31 July, 2012

Rights report rejects
detention of refugees

The Australian Human Rights Commission has called for community placement options to be pursued urgently for all asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons who do not pose an “unacceptable risk” to the Australian community.
   President of the Commission, Catherine Branson said the Commission recommended the options in its Community arrangements for asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons report.
   Ms Branson said it also recommended the Government work towards a uniform model of community assessment and placement for asylum seekers, irrespective of their place or mode of arrival in Australia.
   She said the right to seek paid work should be extended to all adults who were placed in community arrangements.
   “Commission staff recently visited a number of people living in the community – both in community detention and on bridging visas – as well as people in closed detention with very few prospects of release,” Ms Branson said.
   “We found that, as well as being better aligned with Australia’s international human rights obligations, community arrangements offer a far more humane and effective approach to the treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons than closed detention.”
   She said maximum benefits would be derived where asylum seekers were placed in the community at the earliest opportunity following arrival “with appropriate support and opportunities for self-reliance and meaningful activities”.
   “An individual assessment of suitability for community placement should be conducted at the earliest opportunity post-arrival,” she said.
   “We should also make sure all those in community placement are given the opportunity to enrol in vocational training, and to attend English language classes.
   “Those who are unable to generate an independent income should have access to a level of income support sufficient to meet their basic needs.”
   The Commission made eight recommendations in the report including that the government end the system of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention.
   The Australian Human Rights Commission report can be accessed at this PS News link.


31 July, 2012

Family Institute has
day out with papers

New research and strategic priorities for the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) have been outlined with the release of two papers.
   Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and the Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Brendan O’Connor, jointly welcomed the release of the Institute’s Research Directions 2012-2015 and Strategic Directions 2012-15 which outline its directions over the next three years.
   The papers show research from the Institute during the period will focus on family change, functioning and wellbeing; social and economic participation for families; child and family safety; and support services available to families.
   Ms Macklin said the Government’s social policy reform agenda for families and vulnerable Australians was well-informed by the work of the Institute.
   “The Institute’s research provides us with vital evidence to inform Government policy and decision making on how to best support Australian families,” Ms Macklin said.
   “AIFS Research and Strategic Directions sets a clear path for the Institute’s research over the next three years and the Government looks forward to reviewing their findings.”
   Mr O’Connor also launched the new Child Family Community Australia Information Exchange, which is managed by the Institute.
   “The Information Exchange amalgamates three former clearinghouses to provide better access and sharing of evidence-based information, resources and support,” Mr O’Connor said.
   “This will help policy makers, researchers and service providers to strengthen communities, support families and protect and develop children.”
   He said it replaced the Australian Family Relationship Clearinghouse, the Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia, and the National Child Protection Clearinghouse.
   The new Information Exchange website can be accessed at this PS News link and the research and directions papers can be downloaded from this PS News link and this PS News link.


31 July, 2012

Statistics prove
women superior

Men continue to fare worse than women in education, health and crime, according to a new report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
   The report, Gender Indicators, Australia analyses ABS and non-ABS data to look at the differences between men and women and how those differences had changed over time.
   It found that in 2011, 75 per cent of boys entering high school were likely to be studying until Year 12, compared to 84 per cent for girls.
   It also showed that the gap continued into adult life with only 30 per cent of men aged 25 to 29 years having completed a bachelor degree or higher compared to 41 per cent of women of the same age.
   The report found however that for those who completed a Certificate III or above, the gap was smaller (60 per cent of men and 67 per cent of women).
   “Men are more likely than women to complete a Certificate III and IV as their pathway into employment,” the report says.
   With respect to health, it found males were more than three times as likely as females to die from suicide; nearly three times more likely to die in a car accident; and one and a half times more likely to die from cancer.
   “Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for males and females,” it says.
   “However the rate is higher for males and the gap between males and females has increased since 2001.”
   The report showed men were also more likely to have contact with the criminal justice system than women.
   “In 2010-11, men were up to one-and-a-half times more likely be the victims of physical or threatened assault or robbery than women,” it says.
   “Males were nearly four times more likely to commit offences intended to cause injury, more than six times more likely to commit robbery and more than 28 times more likely to commit sexual assault.”
   The ABS report can be accessed at this PS News link.


31 July, 2012

Identity risks
identified

A group of law enforcement agencies have issued a joint warning to the community to take care to avoid identity theft.
   The Australian Federal Police, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, NSW Police and the NSW Roads and Maritime Authority have joined forces to remind the public to take precautions to protect their identities.
   The warning comes after a multi-agency strike force team investigating organised identity crime seized equipment capable of making thousands of fraudulent credit cards and arrested one person.
   The Identity Security Strike Teams (ISST) operate from the AFP’s Sydney office with teams also located in Melbourne and Brisbane to investigate serious and complex identity security matters.
   They aim to form a collaborative network among law enforcement agencies to effectively deal with this crime.
   ISST released a number of tips urging the public to take precautions to limit the risk of becoming identity crime victims.
   It said having a mailbox that was secure and always keeping it locked was one way to prevent identity theft.
   It said others included always storing any personal or financial documents in a safe place; destroying old documents and cards before disposing of them; and being wary of cold callers on the phone or door knocking salespeople offering deals.
   “Never provide your private financial or identification information to anyone, whether online, on the telephone or in person, unless you’re totally satisfied they’re legitimate,” ISST said.
   “Be cautious when providing your personal details online, including credit card details.
   “Always check the bona fides of an online company before making a purchase.”
   It also warned social media users to protect their identity by keeping their profile private and only befriending people they knew.
   “Your personal information and the comments you make provide a profile of yourself that someone can steal,” it said.


31 July, 2012

Sports Commission
kicks goal with AFL

The Australian Sports Commission has entered a new partnership with the Australian Football League to encourage more children to participate in junior sport, particularly Australian football.
   Minister for Sport, Senator Kate Lundy said the partnership would see the program, AFL 9s introduced nationally throughout Australian schools and Outside School Hours Care Services (OSHCS) via the Active After-school Communities (AASC) program.
   She said as the official alternative version of the game, AFL 9s was easier to play and less physically demanding than AFL with only nine players per team permitted on the field at any one time.
   She said the football was also smaller and lighter and the modified non-tackle rules made it easier for children as they limited physical contact.
   “The AASC program is the perfect platform to promote the new AFL 9s game and encourage young kids to get active and participate in sport,” Senator Lundy said.
   “The AASC program has been instrumental in building greater participation rates among primary school-aged children and it is great to have AFL on board.”
   General Manager of International and National Development at the AFL, Andrew Dillon said the partnership was “a great boost for the new form of the game”.
   “AFL 9s is a great vehicle for the AASC program, providing an easily accessible form of the game to children at all development stages,” Mr Dillon said.


31 July, 2012

New fellowships for
jolly good research

New ‘Future Fellowships’ to provide research opportunities to some of the world’s best mid career researchers have been announced by the Minister for Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans.
   Senator Evans said the 209 new fellowships were worth a total of $151 million and would help work progress on “a myriad of 21st Century challenges” such as how to stop underage drinking and what to do with Australia’s urban transport problems.
   “This round of fellowships will bring 12 Australian researchers back home to undertake their research in Australia,” Senator Evans said.
   “It also brings 23 international researchers to our shores to experience the great research opportunities we offer here and to share their knowledge with Australian researchers.
   “All 209 researchers will use their fellowships to solve problems and make discoveries that may improve the lives of all Australians.”
   He said the Future Fellowships included projects which focused on unstable breathing in sleep and disturbed sleep problems; the effects and benefits of the Gold Coast Rapid Transit rail project; the health and wellbeing of adolescents in the Northern Territory; and how animals were responding to extreme climatic events.
   The Future Fellowships scheme began in 2009 to increase the opportunities for highly qualified mid-career researchers to work in Australia, rather than overseas, Sentaor Evans said.
   “The scheme is boosting our research workforce by providing new opportunities in Australia for the world’s best researchers.”
   More information is available from this PS News link.


31 July, 2012

Cultural insurance to
ensure exhibitions

New legislation is to be introduced to protect cultural objects on loan to Australian museums and galleries from overseas as part of efforts to ensure international exhibitions continue to be staged in Australia.
   Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean announced the new laws at the official opening of the Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado exhibition at the Queensland Art Gallery.
   Mr Crean said until now there had been no legislation to stop the seizure of cultural objects on loan from overseas organisations to Australia’s major national and state galleries, museums and libraries.
   “The new legislation will guarantee the return to the lender of cultural objects such as paintings, drawings, sculptures, textiles, stamps and coins, which are brought to Australia on loan for temporary public exhibition,” Mr Crean said.
   “There has been extensive consultation to ensure this legislation aligns Australia with international standards and reassure overseas lenders that Australia is a competitive and secure destination for world class exhibitions and art loans.”
   He said Australians had a passion for seeing international artworks and artefacts drawn from the great collections.
   “This is evident in the record breaking visitor numbers at recent blockbuster exhibitions such as the Masterpieces from Paris exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia, the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition at Museum Victoria and Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales,” he said.
   Mr Crean said without legislation Australians may increasingly be denied the opportunity of viewing major international exhibitions, such as the new Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.
   “This new legislation is a vital way for the Australian Government to support the exhibition programs of our national and state cultural institutions,” he said.
   “These changes will also ensure that any loans of Indigenous cultural material from overseas collections will be coordinated in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
   A discussion paper on the proposed legislation has been prepared and is available at this PS News link.
   Comments on the new law have closed.


31 July, 2012

Curtain comes down
on unsung heroes

Public hearings into past acts of military bravery that could deserve recognition are now complete.
   The Inquiry into Unresolved Recognition for Past Acts of Naval and Military Gallantry and Valour conducted by the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal attracted 136 submissions and heard from 72 witnesses around the country.
   Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney said the hearings had attracted the nation’s interest.
   “In relation to the 13 names referred to it by Government, the Tribunal will now consider what has been put before it and conduct any further research needed before reporting to me later this year,” Senator Feeney said.
   “In addition, the Tribunal has received 114 submissions relating to about 75 other individuals which it will refer to Government to determine whether they should be reviewed in detail.”
   He said the Inquiry held public hearings in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Launceston.
   “It heard from a wide range of witnesses including family members, historians, academics, Defence and ex service organisations,” he said.
   Senator Feeney said while assessing claims relating to individuals, the Tribunal would also report on its conclusions on the rules, practices and procedures applying to both the Imperial and Australian Honours systems.
   “This will include re-visiting the particular policies and approaches followed in considering the actions of prisoners of war during the period up until Australia ceased making recommendations for Imperial gallantry awards in 1992,” he said.


31 July, 2012

Office machines maker
gets his fax right

A joint collaboration between the Japanese Ricoh printer company and an Australian software business has developed a system allowing Departments to send unclassified faxes from multi-function devices.
   The technology could of particular interest to Departments and Agencies whose IT policies do not allow Multi-Function Devices (MFD) to send or receive unclassified faxes.
   Ultimately the new fax solution could mean Government agencies in Australia and overseas would be able to use the Ricoh devices to consolidate printing, copying, scanning and faxing without compromising their IT security.
   General Manager of Business Solutions and Production for Ricoh Australia, Kathy Wilson said the company was proud to have partnered with the software developer BNS to come up with the technology.
   “This solution provides increased security, audit accuracy and reduces the need for stand-alone faxes, which can be a source of information leaks and data spillages,” Ms Wilson said.
   “Partnering with companies such as BNS is an example of our commitment to investing in innovation in Australia.
   “We look forward to continued success together.”
   The new fax solution recently achieved an iAward for ICT innovation in the Australian Capital Territory.


31 July, 2012

DAFF has eyes on
potato imports

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s DAFF Biosecurity organisation is reviewing import conditions for potatoes for processing from New Zealand.
   A statement released by DAFF Biosecurity said the Department’s team of biosecurity scientists had undertaken “a rigorous scientific and evidence-based analysis” of the pests and diseases associated with the trade.
   Community input is now being sought as the process moves to a public consultation phase.
   “In developing the proposed conditions to manage the risks to Australia, we have visited New Zealand and gathered and considered a significant amount of information,” the DAFF Biosecurity statement said.
   “A draft review proposes that potatoes from New Zealand be permitted entry to Australia subject to a number of strict quarantine conditions.”
   It said those conditions required the potatoes to only come from farms free from potato cyst nematode and potato black wart; be washed and/or brushed to remove soil; be free from ‘trash’ such as leaf matter etc; and undergo inspection and certification by an approved agency or the New Zealand Government.
   It said potatoes must also be inspected and cleared by DAFF and transported under quarantine seal to a Quarantine Approved Premises for processing.
   “Waste from processing must be treated and disposed of in a quarantine approved manner,” DAFF Biosecurity said.
   “Our scientists have paid particular attention to the potential for ‘zebra chip’ disease to enter with potato imports from New Zealand, including revising the very latest scientific evidence.
   “We also recognise the significant consequences for Australia should this disease become established,” it said.
   Anyone with evidence that tougher import conditions should apply to the potatoes has until 3 September 2012 to make a submission.
   Final conditions are expected to be put in place later this year.


31 July, 2012

Ranking reveals fewer
spammers in the works

Australia’s international spam ranking has improved from 25th in the world in September 2011 to 52nd in the most recent quarter.
   The spam-relay rankings prepared by anti-virus company, Sophos showed Australia only accounted for 0.26 per cent of spam globally.
   Chairman of the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA), Chris Chapman said spam was a global problem.
   “But you can’t deny the success we have had in Australia,” Mr Chapman said.
   “With the ACMA’s record in penalising scammers and getting businesses to avoid spamming, as well as our world class Australian Internet Security Initiative, we are streets ahead of many other parts of the world.”
   He said that in 2011-12, ACMA saw a sixfold increase in spam reports.
   “This massive increase tells us that our awareness activities have worked,” he said.
   “Australians know to “Ignore it; Report it; and Delete it” as our consumer slogan says.
   “Every scam email and SMS reported to us is a message that doesn’t potentially catch out an Australian.”
   Mr Chapman said in the last financial year ACMA issued 4,200 informal warnings to businesses about potential breaches of Australia’s spam laws.
   He said following formal investigations, seven formal warnings were given and three enforceable undertakings accepted.
   “ACMA’s e-marketing blog, which encourages businesses to strive for best practice in e-marketing, was also launched,” he said.
   Mr Chapman warned spammers to “take heed”.
   “ACMA will continue to be vigilant in suppressing spam in our backyard,” he said.


31 July, 2012

Bond market to bond
with Government bonds

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has released a consultation paper on the sale of Australian Government securities to foster a new bond market.
   The paper Retail trading in Commonwealth Government Securities (CGS) is to help implement retail trading of the Securities as a way of supporting a liquid corporate bond market.
   Commissioner of ASIC, John Price said the paper proposed market integrity rules to provide for fair, orderly and transparent CGS trading on public exchanges.
   “Fostering the retail trading of CGS on financial markets can give retail investors, including self-managed super fund trustees, a more visible pricing benchmark for investments they may wish to make in corporate bonds issued by Australian businesses,” Mr Price said.
   ‘In addition, it can encourage retail investors to consider diversifying their savings through fixed-income products like government and corporate bonds.”
   He said feedback was being sought on specific regulatory proposals for CGS depository interests relating to extreme price movements; best execution; pre- and post-trade transparency; regulatory data for market surveillance; market operator obligations in a multi-market environment; and market participant obligations.
   “Feedback is also sought on whether, and to what extent, the proposals should be applied to other debt market products, such as corporate debt, that are or may be traded on public exchanges,” he said.
   “This will assist us in developing the regulatory framework as part of Government’s long term plan to foster the retail corporate debt market.”
   The ASIC consultation paper can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 31 August 2012.


31 July, 2012

Review ordered for
APS workers comp

A review of the Australian Public Service’s workplace compensation and rehabilitation scheme has been announced.
   Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the review would modernise the scheme to ensure injured workers were given every opportunity to return to health, independence and work as quickly as possible.
   The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said it would use the review to push for improvements to workers’ protections.
   Mr Shorten said the seven-month long study would be undertaken by lawyer Peter Hanks QC and the former Secretary of Defence and other departments, Allan Hawke, supported by a Secretariat in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
   He said the review team’s terms of references included updating the legislation and operation of the scheme; the performance of Comcare and ways to improve it; and the associated financial and governance framework.
   He said the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC) provided rehabilitation and compensation support to injured Australian Government workers while also covering employees of a small number of private corporations who self-insured under the Commonwealth scheme and employees of the ACT Government.
   “It is vital that the Comcare scheme strives to return injured workers to health and independence,” Mr Shorten said.
   “We must ensure that the compensation system does not create needless disability.”
   National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said it was important that the review was not all about cutting costs and reducing benefits for workers.
   “The review also needs to ensure Comcare has adequate staffing and resources to do its important work,” Ms Flood said.
   She said it would also provide an opportunity to restore journey cover for workers injured travelling to and from work, protections which were taken away from the APS in 2007.
   “The CPSU will make a submission to the review on behalf of members covered by the scheme,” she said.
   Mr Shorten said the review would be finalised by 1 February 2013.
   The Terms of reference for the review can be accessed at this PS News link.


27 July, 2012

Review ordered for
APS workers comp

A review of the Australian Public Service’s workplace compensation and rehabilitation scheme has been announced.
   Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said the review would modernise the scheme to ensure injured workers were given every opportunity to return to health, independence and work as quickly as possible.
   The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said it would use the review to push for improvements to workers’ protections.
   Mr Shorten said the seven-month long study would be undertaken by lawyer Peter Hanks QC and the former Secretary of Defence and other departments, Allan Hawke, supported by a Secretariat in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.
   He said the review team’s terms of references included updating the legislation and operation of the scheme; the performance of Comcare and ways to improve it; and the associated financial and governance framework.
   He said the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 1988 (SRC) provided rehabilitation and compensation support to injured Australian Government workers while also covering employees of a small number of private corporations who self-insured under the Commonwealth scheme and employees of the ACT Government.
   “It is vital that the Comcare scheme strives to return injured workers to health and independence,” Mr Shorten said.
   “We must ensure that the compensation system does not create needless disability.”
   National Secretary of the CPSU, Nadine Flood said it was important that the review was not all about cutting costs and reducing benefits for workers.
   “The review also needs to ensure Comcare has adequate staffing and resources to do its important work,” Ms Flood said.
   She said it would also provide an opportunity to restore journey cover for workers injured travelling to and from work, protections which were taken away from the APS in 2007.
   “The CPSU will make a submission to the review on behalf of members covered by the scheme,” she said.
   Mr Shorten said the review would be finalised by 1 February 2013.
   The Terms of reference for the review can be accessed at this PS News link.


27 July, 2012

Institute to boost
public policy

Public policy debate in Australia is set to reach new heights if a speech by the former Secretary of Treasury, Ken Henry is any guide.
   Speaking at the Australian National University, Dr Henry said the establishment of the Institute of Public Policy at the ANU was part of a grand vision: “Its vision is to change the public policy landscape.”
   He said the Institute would bring together some of the best brains from across the ANU campus as Fellows to engage in conversations about public policy requirements.
   “The ANU Fellows will engage with public policy practitioners in the Australian Public Service (APS),” he said.
   “I’ve been canvassing interest among people in the APS about the Fellows program. All have responded enthusiastically.”
   Dr Henry said the Institute would establish a bridge between the ANU and the APS.
   “We are going to build a body of work – through conferences and workshops, through teaching and research supervision, and through publications in the printed form and in various electronic means,” he said.
   “We are also going to provide Public Service leaders with a confidential environment in which to explore, with academic experts drawn from several disciplines, the difficult policy challenges confronting Australia.”
   He said the ANU, with its strong links to ANZSOG, would create a safe environment in which such topics could be “thrashed out”.
   According to Dr Henry there had been many public policy debates in Australia in recent years but they hadn’t been given sufficient weight by the mass media.
   “The media had not managed to facilitate a balanced discussion,” he said.
   “On some issues, the media have appeared keen to report the views of almost anybody who has a view.”
   He said a lot of people put themselves forward.
   “It doesn’t take much effort; certainly, it takes no thought, research or moral reflection.”
   He said the media appeared to have no way of guiding readers, listeners and viewers as to the weight that should be put on the views presented - whether they were a 99:1, 80:20 or 50:50 proposition.
   An edited version of Dr Henry’s speech can be accessed at this PS News link.


27 July, 2012

Last roll of ball for
Ex-Centrelink chief

A charitable foundation established in the memory of Centrelink’s first Deputy Chief Executive, Ross Divett, is to be disbanded at the end of the year, but not without celebrating years of success with a gala charity ball in August.
   The Ross Divett Foundation has distributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to charities and community organisations over the past decade but the Board of Management has decided to cease its operations.
   The Board said it had not made the decision to disband lightly and had sone so in consultation with the Divett family.
   “Similar foundations generally run for a period of about 10 years,” the Board said.
   “The RDF was established in June 2002”
   The Foundation is to hold its very last Charity Dinner and Ball in Canberra on 25 August.
   Organiser, Jim Rice said Mr Divett had been a strong believer in community strength and public service values.
   “He was respected for his honesty, integrity and determination,” Mr Rice said.
   “He lost his battle with the asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma, in 2001.”
   Another organiser, Damien Benney said that over the years, fortnightly deductions from staff to the Foundation had assisted many Australian community organisations.
   “The Foundation has helped charities and groups, with really diverse and interesting causes, from around the whole country,” Mr Benney said.
   “This includes providing support to the Royal Society for the blind in South Australia, Lifeline in Western Sydney, to the Migrant Women’s Emergency Support Service in Queensland and Canteen Tasmania.”
   “It’s a legacy Ross would be proud of.”
   The Charity Dinner and Ball is to be held at the Hotel Realm in Canberra with guests enjoying a three-course meal, beverages, entertainment and a final charity auction.
   Enquiries or ticket purchases can be made by emailing
« click to reveal »@humanservices.gov.au and more information on the Foundation is available from this PS News link.



27 July, 2012

Livestock review
to cut the bull

Australian standards for the export of livestock are to be reviewed along with the role and function of the standards advisory group.
   Deputy Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Phillip Glyde said the reviews were in line with the Government’s response to the recommendations of Bill Farmer’s independent review of the livestock export trade in October last year.
   Mr Glyde said inspection processes for sheep prior to export at the port of Fremantle would also be examined.
   “The Australian Government is committed to the live export industry and the trade has improved substantially since the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System was introduced a year ago,” Mr Glyde said.
   “The reforms introduced by the Government were about giving this industry a strong, secure, long-term future, and supporting thousands of regional jobs.”
   He said government and industry would continue to work together to implement reforms in line with the Farmer review.
   “(We) will consult broadly and work closely with industry, State and Territory Governments, the veterinary profession and animal welfare groups during these reviews.”
   Mr Glyde said the reviews would seek submissions from the public and take account of the submissions on the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock made to Mr Farmer’s Independent Review into Australia’s Livestock Export Trade.
   “The Government has established the Livestock Export Reform Program Implementation Board, which is responsible for delivering the recommendations of the Farmer report and will oversee both of these review processes,” he said.


27 July, 2012

Search on for 2013
ICT apprentices

The Department of Finance and Deregulation has called for applications for the 2013 ICT Apprenticeship and Cadetship Programs.
   The ICT Apprenticeship and Cadetship Programs are annual recruitment initiatives of the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO).
   They aim to increase the number of permanent ICT employees in the Australian Government while providing an opportunity for people interested in beginning a career in ICT to learn technical skills and theories.
   The programs also help participants gain a formal qualification and valuable workplace experience.
   According to AGIMO this means they are aimed at people with little or no formal ICT experience.
   The Agency said the successful ICT Apprentices would be APS1 level and work full-time in an ICT related area of an APS agency and study part-time to attain a Certificate III, Certificate IV or Diploma in ICT.
   Their qualification would be paid for by their agency and they would receive paid study leave to attend classes.
   The ICT Cadetship Program is for University students currently studying an undergraduate ICT degree.
   The successful ICT Cadets would be employed at APS2 level and work part-time in an ICT related area of an agency until completing their degree.
   They also receive a study allowance to support their University costs.
   Applications for both programs are open until 10 August, with positions available in Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide.
   More information is available from this PS News link.


27 July, 2012

New dispute guide
packs a punch

A new guide to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has been launched by the Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon.
   Ms Roxon said the days when the only way to resolve a legal dispute was in court were now gone and the ease and efficiency of ADR made it an attractive choice.
   “Alternative dispute resolution makes getting an outcome much easier,” Ms Roxon said.
   “Whether it be neighbours resolving local disputes or large commercial organisations avoiding the courts, ADR offers a more efficient and affordable means of resolving disputes.”
   She said ADR opened up the doors of justice to all Australians.
   “I want the Davids, not just the Goliaths to have access to our legal system,” she said.
   “Your Guide to Dispute Resolution aims to raise public awareness of the availability and value of using alternative dispute resolution to resolve disputes.”
   Ms Roxon said ensuring access to justice was a key priority and practical tools like the guide were an essential part of that.
   “It is important that we raise awareness and educate people about alternative dispute resolution, so they know resolution of legal disputes is possible for everyone regardless of means,” she said.
   She said the guide contained information about how some ADR processes worked and was designed to assist ordinary Australians to use ADR to resolve their disputes.
   “I congratulate the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council (NADRAC) on their work in providing a guide that is so accessible and user friendly,” Ms Roxon said.
   The new guide to dispute resolution can be accessed at this PS News link.


27 July, 2012

ABS figures are
fatter, heavier

The average Australian is a little heavier and taller than a decade ago according to new health reports issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
   The figures in the Facts at your Fingertips: Health, 2011 publication were compiled by the ABS from a wide range of health information including the National Health Survey (NHS), the Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing (SMHWB), and the Patient Experience Survey (PEx).
   The figures show that on average, men and women aged 18 and over were around three kilograms heavier in 2007–08 than they were in the mid-nineties.
   The height increase in men over that time was almost twice that of women, at 1.2 cm for males and 0.7 cm for females.
   The ABS said that in 2007-08 over half of all Australians (55 per cent of men and 64 per cent of women) reported a waistline measurement that was considered by health experts to increase their risk of poor health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
   “Another new report from the 2007–08 National Health Survey shows that 10 per cent of Australian adults experienced severe or very severe pain in the last month, with this rate increasing over time (up from 7 per cent in 1995),” the ABS said.
   “Chronic pain was particularly common for older people, people with a severe disability, or with multiple long-term health conditions.”
   It said chronic pain was also related to mental health.
   “Those with severe pain were much more likely to report high levels of psychological distress (31 per cent) than those without pain (5 per cent),” it said.
   More details are available from the Bureau’s publication Facts at your Fingertips: Health, 2011 which can be accessed at this PS News link.


27 July, 2012

Home truths found
in housing study

New research showing that housing instability affects children’s development reinforces their need for a safe and stable home according to the Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Brendan O’Connor.
   Mr O’Connor said the study, The influence of unstable housing on children’s wellbeing and development, by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) explored the association between unstable housing and housing stress on children’s development and wellbeing for the first time in Australia.
   He said all Australians were entitled to a safe, affordable home and the research reinforced a decision to make housing and homelessness a major priority.
   He said that was why the Government had allocated a record $20 billion to housing and homelessness programs since 2008, including the Social Housing Initiative, the National Rental Affordability Scheme, the Housing Affordability Fund and the Building Better Regional Cities program.
   “This Government has made a direct financial contribution to one in 20 new homes built since 2008,” Mr O’Connor said.
   He said by using data from Growing Up in Australia: The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children, the study found large differences in children’s developmental outcomes depending on their housing tenure.
   He said children whose parents were together and who were living in public housing were found to have lower levels of receptive vocabulary and higher rates of emotional or behavioural problems than children living in couple families who owned or were paying off their own home.
   “For children in families where the parents had separated, those in the eight-to-nine-year age group whose parent owned the home had far lower rates of emotional or behavioural problems than any other group of children in separated families,” Mr O’Connor said.
   He said the report provided an insight into the wellbeing of Australian families and how they were affected by housing stress.
   “It’s important that we understand family dynamics and how environmental changes in the home can impact on the wellbeing of a family,” he said.
   The AIFS report can be accessed at this PS News link.


27 July, 2012

National Library
unpacks art

An exhibition of extraordinary natural history paintings and drawings by Australia’s first professional artist will open at the National Library of Australia in Canberra this weekend (28 July).
   Lewin: Wild Art features more than 150 of John William Lewin’s distinctly Australian drawings and watercolours, drawn from the National Library of Australia, the State Library of NSW and other national and international collections.
   It is the first comprehensive exhibition of his works in 200 years.
   Director-General of the National Library, Anne-Marie Schwirtlich said Lewin was sponsored by a wealthy London insect collector in 1800 to collect and draw Australia’s natural history for European audiences.
   Curator and Mitchell Librarian at the State Library of NSW, Richard Neville said Lewin was instantly captivated by the foreign landscape and exotic wildlife and “was the first to turn Australia’s emblematic natural history into art”.
   “Right from the start he was producing these powerful and beautifully observed compositions of insects, birds and plants in their natural environment – an approach completely at odds with conventional English methods,” Mr Neville said.
   “His work out-classed First Fleet artists and he created a style adopted by Audubon and Gould 20 years later but never achieved the levels of recognition they did.”
   The exhibition runs until 28 October and admission is free.


27 July, 2012

And in other news...

Conference passes on the line
The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) is hosting a contest to give away five passes to attend the upcoming “The Future of Work” conference.
   All undergraduate, postgraduate, and VET students are elifible to win passes and are encouraged to submit a 500 word letter addressing how they view the future of work.
   Submissions close 7 September and more information on the conference is available from PS News link or from the PS New Conference directory.

Internet warning
A warning has been issued to anyone engaging in illegal activity through online marketplaces such as Silk Road.
   Silk Road is an overseas based illicit e-commerce website which facilitates the sale of drugs, weapons and other items prohibited under Australian law.
   The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Customs and Border Protection Service issued the warning saying the identity of people buying from Silk Road wouldn’t always remain anonymous and when they were caught, they would be prosecuted.  

Navy to blend fuels
The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) has signed an agreement with the US Navy to explore the increased use of environmentally-friendly fuels.
   The US Navy is moving towards the general use of a 50/50 blended biofuel product by 2020.
   The RAN will observe the US Navy as it further develops the use of alternative fuels in time for a joint deployment in 2016.

Qantas backs Reservists
Qantas has become the first private sector employer to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Australian Defence Force to support staff who also serve as Defence Reservists.
   The MOU will help streamline the release of Qantas employees when they are required for Defence service.

ASIS opens up
The Director-General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), Nick Warner, broke with decades of tradition last week to deliver a public address on the workings of the agency to mark its 60th anniversary.
   Mr Warner said it was the first time an ASIS DG had spoken on the role and nature of the organisation since it was established in 1952.
   His speech can be accessed at this PS News link.

Cyber survey conducted
Computer Emergency Response Team Australia (CERT) has launched a survey of Australian business to get a better picture of how cyber incidents affect business and the Australian economy.
   The survey aims to help Government and other planners ensure all Australians can continue to safely and securely enjoy the benefits of the digital economy.
   The survey results are expected in the next few months and will be published by the Centre for Internet Safety within the University of Canberra, who are working in partnership with CERT Australia.

India top migrant source
India is Australia’s largest source of permanent migrants for the first time according to the 2011-12 Migration Program report.
   Indian migrants comprised 29,018 places or 15.7 per cent of the total migration program of 185, 000 places under the program.
   The full report can be accessed at this PS News link.

Property investors reviewed
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has released the findings of a review of responsible entities (REs) operating managed investment schemes in the unlisted property sector.
   As part of the review, ASIC has highlighted some areas where compliance behaviours could be improved to meet both the legal obligations of the REs and good practice within the industry.


24 July, 2012

G20 Taskforce plans
recruitment drive

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) has foreshadowed a recruitment drive to secure staff for its G20 Taskforce being set up to run the international leaders’ summit in 2014.
   The Group of 20 (G20) leaders’ summit is to be held in Brisbane on 15 and 16 November 2014 at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
   The G20 is the premier forum for international economic cooperation and decision making among the major economies of the world with members including Finance Ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries and the European Union.
   PM&C said hosting the G20 in 2014 would be a unique opportunity for Australia to influence the global economic agenda, as well as an opportunity to strengthen the nation’s engagement with the leaders of the world’s major economies.
   “The G20 will be attended by up to 4,000 delegates and up to 2,500 domestic and international media representatives,” the Department says on its website.
   “A G20 Taskforce has been established in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to coordinate the whole of government policy agenda, and to manage the operations and security for the conduct of the meetings.”
   It says it will be seeking staff to fill non-ongoing positions within the Australian Public Service.
   “Positions will initially be based in Canberra and the Taskforce will relocate interstate to Brisbane in 2013,” it says.
   “The G20 Taskforce will be seeking to acquire a range of goods and services to support the conduct of the meeting.”
   The Department said that as they became available, positions would be advertised at this PS News link and/or this PS News link.
   More information can be found by contacting G20info@pmc.gov.au


24 July, 2012

Migrants add up
for Immigration

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has delivered on its permanent migration program for 2011-12, coming within two of its planned 185,000 places.
   Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen said skilled migration accounted for over two-thirds of the total migration program, with a 2011-12 skill stream outcome of 125,755 places.
   “While the government’s first priority is always jobs for Australians, skilled migration is essential to support our economy and help overcome the challenges of an ageing population,” Mr Bowen said.
   “Today’s skill stream is highly targeted towards employer sponsorship, the regions and high value occupations, with over 60 per cent of skilled migration visas going to employer, government and regional sponsored places to help fill critical skills needs.”
   He said there were 16,471 places delivered under the highest priority Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme, with Western Australia accounting for 23.2 per cent of the outcome.
   He said State and Territory sponsored visa classes were also delivered in record numbers, with the 22,247 places marking a 37.5 per cent increase on the previous year.
   “For the first time, India was Australia’s largest source of permanent migrants, with a total of 29 018 places or 15.7 per cent of the total migration program,” Mr Bowen said.
   “China and the United Kingdom were our second and third largest sources of permanent migrants, with 25,509 and 25,274 places respectively.
   “Seven of the top 10 source countries in Australia’s 2011-12 migration program are from Asia: India, China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea and Vietnam.”
   He said the family stream which allowed Australians to unite with their close family and particularly with their partners and children had a final outcome of 58,604 places, representing 31.7 per cent of the total migration program.
   The overall breakdown of the program by visa streams was skill stream 125,755 places; family stream 58,604 places; and special eligibility stream, 639.


24 July, 2012

Weather bureau lifts
cloud on La Niña

The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has released a new publication illustrating the significance of the recent 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 La Niña events and their impact on Australia’s climate.
   The publication, Record-breaking La Niña events: An analysis of the La Niña life cycle and the impacts and significance of the 2010–11 and 2011–12 La Niña events in Australia, outlines the record-breaking La Niña events from 2010-2012, which were associated with record rainfall over much of Australia and some of the biggest floods in living memory.
   It also acknowledges the years of severe drought which preceded those events in many parts of the country by providing a historical record of the La Niña climatic conditions and an explanation of the climate drivers affecting Australia’s weather.
   Assistant Director for Climate Information Services at the Bureau, Neil Plummer said BOM had released the latest publication to provide the community with “a more in-depth understanding of the La Niña events”.
   “The publication explains some of the major factors that drive La Niña and El Niño events and how they influence our climate while illustrating the significant and widespread impacts of the two recent La Niña events,” Mr Plummer said.
   “By understanding these large natural swings in Australia’s climate, the Bureau can be better placed to plan and respond to future climate shifts.”
   The publication can be accessed at this PS News link.


24 July, 2012

Trainers train sights
on skills training

A new national training organisation has been set up to develop the workplace skills needed for Australia’s future.
   Launched by the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans, the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency replaces Skills Australia, taking on a broader role in workforce development, and giving industry a stronger voice.
   Senator Evans said the launch was “the next step in cementing the Government’s partnership with industry to create the skilled workforce our nation needs”.
   “Together, we are making sure Australians are given the best possible opportunity to get the high skilled jobs of the future,” Senator Evans said.
   He also announced the release of the new Agency’s first discussion paper into Australia’s Skills and Workforce Development Needs.
   “The aim of the new agency is to improve long-term workforce planning and development to address skills and labour shortages, and contribute to improvements in industry and workplace productivity,” he said.
   “Importantly, the agency will have the ability to advise the Government to direct funding to areas of critical industry need, and will be an authority on workforce development policy.
   “It will build on the strengths of Skills Australia, and collaborate with industry associations, Industry Skills Councils, unions and employers to ensure a shared, practical approach which meets sectoral, regional and small business industry needs.”
   Senator Evans said the agency would have a stronger research, analysis and advisory role, enabling it to specifically address improvements in Australian workforce productivity.
   “The agency will advise the Government on the allocation of Commonwealth industry skills funding,” he said.
   “It will set priorities for, and provide oversight of, the $700 million National Workforce Development Fund, which has been established to support industry develop and improve the skills of their employees.”
   The Agency’s new discussion paper can be accessed at this PS News link.


24 July, 2012

Defence pins down
new medal for Navy

A new medal of recognition for Australia’s defence force has been unveiled.
   The Australian Operational Service medal will for the first time recognise the efforts of Navy personnel carrying out border protection work.
   Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the medal was an overdue acknowledgment of the difficult job carried out in border protection, including intercepting foreign fishing boats.
   “This is our way of acknowledging the tough and dangerous work hundreds of men and women in our defence forces carry out protecting Australia,” Mr Snowdon said.
   “Personnel involved on operations since 1997 including Cranberry, Dirk, Stanhope, Mistral, Teebone, Celesta, Sutton, Gemsbok, Relex, Relex II and Resolute, will be eligible for the medal.”
   He said in addition to personnel deployed on Naval vessels, P3 RAAF Orion crews and Australian army personnel in the Regional Force Surveillance Units, including NorForce would also for the first time be eligible for recognition of operational service under border operations.
   “The Australian Operational Service medal, will replace the Australian Active Service Medal and Australian Service Medal for new military operations, which will be phased out as current operations wind up,” he said.
   “The medal will be presented with a unique ribbon to identify individual operations.”
   Mr Snowdon said an initial supply of medals was presently being sourced and it was hoped they would be available within the coming months.


24 July, 2012

Tax Office plans
tax attack

The Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) annual compliance program has been released by the Tax Commissioner, Michael D’Ascenzo.
   Mr D’Ascenzo said it was important for the community to be given the opportunity to understand the ATO’s compliance activities and practices.
   He said focus areas identified by the ATO as significant risks to tax and superannuation compliance this year included IT managers, plumbers and defence force non-commissioned officers as well as the plastering and café industries and the self-managed superannuation fund sector.
   He said uncovering false claims and identity crime were a continuing priority this year, with the ATO increasingly analysing and matching information provided by third parties.
   “We check over 600 million transactions a year,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
   “This means that we can detect those who do not report all their income from things like dividends and interest, capital gains, and foreign income.
   “Last year we stopped more than 109,000 income tax returns for potentially incorrect or fraudulent claims saving the community almost $200 million in revenue.”
   He said the ATO was also focusing on businesses meeting their superannuation obligations, with a continuation of compliance activities focussed on high risk industry groups.
   “Since 2005 we have collected and paid $1.7 billion in superannuation guarantee to employees,” he said.
   Mr D’Ascenzo said underpinning the compliance program this year were a number of initiatives the ATO was promoting to support those who wanted to do the right thing but needed some help.
   “We believe the majority of people try to do the right thing in meeting their tax obligations, and we find that where mistakes are made there is a low rate of them being repeated,” he said.
   “So this year the program also outlines what we are doing and what resources are available to help make complying as easy and inexpensive as possible.”
   The compliance program can be accessed at this PS News link.


24 July, 2012

New vision for
television

A new trial is scheduled to begin next month to provide a richer television experience for Australians with a visual impairment.
   The ‘audio description’ trial will start on 5 August and run for 13 weeks between 5pm and midnight, using technology to explain to people with vision impairments what was happening during as television program.
   Minster for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy said the trial was an Australian first and would cover drama, documentaries and other content broadcast on ABC1.
   “I encourage anyone interested in taking part in the trial to check their televisions or set top boxes against those listed in the user guides on my department’s website,” Senator Conroy said.
   “The user guides identify which digital televisions and set-top boxes can receive audio described programs and how this function can be activated.”
   Managing Director of the ABC, Mark Scott said the broadcaster had worked collaboratively with the Government, service providers and other stakeholders to deliver the trial and looked forward to presenting the results.
   Mr Scott said the ABC would provide a report to the Government in late 2012.
   Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Carers, Senator Jan McLucas said she was working hard to break down barriers that people with disabilities may face in the community.
   “Watching TV is something many of us don’t think twice about, but the fact is there are many Australians who haven’t been able to enjoy this popular past time or take advantage of this source of news and information,” Senator McLucas said.
   “The trial is another step the Government is taking to improve access to television for people with a disability.”
   More information on the trial is available from this PS News link.


24 July, 2012

Bureau plugs into
online spending

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is to launch a four-year project to track Australian online retail spending.
   In its 2010 report into retailing, the Productivity Commission found that while the proportion of retail spending undertaken online remained relatively small it was expected to continue to grow over time.
   Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said the new funding would allow the ABS to track Australian spending data from domestic and overseas online retailers as well as ‘multi-channel’ retailers that traded online and from traditional bricks and mortar outlets.
   Mr Bradbury said the data would help inform public policy and followed the inaugural meeting of the Retail Council of Australia.
   “This funding will allow the ABS to track trends in online sales growth and provide better data to the Government and industry,” Mr Bradbury said.
   “The retail sector is a major employer and contributor to the Australian economy.
   “While it faces a number of significant challenges, online retailing presents enormous opportunities for traditional bricks and mortar retailers to expand and innovate,” he said.
   Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, Bernie Ripoll said the project would ensure accurate data was available to industry and policy makers.
   “Having comprehensive, high quality internet retailing data available to government and business will help inform decision-making about this growing segment of the retail sector,” Mr Ripoll said.
   “Domestic online shopping figures will be reported on a monthly basis, as these will be collected as part of the existing ABS monthly retail trade survey.
   “It is expected that figures for online purchases of imported goods will be reported annually, based on data provided by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, and Australia Post.”
   He said an information paper was expected to be published in early 2013 to provide a snapshot of some preliminary survey results while the first full data set was expected in November 2013.


24 July, 2012

Study gets lowdown
on funeral funds

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has released the findings of new research into pre-paid funeral funds.
   The research shows some consumers did not have a good understanding of the funeral products they were buying to help pay for their funeral and would often settle on the first product they found.
   ASIC’s Consumer Advisory Panel (CAP) commissioned the research which also found consumers were less likely to pick the best product for their circumstances or take value for money and long term costs into account.
   Other findings showed many people did not understand the overall cost of funerals and they were not aware of the alternative ways to meet funeral costs, such as prepaying by instalments or buying funeral bonds.
   The term ‘funeral plan’ was also found to be used to describe the three different funeral products in advertising material, making it difficult for consumers to differentiate between them while the research also showed many people did not understand some of the key features of funeral insurance and they struggled to find clear information about the different types of funeral products and the features of each type.
   ASIC Commissioner, Peter Kell said the Commission recognised that planning for a funeral could be a difficult process.
   “It is important for people and families to understand what they are buying and the difference between each product, so they have peace of mind and pick the best product for their financial circumstances,” Mr Kell said.
   The full ASIC report can be accessed at this PS News link.


24 July, 2012

Biosecurity laws
brought to book

Proposed new laws for additional biosecurity measures have been published by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and circulated for public comment.
   Secretary of the Department, Conall O’Connell, said the draft laws had been added to the consultation website to give interested individuals and organisations an opportunity to review and provide feedback to the Department.
   “We are rewriting the legislation to replace the century-old Quarantine Act,” Dr O’Connell said.
   He said other laws, in the form of ‘chapters’ were being released for comment as soon as they became available.
   The new draft chapters were entitled preliminary, transport, governance and officials, and miscellaneous.
   “Work to finalise drafts of all chapters is ongoing – it’s a big job and we want to make sure that the community is as informed as possible before the final package is introduced into the Parliament,” he said.
   “I’m glad to see that people are getting involved in the consultation – more than 40 representatives from industry and other jurisdictions have attended the three meetings we have held to date.
   “We have confirmed that eight public meetings will be held from 30 July across the country following strong interest.”
   Dr O’Connell said the consultation website had already recorded nearly 4,500 unique page views on the information and1,150 unique visitors had accessed the blog.
   “I encourage people to read the information we have made available and to give us feedback on whether the legislation hits the right balance of better managing the risks to Australia’s human, animal and plant health while allowing for increased movements of people and goods across our borders,” he said.
   The new draft biosecurity legislation can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 10 August.


24 July, 2012

Childcare views
to be totted up

Community views have been invited on issues surrounding childcare and early learning services.
   Minister for Early Childhood and Child Care, Kate Ellis said the views were being sought to ensure the needs of Australia’s most vulnerable families were met now and in the future.
   Ms Ellis said the consultation process would focus on funding to support child care and early learning services in urban, regional, remote and Indigenous communities.
   She said a discussion paper had been released on the topic.
   “With more children in early childhood services than ever before, it is critical that our children receive quality care and educational opportunities, regardless of their family background or where they live,” Ms Ellis said.
   “At a time of record early childhood investment by the Government, it’s important not to forget about families who can’t access mainstream services and who deserve access to the highest quality services.”
   She said the program supported more than 300 services around Australia and played an important role in ensuring families had access to an early childhood service where the market would otherwise fail to provide one.
   Ms Ellis said participation in quality early childhood programs for vulnerable children reaped significant positive outcomes for both the child and the wider community.
   “Changes in populations and communities over time means that government needs to ensure this critical funding remains well targeted,” she said.
   “This discussion paper will help us to have a conversation with communities about how best to focus on children and families most in need.”
   The discussion paper, Quality Early Childhood Education and Care for Children in Regional, Remote and Indigenous Communities: A Review of the Budget Based Funding Program, can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 21 September.


24 July, 2012

Australia beats drum
for African post

Australia is to pursue membership of the African Development Bank and African Development Fund.
   The African Development Bank promotes sustainable economic growth to reduce poverty in the African region and has 77 member countries, comprising 53 African and 24 non-African countries.
   Australia is the only developed G20 country not currently a member of the Bank.
   Treasurer, Wayne Swan said the Bank was already a valued partner in Australia’s increasing aid program in Africa and formal membership would demonstrate Australia’s intent to remain a long-term partner in Africa’s development.
   “It is in Australia’s national interest to support an organisation whose mandate is to spur sustainable economic growth and poverty alleviation in Africa, which would in turn help lay the platform for a greater Africa-Australia trade and investment relationship,” Mr Swan said.
   He said combating poverty was at the heart of the Bank’s efforts to help Africa achieve sustainable economic growth.
   “Through the Bank’s programs between 2008 and 2010, more than 8.5 million people received improved access to water and sanitation and 16.4 million people greater access to health services,” he said.
   “The Bank also helped build 7,400 new classrooms, trained 110,000 teachers and supplied nearly four million textbooks leading to the enrolment of an additional 267,000 children in primary school during the same period.”
   Minister for Foreign Afffairs, Senator Bob Carr said the African Development Bank and Fund was an effective and efficient institution.
   “The Bank received a favourable review from AusAID’s recent Australian Multilateral Assessment, which concluded that funding to the Bank would deliver tangible development benefits in line with Australia’s aid objectives and represent good value for money,” Senator Carr said.
   “AusAID is now seeking public views, through written submissions, to Australia becoming a member of the African Development Bank and Fund.”
   The consultation paper can be accessed at this PS News link and submissions close 14 August.


20 July, 2012

Numbers up for
mobile phones

Australian mobile phone companies are running out of ‘04’ numbers and could have to move to ‘05’ by 2017 according to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
   ACMA has announced three changes to the telecommunications numbering plan to increase the supply of digital mobile numbers; add to the supply of geographic numbers in regional areas where the existing supply is expected to be exhausted within 20 years; and remove the geographic sectors around five capital cities.
   Chairman of ACMA, Chris Chapman said the ‘05’ prefix provided long term certainty for the supply of mobile numbers.
   “Demand for mobile numbers is being driven by new technologies like internet capable smart phones, tablets and machine-to-machine communications,” Mr Chapman said.
   “ACMA estimates an additional 100 million numbers will be needed to provide an adequate supply for more than 20 years.”
   He said increasing the supply of geographic numbers in some regional areas would complete ACMA’s plan to guarantee an adequate supply of numbers in every geographic area in Australia for the next 20 years.
   “The removal of geographic sector boundaries from around five capital cities will allow providers greater flexibility to use geographic numbers across wider geographic areas,” Mr Chapman said.
   “This change reflects current trends in the use of numbers and assists in conserving the existing supply of geographic numbers.
   “This change has no implications for untimed local calling.”
   Mr Chapman said that to avoid customer confusion ACMA was proposing the removal of a small, largely redundant ‘0550’ Location Independent Communications Services (LICS) number range which was located in the middle of the ‘05’ number block.
   “ACMA will consult with the small number of providers and consumers that may be affected over the next five years,” he said.
   The Telecommunications Numbering Plan Variation 2012 (No. 1) can be accessed at this PS News link.


20 July, 2012

Jury well out on
judges’ super

A report into the long term financial costs of superannuation scheme for Federal Judges and Magistrates has revealed an unfunded liability of $782 million.
   The report, prepared by the Office of the Australian Government Actuary at the request of the Department of Finance and Deregulation, found neither the Judges nor Magistrates super schemes or that of the Governor-General, held any assets or were adequately funded.
   It found the unfunded liabilities had increased by $196 million since 2008.
   The report says the main benefit of the Governor-General’s Pension Scheme was a retirement pension of 60 per cent of the salary payable to the Chief Justice of the High Court while the main benefit of the Judges’ Pensions Scheme was a retirement pension of 60 per cent of the salary payable to the equivalent level judge, provided the judge had 10 years of service and was over 60.
   It says Federal Magistrates benefitted from superannuation arrangements as well as death and disability arrangements which entitled those who retired due to permanent disability or infirmity to a pension until they were 70 years old or died.
   “This is the first report on the long term costs carried out since the transfer of responsibility for the Scheme from the Attorney-General’s Department to the Department of Finance and Deregulation,” the report says.
   “Judges do not contribute to the Scheme and the Commonwealth meets all of the costs
   of benefits.
   “The Scheme is untaxed and no tax is levied on employer contributions”
   It found the Commonwealth’s effective employer contribution rate was 68.9%.
   It found the accrued liabilities to be $537 million for current pensioners and $245 million for serving judges.
   The report makes three estimates of the long term costs for the Judges’ and Magistrates’ super:
  • The notional employer contribution rate which was the total Commonwealth contribution rate that would be required to maintain the Judges’ Pension Scheme in a fully funded position in three years’ time;
  • A projection of actual employer costs which projected the actual cash outlays payable annually by the Commonwealth for the Scheme over the next 44 years; and
  • The net present value of accrued liabilities which calculated the total level of the accrued Commonwealth unfunded liability for superannuation benefits.
   The Judges’ Pension Scheme Long Term Cost Report 2011 can be accessed at this PS News link.


20 July, 2012

Federal Police
join FBI

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as part of the global fight against terrorism and transnational crime.
   Commissioner of the AFP, Tony Negus signed the Combating transnational crime, combating terrorism and developing law enforcement cooperation MoU with the Deputy Director of the FBI, Sean Joyce, at FBI Headquarters in Washington.
   Commissioner Negus said the MoU formalised decades of cooperation between the AFP and FBI and solidified the strong ties between the two agencies.
   “The AFP and FBI share a warm working relationship and a history of close policing and common values,” Commissioner Negus said.
   “The partnership cemented today will further strengthen national security ties and reflects our united commitment to combating crimes such as terrorism, countering illicit drugs and money laundering.
   “This MoU will be particularly beneficial in the areas of exchange of information and technology and during coordinated operations.”
   He said the FBI had opened a Legal Attaché office in Canberra in 1972, and a Sydney sub-office opened in 2006.
   He said liaison between the two agencies occurred frequently between the International Operations Division, FBI Headquarters, and the AFP liaison officers assigned to the Embassy of Australia in Washington.
   Commissioner Negus said the AFP had also formally opened a liaison post in Washington in 1983.
   Deputy Director Joyce said the FBI valued its partnership with the AFP and would “continue to share intelligence, coordinate operational efforts and seek opportunities to cross-train our personnel to address criminal and security threats that impact both the US and Australia”.


20 July, 2012

Taxation message
goes to school

A new digital resource for schools has been officially launched by the Australian Taxation Office.
   Tax, Super + You is part of a strategy to build young people’s confidence and capability to actively participate in their tax and super systems.
   Commissioner for Tax, Michael D’Ascenzo said he was elated by the interest shown in the new resource with 15 schools across the nation registering to use it within 24 hours of the launch.
   “It is great to see some schools registering so soon after our launch and I am keen to see more schools get on board,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
   He said the ATO had been supporting schools in developing and delivering tax education to young Australians since 1994.
   “In developing Tax, Super + You we aimed to ensure it could be integrated easily into any class curriculum,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
   “It provides students with a greater understanding of the role they play in the tax and superannuation systems.
   “It will help young Australians recognise why tax and super are community assets, and why good habits are linked to good citizenship.”
   He said the resource consisted of four modules: tax 101, personal tax, business tax, and superannuation.
   “It includes suggested lesson plans to help teachers when needed but also can be used as a self-paced learning tool, lessening the demand on teachers,” Mr D’Ascenzo said.
   The resource can be accessed at this PS News link.


20 July, 2012

Data key to breaking
family violence

The Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments have agreed to build a more solid evidence base on domestic violence and sexual assault as part of a new plan to reduce violence against women and children.
   Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said Ministers at the second COAG Select Council on Women’s Issues meeting in Darwin had committed to start developing a National Data Collection and Reporting Framework on domestic violence and sexual assault.
   Ms Collins said they also agreed to work towards the development of a National Centre of Excellence to enhance the evidence base and improve on-the-ground responses to violence against women and their children.
   “These initiatives are important for producing the best policies,” Ms Collins said.
   She also welcomed a move by Telstra to make calls from its mobile phones to the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence telephone counselling service (1800RESPECT) free of charge from the end of July.
   “Domestic and family violence and sexual assault is a significant issue in the Northern Territory and across Australia,” she said.
   “While there are many strong services in the Territory, help from professional counsellors and social workers may not be available around the clock.
   “Access to effective support for women who have experienced violence is fundamental to helping them recover.”
   Ms Collins said 1800RESPECT also offered support to family and friends of victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and to those who worked with victims.
   “Making the calls free from Telstra mobile phones, the same as for landlines, will remove what can be a significant barrier to accessing help,” she said.
   “This is particularly important for people who live in regional and remote parts of Australia.”
   1800RESPECT can also be accessed online at this PS News link.


20 July, 2012

Tourism support
just the ticket

Tourism businesses facing labour and skills pressures are to be offered direct support through a new workforce development project.
   Minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson launched the new Tourism and Hospitality Skills and Workforce Development Project jointly with the Minister for Skills, Senator Chris Evans.
   Mr Ferguson said the future success of the Australian tourism industry depended on government and industry working together to ensure well trained and skilled workers could provide the high quality service required in a competitive tourism market.
   “Up to 2,000 predominantly small tourism businesses will be offered tailored one-on-one help with their future workforce skills planning through a $4.4 million advisory service,” Mr Ferguson said.
   “A further $2.4 million will offer businesses tailored training programs on a co-contribution basis, to ensure their employees training is aligned directed to businesses current and future needs.”
   He said another $1.7 million would be allocated to enhance the Tourism Employment Plans (TEPs) being rolled out in a number tourism ‘hot spots’ across Australia including regional Victoria, Tropical North Queensland, Kangaroo Island, regional Tasmania, Sydney and Canberra.
   “TEPs aim to provide tailored strategies to link industry with Government programs to support recruitment and retention of workers in regions reliant on tourism,” he said.
   “With an estimated 36,000 vacancies in tourism businesses, the project builds on the Australian Government’s commitments to increase labour supply, which include Tourism Employment Plans and the Seasonal Worker Program trial for tourism.”
   Senator Evans said the project was being managed by Service Skills Australia as part of the National Workforce Development Fund (NWDF).
   He said the NWDF enabled businesses to partner with Government to train and upskill staff in areas of skills shortage.
   “We know the jobs of tomorrow will demand higher skills,” Senator Evans said.
   “Our priority is to work in partnership with industry to ensure Australians have the skills they need to fill the jobs of the future.
   “In total, the Government is now funding 1,451 tourism training places under the NWDF, 69 per cent of those in small businesses.”


20 July, 2012

Indonesian gift
to beat poverty

Australia is to provide up to $100 million over five years to help build Indonesia’s research capacity and study the impact of development assistance in alleviating poverty.
   Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Bob Carr said the funding would give Indonesia extra intellectual firepower to lift millions more people out of poverty.
   Senator Carr said examples of research could include promoting policies to ensure all children were vaccinated and women had access to midwives during childbirth.
   He said a woman in Indonesia was 30 times more likely to die in childbirth than a woman in Australia.
   “New research for better policy will reinforce Indonesia’s social and economic progress,” Senator Carr said.
   “Policy-makers stand to benefit from more precise, timely and independent evidence about what works and what doesn’t.”
   He said the funding would build the next generation of Indonesia’s anti-poverty think-tanks.
   “More importantly, millions more people will benefit from better access to basic health, education and social welfare services,” he said.
   Senator Carr said Australia would provide grants and technical help to 17 think-tanks and research institutions to boost links between their analysis and the practical needs of government.
   “An expert panel will be formed this year to consider new ideas and start funding research institutions by early 2013,” he said.


20 July, 2012

Nutrition report is
food for thought

A new report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows many Australians are eating too much of some foods and not enough of others.
   Spokeswoman for the AIHW, Lisa McGlynn said the report, Australia’s food & nutrition 2012, highlighted the key parts of the food and nutrition system from ‘paddock to plate’ and how food choices affected health and the environment.
   “The report shows that many Australians are not striking a balance between foods high in fat and sugar and more nutritious choices,” Ms McGlynn said.
   She said the report found on average ‘treat’ or extra foods contributed to 36 per cent of energy intake for adults and 41 per cent for children, which was more than the recommended zero to three serves of ‘extras’ per day.
   She said more than nine out of 10 people aged 16 and over did not eat the recommended five serves of vegetables; adolescent girls didn’t eat enough dairy foods or alternatives; and 25 per cent of men and 10 per cent of women aged 65 and over didn’t eat enough protein foods.
   Ms McGlynn said poor dietary intake increased the risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers which contributed to the total burden of disease in Australia.
   “There are some factors that discourage Australians from eating well and maintaining a healthy body weight,” she said.
   “The cost of healthy food is increasing at a faster rate than the cost of less healthy food, particularly in remote areas, where a healthy basket of food can cost up to 30 per cent more than in capital cities.
   “This may influence some people to buy less healthy foods due to limited choice and high cost.”
   The AIHW report can be accessed at this PS News link.


20 July, 2012

Aboriginal activist
strikes right notes

Three notebooks from the first Indigenous activist to campaign internationally against racial discrimination in Australia have been presented to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) in Canberra.
   The activist, Anthony Martin (AM) Fernando was a toymaker born in Sydney in 1864 who travelled throughout Europe from the 1890s publicising the Aboriginal cause and injustice towards Aborigines in Australia.
   AM Fernando is most noted for his one-man, three-year protest outside London’s Australia House dressed in a dark cloak decorated with tiny toy skeletons which culminated in his arrest in 1928.
   He left Australia at the turn of the century and was in Austria in 1910 while British authorities repeatedly denied his claims to be a British subject.
   He was interned in Austria during World War I and after stating he had been born in Australia, requested prison relief through the consul for the United States in Vienna.
   The British Foreign Office described him as ‘a negro’ and referred the matter to the Australian government, which found no evidence of his birth and his appeal was rejected. After the war AM Fernando settled in Italy where he attempted to present a private petition to the Pope, interviewed members of the League of Nations in Geneva and protested in a German newspaper against Australian injustice towards Aborigines.
   He was then arrested for distributing pamphlets declaring that the British race was exterminating his people and in 1923 was deported to Britain.
   In 1925 he was again arrested in Rome handing out thousands of leaflets translated into Italian to pilgrims at the Vatican calling on Catholics to do something about the plight of Aboriginal Australians.
   Historian, Fiona Paisley donated his small handwritten journals notebooks to AIATSIS saying they belonged at the Institute because they complemented other material within its archival collection relating to AM Fernando, his movements and protests in Europe at the turn of last century.



20 July, 2012

And in other news...

Customs officer placed
The secondment of an Australian Customs and Border Protection Service officer to the United States Customs and Border Protection agency has been announced.
   The officer’s role will focus on the joint targeting and analysis of criminal syndicates and the establishment of a Collaborative Targeting Framework between Australia and the United States of Australia.

Women’s debate this month
The Australian Institute of Management (AIM) is to host its annual Women in Management Great Debate event this month.
   This year’s topic is Are women natural born leaders and the event will take place in Canberra on 27 July.
   Former radio and TV personality, Julie McCrossin will MC the event along with another being held in Sydney.
   More information is available from this PS News link.

Stamps mark Olympics
Australia Post is celebrating Australia’s success at past Olympics with three stamps representing the discipline of Swimming, sport of Rowing and the event of Pole Vault.
   The three subjects chosen are indicative of the strength of Australian athletes at past Olympic Games: historically most medals won by Australian athletes have been in Swimming, Athletics, Cycling and Rowing.
   The stamp issue is available from Australia Post outlets.

OECD figures back NBN
The latest OECD broadband figures reinforce the need for the National Broadband Network according to the Minister for Broadband and Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy.
   Senator Conroy said the OECD ranked Australia 21 out of 34 for fixed line broadband penetration.
   “The OECD’s figures continue to demonstrate the importance of rolling out the NBN to all Australians,” Senator Conroy said.

Relationship turns 20
Australia’s diplomatic relationship with Kazakhstan has celebrated its 20th anniversary.
   A special celebration marking the anniversary was held at the Australian residence in Singapore where the Kazakh Ambassador to Australia resides.
   Kazakhstan is Australia’s leading trading partner in Central Asia and two-way trade in goods and services between Australia and Kazakhstan reached $29 million in 2011.

Meet authors at library
The National Library of Australia is to host an event for members of the public to meet the authors, poets and filmmakers shortlisted for the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards.
   The event, Prime Minister’s Literary Awards: A Celebration, will be held at the Library Theatre at 12 noon on Monday (23 July).

Rats on the run on island
Rats on Lord Howe Island are to be wiped out under a new plan developed by the Lord Howe Island Board.
   The $9 million strategy will rid the Island of more than 130,000 rodents using poison baits, some dropped by air, in conservation areas.
   The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has backed the plan.

Firearm training in US
The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is to provide Australian law enforcement agencies with expert training in the identification and analysis of illegal firearms.
   The new arrangement means Australian law enforcement officers will receive training from ATF officers at the ATF firearms tracing facility in West Virginia to enhance their skills in identifying firearm markings, parts and components, and the methods that can be used by organised crime to hide firearms.
   The training will also enable officers to train other Australian law enforcement officers on their return to Australia.

Businesses apply fair work rules
More than three quarters of businesses which employ clerical workers are compliant with federal workplace law, according to random audits conducted by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
   Results from the audits revealed that 1,232 employers (76 per cent) of a total of 1,621 businesses scrutinised throughout Australia were compliant.

ASIC consults on powers
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has released a consultation paper outlining how it intends to implement its new power to wind up abandoned companies and facilitate greater access to the General Employee Entitlements Redundancy Scheme (GEERS).
   Consultation Paper 180: ASIC’s power to wind up abandoned companies says the Commission’s first consideration will be if an order to wind up the company would facilitate employee access to GEERS.
   The paper can be accessed at this PS News link.

Chinse links turn 40
Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister, Wayne Swan is in Beijing to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and China.
   Mr Swan is holding a series of meetings and events to discuss the future for the two countries in the decades ahead.
   It is his seventh visit to China as Treasurer.

Vaccination for boys
In a world first, Australian schoolboys will be able to get the Gardasil vaccine to protect them against developing a range of cancers and bolster the effectiveness of this vaccine in women.
   Gardasil was originally developed to immunise young women against some types of cervical cancer.
   Starting next school year, the vaccine will be made available to 12 and 13-year-old boys through school-based programs under the National Immunisation Program.
   Year 9 boys will also be able to get the vaccine at school under a catch-up program for the next two years.

Jobless rate low
Australia’s unemployment rate remains one of the lowest in the industrialised world according to new labour force figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
   The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by 0.1 percentage points to 5.2 per cent in June, but remains well below most other advanced economies such as the United States (with a rate of 8.2 per cent) and the European area (with an average rate of 11.1 per cent).


13 July, 2012

Finance crackdown
on slow payers

The Department of Finance and Deregulation is to crackdown on other Departments and Agencies who fail, to pay small business contractors and service providers on time.
   Minister for Finance, Senator Penny Wong said the new rules would encourage agencies to ensure all Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) contracts were paid on time because if they weren’t, interest would be automatically added to the outstanding payment.
   Senator Wong said invoices would be automatically generated after 60 days for all contracts where the interest accrued was greater than $10 and the contract did not exceed $1 million, including GST.
   “Currently, businesses have to issue separate invoices to agencies if they want to claim interest on late payments,” Senator Wong said.
   “However this can require additional paperwork which means many small businesses don’t bother.”
   “This change will see agencies more likely to pay invoices on time to avoid having to pay the additional interest.”
   She said each year around 60 per cent of the Commonwealth’s 80,000 contracts were with small businesses and the overwhelming majority of invoices for those contracts were paid within the specified time (97.7 per cent).
   “We want to see even more SME contracts paid on time,” she said.
   Minister for Small Business, Brendan O’Connor said the change would be welcomed by small businesses.
   “Small businesses have an important role in providing goods and services to the Government,” Mr O’Connor said.
   “We want to build on this relationship and ensure that all invoices are paid within the agreed time frame because it does make a significant difference to a business’s cash flow.”
   Senator Wong said interest would be calculated using the Australian Taxation Office’s annual general interest charge rate reported on a quarterly basis which was currently 11.37 per cent.
   She said the Department of Finance would be issuing Circular to all agencies in due course.


13 July, 2012

Children’s advocate
waiting to be found

The search for Australia’s first National Children’s Commissioner has begun with a call for applicants who can give children and young people a strong voice on the national stage.
   Acting Attorney-General, Jason Clare said establishing a dedicated advocate for children and young people at a national level was among ongoing efforts to give youngsters the best start in life.
   “The National Children’s Commissioner will make sure the needs of children and young people are put front and centre,” Mr Clare said.
   He said promoting the rights, wellbeing and development of Australia’s children and young people was a fundamental priority of the Government and would be the main focus of the National Children’s Commissioner.
   “I have no doubt that this important position will attract a large pool of high calibre candidates from across the fields of human rights, children’s wellbeing and children’s development,” Mr Clare said.
   He said the National Children’s Commissioner would have a clear focus on vulnerable or at-risk groups, such as children with disability; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children; homeless children; and those witnessing or subjected to violence.
   “The Commissioner will promote public discussion and awareness of issues affecting children; conduct research and education programs; consult directly with children and representative organisations; and examine Commonwealth legislation, policies and programs that relate to children’s human rights,” he said.
   “The National Children’s Commissioner will sit within the Australian Human Rights Commission, Australia’s national independent statutory body dealing with human rights.
   Mr Clare said the new Commissioner was expected to take office by the end of 2012.


13 July, 2012

Medicos prescribe
conflict policy

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has strengthened its policies on conflict of interest to ensure the clinical advice offered to clinics, surgeries and hospitals was untainted.
   Chief Executive of the NHMRC, Warwick Anderson said the development of guidelines relied on experts who inherently brought experience, ideas and interests to the table.
   “The new policy ensures that transparency, a balance of perspectives and guidance on disclosing and managing interests, lead to the best possible advice for health practitioners and policy makers,” Professor Anderson said.
   He said the new policy emerged from two rounds of public consultation and had already been provided to key organisations involved in guideline development.
   He said from 1 August this year, Guideline Development Committee members would be required to declare their interests and any conflicts would be managed using a range of options that could be tailored to meet the circumstances.
   Professor Anderson said the new policy encouraged open and direct discussions about interests for advisory committees, in a transparent and responsible way.
   “This policy reflects international best practice and will maintain Australia’s position at the forefront of evidence-based health advice,” he said.
   “It reflects a principle-based approach because, ultimately, managing interests appropriately requires both judgement and commitment to transparency.”
   He said the policy extended far beyond NHMRC’s advisory committees.
   “All guideline developers seeking approval under the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 will need to demonstrate their implementation of the new policy,” Professor Anderson said.
   The new policy on Guideline Development and Conflicts of Interest can be accessed at this PS News link.


13 July, 2012

New newsroom
is good news

The Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) has unveiled a freshly revamped online newsroom.
   A spokesman for the Department said changes to the site included easier access to categorised media content; translation capabilities for media releases; links to social media; and user-friendly media-kits.
   “The DIAC online newsroom is a dedicated resource for members of the working media that has had more than 3.2 million hits since its creation,” the spokesman said.
   “The recent upgrades allow journalists and other media representatives to keep pace with the demands of fast-moving media technology.”
   He said media releases would, where applicable, be translated into a range of languages and the media release web page was now an online news page allowing users to view media releases and related photos or video (if available) in one location.
   “The new media kit option allows subscribers to download all media items they need for a particular topic from a single location,” he said.
   “For example, for Citizenship Day, a journalist can download a media release, photos, video and (in some cases) audio material, all from one place.
   “Through another new feature, subscribers can follow the department on a range of social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr.”
   The spokesman said features previously available on the online newsroom, such as access to high-resolution audio-visual material, were still available.
   “All photos have a creative commons licence so they are free for newsroom subscribers to use,” he said.
   “Videos compliant with multiple formats can be downloaded from the newsroom in high definition, allowing journalists to pull videos straight from the site for immediate use on-air or online, in news stories.”
   He said DIAC’s National Communications Branch prided itself on its “innovative engagement with the media”.
   “We already provide a 24/7/365 media response service for journalists – the online newsroom upgrade will further enhance this capability,” the spokesman said.
   The DIAC newsroom can be accessed at this PS News link.


13 July, 2012

Fraud warning is
the real thing

The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare has issued a warning against the growing threat of serious and organised investment fraud.
   Sounding the alarm bells, Mr Clare also released a joint report from the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) and the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) providing a national picture of the nature and threat of serious and organised investment fraud in Australia.
   “This is the first unclassified report of its kind,” Mr Clare said.
   “It indicates that more than 2,600 Australians may have lost more than $113 million to serious and organised investment fraud in the last five years.
   “That number could be even higher because people tend not to report this kind of crime.”
   He said the targets of that type of crime were primarily Australian men, aged over 50.
   “They are usually highly educated – and have high levels of financial literacy,” he said.
   “They are likely to manage their own super.”
   Mr Clare said criminal syndicates were known to cold-call investors, refer them to a flash website and send them a brochure promising strong investment returns.
   “After taking their money they string them along for months or even years and then the money disappears,” he said.
   “People’s entire life savings are stolen by criminals with the click of a mouse.
   “This type of crime destroys wealth and destroys lives.”
   He said it was also very difficult to stop.
   “These criminal syndicates usually operate from outside Australia,” Mr Clare said.
   “They use front companies and false names.
   “Once they’ve stolen the money the website disappears and the trail goes dead.”
   He said in the next two months every household in Australia would receive a letter warning them about such criminal activity and providing information on how to avoid becoming a victim.
   “This is the first time Australian law enforcement agencies have undertaken a mail out of this scale regarding serious and organised crime,” Mr Clare said.
   The ACC/AIC report, Serious and Organised Investment Fraud in Australia, can be accessed at this PS News link.


13 July, 2012

Sports funds are free
kick for Indigenous

New funding has been announced to encourage Indigenous Australians to be more active
   Community based initiatives giving Indigenous Australians greater opportunities for participating in sport and recreation will receive funding through the $30.4 million Indigenous Sport and Active Recreation Program (ISARP).
   Minister for Sport, Senator Kate Lundy congratulated the 123 successful projects who applied for the funds, saying they would deliver the sport and recreation services to Indigenous Australians across every State and Territory.
   “We all know that sport and recreation is a vital component to a healthy lifestyle,” Senator Lundy said.
   “This is even more so in our Indigenous population where incidence of diabetes and other diseases is more prevalent than in the non-Indigenous community.”
   She said the ISARP would support community participation in sport and recreation activities with funding over the next three years, as well as providing entry level employment opportunities for Indigenous Australians.
   “The projects funded are diverse and each has been designed to improve health outcomes among Indigenous communities,” she said.
   “In Queensland for example, $166,213 is being provided to the Stride Foundation to deliver school holiday program workshops for young Indigenous people aged six to 16 years in Mount Isa and the surrounding region.
   “In the Warmun Community in Western Australia, $51,286 will assist in employing an Indigenous sport and recreation officer to assist with the delivery of sport and recreation activities for the community.”
   Senator Lundy said those initiatives were just two innovative programs being funded that would deliver clear social benefits and help reduce the gap in Indigenous disadvantage and mortality.
   She said that in addition to the health and fitness benefits, the social interaction of such activities helped develop skills, relationships, a sense of achievement and often a greater interest in education.
   “These programs will foster community spirit and a sense of adventure, fun and enjoyment of life,” Senator Lundy said.
   A full list of the grant recipients can be accessed at this PS News link.


13 July, 2012

Criminals found to be
mental as anything

A new report from the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) has found a high prevalence of mental disorders among police detainees, compared to the general Australian population.
   The report analysed interviews and the mental health screening tests of 778 detainees across five Drug Use Monitoring in Australia (DUMA) collection sites in the Brisbane, Southport, Kings Cross, Bankstown and East Perth watch houses.
   It found almost half (49 per cent) of the detainees given a screening test were experiencing a diagnosable mental disorder.
   Author of the report and psychologist, Lubica Forsythe said detainees were also asked whether they had ever been diagnosed with a mental health problem by a doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist or nurse.
   Ms Forsythe said of the 668 detainees who answered the question, 281 (41 per cent) reported having been previously diagnosed and of those, 272 were able to recall at least one diagnosis while 23 reported two diagnoses and five reported three diagnoses.
   She said of the detainees who did not report a previous diagnosis, 42 per cent of women had possible current disorders as did 28 per cent of men.
   “Understanding the extent of mental illness among those who come into contact with the criminal justice system is extremely important for policing and government policy development and resourcing,” Ms Forsythe said.
   She said the AIC recently estimated that out of approximately 360,000 police responses per year, around 148,000 involved a person with a mental illness.
   “Of detainees who had used at least one illicit drug during the previous month, 51 per cent reported having been diagnosed with a mental disorder compared to 37 percent of detainees who had not used illicit drugs,” she said.
   “In women, the link between drug use and diagnosis of mental disorder was even stronger.”
   Ms Forsythe said 66 per cent of women who used drugs in the previous month reported having been diagnosed, compared with 40 per cent of those who had not recently used illicit drugs.
   The AIC report can be accessed at this PS News link.


13 July, 2012

Television coverage
takes in travellers

Travellers to Australia’s rural and remote areas in caravans and campervans now have access to a digital television service and the Minister for Communications has urged them to use it.
   The Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy said people travelling around regional and remote Australia could start enjoying digital TV through the Viewer Access Satellite Television (VAST) service immediately.
   Senator Conroy said the VAST service was driving a quiet television revolution.
   “In 2011, domestic and international tourists spent 41 million nights in caravan parks around Australia,” Senator Conroy said.
   “There are also more than 50,000 Australian campervan and motor home owners.
   “Until recently, the only TV someone could watch after a long day’s driving or sightseeing was the limited choice available on analog television – sometimes fewer than four channels.”
   He said through VAST, people travelling in remote areas could access up to 16 digital channels, the same as in the capital cities.
   “This includes the five free-to-air networks and their multi-channels, as well as regional news services, and specialised public service channels,” he said.
   “The old Aurora Satellite service is being switched off on 31 December 2013, so I strongly encourage people to get themselves a satellite dish and apply for VAST now.”
   Senator Conroy said to help travellers tune their satellite dishes into the VAST signal a new smartphone application was being developed to do it for them.
   “Available on iPhones and Android, the app will use the phone’s GPS to locate available terrestrial television signals and show users how to receive them,” he said.
   “Travellers will no longer have to waste time in stormy weather or in the dark pointing their antennas or satellite dishes in any number of directions.
   “The app will show exactly where they need to be to pick up the best television signal.”
   Senator Conroy said over 80,000 households in regional and remote areas were already enjoying VAST, with over 100,000 VAST decoders activated across Australia.


13 July, 2012

And in other news...

Brisbane scores G20
Brisbane has been selected to host the G20 Leaders Summit in November 2014.
   The Summit will be attended by 20 leaders, five non-G20 leaders, seven heads of major international organisations, and up to 4,000 delegates and almost 3,000 media.
   Planning and delivery will be overseen by a G20 Taskforce in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet with the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre the principal meeting venue.
   Up to 500 volunteers will be called on to assist.

Science at Museum
The Australian Museum of Australia in Canberra is to celebrate National Science Week (11 – 19 August) by opening its doors for a family fun day.
   The Science on Saturday event will be held on 11 August to kick off the week which is held to inspire the minds and imaginations of young and old by offering hands-on, practical examples of real science in action.

Capability plan released
The 2012 Defence Capability Plan (DCP) has been officially released.
   The DCP contains 111 projects worth approximately $153 billion.
   The public DCP provides information for industry on project cost, project schedule and local industry content and can be accessed at PS News link.

Family aid doubles
Australia is to double aid funding for family planning services in developing countries.
   The extra funding will see $50 million a year allocated by 2016, as part of efforts to support a global campaign to prevent unwanted pregnancies and save around 200,000 lives.
   Current funding is $26 million a year, going to countries including eastern Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia.

Road built early
The duplication of Townsville’s Douglas Arterial from two to four lanes between University Road and Upper Ross River Road has been completed 12 months earlier than originally planned and more than 10 per cent under-budget.
   Up to 28,000 motorists and truck drivers are already using the arterial every day.

Police Medal expanded
The Police Overseas Service Medal is now to be awarded to police serving overseas who train international police forces to help secure the local region.
   Her Majesty the Queen has approved amendments to the eligibility criteria to extend them beyond officers involved in peacekeeping roles to those providing service in capacity building roles.
   The amendments take effect immediately and are retrospective.
   The Police Overseas Service Medal will now also be awarded to ‘Kiaps’ – the former Australian members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary between 1949 and 1973.

Events at ANIPP
The Australian National Institute of Public Policy at the ANU is to host a week of public events at the Crawford School of Public Policy from 16 July to 20 July.
   The events will national and international public policy analysts and more information is available from this PS News link.

GG story rejected
The Official Secretary to the Governor-General has rejected a media story about
   Government House’s Gift Register describing it as ‘erroneous’.
   “In the interests of full transparency and accountability, the Office publishes the Gifts Policy and register on its website,” the Official Secretary, Stephen Brady, said in a statement.
   “Today’s report in The Australian incorrectly states that the Gifts Policy is new.
   “The Governor-General has not retained any gifts of designer clothing.
   “The suggestion that Ms Bryce is free to keep any clothes or jewellery given to her by fashion designers is misleading.”
   Mr Brady said this had never, “and would never,” occur.

Underage smugglers deported
A review into convictions of people smugglers has been completed with seven more Indonesian nationals believed to be minors and released from prison and returned to Indonesia.
   Under the review, 28 cases were re-examined, following requests from the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Indonesian Government, using improved age determination processes that were not available when age was raised as a defence.

Defence capability revised
More Defence Further reforms to the Defence Capability Plan (DCP) have been announced by the Minister for Defence Materiel, Jason Clare
   Mr Clare said the reforms reflected consultations undertaken with the Australian Defence Industry and aligned with industry’s focus to projects approaching Government consideration.
   “A new document to complement the public DCP, the Defence Capability Guide (DCG), will provide general guidance for industry,” Mr Clare said.
   It is proposed that future publications be aligned with the Annual Defence Budget, with subsequent six monthly updates.

Win for deaf sports
New funding has been announced to boost a Deaf Sports Australia program.
   The Australian Government will provide an extra $100,000 to support the national roll out of the organisation’s junior participation program.
   The Active Deaf Kids program was successfully piloted in Victoria in 2010 and was designed to provide a pathway for hearing impaired youth to get involved in sporting activities.

Cat ban upheld
A decision to ban the importation of Savannah cats into Australia has been upheld by the Full Federal Court.
   The three Federal Court judges unanimously ruled that an appeal be dismissed and awarded costs in favour of the Government.
   The decision was originally made to protect the environment from the Hybrid cats.


10 July, 2012

Departments to lift
access, equity game

Australian Government Departments and Agencies have been called on to be more responsive to the needs of people from non-traditional Australian backgrounds.
   An eight-month investigation by an the independent panel has recommended a strengthening of the Government’s Access and Equity policy to identify clearer and more specific obligations for Departments and Agencies when dealing with people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
   Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Senator Kate Lundy welcomed the panel’s report saying the inquiry was a key initiative of the Government’s multicultural policy announced in February 2011.
   “The Federal Government announced the inquiry into Departments and Agencies to ensure we had a comprehensive view on how existing services were performing and how they could be improved,” Senator Lundy said.
   “The Australian Government believes all Australians are entitled to equitable access to Government services and programs and understands the importance of having a strong access and equity framework across Departments and Agencies.
   “Australian Government Agencies need to interact effectively with the whole community and be accessible to all Australians who are eligible, be responsive to their needs and deliver equitable outcomes.”
   She said the Government would now consider the recommendations from the panel in consultation with key agencies and departments.
   Race Discrimination Commissioner, Helen Szoke also welcomed the report saying the Access and Equity policy was an important focus for Government Departments in all interactions with Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse population.
   “The Panel’s recommendations call for the strengthening of this policy, through identifying clearer and more specific obligations that Departments and Agencies are required to meet,” Dr Szoke said.
   “There is also an expectation that the principles of access and equity will influence all Government social policy areas.”
   The panel’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.


10 July, 2012

APS women
in the pink

The Australian Public Service is a different place due to the number of women in senior roles according to the Australian Public Service commissioner, Steve Sedgwick.
   Speaking in the ‘Women in Leadership” Series of the Committee for Economic Development in Australia (CEDA), Mr Sedgwick said that while he personally took no notice of a person’s gender when assessing the value of ideas or a contribution: “I am not sure every woman in the APS feels the same way.”
   He said there were many more women in the Australian Public Service (APS) today than there were men and that although only 20 per cent of Secretaries were female, women comprised 38 per cent of the Senior Executive Service, which was well on the way to realising the 40,40,20 target which aimed at a theoretical minimum 40 per cent women, 40 per cent men and the other 20 ‘up for grabs’.
   “Although us men may feel relaxed and comfortable that equality has been achieved, or is soon to be achieved at the most senior levels simply because of the momentum building in the feeder groups and the quality of the candidates that we observe in our workplaces on a daily basis,” Mr Sedgwick said, “no doubt there are many women for whom the battle is far from over.”
   He said many women in the APS still felt a sense of isolation because they were different, especially in some occupational groups and in some locations.
   He said others felt an inability to participate fully because of the burden of care, for “youngies, oldies and in-betweenies” or had other responsibilities.
   And still others felt a conscious or unconscious bias in assumptions made about leadership styles and preferences.
   “These issues are real,” Mr Sedgwick said.
   “And I would like to suggest, these issues exist for all forms of difference, be they disability, culture, ethnicity, race, location, age.”
   He said the concerns being felt by women in the APS may be about to change due to to part time working and maternity leave being extended to men who could now exercise choices previously available to women.
   Mr Sedgwick said there were many examples of things women had done to change the planet, the fabric of society and in the delivery of creative and brilliant policy.
   “Although much progress has been made, we would not be here today if the equality issue had been fixed,” he said.
   Mr Sedgwick’s address can be read in full at this PS News link.


10 July, 2012

Institute unveils
national website

The Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) has launched a new national website to promote events and professional development services to public administrators across Australia.
   The new website features a comprehensive Knowledge Centre; lists upcoming IPAA events for all States and Territories; and provides members with easy access to the Australian Journal of Public Administration and the Institute’s quarterly magazine, Public Administration Today.
   The website also acts as a portal so visitors can navigate to the appropriate IPAA divisional website for their State or Territory.
   National President of IPAA, Percy Allan said the new website would play an important role in achieving the Institute’s vision to be recognised as the professional face of a confident public sector, fostering high quality public administration throughout Australia.
   “The Institute was established in Australia in 1929 by dedicated public servants interested in and committed to improving government administration in this country,” Mr Allan said.
   “Today the Institute is still a voluntary, non?profit, member organisation enabling people with an interest in public administration and public sector reform to exchange ideas on trends, practices and innovations.”
   He said the website’s Knowledge Centre featured links to public policy and management resources, while also including IPAA policy submissions, national conference presentations as well as orations by prominent Australians dating back to 1959.
   “Professional Public Servants can also use the site to discover the vast range of IPAA national and state/territory awards on offer as well as the comprehensive suite of events and training programs delivered to more than 21,000 public sector professionals each year,” he said.
   The new website can be accessed at this PS News link.


10 July, 2012

Customs releases
body scanners

Customs and Border Protection has begun a trial of body scanning technology to detect internal drug concealments.
   Minister for Home Affairs, Jason Clare said the new technology was a smarter, faster, way to catch drug mules.
   “Instead of taking people suspected of concealing drugs to the hospital, this technology can confirm this on the spot,” Mr Clare said.
   He said the scans saved the time and the resources of Australian Federal Police and local hospitals.
   “About half of the heroin and cocaine detected at our airports is internally concealed,” he said.
   “Travellers will only be asked to undertake a body scan where there is reasonable suspicion that they are carrying drugs internally and have given consent.”
   Mr Clare said Customs and Border Protection had begun to use the internal body scanner at an Australian airport as part of a 12-month pilot.
   For operational reasons the location of the body scanner pilot will not be publicly disclosed,” he said.
   “The body scanner will produce images of a person’s internal cavities similar to a medical X-ray image but with significantly lower radiation exposure.
   “The images produced by the scanner focus on internal body tissue, the skeleton, and where present, internal drug concealments within body cavities.”
   He said Customs and Border Protection was working with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) on the privacy implications of using the internal body scanner and had developed a Privacy Impact Assessment to assist that process.


10 July, 2012

Guidelines show way
for policy costings

New guidelines have been released setting out how Treasury and the Department of Finance and Deregulation will approach costing policy proposals.
   The Charter of Budget Honesty Policy Costing Guidelines have been developed to inform the newly-established Parliamentary Budget Office and assist in promoting consistency, transparency and comparability in proposed policy costings.
   The updated Charter says the guidelines were released in response to the establishment of the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) and its ability to prepare policy costings.
   “They reflect the PBO’s mandate and functions, as well as details of the amendments that were made to the Charter when establishing the PBO,” the Charter says.
   “The obligations of the Charter are independent of, but have precedence over, the Caretaker Conventions.
   “The Charter makes no provision for costing publicly announced election commitments made by independent Senators or Members or parties with less than five members.”
   It says requests for the public release of policy costings made before polling day required the relevant Secretary to publicly release the costing as soon as practicable after the request was received and before polling day.
   “If the costing cannot be undertaken before polling day, either due to insufficient information or time constraints, the relevant Secretary is to publicly release a statement to that effect, and the request is taken to have been withdrawn on that day,” the Charter says.
   “Secretaries are not obliged or authorised to take any further action in relation to a policy costing request on or after polling day.
   “For requests made after polling day, where the Caretaker Period extends after that day, Clause 31A of the Charter requires the relevant Secretary to publicly release a costing as soon as practicable after the request is received.”
   The new Charter of Budget Honesty can be accessed at this PS News link.


10 July, 2012

Disaster plans
a disaster

The Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services has called for national disaster assistance arrangements to be overhauled because they “don’t work.”
   The Minister, Peter Ryan made a formal submission on the issue to the Standing Council of Police and Emergency Management (SCPEM) saying the current arrangements hindered Governments from giving communities “a straight answer about when, where and why $25,000 clean-up grants are activated or not”.
   “At a time when four (Victorian) Local Government areas have been rejected for Category C assistance in the past month, our paper calls on the Commonwealth, States and Territories to agree to a common definition and set of activation criteria,” Mr Ryan said.
   “The current National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) arrangements don’t work.”
   He said the NDRRA Category C arrangements covered key community and economic recovery measures, including clean-up grants for primary producers, small businesses and not-for-profit organisations.
   He said the lack of an agreed definition and threshold for activation led to inconsistent and confusing outcomes for farmers and businesses and he wanted them clarified by November this year in time for the next bushfire and flood season.
   He said Victoria’s proposed measures would provide an interim solution while the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) undertook a broader review of the NDRRA that was expected to be completed in the next 12 to 18 months.
   “All governments have recognised the need for reform of Category C and Victoria is keen to ensure this reform is realised as swiftly as possible,” Mr Ryan said.


10 July, 2012

Safety missing from
safe deposit boxes

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has released a report into the security of valuable assets and documents held for clients by banks and other financial institutions, identifying a number of risks.
   The Commission has recommended a range of ‘good practice’ matters it wants the institutions to consider.
   ASIC Commissioner, Greg Tanzer said the report into custodial and depository services in Australia followed a review of the industry which identified a number of key risks to the safety of clients’ assets.
   Mr Tanzer said there had been concerns regarding the safety of investment assets that custodians held; the duty of care custodians exercised; and whether custodians had appropriate internal controls to ensure the safety of assets held for others.
   “At the end of 2011, approximately $1.8 trillion of assets of Australian investors was held in custody,” Mr Tanzer said.
   “This is expected to more than triple over the next 15 years to $6.4 trillion.”
   He said given the role of custodians as key service providers within the financial services industry, areas that a custodian may need to consider included unauthorised debiting of omnibus accounts; stability and safety of IT systems; operational risks created by manual and disparate systems; as well as a whistleblowing culture and framework.
   He said reporting in relation to suspicious third party valuations; breach reporting relating to custodial and investment administration services; and the risks inherent in corporate actions such as share buy-backs and rights issues might also need to be examined.
   “Custodians are important gatekeepers in that they have access to information, including real-time data on the flow of money through investment products, unavailable to ordinary investors,” Mr Tanzer said.
   “However, there are concerns about an expectation gap between what is legally required of custodians and what investors expect the custodian to be doing to safeguard their investment.
   “In order to promote confident and informed investors, and fair and efficient financial markets, we are also considering the need for clear disclosure about the role and description of custodians given that the term may create misconception among retail investors about the role of custodians.”


10 July, 2012

Gap not closing for
Indigenous kids

Indigenous child health is improving but education has stalled according to a new report from the Council of Australian Government’s Reform Council.
   The report looked at progress under the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, which set six targets for Governments to improve health, education and employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
   Chairman of the Reform Council, Paul McClintock said the report showed the overall death rate of Indigenous Australians would need to fall faster to meet COAG’s 2031 target to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
   “Only the Northern Territory is on track to close the gap in death rates by 2031 if the trend continues,” Mr McClintock said.
   “We welcome the progress toward halving the gap in death rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian children in the four jurisdictions–New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory–for which we have reliable data.”
   He said while the Indigenous child death rate remained twice that of non-Indigenous children, the rate for Indigenous children decreased faster than for non-Indigenous children between 1998 and 2010.
   He said however, the level of improvement in education outcomes for Indigenous children was “disappointing”.
   “Despite progress in halving the gap in literacy and numeracy by 2018, a relatively small proportion of Indigenous students reach the national minimum standard,” Mr McClintock said.
   “Nationally, across Years 3, 5, 7 and 9, between 66 per cent and 77 per cent of Indigenous students meet the national minimum standard in reading and between 72 per cent and 84 per cent in numeracy.”
   He said in literacy and numeracy, most jurisdictions met their ‘ halving the gap progress points’ but that was based on a low level of achievement and little actual progress.
   “So the news isn’t as good as it seems,” he said.
   “The report also finds that school attendance for Indigenous students got worse in every jurisdiction from 2007 to 2012.
   “Attendance fell steeply in Years 7 and 8 (the early years of secondary school), most notably in the Northern Territory and Western Australia.”
   The Reform Council’s report can be accessed at this PS News link.


10 July, 2012

Energy audit program
finds big savings

The latest results from the Australian Government’s Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) Program reveal that the nation’s largest businesses are saving 88.8 petajoules (PJ) of energy per year or 1.5 per cent of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
   Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson welcomed the results saying the Continuing Opportunities 2011 report indicated that companies participating in the EEO program were implementing projects which would save approximately 5.4 per cent of assessed energy use.
   Mr Ferguson said that represented an increase in energy savings of 17.6 per cent from last year’s results and more than doubled the savings initially reported by companies in 2008.
   He said the results underscored the importance of the EEO program in helping businesses to manage their energy use and identify opportunities to save money.
   “These results demonstrate the capacity for meaningful energy savings to be identified and implemented through a rigorous and whole of business assessment as required under the EEO program,” Mr Ferguson said.
   “Most importantly, the EEO program has contributed to helping businesses and the economy save over $800 million a year - and the savings don’t necessarily end there with opportunities still under investigation of 38.3 PJ totalling $319 million.
   “These findings show there is huge potential for businesses to reduce their energy use consistent with the trend emerging in the Australian Energy Market Operator’s revised forecasts for energy demand.”
   He said to encourage the wider adoption of good energy management practice the program had been extended to allow voluntary participation by smaller businesses with annual energy usage below the existing 0.5PJ threshold.
   “The Continuing Opportunities report highlights that many medium-energy users could benefit from the EEO Program, particularly in the food and chemical manufacturing, transport and mining sectors where companies have reported significant savings under the existing scheme,” Mr Ferguson said.
   “I encourage interested businesses to seize this opportunity.”
   The full EEO report can be accessed at this PS News link.


10 July, 2012

Truck safety tribunal
hits the road

Australia’s first national road safety remuneration tribunal has begun its work.
   The new Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal has the power to set pay and conditions for truck drivers to reduce the economic pressures on them to meet unfair and unrealistic deadlines which risk their own lives and the lives of others.
   Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten said around 250 people were killed and more than 1,000 suffered serious injuries each year in accidents involving trucks.
   “We know some truck drivers are pressured to cut corners on safety and maintenance and feel they need to take illicit substances to keep them awake just to get to destinations on time,” Mr Shorten said.
   “These practices endanger the lives of all Australians.”
   Parliamentary Secretary for Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins said the work of the Tribunal would reduce the economic incentives for drivers to make unfair and unrealistic deadlines; cut corners on safety and maintenance; or take illicit substances to keep awake to get to destinations on time.
   “The Tribunal will make a real difference in improving road safety for truck drivers, their families and all Australian road users,” Senator Collins said.
   “Research and an evidence-based approach will be used to determine pay and working conditions that do not encourage unsafe driving.
   “All stakeholders with an interest in a matter before the Tribunal will have the opportunity to put their views forward.”
   Mr Shorten said the Tribunal would also be able to resolve disputes involving truck drivers from 1 January 2013 and would be able to approve collective agreements between a hirer and owner drivers.
   He also announced the appointment of Tribunal Members representing Fair Work Australia (FWA) and the road transport industry.
   “The Tribunal’s President, the Jennifer Acton, and the other three Tribunal members, Senior Deputy President Lea Drake, Commissioner Ingrid Asbury and Commissioner Peter Hampton have a wealth of experience in dealing with workplace relations issues,” he said.
   “The Tribunal will also include four industry members, Professor Anne Williamson, Steve Hutchins, Tim Squires and Paul Ryan,” Mr Shorten said.


10 July, 2012

Police whistle up
response group

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has launched its new Specialist Response Group (SRG) in Canberra.
   Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said the SRG combined ACT Policing’s Specialist Response and Security Team and the AFP’s Operational Response Group to create the largest centralised specialist policing capability in Australia comprising almost 200 personnel.
   Mr Clare said the unique skills and flexibility of the SRG would help the Australian Government prepare for and respond to major incidents in Australia and overseas.
   “The SRG can deploy and provide critical assistance to regional neighbours in times of crisis, and assist with the restoration of law and order, rapid disaster response assistance, and capacity building initiatives,” Mr Clare said.
   “The SRG will also support the Australian Government to continue to provide a critical function in support of other State and Territory police jurisdictions and agencies as requested, such as the support provided during the Victorian bushfires in 2009 and the Queensland floods in 2011.”
   ACT Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Simon Corbell said the SRG was a win for the Canberra region and would provide an enhanced capability for ACT Policing.
   “ACT Policing, through the AFP, has been delivering dedicated and quality policing to the Canberra community since 1979, and in recent years has produced outcomes which are the envy of other jurisdictions,” Mr Corbell said.
   “The SRG will also provide ACT Policing an increased capacity in the areas of bomb response, canine, tactical, water operations, public order management, police divers, intelligence and negotiators.”
   Mr Clare said the AFP also assisted with the delivery of the Australian Government’s initiatives to other countries within the Asia Pacific region.
   “The SRG will provide dedicated and ongoing specialist policing support to these initiatives,” he said.


10 July, 2012

Leadership a
human right

The importance of effective leadership in achieving a viable Australia that is culturally diverse has been outlined by the Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke at a conference organised by the National Settlement Council of Australia.
   Dr Szoke used the conference in Adelaide as an opportunity to promote a human rights approach to settlement and cross cultural harmony in Australia.
   “We are a country that’s built from people of many different cultures,” Dr Szoke said.
   “Strong leadership across all sectors of public life in Australia is imperative to promote acceptance of a culturally diverse society.
   “What really matters is that we are proactive about addressing the issue.”
   She said concrete action to counter racism was what was needed to encourage the full participation of people from different backgrounds into society.
   “Inter-faith dialogue and education is another component to building understanding and respect for each other as Australians,” she said.
   “The report from a Federal parliamentary inquiry into multiculturalism due to be released in August this year will also be particularly helpful in providing an informed insight into sentiments expressed by Australians and the issues arising from those sentiments.”
   Dr Szoke said there were many benefits for Australia in having new and emerging communities productively engaged in education and employment.
   “For this to occur, we need to build ‘bridges of cultural competence’ which facilitate equality of opportunity in these areas,” she said.
   “We also need to fight the systemic racism which creates barriers to the full enjoyment by everyone of the rights to education and employment.”


6 July, 2012

New purchase rules to
buy value for money

New rules for purchasing goods and services for the Government came into effect on 1 July, setting up a streamlined process for achieving value for money for the Australian taxpayer.
   Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong said revision of the Commonwealth Procurement Rules (CPRs) would improve the language and consistency of procurement processes across Government Agencies.
   “It will help reduce unnecessary complexity and costs for Government Agencies and make it easier for businesses to sell to government,” Senator Wong said.
   She said key changes included making CPRs rules (previously, they were Guidelines); rewording ‘Value for money’ to clarify that it incorporates other policies and applies to the entire procurement process; clarifying the AusTender 42 day reporting requirement; and adding a new exemption from certain procurement rules for small or medium enterprises with at least 50 per cent Indigenous ownership.
   “The CPRs do not alter existing procurement policy, rather they replace the Commonwealth Procurement Guidelines,” Senator Wong said.
   “The CPRs also focus on whole-of-Government arrangements, in particular coordinated procurements.”
   She said coordinated procurements had improved the value for money achieved by many Agencies and reduced costs for them as well as tendering costs for suppliers.
   Senator Wong said a recent inclusion had been the Whole-of-Australian-Government Travel Services which had been designed to promote simplicity and efficiency for official travel.
   “The second phase has now been finalised,” she said.
   “Following competitive tender processes, the AOT Group has been appointed as the accommodation program manager, and a panel of two rental car providers – Thrifty Car Rental and Europcar Australia – have also been appointed.
   “Diners Club Australia has been appointed as the sole provider of travel cards.“These new arrangements will mean a simpler approach to booking, paying and reporting travel across government, which will deliver savings in the future and ensure all Government Agencies can expect consistent services and pricing.”
   She said those savings were in addition to the airline and travel management company arrangements put in place in 2010, which had already delivered $240 million in savings from 2010-11 to 2015-16.
   The Commonwealth Procurement Rules can be accessed at this PS News link.


6 July, 2012

New Agency to put
dumping in can

The Minister for Home Affairs and Justice has announced a feasibility study into a possible Commonwealth anti-dumping agency.
   The Minister, Jason Clare said he was interested in investigating the benefits and costs of a stand-alone anti-dumping agency and had commissioned former Victorian Premier John Brumby to lead the study.
   “Because this is such a specialised task there may be real benefits in establishing a specialist agency,” Mr Clare said.
   “That is why I have commissioned this work.”
   He said the feasibility study would investigate establishing a specifically prescribed agency to concentrate its attention on the fair and timely conduct of investigations, the formulation of advice to Government and interaction with industry and foreign exporters.
   He said the current arrangements and policies for considering anti-dumping cases would be investigated, as would the benefits and costs of retaining the function within the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service.
   He said the study would also look into the benefits and costs of establishing an agency to conduct anti-dumping assessments and investigations and the organisational structure, functions and powers it would need as well as the relationship between such an agency and existing appeals processes.
   He said a key focus of any new agency would be to work closely with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ensure the anti-dumping system remained compliant with Australia’s international obligations under the World Trade Organisation.
   Mr Clare said a Secretariat located in the Attorney-General’s Department would support the study and it was anticipated the findings would be presented by 30 November.


6 July, 2012

Super returns from
lost super fund

More Australians were recovering their lost superannuation entitlements with a 14 per cent fall recorded in the total amount of unclaimed super held by the Australian Taxation Office in the past year.
   According to the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten, the total amount of lost super held by the ATO was now $17.4 billion, down from the $20.2 billion a year ago.
   Mr Shorten said the new lost super figures were a step in the right direction and demonstrated that initiatives to reform the super system were making an impact.
   “The number of lost member accounts fell from 5 million to 3.6 million – a reduction of 28 per cent,” Mr Shorten said.
   “The average value of a lost super account is around $4,800.
   “Some of these accounts are inactive and owners could consider consolidating them to make the most of their retirement savings and avoid paying unwanted fees.”
   He said the best way for people to avoid losing super was to ensure their super fund had their tax file number.
   “At the same time, the Government is making it easier for Australians to be reunited with their lost super so they can make the most of their savings for the future,” he said.
   “Recent enhancements to the online tool SuperSeeker make it much easier for people to keep track of their super.
   “By logging into a secure system people can see details of their active accounts, as well as any lost super and super that the Australian Taxation Office holds on their behalf.”
   Mr Shorten said the process for consolidating lost super had also been improved with a simple online form that could be accessed through SuperSeeker.
   He said the superannuation system was also being improved with an up-to-$500 boost to the superannuation savings of around 3.6 million Australians who earnt up to $37,000.
   “The super guarantee rate is also increasing to 12 per cent every year from 1 July 2013 to 1 July 2019 progressively and the upper age limit for guarantee is being removed,” he said.
   More information on the SuperSeeker tool can be accessed at this PS News link.


6 July, 2012

Auditor turned off by
digital switchover

An audit of the digital TV switchover scheme has found it to be effective so far, to be facing real challenges ahead, and in need of tighter controls over planning and performance measurement.
   In his report Administration of the Digital Television Switchover Household Assistance Scheme, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said the objective of his audit was to assess the effectiveness of the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy’s (DBCDE) administration of the Household Assistance Scheme (HAS).
   “HAS provides, at no cost to eligible customers, the supply, installation and demonstration of a high definition (HD) set-top box, with features to meet the needs of the elderly or those with a disability,” Mr McPhee said.
   “Across the first four rollouts, approximately 400,000 potentially eligible customers were invited to test their eligibility to receive services under HAS.
   “As at 1 March 2012, 85,326 services have been provided to eligible customers at a cost of $37 million.”
   He said the audit found that overall DBCDE had effectively established and continued to strengthen its administrative arrangements for HAS.
   “The tender selection and contract negotiation processes for HAS service providers were robust and transparent,” Mr McPhee said.
   He said however that as services were to be rolled out to more populated and technically challenging areas over the next 18 months, aspects of the Department’s administrative arrangements could be improved.
   “Improvements to the Department’s performance and reporting framework for HAS would enhance management oversight and allow the Department to better demonstrate to stakeholders the extent to which scheme objectives are being achieved,” the Auditor-General said.
   He made two recommendations to improve DBCDE’s administration of HAS.
   “The first reinforces the need to review, regularly update and endorse project plans, operational documents and administrative procedures.
   “The second recommendation is aimed at DBCDE developing appropriate performance measures and targets against which the achievement of the Scheme objectives can be measured.”
   The Auditor-General’s audit team was Matthew Birmingham, Michelle Johnson, Patricia Gerald and Mark Simpson and his full report can be accessed at this PS News link.


6 July, 2012

MySchool website
passes OECD test

A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found the My School website to be highly successful in giving Australian families more information about their local school than ever before.
   Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett said the Delivering School Transparency in Australia: National reporting through My School report showed the implementation of My School had helped students, teachers, parents and decision-makers.
   “The OECD monograph sets out the rationale behind My School, the various challenges the Government faced during its development, and how these challenges were resolved,” Mr Garrett said.
   “The report provides examples of sound policy formation and strong political leadership which other countries may choose to learn from.
   He said the My School website was launched in January 2010 to ensure everyone involved in education—teachers, school leaders, parents and politicians—could see how schools and students were faring, to help lift school performance and direct resources to where they were most needed.
   The OECD report found that as a result of My School, Australia had nationally consistent data that allowed it to analyse policy options and better target funding and resources.
   “We know parents use and appreciate My School,” Mr Garrett said.
   “On launch day, the site had around 30 million page views, and since then 4.5 million people have logged on to get information about their local school.
   “The OECD report acknowledges how important My School is in helping us respond to the recommendations of the Gonski school funding review.”
   Mr Garrett said My School was also helping with the implementation of other key reforms and ensuring funding for programs such as literacy and numeracy schemes went to the schools that needed it most.


6 July, 2012

Sound Archive
sounds alarm

The National Film and Sound Archive has told a Senate Estimates hearing that it will be hard hit by the incoming carbon tax because it was a ‘high user’ of energy.
   Chief Executive of the Archive, Michael Loebenstein told Senate Estimates that the tax would undoubtedly impact on the agency which was tasked with collecting, preserving and sharing Australia’s audio-visual heritage.
   Under questioning by ACT Senator Gary Humphries, Mr Loebenstein confirmed the agency would suffer a hit of between $85,000 and $150,000 per year.
   Senator Humphries said the Archive’s capacity to do its job would be compromised as a “triple whammy of the efficiency dividend, budget cuts and the carbon tax cut in”.
   “The government has already slammed the National Film and Sound Archive in the budget,” Senator Humphries said.
   “Now the next hit is from the carbon tax.
   “Almost another half a per cent of the Film and Sound Archives’ budget is going to be used up to pay for (the) carbon tax.”
   He said the National Film and Sound Archive had a vital role to maintain and display Australia’s rich history through film and sound.
   “The fact is, they can’t do that without money in the bank,” Senator Humphries said.


6 July, 2012

Social investments
getting more social

A new social investment fund to help Australia’s social enterprises grow has been announced by the Minister for Employment Participation, Kate Ellis.
   Ms Ellis said the new $8.6 million Social Impact Fund was being managed by Social Ventures Australia (SVA) and had approved its first loan recipient, North Yarra Community Health.
   She said the new fund was the third in the Government’s Social Enterprise Development and Investment Funds (SEDIF) program, bringing the total capital, with private investors, to $40 million.
   She said the $300,000 loan to North Yarra Community Health would it establish a new health practice with profits helping to fund its community health centres in Collingwood, Carlton and Fitzroy.
   “North Yarra Community Health has a long history of working locally to deliver a range of medical, allied health, social work and community development services,” Ms Ellis said.
   “The SEDIF is about helping social enterprises to grow their business and deliver more social outcomes. The new practice will provide a more sustainable and reliable income, which means that North Yarra can improve the quality and scale of operations at their community health centres.”
   She said the first two funds under the SEDIF program were announced in August 2011 and more than 250 social enterprises had already sought access to loans.
   She said Social Ventures Australia would offer loans, subordinated debt and equity options with the $4 million Government grant, which was being matched by an additional $4.6 million from individual and institutional investors.
   “What better way to create jobs at the local community level than by ensuring organisations with a social mission can access adequate financial help,” Ms Ellis said.
   “This is a business model of the future for how governments worldwide can deliver social policy in a financially viable way.”
   More information on the SEDIF program is available from this PS News link.


6 July, 2012

Phoenix report rises
from Ombudsman

A new research report into ‘phoenix’ activity by companies has been released by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
   ‘Phoenix activity’ is typically associated with directors who transfer the assets of an indebted company into a new company of which they are also directors.
   The initial company is then placed into administration or liquidation with no assets to pay creditors while business continues using the new company structure.
   The Ombudsman’s report, Phoenix activity, Sizing the problem and matching solutions, identifies a number of high-risk industries, including private security and cleaning and estimates the total cost of phoenixing at between $1.78 billion and $3.19 billion.
   The report said of that amount between $191 million and $655 million was lost by employees in the form of unpaid wages and other entitlements and between $992 million and $1.93 billion by businesses as a result of the phoenix companies not paying debts.
   It estimated the cost to government of between $601 million and $610 million, mainly as a result of unpaid tax but also the loss of payments made to employees under the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS).
   It says there were a range of further impacts of phoenixing that were not able to be quantified, such as the impact on other business revenue from being undercut by phoenixing companies which gain an unfair competitive advantage by not paying their debts.
   The Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson said the research was commissioned after an increasing trend had been identified in companies “engaging in phoenixing-like behaviours to avoid paying employee entitlements and court-issued penalties”.
   “The research report makes a series of recommendations about measures for addressing phoenixing, including cross-Agency approaches to targeting phoenix behaviour and educating the community about indicators of phoenix activity,” Mr Wilson said.
   “The Fair Work Ombudsman has jurisdiction in relation to some consequences of phoenix activities, such as underpayment of employee entitlements, while Agencies such as the Australian taxation Office (ATO) and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) have jurisdiction for other aspects, such as tax avoidance and fraudulent behaviour, so it is important we work closely with these Agencies.”
   The full report commissioned by the Ombudsman can be accessed at this PS News link.


6 July, 2012

And in other news...

ABC turns 80
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) is celebrating 80 years on air by opening its archive collection.
   ABC Radio first went to air at 8pm on 1 July 1932, introduced by Prime Minister, Joseph Lyons and ABC Television commenced on 5 November 1956 – introduced by Prime Minister Robert Menzies. 

Old typewriters on show
A nostalgic display of old and new typewriters is to be held at the Canberra Museum and Gallery from 14 July to 16 September.
   Collected by Canberra Times journalist, Robert Messenger, the display will include rare, beautiful and historic typewriters, many of which will have close links to the Public Service of years gone by.
   Admission is free and more information on Messenger’s collection can be accessed at this PS News link.

Records swap trial begins
A six month trial of information sharing for criminal history checks between Australian and New Zealand has begun.
   During the trial, New Zealand will be able to seek criminal records from all Australian States and Territories while Queensland will be able to seek criminal records from New Zealand.

Loans reach milestone
Indigenous Business Australia has reached a major milestone with 15,000 home loans made to Indigenous Australians.
   The $1.68 billion worth of  loans was provided through the Australian Government’s Home Ownership Program.
   Recent Census figures show Indigenous home ownership had increased from
35.9 per cent to 37.4 per cent between 2006 and 2011 while non-Indigenous home ownership declined slightly over the same period from 71 per cent to 69.6 per cent.

Radar arrives for destroyers
The first two state of the art ‘SPY’ radar array faces have arrived in Adelaide to be  installed on the Navy’s Air Warfare Destroyers (AWDs).
   The multi-function SPY radar is capable of search, automatic detection, tracking of air and surface targets and missile engagement support.

Bets off on broadcasts
Both commercial and subscription broadcasters have agreed to reduce and control the promotion of live betting odds during sports broadcasts.
   Broadcasters have agreed to amend their existing codes of practice to restrict live odds promotion, acknowledging that promoting live odds during sports broadcasts can contribute to the encouragement of gambling.
   The States and Territories have also committed to look at the steps they could take to limit promotion of live odds at sporting grounds, such as on scoreboards or by ground announcers.

Price boards reined in
The Commonwealth is to work with the States and Territories to look at the development of regulations for fuel price boards.
   Treasury and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will lead the efforts and work with fair trading regulators to look at developing an information standard to stamp out misleading fuel price boards.

DHS signs with Telstra
The Department of Human Services has reached a $474 million agreement with Telstra for the provision of mobile carriage services.
   The Department of Finance has entered into a $115 million five-year arrangement with Telstra for the provision of data services to Human Services through the Internet Based Network Connection Services Panel (IBNCS).

Phone charges pegged
An extension of retail price controls on Telstra fixed-line telephone services has been announced.
   The retail price controls will be extended for two years on Telstra’s existing networks to June 2014.
   The move follows recommendations in a review of regulatory pricing arrangements by the Department of Broadband, Communications, and the Digital Economy.

Medicare adds three
Three new medical services are to be added to the Medical Benefits Scheme.
   The procedures include surgery to insert artificial intervertebral discs for patients with spinal conditions, an endoscopic procedure for patients with pre-cancerous lesions in their oesophagus and a genetic test to detect a hereditary condition associated with retinal and other tumours.
   The services have been approved for following recommendations from the Medical Services Advisory Committee.

Adoptions dropped
Australia’s intercountry adoption program with Ethiopia has been closed following several years of concern.
   The adoption environment in Ethiopia had become increasingly unpredictable, complex and uncertain and the closure was “tough but necessary” for the best interests of Ethiopian children.

Irrigated land up
The amount of irrigated land in Australia has increased to a five-year high according to new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
   The ABS found that in 2010-11 the total area of agricultural land watered had increased by 7 per cent to 2 million hectares.
   Pasture for grazing accounted for the greatest amount of irrigated land at 538,000 hectares followed by cotton at 359,000 hectares.


3 July, 2012

Disability watchdog
snaps at book fund

The Disability Discrimination Commissioner has called on the Government to drop its support for an international program that makes books accessible to people with a print disability.
   The Commissioner, Graeme Innes, labelled the program a “failed initiative’ which did little to resolve a world-wide ‘book famine’.
   Mr Innes urged the government not to fund the Trusted Intermediary Global Accessible Resources (TIGAR) project which he said in three years had only produced 300 books in alternate formats that could be shared worldwide.
   He said only 5 per cent of all books produced in Australia were published in accessible formats such as large print, audio or braille, while in developing countries it is just 1 per cent.
   “Despite this, the Australian government intends to provide $200,000 funding for this failed initiative, which has barely made a dent in the ‘book famine’,” Mr Innes said.
   He the World Blind Union withdrew its support for the TIGAR project in 2011, due to its lack of success.
   He said Australia should do the same and instead publicly support and actively pursue a treaty which would create an exception to copyright law.
   “I support the call on the Australian government by Maryanne Diamond, President of the World Blind Union, to publicly support and actively pursue a treaty in this area,” Mr Innes said.
   “Australia could lead the change to international law in this area and, at little cost to us, provide the opportunity to read to millions more people with print disability throughout the world.
   The Commissioner said an international treaty would allow hundreds of thousands of books already produced in formats like braille, audio and large print, to be shared from one country to another.


3 July, 2012

Mining women missing
recourse to resources

Women are missing out on the benefits of the resources boom according to the Director of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA), Helen Conway.
   Ms Conway said at 16 per cent, the number of female employees in the mining industry was well below that reported by other industries and female managers were similarly under-represented in mining.
   “The sector is crying out for workers, with some saying the industry will not survive without diversifying the employee base,” Ms Conway said.
   “Companies should be using their best endeavours to secure women for engineering and technical roles, and Australia needs to increase the number of women pursuing these sorts of studies by educating girls about the full range of occupational opportunities available to them.”
   She said it was also important to note that the resources boom had “failed to narrow the gender pay gap”, with women in mining taking home approximately $620 less on average per week than their male colleagues.
   “They are earning on average about 74 per cent of their male counterparts,” she said.
   “The leading companies in this sector will be those that can fill increasing job vacancies by attracting and securing Australia’s significantly untapped resource — our women.”
   Acting Vice President of Organisation and Resources at Rio Tinto, Kevin Lewis said the company operated in a labour market where attraction and retention of employees was critical to success.
   Mr Lewis said his company established talent pools for women in middle management, examined roles where females were under-represented to identify barriers to advancement and offered additional career development support for women.
   “Rio achieved its target of 20 per cent women in senior and executive leadership roles in 2011 - four years ahead of schedule,” Mr Lewis said.


3 July, 2012

Billiards report
snookers Dept

A report by the Senate Committee on Finance and Public affairs has found that attempts to cover-up the sale of two potentially valuable billiard tables from Parliament House were among a number of “slipshod” practices undertaken by the Department of Parliamentary Services.
   The Committee found the billiard tables had been sold to departmental staff without regard to their heritage values two years ago.
   The sale, for $5,000 triggered a number of audits, reviews and investigations into the Public Service Code of Conduct believed to have cost the Department about $100,000.
   The Committee’s Interim Report said the Department had provided false evidence to its inquiry into the incident through the creation of a one-line, handwritten note to support evidence “after it was given”.
   It said during the inquiry, a Departmental spokeswoman claimed the tables “were assessed as having no heritage value” and when the committee asked for a copy of the heritage assessment, it was provided with a “handwritten, undated annotation” on a list of billiard tables compiled for a register of Parliament House furniture.
   The report said the note stated the tables had been purchased “around 1989” and were “about 20 years old” thus holding “no heritage value”.
   It said however further questioning revealed the note had been added to support evidence given to the inquiry and no heritage assessment had actually occurred.
   The report also questioned the Department’s competence in managing the heritage value and architectural design integrity of Parliament House.
   It made no official findings but said its enquiries had revealed “major weaknesses” in the way the Department managed “stewardship of assets within Parliament House on behalf of Parliament and the people of Australia”.
   It said the incident involving the billiard tables also exposed “a complete lack of understanding of duties of officers of the Parliament” and opened Departmental staff to “questions about competence and motivation”.
   The report said the incident raised questions about previous disposals and “what Parliament House assets may have been lost forever”.
   The Senate Committee’s interim report can be accessed at this PS News link.


3 July, 2012

Defence signs up
for health services

A new $1.3 billion contract between the Australian Defence Force and Medibank Health Solutions (MHS) has been announced to provide health care services to ADF personnel across Australia.
   The Minister for Defence Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon said the contract would run for an initial four year term.
   He said MHS had been chosen after a competitive tender process and would deliver a broad range of services including on-base health support, pathology, imaging and radiology and a 24-hour ADF national health hotline.
   “Defence’s highest priority is the health and well being of its personnel,” Mr Snowdon said.
   “Under this contract, our servicemen and women will continue to receive the highest quality health care services.
   “The agreement will support Defence’s goal of seamless health care from point of injury to recovery.”
   He said there would be no change to health care entitlements for ADF personnel.
   “This contract with MHS will also assist Defence to streamline the delivery of health services, and optimise current services through the adoption of new innovations and technology,” he said.
   “The Australian Government is committed to ensuring support for our ADF members is seamless, particularly during the transition from active service into the veterans’ community.”
   Mr Snowdon said the current health services contracts had been extended to November 2012 and both MHS and Defence would facilitate a smooth transition to the new contract, working closely with the outgoing service providers to ensure no disruption to services for ADF personnel.
   He said the transition of contracted health services would begin this week.
   There would be no change to health care on deployment with ADF health professionals to continue providing those services.


3 July, 2012

Cross PS audits find
ongoing weaknesses

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) has published its interim findings from audits conducted of public sector agencies in 2011-12, reporting that financial control weaknesses continued to be an issue for many Agencies.
   In its report Interim Phase of the Audits of the Financial Statements of Major General Government Sector Agencies for the year ending 30 June 2012, the ANAO said the weaknesses related particularly to human resource management processes; the management of user access to key financial systems; IT security governance; and Human Resources Management Information Systems (HRMIS) business continuity management.
   “It is generally accepted in both the private and public sectors that a good indicator of the effectiveness of an entity’s financial management is the timely finalisation of its annual financial statements, accompanied by an unmodified audit opinion,” the ANAO said.
   “Financial statement audits are an independent examination of the financial accounting and reporting of public sector entities.
   “The Auditor-General is required to report each year to the relevant Minister on whether the financial statements of agencies have been prepared in accordance with the Finance Minister’s Orders (FMOs) and whether they give a true and fair view of the matters required by those Orders.”
   It said it had observed that agencies had in place key elements of a financial control environment designed to provide a sound basis for the effective preparation of its financial statements.
   “Audit committees, in particular, continue to have a positive influence on the effectiveness of agencies’ control environments,” it said.
   “An understanding of an agency’s risk assessment processes is an essential element of the ANAO’s financial statement audits.
   “Generally, the ANAO found that agencies have well-established risk assessment processes.”
   It said important elements of the risk assessment process common to all agencies were business continuity and fraud control management and while there had been a general improvement in the level of awareness and maintenance of business continuity and disaster recovery controls in agencies, a number of agencies did not test their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) as part of normal business practice.
   “A small number of agencies needed to improve the development and timely updating of fraud control plans,” it said.
   The Audit Office’s full report can be accessed at this PS News link.


3 July, 2012

Annual tabling rules
for annual reports

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) has issued a new Circular advising of arrangements for tabling 2011-12 annual reports during September and October this year.
   Tabling Circular No. 1/2012: Tabling of 2011-12 Departmental and Agency Annual Reports outlines the tabling process (on sitting days and non-sitting days); the days for tabling 2011-12 annual reports; delivery and distribution requirements; tabling times in the Senate and the House of Representatives; and special considerations surrounding the tabling times for this year.
   It says departments and agencies needed to be aware of and meet their relevant legislative requirements when arranging to have their annual report tabled.
   “However, it remains the Government’s policy that all annual reports should be tabled by 31 October 2012,” the Circular says.
   “Departments and agencies should take into account possible delays in the design and printing of reports, in obtaining Ministerial clearance or in the Parliamentary process in deciding when to table their annual report.
   “To avoid these potential problems, aim to table annual reports in early October.”
   It says it is the responsibility of departments and agencies to ensure packaging, labelling and delivery requirements are met.
   The Circular says the majority of this year’s tabling period occurs ‘out of sitting’ and documents presented in those times will be tabled in the House of Representatives on the next available tabling day.
   “It is worth considering, as a matter of process, that you furnish your Minister or Parliamentary Secretary with the transmittal letter for signature at the same time that you seek approval to table your annual report,” it says.
   “This will enable the annual report to be presented ‘out of sitting’ and the PM&C Tabling Officer will undertake the distribution.”
   The full Circular can be accessed at this PS News link PM&C also published Guidelines for the Presentation of Documents to Parliament which can be accessed at this PS News link.


3 July, 2012

Collection audit
comes up short

An audit of the Taxation Office’s use of external debt collection agencies to chase down overdue payments has found that around $2 billion had been collected, taxpayers’ privacy had been protected but the process for referring debts could be improved.
   In his audit The Engagement of External Debt Collection Agencies, Auditor-General Ian McPhee said most of the debt cases referred to the collection agencies were low in value and unlikely to be actioned by the ATO.
   Mr McPhee said however they collectively represented significant revenue.
   “The ATO has referred just under 1.8 million debt cases, with a combined value of approximately $7 billion,” Mr McPhee said.
   “Of this amount, the external collection agencies (ECAs) have collected just over $2 billion, or 29.1 per cent of the total debt referred, at a cost of $54 million in ECA fees.”
   He said the ECAs had generated very few taxpayer complaints and there had been no known breaches in the security of taxpayers’ data.
   “However, at the strategic level, the ATO could more effectively set out how the referral program is integrated with the ATO’s broader approach to debt management,” Mr McPhee said.
   “Lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities of key ATO staff in implementing the requirements of the framework reduced the assurance that taxpayers’ data was being appropriately managed.
   “Documentation supporting the selection and referral of debts from the ATO’s business systems also requires review and updating, to maintain the integrity and consistency of the processes.”
   Mr McPhee said the ATO’s strategy for the referral program was initially to target lower value, aged debts however within the first year the value of debts selected for referral had increased tenfold and newer debts, some less than three months old, were now routinely referred.
   “The ATO has not clearly defined how the referral program is integrated within the ATO’s broader approach to debt management,” he said.
   He made three recommendations which he said were aimed at improving key aspects of the ATO’s administration of the referral program.
   The full audit report can be accessed at this PS News link and the audit team was Jane Whyte, Therese McCormick, Nicholas Scholar and Mark Harradine.


3 July, 2012

Telephone Ombudsman
gets more numbers

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has been given strengthened powers to help more consumers with telecommunications complaints.
   Ombudsman, Simon Cohen said a significant increase in the monetary value of the complaints the TIO could help with had been applied for this financial year, changing the way it classified a small business.
   “An increase in powers is always a good thing for consumers who cannot resolve the issues they are having with their service providers,” Mr Cohen said.
   “The changes mean the TIO will have the power to give legally binding directions to service providers of up to $50,000 in value, and to make recommendations up to $100,000.
   “This is an increase from direction powers of $30,000 and recommendation powers of $85,000. “
   He said the adjustment to monetary limits meant consumers who previously had disputes too large for the TIO to deal with would now have access to the fast, free and independent service it provided.
   “The changes will be of particular benefit to small business consumers,” he said.
   “At the same time as the constitutional change on monetary limits commence, the TIO will adopt a more flexible approach to defining small businesses, making TIO services accessible and relevant to these consumers.”
   Mr Cohen said the TIO could assist small businesses with an annual turnover of less than $3 million and up to 20 employees (or up to 100 staff in the case of seasonal operations or manufacturing businesses).
   “In the past, the TIO would also take into account the amount in dispute and the business’s yearly expenditure on telecommunications,” he said.
   “These criteria have now been removed.”
   He said the increased powers followed an expansion by the TIO of its role beyond dispute resolution to helping improve telecommunications services.
   “The TIO aims to achieve this by contributing to better customer service and complaint handling and working with industry to identify broader issues affecting consumers,” Mr Cohen said.


3 July, 2012

Commonwealth wades
into flood report

The Commonwealth has responded positively to all but one of the recommendations of an official review into the 2011 Victorian floods response.
   Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management, Nicola Roxon tabled the Government’s response to the Final Report of the Victorian Review of the 2010-11 Flood Warnings and Response saying she welcomed the report.
   “The floods devastated local communities in Victoria, causing substantial damage that will take years to rebuild,” Ms Roxon said.
   “The Government remains committed to supporting those affected by natural disasters and will continue to work with the Victorian Government to help implement recommendations made by the Review.”
   She said of the 93 recommendations contained in the report, 11 were directed either in full or in part to the Commonwealth.
   She said of those, the only one the Commonwealth did not support was a recommendation that the Bureau of Meteorology present two types of water levels (local datum and Australian Height Datum), in published information and warnings.
   “The Government has had expert advice that this measure may lead to confusion in the community, and disaster risk needs to be communicated as clearly as possible,” Ms Roxon said.
   “While States and Territories have primary responsibility for emergency management, the Australian Government is an active partner.
   “The Commonwealth will continue to work with States and Territories to assist communities to be better prepared for natural disasters.”
   The Commonwealth’s full response to the review report can be accessed at this PS News link.


3 July, 2012

Schools line up for
mental health scheme

More than 700 schools are now participating in the successful KidsMatter school program which aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the nation’s primary school students.
   The program is the first national mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention initiative developed specifically for primary schools.
   Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler said KidsMatter was well ahead of plans to expand to 2,000 schools by June 2014.
   “Evidence shows that one in seven primary school students have challenges with social and emotional development,” Mr Butler said.
   “When identified and treated early, these challenges are less severe, don’t last as long, and are less likely to recur and develop into serious mental disorders later in life.”
   He said the program provided schools, parents and teachers with expert knowledge, tools and support to help children learn about good mental health and how to build their resilience and coping skills.
   “The program helps teachers and parents to identify issues and act early to ensure children receive the care they need as soon as they need it,” he said.
   “Once fully implemented, KidsMatter primary will help us improve the mental health and emotional wellbeing of more than 340,000 Australian children.”
   Mr Butler said that mental health awareness programs like KidsMatter also had a direct benefit on a child’s education and on the performance of schools.
   “Evidence has found that when mental health is made a priority in schools, children are less likely to have behavioural problems and learning difficulties, and staff experience higher levels of job satisfaction,” he said.


3 July, 2012

Trafficking reports
get green light

The Australian Institute of Criminology’s (AIC) second Trafficking in persons monitoring report has been released along with a research paper, People trafficking in Australia.
   Attorney-General, Nicola Roxon said she was serious about tackling people trafficking which was why new laws to criminalise forced marriage, forced labour and organ trafficking had been introduced into the Parliament.
   “These reports show that people are not only trafficked for sex but for forced labour, servile marriage and domestic servitude,” Ms Roxon said.
   “We’ve stepped up our response to people trafficking including changes to legislation that aim to strengthen the capability of investigators and prosecutors to combat people trafficking and to bring perpetrators to justice.
   “This program of research by the AIC is crucial in helping us understand how and why trafficking is occurring so we can combat it effectively.”
   Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, Jason Clare said the AIC’s monitoring report detailed the factors and methods that lead people to be trafficked.
   “A survey of 1,617 respondents identified a low awareness in the community of human trafficking,” Mr Clare said.
   “To tackle people trafficking we need the support of support groups and the wider community.
   “This research shows that there is more work to do in raising awareness of this serious crime.”
   Minister for the Status of Women, Julie Collins said the vast majority of trafficking victims were women trafficked for sexual exploitation (68 per cent of police investigations and 81.4 per cent of program clients).
   “We must do all we can to help those women and men who have been traumatised by this abhorrent crime,” Ms Collins said.
   “Survivors of people trafficking need compassionate and practical care to help them heal and rebuild their lives.
   “Through the Support for Trafficked People Program, our Government helps victims with accommodation, counselling, legal and migration advice and skills training, including English-language classes and vocational guidance.”
   The AIC report can be accessed at this PS News link and the research paper is available at this PS News link.


3 July, 2012

DAFF inspectors
boil over hot food

More than one and a half tonnes of prohibited food has been seized in the latest operation conducted by Biosecurity Officers from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).
   During June, Biosecurity Officers in Melbourne conducted a targeted inspection on a consignment of packaged food from Thailand.
   The officers found 142 kilograms of kaffir lime leaves, 817 kilograms of sticky rice cake wrapped in banana leaf and 615 kilograms of frozen sator (a type of fragrant bean).
   First Assistant Secretary for Quarantine Operations at DAFF, Tim Chapman said such plant items posed a risk to Australia’s biosecurity.
   “Before such items can be brought into Australia, the importer must ensure that the goods meet Australia’s import conditions,” Mr Chapman said.
   “Undeclared food, plant material and animal products from overseas could introduce pests and diseases into Australia, and have a serious impact on our valuable agriculture and tourism industries and unique environment.”
   He said the importer failed to declare the goods and, following testing of the seized items, DAFF plant pathologists identified citrus canker on the unlawfully imported kaffir lime leaves.
   “Further investigations at the importers premises confirmed a previous undeclared consignment of kaffir lime leaves,” he said.
   “We have traced and recovered almost 15 kilograms of this product from 23 retail outlets in Victoria.
   “While we did find some of the leaves to be infected with citrus canker the risk to Australian citrus producers is very low because the items were only sold through retail outlets for cooking.”
   Mr Chapman said both importations were being investigated and if there was sufficient evidence they would be referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for prosecution.
   “Importers who fail to comply with Australia’s Biosecurity laws face fines up to $1.1 million and possible imprisonment,” he said.
   “Significant seizures such as these continue to demonstrate the excellent work our people are doing in helping to protect the health and safety of Australia’s plant and animal industries.”