools and out of school hour care services nationally.
The Commission said in term three of 2011 up to 190,000 primary school-aged children across Australia would be given the opportunity to “give sport a go” and to get physically active in the after-school time slot.
It said the new sites would add around 4,300 to the mix offering them the chance to get fit and active and hopefully develop a lifelong love of sport.
It said in addition to getting kids physically active, the program also provided opportunities to build and strengthen local communities by increasing awareness of sporting clubs and providing participation opportunities at the local level.
The program is heavily supported by communities across Australia through local sporting clubs and associations, AASC program staff, qualified coaches, public, private and independent primary schools and out of school care services.
The Commission said such partners worked together to support the AASC program in providing children with access to free sport and physical activity, which they may have otherwise not engaged in.
It said the national program significantly boosted the knowledge and capacity to deliver sport and physical activity programs in a variety of different communities across the nation and almost half the AASC sites were located in rural and regional areas.
It said by providing such fun and enjoyable opportunities early in a child’s development process, the AASC program aimed to ensure that the next generation of Australians benefited from the enjoyment of participating in a lifetime sport and physical activity.
26 July, 2011
Phone review to
The terms of reference for a review of access to telecommunications services for people with illness or disability have been released by the Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy.
send a message
Senator Conroy said the review was announced in 2010 and would also look at how the National Relay Service (NRS) could best provide assistance to people who were deaf or had a hearing or speech impairment.
“New technologies, such as the internet and smart phones, enable many people with disability to communicate with greater independence,” Senator Conroy said.
“The introduction of the National Broadband Network will be expected to support their independence even further.”
He said the review would be undertaken by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and consider how the National Relay Service (NRS) met the telephone communication needs of people who were deaf or had a hearing or speech impairment; and how to build an understanding of what additional support would help people with disability, older Australians and people experiencing illness, to communicate through the use of telecommunication services.
He said among the possible outcomes of the review could be a register of persons who wanted the Government to keep in touch with them and to know their communications needs; how the government would maintain the register, what the Government should keep in mind when designing the contact list; and issues relating to privacy.
The review is seeking submissions from the public addressing the terms of reference and would receive them until 19 August 2011.
For more information or to make a submission visit the review of access to telecommunication services at this PS News link.
26 July, 2011
Watchdog snarls at
The Australian Human Rights Commission has criticised Australia’s immigration policies saying they “continue to lead to breaches” of the nation’s international human rights obligations.
President of the Commission, Catherine Branson said Australia’s strict immigration detention regime continued to raise concerns that Australia’s human rights obligations were being breached, most notably in relation to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Ms Branson said mandatory detention, prolonged and indefinite detention and the continued detention of children led to the most serious breaches of the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.
“The critical overarching factor is that Australia’s mandatory detention system permits indefinite detention,” she said.
“There is no set time limit on the period a person may be held in detention, and people are not able to challenge the need for their detention in a court.”
She said people in detention often expressed disbelief and a sense of injustice that in a country like Australia, they could be detained indefinitely without the ability to challenge their detention before a judge.
She said despite the fact that now almost 60 per cent of children in immigration detention were living in community detention the Commission wanted the Government to extend community detention to all families and unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable people as soon as possible.
Ms Branson said under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Australia agreed to respect, the detention of children must be a last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.
“We know from bitter experience that prolonged detention causes serious mental harm,” she said.
“We must not forget that there are people in our communities who are still damaged from their experience of detention up to 10 years ago.”
She said there were currently more than 4,000 asylum seekers and refugees in immigration detention facilities around Australia.
26 July, 2011
Nuclear agency bombs
An independent review of a Comcare investigation into health and safety arrangements at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has confirmed the majority of conclusions of the original investigator.
out in safety review
Comcare has issued a statement addressing a number of misunderstandings arising from the Review Panel’s report.
The issue arose in 2009 when a Health and Safety Representative at ANSTO was suspended on full pay after alleging the employer was breaching the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The initial investigation found that safety breaches did exist but ANSTO disputed the findings claiming the investigator had made serious errors in his report.
In January 2011 ANSTO wrote to Comcare expressing concerns about the report’s findings and requesting it allocate another officer to conduct a review.
Following the review Comcare announced that the majority of the findings reached by the Review Panel were in line with the conclusions of the initial investigator and reaffirmed ANSTO’s need to address its duty of care obligations.
The review concluded that a safety incident involving ANSTO employees and the mishandling of radiological substances constituted a risk to the health and safety of employees who may have entered the radiation range.
It found that ANSTO had adequately assessed the safety risk but had not implemented adequate steps to control the risk at the time of the incident.
It supported the initial investigation in finding that the report competently addressed the alleged breach of section 76 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The review panel found the initial investigation to have been ‘competent’ and had afforded ANSTO procedural fairness. It did not express any concerns about the method of the first investigation.
The review determined that the recommendations of the initial investigator were proportionate and sound but did not agree with submissions put to it by ANSTO.
26 July, 2011
Safety booklet for
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has published a new booklet for pilots highlighting the dangers of flying into clouds or conditions of poor visibility.
pilots takes off
General Manager of Strategic Capability at the ATSB, Julian Walsh said some pilots who were only qualified to fly when visibility was good - visual flights - remained exposed to significant risk of a fatal accident.
Mr Walsh said to fly in cloudy or foggy conditions, pilots needed an instrument flight rules rating and the new booklet highlighted the dangers of pilots without an instrument rating flying into bad weather.
He said with 14 fatalities in the past five years, general aviation accidents involving visual flights entering cloud remained a significant concern in aviation safety especially as such accidents were all the more tragic because they were avoidable.
“We want to encourage pilots, no matter what their experience level, to develop the knowledge and skills to avoid unintentionally flying into bad weather,” he said.
“If the weather starts to deteriorate, unqualified pilots should make an early decision to turn back or divert before they are caught in cloud.”
Mr Walsh said before they take-off pilots needed to carefully plan their flights and get up-to-date weather forecasts.
“If there’s any doubt, don’t fly,” he said.
Mr Walsh said the latest report in the ATSB’s Avoidable Accidents series, presented case studies on the dangers of flying visual flight rules in deteriorating weather.
He said the booklet focused on the key safety lessons learnt from each case and described strategies for pilots to avoid the dangers of flying into adverse weather conditions including pre-flight planning; considering alternate plans in case of an unexpected change in the weather; making timely decisions to turn back or divert; and using a ‘personal minimums’ checklist to help control and manage flight risks, including marginal weather conditions.
The new booklet is available from this PS News link.
26 July, 2011
National rail plan
The National Transport Commission (NTC) has released a proposed National Rail Safety Law that would create an Australia-wide system of rail safety regulation for the first time in Australia’s history.
on right track
Chief Executive of the NTC, Nick Dimopoulos said the proposed law would be administered by a new National Rail Safety Regulator and would slash red tape and boost safety across the industry.
“Australia currently has seven rail safety regulators across eight States and Territories, all with their own rail safety laws,” Mr Dimopoulos said.
“The proposed Law will streamline the requirements for interstate operators and allow them to spend less time on red tape and more time on managing safety and getting the job done.”
He said the law, which would come into effect in 2013, would also provide greater clarity about the requirements for assessing worker competence and create consistency in the communication requirements between train drivers and network control officers across the country.
Director of the National Rail Safety Regulator Project Office, Julie Bullas said that the national approach would also benefit intrastate operators and contractors ensuring a national approach to data collection improved benchmarks across the country.
“The National Rail Safety Regulator will support operators to deliver better rail safety outcomes for Australia, as it will draw on a national pool of data, knowledge and resources,” Ms Bullas said.
“The Regulator will become a central point for information and education in rail safety, making it easier to share information on best practice across the country.”
Mr Dimopoulos said the NTC and the National Rail Safety Regulator Project Office would hold information forums on the proposed law throughout Australia, including regional cities and towns prior to the close of the public consultation period on 12 August.
The draft National Rail Safety Law and draft regulatory impact statement are available to download on the NTC website at this PS News link.
26 July, 2011
Illegal workers bring
Penalties for hiring illegal workers are to be significantly increased following an independent review of the working of the Migration Amendment (Employer Sanctions) Act 2007.
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen said the review was led by independent legal expert Stephen Howells and looked at penalty and enforcement arrangements for businesses employing non-citizens working in Australia without permission.
“The Government will take action to address deficiencies in the existing laws to ensure we have an effective sanctions system in place to deter illegal work hire practices and take action against recalcitrant employers,” Mr Bowen said.
He said the Howells Review found strong evidence of a growing number of illegal workers in Australia, with a minimum of about 50,000 and potentially more than 100,000 working in the country without permission.
He said the problem was also associated with other illegal activity, including serious organised crime, taxation and welfare fraud, sexual exploitation and abuse of vulnerable workers.
Mr Bowen said the review found only a small number of employers and labour suppliers that persistently used illegal workers as a cheap source of labour, with the great majority of employers doing the right thing.
He said the government had accepted, in principle, the review’s recommendations including the introduction of a new three-tiered employer sanctions regime with additional civil penalties and fines, on top of current criminal penalties.
“We will overhaul the penalties for hiring illegal workers,” Mr Bowen said.
“These illegal practices expose vulnerable people to exploitation, distort the labour market and are often associated with abuse of taxation, employment and welfare laws.”
He said the review also found that asylum seekers arriving by sea were not part of the problem, and were a very small number by comparison.
A copy of the Howells Report is available at this PS News link.
26 July, 2011
New fishing rules
The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has imposed new requirements on the fishing industry to protect seabirds better.
for the birds
From 31 October this year, fishing trawlers will be required to lodge seabird management plans with the Authority to minimise the risk to seabirds from their fishing activities.
Chief Executive of AFMA, James Findlay said the new plans aimed to reduce the attractiveness of fishing boats to birds looking for food and sought to eliminate the risk of entanglement for birds that followed the boats.
“AFMA and industry want there to be zero injuries and mortalities of seabirds in our trawl fisheries,” Dr Findlay said.
“Management arrangements in place for trawl vessels in Australia’s Antarctic fisheries have been highly effective in eliminating the risk to seabirds, and trawl vessels in Australia’s South-east and Great Australian Bight fisheries are now required to formally manage the risk to seabirds using similar measures.”
Chief Executive of the South East Trawl Fishing Industry Association, Simon Boag said fishermen had a long history of caring for seabirds and it was taboo to hurt one.
Mr Boag said the vast majority of the fishing fleet already had voluntary seabird management plans in place with 82 skippers also completing formally accredited training to improve their environmental awareness and performance.
“We believe that Seabird Management Plans are a significant step to resolving this issue and we will do whatever it takes to protect seabirds,” Mr Boag said.
Dr Findlay said the Seabird Management Plans required fishers to minimise the amount of fish processing waste near fishing gear and use devices that protected seabirds from entanglement.
“AFMA will monitor compliance with the plans and assess their effectiveness” he said.
“AFMA will work with the industry and other stakeholders to ensure that the risk of harmful interactions with seabirds in the trawl fisheries is as close to zero as possible.”
22 July, 2011
Weather Bureau faces
A review of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has been launched to ensure it can continue to provide its essential services.
winds of change
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell announced the review saying it would assess the Bureau’s capacity to provide seasonal forecasting services and to respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters.
“For more than 100 years, the Bureau has performed a vital role in the provision of meteorological, climatic and other scientific information,” Senator Farrell said.
“Last summer’s severe floods across many parts of Australia, in addition to tropical cyclones including Yasi and bushfires in Western Australia, demonstrated the large and increasing demand for Bureau services and the sustained pressure this can place on the agency.”
He said that more recently, the Japanese and New Zealand earthquakes and the Chilean volcano had highlighted the breadth of the Bureau’s work, which included warning of potential tsunamis and of volcanic ash in the atmosphere.
“The Government is determined to ensure that the Bureau continues to have the capacity to efficiently and effectively provide the services that Australians require now and in the future,” he said.
“This capacity is particularly important in light of scientific advice that climate change could further increase the incidence and severity of Australia’s extreme weather events.”
Senator Farrell said the review would be led by Chloe Munro, who would bring strong commercial skills and expertise in public policy and corporate finance to the task through her leadership experience in the public and private sectors both in Australia and overseas.
He said Ms Munro would be supported by relevant technical experts as required, and would seek input from key stakeholders to inform the review’s assessments and findings.
The review is expected to present its findings to the Government by the end of November 2011.
Its terms of reference can be accessed at this PS News link.
22 July, 2011
Patchy progress in
Enterprise bargaining continues across the Australian Public Service with unions and management divided on progress being made.
According to the Minister for the Public Service, Gary Gray, 49 APS Agencies have finished their initial rounds of bargaining with 25 voting to support the agreements.
The Community and Public Sector Union says however that more than 66,000 APS staff had voted the agreements down.
Mr Gray said that in the course of genuine bargaining, disagreements were neither unusual nor unexpected.
“However, it is important that we continue to meet our budget goals for the upcoming years,” he said.
“I am confident that agencies will continue to bargain in good faith with the public sector unions and employees in order to resolve any issues which remain outstanding.”
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said however that the Minister may be misjudging the level of staff dissatisfaction with the current round of enterprise bargaining.
“While there are a number of reasonable agreements being supported by staff, the fact of the matter is that an increasing number of public sector workers are refusing to accept sub-standard agreements,” Ms Flood said.
“When three out of four staff are voting to reject agreements and thousands of members are preparing to take industrial action, it is pretty clear something isn’t right.”
She said workers from all over the APS were voting against agreements that did not meet their expectations of a fair deal.
She said those who were CPSU members were also fighting against cuts to wages and conditions and while some agreements had gone through, sub-standard proposals were being rejected right across the APS as the CPSU escalated its campaign.
She among the agencies to vote against the proposals so far are ACMA; the Attorney Generals Department; Australian Taxation Office; Comcare; Customs; DAFF; DCCEE; Defence; DIAC; and IP Australia.
Union members at DAFF are to embark on rolling stoppages with industrial action also on the agenda at Defence, Immigration, Customs and the nuclear safety agency ARPANSA.
22 July, 2011
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has launched a national information campaign on the Government’s policies for carbon reduction and clean energy.
takes to the air
The campaign was announced by the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet who said it was aimed at households, businesses and communities.
“Climate change is a significant economic and environmental challenge that affects all Australians,” Mr Combet said.
“The Australian Government has a responsibility to provide the community with clear information on its plan to cut carbon pollution and drive investment in clean energy including through a carbon price.”
He said the Clean Energy Future public information campaign had started on free-to-air and pay TV networks.
He said the television advertisements featured real Australians who worked in large and small organisations that were all involved, in some way, in creating a clean energy future for Australia.
Mr Combet said participants were neither paid nor scripted, and advertisements would also appear in newspapers and on radio stations around the country.
“The campaign has been reviewed by the Independent Communications Committee and complies fully with the Guidelines on Information and Advertising Campaigns by Australian Government Departments and Agencies,” he said.
The Minister said the Government had announced in June that it intended running the national advertising campaign.
He said the $12 million committed for the campaign compared favourably with the costs of other public information exercises in recent years.
22 July, 2011
Men lining up to do
New research reports revealing that many men want to do more housework and parenting have been issued by the Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis.
The two reports, Men’s Engagement in Shared Care and Domestic Work, by the University of Queensland; and Stocktake of Initiatives that Support Men to Engage in Caring and Unpaid Domestic Labour, by private town planning company Urbis; show that men both need and want to take a greater role in unpaid and caring work to close the gender equality gap in Australia.
Ms Ellis said the studies found that over a quarter of men wanted to do more of the domestic work, and almost one third wanted to do more parenting work.
“We have heard this anecdotally – but it is great to see that it is backed up in the research,” Ms Ellis said.
“Over the past 20 years, we have focused on increasing women’s participation in paid employment, but we have not matched this with a decrease in unpaid work responsibilities for women.”
She said the evidence was showing that by helping families share responsibilities around the home, they were more likely to share the benefits outside it.
She said paid parental leave, flexible work practices and quality child care increased options for families when it came to deciding how they would share child-rearing and housework.
“The reports also show that there are wider benefits of sharing care between men and women,” Ms Ellis said.
“Importantly, the report also shows that sharing duties in the home also promotes gender equality among children, which is encouraging for future generations.”
She said that helping people manage work and family responsibilities in an equitable way was the best path to ensuring that women and men were on equal footing both economically and socially.
Both studies can be found on the FaHCSIA website.
22 July, 2011
‘Sexting’ resources get
Free lesson plans for schools on the dangers of ‘sexting’ developed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority are becoming more popular according to ACMA’s Senior Education Trainer, Greg Gebhart.
schools’ thumbs up
Mr Gebhart said more than 63,000 brochures on the subject and 300 copies of the plans had been distributed or downloaded in the past month.
He said the plans provided students with realistic scenarios and educated them about the social and legal consequences of ‘sexting’ - the sending of sexual messages, photos or videos, online or using a mobile phone.
“The popularity of these educational resources suggests that ‘sexting’ is a top of mind issue for schools and teachers and is perceived as a growing risk for teenagers,” Mr Gebhart said.
He said sharing sexually suggestive images or text messages may be seen as innocent flirting or amusement, but ‘sexting’ could have serious personal, social and legal consequence.
“ACMA’s lessons are easily adaptable in the classroom, free of charge and part of a suite of engaging interactive resources which educate students about cybersafety issues,” he said.
“An adolescent’s complicated relationship with their body image, emerging sexuality and personal identity is difficult enough to navigate without being made public in a graphic way.”
He said research conducted by the Pew Research Centre showed that ‘sexting’ had garnered increased attention in recent years with 18 per cent of 14-17 year olds who owned a mobile phone saying they had received a ‘sext’ from someone they knew.
Mr Gebahrt said the same study showed that 47 per cent of teenagers regretted sending some of the messages they had sent.
‘It is imperative that schools have policies and programs in place to educate and empower children and families about ‘sexting’ and how to reduce exposure and risks,” he said.
For more information visit this PS News link.
22 July, 2011
Poor diagnosis for
A new global Code of Practice on the international recruitment of health workers has been developed by the World Health Organisation and is expected to have an impact on Australia.
Visiting expert, Professor James Buchan from the Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh said the new code would bring the practice of recruiting doctors and nurses from abroad under international scrutiny.
“Australia has relied more heavily than many other developed countries on the international recruitment of health workers,” Professor Buchan said.
“The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has reported that more than 40 per cent of doctors and about 25 per cent of nurses in Australia are foreign-born, compared with figures of almost 35 per cent and 15 per cent in the UK.”
He said Australia faced two big challenges; how to get enough health professionals with the right skills, and also how to retain sufficient numbers, particularly to work in remote regions.
“If international recruitment is to be effective and ethical, it must be planned as part of an overall workforce strategy, and should ensure that health workers coming to Australia gain a benefit from being here, and that they are able to maximise their potential contribution to their new country as individuals,” he said.
“It also means not leaving their countries of origin short-staffed and having ‘wasted’ the investment in training and education.”
Professor Buchan is to speak on the subject at a free public forum in Adelaide next week (27 July) entitled An “Ethical” Approach to Health Workforce Sustainability: Desirable? Achievable?
The forum is to be presented by the University of South Australia’s Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and Health Workforce Australia.
22 July, 2011
Information packs to
New information packs promoting positive body images among school children are to be issued to every school in Australia.
shape body image
Minister for Youth, Peter Garrett said Respect Every Body posters and learning resources would be distributed to schools and also be available online, with students, teachers and parents able to use the information to learn how to address the subject of poor body image and related issues.
“We know that body image is a major concern among today’s young people, with the National Survey of Young Australians conducted each year by Mission Australia consistently finding it to be among the top issues raised by youth,” Mr Garrett said.
“The Government has already announced a number of measures to help address this issue, and the Respect Every Body resource pack will provide further support to schools.”
He said each school would receive posters containing vital information on creating a body image-friendly school and a website would be launched with ‘conversation starter’ activities to support discussions among students and in the wider school community.
“We’re also providing some practical ideas on how to develop a body image-friendly school,” he said.
“The resources are not an additional part of the curriculum, but can be incorporated into existing subjects such as health or physical education.”
Mr Garrett said the information packs were on top of the work already being carried out under the National Body Image Strategy, including the Free to BE body esteem resources which had been developed by the Butterfly Foundation.
More information about the packs is available at this PS News link.
22 July, 2011
Jobs panel to do
A new panel has been appointed to ensure job service providers in remote areas are meeting the needs of Indigenous job seekers and others.
job for the bush
Announced jointly by the Ministers for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin; Indigenous Employment, Senator Mark Arbib; and Employment Participation, Kate Ellis, the new 7-member Remote Participation and Employment Services Engagement Panel has been set up to provide expert advice on the effective engagement of remote communities and the development of simpler, more integrated services.
Senator Arbib said members of the Panel were prominent Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians who had knowledge of, and high profiles in, remote communities.
“The Panel will meet for the first time on 26 July,” he said.
“Between all the members they have extensive expertise and experience in remote participation and employment servicing.”
He said the panel would assist in driving the consultation process and developing new remote participation and employment services arrangements, which would be in place from 1 July 2013.
The members of the panel included Pat Brahim (General Manager - Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation); John Berto (Chief Executive - Thamarrurr Development Corporation); Nolan Hunter (Acting Chief Executive - Kimberley Land Council); and Shirley McPherson (Chair - Indigenous Land Corporation).
Other members include Sally Sinclair (Chief Executive - National Employment Services Association); Suzannah Kuzio (Chief Executive - Community Enterprises Australia Ltd); and Melanie Stutsel (Director - Health, Safety, Environment and Community Policy, Minerals Council of Australia).
Ms Macklin said a discussion paper and DVD would be released soon in a variety of Indigenous languages inviting people to make written submissions to the Panel.
Ms Ellis said consultation forums with people in remote communities, service providers, employers and other stakeholders would take place during August and September this year.
“The forums will be used to guide and inform the design of the next remote participation and employment services arrangements,” Ms Ellis said.
“Interpreters will be available and I encourage people from remote Australia to attend the forums and contribute their ideas about the future of employment participation in remote Australia.”
More information is available from this PS News link.
22 July, 2011
And in Other News...
Met Office for Ceduna
A new, purpose-built meteorological office at Ceduna on South Australia’s west coast has been officially opened.
Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water, Senator Don Farrell said the $3.1 million Ceduna office was the first of nine nationally to receive a new wind profiler which replaces upper air wind observations using weather balloons.
The new office is part of a project to upgrade 12 of the Bureau’s oldest meteorological offices across Australia and bring them in line with the most sophisticated observations stations in the network.
CHOGM dollars out
The first of five million one-dollar coins to mark the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth has been unveiled 100 days before the Queen and Commonwealth leaders arrive in Perth for the event.
The coin features flags in a stylistic shape of WA, representing the Commonwealth countries flying around a globe under the Southern Cross.
They are made from copper, aluminium and nickel and will go into circulation later this month. They will also be available for sale in a rolled coin collectible from the Royal Australian Mint and other outlets.
Ship repair framework launched
A new framework to address significant problems in the repair, maintenance and sustainment of the Royal Australian Navy’s amphibious fleet has been released by the Department of Defence.
The Plan to Reform Support Ship Repair and Management Practices is the latest phase in a series of reforms aimed at improving Defence’s accountability and procurement practices.
The plan highlights a number of critical issues that Navy, the Defence Materiel Organisation and Defence as a whole must address and includes 24 recommendations to improve operational availability and outcomes and ensure the ongoing technical integrity of Navy ships.
Turkey joins visa scheme
Australia’s electronic visa scheme has been extended to Turkey
From 20 September 2011, citizens of Turkey who hold service, special or diplomatic passports will be able to apply for an e676 electronic tourist visa online.
The electronic visa also allows applicants to check the progress of their application electronically and does not require a visa label to be placed in a passport.
Citizens of Turkey who are unable to lodge an e676 application online or who hold a standard Turkish passport will continue to lodge their tourist visa application directly with the Australian Embassy in Ankara.
Stanhope joins ANZSOG
Former Chief Minister of the ACT, Jon Stanhope is to join the Australia New Zealand School of Government’s Institute of Governance at the University of Canberra in August as a professorial fellow.
He will develop a new stream of applied research on political management issues in State-Commonwealth relations.
Mr Stanhope retired from the Chief Minister’s position in May.
IPAA to meet
The ACT Division of the Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) is collaborating with the Canberra Evaluation Forum on a session to focus on ‘The Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Public Sector Management: How do you evaluate excellence?’
To be held in Canberra this Thursday, (21 July) speakers including Tamara Cutcliffe and Kerry Kennedy from IPAA ACT Division as well as past winner Siew-Gim McGregorwill will use the session to elaborate on the Department of Human Services ‘Basics Card’ project.
Human Rights awards open
The Australian Human Rights Commission has announced that nominations for the 2011 Human Rights Awards are now open.
President of the Commission, Catherine Branson QC advised people to prepare now to beat the last minute rush which often sees nominations put together in haste.
Nominations close on Friday 9 September with winners to be presented with their awards at a ceremony on 9 December in Sydney.
Nomination forms and tickets to the Award ceremony can be obtained from the Commission’s website.
Safety Bureau on Twitter
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) has opened a Twitter account to provide the latest news on transport safety investigations to its followers.
ATSB will use Twitter to provide information on its transport safety activities as well as initiatives such as new safety investigations; investigation updates; investigation and research report releases; as well as new safety awareness products.
For more information visit this PS News link or follow the ATSB on Twitter at @ATSBinfo.
Basin plan reviewed
The Murray Darling Basin Authority has released an in-depth retrospective about how the proposals in last year’s plan would have affected communities in the Basin.
The report Community impacts of the Guide to the proposed Murray-Darling Basin Plan identifies a set of policy options that can be developed and implemented so that environmental results can be gained at a lower socio-economic cost to Basin communities.
The study was commissioned by the Authority in response to feedback between January to April 2011 from nearly 700 key community members who were interviewed in 119 towns.
People have been warned to be wary of unauthorised offers from the National Broadband Network (NBN) which appear to be scams.
The warnings come after reports of bogus door-to-door salespeople signing up consumers to the NBN in Tasmania.
Consumers have been advised to protect themselves by asking for appropriate identification, ensuring appropriate checks are made, and reporting suspicious incidents to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission on 1300 795 995.
19 July, 2011
Fact sheets issued
The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency has produced a number of fact sheets setting out how other countries are tackling greenhouse gas emissions.
for climate debate
According to the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard and Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Greg Combet the fact sheets show Australia is neither acting alone nor in advance of other countries in its development of policies to deal with climate change.
The fact sheets also show that Australians release more pollution per person than any other country in the developed world with the Government interpreting such data as “further evidence confirming we have a national and global responsibility to act.”
The Prime Minister said the fact sheets showed that Australia’s top five trading partners (China, Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea and India) as well as another six of its top 20 trading partners had implemented or were piloting carbon trading or taxation schemes.
Ms Gillard said the European Union had applied an emissions trading scheme since 2005, which covered half a billion people and China had announced it would introduce emissions trading progressively in a number of key cities and provinces, including Beijing and Shanghai, which cover more than 100 million people.
“Australia is not going it alone on climate change – we are taking the right steps along with many other countries to protect the planet for generations to come,” Ms Gillard said.
“The fact sheets also support last week’s findings from the Productivity Commission confirming the world is increasingly acting on climate change and that a carbon price is the lowest-cost way to cut pollution.”
She said the reports also showed that instead of striking out on its own; Australia was at risk of falling behind the rest of the world if it failed to put a price on pollution.
“In 2010, global investment in the clean energy sector totalled US$243 billion, including $54.4 billion in China and $34 billion in the US,” she said.
“Introducing a carbon price in Australia will make dirty energy more expensive and clean energy like solar, gas and wind cheaper.”
The facts sheets are available from the DCCEE website this PS News link.
19 July, 2011
Vacancy study finds
An evaluation of recruitment advertising for positions within the Australian Public Service, conducted by the APS Commission and the Department of Finance and Deregulation has found the Commission’s own website APSjobs to be the most effective and internet advertising the most cost-effective.
PS site a winner
The evaluation was conducted to gather data on where potential employees become aware of vacant APS positions and to monitor the impact of the Guidelines on Non-Campaign Recruitment Advertising on the efficiency and effectiveness of Agencies’ recruitment advertising.
The Guidelines encourage Departments and Agencies to seek better value for money through the use of improved targetting of their advertising.
The three part survey assessed print and online advertising with a view to understanding where potential employees became aware of vacant positions and how effective the various advertising sources were at uncovering the best candidates.
The report found that APSjobs averaged the highest number of applications per advertisement with results indicating more job offers were made to applicants who reported seeing the position advertised on APSjobs than for those who said they saw it elsewhere.
The report found APSjobs to be an effective source-of-hire and recommended it continue to be promoted in view of the cost effectiveness of online advertising.
“The finding that online sources are an effective means for recruitment advertising is consistent with other overseas and Australian research,” the report said.
It found that of the 71 Agencies that published recruitment advertising during the survey period, eight chose to do so on the internet alone and a further eight on APSJobs alone.
About half the advertisements placed through Adcorp were to internet sites and 52 Agencies provided valid survey responses.
“The survey results indicate that internet sources are as effective as print sources in attracting applicants,” the report said.
“However, internet advertising costs are significantly lower that print advertising costs.”
It said a separate study by recruitment site Seek found online jobsites to be the “most expected sources” for jobseekers to find vacant positions.
* The survey results are supported by the PS News experience with more than 4,000 readers visiting the PS News Career Centre every week.
19 July, 2011
ACCC warns on
Consumers have been warned to be on the lookout for scams using the new carbon tax to obtain bank account details and other personal information.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury, said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) had issued an alert on its Scamwatch website about a new scam where people purporting to be from the Government were asking pensioners for their bank account details to supposedly transfer payments as part of the Government’s carbon price household assistance package.
“This is a disgraceful scam that is targeting some of our most vulnerable members of the community,” Mr Bradbury said.
“This scam is an opportunistic attempt to use the announcement of the carbon price household assistance package to try and rip off unsuspecting pensioners.”
He said another variation on the scam involved callers running a survey on the proposed carbon price and asking for personal and banking details with initial reports showing that the scammers were quoting a household assistance amount of $5,000 and offering payment by direct deposit or cheque.
Mr Bradbury said anyone contacted by someone claiming to be from the Government and offering to transfer money in exchange for personal information, such as their bank account details, should contact the ACCC immediately.
Minister for Families and Community Services, Jenny Macklin said people should be aware that the first payments to pensioners and families were not scheduled to be made until May and June next year.
“When the increased payments start they will be automatic and pensioners and families will not need to apply or provide their bank account details,” Ms Macklin said.
More information on scams is available from the ACCC website.
19 July, 2011
Model instructions to
The Department of Finance and Deregulation has developed a series of model Instructions for issue by Chief Executives of Agencies governed by the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997 (the FMA Act) .
instruct on finance
The model CEIs were put together after consultation with Agencies concerned.
According to Finance, the model Instructions cover core topics applicable to the majority of officials in most Agencies under the FMA Act and should form a key part of an Agency’s internal controls and operational framework.
“As a tool, the Model CEIs seek to improve consistency across Agencies and help all staff members to understand and comply with the key requirements of the financial management framework,” the Department said in a Circular.
“The Model CEIs are made up of 11 CEIs and a glossary.
“The 11 core topics covered by the Model CEIs relate to the proper use and management of public money, public property and other resources of the Commonwealth.”
Finance said the model Instructions were not designed to be prescriptive or exhaustive because Agency requirements differed and individual CEIs should be tailored to meet local requirements.
It said the model instructions should be used in conjunction with Finance Circular 2011/05: Chief Executive’s Instructions (CEIs).
According to the Circular, Chief Executives of Agencies subject to the FMA Act may issue instructions to their officials on any matter that promoted the proper use and management of public money, public property and other resources of the Commonwealth.
The Circular and the Model CEIs can be accessed on the Finance website at this PS News link.
19 July, 2011
The Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) has set up an Executive Search and Recruitment Panel to assist agencies select and/or recruit executives for Senior Executive Service (SES) positions.
for recruitment panel
There are 34 providers on the Panel which have been appointed for three years from 1 June 2011 and are also available to assist in recruiting other APS level employees.
The Commission said Panel members would help with the recruitment of SES employees by undertaking planning and position analysis; advertising and marketing; and reference checks.
It said Panel members would also assist selection committees to shortlist and/or identify candidates; undertake panel interview processes including assessment services; prepare reports on candidate selection; and provide candidate feedback.
It said access to the Panel by Agencies, as with the Capability Development and e–Learning Panels, was governed by a memorandum of understanding between the Agency and the Commission.
It said the Panel was available as an alternative to, not a replacement of, the APSC’s Employment Services which was coordinated nationally by the Commission’s Sydney office and provided “highly experienced panel members and scribes for selection exercises.”
It said the Employment Services Team was also responsible for formal processes relating to Independent Selection Advisory Committees established under the Public Service Regulations 1999 including the establishment of Independent Selection Advisory Committees (ISACs); the provision of convenors; and the assessment and training for the registration of APS employees to serve as nominees of the Merit Protection Commissioner on ISACs.
Further information on the Panel and its services is available from the APSC.
19 July, 2011
A new Ombudsman has been created to assist overseas students in Australia who have problems with private education and training.
to help OS students
The Commonwealth Ombudsman, Allan Asher, will undertake the role, which will be known as the Overseas Students Ombudsman (OSO).
Mr Asher said the new position would enable students to bring their complaints to his Office if they could not resolve problems with their education providers directly.
“This is an important service for an often vulnerable group,” Mr Asher said.
“Together with State Ombudsmen who provide a complaints service for overseas students in public education, we are providing a much-needed safety net for those in private education.”
He said it meant that students who were the victim of unfair or unreasonable action by private education providers now had a free, independent and impartial complaints service.
He said the OSO would provide the service to both overseas students already in Australia, as well as those planning to come soon.
“Students may want to complain about issues surrounding fees and refunds, course progress or attendance, cancellation of enrolments or accommodation or work arranged by providers,” he said.
“They may also want to complain about education agents working for their provider.
He said his Office would resolve complaints and provide information to education providers on best-practice complaint handling, drawing on the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s more than 30 years’ experience in complaint investigation.
He said they would also publish reports on problems and broader issues in international education identified through investigations.
Mr Asher said the new role was one of a series of measures recommended by the Baird Review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000, reflected in the COAG International Students Strategy for Australia 2010-2014, and the Ombudsman role came into effect from 9 April, following the passage of legislation.
He said more information was available from his office.
19 July, 2011
Watchdog spits out
Beads, crystals and other decorations on babies’ dummies and their attaching chains have been banned under national consumer laws because of the safety hazard they pose for the babies.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury said the baby ‘bling’ had been ordered off the shelves after work by NSW Fair Trading identified an urgent safety risk.
“Diamantes, crystals, beads and other decorations attached to the outside of a dummy, including the shield and handle, or to chains or other products designed to attach a dummy to an infant’s clothing, can pose a serious choking hazard if they become detached,” Mr Bradbury said.
“Testing by NSW Fair Trading of such products indicated that the dummies failed tension tests, with a number of crystals becoming detached and posing a serious choking, inhalation or ingestion hazard.”
He said the results of the tests meant an interim ban on the dummies and chains was necessary, effective immediately.
“Suppliers, including retailers, should urgently check their stock and remove any such products from sale,” he said.
“Parents and carers who already own a ‘bling dummy’ or ‘bling chain’ are urged to keep it away from their infant.”
Mr Bradbury said the interim ban would be in place for 60 days, during which time the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would invite relevant suppliers to call a conference to discuss the ban in more detail.
He said the ACCC would also conduct further testing of affected products during this time.
“I would like to thank NSW Fair Trading for bringing this matter to the attention of the ACCC, enabling swift national action to ensure the safety of Australian infants,” Mr Bradbury said.
For more details on the interim ban visit this PS News link.
19 July, 2011
New science website
A new online resource has been launched to assist science teachers bring the latest and most exciting developments in emerging technologies into their classrooms.
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said science teachers played a vital part in increasing science literacy and inspiring Australian students and access to the latest teaching resources would assist them.
“This new TechNyou Education Resource focuses on biotechnologies and nanotechnologies, addressing the new science curriculum with background notes, videos, lesson outlines and classroom activities,” Senator Carr said.
“It’s been developed by science teachers for science teachers to take over from previous highly successful resources, Biotechnology Online and AccessNano.”
He said educators from all States and Territories had provided input to the new resource to make sure it suited teachers’ needs and effectively provided them with information they could use in the classroom.
“Nanotechnologies and biotechnologies are rapidly evolving, and have impacts on the environment, human health, consumer products and society; and teachers need up-to-date information that covers this wide range of topics,” he said.
Senator Carr said modules in the resource covered topics including an introduction to biotechnology and nanotechnology; genetically modified foods; the use of nanotechnology in drug delivery; and social and ethical issues surrounding nanotechnology and biotechnology.
“I can’t overstate the importance of having a more scientifically literate nation,” he said.
“It allows people to make more informed choices about new technologies and their benefits and risks.
“People were also less likely to be influenced by those who either over-promise or demonise new technologies.”
He said the new resource, funded under the National Enabling Technologies Strategy, was linked to the TechNyou information service and would be trialled in several States before further development of a national program.
More information about the new site can be obtained from this PS News link.
19 July, 2011
IP Australia does the
A new online tool to help new businesses avoid picking names already in use has been launched by the national patents watchdog IP Australia.
business on names
Minister for Innovation, Senator Kim Carr said TM check would help businesses avoid the costly mistake of registering a business name that had already been trademarked.
Senator Carr said clever or memorable business names could be vital to the success of a business, but choosing a name that was already trademarked could be an expensive exercise involving large legal bills, drawn out disputes or even the closure of a business.
“TM Check helps new businesses avoid these issues by identifying pending or registered trademarks that may be similar to their proposed name,” he said.
“It helps take the guess work out of securing a business name and reduces the risk of a business infringing on a registered trademark.”
He said business owners needed to understand, however, that business name registration did not guarantee legal rights because only a registered trademark could offer that degree of protection.
Minister for Small Business, Senator Nick Sherry said TM Check was one of a number of new initiatives developed by the Council of Australian Governments to reduce the regulatory burden on business and help deliver a seamless national economy that supported Australian innovators.
Senator Sherry said the project would also deliver a national online registration process for both business names and Australian Business Numbers and improve ongoing online interaction between Government and business via the Australian Business Account.
He said it would also introduce a new online service to deliver information to businesses about their regulatory requirements (licences, registrations and permits) known as the Australian Business Licence and Information Service or ABLIS.
“The initiatives will make interaction with all levels of government easier and more efficient, saving business time and money, and the TM Check is a step in the right direction,” Senator Sherry said.
The new website could be accessed at this PS News link.
19 July, 2011
Every poster a winner
The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) has launched a search for rare posters promoting NAIDOC week over 40 years ago.
in AIATSIS search
AIATSIS, which researches, collects and publishes information and material relating to Australian Indigenous studies, is seeking public help in locating copies of NAIDOC Week Posters produced in 1968, 1971 and 1975.
The Institute began the search to coincide with the relaunch of its on-line collection of NAIDOC Posters which currently features 38 dating from 1972 to 2011.
Chair of AIATSIS, Professor Mick Dodson said the NAIDOC posters were used by Aboriginal organisations over the past 40 years as a way of gaining mainstream support and to highlight issues of Indigenous self determination, recognition, rights and reforms.
“The posters were used by Aboriginal groups in a protest nature to highlight injustice and gain widespread support for the push in the 1970s for Indigenous rights and reforms,” Professor Dodson said.
“We’re hoping that someone may have a copy if these missing posters in a library, or their garage or office and that we may able to digitise it and add it to the online collection.”
He said in the mid 1990s, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) launched the official NAIDOC poster competition inviting entries from around the country and offering prize money as well as the opportunity for newly emerging artists to display their work nationally.
He said today, 100,000 posters were distributed nationally by the Department of Families, Community Services, and Indigenous Affairs and were the primary tool for promoting NAIDOC Week activities in schools, organisations and State and Federal Agencies.
The almost-complete online collection can be viewed at this PS News link.
19 July, 2011
Plain sailing for
Airservices Australia threw its weight behind a recent demonstration of air traffic procedures that promise to reduce the environmental impacts of aviation.
air traffic demo
As part of the Indian Ocean Initiative to Reduce Emissions (INSPIRE) program, Airservices air traffic controllers, in cooperation with other air navigation service providers and airports in the region, used technological innovation and best practice air traffic procedures during every phase of three international flights.
Emirates flights from Perth to Dubai, and Dubai to Brisbane (both operated using a Boeing 777) and an Etihad flight from Abu Dhabi to Sydney (an Airbus A340), were given unrestricted taxi and take-off and an uninterrupted climb to their initial cruise levels.
General Manager of Air Traffic Control with Airservices, Jason Harfield said all three flights flew on company-preferred routes within Australian upper airspace.
Mr Harfield said that on arrival, the flights were provided with unrestricted descents directly to final approach and the shortest taxi routes to the arrivals gate.
He said the INSPIRE flights aimed to demonstrate efficiencies that could be achieved within the current Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean air traffic management environment by removing controllable system constraints as far as practicable.
He said the reduction in emissions demonstrated through the program would serve as a basis for establishing a credible emissions reduction target level.
“A South African Airways INSPIRE demonstration flight from Perth to Johannesburg, operated by an Airbus A340 on 10 March, saved around 400kg of fuel,” Mr Harfield said.
“This is equivalent to 10 tanks of fuel for an average sized car and saves approximately 1.2 tonnes of CO2 emissions.”
19 July, 2011
Treasury cashes in
A commonly used funding arrangement for supporting charities and not-for-profit organisations is to be reformed to improve its governance and accountability.
on charity funding
The arrangement, known as a public ancillary fund, is used to solicit tax deductible donations from the public then pass them on to approved charities.
Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten released an exposure draft of legislation and guidelines for a new regulatory framework for consultation.
Mr Shorten said approximately 1,600 public ancillary funds in Australia collected tax deductible donations from the public to distribute to deductible gift recipients (DGRs) and were commonly used for community philanthropy.
“These reforms have been much anticipated by the sector and I am pleased to consult on changes that will bring the standards of accountability and governance of public ancillary funds in line with private ancillary funds,” Mr Shorten said.
He said under the reforms, the Treasurer would have the power to make legislative guidelines to establish and maintain public ancillary funds and give the Commissioner of Taxation the power to impose administrative penalties on trustees who failed to comply with the guidelines and to remove or suspend trustees of non-complying funds; a function which may later move to the new Australian Charities and not-for-profits Commission.
He said the legislation also deferred the previously announced start date of 1 July 2011 to 1 January 2012 with trustees of existing funds to be given a choice of whether to apply the minimum distribution requirements in the new guidelines immediately or wait until 1 July 2012.
“The Government has taken on board stakeholders’ views as part of the initial consultation process and we’ve made some changes to the guidelines to take account of the differences with private ancillary funds,” Mr Shorten said.
“A minimum distribution rate of four per cent was set after looking closely at the average costs and returns of both private ancillary funds and public ancillary funds.
“The changes recognise the higher costs faced by many public ancillary funds.”
Consultation on the exposure draft closes on 1 August 2011 and 31 August for the draft guidelines.
15 July, 2011
Shared Services to
The Western Australian Government has scrapped its Office of Shared Services following an investigation by the State’s Economic Regulation Authority.
share no more
The Authority was asked to examine the OSS after client Departments complained about delays in service and inadequate outcomes.
The ERA investigated the Office’s effectiveness and efficiency at its current level of operations; how that effectiveness and efficiency was likely to vary as the number of Agencies it serviced increased; and the impact that new Agencies ‘rolling-in’ was having on the operations of existing client Agencies.
In its report the ERA recommended the OSS be wound up and the corporate services it was set up to provide returned to individual Agencies.
WA Premier, Colin Barnett, has agreed to the recommendation.
Mr Barnett said shared corporate services were introduced in Western Australia in 2003, with the objective of reducing the overall cost of providing corporate services in the public sector.
He said at the time, it was estimated that savings of $56.6 million per annum could be achieved through the aggregation, standardisation and centralisation of common ‘back office’ corporate functions such as finance, human resources, payroll and procurement across the whole-of-Government.
The Authority found however that OSS had in fact cost the Government $345 million.
In its report the Authority said the OSS – renamed the Department of Treasury and Finance Shared Service Centre (DTFSSC) on 1 July - was not operating effectively or efficiently; was likely to deteriorate further; and had had a detrimental impact on the operations of the majority of rolled-in agencies.
The report also found that due to the high cost of providing the service, rolling-in more agencies under the current arrangements was unsustainable.
Mr Barnett said the ERA’s analysis indicated that decommissioning the OSS represented the least cost and most certain option for delivering corporate services.
“The Government has accepted in principle the recommendations from the ERA,” Mr Barnett said.
“Many, if not most State Government departments reported the OSS has not delivered what was intended.”
Mr Barnett emphasised that the staff of the Office had worked very hard and their efforts were valued by the Government.
“Some current staff at OSS will continue to work on the procurement process while others will be redeployed to recommence corporate services in Government departments,” he said.
The Authority’s full report can be accessed at the ERA website this PS News link.
15 July, 2011
The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) has celebrated its 100th anniversary.
The occasion was marked with the launch of the book From postbox to powerhouse: A centenary history of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet by Professor Patrick Weller, Professor Joanne Scott and Bronwyn Stevens.
Secretary of the Department, Terry Moran said the book was a compilation of the “wonderful” history of the Department and was supported by funding through an Australian Research Council Linkage grant and the University of the Sunshine Coast.
“I should also acknowledge here the contribution of Ross Laurie, who very sadly passed away during the project,” Mr Moran said.
“He was very much the fourth author of this history.”
Mr Moran said when the Department began work in 1911 it was little more than a clearing house for correspondence from the Prime Minister to London and the States and it wasn’t until 1919 that it had a branch devoted to delivering policy advice.
He said that now, however, it played a crucial role in the Cabinet process, involved in administrative arrangements and decisions that affect every corner of the nation.
“Through two world wars, numerous conflicts, depressions and recessions, the recent Global Financial Crisis, through major social, political and economic upheavals PM&C has provided professional advice and support to the government of the day in the best Australian Westminster tradition,” Mr Moran said.
“The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet has certainly grown in its role and in its stature.”
He said he and other staff of the Department were in very privileged positions.
“We consider it an honour to serve and support the Prime Minister, the Cabinet, the Cabinet Secretary and portfolio Ministers,” he said.
“You don’t just have a ‘job’ when you come to this Department, you have a very real sense of purpose and pride.”
Mr Moran said that although the names of every person who had worked in the Department over its 100 years may not be found in From Postbox to Powerhouse, they had each contributed to the history of the Department.
15 July, 2011
More talk less court
Changes to the Australian legal system that come into force next month will fundamentally change the way people resolve issues according to the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland.
in new legal system
Mr McClelland said the commencement of the Civil Dispute Resolution Act 2011 on 1 August would result in more people resolving disputes before going to court, saving money, time and stress.
“Australia’s legal system is changing,” Mr McClelland said.
“We are moving away from an adversarial culture of litigation to a broader approach to dispute resolution”
He said the changes would mean greater opportunities for resolution, rather than the overuse of a system that prioritised ‘winners and losers’.
“We no longer live in an age where the only proper way to settle a legal issue is through the courts,” Mr McClelland said.
“From 1 August, parties to a court action will be required to lodge a statement about the steps that they have taken to try and resolve their dispute when commencing proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia or in the Federal Magistrates Court, with some exemptions.”
He said the courts would always play a central role in the justice system, but it was clear that launching into litigation was not always the best approach to resolving issues.
“Wherever possible, people need to be able to reach early resolution of their dispute, without escalating into court proceedings,” he said.
“Parties can benefit from exchanging information, narrowing the issues in dispute and exploring options for resolution leading to more matters being settled by agreement earlier on, before significant costs have been incurred and legal positions become entrenched.”
Mr McClelland said the Government was aware that not all matters could be resolved before heading to court, and that some did need the clarity of a judicial ruling.
“The change doesn’t introduce mandatory processes that themselves could become the subject of dispute,” he said.
“Instead, it is deliberately flexible in allowing parties to tailor the steps they take to their individual circumstances and the particular nature of their dispute.”
15 July, 2011
New national measures that allow Government Agencies across Australia to cross-check documents to prevent identity fraud are a step closer with Victoria and Western Australia signing on to the Council of Australian Governments’ Document Verification Service (DVS).
to get new look
Attorney-General, Robert McClelland said the DVS was a key initiative of the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) National Identity Security Strategy and allowed authorised Government Agencies to cross-check identity documents to prevent identity theft or fraud.
“The Document Verification Service significantly improves protection of people’s identity by allowing documents commonly used as proof of identity to be quickly checked electronically by the issuing agency,” Mr McClelland said.
“For example, if you are using your Australian Passport as proof of identity to apply for a copy of a NSW Driver Licence, the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority will now be able to instantly verify the authenticity of the passport with the Australian Passport Office.”
He said this would ensure that documents had not been cancelled or personal information falsified.
“Importantly, no DVS information is retained on any central database,” he said.
“Its purpose is to allow authorities to verify the authenticity of documents issued by other Agencies.”
Mr McClelland said that now Victoria and Western Australian had signed onto the DVS, Government Agencies around the country would be able to confirm the validity of Victorian and WA driver licences, and Victorian birth certificates.
“A number of State and Territory and Commonwealth Government Agencies are already using the system,” he said.
“It’s already possible to verify the validity of Australian-issued passports, visas, and birth certificates and driver licences from other States and Territories through the DVS.”
He said research had shown that nearly one in six Australians had been a victim or had known somebody who had been a victim of identity theft or misuse in the past six months.
“Significantly, the survey of 1,200 Australians also revealed nine in 10 people are concerned or very concerned about identity theft and misuse,” Mr McClelland said.
“Initiatives such as the DVS will help improve the protections against identity theft and fraud.”
15 July, 2011
Aviation price hike
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has registered its concern at proposed price increases for aviation services such as air traffic control proposed by Airservices Australia.
The ACCC has announced that its preliminary view is that it would object to the increases because the proposed prices were higher than required to cover costs and provide a reasonable return.
The Commission has asked Airservices to demonstrate that its forecast costs are prudent and efficient after it proposed increased prices for terminal navigation and aviation rescue and fire-fighting services for the next five years.
Chairman of the ACCC, Graeme Samuel said the Airservices proposal was driven by a significant increase in capital expenditure over the next five years but the ACCC needed to be satisfied that the Agency had undertaken its capital expenditure prudently and efficiently.
“In the current matter it appears that Airservices has not provided users with sufficient information that would have allowed them to assess the costs and benefits of some major capital projects,” Mr Samuel said.
He said there was scope for Airservices to improve its consultation processes prior to submitting a formal long-term pricing proposal.
He said the ACCC also believed Airservices needed to improve the transparency and accountability of its operating performance, which would provide greater certainty that it was operating efficiently.
Mr Samuel said the Commission also believed Airservices needed to adjust its proposed prices as it would over-recover its costs by $101 million (or 2 per cent) over the five years.
He said under the prices surveillance provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 the ACCC had a role in assessing proposed price increases for Airservices’ terminal navigation, aviation rescue and fire-fighting services and en route navigation services.
The ACCC will accept submissions on its preliminary view of the Airservices proposal until 1 August 2011 and further details are available on its website.
15 July, 2011
The first two Queenslanders to be convicted of defrauding Centrelink by falsely claiming disaster relief have been dealt with by the courts with one receiving a jail term
blown into court
A 50-year-old man from Brisbane who wrongly claimed two Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payments (AGDRP) from Centrelink has been sentenced in Brisbane Magistrates Court to serve one month in jail after pleading guilty.
He was found to have claimed payments for both the Brisbane floods in January and for Tropical Cyclone Yasi in February.
In passing sentence, Magistrate Graham Lee acknowledged the man’s early guilty plea, but also took into account his previous criminal history, and the fact that the offences were committed while he was on parole.
Mr Lee said the sentence was needed to deter others from committing such offences and also ordered the man to repay the payments.
In the second case, a 27-year-old woman from Logan was convicted for falsely claiming $2,600 in disaster recovery payments.
The woman claimed AGDRP payments for herself and four children but her eligibility was reviewed after internal Centrelink profiling, and an investigation was conducted.
She pleaded guilty and was placed on a good behaviour bond in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court.
Magistrate Tynan said in delivering the sentence that she took into account the woman’s lack of previous criminal history, her study plans, co-operation, early plea, and the fact that the amount was recovered in a short period of time.
15 July, 2011
A new infrastructure fund to support the construction of state-of-the-art education facilities across regional Australia has been announced by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans.
at home with fund
Senator Evans said the release of the Guidelines for the Regional Priorities Round of the Education Investment Fund will allow regional universities and TAFEs the chance to share in $500 million worth of infrastructure funding.
He said the new funding round would support regional higher education and vocational education and training institutions to improve their infrastructure, and thereby help improve the quality of training and education regional students receive.
“This is a major new investment in our regional campuses will lift the quality of the educational offering for regional students,” he said.
“It shows our determination to ensure that regional Australians should have access to quality education opportunities regardless of where they choose to live and study.”
Senator Evans said creating opportunities for students in regional areas was central to the Government’s objectives to open up the benefits of higher education for more Australians.
“Regional universities and campuses have strong relationships with their communities and an unmatched ability to build human capital to support regional, social and economic development,” the Minister said.
“That’s why we acted in this year’s Budget to deliver an increase of $110 million in regional loading payments to help regional campuses overcome the higher costs that they face.”
Minister for Research, Senator Kim Carr said the Regional Priorities Round of the Education Investment Fund was part of a goal to strategically transform Australia’s tertiary education and research infrastructure.
“It will contribute to regional economic growth and development, help build sustainable regional institutions and communities, support regional skills needs and build connections between regions,” Senator Carr said.
The draft guidelines are available at this PS News link.
15 July, 2011
Learning audit is a
An audit into the Defence Force’s mechanisms for learning from operational activities has found them to be “patchy and fragmented.”
lesson for Defence
Ordered by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade in 2008 after its inquiry into Australia’s involvement in peacekeeping operations, the audit was conducted by Auditor-General Ian McPhee and tabled in Parliament this week.
In his report Mr McPhee said since 1999, the ADF had conducted 117 operational, humanitarian and disaster relief operations, 15 of which were ongoing.
He said the effectiveness of ADF forces deployed on exercises depended, in part, on its ability to learn from experience to improve its operational performance and the ADF itself had said it considered lessons and evaluation to be important activities supporting the pursuit and maintenance of a “knowledge edge”.
Mr McPhee said the ADF was a “learning organisation” which used experience to change its behaviour, deal effectively with change and complexity, and improve its capabilities.
He found Defence had two principal mechanisms for learning from operations – observational lessons and evaluations of military operational and exercise performance – and the audit examined the mechanisms the ADF had in place for capturing lessons from current and recent peacekeeping operations.
It found however that the application of the ADF’s learning framework was patchy and fragmented and while the Army paid significant attention to collecting, recording and acting on immediate and short-term lessons, this is not the case for the Navy or Air Force.
Mr McPhee said a key ADF-wide information system provided in 1999 to support lessons and evaluations had fallen into disuse and although the ADF’s Operational Evaluation doctrine was well thought-out, it had yet to receive widespread application.
He said Defence’s overall approach to learning to date had placed more emphasis on observational lessons than on operational evaluation.
He said however that a recent, more promising development was the ADF’s exploration of the internationally recognised ‘effects-based approach’ to evaluating operations with aspects of the approach being trialled in ADF assessments of three ongoing campaigns (East Timor, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands).
The Auditor-General’s report noted that there was a need to consolidate and reinforce the importance of capturing such an experience and contribute to the ADF gaining a ‘knowledge edge’.
The Auditor-General made five recommendations to consolidate and improve the focus of the ADF’s mechanisms for lessons and operational evaluation of which all were agreed to.
The full report is available at this PS News link and the audit team was Kim Bond, Dr Stewart Ashe and Fran Holbert.
15 July, 2011
And in Other News...
PS survey to be published
The Centre for Policy Development is to issue a report next week showing the Australian public has a more positive view of their Public Services that do their politicians.
The survey Attitudes Toward the Public Service shows that Australians generally support increased funding on public services and express confidence in Public Service Agencies.
It is due to be released on Tuesday (19 July).
IPAA address on the web
The keynote address to the Institute of Public Administration Australia’s NSW State conference is to be beamed nationally on the internet for all to tune in to.
The address will be given from China by the NSW Premier, Barry O’Farrell on 19 July and more information, including the conference program, is available at www.nsw.ipaa.org.au
Ombudsman launches videos
The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched 14 online videos to assist foreign workers understand their workplace rights and entitlements.
The short videos - available at this PS News link - are presented by native speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian, Serbian, Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Khmer, Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese, Thai and Turkish.
There is also an English version.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is warning consumers to be wary of calls offering compensation following a recent Do Not Call Register court case.
ACMA advised that the Do Not Call Register did not make unsolicited calls offering compensation and such calls were scams.
Chairman, Chris Chapman said in a recent case the scam caller requested payment of a ‘processing fee’ to put the victim’s number on the Do Not Call Register.
He advised anyone receiving a call from out of the blue asking them to pay money to access a refund or compensation, hang up immediately.
More information was available on ACCC’s SCAMwatch website.
Building contract let
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has announced that John Holland has been awarded the contract to build the Yongah Hill immigration detention centre (IDC) at Northam in Western Australia.
Construction is expected to be completed on the $125 million project at the end of October after which the capacity of the IDC will be 600 single men.
Coal seam gas alliance
The first ever coal seam gas scientific research alliance has been established by the CSIRO.
The Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) was founded by CSIRO and the company Australia Pacific LNG to undertake research in five key social and environmental areas: groundwater and surface water, biodiversity, land management, the marine environment and socio-economic impacts.
Chief Executive of the CSIRO, Megan Clark said GISERA’s initial focus would be directed at Queensland’s CSG-LNG industry but it had the potential to expand its focus to gas operations in other parts of Australia.
Countries sign tax agreement
Costa Rica and Macao have become the latest jurisdictions to sign agreements with Australia to prevent offshore tax avoidance and evasion.
Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten announced the bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreements saying there were now 30 jurisdictions that had signed such agreements with Australia.
Mr Shorten said the agreements provided a legal basis for Australia to exchange taxpayer information with each of the jurisdictions.
PS payrise for WA
Staff of the Western Australian Public Service have negotiated a 12 per cent payrise over three years.
Up to 40,000 State Public Servants are to receive 3.75 per cent immediately, four per cent in 2012 and 4.25 per cent in 2013.
The WA Police force also concluded increases worth 12.5 per cent over three years with improved conditions taking the value of the rises to 13.25 per cent.
The rises are in line with the State’s PS pay policy.
Telstra cleared of privacy breach
The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has released the findings of its investigation into a mailing list error by Telstra which resulted in over 60,000 Telstra customers’ personal information being sent to other customers.
Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim said Telstra had reasonable steps in place to protect its customers’ personal information from misuse and loss and the breach on this occasion was due to human error.
“Therefore, I consider that Telstra has not breached this particular aspect of the Privacy Act,” Mr Pilgrim said.
NSW uni to host Finance Centre
A consortium led by the University of New South Wales has been selected to host the new national Centre for International Finance and Regulation.
The Centre will represent a strategic link between academia, financial regulators, Government and the financial industry with its focus to be putting Australia at the forefront of regional and global examination of financial sector developments.
The University will be supported by the NSW Government.
Police lay bribe charges
The Australian Federal Police has charged two Australian companies - Securency International Pty Ltd and Note Printing Australia Limited - and six individuals with bribery of foreign public officials.
The charges relate to alleged bribes paid to public officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam between 1999 and 2005 to secure banknote contracts and is Australia’s first prosecution under foreign bribery legislation.
The charges against the companies carry a maximum fine of $330,000 per offence and for individuals 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine of $1.1 million.
Navy celebrates 100th
The Centenary of Royal Assent for the Australian Navy has been celebrated since King George V granted permission to form the then small coastal defence force in 1901.
The Navy commemorated its 100 years of service on 10 July 2011 with the Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Ray Griggs describing the anniversary of the Royal Assent as an acknowledgement that Australia and her Navy had come of age.
“As we commemorate this important day in the RAN’s history it is timely to reflect on the contribution of all those who have served during the past 100 years,” Vice Admiral Griggs said.
Visa program extended
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship has announced the expansion of the electronic tourist visa program to citizens of Croatia and the Maldives.
From 1 July citizens of Croatia and the Maldives have been able to apply electronically for the €676 online tourist visa using a fast, secure and convenient application process which will give applicants the ability to check the progress of their application electronically and not require a visa label to be placed in a passport.
ACT prepares for bag ban
The Australian Capital Territory has entered a transitional period in the lead-up to a ban on plastic shopping bags.
The ban of lightweight plastic shopping bags is aimed at reducing unnecessary consumption, waste sent to landfill and litter.
When implemented the ban will apply to single use plastic shopping bags of 35 microns or less, generally the type distributed through supermarkets, grocery stores and takeaway food outlets.
It will not apply to a range of other bags including barrier bags dispensed from a roll to hold items such as fruit, heavier retail bags like those used in department stores, reusable ‘green’ bags, purchased bin liners, and compostable bags that meet the Australian Standard, and paper bags.
Gallery shows west
The National Gallery of Australia has opened an exhibition of Western Australian art from its national collection.
Out of the West opened last week and features the first large survey of Western Australian art outside the State and provides an insight into art from Western Australia, from pre-settlement until today.
Grant for legal profession
Australian Government funding worth $475,000 has been announced to help develop the legal profession in countries across the Pacific and strengthen expertise in the rule of law. The announcement coincides with the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM) in Sydney, which is to focus on the Pacific legal profession.
Attorney General, Robert McClelland said more than 40 countries were expected to attend the meeting in Sydney and the support for pro bono work both domestically and internationally would be a prominent feature.
War service recognised
The Australian Defence Force has acknowledged the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in defending Australia and its National interests at an inaugural service at the Australian War Memorial.
The event saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags also on display at Defence Headquarters in Canberra for the first time to mark National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) Week.
The Memorial Service recognised the past service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in all major conflicts since the Boer War.
Interpreters for aged care
Translation services and on-site interpreters will soon be available to older Australians in aged care facilities who are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
The new service will include on-site visits and telephone interpreting services and services will be available around the clock seven days a week.
There are currently almost 30,000 culturally and linguistically diverse residents in aged care homes who would benefit from the initiative which will be provided by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s Translating and Interpreting Service, TIS National.
12 July, 2011
PS to be active in
New Agencies, new Funds and expanded resources, responsibilities and requirements for some existing Government programs have been announced as part of the move towards carbon pricing and improving energy efficiency in Australia.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced that a price on carbon is to be levied on major pollution generators from 1 July 2012 in the hope of creating a ‘clean energy future.’
High on the priority list for the new policy is the establishment of a new, independent Climate Change Authority (CCA) with the main responsibility for establishing, measuring, policing and managing the carbon pricing and payment process.
To be chaired by former Secretary of Treasury, Bernie Fraser, the CCA will also recommend caps to be set on carbon pollution, advise the Government on the performance of the carbon price and other climate change initiatives and track progress towards the nation’s pollution reduction targets.
The CCA will also conduct regular reviews and issue public reports, the first of which will be due in February 2014.
In addition to the CCA, a new Energy Security Council is to be appointed to advise the Government on support measures to address energy security risks.
The Council will be supported by an Energy Security Fund which will meet the costs of closing the worst polluting plants and assist in the upgrade of others as well as offer loans to industry when commercial lenders won’t.
A new Australian Renewable Energy Agency is also to be established within Resources, Energy and Tourism to fund the development and marketing of renewable energy technologies and a Clean Energy Finance Corporation will be set up in Treasury or Finance and Deregulation to back clean energy proposals and technologies.
A Clean Technology Innovation Program is also be set up in the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.
A new Biodiversity Fund will be created to manage almost a billion dollars over six years for initiatives that protect biodiversity by supporting farmers, community groups and natural resource management bodies develop on-ground carbon storage initiatives and achieve other biodiversity outcomes.
Among the existing programs to be expanded or upgraded are the LivingGreener website (www.livinggreener.gov.au), the Low Carbon Communities program, the Energy Efficiency Opportunities program and others.
Further work is to be undertaken on the national energy saving initiative, or ‘white certificate’ scheme and grants will be given to industry associations and non-government organisations to promote energy efficiency measures among small businesses and community groups.
More information about the carbon pricing plans is available from this PS News link.
12 July, 2011
The Fair Work Ombudsman has been granted a 12-month exemption from the Legal Services Directions to allow it to use its own in-house lawyers take cases to court.
law unto himself
The exemption was granted by Attorney-General, Robert McClelland who had earlier approved PS lawyers for matters involving employee underpayments but has now extended the exemption to all Fair Work Ombudsman cases.
Chief Counsel with the Ombudsman’s office, Janine Webster, welcomed the exemption saying it recognised the Agency’s professionalism, skills and expertise.
Ms Webster said she did not intend to use in-house lawyers for every matter, but that it was important for the Agency to have the flexibility to do so where appropriate.
“There will always be a need for external firms to conduct some of our work where it is outside our expertise or existing resources don’t permit the proper conduct of a matter,” she said.
“However, in a specialised environment such as our own, that should be the exception rather than the rule – and when we do, we will expect value for money.”
She said the decision had the potential to offer significant cost savings to the Fair Work Ombudsman with the Legal Group’s current budget of $3.8 million for external legal advice in 2010-11, down from more than $5 million the previous financial year.
Ms Webster said the reduced spend was largely attributable to the fact that a significant number of matters were now run in-house.
She said based on a “blended hourly rate” of $150 an hour for its own lawyers, compared to an average rate of $303 an hour for an external lawyer, $418 for a senior associate or $515 for a partner; the Fair Work Ombudsman estimated it could halve the cost of running a litigation in the Federal Magistrates Court.
“The cost savings have, and will, free up additional resources to conduct more litigation,” she said.
Ms Webster said however the external expenditure did not include the in-house cost of the Ombudsman’s legal team preparing the substantive parts of documentation required for litigation, such as pleadings, affidavits and submissions.
She said allowing the Agency to run its own litigations had assisted the Ombudsman to attract and retain skilled and talented lawyers.
“Maintaining an in-house practice means that lawyers are able to maintain and build upon their litigation skills and keep them current,” she said.
Ms Webster said since it was established on 1 July 2009, the Fair Work Ombudsman had taken 106 matters to court and obtained civil penalties totalling more than $4.2 million. It currently had a team of 37 lawyers.
12 July, 2011
Storm of support for
Researchers examining the most pressing likely impacts of climate change across Australia are to share in $2.6 million in grants from the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency.
Among the bodies to receive the funding are six universities and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).
The grants were announced by the Minister for Climate Change, Greg Combet who said they would explore adaptation measures to prepare people and institutions from the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
“Climate change will have a range of affects on our society, economy and institutions including rising temperatures, sea level rise and increasing rates of extreme weather events,” Mr Combet said.
“Some of these research projects will focus on disadvantaged groups in society providing Government with the information needed to assist these groups in preparing for future climate change.”
He said the funding would support nine research projects investigating the impacts of climate change and practical adaptation options to support the community, as well as public and private institutions.
He said the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies was among the successful projects and the Institute would use a $440,000 grant to assist native title bodies in developing best practice approaches to climate change and support communities to adapt on native title lands.
“Some of this country’s best academic and research facilities have joined the Government to examine the information needed to prepare and protect people and institutions from the affects of climate change,” Mr Combet said.
He said the round of nine projects fell under a social, economic and institutional dimensions theme with other successful projects including some from University of Adelaide; University of Western Australia; University of Melbourne; University of Sydney; and Griffith University and would be managed by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research facility (NCCARF).
More information on the research projects is available from the NCCARF website at this PS News link.
12 July, 2011
Medicare to care for
Administration of the early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds has been transferred from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to Medicare Australia.
super hard cases
Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten said Medicare Australia had already been managing the claims for almost six months, under delegation from APRA.
“It makes sense, given their experience in managing electronic business transactions and greater focus on customer service, to transfer the function permanently,” Mr Shorten said.
He said by delegating the role to Medicare, the function would be administered more cost effectively since the Agency had an efficient customer support infrastructure.
He said over $1.5 million was released in compassionate payments in the 2010/11 financial year, with an average amount of $11,316.
Mr Shorten said while the purpose of superannuation was to provide benefits for members on retirement or upon reaching preservation age, a member’s preserved superannuation benefits may be released before preservation age in some strictly limited circumstances.
He said such circumstances included compassionate grounds which covered expenses in respect of medical treatment, medical transport, modifications necessary for the family home or motor vehicle due to severe disability, palliative care and funeral expenses.
He said funds could also be released to prevent the foreclosure of a mortgage or exercise of a power of sale over the member’s principal place of residence.
Mr Shorten said the criteria for early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds would remain the same.
“There is significant potential to streamline the program with the ultimate beneficiaries from this transfer being those superannuation fund members experiencing undue hardship because of their personal circumstances,” he said.
Mr Shorten said to apply for early release, applicants could call 1300 13 10 60 or visit this PS News link.
12 July, 2011
Best practice guide
A Best Practice Guide for employers offering their staff access to parental leave has been produced by the Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman.
for parents on leave
The Guide will assist employers develop policies that provide optimal support for employees who take advantage of the leave entitlements.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said employers who take the time to consider their staff needs could reap substantial rewards.
“Employers with parental leave policies that make employees feel valued can benefit from having more committed and productive staff,” Mr Wilson said.
“They will also improve staff retention, resulting in lower recruitment and training costs.”
He said his Office had produced the Parental Leave Best Practice Guide to provide advice for employers on how to develop policies that provided optimal support for employees who accessed parental leave.
“Best practice employers go beyond their minimum legal obligations and develop parental leave policies that are tailored to their employees’ specific needs, while also being mutually beneficial to their business,” he said.
“Employers should consult with employees when developing parental leave policies to ensure they understand their employees’ needs and ideas.”
Mr Wilson said the new Guide added to the Best Practice Guides on work and family; individual flexibility arrangements; consultation and co-operation; young workers; gender pay equity; small business and the Fair Work Act; bargaining; privacy; and managing underperformance and dispute resolution.
He said the Parental Leave Best Practices Guide explored a range of features employers could consider including any paid or unpaid parental leave policy.
“Good communication arrangements can help an employee on leave feel attached to the workplace, their career and their colleagues,” he said.
“Educating workplace participants and encouraging best practice is a key part of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s role as we strive to create harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces.”
The new Guide is available free from this PS News link or by calling 13 13 94. An interpreter service is also available by calling 13 14 50.
12 July, 2011
Online service to
A new online confidential advice and counselling service for people suffering or at risk of sexual assault or family violence has been launched by the Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis.
Ms Ellis said the 24 hour website www.1800RESPECT.org.au enabled vulnerable Australians to access free support services at any time and had already proven itself to be effective.
“The online service offers an important access portal for victims of violence, who are seeking help, and further complements the 1800RESPECT national telephone counselling service,” Ms Ellis said.
“The telephone counselling service has averaged around 185 callers a week since its launch in October last year - a sobering reminder that there is demand for this sort of service out in the community.”
She said the more options available to victims of violence in the home meant the more likely it was that people would get the help they needed.
Ms Ellis said the website was staffed by tertiary qualified counsellors and social workers, who were able to respond in a professional and sensitive manner to victims’ needs and provide them with referrals to relevant services.
She said it was one of the latest initiatives under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
“The National Plan is the first of its kind to focus on long term solutions, including building respectful relationships and working to increase gender equality to prevent violence from occurring in the first place,” she said.
“We have committed more than $86 million over four years to support the National Plan initiatives to improve the lives of women who have suffered violence.”
Ms Ellis said the Government already knew that the economic cost of family violence was enormous, but it was important to recognise that the emotional and personal cost to the victims was truly immeasurable.
12 July, 2011
School buildings get
The final report from the Building the Education Revolution (BER) Implementation Taskforce has been released making five recommendations, each one of which has been agreed to by the Government.
good report card
Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans said the Taskforce’s report showed that overall the BER was a success, with the majority of education authorities found to have attained value for money and delivered quality facilities.
“This was an enormous undertaking involving nearly 24,000 construction projects,” Senator Evans said.
“I am pleased to see more than 92 per cent of projects are now complete and the vast majority of schools and communities are enjoying the benefits of their new facilities.”
He said the Taskforce also noted the majority of school principals expressed appreciation for major new investment in school infrastructure which would deliver improved educational outcomes.
“This investment has transformed the learning environment for thousands of students across Australia,” he said.
“Modern and innovative learning spaces, libraries and classrooms, language centres and science laboratories will improve the educational outcomes for students of all ages and this will be the permanent legacy of this historic program.”
Senator Evans said earlier independent research commissioned by the Taskforce showed the BER made a material contribution to Australia’s economic growth and was projected to support around 120,000 jobs over the life of the program.
“As well as delivering high quality, much-needed facilities to our schools, the BER helped protect the Australian economy from the full effects of the global financial crisis,” he said.
“The BER kept industry going, kept people in jobs and kept skills in our economy.”
He said following the release of its interim report, the Taskforce undertook detailed “value for money” reviews in an additional 80 school projects, most of which were the subject of a value for money complaint.
“The Taskforce investigated 332 complaints throughout the program, which represents about 3.5 per cent of all schools involved in the program,” Senator Evans said.
“Pleasingly, the Taskforce has already either resolved the vast majority of these or worked with the schools involved to develop a rectification plan.”
The final report of the taskforce can be accessed at this PS News link.
12 July, 2011
Work safety model
Model Work Health and Safety legislation for the mining industry has been released by Safe Work Australia for public comment.
Chair of Safe Work Australia, Tom Phillips said his organisation worked in partnership with the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to deliver harmonised work health and safety laws across Australia with the aim of achieving the best possible approach to safety for all Australian workplaces.
Mr Phillips said the draft models of Work Health and Safety Regulations, Codes of Practice, a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement, and Issues Paper for Public comment would be released in conjunction with the National Mine Safety Framework (NMSF) on Friday 15 July 2011.
He said the NMSF was an initiative of the Ministerial Council on Mineral and Petroleum Resources, which aimed to establish a nationally consistent work health and safety regime in the mining industry.
“Regulatory reform is particularly important to the mining industry where the incidence rate of work-related injuries and fatalities is one of the highest of all Australian industries, with 2,395 workers’ compensation claims in 2008-09,” he said.
Mr Phillips said mining was one of the high risk industries for work health and safety in Australia and the industry employed 168,800 people in 2008–09, representing 2 per cent of the Australian workforce.
He said in 2008–09, the Mining industry also accounted for 2 per cent of all serious workers’ compensation claims equating to seven employees each day requiring one or more weeks off work because of work-related injury or disease.
“These statistics demonstrate the importance of all work health and safety professionals and other stakeholders taking the opportunity to have their say in the public comment process,” Mr Phillips said.
“Model work health and safety laws will ensure organisations can comply with one set of laws regardless of the number of States or Territories in which they operate.”
More information about the model laws is available from the Safe Work Australia website this PS News link.
12 July, 2011
AFP psychology team
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is putting together an international network of psychologists to work closely with people dealing with online child sexual exploitation.
mental as anything
As part of its role as Chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), the AFP is developing the network to share psychological research and strategies to help deal with the stress experienced by police officers committed to fighting paedophilia and online child sexual exploitation.
Currently, representatives from six of the nine VGT partner Agencies have joined the network, including AFP Wellbeing Services.
Representative of AFP Wellbeing Services, Heidi Horvath said joining the network provided an opportunity to work with colleagues across the globe on a vital, challenging and ground breaking area of work.
“Developing and conducting research in an area where the research is minimal, and sharing strategies and experiences with colleagues dealing with similar situations will be invaluable, and all of us will greatly benefit from this new network,” Ms Horvath said.
International clinical psychologist affiliated with VGT agency INTERPOL, Annabel Poate-Joyner, said she welcomed the VGT psychology network “with open arms”.
“It will be invaluable to be able to share professional thoughts and experiences with like-minded colleagues through this new initiative,” Ms Poate-Joyner said.
During the last VGT Conference, hosted by the AFP in December 2010, a key presentation was given on the psychological effects of long-term exposure to child sex abuse material.
The Conference heard that working with such material had also been found to have an adverse effect on law enforcement officers.
VGT discussed strategies to combat the negative psychological effects, focusing on protective cognitive processes and creating a workplace where helpful policies were in place and peers and leaders were supportive.
12 July, 2011
Conference grants to
People with a disability attending conferences can expect more support in future following the announcement of $320,000 in grants to conference organisers.
speak up for disabled
Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas said the funding, through the National Disability Conference Initiative, would improve access and participation to 28 disability conferences across Australia.
“The Australian Government is delivering practical support to conference organisers to help ensure people with disability, their families, friends and carers can attend and fully participate in conferences,” Senator McLucas said.
“Conference organisers will receive grants of up to $12,000 to help improve access for people with disability and their carers.”
She said the grants could be used to cover the cost of conference fees, accommodation and travel expenses, as well as to provide Auslan interpreters, live captioning services, hearing loops, and make conference materials available in a range of formats such as Braille or larger font.
“We expect many Australians with disability and their carers will benefit from these grants,” she said.
“For example, children and their carers who attend the annual National Epidermolysis Bullosa Kids and Carers Camp.
“These children get real value out of the camp and it gives families the chance to learn more about caring and share their experiences, while experienced volunteers take the children on a range of outings.”
Senator McLucas said the initiative would also ensure that 10 people could attend the Disability Advocacy Network Australia’s Fourth National Disability Advocacy Conference.
“Conferences provide a great opportunity for people with disability, their carers, disability service providers and advocacy groups to share knowledge and experiences, discuss and debate a host of issues,” she said.
“This is one way we can ensure that people with disability are supported to get involved and have their say.”
12 July, 2011
Overseas aid to cash
Major reforms have been announced for Australia’s overseas aid program to make it more strategic, transparent and capable of achieving ‘real’ results.
in on reforms
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd said the new reforms were the most far-reaching changes to the aid program in more than a decade and were part of the response to the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness, which was the first independent review of Australian aid since 1996.
“I commissioned this Independent Review to focus on aid effectiveness, take a comprehensive look at the management and quality of Australia’s aid, and to give direction to the future of our aid program,” Mr Rudd said.
“Building on the findings of the Independent Review, the Government will make effectiveness the cornerstone of the aid program.”
He said the Government had agreed (or agreed in principle) to 38 of the review’s 39 recommendations and a new Transparency Charter would be developed, under which accurate and up-to-date results on all aid programs would be published.
He said the Government had also adopted a recommendation that the fundamental purpose of the aid program would be to help people overcome poverty and agreed that clear strategic goals for the program would be set.
Mr Rudd said the Review found that many factors determined the effectiveness of aid but most fell into three main categories - capabilities of the recipient country; performance of the donor country; and quality of the relationship between the two.
It also found that two-thirds of Australia’s aid (which in 2010-2011 stood at approximately $4.3 billion, or 0.33 per cent of GNI) went to the Asia–Pacific region, with Australia’s two closest neighbours, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, the two largest aid recipients.
It said Australia had a good aid program, improvable but good, but it was also a program under administrative stress.
Overall, the Review Panel made findings on 10 key issues and noted specific problems with the aid program including a lack of overall strategy; that it was fragmented (serving 88 countries, compared to 69 countries five years ago); that the number of projects had doubled; and the trends were unsustainable.
It also found more emphasis needed to be given to whole-of-Government coordination; there were significant shortcomings with the current budget process; and the Government did not have an effective communications strategy for the aid program.
The Government’s response to the review can be accessed at this PS News link.
12 July, 2011
New weather tool to
A new online tool to help grain growers make more sense of weather and climate information has been developed by the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the University of New England (UNE) with funding from the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).
shine for farmers
The online decision support tool, Cropmate, delivers useful climate data to the fingertips of the growers to help them make informed planning and management decisions during the crop management cycle.
Professor David Herridge from the UNE–NSW DPI Primary Industries Innovation Centre (PIIC) said Cropmate was designed to provide timely and accurate information to help make informed planning and management decisions during the crop management cycle.
“CropMate information is divided into five sections following the cropping calendar and is specific to the user’s location, paddock status and the crop being managed,” Professor Herridge said.
“A choice of locations with reliable historic meteorological data provides location-specific information that is relevant to different phases of the cropping calendar.”
He said it used data from the Bureau of Meteorology and the Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence but user input was also welcome as the website had the capacity to change and grow.
He said users could consult the site when doing preseason planning to analyse data on average temperature, rainfall and evaporation, seasonal forecasts and influences on climate such as the impact of the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) on rainfall.
“The CropMate tool is an example of how innovative research can be used to support grain grower decision making by incorporating research data, particularly around fertiliser use, variety performance, water use efficiency and sowing time, agronomic knowledge and climate information into the decision support tool,” Professor Herridge said.
“With the current uncertainty about future climate, decision support tools that assist the grower in making decisions that include climate and agronomy in the same process will improve their approaches to risk management.”
More information about the CropMate tool is available from this PS News link.
12 July, 2011
Museum makes case
The National Museum of Australia has begun a new discussion program to engage with opinion makers in debates about the nation’s future and the history of ideas in Australia.
Platform Conversations will address a range of topics, with the first program Constitutional recognition – so what? bringing together contrasting perspectives on the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Australian Constitution.
Director of the Museum, Andrew Sayers said the debate addressed issues such as what form recognition should take in the Constitution; whether the recognition debate was a distraction from more pressing issues of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander needs; and whether or not recognition should be enshrined in the Constitution.
Mr Sayers said speakers at the inaugural Platform Conversations,last week included Alison Page who is a member of the expert panel on Constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians; former Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough; and Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of New South Wales, Garth Nettheim.
He said a second Platform Conversation would be held this Friday (15 July) at the Museum featuring a discussion with “Australia’s best known philosopher” Peter Singer, on the theme How ethical is Australia?
“This series of conversations is about ideas and their role in Australian society,” Mr Sayers said.
“We have a role in engaging with issues of contemporary thought and culture, particularly where we can see the relationships of past ideas and current thinking.”
Mr Sayers said the Platform Conversations would be available via video on demand and audio on demand on a new Platform TV hub on the National Museum of Australia’s website at this PS News link.
8 July, 2011
Hard bargaining in
Reaction to enterprise bargaining offers across the Australian Public Service continues to be negative with another round of ballots rejecting them.
Staff in the Departments of Defence and Attorney-General’s and the Australian Taxation Office are the latest to vote against the offers with union members in the Department of Parliamentary Services walking out of Parliament House for half a day in support of their claim for a better deal.
According to the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU), the rejections place pressure on the Australian Public Service Commission and the Federal Government to come up with better offers.
According to the Special Minister of State and Minister for the Public Service, Gary Gray, the union’s actions were are all part of the negotiation process.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said 59,000 APS staff had now voted against the pay and conditions offers.
“APS employees are facing a difficult choice,” Ms Flood said.
“Either accept substandard agreements with pay rises that don’t keep up with the cost of living, or undertake industrial campaigns to secure a better deal.”
She was confident that agreements could be reached “but it’s going to take a change of attitude.”
Mr Gray said 45 Agencies had completed their initial rounds of bargaining with the staff of 18 voting to support their agreements.
He said a further 33 were still in negotiation.
“I expect Agencies will continue to bargain in good faith with the public sector unions and employees in order to resolve any issues in subsequent rounds of bargaining,” Mr Gray said.
“The Fair Work Act … demands that all parties negotiate in good faith at all times and the Government expects the CPSU, other unions, worker representatives and Agencies to meet these obligations.”
The Minister was not concerned that most of the agreements had already expired.
“Under the current arrangements, percentage pay increases offered to employees are not reduced by the commencement date of an enterprise agreement so there is no long-term disadvantage to staff if there are any delays,” he said.
8 July, 2011
Australia’s national system for setting aside conservation reserves has received high praise after an independent audit conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
for reserve system
Established 20 years ago, the National Reserve System is a partnership between all levels of Government as well as conservation organisations, designed to protect biodiversity and save threatened species from extinction.
The WWF-Australia report described the System as “arguably the Australian Government’s biggest conservation success story.”
Minister for the Environment, Tony Burke said the National Reserve System was part of a natural safety net in the face of climate change, weeds and feral animals and was the cornerstone of the $20 billion a year nature-based tourism industry.
“This independent report describes its critical role in protecting biodiversity and saving threatened species from extinction,” Mr Burke said.
“It involves Indigenous landholders and farmers working together to build a nationwide network of national parks and reserves - protecting Australia’s spectacular landscapes and native plants and animals for future generations.”
He said the WWF report showed the System was having real benefits and put in place unprecedented protection for the natural environment.
“In 2008, the Government boosted funding by an historic five-fold increase and since then we’ve added over seven million hectares of high conservation land, helping our partners buy 66 properties and supporting the creation of 19 new Indigenous Protected Areas,” he said.
Mr Burke said today the National Reserve System was a vibrant network of 9,415 reserves, covering a range of ecosystems across the nation.
He said the report described it as “excellent value for money” with an average cost of only $47 a hectare to buy wildlife habitat and protect it and just $5 a hectare to support the declaration and management of Indigenous Protected Areas.
8 July, 2011
Councils call for
The Australian Local Government Association has called on the Commonwealth Government to become more involved in local infrastructure planning and assisting communities manage population growth.
Deputy President of the ALGA, Felicity-Ann Lewis, told a summit in Canberra recently that Australia’s cities were facing major issues with transport and congestion and it would only be through a concerted effort on the part of each level of Government that they would be overcome.
Speaking at the Emerging Crises Summit – Cities, Population, Climate Change and Energy, Mayor Lewis said the central Government needed to be more involved in local infrastructure planning to assist communities manage population growth.
“There is no question that our cities are facing major issues with their transport systems as they deal with congestion, escalating prices for fuel and the pressure to reduce all forms of pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions,” Mayor Lewis said.
She said the results of a national poll of 1510 residents suggested communities wanted the Commonwealth to proactively address such issues.
She said local roads, footpaths and cycle ways were the capillaries of the transport system that connected key State and Federally-funded transport arteries even though more than 80 per cent of the road network was owned, financed and maintained by Local Government.
“Local Government, as the provider of the most extensive urban transport infrastructure, understands that it needs to be properly integrated with any new urban transport developments to achieve full value from those investments.” Mayor Lewis said.
“It is only when all three levels of government work together to plan and fund these developments as a whole that the full value of major urban transport initiatives is realised.”
She said all levels of Government needed to work with communities to guide the evolution of cities to meet the challenges of the future.
8 July, 2011
Customs nets new
Legislation allowing Customs Officers access to technology to carry out internal body scanning on suspected drug carriers has been passed by the Australian Parliament.
Minister for Home Affairs, Brendan O’Connor said the legislation would enable Customs and Border Protection Officers to test internal body scanning technology as a way to boost the detection of drugs being imported inside the bodies of drug couriers.
Mr O’Connor said changes to the Customs Act 1901 would allow accredited Customs Officers at international airports to offer suspects the option of an internal body scan as part of a year-long trial.
He said in order to conduct the body scan, a reasonable suspicion must be formed that a person was carrying drugs internally and the suspect would have to consent to being scanned.
He said if the person refused to grant consent, he or she would instead undergo the current practice of a hospital examination.
“In 2009-10, 48 drug couriers were identified attempting to import more than 27 kilograms of illicit drugs within their bodies, including heroin and cocaine,” Mr O’Connor said.
“We want to do all we can to stop drug importation and protect Australian families from the immeasurable harm caused by drug use.”
He said internally secreted drugs posed a dire health risk to the courier and it was not unusual for packages to split and for drug couriers to face serious illness or death as a result.
“Body scanning technology will help to more promptly identify if a suspect is carrying drugs internally and allow medical help to be rendered quickly,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said the option of an internal body scan would clear legitimate travellers more quickly and ensure a minimum of delay at airports.
He said the use of the technology was also expected to present significant time and money savings to Customs, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and hospitals.
“Last year AFP officers spent almost 8,300 hours guarding suspects, including more than 4,600 hours in hospital waiting rooms, rather than policing our airports and other public areas,” he said.
Mr O’Connor said the technology produced images similar to a medical x-ray showing internal body tissue, skeleton and, where present, internal drug concealments.
8 July, 2011
Internet users log
Research conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has found that the number of internet subscribers rose by 17 per cent in Australia in 2010 and the amount of data downloaded increased by 29 per cent.
Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said such increases reflected the ongoing digital boom in online social and economic activity with more and more Australians going online to do their shopping, banking and social networking.
Mr Chapman said the report, The internet service market and Australians in the online environment, found that more than 15 million people aged 14-years and over used the internet during the December quarter of 2010, up from 14.2 million during the same quarter in 2009.
He said additional data showed 71 per cent of internet users went online at least once a day in December 2010, compared to 67 per cent in December 2009 - an increase of 1.2 million users.
Mr Chapman said E-commerce, video content and social networking services were increasingly drawing Australians online, with some 7.4 million persons accessing retail and auction web sites, 8.4 million accessing social networking sites and 5.5 million accessing video streaming sites from home during December 2010.
“The rise in online activity is particularly evident in the growing volume of data downloaded, as well as the increased take-up of higher speed internet services,” said Mr Chapman.
“This lift in speed continues to contribute to the increasing intensity of online activities as well as growth in the use of digital video services online.”
He said also that during December 2010, 3.1 million people accessed the internet via their mobile phone handset, compared to 1.9 million during December 2009.
He said that did not mean consumers had abandoned traditional internet access over fixed lines, with the report also showing 98 per cent of mobile phone internet users continued to use the internet via a computer.
More information on the ACMA report was available from this PS News link.
8 July, 2011
Up to eight synthetic cannabis-like substances are to be classified as prohibited substances across Australia following Federal support for State-based bans.
face a real ban
Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King said the new classification of the substances from today (8 July) would enable a uniform, nationwide prohibition on the synthetic drugs.
“There is a lack of evidence of any therapeutic value for these substances and their use poses potential health risks,” Ms King said.
“There have been widespread reports of abuse and symptoms, including severe hallucinations, psychosis and heart palpitations.”
She said little was known about the long-term health effects from continued use of such substances.
“The drugs mimic the effects of existing illicit substances, but have not been uniformly illegal across Australia because they fall outside current controls,” she said.
“In response to calls for uniform restrictions on these types of substances, the Commonwealth has considered the matter and made a decision to prohibit eight of the most widely-used and abused synthetic cannabinoids.”
Ms King said Government restrictions on access to medicines and other chemical substances were determined through scheduling, a classification process made by select delegates in the Department of Health and Ageing and then given legal effect through State and Territory legislation.
She said synthetic cannabis-like substances had been widely available on the internet although those products had already been banned in Western Australia and South Australia with New South Wales close behind.
“These restrictions will still allow access to these substances for use in strictly-controlled medical and clinical studies to allow for appropriate investigation of any potential future therapeutic uses,” she said.
More information is available at this PS News link.
8 July, 2011
Nuclear agency takes
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has called on motorcyclists and cyclists to stay out of bushland surrounding its Lucas Heights facility in Sydney in the interests of stopping further damage to the environment and injuring its staff and members of the public.
aim at nuisances
Bikes have long been prohibited in the area, but since existing signage was removed and vandalised, ANSTO wanted to remind members of the public of their responsibilities and that not complying did carry a fine.
General Manager of ANSTO’s Engineering and Capital Programs, Con Lyras said local residents supported ANSTO’s concern that structures such as jumps and ramps were being placed in the area by cyclists.
Mr Lyras said such structures caused serious environmental degradation around the pathways, including interference with streams that were part of the Georges River catchment and other environmentally sensitive areas, some with Aboriginal sites of historical and cultural significance.
“We are concerned at the potential for cyclists or bushwalkers to be injured, and safety, in particular the safety of staff and local residents, is always our primary concern,” he said.
“We appreciate the bush is attractive for recreation and we welcome bush walkers to use the marked walking trails, however ANSTO is appealing to the bike rider groups to respect the request.”
He said there were currently two designated walking trails on the ANSTO site, a blue and a pink walk.
Mr Lyras said the 2.6 kilometre blue walk started on the northern side of New Illawarra Road, marked by a blue marker sign, and took hikers through native bushland with a feature of the walk being ancient Aboriginal engravings.
He said the four kilometre pink walk was the gentler of the two walks, starting at the Lucas Heights Motel and offering views of the Woronora Valley.
8 July, 2011
Law Ministers and Attorneys-General from around the Commonwealth are to come together for their triennial meeting in Sydney this month.
Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma, said the meeting was unique in the legal calendar as it was the only high level event on the international stage that aimed at information sharing, encouraging best practice and collaboration between Law Ministers from both the developing and developed world.
Mr Sharma said the Commonwealth Law Ministers Meeting (CLMM 2011) theme for 2011 was Fostering a Just and Secure Commonwealth and would provide an opportunity for Ministers and senior Government officials to come together to stock take and look ahead.
“There will be a special thematic session on cyber crime and further discussion on the development of a Commonwealth plan of action to combat human trafficking,” Mr Sharma said.
“Concrete solutions in these areas really matter to Commonwealth citizens in order to foster a just and secure Commonwealth for all.”
Director of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Division at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Akbar Khan said that many legal threats today did not have borders and those threats would be discussed at the meeting.
“We’re talking about human trafficking, we’re talking about cyber crime, and we’re talking about forced marriages,” Mr Khan said.
“These issues need to be dealt with on a collective basis and Ministers have that experience in providing the protection and security and respect for human rights that need to come to bear to decide these issues.”
He said a special feature of CLMM 2011 would be its focus on youth with an event for young lawyers from the Pacific region to promote youth mainstreaming within the Commonwealth and to discuss the challenges they face in the legal profession.
He said another special event would focus on access to justice for women, under the Commonwealth’s theme for 2011, Women as Agents of Change.
More information about the meeting can be accessed at this PS News link.
8 July, 2011
The first ‘community constables’ appointed to police remote Aboriginal settlements in the Northern territory have completed their training and are being assigned to duties in a two-year trial.
to fill the bill
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said the pilot program would be run in eight Indigenous communities across the Territory, with aims to develop ways to reduce crime and increase community safety.
“These eight officers will be sworn Northern Territory Police Officers and will work with the community to prioritise and address causes of crime, increase community safety as well as build relationships between law enforcement and the community,” Mr McClelland said.
“As part of the trial, officers will be based in Alyangula, Maningrida, Wadeye and Lajamanu in the top end and Yuendumu, Hermannsburg, Ali Curung and Papunya further south in the Territory.”
He said the officers would work closely with communities and leaders to build trust and confidence in the justice system to strengthen local safety and security.
“The sworn officers will audit and map criminal activity and issues in local communities, identify factors for offending including through discussion with families and the wider community, identify responses needed to address criminal activity and liaise with relevant education and health agencies to follow up on the provision of services,” he said.
“The officers will also work with locals to encourage the early reporting of issues such as violence and substance abuse.”
Mr McClelland said while the officers were sworn and had law enforcement capabilities, the purpose of the pilot was for them to build closer relationships with the community and work with them on crime prevention.
He said they would begin working in the communities over the next couple of weeks.
8 July, 2011
And in Other News...
Tribunal to set MPs pay
The Remuneration Tribunal has been given the power to determine the base salary of Members of Parliament.
The Tribunal is currently considering recommendations from the Committee for the Review of Parliamentary Entitlements (the Belcher Report) and the new powers follow passage through the Parliament of the Remuneration and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2011.
Australian of the Year Open
Nominations for the Australian of the Year Awards 2012 are now open.
Nominations can be made in the four award categories of Australian of the Year; Senior Australian of the Year (60 years and over); Young Australian of the Year (16-30 years); and Australia’s Local Hero.
They can be made online or by completing a nomination form available from a Commonwealth Bank branch or by calling 1300 655 193.
The Australian of the Year awards are administered by the National Australia Day Council and close nominations close 31 August 2011.
Former Controller of the Royal Australian Mint, John Joslin AM has died aged 85.
Mr Joslin was Controller of the Mint from 1974 to 1987.
Archives celebrates Constitution
The National Archives in Canberra is to host Constitution Day celebrations this Saturday (9 July), including old-fashioned family activities from 1900.
Calligraphy workshops, tours with Lady Jane Barton, making and playing with toys of the past, and games played in 1900 are some examples of activities included in the celebrations.
The original Constitution and the Royal Commission of Assent signed by Queen Victoria on 9 July 1900 will also be permanent display.
The event will run from 10am to 3pmm and more information is available from this PS News link.
The third annual meeting of the Pacific Ombudsman Alliance (POA) has been held in Honiara, Solomon Islands.
The two-day meeting was chaired by Commonwealth Ombudsman Allan Asher and included representatives from NSW, New Zealand, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tonga, Niue, Nauru, Palau and Timor Leste.
The meeting was held to promote international engagement and best practice in the pursuit of good governance across the region.
Members noted the passing of both Professor Jack Richardson, the first Commonwealth Ombudsman, and Daniel Maeke, the first Ombudsman of the Solomon Islands.
Graduates getting jobs
A report released by Graduate Careers Australia shows more than 91 per cent of bachelor degree graduates find employment within four months of finishing their degree.
The Graduate Destinations 2010 report found 76.2 per cent of 2009 bachelor degree graduates had found full-time employment and a further 15.1 per cent secured part-time work within four months.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans said the report highlighted the value of a higher education degree and reflected the demand for graduates to contribute to the productivity of the nation.
Identity theft rife
New research shows that nearly one in six Australians have been a victim of, or know somebody who has been a victim of, identity theft or misuse in the past six months.
Attorney General, Robert McClleland said the survey of 1,200 people would be used to help develop a new National Identity Security Strategy.
Mr McClelland said it was clear from the results there was a real concern in the Australian community about identity theft and misuse.
New Board for DSTO
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) has established an independent probity board.
The Board will assist the organisation to establish a formal probity and ethical management framework to guide decision-making.
The three inaugural board members are Executive Director of the St James Ethics Centre Simon Longstaff, Director Allen Consulting Grahame Cook and former Mallesons Stephens Jaques chairman Frank Zipfinger.
Yes Prime Minister coming
The stage show Yes, Prime Minister is to have its Australian opening at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, on 31 January 31 2012 before touring nationally.
Written by Jonathan Lynn and Antony Jay, Yes, Prime Minister was a sell out in London’s West End and is now back for a return London season.
Satellite service for NBN
NBN Co has launched an Interim Satellite Service for rural and remote Australians.
The service is designed for residents, small businesses and indigenous communities in rural and remote Australia who can’t currently access broadband services comparable to those available in metropolitan areas.
Under the Interim Satellite Service, the satellite equipment and installation will be provided by NBN Co at no cost to the customer for a standard installation.
Australians living in rural and remote areas who may be eligible for the service can now apply by visiting the NBN Co website at this PS News link or calling 1800 881 816.
TV contract extended
An extension to the existing Australia Network contract has been announced.
In light of changed international circumstances since the Australia Network Request For Tender (RFT) was issued, the Federal Government decided that national interests should be addressed more broadly and will seek additional information from tenderers.
Tenderers have been asked to submit amended bids.
The current contract with the ABC expires on 8 August 2011.
The Government will exercise its option under the existing contract to extend the service operated by the ABC for six months until 8 February 2012.
Incentives for veterans
Incentives are to apply for war veterans, war widows and widowers who are over the relevant pension age to remain in the work force.
The Work Bonus Scheme will be enhanced and will continue to support eligible income support pensioners to undertake some paid work by reducing or removing any adverse effect to their pension.
The first $250 per fortnight of income earned by eligible service pensioners will be excluded from the income test.
Any unused amounts of the $250 exemption will accrue in a Work Bonus Bank, up to a maximum of $6,500, which can then be used to offset future employment income.
Water awards open
Government Authorities and Departments have been invited to enter the 2011 savewater! awards.
The savewater! Government Award acknowledges achievement and a strong ongoing commitment by a local authority, state or federal government agency/department, in reducing its own or the community’s water use.
Entries for the 2011 savewater! awards close on Monday 8 August 2011.
For further information or to enter the savewater! awards visit this PS News link.
Broadband roll out rolls on
Stage two of the National Broadband Network rollout has begun in Tasmania.
Sorell was the first of the seven Tasmanian stage two communities to begin construction, which together will provide access to high-speed broadband to more than 11,000 homes and businesses in Tasmania upon completion.
The other stage two communities of Triabunna, Kingston Beach, Deloraine, St Helens, George Town and South Hobart will see construction commence shortly, with services expected to be available progressively from March 2012.
5 July, 2011
Upgrade of PS Institute
The Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) has announced a new National Secretariat and an upgraded website.
to expand services
National President of IPAA, Percy Allan said the Institute’s National Secretariat would now be managed by the NSW Division which recently won a competitive tender to provide the service.
Mr Allan said the new arrangements would result in significant savings in back-office expenses, allowing the Institute to appoint a Communications Officer to keep the new IPAA nationwide website portal up to date with IPAA news, announcements, events and Knowledge Centre resources and assist the National President in his official role as IPAA public spokesperson.
Mr Allan said the new arrangements also included engaging researchers into public policy issues and the preparation of regular submissions on public administration matters for IPAA National’s Submissions Committee.
He said they would also help address IPAA National’s structural operating deficit, which had been reducing the national body’s cash reserves.
Mr Allan announced that the National Executive Officer would be Gemma Rygate who was also Manager of Training for IPAA NSW.
“Gemma has qualifications in Education and Arts and previously worked in secondary education and for a pastoral holding,” Mr Allan said.
“She is well experienced in project management and strategic planning and has a strong understanding of business and corporations in an educational and arts context.”
He said the new and upgraded IPAA Nationwide website would publicise IPAA news, events, services and offices Australia-wide rather than focusing on IPAA National itself as the previous site did.
He said the recast website also provided the latest public service news through direct access to PSNews online and in its Knowledge section gave direct access to 12manage, a not-for-profit resource centre for management concepts and tools.
“The new website will strengthen IPAA’s brand as the nationwide professional association of the public sector by providing a single portal for all IPAA offices and services,” Mr Allan said.
The new website can be accessed at this PS News link.
5 July, 2011
New resource agency
The new Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics (BREE) has commenced operations under the guidance of Australia’s first Chief Economist, Professor Quentin Grafton.
Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson said BREE would sit as a professionally independent agency within the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.
Mr Ferguson said it would initially be comprised largely of staff transferred from the resources and energy branch of the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) and would be responsible for continuing all ABARES’ current resources and energy related publications and analysis.
“With the pressures of rapid growth in mining and the transition to a clean energy economy, we need a deep pool of reliable and insightful analysis,” Mr Ferguson said.
“BREE will build on the important work of ABARES, including the commodity forecasts that drive decisions across industry and the market.”
“Beyond that, BREE will work to fill large gaps in our knowledge and give us a more detailed understanding of how Australians use energy in industry and at home, both on-grid and off-grid.”
Mr Ferguson said Professor Grafton was currently based at the Australian National University as the Director of the Centre for Water Economics, Environment and Policy and Professor of Economics at the Crawford School of Economics and Government.
He said he would take up the new position in August.
“As a leading economic thinker with extensive experience in influencing and developing policy, I am confident Professor Grafton will ensure the Bureau’s success,” Mr Ferguson said.
He said an advisory board of leading energy and resource sector economists had also been appointed to support the creation of BREE including Professor Paul Simshauser, Vivek Tulpulé, Justin Smirk, and Dr Lynne Chester.
He said they would be joined by Anne Nolan, Dr David Gruen and Phillip Glyde.
5 July, 2011
Remote job services
A review of employment services in remote areas has been ordered to ensure that job service providers were meeting the needs of Indigenous and other remote job seekers.
called in to account
Announced jointly by the Ministers for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development, Senator Mark Arbib; Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin; and Employment Participation, Kate Ellis, the review will include a discussion paper which will be issued soon for public comment.
Senator Arbib said the new Remote Participation and Employment Services arrangements, due to be in place by 1 July 2013, should be simpler, more integrated and more flexible than current arrangements.
“We welcome people’s views on how participation and employment services can be improved to better suit the needs of jobseekers in remote areas,” Senator Arbib said.
He among the new arrangements would be the establishment of a Remote Participation and Employment Services Engagement Panel which would include prominent Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians with knowledge of remote communities.
“They will have expertise and experience in remote participation and employment servicing and a high profile in remote Indigenous communities,” Senator Arbib said.
Ms Ellis said details of the panel’s membership would be announced shortly and it was expected the panel would convene for its first meeting in July.
“After the Panel meets, the Australian Government will release a discussion paper and a DVD on remote employment servicing in a variety of Indigenous languages,” Ms Ellis said.
“Community consultation forums will follow in 20 remote locations with community members, service providers, employers and other stakeholders, taking place in August and September 2011.”
Ms Ellis said the consultations would be used to guide and inform the design of the next remote participation and employment services arrangements.
Ms Macklin said the Government wanted to see better results for people living in remote areas and this was a unique opportunity to improve outcomes for people in remote communities, many of whom were Indigenous.
“The next remote participation and employment services arrangements are part of a broader strategy to ensure that Indigenous Australians have the same opportunities as all Australians – to get an education, find a job, start their own business, own their own home and provide for their families,” Ms Macklin said.
“We encourage all Australians with an involvement in remote regions to get involved in the consultations.”
More information, including the discussion paper, will be available at this PS News link.
5 July, 2011
Stats report gives time
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has released figures showing that one in five Australian workers (21%) want to work less, with most wanting more time for social and recreational pursuits.
off the numbers
The latest Australian Social Trends publication said men, people already working full-time, and workers with children, were among those likely to be overemployed.
The ABS said workers who were Managers and Professionals were most likely to want to work fewer hours.
The ABS data found that while Managers and Professionals said they wanted to work less, people in white collar jobs were among the healthiest workers and least likely to suffer a work-related injury.
The data also showed that work-related injuries decreased to 53 per 1,000 people employed in 2009-10, down from 64 per 1,000 people employed in 2005-06.
The Bureau said nearly nine in 10 Australians aged 15 and over attended at least one cultural venue or event in 2009-10 and around two in three participated in sport or physical recreation at least once in the same period.
It reported that going to the cinema continued to be Australia’s most popular cultural activity for people 15 and over, with around two thirds reporting that they attended.
The Bureau said walking for exercise was the most popular sports and physical recreational activity for almost one in four Australians (23 per cent) in 2009-10.
The Australian Social Trends article also said that being online at home was a popular leisure pursuit for many Australians, with seven in 10 households (72 per cent) hooked up to the internet, more than four times the figure reported a decade ago (16 per cent in 1998).
The ABS said most households with children under the age of 15 had access to the internet (86 per cent), compared with two thirds (66 per cent) without.
It found that in 2009, four in five children (79 per cent) aged 5-14 years used the internet and nearly all of them did so at home, mostly for educational activities (85 per cent) and online games (69 cent), but also for listening to, or downloading music (47 per cent) or social networking (22 per cent).
More information is available from this PS News link.
5 July, 2011
A national after-hours hotline to medical advice and services has been launched for Australian families.
gets the call
To be run by Medibank Health Solutions, the national After Hours GP Helpline will be free to call from any landline and will enlist about 100 GP doctors and more than 240 nurses to take the calls.
Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon said the new helpline would provide late night reassurance for families, carers and anyone else needing medical advice after hours.
Ms Roxon said the After Hours GP Helpline would be open when GPs may not be – at nights, on weekends and on public holidays – 365 days a year.
“Our health reforms are already delivering more doctors, nurses and hospital beds across the country,” Ms Roxon said.
“We are also upgrading more than 400 GP clinics and building 64 GP Super Clinics to provide even better health care for all Australians.”
Ms Roxon said the After Hours GP Helpline would be added to existing telephone-based nurse triage, information and advice services currently available across the country.
“We understand the worry of looking after a sick kid and nothing is more reassuring than being able to pick up the phone and talk to a doctor at the other end,” Ms Roxon said.
“In the middle of the night, mums and dads will be able to speak to a nurse or GP to get advice and, if needed, be referred to their nearest open after-hours service.”
She said the service would be free to callers from landlines within Australia and would operate between 6pm and 8am Monday to Friday, 6pm Friday to 8am Saturday, 12pm Saturday to 8am Monday, and on all national and State/Territory public holidays.
She said the service has been available in most States and Territories since 1 July and would start up in Queensland in early 2012, building on Queensland’s existing nurse advice line.
The After Hours GP helpline number is 1800 022 222.
5 July, 2011
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has launched a new collection of data to assist in measuring the extent of homelessness in Australia.
to open doors
Housing and Homelessness Group representative with AIHW, Geoff Neideck said information from the Specialist Homelessness Services (SHS) data collection would paint a clearer picture of homelessness by focussing on homeless people’s experiences.
“Previously, homelessness was measured by the number of services provided to people experiencing homelessness or at risk of experiencing homelessness,” Mr Neideck said.
“This new data collection will provide better information about people who are homeless, the pathways people take in and out of homelessness and the kinds of work homelessness agencies do.”
He said information would be collected to indicate whether a client had a diagnosed mental illness or was undergoing treatment for mental health issues and for the first time, children would be counted as individual clients and family information would be more accurate.
Mr Neideck said information about previous episodes of homelessness and people turned away from homelessness agencies would also be recorded.
He said the new collection would provide more information for the Australian Government’s homelessness strategy, which plans to halve the rate of homelessness by 2020 and provide supported accommodation to all rough sleepers who seek it.
“This new collection is jointly funded by Federal, State and Territory governments and will be a significant source of information on homelessness in Australia,” Mr Neideck said.
“It will help give governments a better understanding of the resources needed to overcome homelessness now and into the future.”
He said the first results of the new collection were expected to be published in early 2012.
The AIHW is the national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia’s health and welfare and had been collecting homelessness information for more than 15 years.
5 July, 2011
All stops out for
A ‘consensus statement’ on organ transplant waiting lists and allocation protocols has been launched by the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King.
Ms King said the new protocols provided for nationally uniform and equitable eligibility criteria for the allocation of donated organs for transplantation.
“The new Organ Transplantation from Deceased Donors: Consensus Statement on Eligibility Criteria and Allocation Protocols provide transparent guidelines for the management of transplant waiting lists,” Ms King said.
She said the ethical principles embodied in the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) publication Organ and Tissue Donation after Death, for Transplantation - Guidelines for Ethical Practice for Health Professionals were central to the consensus statement.
She said the consensus statement was developed by the Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) through funding provided by the Organ and Tissue Authority as part of the implementation of the National Reform Agenda – A World’s Best Practice Approach to Organ and Tissue Donation for Transplantation.
Ms King said in developing the consensus statement, TSANZ included input from two rounds of public submissions and two public consultation forums.
She said $151 million had been committed over four years to establish a nationally-coordinated approach to organ and tissue donation processes.
“This work is being driven by the Organ and Tissue Authority, in partnership with the States and Territories and professional societies such as TSANZ, to ensure a sustained increase in the donation of organs - to improve access to life-saving and life-transforming transplants for all Australians in need.”
Ms King said in 2010, 309 organ donors saved or improved the lives of 931 Australians.
She said this was the highest donation and transplantation outcome achieved in Australia since national records began.
“By the end of May this year, 141 organ donors saved or improved the lives of 416 transplant recipients—a 19 per cent increase in donation and transplant outcomes, compared with the same period last year,” Ms King said.
“What we need to do now is sustain these high donation rates and ensure their translation into transplant rates.”
Ms King said the consensus statement would play a critical role in meeting this goal by building public and clinical confidence in the transparency and national consistency of Australia’s donation and transplantation process.
5 July, 2011
Aged care model to
A new model for aged care has been unveiled by the Department of Health and Ageing with 700 ‘Consumer Directed Care packages’ rolled out to aged care recipients across Australia.
Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler said more than $15 million had been allocated for support services for 700 older Australians to remain independent in their own homes.
“Consumer Directed Care is a new and innovative model of care which provides older Australians and their carers with a greater say in the types of care services they access and the delivery of those services, including who will deliver the services,” Mr Butler said.
“The expansion of this program means that an extra 700 older Australians can access a range of services to assist with day to day living including low care services such as domestic assistance and meal preparation or high care services such as personal care, nursing, and in-home respite.”
Mr Butler said each care package was personally tailored and flexible, designed by the care recipient or their carers to meet their specific needs.
He said the 700 packages included 500 low care, high care and dementia packages and 200 consumer-directed respite care packages.
He said the packages would be delivered via local aged care providers and Commonwealth Respite and Carelink Centres.
He said the new allocations would be New South Wales (189), Queensland (119), Western Australia (94), South Australia (99), Victoria (109), Tasmania (39), Northern Territory (36) and the Australian Capital Territory (15).
Mr Butler said a further $40 million would be provided to over 140 Day Therapy Centres in 2011-12 delivering assistance to more than 127,000 clients across Australia.
He said the Day Therapy Centre Program provided a wide range of therapy services such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and podiatry to frail older people living in the community and to residents of aged care homes to assist them to regain or maintain physical and cognitive abilities which will allow them to remain either in the community or in low level residential care.
5 July, 2011
High praise for
Retrieving flight data from a badly damaged aircraft has won the Australian Transport Safety Bureau the highest praise from the Royal New Zealand Air Force which described the assignment as a ‘breakthrough’.
Chief Commissioner of ATSB, Martin Dolan said the RNZAF’s Red Checkers CT-4 Airtrainer aircraft crashed at Ohakea Air Force Base in New Zealand on 14 January 2010, while practising for an upcoming aerobatics display.
Mr Dolan said the pilot died in the accident and the aircraft was destroyed by fire.
He said the ATSB transport safety report detailed the efforts taken to retrieve a large amount of data from the aircraft’s badly damaged flight data recorder following a request of assistance from the NZ Air Force.
Mr Dolan said the data recorder was fitted to the aircraft to gather performance data as part of a fatigue-monitoring program and the ATSB report reflected the Bureau’s strong spirit of international cooperation to improve safety.
“While the flight data recorder was severely damaged by fire, ATSB investigators succeeded in retrieving important flight data through meticulous, painstaking and imaginative work,” Mr Dolan said.
“We then passed this data onto Royal New Zealand Air Force investigators who found it invaluable to their investigation.”
“This investigation highlights the ATSB’s world-class technical expertise in transport safety investigations.”
For access to the ATSB transport safety report visit this PS News link.
5 July, 2011
Three Indigenous officers from Centrelink, the Child Support Agency and Medicare in Parramatta, NSW are to bring their culture to life for this week’s NAIDOC celebrations with a display of Indigenous dance, bush tucker and other cultural activities on Thursday (7 July).
show the way
The officers - Alicia Laurie, Joy Hodgson and Alex Sebastian - will share with the local community the spirit of NAIDOC Week and celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“NAIDOC Week is an important celebration of Indigenous culture, so we’ve been working together to bring a taste of our culture back to Parramatta,” Ms Laurie said.
“Parramatta’s name comes from the Indigenous word ‘Burramatta’ which in the Darug language means - ‘the place where the eels lay’, so as you can see, there is a lot synergy between Indigenous people and the region.”
Ms Laurie said the trio had invited local elders and community organisations who work with Holroyd’s Indigenous community, to join in the activities planned on the day.
Minister for the three Agencies, Tanya Plibersek said occasions like NAIDOC Week were a time to celebrate Indigenous history and culture and to recognise the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“I’m extremely proud of the work Indigenous officers across my portfolio agencies are doing in their local communities,” Ms Plibersek said.
“The work Alicia, Joy and Alex do in the community such as visiting services to community centres, correctional centres and local hospitals, helping people with Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support assistance is making a positive difference to people’s lives.
5 July, 2011
The four main designers of the Siding Spring Observatory in New South Wales have been reunited to join in a million dollar upgrade of the long-serving telescope.
Employee of the Australian National University’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Dr Gary Hovey said he had been ‘dragged out of retirement’ to play a major part in the upgrade of the 2.3 metre telescope along with 87-year-old mechanical engineer Herman Wehner.
“The four of us have periodically worked on the telescope for 30 years but we haven’t worked together as a design team since the early 1990s,” Dr Hovey said.
“For most of us, building the 2.3 metre telescope was the major and formative experience of our careers so it is gratifying to see that ‘the old workhorse’ is still able to make a contribution to modern astronomical research.”
“The last decade has seen a marked degradation of the fabric of the building, frequent electronic damage from lightning strikes and increasing problems with the procurement of spares,” he said.
Dr Hovey said the proposed refurbishment of the Observatory near Coonabarabran would address these issues and would ensure the telescope functions well as a remotely controlled observing facility for all Australian astronomers.
He said the two-year overhaul would involve substantial reconditioning of the mechanical and electronic systems of the telescope and co-rotating building, as well as fixing the building’s cladding and redesigning the ventilation system.
Dr Hovey said the other members of the original design team to be involved were John Hart and Jan van Harmelen who would be working with the past and current maintenance engineers at Siding Spring, Malcolm Harris, Geoff White and manager Liam Waldron.
“Although telescopes such as the 2.3 metre seem small in comparison to the behemoths now being built overseas, they can play a vital role in defining the frontiers of research and in the training of post-graduate students,” Dr Hovey said.
“If the promise of high performance instruments such as the new Wide Field Spectrograph is to be realised, then it is essential that the performance and reliability of the telescope be secured for another decade.”
5 July, 2011
Mobile phone calls to the crisis agency Lifeline are now free following an agreement between the three major Australian phone companies, Telstra, Optus and Vodaphone.
for free calls
The agreement has been welcomed by the Ministers for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, and Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy.
Mr Butler said extra funding had been allocated to Lifeline to boost the capacity of the organisation to respond to more calls and to support free calls from mobiles.
“Lifeline is the national provider of telephone-based support for people who are in crisis, offering 24-hour support to people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts and making it more accessible to anyone in a crisis situation is extremely important,” Mr Butler said.
“I would like to thank all three major mobile phone carriers - Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Hutchison Australia - for agreeing to abolish call charges from mobile phones to Lifeline’s national crisis line 13 11 14.”
“This arrangement will also be passed through to the downstream resellers of the three carriers’ mobile services.”
Mr Butler said each year, more than 114,000 calls to Lifeline’s national crisis line are made from mobiles and more than 40 calls every day come from people at high risk of suicide.
“The costs associated with what is often a lengthy phone call may have been a disincentive for people who are seeking crisis care,” Mr Butler said.
“This measure will remove cost as a barrier to seeking help and ensure more people can access the support that they need.”
Chief executive of Lifeline, Dr Maggie Jamieson said the costs associated with calling Lifeline from a mobile had acted as a significant deterrent to help-seekers in the past.
“We are very pleased that the Commonwealth is helping us to address this problem,” Dr Jamieson said.
“The financial assistance the Commonwealth is providing us will allow people to call Lifeline’s crisis line from their mobile handset with the knowledge that they can speak freely about their emotional crisis, without a looming future financial burden.”
1 July, 2011
New plan to change PS
A new plan to change the fundamental practices and culture of the Australian Public Service has been launched in Canberra by the Australian Public Service Commissioner, Steve Sedgwick.
practices and culture
The APS Innovation Action Plan evolved from the APS200 Project on Public Sector Innovation as part of implementing the recommendations of the report Empowering Change: Fostering innovation in the Australian Public Service.
The APS200 Project made recommendations on the key areas for Agencies to act innovatively, which included leadership, openness, procurement and strategy.
Secretaries from across the APS have signed the new 24-page Action Plan as a demonstration of their commitment to that innovation.
According to the Department of Innovation, the Action Plan acknowledges that harnessing the innovative potential of the APS and the wider community was critical to successfully delivering better outcomes, and the Plan sets out principles and a structure in support of this goal.
“The Action Plan provides the APS with a framework for embedding innovation in its work and for achieving better outcomes,” the Innovation website says.
“Divided into the key areas of Consciousness, Capacity, Co-creation and Courage, the Plan outlines initiatives to support the APS to achieve against its innovation goals.”
According to the Plan, the Australian Public Service needs to employ the most up-to-date thinking and approaches to deal with increasingly complex issues including demographic pressures, fiscal constraint, and ever increasing expectations of the public and the business community.
“To thrive in the continually changing world environment, the APS needs the leadership and mandate to deliver innovative solutions to address multidimensional issues and problems,” it says.
The Action Plan has been designed to assist the APS develop an innovative culture and build innovation performance.
“The generation, selection, implementation, sustainment and diffusion of ideas will be explicitly supported at all levels, and Agencies will formulate and implement strategies to harness innovation for delivery of high quality policy and services.”
It says it will better mobilise resources within the APS to respond to challenges through collaboration, experimentation and ongoing learning.
It will support the harnessing of new technologies, analytical disciplines and new perspectives and focuses on four action areas: developing an innovation consciousness within the APS; building innovation capacity; leveraging the power of co-creation; and strengthening leadership to build the courage needed to innovate at all levels.
The APS Innovation Action Plan can be accessed at this PS News link.
1 July, 2011
An election promise to cut 12,000 jobs from the Australian Public Service has drawn criticism for the Opposition Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey.
fails the numbers
Appearing on ABC television, Mr Hockey said the APS had grown by more than 20,000 positions since 2007 and 12,000 would be cut if a Liberal/National party Government was elected.
“For a start 12,000 Public Servants in Canberra will be made redundant over a two year period, immediately on us being elected,” Mr Hockey said.
His comments were rejected immediately by the Community and Public Sector Union whose National Secretary, Nadine Flood described them as “just plain wrong.”
According to Ms Flood, the latest snAPShots report from the Australia Public Service Commission showed a drop in APS staff in the six months to December last year from 164,778 on 30 June to 163,778 at the end of the year.
She said Mr Hockey had included increases in Australian Defence Force personnel and Army Reservists in his calculations of the increase.
“It’s probably news to people working at Coles Myer or in small business who also serve Australia as members of the Army Reserve that Mr Hockey considers them as ‘public servants’,” Ms Flood said.
She said the error showed Mr Hockey lacked an understanding of the issues.
“The notion that cutting back office and support staff doesn’t affect front line services is fundamentally flawed,” she said.
The comments also drew a response from the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong who questioned whether all the proposed cuts would be in Canberra.
She said Mr Hockey’s shadow Ministerial colleague, ACT Senator Gary Humphries had told a radio audience that the cuts not be restricted to the national capital.
“I have to correct my colleague in this respect,” Senator Humphries said, “those 12,000 won’t all be in Canberra.”
1 July, 2011
The largest number of workplace enterprise agreements ever registered in the Federal system is evidence the Fair Work Act was working according to the Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans.
reach record numbers
The Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining report for the December 2010 quarter shows the number of current enterprise agreements continued to rise, growing to 25,226 and covering almost 2.6 million Australian employees.
Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans said the figures showed that agreement making under the modern workplace relations system was working well.
“This is the largest ever number of enterprise agreements at any one time covering the biggest number of Australian employees,” Senator Evans said.
“This is a clear demonstration that the federal workplace relations system of agreement making is meeting its objective to balance the needs of employees and employers without taking away basic rights and guaranteed minimum standards.”
He said the report also showed there were a record 24,560 current agreements in the private sector covering over 1.9 million private sector employees, with the Construction, Manufacturing and Retail industries accounting for more than half of the current agreements.
He said average annualised wage increases delivered by enterprise agreements approved in the December quarter moderated to 3.8 per cent, down from 4.2 per cent in the previous quarter.
Senator Evans said this moderation in wages growth was evident in both the private and Public sectors.
He said in the private sector, wages growth was variable during the December quarter 2010, ranging from 5.0 per cent for industries like construction to 3.3 per cent for industries like retail.
“This demonstrates that the Fair Work enterprise bargaining system is flexible, linking wage outcomes to industry circumstances,” he said.
“All data shows our industrial system is working well with low unemployment, contained wage growth, low levels of industrial disputations and record levels of agreement making.”
Senator Evans said employers and employees were overwhelmingly getting on with the business of bargaining under the Fair Work Act with more than 9,300 new agreements covering over almost 1.3 million employees made in the period since the commencement of the Fair Work system to the end of December.
The report is available at this PS News link.
1 July, 2011
Performance audits into the administration of character requirements for entry into or citizenship of Australia have found that while sound frameworks for the process exist, improvements could be made.
In his investigation into the application of character requirements under the Migration Act and the Citizenship Act, Auditor-General Ian McPhee found the Department of Immigration and Citizenship had gone to lengths to train its staff, put procedures in place and establish processes to apply the requirements; but more could be done.
“There are shortcomings in the implementation of this framework,” Mr McPhee said, “that reduce its effectiveness.”
With respect to character requirements for visa applicants under the Migration Act, Mr McPhee found the shortcomings to arise from a “narrow administrative focus adopted to identify and assess persons of potential character concern” and “limitations in the arrangements to assure the completeness and reliability of the information needed to identify and assess persons of potential character concern”.
In his audit, Mr McPhee noted that DIAC granted approximately 4.3 million visas annually and to be eligible for a visa, applicants needed to satisfy DIAC’s decision-makers that they met certain criteria, including the character requirements.
He said that overall, DIAC had established a sound framework for identifying and processing visa applicants.
In relation to the Citizenship Act he found that of the 140,000 applications finalised by DIAC each year, only a small proportion (242 applicants in 2009–10) were refused citizenship on character grounds.
Mr McPhee said there were aspects however of the implementation of the framework that reduced its effectiveness.
He said these included variability in the application of processes for decision-making by DIAC case officers; the fact that the term ‘good character’ was not defined in DIAC’s policy and guidance materials; and limited interaction between the areas within DIAC that administer the character requirements of the respective Acts in relation to the same client.
The full text of both audit reports can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team for each was Tom Clarke, Deborah Jackson and Troy Kelly.
1 July, 2011
Report finds violence
A report from the Australian Institute of Criminology into children’s exposure to domestic violence has concluded that it should be regarded as a form of child abuse.
hard on children
Entitled Children’s exposure to domestic violence in Australia the report was released by Attorney-General Robert McClelland and Minister for Justice Brendan O’Connor.
Mr O’Connor said the report underlined the harm to children from growing up in a violent household and emphasised the need for reforms to the family law system to protect children at risk of family violence and child abuse.
He said it showed that children who were exposed to domestic violence at home could suffer many problems including acting violently themselves, as children or as they grew up.
“Domestic violence is a criminal offence, but it’s also a social problem that has long lasting effects on victims, their families and communities across Australia,” Mr O’Connor said.
“The report shows that a substantial amount of domestic violence is witnessed by children, ranging from a child hearing violence or having to defend a parent against the violence, to “patching up” a parent after a violent incident.”
Mr McClelland said the proposed Family Law Legislation Amendment (Family Violence and Other Measures) Bill 2011 contained key measures to create a safer and fairer family law system and prioritise the safety of children.
“This report builds on the body of evidence that shows that family violence and child abuse remain real concerns in our community,” Mr McClelland said.
“The Family Violence Bill prioritises the safety of children, encourages people to bring forward evidence of family violence and child abuse, and helps families, professionals and the courts to better identify harmful behaviour through new definitions of ‘family violence’ and ‘child abuse’.”
He said there were clearly serious, and often long-term, negative effects of exposure to violence on a child’s physical and social development and the Bill recognised this by expanding the definition of child abuse to include a child’s exposure to family violence.
He said the Bill was currently being considered by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, and would then be considered in the Senate.
1 July, 2011
The Australian Human Rights Commission is to partner with a university and a PR company to develop a new campaign against cyber bullying.
to run online
The Commission will work with the Child Health Promotion Research Centre at Edith Cowan University and the company on the project.
President of the AHRC, Catherine Branson QC said the campaign would focus on helping young people take safe and effective action when they witnessed cyber bullying.
“We repeatedly hear about incidents of cyber bullying involving young people and we know that the damage it causes can last a lifetime,” Ms Branson said.
She said cyber bullying was a human rights issue which could affect a young person’s right to education, health and the right to be free from violence and harassment whether at home, school, work or elsewhere.
She said the AHRC welcomed the release of the Joint–Select Committee on Cyber Safety’s Report High Wire Act: Cyber Safety and the Young which made a number of recommendations to tackle cyber bullying as well as identifying the important role that bystanders could play in intervening safely when they witnessed cyber bullying.
“The role of the bystander, in standing up against bullying and harassment can be an incredibly important and powerful one,” Ms Branson said.
“We know that it is often young people who witness others being cyber bullied which is why this campaign will be providing young people with the skills and resources they need to take appropriate, safe and effective action.”
Professor Donna Cross, who leads the Child Health Promotion Research Centre, said the Centre undertook the world’s first study into strategies being used by schools, families and students to combat the effects of cyber bullying.
“This project includes important opportunities for young people to inform the content, design and platform in which to promote positive bystander actions,” Professor Cross said.
Ms Branson said the PR advisers would provide expertise in the field of innovative social marketing campaigns in mental health and education.
1 July, 2011
Film makers exposed
Making a film on the topic of “‘Tax’ and ‘Superannuation’ has won some young filmmakers a share of $50,000 from the Australian Taxation Office.
to tax and super
The National Talent Competition ‘Shoot It’ challenged young Australians to produce a short film selling the benefits of Australia’s tax and superannuation systems.
Braden Trotter, 17, from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland took out the junior category (12 to 17 years) with a send-up of traditional Government advertising Come on Australia.
The Griffith Film School student’s entry was judged to be “subversive and self-deprecating”, and gave viewers a surprise twist.
The Secret Piggybank by RMIT Screen and Media student, George Makrynakis won the senior division (18 to 25 years) with his take on super.
Also using superannuation as her subject, Emma Elias, 14, of Rouse Hill, NSW won the junior People’s Choice awards for her mock movie ‘trailer’ for the feature film Superannuation, which follows a woman’s life journey of financial freedom.
The senior People’s Choice winner was Jeremy Gorniak of Sandy Bay, Tasmania who balanced education and humour in the satirical propaganda film for the nation of Notaxistan.
The competition was the ATO’s first youth-specific campaign and is part of a broader strategy to engage directly with young Australians.
Commissioner for Taxation, Michael D’Ascenzo said the competition was an important part of the ATO’s first sponsorship of National Youth Week, and delivered a new and fun way for young Australians to connect with the ATO.
“The ATO has started to speak directly with young Australians,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
“We want a lifetime relationship where all people understand tax and superannuation as important community assets.”
He said the short films showcased a talent for acting, directing and comedy in Australia’s youth, and also showed the ATO was on the right track engaging with 12 to 24 year olds as they were exposed to tax and superannuation for the first time.
The four winning entries can be viewed at this PS News link.
1 July, 2011
Farmers to get credit
The latest development to reduce carbon pollution has been announced by the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency as part of its Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI).
for planting Carbon
The plan, which would entitle landholders planting native trees to be eligible for carbon credits, is open for public comment as is a methodology to improve manure management in Australia’s piggeries.
Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus welcomed the release of the two methodologies.
“Environmental plantings can help rehabilitate degraded farmland, improve dryland salinity, reverse soil acidity and provide habitat for wildlife,” Mr Dreyfrus said.
“As well as opening up a new revenue stream for landholders and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, environmental plantings have the potential to improve the landscape’s resilience to the effects of climate change.”
He said the methodology on manure management provided guidance for intensive piggery operators in Australia to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and generate carbon credits through the collection and combustion of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
“With 682 piggeries in Australia, this methodology is generating a lot of interest in the industry,” he said.
Mr Dreyfus said in piggeries, most methane emissions were produced through manure collected in uncovered lagoons, and by covering the lagoons, operators would be able to capture the methane and burn it, releasing a less potent greenhouse gas.
He said capturing the gas would also present an opportunity to install an electricity generation system.
“Some piggeries may generate enough electricity to sell offsite and generate some extra income, in addition to the carbon credits they will receive through their project” he said.
Minister for Agriculture, Senator Joe Ludwig said this was more good news for the agricultural sector.
“A carbon offsets scheme that pays farmers to reduce pollution is great news,” Senator Ludwig said.
He said the draft methodologies were open for public comment until 26 July 2011, and would then be assessed by an independent committee of experts to ensure they lead to real and measurable emissions reductions.
More information is available from this PS News link.
1 July, 2011
And in Other News...
Police hit drugs record
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and its partner agencies seized record quantities of drug in the past 12 months recording 1.77 tonnes in 2010/11 - an increase of 523 kilograms.
The 30 per cent increase saved an estimated $817.8 million in associated health and social costs.
The seizures ranged from 126 grams of crystal methamphetamine secreted within a child’s toy to more than 400kg of cocaine hidden on board a luxury vessel.
Boost for SI schools
School programs in Solomon Islands run by Australia are to receive an additional $6 million over 18 months to support teacher training, improve early grade literacy and numeracy and teaching resources for schools.
Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, said providing access to quality education and training for the growing number of young people in Solomon Islands was essential for ensuring economic growth and stability and reducing poverty rates.
“This additional funding brings Australia’s support for basic education in Solomon Islands to $13 million since 2010,” Mr Marles said.
Weather upgrade for Tas
The Bureau of Meteorology has upgraded its forecast and warning services for Tasmania The upgrade will see an increase in the number of forecast locations from six towns to more than 30.
According to the Regional Director of the Bureau in Tasmania, Steve Pendlebury the upgrade would not only provide more information, but also make it easier to understand.
Tasmania is the third State to go online as part of a national roll-out of the new weather forecasting service, following Victoria, and New South Wales.
Funds for Indigenous justice
Funding of $3.2 million for key programs that support Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system has been announced.
The new funding includes a $1.6 million boost for prisoners through care projects and youth diversionary initiatives; $750,000 for the Northern Territory Aboriginal Interpreter Service to improve training for both interpreters and those using the service; and an additional $850,000 for Indigenous Legal Aid’s 2011-12 Budget of $65.6 million.
The new funding is part of the COAG National Indigenous Reform Agenda Closing the Gap, which aims to address Indigenous disadvantage in all jurisdictions.
Whale watchers wanted
Investigators from the Department of Environment, Sustainability, Water, Population and Communities are seeking witnesses to an incident between a recreational craft and a whale last month in waters off Southport, Queensland.
A five-metre recreational craft was seen operating and manoeuvring around a humpback whale and manoeuvred into the path of the animal at distances in breach of whale approach limits.
Penalties for harassing, chasing or herding whales under national environment law carry a fine up to $110,000 and or two years imprisonment.
Defence to strike
Over 1,000 civilian staff at the Department of Defence have voted to take industrial action in response to a wage offer.
The staff are members of the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers (APESMA) and may begin their action next month.
Police sign up
The Australian Federal Police have signed a $140 million agreement with the ACT Government to provide community policing services to the national capital for the next five years.
The AFP has been the city’s de facto police force since 1999.
Antarctic treaty celebrated
The 50th anniversary of Australian support for the Antarctic Treaty has been celebrated.
Australia is one of the 12 original signatories to the Antarctic Treaty entered five decades ago which includes key provisions guaranteeing peaceful use of the region.
Australia hosted the inaugural meeting of the Treaty parties in July 1961.
The 48 Treaty Parties will meet in Hobart next year to continue the work of ensuring that Antarctic cooperation is maintained and strengthened.
ABC radio a winner
ABC radio National has won a number of prizes at the New York Festival Radio Awards.
Gold Medals were awarded to The Long Walk of Brother Benedict and The Age of Attraction both broadcast on 360documentaries.
Silver Medals were won by Reflections and Voices broadcast on Into the Music, My Fear of Poland, and La Frontera, both broadcast on 360documentaries.
Bronze Medals were also awarded to Tangled Web broadcast on Hindsight and The Long Walk of Brother Benedict.
ABC Radio National station 1233 ABC Newcastle also won a gold medal for its breakfast team’s When Everything Changes in an Instant - Andrew’s Journey.
The inaugural Commonwealth Ombudsman, Professor Jack Richardson died on 13 June aged 90.
Professor Richardson served as Ombudsman from 1977 to 1985.
He established the office, oversaw the first critical years and developed the Office’s reputation for intellectual rigour.
Current Ombudsman Allan Asher paid tribute to Professor Richardson, crediting him with improving accessibility to Ombudsman services through an effective oral complaints mechanism, opening offices in five state capitals, and fostering effective working relationships with department heads.
Phone scam warning
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is warning current and former VIPtel Mobile customers not to respond to phone calls offering them a refund in exchange for payment of a fee.
ACCC said it had received more than 60 complaints and enquiries about the scam, with some reported losses of over $3,000.
The Commission has taken a number of court actions against EDirect Pty Ltd, which at the time traded as VIPtel Mobile.
It said there were currently no refunds for any current or former VIPtel Mobile customers as a result of these court actions.
The Department of Immigration and Citizenship is undertaking a survey of the department’s online services.
Feedback received will be used to help improve its online service in the future.
The survey is open until 30 June and participants can visit this PS News link to take part.