SearchArchives for June 2006
27 June 2006
Old House a National Treasure
Old Parliament House, the home of Australia's national Parliament from 1927 to 1988, has been entered on the National Heritage List.
Prime Minister, John Howard said the building was a symbol of the Australian nation's political heritage and the place where many of the best features of Australia’s democracy were formalised by the country's political founders.
"Known originally as Provisional Parliament House and now as Old Parliament House, this building sits in both the heart of Canberra’s Parliamentary Triangle and in the heart of our nation," Mr Howard said.
The Australian Government changed just seven times in the years that the building was home to the national Parliament. Politicians witnessed the passage of historic legislation and the creation of new political parties.
Mr Howard said Australia was governed from Old Parliament House through conflict and enormous social change. It is the place where Sir Robert Menzies served his record term as Prime Minister and where Prime Ministers John Curtin and Ben Chifley lay in state. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam addressed the nation from the front steps of the building after his dismissal by the Governor-General in 1975.
Mr Howard said Old Parliament House would always be an important part of our political history with its rich collection of original furniture, art and memorabilia helping to illustrate the story of Australia's political customs and functions.
"It is appropriate that this place of outstanding significance to our nation receives Australia's most prestigious heritage recognition," Mr Howard said.
Provisional Parliament House was opened by the Duke and Duchess of York on 9 May 1927. Parliament vacated Provisional Parliament House and moved to its new home in Parliament House on 9 May 1988.
Old Parliament House was re-opened to the public by former Prime Ministers John Gorton and Gough Whitlam, 15 December 12.
It is the 31st entry on the Heritage List.
27 June 2006
Agency Not Kidding Over Child Support Crackdown
Parents who deliberately avoid paying the correct amount of child support could find themselves caught up in a new $143 million compliance crackdown.
Angela Tillmanns, former Manager of the Agency’s Queensland office, has been appointed to head up the program and her team is expected to generate an extra $460 million in child support for children over four years.
Ms Tillmanns, who has almost 30 years experience in the public sector, said that most parents genuinely wanted to do the right thing for their children but may not be aware they were not meeting their responsibilities under the law.
“Helping people to do the right thing is always our first port of call,” Ms Tillmanns said, “and over the life of the child support scheme we have achieved 96 per cent compliance.”
She said however, the Agency would still need a strong focus on parents who deliberately avoided paying the correct amount of child support because that was not fair to the other parent, the children involved or to taxpayers who contributed through increased family tax payments.
Ms Tillmanns said the extra funding for the crackdown would increase CSA’s compliance program in five main areas:
- working closely with the Australian Tax Office to improve the rate and timeliness of lodgements of payer tax returns to increase the accuracy of payments, which could lead to an additional 100,000 parents referred to ATO (compared with the current 24,000 referred);
- increasing by six-fold the number of investigations into parents who were deliberately minimising their taxable income to avoid paying child support (as parents become more clever about how they hide their income the CSA has to employ more skilled and senior staff to undertake complex investigations);
- more than doubling the use of Departure Prohibition Orders - a very effective approach where people with child support debt are prevented from leaving the country;
- increasing the scale of the currently successful Intensive Debt Collection program by more than two and a half times, which would target an additional 22,500 parents per year; and
- where Intensive Debt Collection was unsuccessful CSA would have increased resources to take an additional 650 parents to court per year which is at least double the current number.
“As always, court action will only be considered when all other possible avenues of resolution have been exhausted,” Ms Tillmanns said.
Ms Tillmanns encouraged parents with child support debts to contact the CSA and negotiate a repayment schedule as the chances of getting caught were increasing all the time.
27 June 2006
Socceroos Kick Goals for Aussie Exporters
Austrade is urging Australian exporters to make the most of Latin America’s increased interest in Australia generated by the Socceroos campaign I the World Cup, especially their match against Brazil.
Chief Economist at Austrade, Tim Harcourt said the Socceroos’ performance in Germany had not only increased awareness of Australia’s rapidly developing skills in the world game but their success was an effective international promotion of Australia.
“Latin America is an increasingly attractive place to do business thanks to the region’s strengthening economic performance and commitment to democracy and the closer ties Australia is developing with the region,” Mr Harcourt said.
“Interest in Australia is particularly strong in [Brazil].”
Austrade’s Senior Trade Commissioner in Sao Paulo, Mark Argar, said he was amazed at the Brazilian public’s enormous interest in Australia brought about by the Socceroos.
“The passion of Latin American football supporters is a well known fact, and the Socceroos participation in the World Cup and early success in Germany has sparked a lot of Brazilian interest in Australia, its people and economy,” Mr Argar said.
“Now is the time for Australian exporters to consider the business opportunities available in a region with well over 400 million consumers.
He said Latin America offered Australian businesses readily accessible markets with sophisticated consumers, increasingly stable governments and political systems, and an economic climate that was conducive to doing business.
Mr Harcourt said Austrade had a network of offices across Latin America to help Australian businesses develop export opportunities in the region.
27 June 2006
IBM Let In At Immigration
IBM has been selected as the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs’ preferred partner to implement a $495 million IT systems modernisation program, “Systems for People.
The deal was announced by, Parliamentary Secretary, Andrew Robb, who said the Department had a large number of databases in Australia and overseas which recorded all contacts made with any individual client."
“This change program will enable access to this contact data as required and give staff a single, comprehensive view of all dealings with any client," Mr Robb said.
He said the total program would cost $495 million over four years, IBM working with DIMA to implement major technology improvements in its business operations.
Mr Robb said IBM had made strong commitments to DIMA that the program would be undertaken as one of its global priority projects.Nuclear Drug Supply Active Again
Shipments of the key radiopharmaceutical, technetium-m, used in diagnosing and treating cancer and other illnesses have been resumed following problems at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) at Lucas Heights, Sydney recently.
Supply of the critical element had been held up for more than a week after a pipe ruptured in a production area.
The shipments will significantly improve supply to patients waiting for nuclear medicine procedures, with clinics and hospitals around the country estimated to receive around 60 per cent of their supply in the first week after resumption, with more supplies due shortly after.
A spoksperson for ANSTO said the rupture did not occur in their nuclear reactor but in a building away from the reactor where processing took place. The incident was completely unrelated to reactor operations, the spokesperson said.
ANSTO production of another radiopharmaceutical, thallium, which could be used instead of technetium-m in some heart scans, was being increased to help address the current supply shortage.
ANSTO was keeping all customers (including doctors, medical centres and hospitals) fully informed so that clinic schedules could be adapted to meet priority needs.
Technetium-m is produced when the radioactivity in molybdenum-, which is produced in research reactors such as ANSTO’s HIFAR reactor, decays. ANSTO supplies molybdenum- to doctors via its Gentech generators, which allows medicos to milk the technetium when it’s needed. Most generators last about a week.
27 June 2006
No Sex Please, We’re Public Servants
A Federal Court ruling that employers can be held liable for unlawful sexual harassment by an individual employee in certain situations, has prompted the Australian Government Solicitor to draw the matter to the attention of its clients.
Special Counsel, Litigation, with the AGS, Paul Vermeesch, said the Court also said the employer can be the only respondent to the court proceedings and that the employee alleged to have engaged in the unlawful conduct need not even be a joint respondent.
The case reinforces the need for employers to have in place adequate programs for prevention of sexual discrimination and harassment within the workplace, including mechanisms for the reporting and investigation of alleged incidents of sexual harassment, Mr Vermeesch said.
Sexual harassment and certain other discrimination are unlawful under the Sexual Discrimination Act (SDA) and complaints can be made to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).
Mr Vermeesch said that generally the President of HREOC is required to enquire into complaints and attempt to conciliate them. The President can also terminate complaints on various grounds, including where he or she is satisfied that there is no reasonable prospect of the matter being settled by conciliation.
There is no time limit in which to make complaints to the HREOC, Mr Vermeesch said, however, the President may terminate a complaint on the ground that the complaint was lodged more than 12 months after the alleged unlawful discrimination took place.
Where a complaint has been terminated, the complainant can then commence proceedings in the Federal Magistrates Court or Federal Court within 28 days of the issue of the notice of termination.
Conduct involving alleged unlawful sexual harassment can often involve only two individual employees, the alleged perpetrator and victim. In such cases, the facts relevant to the allegations are peculiarly within the knowledge of the two individual employees.
Mr Vermeesch said it was in the interests of employers to seek to ensure that complaints of unlawful harassment and discrimination were made and resolved in a timely fashion. This will assist employers in resisting deemed liability for the conduct of its employees, he said.
27 June 2006
Airservices and RAAF Fly United
Airservices Australia and the Royal Australian Air Force have taken the first step towards integrating their air traffic control services with a view to more efficient management of Australian airspace.
The Joint Airservices/RAAF Terminal Control Unit was launched recently at the Airservices Australia facility at Perth International Airport by Airservices Chief Executive Officer, Greg Russell and Deputy Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, Air Vice Marshal John Blackburn.
All air traffic control services for Perth, Pearce RAAF Base and Jandakot Airports are to be provided from the same facility.
Ait Traffic Controllers at RAAF Base Pearce now share an operational room with Perth Airservices terminal controllers and use the Eurocat technology Airservices commissioned in 2000.
The Pearce/Perth air traffic control integration is the first initiative of Project Genesis which proposes a single national air traffic management platform through integration of Defence and Airservices air traffic management, air traffic control training, licensing and maintenance.
The next phase of Project Genesis is the potential transfer of the RAAF Tindal and Darwin airbase approach services into Airservices Brisbane air traffic control centre.
Project Genesis is also evaluating provision of other services to the RAAF including radar surveillance capability and consolidation of other RAAF approach services to Brisbane and Melbourne ATC Centres.
Greg Russell said air traffic control consolidation by Defence and Airservices had been subject to significant review over many years and Project Genesis would implement the future national air traffic management system.
Air Vice-Marshal Blackburn said Project Genesis would overcome the difficulties encountered by two different air traffic management systems being used by Airservices and Defence to control their respective air spaces.
Both Air Vice-Marshal Blackburn and Mr Russell commended RAAF and Airservices staff for their work in creating a system that promised to enhance national security and air safety and result in greater efficiency for both organisations
27 June 2006
Defence to Put Heart Where Home Is
The problems faced by Defence repatriating Private Jake Kovko's body from Iraq have sparked a tightening of procedures for the handling of Defence Force personnel killed on duty overseas.
Defence Force Chief, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston said policy and procedures were being reviewed and would be informed by Brigadier Liz Cosson’s investigation into the return of Pte Kovco’s body from Iraq and by the Board of Inquiry into his death.
Interim arrangements had been introduced and would take effect immediately, Army News reported.
Until the final policy was determined, any personnel killed overseas on operations would be brought home on Australian aircraft accompanied by two ADF personnel. In such cases, the ADF would use RAAF transport or an ADF chartered aircraft wherever possible.
“Defence will avoid using non-military mortuaries in the Middle East, where possible, but much will depend on the precise circumstances, including the locations and the numbers of casualties involved,” the ACM Houston said.
“The key principle, as always, is that Defence people will handle repatriation matters with the utmost respect for their fallen colleagues and with concern for their families.”
27 June 2006
Filtered Families the Latest Web Weapon
Families are to be offered free filter programs for their home computers under a $117 million plan to protect children from internet predators and pornography.
The National Filter Scheme is the centrepiece of the Government’s Protecting Families Online package. Protecting Families Online will also include measures to provide Australian libraries with free filters so computer corners at libraries across Australia will become child-friendly zones.
Minister for Information Technology, Senator Helen Coonan said every parent in Australia would be eligible to receive a free filter for their home computer and the internet safety agency NetAlert will be better resourced to launch an education blitz across Australia to ensure all Australians know about the benefits of filtering out unwanted or illegal material.
“Protecting Australian Families Online is about educating parents about the dangers lurking on the internet,’’ Senator Coonan said, “ and equipping them with the tools they need to make sure when their children venture into cyberspace, they do so safely.”
Senator Coonan said the Government’s Protecting Australian Families Online package would put a safer internet experience within the grasp of every Australian family.
“The Protecting Families Online package complements the range of measures already in place to protect Australian families including $35 million for the Australian Federal Police to ensure they have the powers and resources to target, infiltrate and shut-down organised online paedophile networks.”
As part of the implementation of the package the National Library of Australia will also be required to provide filtering on all its public access internet terminals, with the option of disabling the filter when the terminals were being used by adults.
In addition, NetAlert is to be co-located with the regulator – the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) – and receive an additional $5 million to expand its educational activities and more actively promote its website and 1800 number as a one-stop information shop for parents with internet safety concerns.
A comprehensive national community education campaign will also be conducted to ensure that all Australian families are aware of the benefits of regulating their children’s Internet experience by using a safe and effective computer filter
27 June 2006
Jobs Network Getting the Job Done
Employment service providers achieved record numbers of jobs for the unemployed last year with more than 640,000 people matched up with jobs.
And the Minister for Workforce Participation, Sharman Stone said 30 per cent of those were long term positions for disadvantaged job seekers.
According to Dr Stone, “There has never been a better time to find a job in Australia.”
She said unemployment had dropped to less than five per cent and many of the jobs being found for people were in the retail, hospitality and manufacturing sectors where people could train on the job.
She said service providers had also had outstanding success finding jobs for single parents, the long term unemployed and people with a disability.
“Over 90 per cent of those on parenting payments are women, many of whom have volunteered back to work, even though they remain eligible for welfare.”
Dr Stone said that in the past 12 months a record 44,900 jobs had been found for job seekers receiving a Parenting Payment and more than 11,000 job seekers receiving the Disability Support Pension were placed in a job, up 45 per cent over the previous year and a new annual record.
At present, only those able to work more than 30 hours a week in open employment are required to look for work but after 1 July, people able to work at least 15 hours a week would be supported back to part-time work where suitable jobs were available.
Dr Stone said in the year to April 2006, more than a million new vacancies were lodged on the Job Network database, up four per cent on the previous 12 months.
“We expect this figure to continue to increase as more employers become aware of the advantages of creating a flexible workplace and the availability of highly productive employees who have been long-term unemployed, parents, people with a disability and mature age people," Dr Stone said.
27 June 2006
Consumers Hooked By Phishing Expeditions
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has warned consumers to be wary of emails asking for personal banking details saying the incidence of phoney requests has increased dramatically and they hev become much more sophisticated.
Known as “phishing”, the scams allow fraudsters to gather personal information for identity theft purposes and centre around the use of deceptive email messages that appear to come from legitimate businesses.
More than one in five of all consumer scam complaints received by ASIC related to phishing in the 2005-06 financial year, with the number of phishing complaints increasing by 25 per cent in the past two financial years.
ASIC’s Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Greg Tanzer said “The techniques adopted by phishing scammers are becoming more sophisticated and are always changing, mostly due to the rapid increases in modern technology.”
“In the past financial year, we found that scammers used a more targeted and personalised approach to request personal details. For example, emails and website links mirrored legitimate bank websites, and bogus job offers were used to coax people into providing bank account details.
“We also found cases where requests were made for personal information through Ebay, and for online share trading accounts where scammers would ask for password details via telephone.”
Mr Tanzer said it was never more important for people to be wary of emails requesting personal details. He said the scammers or “phishers” were technically sophisticated and savvy, and the range of online fraud methods and systems were constantly changing.
“I can’t stress it enough, never give your personal banking and other financial details by email,” Mr Tanzer said.
“People, as well as banking institutions, must remain vigilant and look at how they can secure their online environment, and will need to continue to do so as these scams and threats are not, unfortunately, going to go away.”
Mr Tanzer offered the following tips to prevent people being defrauded:
- change your passwords frequently and use passwords that are hard to guess;
- ensure you have anti-virus and anti-spy software on your computer and a personal firewall, and update the software regularly;
- only log on to your internet banking account from your bank’s website;
- never respond to any email that requests your account details and passwords - delete these emails immediately;
- avoid using computers in public places such as internet cafes to do your online banking; and
- exit from your account as soon as you finish your banking.
More information on phishing and other financial matters for consumers is available from FIDO, ASIC’s consumer website, or by calling 1300 300 630.
27 June 2006
Senate Puts Committee House in Order
The Government has announced changes to the Senate committee system that would see two new committees established and others abolished to cut unnecessary duplication.
Established in 1970, the Senate committee system has continually evolved, the current structure in which eight portfolio areas are served by two paired committees to examine legislation and references being set up in 14.
The Government has decided that there is no longer any good reason for the duplication as the paired committees shared the same policy portfolios, the same secretariats and many of the same members.
The Government’s Senate team said merging the paired committees would mean the portfolios covered could expand from eight to 10 and greater attention could be given to the issues that mattered to the Australian people.
They propose that education, science and training and environment and heritage become stand alone committees, but are to consult with Senators and Senate parties on the final portfolio split.
The proposal reflects the pre-14 Senate committee structure, with additional committees focusing on certain areas.
Committee membership would be expanded and the Government would ask the Remuneration Tribunal to consider payments to Deputy Chairs in recognition of their increased workload under the new merged system.
The membership and chairmanship of the committees would reflect the composition of the Senate.
The Government's Senate team put the proposals to party leaders and was to consult over the July recess, with a view to implementation in August.
27 June 2006
Capital Result for Canberra’s Population
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed a turnabout in the population fortunes of Australia’s capital city, showing for the first time in seven years that the number of people moving into the ACT from interstate was greater last year than those leaving.
According to the Bureau, the ACT’s population of 326,700 at 31 December 2005 was up 2800 people (0.8 per cent) on the previous year.
The Bureaus said changes in the total population growth rate for the ACT were driven by changes in net interstate migration, with low rates of population growth over recent years largely the result of interstate migration losses.
After recording population losses due to net interstate migration since 18, Canberra enjoyed a small net gain (70 people) from interstate migration during the 2005 calendar year.
Net overseas migration reduced the size of the ACT population by 380 during 2005. This represented the first net overseas migration loss for the ACT since 19.
Natural increase continued to be the main source of population growth in the ACT, with 2800 people added to the population during 2005.
North Canberra recorded the largest growth in population during the year ended 30 June 2005 (860 people, or 2.1 per cent), followed by Gungahlin-Hall (750 people, or 2.5 per cent). Tuggeranong suffered the largest population decline (770 people, or 0.9 per cent).
27 June 2006
Inaction Planned for Week of Action
Unionists and supporters have beenurged to take approved leave and join community events as part of the National Week of Action for Your Rights at Work from 25 June to 1 July.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) said the community events were not industrial action so participants should get approved leave such as flex, recreation leave or a rostered day off to attend during normal working hours.
In the ACT, Wednesday 28 June was named Workplace Orange Day with staff encouraged to wear orange to work, decorate their workplaces and send a delegation to Senator Gary Humphries' office in Bunda Street, Civic.
A rally and barbecue would be held in Queanbeyan from 12 noon to 2pm at Queanbeyan Park and major rallies in Sydney's Blacktown, in Wollongong, Tweed Heads, Bathurst, Newcastle and other capital cities and regional centres across the country were also planned.
In Adelaide, workers were asked to access their special leave and donate blood to the Red Cross during National Action Week.
A shame and name tour was to be held in Perth on Friday 30 June, starting at CCI at 180 Hay Street and led by ACTU president Sharan Burrow. A comedian was to entertain as employers that had been promoting WorkChoices to undercut wages and conditions were visited.
On Friday 30 June and Saturday 1 July, a sea of orange ribbons was to be planted at Federation Mall in Canberra between the new and old Parliament Houses.
More information about the National Week of Action could be obtained from the CPSU.
27 June 2006
Mind Over Matter for New Kids’ Program
Australian primary schools are being invited to take part in the pilot-testing of a new mental health initiative that focuses on creating a positive school environment to promote children’s mental health and wellbeing.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne, has welcomed “KidsMatter”, a program which aims to provide children with the skills and resources for successful schooling, social relationships and community participation.
KidsMatter also supports teachers, parents, families and school communities to provide early assistance to children at risk of developing mental health problems.
Mr Pyne saidthe Government developed KidsMatter in partnership with the anti-depression movement Beyond Blue, the Australian Psychological Society and the Australian Principals’ Association’s Professional Development Council.
“Next to the family home, the school environment is perhaps the most significant of all influences that shape the mental and social development of our children,” Mr Pyne said.
“Mentally healthy children are better learners. They have better relationships with their teachers, family members and friends, and they display greater resilience when it comes to meeting life’s challenges.”
Mr Pyne said the Australian Government recognised that some children and young people were at particular risk of developing mental health problems and that it was easier to treat mental health problems such as depression and anxiety when they were identified early.
“The 2006-07 Budget demonstrated the Australian Government’s commitment to improving services for people with a mental illness, their families and carers by providing $1.9 billion over five years to ensure families, schools and health professionals receive support to recognise and tackle mental illness.”
KidsMatter builds on other Australian Government initiatives that targeted children and young people, including the highly successful MindMatters initiative for secondary schools and the new National Youth Mental Health Foundation.
Mr Pyne said KidsMatter would initially be pilot-tested in 100 primary schools across Australia.
Further information can be obtained from www.apapdc.edu.au .
27 June 2006
Defence Takes Aim at Long-Range Capacity
The Defence Capability Plan for the next 10 years has identified major capital equipment expenditure of more than $51 billion.
The public version of the plan (DCP) outlines proposals to deliver the capability required by the Australian Defence Force to maintain Australia’s security.
The 2005-06 Budget included an additional $2.4 billion over financial years 2011-12 to 2015-16 for the Defence Force, continuing the additional three per cent funding over 10 years announced in the 2000 Defence White Paper.
The additional funding enables the DCP 2006-16 to address the rise in the price of military platforms and technology and by providing a public version of the plan to Australian industry the ADF was ensuring it continued to have the major equipment and systems it needed to do its job
The Government said the DCP was a major document produced periodically following an ongoing review of Defence capability requirements. Australia’s National Security – A Defence Update 2005 fed into the review process and largely influenced the DCP 2006–16 which would bring Australia’s equipment acquisition and capability development strategy over the next decade into line with an increasingly complex security situation.
The Government said the plan was based on advising capability effects and outcomes rather than platform replacement. This change is associated with improved capability development processes under the Kinnaird reforms.
Planning flexibility had been built into the plan to manage the risk of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events occurring through changes in the strategic environment, technological development and the ability of defence industry to meet global demand.
Important aspects of the plan include:
* modifying helicopter plans ($3.7b) to reduce the number of aircraft types and create a common joint training and management system.
* new naval surface capability project worth more than $500 million to enhance the ANZAC class air search radar system and develop undersea warfare detection capabilities and sea mine counter-measures in 2017 to 2019.
* Army networking projects boosted by 40 per cent as part of the Hardened and Networked Army initiative. This would support network centric warfare capability across the majority of Army units. Army’s 105mm and 155mm artillery replacements would be deferred three years while Army’s Ground Based Air Defence capability is enhanced from 2018 to 2020 in a new project valued at more than $750 million.
* continuing support for Australia’s air combat capability, including a $350 to $450 million mid-life upgrade of the Hawk lead-in fighter in 2017 to 2019 and future upgrades for the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.
* around $1 billion to refurbish or replace the C-130H Hercules and Caribou aircraft fleets, while the Orion AP-3C decision can be deferred for two years. An extra $250 million for the Multi-Mission UAV project – AIR 7000 Phase 1B.
* a boost for the ADF military satellite communications capability with more than $1 billion invested in next generation satellite and ground station infrastructure to ensure continuity of service and flexibility through digital content.
* a new improved logistics management system project worth more than $350 million, operational in 2012 to 2014
27 June 2006
Afghan taskfore commander named
Lieutenant Colonel Mick Ryan has been appointed Commander of the Reconstruction Task Force (RTF) in Afghanistan.
The taskforce will deploy to Afghanistan in July to commence work on the construction of community-based projects around the Oruzgan Province.
Lieutenant Colonel Ryan is currently the Commanding Officer of the 1st Combat Engineer Regiment in Darwin.
SBS Board appointments
Patricia Azarias has been appointed to the Board of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), and existing Directors, Jillian Broadbent and Robert Cronin have been reappointed.
Ms Azarias was appointed for five years with Ms Broadbent and Mr Cronin reappointed for five and four years respectively.
Ms Azarias is an economist, and recently returned to Australia after serving at the United Nations as Director of the Internal Audit Division for the past two years.
Ms Broadbent is a consultant and company director and Mr Cronin is a media consultant.
Board’s Up at Defence Housing
William Lloyd Lange and William Donald Bowness have been appointed to the Board of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA).
Mr Lange was a member of the NSW Legislative Council for 20 years and Mr Bowness is the founder of Wilbow Corporation, a Melbourne-based property developer.
Mr Lange and Mr Bowness replace John O’Grady and Thomas O’Brien whose terms expired last year.
27 June 2006
Antarctic Medal for Larsen
Per Brun Larsen has been awarded the Australian Antarctic Medal in the Queen’s Midwinters Day Honours List
Mr Larsen was honoured for outstanding service in scientific research or exploration in connection with an Australian Antarctic expedition or for support of such work.
The Governor-General announced the award on June 21.
Super fund selected
First State Super has been selected as the default fund for new employees of the ACT Government commencing on or after 1 July.
Chosen from a field of 12 proposals, the First State Super proposal was assessed as presenting the best value for future Territory employees in providing a low cost default option for new employees who did not choose to nominate their own superannuation arrangements.
First State Super was established in 12 as the NSW Government’s default arrangement for its employees. It currently has in excess of 450,000 members and funds under management exceeding $11 billion.
Big book club for little readers
A $330,000 funding boost from the Australia Council for the Arts will encourage reading for toddlers by growing South Australia’s Little Big Book Club nationwide.
The Club is a successful new program that encourages reading and literacy amongst pre-school-aged children in SA. It already has provided resources, reading packs and a website for more than 4000 new parents.
The Australia Council has allocated the funds three years to support the national expansion of key aspects of the program.
New Defence homes for Ipswich
The Defence Housing Authority will spend $50.7 million on more than 160 new homes for Defence personnel and their families in Ipswich, Queensland.
The development will provide Australian Defence Force members and their families with new high-quality homes close to RAAF Base Amberley and the Ipswich city centre.
The homes will be built in stages, with civil work expected to begin in August 2006 – the expected completion date for the homes is December 2008.
Funding for regional festivals
Local communities are to share more than $750,000 to help tell their stories at regional festivals and significant community celebrations.
Forty-five projects will be funded under the Festivals Australia program and its sister program, Festivals Australia Regional Residencies initiatives.
Applications for the next round of funding under the Festivals Australia Regional Residencies and Festivals Australia programs close on 17 July 2006.
More going to independent schools
Independent schools accounted for more than 12.8 per centof the total student population in Australia in 2005, up from 9.7 per cent in 16.
Apprenticeships by any other name
The New Apprenticeships scheme will now be known as Australian Apprenticeships
Minister for Vocational and Technical Education, Gary Hardgrave, said the name change, the colour scheme change and the adoption of the slogan – Your Life. Your Career. Your Future – marked the beginning of a new era.
Mr Hardgrave said the changes were a precursor to a major advertising campaign to promote Australian Apprenticeships in the traditional trades as a prestigious, rewarding career path.
For more information on Australian Apprenticeships call 1800 639 629.
Telstra settles on advertising budget
Testra is to spend $80 million promoting Bigpond and Sensis in the mass media and the internet and has appointed three advertising agencies to advise it.
The three agencies replace Optimedia which had been the responsible agency for the past seven years.
The new arrangements follow interviews with 90,000 customers and an internal management review.
27 June 2006
A More Evolved Sense of
In the early 80s, when I was working in the then Department of Social Security, ‘program management’ was used in a limited sense of ‘to run’ a program. With the advent of the ‘new public management’ it evolved to reflect new styles of operating in the public sector. The use of the term very likely records the shifts and nuanced adjustments that have occurred in public administration in the last two to three decades.
Today, the sense in which I am using ‘program’ describes the overall intervention by the Government which is intended to bring about change that is consistent with a policy position. Welfare to Work, the Regional Partnerships Program, or Australia’s skilled migration program are classic examples.
In this contemporary sense, program management is the discipline of delivering, directly or indirectly, the outcomes and outputs that contribute to achieving a policy objective of the Government - for example, to support elderly people with low income in their retirements; or to assist business and community development in regional areas; or to provide more effective government services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The type of integrated and coherent program management framework that I see evolving in the Australian Public Service operates on two levels: the systemic or public service-wide level, and at the agency level.
At the agency level, officials manage particular programs and work with others to facilitate the delivery of Government policy objectives.
At the systemic level we are seeing a whole of government approach to the monitoring of implementation of Government policy decisions. This is happening through the Cabinet Implementation Unit’s ‘traffic light’ report, and the ‘gateway’ review system being developed by the Department of Finance; a focus across the APS on learning from experience; capability building through development programs, and, importantly, by ensuring greater exposure of people to service delivery and implementation issues.
The discipline imposed by program management not only helps to articulate the relationship between aspects of the program’s outputs, but seeks also to ensure that they are integrated so that ‘the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts’.
A commitment to program management recognises that responsibility for developing and implementing the Government’s major programs often crosses organisational and jurisdictional boundaries, and requires joint agreement about what is to be achieved and how that will happen.
As it has evolved, program management has taken on a ‘change’ focus. The term itself implies, in my view, a responsiveness to the environment (political, social, cultural, strategic) that drives change; but also changes to structures and processes, to a more strategic focus on expected outcomes and, if necessary, to culture - with a clear view to achieving the Government’s policy objective.
For program management to be effective in this new environment, organisations must change to move with it and to deliver on the Government’s objectives.
Active Program Management
What I think this conference reflects is a determination to follow through on a cultural shift that has been taking place in the public sector - where we are finally shaken loose from our silos, where we move past the rhetoric of whole of government working, to what I think of as an active or dynamic form of program management.
What do I mean by active program management? I mean that it isn’t sufficient to simply have the elements of good corporate governance in place - to have ticked the boxes - corporate plan - tick; strategic plan - tick; service charter - tick. Rather, what is required is a framework that actively supports program managers (and project managers below that) to manage their piece of the puzzle and to understand and manage the intersections with other areas of their business. Some of the important elements of such a framework include:
* sophisticated scoping, planning and timing (including business case, setting of milestones etc),
* putting in place appropriate milestones, success criteria, and measures for quality assurance,
* proper and early assessment of risks and strategies for their handling,
* stakeholder management and communications strategy,
* ensuring all the resources are in place (human as well as financial),
* ongoing monitoring to ensure that the program continues to meet its objectives,
* we should also build into the management of our programs:
* consideration of whether the program is having its intended effect and, if not, take corrective action (for example, suggest policy changes or changes to guidelines)
* processes for advising the Minister of progress, developments and outcomes
* measures to achieve efficiencies or improvements in administration of our programs
*audit and evaluation processes, including sound management information systems, to assess how program and project outcomes are shaping up in relation to the objectives of the program,
* given the trend to increasingly work through others for the delivery of Government services, we also need to employ partnership approaches, effective contract design and management and procurement processes, and
* we need to come to grips with the new governance and accountability issues these approaches bring - to find effective ways of marrying vertical and horizontal lines of accountability, and to understand that ultimately (whether we like it or not) accountability for program performance and outcomes still remains with us.
Active program management promotes efficient and effective use of Commonwealth resources, particularly by ensuring that expensive rectification measures - for programs gone wrong - are not required.
We’ve been on a fairly steep learning curve in the APS as the financial management and related skills (including contract management and procurement) expected of us have expanded. I think there’s been a tendency for over-confidence, followed by some predictable fall-out. Financial management is a core competency and has to be managed year in and year out to ensure not only that existing projects are supported, but that new projects - responding to new challenges and new policy directions - can be implemented well.
Program failures, through botched program management, result in damage to the reputation of the APS, and undermine the level of trust in government amongst those that are the focus of the program and among the community more generally.
The snowball effect of unhappy customers equally applies to the public sector as in the private sector - word spreads quickly; therefore active and effective program management is essential.
Programs, in whatever form, are never static. They need to be actively managed with a critical eye for their nuancing and further development or even their replacement by something better - bringing us back to organisational change and project management.
Program Management Capabilities
Peter Shergold describes implementation as the ‘heavy lifting’ - as opposed to policy advising which he says is often seen as the ‘zenith of apolitical courage’. Implementation, he argues, is the point at which ‘courage’ is most needed, undertaken as it is in the public gaze and subject to intense scrutiny. It is the point at which the policy is judged to have succeeded or failed.
It would, therefore, be remiss of me not to refer explicitly to the capabilities that we need in the public sector to achieve the integrated program management and high standard of outcomes we aspire to, and which the Government and the community demands.
Program management requires a diverse set of capabilities, including, but not limited to:
* financial management
* risk management
* contract management
* change management
* relationship management
* strategic management
* project management
* influencing skills
Even a cursory glance at the Senior Executive Leadership Capability (SELC) Framework—the criteria against which senior executives in the Australian Public Service are selected and developed - gives a sense of the wide ranging skill sets required to perform the business of government.
Dynamic and integrated program management doesn’t require a new super-breed of public servant - but we are clearly looking to recruit people with a different and more diverse mix of skills than we have in the past. It is not surprising, then, that the APS has become a ‘graduate’ workforce. Overall, about half of us have graduate qualifications, and 64% of new recruits (who mostly don’t enter through graduate programs) are graduates.
Changing capability requirements are also reflected in the learning and development programs that the Australian Public Service Commission offers. I am committed to the development of programs by the Commission that are responsive to what agencies need, and to supporting agencies align their business objectives with their organisational cultures.
A common thread is the importance of a strong, strategically orientated APS leadership team. The Commission plays a central role in the development of APS leaders and over the next few months I will be unveiling a new suite of leadership programmes for the SES. We have already begun reinvigorating our EL programs to focus more on regulatory activity, service delivery, policy development and program management. I am hoping to launch our new program management training programs by the middle of the year.
Attracting people with the right mix of capabilities is critical to the success of program management in the APS - we need the right people in the right jobs at the right time. A feature64 of the project management approach you will hear about today and tomorrow is the explicit focus on looking at what you’re trying to achieve and actively matching the skills that are required to bring it about. I am very firmly of the view that we need to be much better at this in the public service.
The latest Management Advisory Committee report on managing and sustaining the APS workforce highlights some of the significant challenges we are going to confront in the coming decades, as we respond to population ageing and workforce constraint and as we compete to maintain our specialist and technical skills.
Added to this, though, is the need for public servants to reflect personally on what they can do to align their behaviours and attitudes with the changes evident in modern government program directions, and what they might do to work towards moving the cultures of entire public sector organisations towards greater alignment. It’s this sort of thoughtfulness and action that is necessary, amongst other things, if we are to reach the gaol of an outstanding public service.
Program Management Takeaways
To sum up, the messages that I would like to leave you with about the evolving concept of program management are that:
* Program management seeks to provide coherence in the context of (ever increasing) complexity.
* Program management is a dynamic and integrated process that drives change in order to achieve the Government’s policy objectives.
* Program management provides clarity about the roles of people and agencies, so that responsibilities and accountabilities are also clear.
Program management often requires responsibility and accountability across boundaries.
* Program management helps to identify and resolve tensions between different aspects of a program - including through the alignment of business objectives with organisational culture.
* Program management requires a diverse set of capabilities and active engagement to use them and to change cultures and practices.
* Ultimately, good program management will impact positively on trust in government, citizen engagement and good outcomes for the Australian community.
We are all heading in much the same direction - looking to achieve better alignment of our organisational cultures and business objectives so as to achieve better outcomes for the communities we serve. The language we use to describe what we’re doing will, undoubtedly, vary between agencies to some extent, and more so across jurisdictions and sectors. The fundamental message remains, however, that we must do implementation better and that we can do it better.
20 June 2006
Auditor Finds Holes in PS Net Security
An Auditor-General’s report into the security of Departmental internet services has found serious shortcomings for the second time in five years.
An audit of six sample agencies last year revealed inadequacies in the level of security, enough to prompt the Auditor-General to make five recommendations for improvement.
The latest findings came on top of similar revelations from an audit of 10 agencies undertaken in 2001.
The Auditor accepted that just six agencies represented a small sample, but when combined with the 10 from 2001 and an obvious similarity in the findings, a case could be made for an across-the-board review of all Government agencies and their compliance with standards set out in the Australian Government Protective Security Manual (PSM) and the Australian Government Information and Communications Technology Security Manual (ACSI 33).
The Auditor said that a number of agencies could improve their performance in key areas such as email filtering, while all agencies audited could improve performance in internet security, such as developing system security plans.
He found that while several agencies had initiated business continuity and disaster recovery plans for their internet services, only one had sound plans in place. The other agencies had deficiencies that included dependency on key staff, few documented procedures, documents in draft form and plans not regularly reviewed.
Specific problems identified by the Auditor included inappropriate password management, user account privileges inappropriately administered, no documented procedures for incident detection and response, management of hardware and the use of remote access and hardware not adequately secured.
He also found weaknesses in the management of new technology.
He said for example that policy development and supporting procedures for the introduction of new technology, such as USB keys, was generally poor.
Where it existed, compliance within agencies was also often poor. Personnel in one agency were found to be using USB keys to move data from one system to another without documented controls and one agency had developed procedures for procuring USB keys. He found such procedures were not based on a risk assessment and, accordingly, were incomplete.
Four agencies had outsourced their ICT services and the contracts for two of them were poorly drafted and managed.
In desktop computer standard operating environments, issues included inappropriate access controls, such as users with more access rights than required for their work, personnel able to download information of their choice from the internet, inadequate auditing of system event logs, including logs that did not record and hold sufficient information for auditing of security events and inappropriate levels of system patching.
Among his recommendations was the suggestion that agencies include their internet services in their business continuity and disaster recovery plans and develop business cases for introducing new technology.
Agencies should also develop and implement policies that permit them to block potentially malicious emails.
Each of the six agencies audited agreed with the recommendations.
20 June 2006
Buyers Guide Plugs in to E-Government
A new guide that provides practical assistance to Government agencies procuring goods and services electronically has been issued by the Australian Government Information Management Office.
Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn, said the strategic guide was all about improving efficiency and would encourages agencies to look at what they were doing and how and to consider alternative systems that would result in better use of taxpayers' money.
Mr Nairn said the guide presented an overview of e-procurement within the Australian Government and would cover invoicing and purchasing stationery, computer equipment, professional services and more.
"The electronic alternative may not be the most appropriate for all agencies but in a lot of cases, an automated process will save time and paperwork, minimise double-handling and lower costs," Mr Nairn said.
Each agency in the Australian Government is responsible for its own e-procurement but the guide helped agencies identify specific procurements and related business processes where electronic tools would be beneficial.
Chief Financial Officers and Chief Information Officers of all Australian Government agencies had the chance to comment on the content of the guide.
"This guide demonstrates the Australian Government’s continued commitment to be at the forefront of e-Government, and will assist even the smallest of suppliers who wish to trade electronically with agencies," Mr Nairn said
20 June 2006
Numbers Up in the PS
The number of Public Servants across Australia has continued to grow in the past year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reporting increased workforces at the Commonwealth, State and Territory levels but a slight drop in Local Government.
According to the ABS, the number of employees in the public sector increased by 31,900 in the year to February, taking the total number to 1,622,500.
During that period the number of public sector employees on the Commonwealth payroll grew 2.7 per cent to 255,500; on the States and Territories payrolls by 2.2 per cent to 1.2 million employees but dropped at the Local Government level by 0.6 per cent to 164,300.
Since 2002, the total number of Public Servants had grown by more than 130,000.
The Bureau’s figures showed that the majority of Commonwealth Public Servants were located in the ACT (63,100), followed by NSW (61,500) and Victoria (57,800). These three locations accounted for seven in every 10 Commonwealth Public Servants, the Northern Territory reporting the lowest number at just 3,400.
The Bureau reported NSW as the biggest State Government with 378,200 employees, followed by Victoria with 264,900 and Queensland with 247,600. The ACT Government employed 18,300 staff.
The busiest areas of the public sector were Government Administration and Defence accounting for 442,500 jobs, Education employing 442,100 and Health, 346,400.
20 June 2006
Scientists Defensive Over Nuclear Reaction
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation has defended itself against criticism following a series of minor incidents at the Lucas Heights nuclear facility in Sydney.
The Organisation is disappointed at the reaction from the Federal Opposition which drew parallels between the minor accidents and the safety of the nuclear industry as a whole.
Shadow Minister for Science and Research, Jenny Macklin, said the public had a right to know what was going on at Lucas Heights.
“They have a right to know the nature of the accident that took place,’’ Ms Macklin said in an interview.
“They have a right to know the nature of the radioactive gases that went up through the stack. It is not good enough for that to come out via an email that was put out to staff.”
Ms Macklin said the matter was particularly serious in view of the Prime Minister’s call for a national debate about nuclear power.
According to ANSTO, which operates the Luca Heights facility, the incidents occurred controlled, monitored areas and workers affected were immediately assessed and any necessary treatment administered.
The Organisation said the incidents were so minimal that they were not required to notify its regulator, the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, but it did so anyway. Suggestions that relevant information had not been made public in a timely manner were wrong.
According to ANSTO small amounts of radioactive gases were routinely released into the air and were reported to the public via ANSTO’s annual Environmental Reports. Those reports show that the doses received by the public as a result of those releases were so low as not to be directly measurable.
The reports showed that the total maximum annual estimated dose to a member of the public from the releases was only a very small fraction of the radiation dose received by everyone each year from naturally occurring sources, and much less than the extra dose someone living in Canberra receives as compared to someone living in Sydney
20 June 2006
MPs find mp3 the Answer to Question Time
Parliamentary Question Time has gone hi-tech with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation launching mp3 podcasts of the sometimes-fiery sessions to mark the 60th anniversary of live broadcasting from Parliament House.
ABC Chair, Donald McDonald announced the new service, saying it was an example of the ABC using new technology to expand on a traditional service - the broadcasting of Parliament.
“Question Time is available live on ABC NewsRadio, via internet streaming and now, via podcasting,” Mr McDonald said. “This is part of the ABC's continuing role over the years to engage and involve Australians with the work of the Parliament.
“With podcasting, people can now listen to Question Time wherever and whenever they like.”
Mr McDonald said ever since the first radio broadcast of Parliament on 10 July 1946, the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings had embraced new technology, including online streaming in 19 and now the portable mp3 format.
In 1946 the first live Parliamentary broadcast went out on ABC Radio to all capital cities and Newcastle, with Prime Minister and Treasurer, Ben Chifley, fielding questions about inflation.
In 1988, after substantial pressure from listeners, Parliamentary broadcasts were moved to ABC Radio National, and later that year found a permanent home on the ABC's 'standby' network, which subsequently became ABC NewsRadio in 14.
Today ABC NewsRadio broadcasts live proceedings from both Houses and podcasts both question times.
Mr McDonald said from 14 July when Parliament was next sitting, podcasts of Question Time would be posted at 5pm daily.
20 June 2006
Silverware added to Defence Housing
The Defence Housing Authority (DHA) has won a silver award for its Annual Report.
The Authority took out the honouyr at the 2006 Australasian Reporting Awards for excellence in reporting standards.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence, Sandy Macdonald, said DHA was consistently recognised for its excellence in reporting.
"The award is recognition of its high standards, not only in providing housing and relocation services to members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), but in the way it reports on its activities,” Senator Macdonald said.
Acting Managing Director of DHA, Michael Del Gigante said that as a commercially-focused enterprise, DHA took its reporting obligations and corporate governance very seriously.
“It is rewarding to receive professional recognition for our public accountability and reporting standards,” Mr Del Gigante said.
He said DHA also won gold in the 2006 Institute of Public Administration Australia (IPAA) Awards in May 2006. DHA was the only gold winner in the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act category.
Mr Del Gigante said DHA managed around 17,000 residential properties across Australia which represented about $6 billion in housing stock.
The ARA awards were aimed at improving the standards of reporting in Australia and New Zealand, based on world best practice guidelines in annual reporting.
A copy of DHA’s award-winning Annual Report can be found at www.dha.gov.au
20 June 2006
Fingers do the Walking for eCensus
Australians will be able to fill in and lodge their Census forms online for the first time this year when the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) runs the 2006 Census on Tuesday, 8 August.
In addition to the usual paper census form that will be delivered to every household in a sealed envelope containing a PIN number, householders will also receive a guide on how to fill in the eCensus form online. The ABS expects about 10 per cent of the population, or around 800,000 households, to complete their Census form online.
Testing by the Bureau has shown about 30 per cent of eCensus households (267,000) were likely to complete their form after 6pm on Census night with a further 20 per cent (160,000) likely to complete their form the next day.
Assistant Director, eCensus and Field Communications with the ABS, Peter Clark, is coordinating electronic census lodgement. He said the ABS had written to Internet Service Providers letting them know the eCensus was coming and to ensure there were no unnecessary barriers in place.
. “When we started this project, we really weren't sure how many people might take up the internet option,” Mr Clark said. “The take-up was potentially big, so we made sure the system would be able to handle a high load.”
. He said the introduction of the eCensus option was a result of public expectation to be able to fill their Census form online. The final spur came with the passage of the Electronic Transactions Act of 19, requiring all Australian Government departments to provide the means for the public to interact with the Government electronically.
Mr Clark said the ABS had a very small scale version ready for the 2001 Census but since then the eCensus had been further developed and rigorously tested.
Leading up to each Census, the ABS conducts tests to fine tune procedures. This test program culminates in a dress rehearsal in selected areas around Australia one year before the Census. In the Census dress rehearsal of August 2005, householders were given the eCensus option, resulting in an eight per cent take up. The take up in urban and rural areas was similar.
Mr Clark said New Zealand also used an internet option for its Census in March, with about 7.5 per cent take up.
20 June 2006
ASIO Does the Business with Company Directors
The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) is recruiting businesses in its ongoing fight against terror.
The Director-General of Security, Paul O'Sullivan told the Australian Institute of Company Directors that the threat of terrorism was against the entire Australian community including its business interests both in Australia and abroad.
"So it is appropriate that as an organisation we engage with key elements in the business and wider community," Mr O’Sullivan said.
He said that it was only through such engagement that ASIO could build a better collective understanding of the national threat and Australia’s vulnerabilities and also identify opportunities to work together with business for mutual protection.
Mr O’Sullivan said meeting with business leaders to extend and enhance ASIO's relationship with the private sector was one of his priorities.
"Given the substantial costs incurred by business in seeking to protect themselves, their customers and their employees, I believe it is important that we work together to ensure we are doing the right things in the right way.
"From ASIO's perspective, we are working to develop partnerships with businessthat help decision-makers to understand and respond to security threats in a measured, efficient and effective way."
He said Australians remained at threat both within Australia and around the world and since 2000 there had been at least one aborted, disrupted or actual terrorist attack against Australia and its interests each year.
ASIO's National Threat Assessment Centre continues to assess that a terrorist attack in Australia is feasible and could well occur, Mr O’Sullivan said.
He said the range of potential terrorist targets is limited only by the imagination and creativity of the perpetrators of such attacks.
"In addition to creating physical and psychological harm to the community, they can disrupt or damage economically vital or symbolic components of society."
Australia also faced threats from espionage and foreign interference from nation states seeking to promote their own interests to the detriment of others. This threat was not directed just at Government bodies but could also be focused on business activities, particularly those at the leading edge of their field, he said.
20 June 2006
RAAF Unveils Flight Plan for Bungendore
The Royal Australian Air Force is bracing itself for big changes when it moves into the new Joint Operational Command near Bungendore, NSW in 2008-09.
Under plans revealed in RAAF News the new Command will be responsible for planning, control and conduct of all joint operations and exercises undertaken by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and resulted from the 2005 Wilson review into higher ADF command and control arrangements.
In readiness for the move, an interim headquarters will be established next January, with elements located at a number of facilities including the current Potts Point facility in Sydney and various locations around Canberra.
Under the new arrangements, the Joint Force Air Component (JFAC) will relocate from Headquarters Air Command (HQAC) to Joint Operational Command.
The JFAC organisation, including the Air Operations Centre, will become the Director General Air, located in Canberra.
RAAF News said that in order to establish the new organisation, a number of offsets had been provided from HQAC. This, and the change of Air Command to a solely “Raise, Train and Sustain” organisation, required a restructure for HQAC also.
Despite the changes, a significant Air Force presence will be kept at RAAF Glenbrook as residual elements of HQAC were expected to remain there for at least the next four years.
The Air Force has advised personnel contemplating a posting to HQAC or HQJOC to be aware of the scope of change being undertaken and the potential for positions to be transferred between the commands and the change geographical locations.
20 June 2006
Airways Partnership Takes Off
Airservices Australia has signed up with a German company to exploit air navigation business opportunities in the Middle East and Asia.
The arrangement with German air navigation services provider DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung was announced by Airservices Australia Chief Executive Officer, Greg Russell.
Mr Russell said the two organisations would join forces to pursue aviation business and develop services and proposals for in the Persian Gulf, India and China.
“Both Airservices and DFS have independently identified these regions as major growth areas of the future in airports, air traffic control management and associated airside business,” Mr Russell said.
Chief Executive of DFS Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH, Dieter Kaden said his company was looking forward to the commercial partnership and a raised level of cooperation between two of the world’s leading air navigation services providers.
Mr Kaden said expansion of air traffic and infrastructure development in the three target locations were among the highest in the world with forecasts for India showing international and domestic passenger traffic growth of about 12 per cent annually until 2009, with freight to increase by 10 per cent annually for the next five years.
China’s airports had delivered capacity growth of 13 per cent for the past six years and it was estimated 29 major Chinese airports would reach saturation point by 2010.
Mr Kaden said the organisations have complementary capabilities and joining resources would allow them to quote for larger projects.
He said it would be mutually beneficial to co-operate in identifying prospective customers, preparing business proposals and providing joint services.
Mr Russell said the two partners were already sharing market intelligence and analysis and would develop specific marketing programs over the next six months.
“The initial plan is to organise sales missions into the Gulf region in the next few months in addition to developing strategies to market air traffic control, tower and airside products and services into China and India," he said.
Airservices Australia manages air traffic across 11 per cent of the world's air space. The services it provides include air traffic control, airspace management, aeronautical information, radar communications, radio navigation aids, aviation maintenance and engineering, environmental management and aviation rescue and firefighting.
20 June 2006
Plan for Islanders to Become Vote People
A Parliamentary Committee has recommended that a referendum be held among residents of Australia’s Indian Ocean Territories to decide if they should become citizens of Western Australia.
Parliament's External Territories Committee made the recommendation in a report tabled recently.
The report’s key finding was that the referendum on options for future governance arrangements should be held in the Indian Ocean Territories before the end of June 2009, those options including maintaining current arrangements with some refinement, incorporating the Indian Ocean Territories into Western Australia, or some form of limited self government.
Committee Chair, WA Liberal Senator Ross Lightfoot said it was important to give the people of both Christmas Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands a say in their own future by giving them a chance to vote on options for future governance.
However, he said it was important that aspirations for future governance be based on a realistic assessment of what can be achieved.
“There are limits to the level of autonomy which small isolated communities can attain,” Senator Lightfoot said.
The Parliamentary Committee’s report also addressed concerns within the Indian Ocean Territories communities about their relationship with the Department of Transport and Regional Services which administers the Territories.
Other recommendations of the Committee included expanding the role of the local Shire Councils and reissuing the licence for the Christmas Island Casino. Reopening the Casino was particularly important to the economic future of Christmas Island, the Committee said.
The Committee’s report is at www.aph.gov.au/house/committee/ncet/iotgovernance/report.htm
20 June 2006
More Effort Put Into Energy
The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has set up the Energy Reform Implementation Group (ERIG) to look at further reform of Australia’s energy sector to achieve efficiency and energy security benefits.
The group is to report to COAG before the end of 2006, providing detailed arrangements for achieving a fully national transmission grid.
The plan must include governance and transitional arrangements for a national approach to future development of the grid, legitimate commercial interests of asset owners and the need to promote investment supporting efficient provision of transmission services.
It must also cover measures required to address structural issues affecting the ongoing competitiveness and efficiency of the electricity sector and those needed to ensure transparent and effective financial markets to support energy markets.
Former Chair of the Industry Commission and head of the Victorian Premier’s Department, Bill Scales will chair the group, joined by David Swift from South Australia, Geoff Carmody from Access Economics and Alan Rattray, former Chair of the Southern Hydro Board.
Senior officers of the Australian Energy Market Commission and National Electricity Market Management Company will be ex-officio observers to provide expertise on the physical and regulatory market structures and on energy market reforms.
The group will be supported by a small Commonwealth-State secretariat and will consult widely with stakeholders.
More information is available from www.erig.gov.au.
20 June 2006
Down Under on the Way Up
Young travellers in the United Kingdom have voted Australia as the destination they most want to visit next according to the Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Scott Morrison.
Mr Morrison said the latest Lonely Planet poll revealed young travellers in the UK most wanted to visit Australia as their next destination.
Australia moved up from third place last year, beating the United States, Thailand, Spain, New Zealand, India and Italy.
"A key objective of the ‘So where the bloody hell are you?’ campaign is to generate excitement around Australia as a destination and to refresh Australia in the mind of consumers such as backpackers and other young travellers," Mr Morrison said.
“Recent improvements by the Australian Government to the working holiday visa arrangements are also having a major impact." Young international travellers can now work with one employer for up to six months and extend their study time from three to four months.
Mr Morrison said young travellers were a key market with their high dispersal and length of stay delivering immediate economic benefits to regional, rural and remote communities around Australia.
“We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that these young people continue to make Australia their number one destination in the world," he said.
20 June 2006
Art Attack the Way to Wellbeing
The Australia Council for the Arts is to focus on community wellbeing in a new program of cultural and artistic pursuits spanning five Local Government areas in three States.
The Council will provide $780,000 over three years for its “Generations Program” that will support initiatives in Dalrymple in Queensland, Liverpool in New South Wales and Geelong, Latrobe Valley and Wangaratta in Victoria.
The program is an initiative of the Victorian Cultural Development Network in partnership with the local councils in three states. It aims to create sustainable community and civic engagement through the arts and cultural activities.
Chief Executive of the Australia Council, Jennifer Bott said Generations would foster community engagement through the arts and build effective partnerships with the community sector and other spheres of Government, especially at the local level.
“The insight we gain from this important investment in community building will help shape future public policy in the arts, Local Government and community engagement;” Ms Bott said. “It will have a profound impact on the future of the arts in Australia."
The five projects are:
* Dalrymple Shire: Connecting Through Three Generations of Time will use arts and cultural activities to bring together landholders and non-landholders from the local Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities to address local social and economic issues.
* City of Greater Geelong: Geelong Trilogy: Identities will celebrate the municipality's diverse communities - rural, suburban, industrial and sophisticated city centre. Residents will be encouraged to explore the city’s past and future through storytelling, exhibitions, public art, music and other activities.
* Latrobe City: Green Expectations will use arts and cultural activities to engage the community with the city’s Latrobe 2021 plan. The strategy will include a greenhouse, revegetation and community engagement action plan.
* City of Liverpool: Refill is a mentoring project targeting at risk and disadvantaged youth in the suburb of Miller. It will guide participants toward careers in the music industry and create other work/life opportunities.
* Rural City of Wangaratta: Still life will engage people in Wangaratta in developing a series of performance artworks. It will challenge current perceptions of residents and non-residents that the city’s ageing population negatively affects the community’s profile and as a result, its social and economic growth.
The Victorian Cultural Development Network will coordinate the program, set to commence in August 2006.
20 June 2006
Paper is First Move in Card Game
The first discussion paper on the proposed Health and Social Services Access Card has been released by the Chairman of the card’s Consumer and Privacy Taskforce, Professor Allan Fels.
Unveiling the paper, Professor Fels said it aimed at initiating and informing public debate about the issues relating to the card because such a scheme could only be introduced successfully if there was adequate public trust in what the Government was doing.
The Access Card Consumer and Privacy Taskforce was established to provide independent advice to the Minister for Human Services about how consumers would use the card and its privacy considerations. Professor Fels said the taskforce expected to release further discussion papers during the consultation period, claiming that public input into the taskforce’s work was “vital.”
Submissions on the matters raised in the discussion paper would be accepted until 27 July, but further opportunities to comment would be available as consultation continued into 2007.
Professor Fels said the taskforce had identified key questions to be addressed immediately, including how any new card could be prevented from evolving into a national identity card; the administrative or legislative basis for the new card; the impact on personal privacy of introducing an access card; and the consumer benefits or otherwise of having an access card.
“I detect a degree of concern that this new card might somehow evolve into a national identity card by the backdoor – a sort of Australia Card Mark II,” Professor Fels said.
“While the Government has given assurances that this is not intended, specific measures may be needed.”
He said one such measure could be to ensure that the new card was introduced only if appropriate legislation is passed, ensuring transparency in process and allowing public debate about all aspects of the Government's proposals.
"It would, I believe also enhance public trust and confidence in the proposed system," he said.
The taskforce would also examine the extent to which existing legislation already contained safeguards and also whether it unduly prevented consumers from benefiting from the card.
“Another requirement will be to achieve early confirmation of the proposed card's architecture so that it could not be developed beyond the intended scope," Professor Fels said
"This may need to be balanced against the need to have some additional capacity in the card for future uses which are consistent with its original purpose but no more.”
Copies of the paper were available by ringing 1300 664 589 and submissions can be sent to the Access Card Consumer and Privacy Taskforce, PO Box 3959, Manuka, ACT 2603 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
20 June 2006
New Book the Cure for Drug problems
A new book that draws on real experiences to help families battling with drug addiction has been launched by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, Christopher Pyne.
The book, In My Life, examines drug addiction, the situations of families dealing with it, and the challenges confronting those helping family members.
Mr Pyne said the Government aims to ensure families affected by drug use, and those who seek to help family members through drug treatment, are provided with effective, relevant information and support.
"We believe this book will provide that support," he said. "It uses personal stories to provide a valuable insight into families who choose to continue to support family members who have drug problems, and help them on the often tortuous journey of treatment."
Mr Pyne said a research study in 2004 had found that a book of family experiences would prove valuable for families dealing with drug issues.
The book was written from interviews conducted by Moya Sayer-Jones and produced by a consortium of three organisations, LMS Consulting, UnitingCare Burnside NSW, and Family Drug Support.
20 June 2006
NHMRC gets new members
Nineteen new members have been appointed to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) for three years to 30 June 2009.
The Council has a new Chief Executive in Professor Warwick Anderson who started in the position on 7 June, and Professor Michael Good of Queensland is Chair.
Other appointees are Professor James Best as Chairman of the Research Committee; Professor Colin Thomson, Chairman of the Australian Health Ethics Committee (AHEC); Professor Colin Masters ,Chairman of the National Health Committee (NHC); Professor Ronald Trent, Chairman of the Human Genetics Advisory Committee; and Professor Jock Findlay, Chairman of the Embryo Research Licensing Committee (Licensing Committee).
Other members are Associate Professor Cindy Shannon; Associate Professor Christopher Newell; Professor Tim Davis and Dr Colin Sutton.
Ex-officio council members include Professor John Horvath, the Commonwealth Government Chief Medical Officer; Dr Denise Robinson, Chief Health Officer, NSW; Dr Robert Hall: Chief Health Officer, Victoria; Dr Jeannette Young: Chief Health Officer, Queensland; Professor Christopher Baggoley: Chief Medical Officer, South Australia; Dr Simon Towler: Acting Chief Medical Officer, WA; Dr David Boadle: Chief Health Officer, Tasmania; Dr Paul Dugdale: Chief Health Officer, ACT; Dr Tarun Weeramanthri, Chief Health Officer, NT.
Card taskforce named
Former Liberal Senator and Privacy Commissioner Chris Puplick and ex-deputy Ombudsman John Wood have joined the taskforce to implement community consultation on the Government’s proposed Access Card .
Their appointments were announced by the chairman of the Access Card Consumer and Privacy Taskforce, Professor Alan Fels.
Professor Fels said the taskforce would soon be releasing a discussion paper to consumer and privacy groups with an invitation to comment.
Dancing star back on the Board
Suzan Williams has been reappointed to the Australia Council’s Dance Board for a further two years.
Minister for the Arts, Senator Rod Kemp said Ms Williams was a talented dancer, teacher and choreographer who had worked with dance companies like Darc Swan and the Queensland Ballet.
Senator Kemp said the Dance Board was responsible for supporting the development of Australian dance as a vibrant art form which was relevant and accessible to all communities.
Engineer back at National Museum
Benjamin Chow has been reappointed to the Council of the National Museum of Australia after serving one three year term.
Arts Minister Senator Rod Kemp announced the reappointment saying Mr Chow was a civil engineer and past president of the Australian Chinese Community Association of New South Wales and is Chair of the Council for Multicultural Australia.
More join nuclear taskforce
The Prime Minister has announced three new members of his taskforce looking into mining and processing of uranium and the longer term contribution of nuclear energy in Australia.
He said Sylvia Kidziak, Martin Thomas and Arthur Johnston would join the taskforce, already made up of Chariman, Ziggy Switkowski, and Professors George Dracoulis and Warwick McKibbin.
Ms Kidziak is Chairman of the Radiation Health and Safety Council that advises the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency; Mr Thomas is Chairman of Dulhunty Power Limited and a Director of EnvroMission Limited; and Dr Johnston was the Supervising Scientist with Environment Australia, from 19 until 2005.
The Prime Minister also announced that the taskforce secretariat would be headed up by Deputy Secretary of the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, John Ryan.
20 June 2006
New AAT registry
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal’s registry in Perth has been given new purpose-built offices including an additional hearing room as well as new audio and video conferencing facilities.
The premises also include facilities for the disabled and families on the hearing room floor and provide accommodation for a WA member of the Migration Review Tribunal or the Refugee Review Tribunal.
Universities team up with Defence
Thirteen Australian universities have agreed to participate in the Australian Defence Force Higher Education Advanced Standing scheme.
The ADFHEAS is a scheme in which defined, completed education and training provided by Defence might be accepted as credit towards specific university-awarded qualifications.
The Universities involved are the ANU, Australian Catholic University, Charles Darwin University, Charles Sturt University, Macquarie University, Swinburne University of Technology, Adelaide University, the Universities of Canberra, Newcastle, South Australia, Southern Queensland, Sunshine Coast and Victoria.
Royal Commissions Act Amended
Amendments to the Royal Commissions Act 1902 have been made in response to a request by Terence Cole QC, the Commissioner enquiring into Certain Australian Companies in Relation to the UN Oil-for-Food Program.
The amendments put beyond doubt a Commissioner’s power to test a witness’s claim of legal professional privilege in respect of a document.
The amendments will have immediate effect to assist Commissioner Cole with his Enquiry.
Grant for Navy Museum
The Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum has received $187,000 from the Regional Partnerships program for much-needed extensions to allow it to exhibit more items from the Department of Defence.
First established nearly 30 years ago, the Museum’s main exhibit is a Las Balsa raft from the 1973 trans-Pacific Expedition but the Department is unable to loan more items to the museum because it does not meet display environment and security requirements.
The policy will be reconsidered when the extensions are complete.
New DOTARS website
The Department of Transport and Regional Services has redesigned its website.
Apart from a new look, DOTARS has restructured information and menus along functional lines to assist general users find information more easily and intuitively.
Everything that used to be on the old DOTARS website is still there, though some content may have been enhanced through the redevelopment process. The new site is at www.dotars.gov.au
Sub builder reaches milestone
The Australian Submarine Corporation (ASC Pty Ltd) is 21 years old.
Established in 1985, ASC was chosen in 1987 as the prime contractor for the design, manufacture, upgrade and delivery of the Royal Australian Navy’s fleet of Collins Class submarines and in last year, was chosen to build the Navy’s Air Warfare Destroyers.
But now the company, which is majority-owned by private investors, is to be sold.
Thew Government has commissioned a scoping study to assist it in deciding when and how to sell the company.
Point Nepean wins heritage listing
Victoria’s Point Nepean has been added to the National Heritage List in recognition of the site’s heritage value to the nation.
Point Nepean played an important role in Australia’s coastal defences and quarantine protection and will benefit from a $27 million injection of funds for conservation protection and rehabilitation.
Sport and War tour at War Memorial
The Australian War Memorial is to conduct a 60-minute, curator-led tour of its exhibition Sport and War starting at 2pm on 25 June, the final day of the exhibition.
Bookings are essential on (02) 6243 4363.
The Australian Army has 73 new officers following a graduation ceremony at the Royal Military College, Duntroon.
The Queen’s Medal was awarded to cadet Brendan Gardiner and the Sword of Honour to cadet Matthew Sherry.
Choppers for the chop
The Royal Australian Navy is to replace its ageing Sea Kings helicopters with 34 Eurocopter Multi-Role Helicopter 90s in a contract worth $2 billion.
20 June 2006
The 41st Parliament: Middle-Aged,
Well-Educated and (mostly) Male
Academics have long argued over the extent to which our elected representatives should mirror their population. New research from Sarah Miskin and Martin Lumb of the Politics and Public Administration Section, Information and Research Services, Parliamentary Library, examine the biographical details of the 226 senators and members of the 41st Australian parliament.
Australia is a representative democracy in which citizens elect senators and members to represent them in parliament. Academics have long argued over the extent to which such representatives can - or should – “mirror” their populations. In Australia, as in other Western liberal democracies, politics traditionally has been the domain of white, middle-aged men. Although there are now more women in the national parliament, and a greater degree of ethnic diversity among its members, parliament still cannot be said to “mirror” the Australian population.
This research examines the biographical details of the 226 senators and members of the 41st Parliament, as contained in the 30th edition of the Parliamentary Handbook of the Commonwealth of Australia (2005). It outlines the age, qualifications, previous employment and length of parliamentary service of the current politicians. It shows that, generally, they are middle-aged, well-educated men, many of whom have worked in politics-related occupations immediately before being elected. It concludes with an overview of the debate about the increase in the number of “professional politicians” in parliament.
Composition of the 41st Parliament
As at the time of writing, the composition of the 41st Parliament was as follows:
H of R
In total, there are 162 men and 64 women: 49 men and 27 women in the Senate and 113 men and 37 women in the House of Representatives. Women comprise 28.3 per cent of the parliament, which is a smaller percentage than the 32.7 per cent average across state and territory parliaments. It is, however, a slight increase on the 40th Parliament, which comprised 26.5 per cent women at its dissolution.
Age: middle-aged spread
While the definition of “middle-aged” often depends on the age of the person using the term, in this research it is used to describe those in the 45-59 age bracket. The number in this group in the 41st Parliament gives credence to the claim that politics is the domain of the middle-aged. As can be seen in Figure 1, 134 of the 226 members (59 per cent) are middle-aged, with 57 (25 per cent) aged 44 or younger and 35 (15 per cent) aged 60 or older.
The youngest parliamentarian is Kate Ellis (Labor), who was 27 years old when elected to the seat of Adelaide in October 2004, and the oldest is Wilson Tuckey (Liberal), who was 69 when he was re-elected to the seat of O’Connor in 2004.
The average age is 50.6 years. In contrast to earlier parliaments, today’s senators are not considerably older than their counterparts in the lower house: the difference between the two averages is only 0.5 or six months. The average age of those in the Senate is 50.8 years while the average age of those in the House is 50.3 years. Figure 2 reveals that the age distribution is similar across both chambers, although there is a peak in the early middle-age bracket (age 45–49) in the Senate that is not seen in the House.
Looking at the age distribution by party, on average Labor members of parliament are slightly younger than their Coalition colleagues: the average age of Labor members is 48.8 years while the average age of Coalition members is 51.7 years.
Figure 3 shows that the largest differences between the parties occur in the 50–54 and the 60–64 age brackets. Labor has more people in the younger group (28 per cent of its members are in this age bracket compared to 14 per cent of the Coalition’s members) while the Coalition has more people in the older group (16 per cent as opposed to Labor’s 4 per cent).
It may be that the significant differences between parties in terms of the occupational backgrounds of their members can account for these variations (see the discussion below).
Qualifications: an educated group
The most common field of qualification is what the Handbook categorises as “general”, which includes those degrees where the major field of study has not been specified (for example, Arts degrees and doctorates). Of the 323 qualifications, there are 92 in the “general” category, 66 in law, 36 in economics/commerce, 35 in education, 16 in administration and 11 in health (see Figure 5). The final 67 fall into the “other” category, which includes such subjects as accountancy and engineering.
More than three-quarters of the members of the current parliament have post-secondary school qualifications. In total, 177 of the 226 politicians (78 per cent) have such qualifications. (Fellowships, memberships, and associates of professional or other bodies are not counted.)
There is little difference between the chambers or between the parties: 80 per cent of the senators and 77 per cent of the members of the House of Representatives have post-secondary qualifications; 78 per cent of Labor’s members and 77 per cent of the Coalition’s members have such qualifications. Within the Coalition, more Liberals (81 per cent) have post-secondary qualifications than do their counterparts from The Nationals (53 per cent).
Between them, the 177 politicians hold 323 qualifications. The following breakdown explores the composition of the qualifications, looking at the total number of qualifications rather than the individuals who hold them or the highest qualification that each person holds. The most common qualification is a Bachelor degree, of which there are 196. In addition, there are six doctorates, 39 Masters degrees, 10 graduate diplomas, 36 “other” diplomas, and 36 “other” professional/certificate qualifications (see Figure 4).
A breakdown of the fields of qualification by party reveals differences in three areas (see Figure 6):
• Labor members have more “general” qualifications than their Coalition counterparts (36 per cent to 23 per cent)
• Coalition members have
• Labor members have more “education” qualifications than their Coalition counterparts (17 per cent to 6 per cent).
Employment: working towards parliament
The Handbook data on the “previous occupation” of members of the 41st Parliament describes the jobs that they held immediately before their election to the Commonwealth Parliament. It does not say how long members held these jobs before they entered parliament, nor does it include details of any earlier employment. (The latter can be found in the individual entries in the biographies section of the Handbook.) As a result, there are limits to some of the conclusions that can be drawn, as will be outlined below.
The current parliament includes 29 people who worked in the legal profession, 55 who were in business, 14 who were in the farming industry, 43 who worked in areas including the public service, academia and the health profession, and 85 who worked in politics-related jobs. The latter category includes those who worked for a party or union, or a political lobbying or consultancy firm, or in a political research or electorate office position. This group comprises 38 per cent, or more than a third, of the total parliament. Figure 7 shows the occupations as percentages, with politics-related jobs separated into the divisions described in Tables 1 and 2.
The Handbook sorts occupations into three categories: managers and administrators (153), professionals (69), and other (4). The third category includes a motivational speaker, a public servant (not elsewhere included), and two real estate agents. The divisions in the first two categories are given in Tables 1 and 2.
Table 1. Managers and administrators
Looking at the previous employment of members of the 41st Parliament by chamber shows that those who have been “party and union administrators and officials” are much more prevalent in the Senate: 26 per cent of senators held such jobs immediately before entering parliament compared to only 8 per cent of lower house members (see Figure 8; for the purposes of this comparison, some of the employment categories have been conflated). “Business executives, managers, etc” and “members of State/Territory legislatures” are more likely to hold seats in the lower house.
Table 2. Professionals
Business executives, managers, self-employed businesspeople, company directors, etc.
Farmers, graziers and other (full-time) primary producers
Members of state/territory legislatures
Party and union administrators
Political consultants, advisers and lobbyists
Public service/policy administrators
Barristers, solicitors, lawyers, legal officers, etc
Lecturers, professors, tutors
Medical practitioners, dentists, nurses
Party and union officials
Researchers, research assistants, electoral and project officers
Figure 7. Occupation, total (percentage)
A breakdown by party reveals a considerable difference in the backgrounds of Coalition and Labor members (see Figure 9). Nearly 70 per cent of Labor’s parliamentary members held politics-related jobs immediately before entering parliament, whereas less than 20 per cent of the Coalition’s members did so (67 per cent to 16 per cent).
Not surprisingly, given the underlying philosophy of each party, the largest difference occurs in the “party and union administrators and officials” category: 34 per cent of the Labor members held such jobs, compared to just 2 per cent of their Coalition colleagues. The figures are reversed, though with a smaller percentage point spread, in the “business executives/managers, etc” category: 33 per cent of the Coalition members held jobs in this category compared to 11 per cent of their Labor counterparts.
As noted above, it could be that this difference in occupational backgrounds partially explains the variations in age distribution; it may be that Coalition members enter parliamentary politics later in life, after they have reached senior levels in the business world. Evidence in the next section supports this hypothesis in that Coalition politicians serve similar terms in office to their Labor colleagues, and not longer terms that would take them into the older age bracket.
Length of service: a 12-year itch?
Of the 226 members, nearly three-quarters (163 or 72 per cent) have served 9-12 years or less; just over one-quarter (63 or 28 per cent) have served 12-15 years or more (see Figure 10).3 Of this latter group, 43 (or 19 per cent of the total) have served 12–18 years and only six (or 3 per cent of the total) have served 25 years or more. The longest serving member in the 41st Parliament is Philip Ruddock, who has been in the House of Representatives for 32 years.
The length of service in each chamber is fairly similar, except for the shortest period - less than three years (see Figure 11). Nearly one-quarter of the senators (22 per cent) have served less than three years compared to only one-sixth (15 per cent) of their lower house counterparts. This difference reflects that, as a result of resignations and defeats, the 2004 election resulted in the largest intake of new senators since 1987.
Looking at length of service by party, the largest difference occurs in the 6-9 years bracket: 24 per cent of Labor’s politicians have served 6-9 years compared to 13 per cent of their Coalition colleagues (see Figure 12). The difference probably reflects the entrance of a new group of Labor politicians in 18 when the large margin between the parties after the Coalition’s win in 16 narrowed.
The length-of-service statistics suggest that being a parliamentarian is a relatively short career - generally lasting no more than 12 years - for politicians of all political hues.
Members of the 41st Parliament tend to be middle-aged, well-educated men, who are likely to have been employed in politics-related occupations, business or law before entering parliament in the last decade.
The high proportion from politics-related backgrounds suggests that those who argue that “the professional political class has taken over our national Parliament” may be correct, especially given that the statistics presented in this research count only those who worked in political fields immediately before their election and not those who have worked in politics at any point in their careers. An examination of the latter group may reveal that the difference between Labor and the Coalition is not as great as it first appears.
Some people have expressed concern at the apparent rise in the number of “professional politicians”. Prime Minister John Howard has warned of the “danger for both parties” of a “narrowing of the gene pool” for political candidates to those “whose only life experience has been working in politics”. In a similar vein, Labor MP Carmen Lawrence has queried the level of representation that can be achieved when candidates do not mirror society and “are not even remotely typical of the wider society, even using crude indicators such as: age, gender, income and occupation.
However, others have argued that long engagement in political activity may create the best politicians. Former Victorian Liberal Party state president Michael Kroger has observed:
… it is much harder to determine whether a self employed dentist will make a good politician than it would be to determine whether a union official or an employer spokesman may make a success of a political career.
In a spirited defence of parliamentarians with party, union and other political backgrounds, Labor’s national secretary, Tim Gartrell, notes that such people bring valuable skills and experience to parliament.
Given the steady decline in membership of political parties and unions, it may be that future debate focuses less on the “professional politician” and more on the decreasing size of the pool from which tomorrow’s politicians can be drawn.
*For a more detailed breakdown of the statistics given in this Note, see pp. 308–24 of the Handbook.
Sarah Miskin and Martin Lumb
Politics and Public Administration Section
Information and Research Services
Except to the extent of the uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means including information storage and retrieval systems, without the prior written consent of the Department of Parliamentary Services, other than by senators and members of the Australian Parliament in the course of their official duties.
This brief has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Information and Research Service, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.
© Commonwealth of Australia 2006
13 June 2006
Staff Cuts are Go to Woe for 500 ACT Public Servants
Up to 500 members of the Australian Capital Territory Public Service face redundancy or the sack as the ACT Government slashes staff to save $187 million over four years.
ACT Chief Minister and Treasurer, Jon Stanhope announced the cuts during his Budget speech, saying a range of consolidations, eliminations and reductions would help ensure more taxpayers’ dollars reached their intended destination.
He said in a climate where budgetary restraint was required across a number of fronts, there was “community clamour” for a greater range and quality of Government services and it was “essential we strive for the greatest possible efficiency from the agencies that deliver those services”
Among the measures Mr Stanhope said would be implemented to reach that goal were:
- The creation of a shared services centre for delivering corporate function to the Government;
- Absorbing a number of independent commissions and bodies into mainstream departments
- Reduction in the number of boards and committees
- Replacing 6-cylinder vehicles in the Government fleet with 4-cylinder models and reducing the size of the fleet, and
- Rationalising office accommodation to achieve savings
Mr Stanhope confirmed the Government’s superannuation employer contribution for new employees would be 9 nine per cent, down from the 15.4 per cent for existing employees.
Mr Stanhope said as a small city-state, the ACT needed to maintain a public sector that was appropriate to its size and capacity.
“The ACT’s public sector costs are on average 20 to 25 per cent higher than the national average,” Mr Stanhope said. “And in most cases the outcomes don’t fully reflect this additional expenditure.”
The Budget cuts were condemned by the Community and Public Sector Union, which said they amounted to a “triple whammy” of job cuts, superannuation cuts and structural reforms that would seriously affect ACT Government staff and the people of Canberra.
“In addition to the 500 positions lost to the ACTPS this financial year, the Chief Minister has confirmed there will be at least another 500 jobs lost over the next 12 months through ‘natural attrition and voluntary separations’,” the Union said.
They described the cut in superannuation contributions a “Super Mistake” saying it would undermine the ACT PS’s ability to attract and retain decent staff.
“Interestingly the Government did not reduce new politicians' superannuation down to 9% as they did for new Public Servants.
“This leaves ACT Government politicians with a much higher taxpayer funded superannuation contribution than any other State or Territory.”
13 June 2006
Honours Reveal Her Majesty’s Pleasure
Outstanding service by a small number of distinguished achievers in the Australian Public Service has been rewarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
Those recognised for fine work with a Public Service Medal were:
Stephen John ARNOTT, Duffy, ACT. For outstanding public service in reforming the governance and funding arrangements for orchestras in Australia.
David John BAIRD, Barton, ACT, For outstanding public service in the fields of marine pollution response, ship safety, search and rescue operations and global distress and safety systems.
Brian David CASSIDY, Gordon, ACT. For outstanding public service in the conception, development and application of national competition policy.
Dennis William GEBBIE, Garran, ACT. For outstanding public service in promoting Australia's agricultural trade and international economic interest, including successful negotiations on Free Trade Agreements with Thailand and Singapore.
Brent Lewis HALL OAM, Mawson, ACT. For outstanding public service as Consul-General in Bali, particularly in relation to the consular assistance he provided to victims and their families in the aftermath of the bombings in
Mark ISHERWOOD, Sydney, NSW. For Outstanding public service in the provsion of national security advice.
Wayne Smithers JACKSON, Melba, ACT. For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of social policy, particularly in relation to recent reform of child support arrangements
Elizabeth Anne MASAMUNE, Ormond, Vic. For outstanding public service in furthering the business expansion of Australian companies in Asian markets.
Paul John McCARTHY, Latham, ACT. For outstanding public service in the development of price statistics, both in Australia and internationally.
Geoffrey Angus McDONALD, Canberra ACT. For outstanding public service in the development of the Australian Government's legislative response to terrorism.
David Peter SCUDDS, Dundas Valley, NSW. For outstanding public service in assisting homeless men overcome the barriers to participation in training and employment.
James Edward SMYTHE, Narrabundah, ACT. For outstanding public service in the development and implementation of the legislative framework governing workplace relations in Australia.
Emilija TODOROVA, Parramatta, NSW. For outstanding public service in the delivery of services to the people of Western Sydney which have built community capacity and assisted women to become self sufficient.
Nicholas Peter WARNER, Bywong, NSW. For outstanding public service as High Commissioner to Port Moresby, Special Coordinator for the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands and leader of the Emergency Response Team which dealt with the kidnapping in Baghdad of Mr Douglas Wood.
In addition a number of talented and selfless staff were also honoured for their service across a wide range of fields.
PS News congratulates these and all other recipients of awards and honours in the Public Service.
13 June 2006
Dial R for Telco Regulation Says ACCC Commissioner
Regulation of the Australian telecommunications sector was crucial for its development according to a commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Ed Willett.
Mr Willett has told a Sydney conference that the balanced and considered regulation of telecommunications in Australia would promote competition and lead to the benefits of technological advancement being realised and sustained over many years.
Mr Willett said that competition in broadband services had led to Australia recording one of the highest per capita subscriber growth rates in 2005 with almost 14 subscribers per 100 inhabitants, a level of penetration just in excess of the OECD average and which ranked Australia 17th among OECD countries.
Four countries now had penetration rates above 25 subscribers per 100 inhabitants.
Mr Willett said these developments had helped Australia overcome perceptions that it lagged the world in adopting high-speed broadband services.
"While there has been growth in broadband services across all access technologies, access via the traditional copper loop remains the dominant technology, with almost 80 per cent of broadband services," he said. "This dominance is unlikely to change, at least for the short to medium term."
Mr Willett noted the rapid uptake of broadband in recent years had been driven by lower prices rather than higher speeds and a larger range of services;
There are high speed services already on the market, with firms such as iiNet and Optus offering consumers ADSL services of around 20-24Mbps via access to the unconditioned local loop (ULL) service. He said the potential expansion of broadband offers using ULL services had been the key driver of competition in broadband.
"There is a wide degree of variability in the technical challenges associated with providing broadband services across different geographic locations, with different demographics, which substantially affected the economics of providing services."
"While much of the current debate has shifted towards the need for higher broadband speeds, there remains a great deal of scope for further growth in competitively priced broadband services.
"Furthermore, fibre is not the only available broadband technology, and it is far from clear whether it is the most appropriate technology across the broad range of areas in which Australians live and work," he said.
13 June 2006
Customs All at Sea Over Import Hold-ups
A consultant’s report into problems caused by a new Customs computer system prior to last Christmas has found a number of faults with the installation, training and testing of the $200 million project.
A five-week study into the delays and problems experienced by importers interacting with Customs’ Integrated Cargo System which was implemented in October last year found it had been introduced with inadequate testing, lacked a staged implementation process, suffered from inadequate training and experienced problems with third party software which was used to communicate with it.
The system’s demand for high-quality information and delays in processing led to a large backlog of container ships in the weeks leading up to Christmas, causing importers to suffer what the report called “grave difficulties.”
The problems were resolved by mid-December and the backlog eased but not before widespread concern and criticism from the community.
According to the report, the original objectives for the system were unsatisfactory and had yet to be achieved. It said the objectives were “visionary, yet very general and poorly defined” and “insofar as they can be quantified, these objectives have been only partially achieved to date.’’
The report said there had been no noticeable improvement in Customs’ performance as a result of introducing ICS and made a series of recommendations which have been welcomed by Customs and accepted in full.
Chief Executive of the Australian Customs Service, Michael Carmody, said the Service would work with industry to see ICS reach its full potential.
He said a new position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer would be created to deliver the recommendations in the report.
“Quite clearly a significant proportion of industry experienced problems following the introduction of the imports component of ICS,’’ Mr Carmody said. “Customs acknowledges there are things that it could have done to make the implementation smoother.”
He said although compensation for companies caught up in the problems was not a focus of the report, Customs was close to finalising its position on the majority of claims it had received.
13 June 2006
Xena Joins Archives’ Battle For Digital Files
The National Archives of Australia has released an innovative software application that it hopes will be the answer to one of the key challenges in the digital age — obsolescence.
Speaking at the Chief Information Officer Forum in Canberra, Director-General of Archives, Ross Gibbs said that the software titled Xena (XML Electronic Normalising of Archives) would ensure Australia’s digital heritage survived into the future.
"As the official custodian of Commonwealth records, the Archives has a significant role to play in ensuring the preservation and accessibility of digital records well beyond their creation," Mr Gibbs said.
“In 2002 the Archives determined that digital records of archival value, created in any format, were to be preserved. This principle has guided our research and development of software and hardware infrastructure to support digital preservation," he said.
This year the research and development culminated in a working prototype of a digital archive, including Xena, which converts digital file formats into a small number of open formats based on XML.
Director of Digital Records at Archives, Cornel Platzer said we interacted with digital technology at work and in our private lives every day.
Rapid change in technology meant that we quickly experienced the benefits but there was a downside - software and hardware obsolescence, Ms Platzer said.
"Imagine that you wanted to read a digital document created 20 years ago," she said. "The record would have been created on a personal computer running DOS (a common operating system at the time) using something like WordStar, an early word-processing application."
“You might have saved the record to a floppy – but PCs 2006-style don’t read floppies!”
The National Archives’ digital preservation facilities comprised a secure environment housing processing networks, a digital archive, and a separate laboratory for staff. The facilities are located in two access-controlled and network isolated rooms, with a back-up power supply, environmental monitoring and a fire suppression system.
13 June 2006
Scientists Shine at Defence Awards
Awards which recognise the outstanding achievements of DSTO scientists in international defence science programs were presented by Senator MacDonald.
Dr Tony Lindsay has won the 2005 Minister's Award for Achievement in Defence Science for his work protecting Australian Defence Force (ADF) aircraft against electronic warfare threats.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence Senator Sandy Macdonald announced the award, saying Dr Lindsay from the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO), had provided invaluable technical leadership over six years on an Australia-United States project that was one of the largest joint research and development efforts between the two countries.
"Dr Lindsay’s many years of dedication and scientific leadership have made a major difference to the Australian Air Force’s capability in electronic warfare, particularly its development of countermeasures," Senator Macdonald said.
Dr Lindsay’s team had developed new technologies boosting RAAF capacity to analyse and test the performance of electronic warfare systems in complex environments, protect our aircraft by detecting threats such as missiles and launch countermeasures to jam or lure the threat away from the aircraft.
"His team had developed world-leading capabilities such as microwave photonics and advanced laser technologies which show great promise for integration into next generation aircraft such as the Joint Strike Fighter," Senator Macdonald said.
Dr Lindsay is Australia’s defence science counsellor in Washington.
Senator Macdonald also presented international awards for excellence in defence science to DSTO researchers as part of the Anglo-Australian Memorandum of Understanding on Science and Technology (AAMOST) and The Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP).
He said AAMOST was Australia’s major means of implementing joint defence research projects with the British Ministry of Defence. Currently there were 48 joint research projects under AAMOST.
"The AAMOST Awards are highly valued because they are only given when a rare and outstanding achievement is to be recognised," Senator Macdonald said.
The AAMOST Award was presented to Dr Miro Dubovinsky and Efisio Mancini for their significant contribution to the protection of aircraft against guided missiles. Their research considered how jet engine plumes affect lasers used to defend against infrared-guided missiles.
Senator Macdonald also presented TTCP awards to 10 DSTO researchers:
Dr Wyman Zhang for developing new technologies to reduce damage to aircraft engines from foreign objects;
Dr Ralph Gailis for producing a comprehensive database, crucial in developing computer models to predict the dispersion of chemical and biological agents in urban environments;
Dr Todd Mansell, Garry Brown, Gregory Denehy, Dr Samuel Huff and Peter Trenorden for developing the infrastructure and experimentation process that has led to improved command, control and information management in coalition network-centric maritime warfare;
Dr John Thornton, Sonya Slater and David Rowlands for developing non-destructive techniques to assess the degradation of thermal barrier coatings, thus improving the durability of the hot sections of gas turbine engines in military aircraft.
13 June 2006
Uncivil Attack on Civil Unions
The Federal Government has threatened to overturn a law passed in the Australian Capital Territory that legalises “civil unions” of same sex couples. The ACT Government has defended its position by bringing forward the date of effect of its legislation.
Commonwealth Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock announced the Government’s intention to invalidate the ACT’s Civil Unions Act 2006, describing it as a radical law.
“The Commonwealth Marriage Act makes it clear marriage is the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others,’’ Mr Ruddock said. “This definition, which reflects the traditional understanding of marriage, was passed into law with bipartisan support in 2004.”
He said the ACT Civil Unions Act 2006 created a statutory scheme for the recognition of relationships which bore a striking similarity to the Commonwealth’s regulation of marriage.
He said Section 5(2) of the Civil Unions Act stated that a civil union was different from a marriage but was to be treated for all purposes under Territory law in the same way as a marriage.
Mr Ruddock accused ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope of consistently misrepresenting the intent of the legislation and had acknowledged as much with his recent amendments to the draft bill.
“Despite his public assurances to the contrary, this legislation has always been a cynical attempt by the Chief Minister to undermine the institution of marriage and circumvent the Commonwealth Marriage Act,” Mr Ruddock said.
Liberal Senator for the ACT, Gary Humphries said he was deeply concerned at the Commonwealth's action.
“My concern stems from my longstanding view that self-government means just that - the ability of Territorians to deal with controversial issues without outside input,” Senator Humphries said.
“However, I would be equally concerned if the ACT Government was attempting to legislate in an area which the Commonwealth has sole responsibility - such as marriage.”
Meanwhile, the ACT retaliated against the Commonwealth’s planned assault on its law by bringing forward the commencement date of the Civil Unions Act to this month.
ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell said the ACT Government felt compelled to take that action because of the Federal Government’s intentions.
“This may be in defiance of the Federal Government’s announcement but we believe our law is valid and that it does not impinge on any Commonwealth legislation,” Mr Corbell said.
“The Federal Government’s decision is unacceptable and undemocratic and it is important that ordinary Canberrans be given the opportunity as soon as possible to be part of a civil union. This legislation should be available to the people of the ACT.”
The Civil Unions Act, which was passed last month, had been expected to take effect from 1 August 2006.
13 June 2006
States Slated for State of Their Finances
Finance Minister, Senator Nick Minchin, has accused State Governments of letting their Budgets deteriorate over the past two years and of returning to deficits and debt.
Addressing senior Budget officials from OECD nations in Sydney, Senator Minchin said that despite the Commonwealth’s achievements in keeping its Budget in surplus and running down debt, the State Governments were moving in the opposite direction.
“The poor fiscal performance of the States is occurring despite their strong revenue from the GST and 14 years of economic growth, and has the potential to undermine the Federal Government's sound financial management," Senator Minchin said.
“A real issue in Australia is that while the Australian Government is running a fiscal surplus of 1.7 per cent of GDP in 2005-06 and 1 per cent of GDP in 2006-07, the State and local government sector is running aggregate fiscal deficits of 0.5 per cent of GDP in 2005-06 and 0.6 per cent in 2006-07.”
As recently as 2004-05, the States were running a combined fiscal surplus of 0.4 per cent of GDP. Over two years, there had been a deterioration in the bottom line of 1 per cent of GDP – from a 0.4 per cent surplus to a 0.6 per cent deficit, he said.
“The three eastern States are on track to run a combined fiscal deficit of $4.2 billion in 2006-07.”
Senator Minchin said the emerging problems in NSW and Victoria's State finances pre-dated their decision to sale their shares in Snowy Hydro.
“Let's not forget that New South Wales and Victoria, as well as Queensland have been sliding into cash and fiscal deficits for the past two years,” he said.
13 June 2006
Brighter Focus at DIMA
The Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs has introduced a new focus on client service.
Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, announced the new focus saying it was backed by an absolute commitment to delivering the best customer service. She said it would also be seen in improvements to the Department’s offices and its “look.”
Senator Vanstone said that following last year's Palmer Report there had been a great deal of work done to underpin the reform process within the Department, including improving systems and processes.
"But extensive work has also been done to help shift the organisation to one which is much more focused on people – our clients,’’ Senator Vanstone said. “The launch of the client service improvement program is a key milestone in this aspect of the change sweeping across my Department reflecting our commitment to ‘people our business’."
She said the Client Service Improvement Program involved a number of areas.
There is a new Client Service Charter, which tells customers clearly and plainly what sort of service they can expect of the Department and where to go to find the assistance they need. This charter was developed after direct consultation with clients to ensure it is relevant to the people who use Immigration's services.
There is a new look for Client Service Offices, starting with Melbourne and Sydney, the two busiest offices.
"The new fitouts reflect the feedback we sought from clients – people who actually use our services," Senator Vanstone said.
"The new offices will be more user-friendly and better able to cope with the large number of people that use them. The new office look will be progressively installed in other sites.
A new look for staff, initially those on the frontline, is the third phase of the changes.
"My department wants its staff to have a professional look to match our new client service focus and this is entirely appropriate.
"So, a new uniform has been designed for frontline border staff and a broader dress policy is also being developed with input from our staff."
She said that in last year’s staff survey, DIMA employees said they attached great importance to both their and the Department’s image and the range of initiatives being implemented reflect staff feedback.
The Government also provided a $495 million commitment in the May Budget to overhaul and improve the department’s IT systems.
13 June 2006
Flu Exercise Nothing to Sneeze At
Australia’s health and emergency services are to take part in the largest health simulation exercise ever held here to test the nation’s preparedness for an outbreak of bird flu.
Exercise Cumpston 06 will be held over four days from 16-19 October 2006, attracting the participation of al States and Territories and costing around $4.1m.
Named for leading epidemiologist and Australia's first Director General of Health, Dr John Cumpston, the exercise will focus on the health responses set out in the Australian Health Management Plan for Pandemic Influenza (AHMPPI).
The main phase of the exercise will be at Brisbane airport in a scenario simulating the international arrival of a person infected with the feared influenza and will test governance arrangements and decision-making within and between jurisdictions at all levels.
In addition, the responses of border control and quarantine systems will be tested .
Part of the exercise will be to simulate containment and transition to the maintenance phase in a community setting, including deploying anti-virals and establishing fever clinics but it will be conduced with minimal disruption to the health system and other viat infrastructure.
Cumpston 06 follows last year's Exercise Eleusis which tested responses to animal health incidents but had limited scope to assess preparedness for a pandemic involving human to human transmission.
Dr Cumpston also became Commonwealth Director of Quarantine in 1913 and during the devastating Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-19, he showed that quarantine measures could help in containing or delaying the spread of the outbreak.
13 June 2006
Green For Go at PM’s Environment Awards
Four finalists for the Prime Minister's Award for Environmentalist of the Year have been announced by Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell.
Senator Campbell said he was extremely pleased to see a strong field of entries for the Award from individuals and groups all around Australia.
He named the finalists as:
- Kevin Kenneally, the Scientific Coordinator of Landscope Expeditions, for his contribution to environmental conservation.
- Kuka Kanyini at Watarru – Caring for Country is a successful land management project at Watarru in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the far north west of South Australia.
- Australian Wildlife Conservancy, an independent, non-profit organisation has established a network of 14 wildlife sanctuaries around Australia, covering 917,000 hectares.
- Dancing and the Devil Fire – Uncovering the Hidden History of the Alps is an audio-visual production recording indigenous cultural values of Victoria's Alps revealed after the alpine fires.
Senator Campbell congratulated all the finalists saying Landscope involved more than 900 volunteers in 70 research expeditions to identify areas of outstanding heritage value as well as rare and threatened species and communities throughout Western Australia; the Watarru projects set new standards in combining traditional and contemporary land management knowledge and scientific expertise; the AWC sanctuaries protected a range of habitats that gave refuge to endangered species such as Bilbies, Gouldian Finches, Northern Bettongs, Cassowaries, the Princess Parrot and the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby; and the Victorian Alps history project was helping indigenous communities reconnect with the country and uncover its hidden history.
Senator Campbell said the Australian Government was proud to sponsor the Banksia Awards. And would continue to support the community and industry in finding solutions to the challenges that face Australia’s natural and built environments.
The Banksia Environmental Foundation was created in 1989 to reward community contributions to the environment. The Prime Minister's Environmentalist of the Year award has been sponsored by the Department for the Environment and Heritage since 2001 and the winner will be announced on July 22.
13 June 2006
Mine Rep Makes Sweeping Visit
Australia’s efforts in clearing landmines in Laos and Cambodia are to come under scrutiny when Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Special Representative on Mine Action, Teresa Gambaro MP visits this month.
The visit follows the Commonwealth’s launch of a five-year $75 million mine action strategy.
In Laos, Ms Gambaro will explore mine clearance operations, education programs and unexploded ordnance contamination issues.
She said Laos had been one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world, with more than two million tons of ordnance, including 80 million cluster bombs dropped during the 1960s and 1970s.
"This trip will enable us to broaden our understanding and approach to these issues which continue to have a devastating social and economic impact on the livelihoods of Lao people," she said.
In Cambodia, Ms Gambaro will meet with landmine survivors and visit mine action programs. Cambodia is heavily affected by both anti-personnel mines and other explosive remnants of war after almost three decades of conflict.
Ms Gambaro will compare approaches to tackling the landmine problem between Cambodia, which is one of the earliest signatories to the Mine Ban Convention, and Laos and will urge the Lao Government to adhere to the humanitarian aims of the Convention, and to join it as soon as possible.
13 June 2006
Mother of all Campaigns Targets Families
Australian families are the target of a community education campaign about changes to family law.
The changes take effect from 1 July and include a variety of new services such as early intervention programs for children and parents.
The $25.6 million campaign will run until June 2010 and highlights the new family law system and its focus on changing the culture of family separation.
Starting next month, the first 15 new Family Relationship Centres (FRCs) will offer a range of service for families. Eventually there will be 65 such centres. There will also be a new telephone advice line and website.
Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock said the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental Responsibility) Act 2006 marked a major cultural shift in the family law system that would help families to deal co-operatively and practically with relationship difficulties and separations.
"The reforms promote the right of children to know both their parents and to be protected from harm," Mr Ruddock said.
"They also recognise parenting is a responsibility that should be shared equally."
Over the coming months, other family services will be expanded across Australia to help parents put aside their differences to reach agreement on issues involving their children.
Another 33 new early intervention services aim to improve parenting and relationship skills and provide services to meet the needs of all family members – women, children and men.
More information is available from www.australia.gov.au/familyrelationships
13 June 2006
Pros or Cons? - ASIC Advises on the Advisers
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has issued a free booklet to help people choose the right financial adviser for their needs.
Entitled Getting Advice the booklet is available from ASIC’s consumer website, FIDO (www.fido.gov.au) or by phoning ASIC’s Infoline on 1300 300 630.
According to ASIC’s Executive Director, Consumer Protection, Greg Tanzer, many people wanted or needed financial advice but found the hardest thing to be choosing a good adviser.
"Good financial advice can be very useful for meeting your financial goals and objectives," Mr Tanzer said.
He warned that people should only deal with professional financial advisers and planners who held an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) provided by ASIC, or who were employed by, or authorised to represent, a business that was licensed by ASIC.
He said the Commission’s consumer website could be used to check if an adviser met the criteria.
Mr Tanzer also suggested people decide on their what financial goals and think carefully about the financial situation they wanted to achieve.
As an example he said some people wanted to save for a comfortable retirement while others wanted to pay for their children’s education.
Once the goal was decided, he said it would help people work out whether they needed financial advice, and if so, what they wanted advice about.
“If you decide you need professional advice,” he said, “talk to family, friends or work colleagues to see if they can recommend anyone.”
Mr Tanzer said organisations such as the Financial Planning Association (FPA) or CPA Australia can refer people to financial advisers in their local area.
“Speak to a few financial advisers from different firms before deciding who to choose. Ask each one to send you their financial services guide, which they must produce by law. Check if the services offered suit your needs.”
He said potential investors should ask about the financial adviser’s experience and qualifications.
“If you have a particular financial goal, then it makes sense to choose a financial adviser with expertise in your particular area.
“Always ask what the advice will cost and expect to pay for professional advice.”
Mr Tanzer urged anyone thinking about getting financial advice to get a copy of Getting Advice which had lots of information about choosing the right financial planner and getting financial advice that could work for them.
13 June 2006
Phone-in for Privacy
A major enquiry into the Privacy Act has been launched with a national phone-in conducted by the Australian Law Reform Commission.
Commission President, Professor David Weisbrot said the results of the phone-in revealed that almost 75 per cent of the 1300 callers it received were concerned about the volume and persistence of unsolicited calls they received from telemarketers but that most of the Privacyt Act was written 20 years ago, long before mass marketing databases became commonplace.
“Privacy is not just an issue for experts or specialists,’’ Professor Weisbrot said, “it’s an issue that affects everyone.”
He said Australians everywhere readily give away private, personal information when they paid their bills on-line, went to the doctor, signed a petition or entered a competition.
“Yet, rapid advances in computer technology mean that this information is much more easily captured, stored, shared and cross-referenced than in the past.
“We want to know whether the public believes that our laws and practices are effective at protecting privacy in the face of these new technologies.”
According to Professor Weisbrot, other privacy concerns raised by callers included:
- how private sector and Government agencies handled their personal information;
- the security of their personal health information;
- difficulties in being able to access and correct their personal information;
- video surveillance in public places; and
- introduction of a national smart card for access to government services.
ALRC Commissioner, Associate Professor Les McCrimmon, said the results of the Phone-In would help the ALRC determine priorities for its current inquiry into the federal Privacy Act.
“Rapid dvances in information, communication and surveillance technologies have created a wide range of privacy issues that affect people on a daily basis,’’ Professor McCrimmon said.
“Our inquiry will look at what sorts of privacy protections are needed to address current problems. We’ll also try to anticipate emerging issues so that policy-makers are not left to play catch-up in response to new technologies.”
As part of its review, the ALRC will talk with a wide range of stakeholders including community organisations, business and industry groups, government agencies, privacy advocates, academics and other interested members of the community.
13 June 2006
Website the Link Between Migrants and Work
A new website has been launched to provide vital information for migrants seeking to enter the Australian workforce.
Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, Amanda Vanstone, launched the Australian Skills Recognition Information (ASRI) website, saying it would guide migrants through the steps that must be taken to ensure they are registered for work.
"The level of assessments and qualifications varies from occupation to occupation," she said.
"(The website) outlines who skilled migrants need to contact and what to provide from home to complete a skills assessment and secure a visa to travel.
Skills assessment, licensing and registration authorities for almost 500 skilled occupations are listed on the website. There is also information about additional training, industry and professional associations, language requirements and fees.
Senator Vanstone said the website would also help other people in Australia with overseas qualifications, such as family or humanitarian migrants, students and temporary workers.
"This website will help people better understand skills recognition processes, smoothing the path and speeding up the process of getting much-needed skilled migrants into the Australian workforce," she said.
She said moves were underway to streamline the overseas skills assessment process, the Council of Australian Governments agreeing to improve the process for six priority trades – electricians, plumbers, motor mechanics, refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanics, carpenters and joiners, and bricklayers – by July 2007.
The Australian Skills Recognition Information website was developed in cooperation with State and Territory governments, the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Education, Science and Training.
More information is available from www.immi.gov.au/asri.
13 June 2006
Who’s who and who's moving in the PS
New Chair at Arts Council
Former Qantas Chairman, James Strong has been appointed chair of the Australia Council for the Arts.
Mr Strong has been chair of the Australian Business Arts Foundation, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and the Sydney Theatre Company, as well as conducting the Australian Government’s review of orchestras. He replaces David Gonski.
Archives finalises curatorial positions
Michael Lim has been appointed as the Senior Curator of Moving Image and Matthew Davies as the Senior Curator of Recorded Sound at the National Film and Sound Archive.
Mr Lim brings more than 10 years’ experience in the film and new media industries to the position and holds a Master of Arts in Television Drama as well as a Bachelor of Commerce. He is a graduate of the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation.
Mr Davies brings extensive experience to the role of Senior Curator of Recorded Sound and has been with the NFSA’s Preservation team since 13.
Mr Lim and Mr Davies join the Senior Curator, Documents and Artefacts Graham Shirley, Curator, Indigenous Collection Liz McNiven, and Head of Access and Outreach David Boden in a team headed by Chief Curator Meg Labrum.
DHS’s athletic ambassador
One of Australia’s fastest men, Kyle Vander-Kuyp, has been appointed an Indigenous Ambassador by the Department of Human Services.
Minister Joe Hockey said Mr Vander-Kuyp would play a very important role working with Indigenous communities to improve their understanding and access to Australian Government health and social services, such as Centrelink and Medicare.
He joins the Department’s other Indigenous Ambassador, Rugby League legend Arthur Beetson.
Eggleton in fight for democracy
Former Federal Director of the Liberal Party, Tony Eggleton has been appointed Chair of the Consultative Council of Australia’s Centre for Democratic Institutions.
Established in 18, the Centre is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development and is a key part of Australia’s continuing efforts to build democracy in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mr Eggleton’s replaces Bruce Billson MP who resigned when he became Minister for Veteran’s Affairs. Mr Eggleton is currently Chair of CARE Australia, a board member of CARE International and a member of Australia’s Aid Advisory Council.
Fels heads card taskforce
Professor Allan Fels is to head up a Consumer and Privacy Taskforce for the Department of Human Services’s Access Card
The Taskforce will deal with conflicts between consumer demands and data protection.
Professor Fels said he took on the role because he believed the access card could cut red tape for families and business and make access to Government services simpler.
“Of course this all needs to be balanced with appropriately defined privacy and security protections,’’ he said.
Professor Fels took up his new role on 24 May.
Ambassador for HIV/AIDS
Annmaree O’Keeffe has been appointed Australia’s Ambassador for HIV/AIDS.
Ms O’Keeffe has more than 20 years development experience and will further cooperation with Australia’s regional partners to meet the world’s HIV/AIDS threat.
She is a steering committee member of the UNAIDS Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum; a consultative council member of the Australian National University Centre for Democratic Institutions as well as on the advisory council of Griffith University's Asia Institute.
Ms O’Keeffe is also Deputy Director General of AusAID, responsible for Global Programs.
13 June 2006
The Royal Australian Air Force is having trouble keeping its members clothed, with suppliers having difficulty meeting quality control standards and specifications.
According to the RAAF, the problems have led to delays in the manufacture and delivery of some items.
The hold-ups come at a time the supply and delivery of uniforms and related equipment to the Australian Defence Force are being reformed, a process expected to create additional delays as personnel change and new procedures are introduced.
Defence out of the Pooh
The former Defence site known as Pooh Corner in Brisbane is to be cleaned up and remediated before being handed over as public parkland.
The Brisbane City Council said the Federal Government would pay for the clean-up which included removing rubbish and waste from exploded grenades and other ordnance.
The Australian Taxation Office has reminded taxpayers to start thinking about their tax returns as the end of the financial year approaches.
Tax Commissioner Michael D’Ascenzo said the Tax Office had a range of products to make it as easy as possible for people to meet their tax obligations including an electronic tax return lodgment service, that could be downloaded 24 hours a day, seven days a week as well as TaxPack 2006 for people who preferred lodging paper returns.
“People with simple tax affairs may also be eligible to use the short tax return and lodge it by phone,’’ Mr D’Ascenzo said..
He said TaxPack 2006 would be aviaable from newsagencies or Tax Office shopfronts from 1 July 2006 or by phoning 1300 720 092.
D-Day for veterans
Tuesday 6 June was the 62nd anniversary of the D-Day landings in France and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs marked the day by commemorating the sacrifice of Australians and its Allies who took part in the campaign.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Billson, said more than 2500 Australians took part in the massive air, sea and land operation that liberated France on 6 June 1944.
Mr Billson said the D-Day campaign marked the start of the liberation of Europe and the beginning of the end of World War II.
ASIC warning on phoney company
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has issued a warning about a phone scam from Sweden in which callers pose as overseas stockbrokers and investment managers.
ASIC says the scammers use the name “Stonewall Finance Limited’ and encourage unsuspecting Australians to purchase shares in an offshore company, ‘Australian Biofund Investments Ltd’ via unsolicited phone calls and emails.
Executive Director of Consumer Protection, at ASIC, Delia Rickard said neither Stonewell Finance Limited, or Australian Biofund Investments Ltd were registered with ASIC and neither were authorised to provide financial services in Australia.
Ms Rickard said people should ignore any correspondence received from overseas firms claiming to be licensed financial advisers and investment managers unless they held an Australian financial services licence (AFSL).
To find out if a company is licensed in Australia visit FIDO, ASIC’s consumer website.
Brochure has food labelled
A brochure on country of origin food labelling has been issued by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) with the aim of helping consumers understand new labelling requirements for unpackaged fresh and processed fruit, vegetables, nuts and seafood.
The new labelling requirements came into force this month after being agreed by the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council in October 2005 but only apply to Australia.
The brochure Country of Origin Food Labelling - advice for consumers is available on the FSANZ website at www.foodstandards.gov.au
13 June 2006
School transfers give national system a start
By Cheryl O’Connor
How do you build a national education system? In a word: cooperate.
Students, parents, teachers and school administrators across Australia would applaud the announcement by the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop, that all State and Territory education departments and the non-government schools sector have agreed to implement a new Interstate Student Data Transfer Note - which means that all schools can now use a nationally agreed system for transferring student information when enrolling interstate students.
The note, a joint initiative between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments, and the independent and Catholic education sectors, means that students can move from one school to another, across states or territories, with accurate information from their previous school. It’s a smart move, given that the number of mobile students - and not just children of Defence Force families - is going to increase as work opportunities change in response to major industry booms and busts.
A nationally consistent education system, although not necessarily a national curriculum, was a key agenda item for Bishop’s predecessor, Dr Brendan Nelson. Before moving to Defence, Nelson had made it clear that he wanted to see uniformity in school starting and completion ages in Australia’s eight educational jurisdictions, as well as greater consistency between the eight different curricula.
In May last year his Department of Education, Science and Training commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research to investigate and report on models and implementation arrangements for an Australian Certificate of Education. The certificate study looked at four options: a national certificate as an alternative to current state and territory senior secondary certificates; a national certificate modelled on the International Baccalaureate Diploma; a national certificate which evolves from current state and territory certificates; and a national certificate as a general aptitude test.
Which one garnered the most support? Option three.
Why? Because a certificate which evolves from current state and territory certificates is the one which already has the buy-in of stakeholders. The fact that such a certificate would evolve through cooperation wouldn’t hurt its chances of success either.
There’s a message here, summed up in that one word - cooperation - and the good news is that it appears that Julie Bishop has heard the message loud and clear.
Nelson also wanted to see a system that looked after the 80,000 or so children - including the children of Defence personnel - who move interstate each year. It’s good to see the new Commonwealth Minister backing moves, like the note, that support improved consistency. Her message, clearly, is that hers is a can-do approach.
There’s still plenty to be done before we can expect to see anything remotely resembling an Australian Certificate of Education, but in the meantime a can-do Minister with a cooperative approach would win common sense support for uniformity in school starting and completion ages.
The year or so variation across the country doesn’t really help anyone, least of all parents. She would also gain support if she and her Ministerial colleagues sat down and sorted out the varied nomenclature for year levels - a child might be kindergarten in one part of the country and prep in another - and the transition point from primary to secondary school - is it Grade 6 or 7?
But there’s one national matter that would win a can-do Minister universal common sense support. Agreement for a uniform handwriting style throughout the nation - which is so much simpler to bring about than an Australian Certificate of Education. Parents, students and teachers would think it a great idea.
Meantime, the new note sends two important messages: this is a can-do Minister; and this is a Minister who’s prepared to work cooperatively with her state and territory counterparts.
Cheryl O'Connor is chief executive officer of the Australian College of Educators, Canberra.
6 June 2006
Governments Go to Water As Snowy Sale Turned Off
The Commonwealth Government has hosed down speculation it would consider taking control of water policy from the States.
Parliamentary secretary with responsibility for water, Malcolm Turnbull said despite the option being “timely” it was a difficult one and could only be achieved by an amendment to the Constitution “and that is not Government policy.”
Mr Turnbull said however that Australia’s water management policies would work better if there was only one Government calling the shots.
“If we were writing the Australian Constitution today … we would provide
that water and rivers that cross State borders would be under national jurisdiction because the conflict between States and Territories and the difficulty in securing cooperation are enormous,” Mr Turnbull said.
Earlier, the NSW and Victorian Governments backed away from selling their
stakes in the Snowy Hydro scheme after the Commonwealth announced it would
retain its 13 per cent share.
With the sale now a non-starter, it looks as if the credit rating of the iconic electricity generator could be upgraded, ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service is reported to be carrying out a review of its underlying BAA1 rating on Snowy Hydro and said now the sale was off, it could look at a possible upgrade instead of a downgrade.
Prime Minister Howard paid tribute to Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn the Member for Eden-Monaro in which the Snowy scheme falls, saying he had been crucial in persuading senior members of the Government to reverse their decision to sell.
6 June 2006
Auditor Finds Errors in Error Rate
The Auditor General has found that a regular survey of Centrelink payments used by the Agency to uncover its error rate would never be 100 per cent accurate and relying on its findings to judge the level of Centrelink’s success could be misleading.
In a report tabled in Parliament, the Auditor, Ian McPhee said the Random Sample Survey Program (RSS) used by Centrelink reviewed over 10,000 payments annually, and in 2004-05 found 4500 suffered from errors.
He said the vast majority of errors were due to clients failing to inform Centrelink of changed personal arrangements but 12.8 per cent were due to internal Centrelink administrative errors. He said however that less than a quarter of these affected payments to clients.
Mr McPhee said while the majority of errors was due to client information being wrong, the RSS could never expect to uncover all incorrect payments.
“Not all customers will disclose all of their circumstances and/or all the changes in their circumstances, even when asked in a face-to-face interview,’’ the Auditor said. “No survey method to identify the level of Centrelink payments affected by error will be 100 per cent accurate.’’
The Auditor warned Centrelink’s client departments to be aware of this limitation in the survey program when evaluating the effectiveness of the payment system carried out on their behalf.
He said the figure of 98.6 “payment correctness” published in Centrelink’s 2004-05 annual report was insufficiently transparent as it took account only of internal administrative errors that did not impact on payments.
“Using the ordinary meaning of the words “payment correctness” this would suggest to a reader that 96.8 per cent of customers receive a correct payment,’’ the Auditor said.
“However the RSS data show that it is around 70 per cent.”
Mr McPhee also said plans to increase the sample size of the RSS would do little to overcome the basic problem of clients giving false information.
He made nine recommendations in his report, all of which have been agreed to by Centrelink.
Centrelink General Manager, Hank Jongen said the findings would help the Agency improve its administration of the survey and the way it communicated its results.
He agreed that the chief cause of payment discrepancies was clients not updating their details and said controls already in place to counter the problem led to the Director of Public Prosecutions successfully launching around 3500 court cases in 2004-05 saving taxpayers over $41 million.
According to the Auditor the 4500 payments found to contain errors in the 2004-05 RSS were worth $3.2 million to Centrelink with the average overpayment $1034.
Centrelink distributes $63 Billion on behalf of 25 client Departments and the cost of the running the RSS each year is $4.5 million.
6 June 2006
Model Contracts the Fashion for ICT
A set of draft model contracts for the procurement of Information and Communications Technology has beenreleased for consultation by the Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn.
Developed in response to a review of the Government Information Technology and Communications (GITC) framework, the draft contracts have been released online as part of the first phase of redeveloping SourceIT as a specialised government ICT procurement website.
Mr Nairn said the draft model contracts were aligned with Australian Government regulations and guidelines and provided consistency in terms and conditions.
He said they would significantly improve ICT contracting between agencies and suppliers, as well as reduce the costs of the contracting process.
Mr Nairn said the SourceIT suite comprises model legal contracts suitable for Australian Government agencies seeking ICT products and services.
The first release covers IT consultancy, hardware acquisition and support and commercial off‑the‑shelf software licence acquisition and support. The hardware and software contracts include implementation, support and maintenance options.
The draft contracts have been sent to government agencies and suppliers for comment.
"I encourage ICT firms, both large and small, to provide input during this consultation phase,” Mr Nairn said.
He said the Australian Government Information Management Office (AGIMO) would continue consultation with agencies and suppliers on the operation of the model contracts and would identify categories for the next suite.
The contracts will be continually reviewed to enhance usability and ensure consistency with changes in Australian government procurement policy and guidelines.
Changes to policy relating to ICT procurement, such as assignment of intellectual property rights or capping supplier liability (currently under review), will be reflected in the contracts and supporting guidance material developed by AGIMO.
Mr Nairn said that Intellectual Property (IP) guidelines were still being reviewed.
Options include issuing guidelines outlining how IP can be retained by the contractor or shared between Government and contractor.
Mr Nairn said this could lead to lower prices for Government, as contractors would be able to resell IP to other clients including State Governments or other countries.
The SourceIT website - www.sourceIT.gov.au - provides support and information for agencies and suppliers on the use of the model contracts.
During the transition phase, assistance will be available from 02-6215 1597 or sourceIT@finance.gov.au . The GITC website - www.gitc.finance.gov.au - will assist with existing contracts and ICT procurement outside the new model contracts.
“These new model contracts, as well as the re-developed SourceIT website, will simplify the procurement process for government ICT," Mr Nairn said. "This will result in more efficient government and will also mean industry can be better informed on these processes than ever before.” Mr Nairn said.
6 June 2006
DIMA Staff Shirty Over New Dress Code
A new dress policy at the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs has sparked concerns from staff, some saying the time and effort spent developing the code would be better spent solving the Department’s problems.
Already amended following input from staff and the Community and Public Sector Union, the proposed dress code is still in need of work the Union said, unhappy that shorts in non-tropical areas were still banned and a range of non-Departmental promotional shirts and other apparel were still on the no-go list.
The Union welcomed the decision to allow Departmental polo shirts and T-shirts, dresses and CPSU lanyards and lapel pins but it was still opposed to the process for determining breaches of the policy and the remedies which included verbal warnings, disciplinary action and counselling of staff deemed to offend.
One unnamed staff member in the Department’s Sydney region was reported in the press as saying that the energy being put into the policy would be better directed to improving the Department’s performance, not their clothes.
“There’s been all this time and energy organising this dress policy so that we appear to look professional instead of dealing with the issue of becoming professional,” the employee said.
The department was better off equipping staff with computers that would enable cross-checking and stop mistakes such as the ones that led to the deportation of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon, she said.
6 June 2006
Union Urges ACT to Drop Not-So-Super Plan
The Community and Public Sector Union has stepped up its fight against plans by the ACT Government to reduce its superannuation contributions to ACT Public Servants.
The Union published an open letter to Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope in the press recently, rejecting Mr Stanhope’s plan to cut super contributions for new PS recruits from 15 per cent to 9 per cent.
Union organiser, Vince McDevitt said the ACT Government should abandon the proposal because it could lead to a flight of talented staff from the ACT Government to the Commonwealth.
“We're hoping that by increasing pressure on the Government and bringing to their any attention the fact this is an issue that affects the whole community that they will reconsider any intention that they may have to reduce superannuation payments,” Mr McDevitt said.
“(The ACT) simply will not be able to attract and retain employees in the Canberra labour market when a worker can simply walk across the road into a Commonwealth Department and receive superior remuneration and superior superannuation.”
He said the decision would not only affect Public Servants in Government Departments but also new members of the ACT Legislative Assembly, as well as new Judges and Magistrates.
Mr Stanhope, a former Commonwealth Public Servant, said it was not realistic to keep making superannuation contributions for ACT Public Servants which were higher than the contributions made by other States and Territories.
“If no other state in Australia, if no other Territory in Australia, believes they can afford to pay their public servants at 15.4 per cent, why do we think that the smallest jurisdiction with the narrowest revenue base can?” he asked.
6 June 2006
Asbestos Report Says Staff Can Breathe Easy
A report prepared for the Department of Defence has declared that Defence Personnel who used the Urban Search and Rescue facility at Holsworthy Barracks were at a low level risk of exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
Head of Defence Personnel Executive, Major General Mark Evans said analytical techniques were used to assess the levels of airborne asbestos fibre concentrations and they concluded that no breathable fibres were present in the material.
Major General Evans also said airborne testing showed there was no risk to health during periods of no activity at the USAR site.
“As no conclusive records or results are available for airborne fibre sampling that occurred during USAR site activities, various case studies and other supporting information were used to estimate exposure for personnel conducting various activities at the site during these times,” Major General Evans said.
“The risk assessment has concluded that exposure for personnel involved in the types of activities at the USAR site are immeasurably small and cannot be distinguished from background concentrations of airborne asbestos as found in suburban environments.”
He said Defence took the hazard of asbestos seriously and had an active asbestos management plan.
“The ultimate goal is to have all Defence workplaces asbestos-free; therefore its removal is a priority.”
The Australian Defence Force and the NSW Fire Brigade were cleaning up the site which will remain closed until certified safe.
All current and former staff who trained or visited the USAR can contact their Defence Medical Centre or the Defence Hotline on 1800 000 655 for more information.
6 June 2006
Balancing Act a Balls Up
Too may Public Servants were failing to strike the right work-life balance and were paying the price in stress and anxiety according to stress management consultant, Phil Gouldson of Hummingbird Consultancy.
Mr Gouldson, a former senior executive with the Federal government who left the Service to spread the stress resilience message, said constant change across the APS, increased demands to do more with less and the relentless pressure to perform, were all having serous effects on thousands of Public Servants and affecting their day-to-day work. He said while there is good stress that helped focus the mind, prolonged stress beyond the person’s coping capabilities was very harmful for individuals and their organisations.
“Many people have stress problems without knowing it,’’ Mr Gouldson said.
“And they often don’t realise until it’s too late.”
He likened the human body’s reaction to stress to that of a blotting paper.
“You can keep dripping ink onto the blotter until it becomes overwhelmed,’’ he said. “Then it gets to the stage where it can’t take any more.”
He said the unmistakable signs of stress were forgetfulness, feeling overwhelmed, reduced capacity to concentrate and low tolerance.
“This is your body telling you you’re not coping.”
He said for many people, the problems of stress were compounded when they began to feel guilty and disappointed in themselves for not coping as well as they thought they should.
He said relief was available however, Hummingbird offering a one-day program that passed on techniques for building stress resilience in the Public Service environment, equipping participants with the tools they needed to restore clarity, calmness, and creativity to their working lives.
“The Hummingbird program is comprehensive and looks at the cognitive side of the problem – self expectation, beliefs and perceptions,” Mr Gouldson said.
“It’s the only program of its type designed specifically for the Public Service.”
He said one aspect of stress and depression that was rarely addressed was the role of nutrition and food.
“For some people it is the food they eat that contributes to their problems.
“We look at some of the worst food in this regard.’’
Mr Gouldson said many people had already found Hummingbird programs a great help in countering the negative effects of stress and being more focused, calm and energised. A number of organisations had also engaged Hummingbird to run resilience building courses in-house.
More information about the Hummingbird consultancy and its building stress resilience course is available at www.hbird.com.au
6 June 2006
ASIO Not Spooked by Skills Shortage
The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation would continue to grow despite the widespread skills shortage according to the Directpr of Security, Paul O’Sullivan.
Addressing the Senate Legal and Constitutional Legislation Committee, Mr O’Sullivan said even against the background of a complex and demanding operating environment he was confident the Government’s plans for ASIO would succeed.
Mr O’Sullivan welcomed the additional $642 million funding, allocated over the next five years as part of the Federal Budget.
“As has been said publicly, the additional resources will allow us to address both known and unknown sources of terrorist threat to Australia,” he said. “And they will allow us, in addition, to respond appropriately to the threat of espionage, sabotage, the promotion of communal violence, attacks on Australia’s defence system and acts of foreign interference.”
Mr O’Sullivan said recruitment of staff was well underway at ASIO and on track to attract and retain the high-calibre people it needed.
“ASIO now has around 1070 staff, up from 955 at 30 June 2005. We expect to have 1095 staff by 30 June this year. Previous Government initiatives would have seen ASIO grow to around 1200 by the end of 2006-07. In line with the recommendations of the Taylor Review, ASIO now has been funded to grow to 1860 by 2010-11.”
In addition, the Government has given in-principle approval for a new building in Canberra to accommodate an expanded ASIO Central Office and the Office of National Assessments.
“We have adopted a careful and sequenced approach to managing growth, developing capabilities and maintaining accountabilities to Government, both financially and operationally. I am confident that we will be able to deliver on our commitments to Government,” he said.
Drawing on the an official UK Government report on the London Terrorist Attacks of July 2005, Mr O’Sullivan said it raised a number of salient points that were instructive for ASIO’s own experience in the context of considering resource issues in connection with counter-terrorism.
He said the report noted the sheer scale of the problem that the British security and intelligence agencies faced and their comparatively small capacity to cover it and that if more resources had been in place sooner the chance of preventing the July 7 attacks could have been better.
6 June 2006
SBS Adds Ads to Line-Up
The Board of the Special Broadcasting Service has approved a shift in its television program break structure to allow advertising during programs. Until now all advertising on the Government-run network has been between programs.
According to SBS management, placing advertising during programming will raise $10 million, to be spent improving news and current affairs programming and increase production of Australian multicultural drama and documentaries.
Under the plan, the new program break structure would allow for limited program promotion and advertising within programs, while maintaining the legislated cap of five minutes of advertising per hour.
SBS Chair, Carla Zampatti said the decision had been under consideration for some time as part of an on-going review of the SBS business model.
“The Board has directed management to ensure that the new regime - which will be implemented over the next six to 12 months - be constructed so as to preserve the SBS viewing experience and be consistent with the Act and obligations of the Charter," Ms Zampatti said.
Managing Director, Shaun Brown said the precise guidelines for program promotions and advertising placement within programs were being drafted.
“For half hour programs, there could be two short advertising breaks of 60 seconds duration and for one hour programs, there may be three short breaks, each no longer than 90 seconds duration," Mr Brown said.
“This clearly maintains the difference between SBS and the commercial broadcasters that show up to 15 minutes of advertising in any one hour."
He said the new structure would reduce the current lengthy, between-program breaks on SBS.
“These lengthy breaks – sometimes up to 10 minutes – are clearly unpopular with viewers," he said. "On average we lose more than half our audience during these breaks, this is 30 per cent more than other broadcasters."
The new advertising structure was expected to raise the extra $10m in its first full year. The funds would be used to expand the nightly news bulletin to one hour, with increased Australian and international news coverage, starting early 2007. SBS would also commission more Australian multicultural drama and documentaries and other programs.
"SBS has ambitious plans to expand the range of quality programs commissioned from independent Australian filmmakers,” Mr Brown said.
Since advertising was introduced in 11, SBS has directed all advertising revenue to program making and the commissioning of programs from independent Australian filmmakers. Over the years, SBS Independent has commissioned more than 1000 hours of Australian programs, generating for each dollar commissioned about three extra dollars in the film and television sector.
The benefits included employment for hundreds of Australian actors, technicians and production crews and creation of a catalogue of quality Australian film and television productions.
In 2004-05, advertising earned SBS $29 million.
“By placing program promotions within programs, viewers will be informed about forthcoming programs," Mr Brown said..
"This, in time, will increase our overall share of audience, and further improve the revenue we can command through advertising.”
6 June 2006
Courses for Forces in New Defence Learning Deal
Australian Defence Force personnel are to have access to new online learning courses through an eLearning partnership with a world leader in off-the-shelf education
Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, Bruce Billson said the new Defence partnership with SkillSoft would provide cost effective commercial solutions to allow Defence personnel access to better learning opportunities.
“SkillSoft also works with the United States military and has an extensive eLearning library on courses, ranging from leadership and communication to project and risk management.’’ Mr Billson said..
He said by appointing SkillSoft to a panel of Defence eLearning training providers the ADF had further enhanced its eLearning system, CAMPUS.
"Since CAMPUS went online in November 2003, there have been 213 eLearning courses introduced, with 166,000 enrolments and 100,769 courses completed," Mr Billson said.
"Defence’s online CAMPUS won last year’s education and academia category in the Computerworld 21st Century achievement awards and continues to provide affordable and accessible quality training to people in Defence.”
Mr Billson said the government was committed to the Australian Defence Force being an employer of choice that provides best quality services and learning opportunities for staff.
6 June 2006
New Spam Detector Right on the Button
Reporting internet spam has been made much easier with the introduction of a one-click dob-in service by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).
Instead of using the delete key to remove spam emails, users of the new system can select the SpamMATTERS button to simultaneously delete their spam and report it to ACMA.
ACMA chair Chris Chapman said the new SpamMATTERS button was one of the most sophisticated and customer friendly spam reporting tools available in the world.
"Spam reported using the button is provided in a format assisting forensic analysis and the ease of reporting is expected to greatly increase the amount of spam reported to ACMA," Mr Chapman said.
He said Sending spam to ACMA using the SpamMATTERS button would assist ACMA to quickly identify emerging spam campaigns and to provide timely and comprehensive information to authorities fighting spam-related crime such as phishing, Nigerian scams and mule scams.
Over time, customer use of the SpamMATTERS button will enable ACMA to assist internet service providers in securing their networks from spam threats.
He said installing the ACMA SpamMATTERS button was straightforward and was available to users of Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Outlook Express, while alternative spam reporting options were available for customers using other email programs.
Telstra has also made a version of the SpamMATTERS button automatically available to all its Telstra.com and BigPond WebMail customers and was providing a link on its website to the ACMA button for other email users.
ACMA is contacting other Australian internet service providers to seek their assistance in promoting the SpamMATTERS button to as many Australian email users as possible.
The ACMA SpamMATTERS button is part of a comprehensive strategy to enforce the Spam Act 2003 and minimise the adverse consequences of spam. These activities include successful prosecution in the Federal Court in Perth of an Australian spammer for a breach of the Spam Act (April 2006), the registration of Internet Industry Spam Code of Practice (March 2006), and the trial of the Internet Security Initiative with six participant Australian ISPs (November 2005).
The ACMA SpamMATTERS button can be downloaded from www.spam.acma.gov.au.
6 June 2006
F-111 fuel tank maintenance has led to compensation claims from members injured while working within the hazardous confines of fume-filled aircraft so Cpl Hayden helped develop a training aid that significantly improved the safety margins of difficult in-tank operations.
High-Flyer Justin Hits Air Force Heights
Corporal Justin Hayden is the 2006 Air Force Airman of the Year.
Considered an all rounder, Corporal Hayden has helped promote the Air Force to the wider community through civic events, public parades, fundraising and local sports competitions and his dedication and enthusiasm over a broad range of activities enhanced the organisational priorities of 6 Squadron, RAAF Base Amberley.
But RAAF News said it was Cpl Hayden’s innovative contributions to F-111 avionics and his exemplary service record that won him this year’s AVM Eaton Award for Airman
of the Year.
“Previously we had a lot of problems with training in new maintenance jobs hampered by protective gear inside the enclosed tanks,” Cpl Hayden said.
“Introducing a training routine that allows us to practise sealing outside the aircraft has halved the amount of time that we have to spend in the harmful fumes of the tank."
This and other modifications to fuel tank entry tasks have become standard procedure, greatly improving training efficiency and leading to more effective and timely fuel tank maintenance.
Cpl Justin Hayden joined the Air Force in 2001, completing his avionics training at RAAF Base Wagga and receiving a Commanding Officer’s award before he was posted to 6 squadron to work on F-111s.
At a ceremony at RAAF Glenside in Sydney, he also received a commendation from Chief of Air Force Air Marshall Geoff Shepherd, noting his outstanding contribution to Air Force.
Cpl Hayden said it was fantastic to be rewarded for his hard work and to meet the chief of Air Force.
6 June 2006
Researchers Forge New Link in Mail Chain
Officials from both Australian and the United States have met in Washington to develop opportunities for researchers to collaborate on joint counter-terrorism technologies.
Following two recent agreements between the countries, the Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Chris Ellison, said the first meeting held recently demonstrated practical cooperation in fighting terrorism and transnational crime.
“Officers from the Australian Customs Service have participated in the bilateral discussions in areas of interest including physical security, explosives and weapons detection technology, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear detection,” Senator Ellison said.
He said the Australian Customs Service had been trialling prototype technology developed by Western Australian company QR Sciences on postal system screening technology for improved firearm detection.
“This type of prototype may be of interest to the United States and the bilateral agreements provide a mechanism to test and evaluate new technologies like this.”
“Likewise Australia has the opportunity to benefit through access to the US research and development community to continue to enhance our counter-terrorism capabilities.”
6 June 2006
Web Money Has Links Attached
Linking developing countries to the web is a step closer following a donation of $7.3 million from the Australian Government to the Development Gateway Foundation to
expand web-based solutions for effective aid and to encourage e-government.
To be provided over three years, the funds will help create aid management tools, e-government grants management, global online knowledge-sharing communities and boost networks of locally-owned web-related services.
Some funds will support public procurement websites in Asia-Pacific countries using the Development Gateway's dgMarket platform. dgMarket provides savings and transparency by publishing government procurement information online.
Australia is a founding donor to the Development Gateway Foundation whose programs demonstrate practical ways in which the power of information and communication technologies can be harnessed for development by increasing transparency, enhancing the effectiveness of aid, and sharing knowledge.
The Government said the Development Gateway was a major contributor to global efforts to make aid more effective and achieve better development results for people in developing nations.
Former AusAID Assistant Director General, Mark Fleeton, was recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Development Gateway Foundation. The Foundation is an independent spin-off of the World Bank.
6 June 2006
New Law to Give Consumers Copy Rights
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock has announced significant copyright reforms aimed at making the law fairer for consumers and tougher on copyright pirates.
According to Mr Ruddock, the commonsense reforms would maintain Australia’s copyright laws as the best in the world for the benefit of our creators and other copyright owners and for the many Australians who enjoy their creative works.
Under the proposed changes, the law will, for the first time:
• Make it legal for people to tape their favourite TV or radio program and play it at another time;
• Legalise format shifting of material such as music, newspapers and books so that people can legally put their CD collection onto IPods or MP3 players;
• Provide new exceptions to the law allowing schools, universities, libraries and other cultural institutions to use copyright material for non-commercial purposes;
• Provide new exceptions for people with disabilities to allow access to copyright materials;
• Allow the use of copyright material for parody or satire;
• Provide new enforcement measures to combat copyright piracy including on-the-spot fines, proceeds of crime remedies and a change in presumptions in litigation to make it easier to establish copyright piracy.
Research will also be undertaken by the Australian Institute of Criminology on the nature and the extent of piracy and counterfeiting in Australia and how best to respond to the problem.
“Copyright is important and should be respected,” Mr Ruddock said. “That is why the Government is updating our laws to keep pace with technology.”
He said everyday consumers should not be treated like copyright pirates and that copyright pirates should be not treated like everyday consumers.
The amendments will allow people to scan an article from a newspaper they have purchased to save on their computer (although they will not be able to upload it onto the internet) and they will also be able to dub their old VHS cassettes onto a DVD.
Mr Ruddock said the Government was mindful consumers may want to use technology to copy audiovisual material such as purchased DVDs to other devices and it will monitor the implementation of the format shifting exception to review in two years time.
He said that review would consider whether the scope could be expanded to digital audio-visual materials in a way that complied with Australia’s international obligations.
Mr Ruddock said the Government had also agreed to remove the statutory cap on licence fees paid by radio broadcasters for using sound recordings. He said there was no reason why a statute should determine what the rate should be for music played on the radio.
He assured community broadcasters the changes would not affect them.
6 June 2006
Childcare Stats Show Parents Not Kidding
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that just over one in five Australian children go to formal child care in any given school week.
It found in a survey that looked at all forms of childcare ranging from long day care to after-school care and informal care, that 21 per cent of children were cared for.
It also found that more than 1.5 million children, or 46 per cent, aged 12 and under received some type of care in June 2005.
Long day care was the most commonly used formal child care for children aged 12 and under (10 per cent of all children), followed by before and/or after school care programs (7 per cent).
The survey revealed that the use of formal care varied with age.
The use of formal care for very young children was low (7 per cent of children under one year old), but increased from age one (31 per cent) up to age three (53 per cent). By age four when many children had started preschool, the proportion of children using formal child care dropped to 38 per cent with a further decrease for five-year-olds (22 per cent) when most children had started school.
Less than one-fifth (17 per cent) of children who used child care on a weekday used it for all five weekdays, and half used it for only one or two weekdays. About one-fifth (21 per cent) of children who used child care used it on weekends.
Child care used on weekends was almost entirely informal care. Work-related matters remained the single biggest reason for parents using child care, for both formal (65 per cent) and informal (48 per cent) care.
According to the Bureau, peopled used a range of work arrangements to help them care for their children.
Nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of employed mothers used work arrangements to care for their children compared with one-third (34 per cent) of employed fathers. Flexible working hours (used in 41 per cent of all families with at least one parent employed) and permanent part-time work (25 per cent) were the most frequently used work arrangements.
The 2005 child care survey was the first ABS child care survey to include 12-year-olds so for comparability over time, trends were based on children aged 0 to11 only.
These trends revealed that the use of formal child care increased to 23 per cent from 19 per cent in 2002, continuing an upward trend that started in 19. There was a strong increase (33 per cent) in the number of children attending before and/or after school care but informal care where relatives or friends looked after the children, remained unchanged (33 per cent) since 2002.
In the majority of cases (20 per cent of all children), this informal care was provided by grandparents.
Full details of the survey can be found in the Bureau’s publication Child Care, Australia, June 2005 (cat. no. 4402.0), available free of charge from the ABS web site www.abs.gov.au.
6 June 2006
Who’s who and who's moving in the PS
Telstra calls in new directors
John Zeglis and Peter Willcox have been appointed to the Telstra board.
Mr Zeglis has 20 years at US telco giant AT&T, including five years as CEO and Chairman and Mr Willcox has extensive experience on the boards of many of Australia’s top companies, including as Chair of AMP Ltd and Mayne Pharma Ltd. He was also CEO of BHP Petroleum for eight years.
Sports Minister Ups Stumps
Senator Rod Kemp has announced he will not be seeking pre-selection for another term in the Senate. Senator Kemp has been a Senator since 10 and a Minister since 16.
He has been Assistant Treasurer, Acting Finance Minister and now Minister for Arts and Sport.
New Chair for Artbank
Joe Gersh has been named Chair of the Artbank Advisory Board. Managing director of Gersh Investment Partners Ltd, Mr Gersh has been a member of the Board since 2000 and replaces Professor Ted Snell, who chaired the board for six years
Artbank celebrating its 25th anniversary year this year, .
Australian to lead climate change talks
Head of the Australian Government’s Greenhouse Office, Howard Bamsey, has been appointed to co-chair new international talks on future action needed to counter climate change.
Minister for the Environment, Senator Ian Campbell, welcomed the appointment saying the group that Mr Bamsey would co-chair will look at climate change beyond 2012 when the Kyoto commitment runs out.
6 June 2006
A $10 million front door
A new security entrance worth $10.6 million has been officially opened at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation facility south-west of Sydney.
Not only an attractive design, the entrance is a security triumph for the nation’s only nuclear reactor and was designed with input from ANSTO’s expert staff and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
Despite its state of the art front door the reactor would continue to be guarded 24/7 by the Australian Federal Police who are empowered to arrest and search, without warrant, people who are perceived to be a security threat.
Indigenous artists Paris bound
The Australia Council for the Arts has appointed Rhoda Roberts to produce the gifting ceremony of the Australian Indigenous Art Commission at the new Musée du quai Branly in Paris on June 23.
“The opening of the Australian Indigenous Art Commission in Paris is an extremely important occasion,’’ Ms Roberts said.
“It provides Indigenous Australia with a unique platform on which to present the depth, history and continuity of our art, spirituality and cultural importance.”
Australia Post gets stamp of approval
Australia Post’s performance in the March 2006 quarter again exceeded internal service delivery standards, according to a recent independent review by KPMG.
Overall national average performance showed that 95.7 per cent of domestic letters were delivered on time, compared with Australia Post’s on-time delivery promise of 94 per cent.
The national delivery targets were exceeded in every state, Tasmania the strongest performer with 97.9 per cent delivered on-time.
Former Minister remembered
A State funeral service has been held for the former Veterans Affairs and Social Security Minister in the Whitlam Labor Government, Senator John Wheeldon.
Senator Wheeldon started his political career as a leader of the Young Liberals in Western Australia but in joined the Labor Party in 1952 and was elected to the Senate in 1965.
He was in Parliament for 16 after which he was an associate editor of The Australian newspaper. He was 76.
6 June 2006
Is it time to get serious about funding the ABC?
By Russel Balding
In October of this year, Minister for Communications Helen Coonan announced the appointment of consultants to undertake a funding adequacy and efficiency review of the ABC.
This review was initially requested by the board of the ABC back in November 2003, as a result of its long-expressed concerns about the adequacy of the corporation's funding and therefore its sustainability into the future. What's at stake here is the future of public broadcasting in Australia and the role the ABC will, or will not, play in our lives and the lives of future generations of Australians.
The review represents an opportunity to resolve this essential issue.
Funding of the ABC over the past 20 years has declined significantly.
There is so much the nation misses out on as a result - missed opportunities to enrich our lives through the powerful media of radio, television and online.
We miss out on a far wider appreciation and understanding of our history, for instance. On a Sunday night in August this year, almost 1 million Australians watched Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History on ABC Television. It was - proudly, distinctively - public broadcasting at its best; a moment when your faith, not just in the documentary but in the power of television itself, was reaffirmed.
However when you look at the credits of Frank Hurley: The Man Who Made History, you are reminded of how much more difficult making this kind of Australian television is today.
These stories cost - and more often than not these days, they cost more than the ABC alone can afford.
Consider Hurley's credits. They included Film Australia, for its early work in development. Other contributions came from the NSW Film and Television Office, the Film Finance Corporation, writer/director Simon Nasht's own company Real Pictures- and the ABC of course. That's the Australian piece of the picture.
International investors were the UK's BBC, AVRO from The Netherlands, NDR from Germany and History Television from Canada. Nine partners!
A nightmare to negotiate but a lawyer's picnic; no wonder it took almost three years for the producer to round up funding.
Why is it necessary to jump through so many hoops to attract international finance to get our history onto our screens?
If the ABC was able to contribute more to projects like this at the beginning, it would not only cut down the need for so many partners but also ensure more Australian documentaries are commissioned and broadcast by the ABC.
Are these programs too, like drama, moving steadily beyond the reach of the ABC? Or worse still, beyond the reach of the wider Australian television audience?
And why, if a central role for the ABC is to reflect our own culture, inform us about ourselves and the world, do we screen far more British than Australian history - programs like Monarchy?
One, because Australians love it and will watch it.
Two, because it's far less expensive to import these programs than to produce our own. Making a program of a similar standard is too often well beyond our means. That comparison holds for most imported factual television.
But let me give you an idea of what Australian history television is up against - the benchmark that has been set by serious landmark television with serious money behind it, like Monarchy.
Watch an episode of this series and you will see British historian David Starkey standing before a burial mound in Swanborough in one scene, a battleground in Edington in the next, then Beaumaris Castle on the island of Anglesey some time later. He creates his history on location - which is very expensive.
Early in 2002, the British media breathlessly reported David Starkey's signing of a $4.9 million deal with Channel Four to present the Monarchy series. Later that year Simon Schama made a television-book deal with the BBC and HarperCollins for $7.3 million.
Those Starkey and Schama programs, whose production budgets deliver a visual richness and grand style that is evident every single minute on the screen, are what we are now accustomed to. The genie can't be put back in the bottle.
No matter how great our patriotism, no one will watch a program simply because it's Australian history - the production benchmark must be reached.
We have no problem attracting people to view Australian history when the stories are painted on an equally rich canvas.
Programs such as Road to Tokyo, Revealing Gallipoli, Outback House and Hurley are testament to this.
But here's the crunch: the ABC can no longer bring to the screen a depth of programming to match the depth of our history. Or when we can, the story must too often be told on a scale too modest to match the expectations of its wider potential audience - an audience this history warrants.
While I do not undervalue the continuing work of our government film and content bodies, the resulting fragmented funding can militate against larger opportunities for the ABC.
Surely we owe it to ourselves to see the immense power of television brought to the cause of Australia's history. The ability of the ABC to tell Australian stories is well documented and acknowledged, as Prime Minister John Howard noted at the opening of the ABC's new facilities in Perth in September: “The ABC over the years has made a great and ongoing contribution to the development of the Australian personality and the explanation of Australia to Australians, and more recently the explanation of Australia to the world, particularly our part of the world."
Next year, we will celebrate 50 years of television in Australia.
There is still nothing that can hold a candle to television's power to grab and hold the attention of so many people at once; to burn a story into the public imagination.
For all those who ask to see their housewives desperate, their brothers big and their planes and passengers lost, Australian commercial television has the answers, and plenty of them.
For commercial television, that's exactly as it should be.
But those who want programs that reflect more about who we are and where we came from - our "sense of national identity" as the ABC charter describes it - should be able to rely upon the ABC.
The ABC is full of talent, imagination, energy and ideas. But too often it has been held back. For too long its potential has been denied rather than realised because of the gap between the public demand for its services and the funding granted to provide them.
It is now time for the adequacy of the ABC's funding to be addressed and brought to public attention.
The outcome of the Funding Adequacy and Efficiency Review, along with the ABC's forthcoming triennial funding negotiations with the government, present this opportunity.
This article also appeared in the Australian Financial Review on 10 November 2005.