SearchArchives for June 2007
26 June, 2007
PS Architecture is
Model for Industry
The first version of Australian Government Architecture Reference Models has been launched by Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn.
Intended to standardise the framework and language used in Government-related information and communication technologies, Mr Nairn said the models would lead to better service to the public and more efficient investment in ICT capabilities.
“There is an increasing demand by citizens for Government to provide more cohesive services that are easier to find and use,” Mr Nairn said, “and the Australian Government Architecture Reference Models provide a framework for classifying services provided by Government agencies.”
“Version one of the Australian Government Architecture is an important milestone.”
He said the Reference Models would aid Government Agencies and the private sector in designing ICT architectures that take into full consideration the performance, business, service, technical and data aspects of ICT solutions.
Mr Nairn said the e-Government Strategy (released in March 2006) identified the need for a Whole-of-Government Service Oriented Architecture to meet this demand, providing the ability to improve services to citizens and the efficient use of ICT by Government. He said the Reference Models assisted in the development of this SOA.
“The Australian Government Architecture will continue to evolve, with the experience of agencies providing valuable feedback into the framework.
“The next release is scheduled for later this year and will include a significant upgrade to the Business reference models, further enhancing the ability to link ICT investments to the business of Government.”
Mr Nairn said the Australian Government Information Management Office worked with various Government Agencies to evaluate existing frameworks for federated architectures. The US Government’s Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework was selected as the most appropriate and had been adapted to suit the Australian environment.
In launching the models, Mr Nairn acknowledged the time and effort contributed by the cross-agency working group involved in its development.
“The collaborative spirit in which Agencies have worked together to develop this foundational architecture model illustrates the importance placed on the delivery of effective and consistent services to citizens,” he said.
The Australian Government Architecture documentation can be accessed via the AGIMO website - www.agimo.gov.au - along with a range of supporting tools and information for agencies and suppliers on the use of the principles and reference models.
26 June, 2007
A-G Calls Tune On
The Commonwealth is to urge the States and Territories to harmonise the nation’s administrative law, Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock moving to raise the topic at the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
Mr Ruddock said the concept of harmonisation of administrative law across jurisdictions had considerable merit.
“It can bring great benefit to individuals - and to corporations - that are often faced with a perplexing array of legislation across borders,” Mr Ruddock said,
“The practical effect of these differences is that the ability of residents of different jurisdictions and businesses operating across jurisdictional borders to seek review of Government action varies significantly.”
He said there was considerable scope for harmonising existing procedures across jurisdictions and pointed to the adoption of a consistent approach to the availability of alternative dispute resolution and mediation as an example.
He said other areas that would benefit from the harmonisation of administrative law included:
* rules of standing;
* exemptions to application fees;
* the right to obtain reasons for decisions; and
* the level of assistance provided to unrepresented applicants.
26 June, 2007
Election Heat Draws
Wage Freeze Warning
ACT Liberal Senator Gary Humphries has warned Public Servants that a change of Government at the coming election could lead to a PS wage freeze.
Senator Humphries said the decision by NSW Labor Premier Morris Iemma to cap Public Service wage rises shows what the Liberal Party thinks Public Servants are worth.
“And it isn’t very much,” Mr Humphries said.
Mr Iemma limited any increase to Public Service wage movements to 2.5 per cent per year in the recent NSW State Budget.
“We know that Kevin Rudd doesn’t value the Public Service any more than his State counterparts,” Senator Humphries said, “and I am very concerned that a Federal Labor Government would take a similar approach with the Australian Public Service by freezing the wages of thousands of ACT workers.”
“Kevin Rudd has already promised to slash $3 billion from the APS through job cuts, now it seems that those who manage to hang on to their jobs may see their hard work devalued and their wages barely rising to meet the cost of living.”
Senator Humphries said ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope was “on the money” when he said a Rudd Labor Government would be bad for Canberra.
“We only need to look to NSW to see just how bad it could be.”
26 June, 2007
Follows Cover Cuts
The ACT Government has flagged the possibility that its workers compensation arrangements may be moved from Comcare to the Territory’s own independent scheme, following the removal of coverage for journeys to and from work.
The Community and Public Sector Union raised the issue with the ACT Government and Chief Minister, Jon Stanhope has promised to consider it as part of an existing review of workers compensation in the Territory.
The new rules, which took effect mid-April, are viewed by the CPSU as making it harder for injured workers with stress claims to get the compensation support they need to get back to work.
Assistant National Secretary of the CPSU, Margaret Gillespie wrote to Mr Stanhope seeking a formal response in relation to any plans the ACT Government might have to ensure its workers received adequate workers compensation coverage.
Mr. Stanhope confirmed in reply that the impact of the new federal laws would be examined as part of the wider review of the ACT Workers’ Compensation Scheme currently underway.
He wrote that given the changes were made by the Federal Government, the capacity for the ACT Government to respond was limited.
“One option available to counter the negative effects of these changes would be to withdraw from the Comcare scheme and cover our Public Servants under the private ACT Workers Compensation Scheme,” Mr Stanhope wrote.
“Such a decision, however, would not be without its complexities and should not be taken lightly.”
He said one of the terms of reference for the current workers compensation review was consideration of the merits of continuing with coverage for Public Servants under a different scheme from that applying to private sector workers in the ACT.
Mr Stanhope said the ACT Government recognised the importance of the matter and would give it full consideration.
26 June, 2007
Ombudsman Barks at
The Commonwealth and Immigration Ombudsman has called for improvements to the way a migration industry watchdog handles complaints.
Acting Ombudsman, Vivienne Thom has released a report into the complaint-handling process of the Migration Agents Registration Authority setting out a number of recommendations in five key areas of its operations.
MARA is responsible for regulating the migration advice industry, including investigating complaints about services provided by registered migration agents. It has the power to take disciplinary action against migration agents, including cautions, suspension or cancellation of registration or barring a former agent from registration.
Dr Thom recognised that MARA’s complaint-handling processes had improved significantly over the past 12 months, especially with respect to the development of procedures and supporting documentation.
“However, more needs to be done to ensure that the most vulnerable are aware of MARA’s complaint-handling system and have appropriate access to it,” Dr Thom said. “It is important that both complainants and agents can have confidence in the process and outcomes achieved.”
Both MARA and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship have accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendations. MARA has advised the Ombudsman that it was in the process of revising its complaint-handling processes to make them more user friendly and efficient.
The report is available at www.ombudsman.gov.au.
26 June, 2007
Final Posting For
The former Director-General of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service and long-time senior Public Servant, Allan Taylor, has died.
Prime Minister, John Howard and Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer paid tribute to Mr Taylor, describing him as one of Australia’s most distinguished diplomats and Public Servants.
Mr Taylor was Director-General of the ASIS from 18 to 2003. He joined the then Department of External Affairs in 1966 and his early diplomatic service was in Islamabad, Bangkok and Jakarta. He served as High Commissioner to Nigeria and High Commissioner to Papua New Guinea. His diplomatic career culminated when he returned to Indonesia to serve as Ambassador between 13 and 16, at a challenging time in the bilateral relationship. He also filled various senior positions in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
“I came to know Allan well during his period as the head of the International Division in my Department,” Prime Minister Howard said.
“I respected him enormously for his experience, his quiet assurance and above all his exceptionally sound judgment. I have no doubt that Allan’s success as a diplomat owed much to the tact, understated style and unaffected charm that all who knew him will remember with great fondness. He brought these attributes to each of the many important roles he filled with such dedication and distinction.”
Mr Downer said Mr Taylor was “a true servant of the Australian public”.
“He was a man of exceptional judgment and insight, unflappable in adversity and with the highest standards of professional and personal integrity,” Mr Downer said.
“Above all, he was an honourable and decent man. His wise counsel, and wry humour, will be sorely missed.”
Mr Taylor was 65 and is survived by his wife Carol and sons Duncan, Chris and Richard, and their families.
26 June, 2007
Defence Takes Aim
At War Leave
Changes to the way Defence Force members accrue War Service Leave are to be introduced from 1 July.
Bob Jones, Acting Assistant Director, Domestic Conditions-Policy at Defence is reported in ADF media as saying that the new method of accrual would make it fairer for ADF members.
He said leave would now be calculated on the number of days, or part days, spent in a defined area of operation, instead of the previous method based on the completed number of months.
“For example if someone previously went into an area of operations on 1 February and stayed there for 28 days, they would get one-and-a-half days WSL and anyone else who went in any other month and did 28 days service got absolutely no WSL,” Mr Jones said.
“So unless you completed a full month of service and in some cases that is 30 or 31 days, you got absolutely nothing.”
He said the process of change took more than a year to sort out.
“One of the reasons it occurred is we had changed the other forms of leave to daily accrual, so it was thought appropriate to bring WSL into line also.”
Members who were serving in operational areas and were accruing WSL before, during and after 1 July, would have their WSL calculated by the new daily method.
Service media also reported that WSL would no longer be accrued during short absences from an area of operations. Previously, absences from the area of less than 15 days counted towards the accrual of WSL. WSL would now only accrue for actual days, or part-days, spent in the area.
26 June, 2007
Staff Make Splash
In NSW Floods
Centrelink staff in the areas of NSW affected by floods and bad weather are playing major roles in the recovery effort.
Centrelink’s Area Manager for the Hunter region, Debbie Johnson, said staff were on the ground working closely with NSW Government Agencies to coordinate assistance and make sure people affected had access to financial and emotional support.
Ms Johnson said each adult and child affected by the situation would receive Disaster Recovery Payments of $1000 per adult or $400 per child to aid in their recovery.
Information about the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment was available by calling 180 2211, she said.
“This line is currently available 24 hours a day.
“Local staff are working to get emergency relief to the affected communities as quickly as possible. We also have social workers available, in person and over the phone, if people would like to talk to someone.”
Ms Johnson said. Centrelink clients as far north as Muswellbrook, as far east as Nelson Bay and south as far as Ettalong who were due to lodge forms in person were told they could do so over the telephone until the situation was resolved.
Ms Johnson said clients could call Centrelink on the following numbers:
Employment services 13 2850
Youth and students 13 2490
Family payments 13 6150
Retirement 13 2300
Disability, sickness & carers 13 2717
“Centrelink will continue to assess the situation in conjunction with local authorities and will provide further advice if the arrangements are to be extended,” Ms Johnson said.
26 June, 2007
Marking Time for
The Australian Federal Police has taken the next step in its corporate re-branding program by overhauling the markings on its vehicle fleet.
AFP Commissioner, Mick Keelty, said the new designs were in line with the Force’s branding model launched last year.
“These vehicle markings reflect the AFP’s desire to be visible and identifiable as a single organisation, particularly in relation to the expansion of the Aviation and Protection portfolios,” Commissioner Keelty said.
The move to a single identity for AFP vehicles is in line with Whole-of-Government practices for corporate branding. The design was introduced to help create a single identity across the range of functions now undertaken by the AFP.
The vehicles would be located Australia-wide at AFP district and regional offices and the 11 designated airports where the Unified Policing Model was in place.
26 June, 2007
Rosier Outlook For
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has developed a ground-breaking program to prepare its journalists and news crews for the personal impacts of covering potentially traumatic events.
The Corporation has developed the program in cooperation with the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma.
According to ABC News’s Heather Forbes, the Dart Centre was a global network of journalists, journalism educators and health professionals dedicated to improving media coverage of trauma.
“Given the importance of this issue to the ABC, it was crucial to develop a program of education, training and support that met the needs of staff and to raise the awareness of the issues of stress and trauma in the workplace,” Ms Forbes said.
In developing the program with the Centre, Ms Forbes was conscious that journalists and crews worked in demanding environments with deadline pressures and high levels of responsibility.
“Almost by definition news is about change, fast-paced events, confrontation and sometimes conflict,” Ms Forbes said. “Some stories, such as war, road crashes, crime, violence, bushfires and other natural disasters may be especially stressful and traumatic.”
Cait McMahon of the Dart Centre said most media reporters and crews were resilient, and with good management and a supportive work culture would cope well with reporting traumatic events.
“But a minority of staff exposed to trauma will develop mental health problems,” Ms McMahon said.
She said the ABC program took a three-tier approach of peer support group training, manager awareness and staff awareness. She said the training sessions began with a powerful documentary made by ABC News in which ABC journalists and production staff talk about their experiences of covering traumatic events.
The Trauma Awareness program had already been rolled out in Western Australia and training sessions were planned for the rest of the country over coming months.
26 June, 2007
Makes Top 100
The Head of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, Professor Louise Burke, has won the sport category of The Bulletin’s annual Smart 100.
Professor Burke has been with the AIS for more than 17 years supporting Australian athletes at national and world championships, Commonwealth and Olympic Games.
Described by The Bulletin as shining the light on the best and brightest in the country, their annual Smart 100 is a “who’s who” of high achievers and innovators across a range of disciplines including science, business, environment and sport.
Australian Sports Commission CEO Mark Peters, who, with The Bulletin, chose the finalists in the sport category - and Professor Burke as this year’s winner - said there was no more deserving servant to elite and Olympic sport in this country.
AIS Director and Smart 100 winner in 2004, Professor Peter Fricker congratulated Professor burke on her recognition after having worked closely with her for nearly 20 years.
“Louise’s dedication is one of the reasons Australian sport science expertise is internationally recognized,” Professor Fricker said.
“She works tirelessly to give our elite athletes that extra hundredth of a second or few millimetres that are often the difference in an Olympic final.
“Designing individual hydration strategies for athletes to combat the crippling heat and humidity experienced by our Olympians in Athens in 2004, and possibly again in Beijing, is an example of the critical nature of her contribution to the performances of our sporting elite.”
As the former Honorary Chair in Sports Nutrition at Deakin University, Professor Burke helped develop and deliver undergraduate and post-graduate units in sports nutrition. She was a founding board member of Sports Dieticians Australia, is currently a member of the Nutrition Working Group of the International Olympic Committee and is a Director of the IOC Diploma in Sports Nutrition program.
26 June, 2007
ACCC Stalls In
Petrol Court Case
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has decided not to appeal against a Federal Court judgment that dismissed a case of price-fixing against petrol companies in Victoria’s Geelong area.
ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel said that despite admissions by parties and evidence supporting the charges, the Court had found, on balance, that no illegal activity had taken place.
He said past Federal Court decisions had placed a high evidentiary burden on such claims which needed to show that the parties to an alleged price-fixing scheme were committed or morally bound to the agreement.
“In the Geelong case, the court found that it could not infer a sufficient level of commitment by the parties to a price-fix,” Mr Samuel said.
“The judge himself observed that whether or not such communications between competitors amount to an understanding would always be a difficult line to draw.”
Mr Samuel said there was no dispute by many of the respondents that they regularly communicated with each other about petrol prices.
“What was disputed was whether these communications amounted to an ‘arrangement or understanding’ about how the parties would price their petrol.
A factor in considering an appeal was that the ACCC had to consider if the factual findings made by the trial judge could be shown to be in error.”
Mr Samuel said the ACCC had witness statements, admissions by a number of respondents that they had reached understandings in breach of the Trade Practices Act, and extensive petrol price movements and telephone call records.
“However, taking into account the oral evidence of witnesses, the judge found that the parties were not sufficiently committed to increasing petrol prices to agreed amounts.”
The ACCC decided not to appeal because it was conscious that it did not have any alleged agreements or understandings where all the parties had admitted their involvement. This meant the appeal court would have had to find that the admitting parties were part of an agreement or understanding which had already been found not to exist. The ACCC considered that an appeal court was unlikely to come to such a contradictory finding.
“This was a very complex, factually dense case arguing multiparty multi-transaction arrangements or understandings,” Mr Samuel said.
He said the case dated back to late 2003.
26 June, 2007
Sharon Runs Hot
Sharon Labudda, an Aircraft Ground Support Officer with Australia’s Antarctic program, has been awarded this year’s Antarctic Medal.
Assistant Minister for the Environment, John Cobb said that Ms Labudda’s exceptional contribution to air operations in Antarctica went above and beyond the call of duty.
“Ms Labudda was the first Aircraft Ground Support Officer employed by the Australian Antarctic Division with the introduction, during the 2003/04 season, of fixed-wing aircraft operations within Antarctica,” Mr Cobb said.
“Since that time, she has helped develop and refine the position and those of others who have followed in her footsteps to the highest degree of efficiency and safety.
Mr Cobb said that Air Ground Support Officers worked very closely with all fixed-wing and helicopter flight crews, ensuring the smooth operation of air services between Australia’s Antarctic stations and field locations.
“Ms Labudda is a truly quiet achiever, doggedly searching for new and better ways to improve the intra-continental support for our science and operations program.”
Mr Cobb said that, overwhelmingly, Ms Labudda’s colleagues described her as typifying both the professional capability and personal qualities found in an outstanding Antarctic expeditioner.
26 June, 2007
The Real Thing
The Corruption Prevention Network has launched its 2007 awards for excellence in fighting corruption.
A network of Public Sector corruption fighters, the CPN awards will reward excellence in corruption prevention and draw attention to the work being done across many Agencies.
According to the CPN, the focus of the awards will be on the mix of tools and techniques that organisations use to ensure their fraud control and corruption prevention strategies were effective.
The awards were designed to encourage excellence and ongoing development in corruption prevention, however they did not constitute an endorsement by the CPN of an organisation’s approach.
The Network was formed in the early 10s when officers from the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption and that State’s Audit Office came together to consider how best to address issues which were repeatedly surfacing from internal and external investigations.
The NSW Public Sector Fraud Prevention Committee was formed in late 14 as a collective of practitioners and interested parties to serve as a networking and self-help group, and to share information and experiences in dealing with the challenges of fraud control. The Committee embraced this expanded focus and remodelled itself, through various name changes over a number of years, into the CPN. It operates through an organising committee of elected volunteer public officials and non-voting nominees from central and watchdog agencies and according to Vice-Chair, Stephen Horne now covers the Commonwealth, States and some Local Government.
The Awards will be open to all organisations within Australia – both public and private with an interest in corruption prevention - and the 2007 categories are:
Commonwealth Public Sector
State public sector
Local Government sector
In addition, the CPN is to hold its Annual Conference on 13 September, entitled “The good … the bad … and the …”.
The meeting will be addressed by a range of speakers in a number of workshops and there will be mini-presentations from the 2007 CPN Award winners showcasing their corruption prevention programs.
The full criteria for the CPN 2007 Awards and more information on the conference is available at www.corruptionprevention.net
26 June, 2007
Is Job Well Done
The 2007 edition of Australian Jobs has been launched by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Joe Hockey.
The publication provides the latest information on more than 400 job categories in the Australian labour market, including past employment trends and projected employment growth.
Mr Hockey said Australian Jobs 2007 was a vital resource for job seekers, school career advisers, rehabilitation coordinators, providers of Australian Government Employment Services and those exploring career options.
“This is an excellent book and its release is timely,” Mr Hockey said.
“There has never been a better time to be looking for work and new career opportunities.”
He said Australian Jobs 2007 contained useful information about a diverse range of jobs. He said accountants, electricians, medical scientists, chefs and plumbers were listed as enjoying good job prospects over the next five years.
“Australian Jobs 2007 provides an analysis of labour market growth over the past five years and also points to where the job opportunities are likely to be in the next five years.”
He said it also contained comprehensive labour market information for each State and Territory.
Copies of the Australian Jobs 2007 have been sent to careers advisers of secondary schools, employment service providers and Centrelink offices. The publication was also available at www.workplace.gov.au or by emailing AustralianJobs@dewr.gov.au.
26 June, 2007
History Winners Set For Future
The winners of the inaugural Prime Minister’s Prize for History have been announced.
Prime Minister, John Howard named Les Carlyon and Peter Cochrane as the joint winners of the prize which comes with a gold medallion and a share of a $100,000 grant which would be tax exempt.
In announcing the Prize, Mr Howard said Les Carlyon’s The Great War provided a compelling narrative of Australia’s involvement in World War I, centring on the Western Front and included stories of individual soldiers. Relating these stories against a vast global backdrop, he revealed much about the formation of Australia’s national identity.
He said Peter Cochrane’s Colonial Ambition highlighted Australia’s British political inheritance and brought to life the human drama of the nation’s democratic foundations through the contest in the 1840s and 1850s between the great landowners of NSW and the rising class of Sydney shopkeepers, merchants, artisans and renegade gentry.
The two other short-listed nominees, selected from a total of 130 nominations for 151 works, were David Branagan for his work T.W. Edgeworth David: A Life; and Josephine Flood for The Original Australians: Story of the Aboriginal People.
19 June, 2007
APS Leader Fears Advice Adversity
The Australian Public Service was in danger of losing its ability to provide strategic policy advice and Public Service Commissioner Lynelle Briggs has renewed her call for something to be done.
Speaking to the Australia and New Zealand School of Government, Ms Briggs said that growing numbers of SES and Executive Level staff lacked the experience to provide strategic advice which “only develops with time and with exposure to a broad range of relevant experiences”.
Ms Briggs suspected the same problem was also affecting other Public Services.
“The decline in our strategic thinking capability is likely to reflect our strong emphasis on achieving results and negotiating outcomes,” Ms Briggs said, “and is, to some extent, a combination of the competing and expanded management roles in agencies.”
She said a tendency for more policy issues to be drawn into the centre may also be marginalising the contributions to policy advising by line Agencies.
“It is very hard for a line officer in a discrete business area to appreciate wider systemic issues or see the bigger picture, and often times they don’t have the information to do so anyway,” Ms Briggs said
She was also concerned at the erosion of the APS’s capacity for research, analysis and evaluation.
“These are the very skills that underpin the fresh thinking that has the potential to resolve national problems.”
She said there were various reasons for the decline, including contracting out research, the impact of resource constraints and a sometimes too-great a focus on day-to-day activities as well as “program management mantras and media management”.
Ms Briggs said that since the 1970s the Public Sector in Australia had come through probably the greatest policy reform effort in its history.
“The economy has opened up, our social policies have been better targeted at community needs, our tax system and labour markets have been reformed.
“At the same time, the Public Sector has seen devolution of responsibility, increased openness and accountability and a greater focus on efficient delivery of services.”
She said the policy advising role had also changed in that time.
“Thirty years ago, the Public Service in Australia had what constituted essentially a monopoly on policy advice to Government. Today, we operate in a highly contestable environment.”
She said the Public Service had become just one player in a field of many in the policy advice process.
“Today we have a growing number of ministerial staffers, lobbyists, non-Government organisations, institutes and ‘think’ tanks and other interested groups - all providing policy inputs and advice to Government.
“This can be challenging for the Public Service.”
She said however that the Public Service had an important competitive advantage.
“In the Australian Public Service, our fundamental advantage is our values, clearly laid out in the Public Service Act.
“Most other jurisdictions also have their values or underlying principles clearly articulated as part of their legislative framework. “
She said the Public Service had no interest group to serve and no profit to make from the policy advice it provided.
“We are, therefore, uniquely placed to weigh up the advice that the Government receives from other players.”
19 June, 2007
ABC Testing After Toowong Tumours
A study of all Australian Broadcasting Corporation offices in its capital city sites is to be conducted following an inconclusive report into the high rate of breast cancer experienced by staff at the ABC’s Toowong studios in Brisbane.
The final report of an independent investigative panel says that after 12 months of work it was unable to pinpoint the reason for 13 women contracting the disease between 14 and 2006 and that it was possible it was related to work practices.
ABC Managing Director Mark Scott said the panel concluded if there were currently unknown or undetected aspects of work or the working environment at the Toowong site that did contribute, then they might be present in other ABC studios elsewhere in Australia.
“We have accepted the recommendation put forward by Professor Armstrong and the expert panel to conduct a study of breast cancer epidemiology of staff in other capital cities,” Mr Scott said.
“This study will be conducted by The Cancer Council in New South Wales and we expect to see a proposal for the undertaking of this work shortly.”
He said the Panel also concluded that:
* There was a real increase in the risk of breast cancer in women working at the ABC Toowong site that was related to length of employment and may have been contributed to by some aspect of work or the working environment at Toowong;.
* It was highly unlikely that this increase was caused by exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields, extremely low frequency electromagnetic fields, ionising radiation or chemicals known or suspected to cause breast cancer.
* There was also little or no evidence to suggest that the increase in risk could be explained by the women employed at Toowong sharing known genetic or lifestyle risk factors for breast cancer.
* While the Panel had not been able to find a cause for the increased incidence of breast cancer at ABC Toowong, it believed it had considered and excluded all plausible environmental explanations.
The Community and Public Sector Union welcomed the announcement of further tests.
19 June, 2007
Tax Office Stares Debt in the Face
The Auditor-General has found that the amount of debt owed to the Australian Taxation Office is “significant and growing” and had become a major financial drain on the community.
In his report entitled The ATO’s Administration of Debt – Micro-business, Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said taxation debt was a problem that was distorting business competitiveness. He said the debt owed by micro-businesses, which accounted for more than two-thirds of the total collectable amount, posed significant management problems for the ATO.
“Improvements are required to strategy, administrative processes and supporting systems,” the Auditor-General said, “and governance processes relating to performance assessment.”
He acknowledged that the ATO had been working on the problem and had taken positive steps towards overcoming it.
“However, the size, and continued growth of collectable debt, despite substantial increases in ATO resource allocations, and the absence of some key tools necessary for effective administration, inhibit the ATO’s administration of debt collection.”
The Auditor noted the distinction between “collectable” debt and total debt but pointed out increases from 2.7 per cent of total revenue in 16-96 to 3.7 per cent in 2002-03 to 4.4 per cent in 2005-06.
He acknowledged that the rate of increase was slowing but said the ATO’s traditional approach to debt recovery was not reducing the aggregate amount owed.
“The ATO’s capacity for effective administration can be improved in certain areas,” he said.
“The ATO advises that its ability to manage cases efficiently and effectively and to undertake beneficial analytical work is constrained due to current systems limitations.”
The Auditor found that improvements could be made in the ATO’s systems for monitoring debt, and said it should be encouraged to work more closely with other Agencies, such as Centrelink, who had experience in debt recovery and management.
“The direction and effectiveness of the ATO’s debt collection efforts could be enhanced by the ATO better understanding what causes taxpayers to fall into debt and remain in debt,” he said.
The Auditor made six recommendations including the ATO produce a clearer debt collection strategy, develop a model for determining when a debt became too expensive to collect and introduce more and better performance measures. The Tax Office agreed with all the recommendations.
In the end however, the Auditor-General accepted that some people would always have difficulty paying taxation debts and the ATO needed to maintain a balance.
“There will always be a level of debt that will be uneconomical to pursue,” he said.
19 June, 2007
Future of Chaplains In God’s hands
The Defence Force is reviewing the role of its chaplains with a view to increasing their duties.
Principal Chaplain, Simon Hubbard, a former Director General Chaplaincy-Navy, has been tasked by the Chief of the Defence Force to lead the review. He will be supported by Dr Paul Earnshaw, a retired RAAF wing commander who has served on peacekeeping operations in the Middle East.
Principal Chaplain Hubbard said all opinions would be welcomed by the review team.
“I hope that ADF members will be forthcoming with comments from their own experience of, or hopes for, chaplaincy,” he said.
“This review is not just about the big picture. We also want to hear from the men and women on the ground who may use our services. Are we delivering the right services to the right areas, and so on?”
Principal Chaplain Hubbard said the review would focus on: religious ministry; pastoral care to members and their families; character development in support of ADF values; and advice to commanders and other appropriate agencies.
He invited comments on any of these, or other aspects of chaplaincy.
Submissions, or requests for information, should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions, which would be treated as Staff-in-Confidence, are required by 30 June.
19 June, 2007
ASIC Complaint Line Is a Whinge Win
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has upgraded its on-line complaints service to make it easier for consumers and investors to lodge complaints about licensed financial services businesses.
ASIC’s Executive Director of Consumer Protection, Greg Tanzer said experience had shown that it was often difficult for consumers, or those acting on their behalf, to know which dispute resolution scheme to contact.
“By making this information available in this form, we hope to make the system more accessible and transparent,” Mr Tanzer said.
He said ASIC’s public register had previously included all businesses licensed to conduct financial services in Australia including banks, credit unions, insurance companies, stockbrokers and financial planners.
Now, it also includes details of the external dispute resolution (EDR) scheme(s) each licensee belongs to.
“By law, all licensed financial services businesses dealing with retail clients must belong to an EDR scheme approved by ASIC,” Mr Tanzer said.
“These schemes help to resolve complaints between financial services businesses and their customers when they cannot be resolved using the firm’s internal procedures.”
He said EDR schemes were designed to be independent and quick, and informal alternatives to going to Court.
He said there were seven ASIC-approved EDR schemes covering different sectors of the financial services industry:
* The Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman;
* The Credit Ombudsman Service;
* The Credit Union Dispute Resolution Centre;
* The Financial Co-operative Dispute Resolution Scheme;
* The Financial Industry Complaints Service;
* Insurance Brokers Disputes; and
* The Insurance Ombudsman Service.
In addition, he said the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT) was a statutory EDR scheme that dealt with complaints about superannuation providers.
Mr Tanzer said that between them, the EDR schemes dealt with more than 100,000 complaints and enquiries from consumers and investors annually.
All seven EDR schemes participated in a common call centre for initial enquiries and complaints from consumers and investors. Anyone phoning the call centre on 1300 78 08 08 will be told how to progress their complaint, or transferred directly to the appropriate EDR scheme.
19 June, 2007
Veterans Dial Up Phonecall Centre
The Department of Veterans Affairs has set up a war Veterans’ Service Centre to deal with the 1.3 million phone calls the Department receives annually.
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Bruce Billson said the Veterans Service Centre began operations in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia on 31 May and would go nationwide later this year.
“The Veterans Service Centre will deliver a comprehensive and accurate telephone service to veterans and those who assist them,” Mr Billson said.
“It will bring together into a coordinated network the various telephone support services currently provided for veterans in each of the states.”
He said the Service Centre would be staffed by officers specially trained in veterans’ benefits and services and able to assist callers with most enquiries.
“A new online system will enable staff to record and track veterans’ enquiries as well as any follow-up action,” he said. “This means clients will not have to repeat their whole story each time they speak with my Department, saving time and providing veterans with an improved service.”
Mr Billson said the new Veterans Service Centre was a response to the changing needs of veterans.
“Mobility and transport difficulties leave elderly veterans heavily dependent on the telephone,” he said. “At the same time, the telephone is now one of the most popular forms of contact for younger veterans.”
Mr Billson said that over time contact with the Department of Veterans’ Affairs would be simplified by consolidating the suite of telephone numbers used throughout Australia.
He said this would be a gradual process and no veterans would be required to change their routines.
They could continue to use existing numbers and their calls would be automatically switched to the Veterans Service Centre, Mr Billson said.
19 June, 2007
Consumers Driven To Competitive Edge
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued two reports explaining how Australian consumers were reaping significant benefits from competition in the telecommunications industry.
ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel said overall average prices paid by consumers had fallen by 6.5 per cent in real terms in 2005-2006 and growing investment in infrastructure was also providing consumers with better quality services. He said overall investment in communications had risen 9.5 per cent in 2005-06 to $6.9 billion.
Mr Samuel said the findings were included in the reports Changes in the prices paid for telecommunications services in Australia 2005-06 and Telecommunications competitive safeguards for 2005-06.
“These reports show that consumers are the winners in terms of lower prices and better quality services when there is competitive pressure between providers,” Mr Samuel said.
He said the competitive safeguards report showed that providers were investing heavily in both 3G mobile networks and broadband infrastructure.
“The benefit of competitive investment was demonstrated with a number of carriers launching higher-speed ADSL2+ services.”
Mr Samuel noted that competition in the industry was still underpinned by regulation to some degree.
“Any unforeseen changes to the price and availability of access services such as the unconditioned local loop service (ULLS) could materially alter the state of competition. This would be to the detriment of consumers.
“Investment by competing carriers also remains at risk from prospective fibre-to-the-node network upgrades.”
Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, welcomed the release of the two reports saying they held great news for consumers.
“This is a direct result of the Government’s work in liberalising the telecommunications sector over the past 10 years,” Senator Coonan said.
“Since 17 the overall average price for telecommunication services has fallen by a whopping 30.6 per cent – a clear sign that the current framework is delivering real benefits to consumers,” Senator Coonan said.
She said the competitive safeguards report showed ongoing progress in the development of competition.
“There have been significant investments by numerous competing carriers in 3G mobile networks and in broadband-enabling DSLAMs installed in local telephone exchanges.
“The Australian Government remains committed to fostering the development of competition while ensuring that consumers are protected and able to get the benefits of a thriving, competitive environment.”
19 June, 2007
Consultants to Act For Performance Pay
An expert consultant is to be engaged by the Commonwealth to develop a trial system of performance pay for Australian teachers.
Education Minister, Julie Bishop said a tender process would be followed to select the consultant who would have the task of developing models to be tried out in schools across the country..
“To support the introduction of performance-based pay for teachers, I have requested my Department engage an expert consultant to analyse best practice models of performance-based pay, both in the education field and in other professions, examine mechanisms for assessing and rewarding teachers and likely costs, and develop models of performance-based pay to trial in Australian schools,” Ms Bishop said.
“In trialling models of performance-based pay, the expert consultant will work with the teaching profession and the wider school community to refine and evaluate approaches to recognising and rewarding teachers.”
She said current teacher pay arrangements were impacting on the attractiveness of teaching as a career, and retention of quality teachers within the profession.
“We need to explore ways of creating incentives for our best teachers and move beyond the notion of salary based on time in the job,” she said.
“In other professions, performance-based pay schemes are proven to work and are accepted as an effective way to enhance career structures. The time has come for the teaching profession to embrace performance-based pay to reward teachers who achieve outstanding results for their students or who make a significant contribution to school life.”
Ms Bishop said the Commonwealth was committed to ensuring the teaching profession was defined by excellence and that every student had access to a high quality teacher.
From 2009, Federal funding for schools would be tied directly to quality reforms including the introduction of performance-based pay for teachers to encourage and reward quality teaching.
19 June, 2007
Indigenous Support Called a Flaw Show
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner has determined that the Commonwealth’s Whole-of-Government programs to deal with Indigenous affairs suffer “serious flaws”.
Commissioner Tom Calma has called on the Commonwealth to address those flaws.
“It is clear to me that there are serious problems with the Federal Government’s new Whole-of-Government arrangements in Indigenous affairs,” Mr Calma said.
“The Government has promised much in the way of accountability and progress on Indigenous issues, but has little to show for this over the three years since it abolished ATSIC.”
Mr Calma’s latest Social Justice Report considered the impact of Government activity on the exercise and enjoyment of Indigenous people’s human rights.
“Current federal Government policy treats Indigenous people as ‘problems to be solved’ rather than as active partners in creating a positive life vision for our communities,” Mr Calma said.
“The irony is that this fosters a passive system of policy development and service delivery, while at the same time the Government is criticising Indigenous peoples for being passive recipients of Government services.”
He said what had emerged since the demise of ATSIC was a system of service delivery that lacked capacity for Indigenous peoples to participate in decision-making that affected their lives.
“While there are broad commitments to overcoming Indigenous disadvantage, there is also an absence of a strategic focus detailing how Government activity will contribute to this most important and significant challenge.
“The outcome is bad policy that lacks an evidence base.”
He said the Government’s efforts were also not meeting standards set out by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet on policy implementation and released in late 2006 in partnership with the Australian National Audit Office.
Commissioner Calma said there were two major problems identified in this Social Justice Report.
“First, the Federal Government has consistently emphasised that engagement with Indigenous peoples is a central requirement for the new arrangements to work. But in practice, the new arrangements are a top-down imposition – with policy set centrally and unilaterally by government and then applied to Indigenous peoples,” Mr Calma said.
“There has been no discernible progress in advancing mechanisms for Indigenous people to participate at the regional level, despite it being stated government policy for regional engagement mechanisms to exist.”
The Commissioner said the second main problem was that while the Government was increasingly emphasising the importance of increasing access to mainstream services for Indigenous peoples, it had made little progress in achieving this.
“There is no overarching framework of benchmarks and indicators for how the Government will improve access to mainstream services. Processes adopted through the existing Whole-of-Government approach are also unclear.”
He said this was even the case in urban areas where regional coordination offices had been operating since 2004.
Mr Calma said the Shared Responsibility Agreement process provided some glimmers of hope with a survey showing most people were generally positive about agreements entered.
Both reports, a community guide and other information are available online at www.humanrights.gov.au/social_justice/sjreport06/
19 June, 2007
AG Lowers Bar In Appointments Blue
Attorney-General, Philip Ruddock, has defended the Government’s right to make judicial appointments without obtaining the approval of the Australian Bar Association.
Mr Ruddock was responding to comments from the President of the ABA, Stephen Estcourt QC.
Mr Ruddock said that he had met previous presidents of the ABA to discuss a wide range of issues, but had no knowledge of Mr Estcourt seeking a meeting.
“Mr Estcourt says he has met senior Labor advisers to discuss the issue of appointments, but I am disappointed that he has not approached my office for similar discussions,” Mr Ruddock said.
“I often receive suggestions from professional associations for appointments to the bench and always give these suggestions serious consideration.”
Mr Ruddock said the Australian Bar Association had previously provided suggestions for the High Court and should continue to do so for other Courts and Tribunals if its members had a view.
“However I do not propose to give Associations or others the right to veto appointments which are appropriately within the responsibility of the Government of the day,” Mr Ruddock said.
“People applying for, or being considered for, appointment have an expectation that their interest will remain confidential. Putting them through a selection process overseen by professional associations would put that confidentiality at risk.”
He said that professional associations had an important role to play and he urged them to suggest appropriately qualified people for appointment to the Bench.
“My door remains open for the leaders of those organisations to meet me and discuss ways of improving our legal system,” Mr Ruddock said.
19 June, 2007
Accountants Agree To Balance Borders
Public Sector accountants stand to benefit from a Mutual Recognition Agreement signed between CPA Australia and Britain’s Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.
President of CPA Australia, Paul Meiklejohn said the new agreement would enhance the international mobility of accountants, particularly those in the public sector.
“Opportunities for accountants are no longer constrained by national borders,” Mr Meiklejohn said.
“The MRA will pave the way for closer working relationships and further enhance the mobility and international recognition of the designations and memberships of both bodies.”
He said CPA Australia believed that strong international relationships with other accounting bodies benefited both the profession and its members, wherever they were in the world.
He said the MRA further developed the already close relationship between CPA Australia and the CIPFA and identified beneficial joint initiatives and established guidelines on how appropriately qualified members could gain reciprocal memberships.
Mr Meiklejohn said that any of the 13,500 CIPFA members already holding degrees recognised by CPA Australia who had completed a final test of professional competence and three years of relevant mentored, practical experience, would be eligible to join CPA Australia.
He said similarly, any of Australia’s 112,000 members (11,000 of whom worked in the Public Sector) would be admitted to membership of CIPFA provided they had completed the CPA Australia Program and three years of relevant work experience recognised by the Institute.
Chief Executive of CIPFA, Steve Freer said the agreement would be a useful and practical way of increasing professional mobility for accountants in the two countries.
“Young people finishing their training now will have choices that were simply not available to past generations,” Mr Freer said.
He said the MRA would allow the two organisations to work closely together through joint professional development programs, knowledge sharing and collaboration in international forums.
Mr Freer said it would enhance both CPA Australia’s and CIFPA’s standing in the International Federation of Accountants.
19 June, 2007
Inland Railway On The Right Track
A new inland railway is to be built between Melbourne and Brisbane with a $15 million scoping study to be completed in 2009.
Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile, said the railway would be routed through the “far-western sub-corridor” which ran through Parkes in western NSW as that was the most cost-effective option.
“Last year, the North-South Rail Corridor Study identified four possible corridors for the inland railway,” Mr Vaile said.
“The Australian Rail Track Corporation will now carry out a detailed engineering, land and environmental study to determine the best alignment for the line generally within this sub-corridor.”
He said the scoping study would “prove up” the alignment so it could be taken through the statutory planning and approval process and then into detailed engineering design and construction.
“The study will also scope the project’s capital cost to within plus or minus 20 per cent, and put together a development and delivery timetable,” he said.
“In general terms, it is possible that land acquisition will begin as early as 2010, with construction starting in 2014. The line will be completed by 2019.”
Mr Vaile said the study would also provide the Government with a basis for evaluating private sector financing for the project because it could not go ahead without it.
“Australia needs an inland railway from Melbourne to Brisbane,” Mr Vaile said.
“Our strong economic growth means that the amount of freight on our transport system is forecast to double by 2020. The coastal route will become hopelessly congested unless we go ahead with our visionary plan.”
He expected the inland railway to increase rail’s share of the freight between Melbourne and Brisbane from 30 per cent to about 73 per cent.
“It will also reduce the growth in the number of trucks on our roads, because every double-stacked container train is equivalent to 276 semi-trailers.”
Mr Vaile said the railway would also benefit regional NSW because it would slash freight rates for bulk commodities such as grain, chilled meat and cotton.
19 June, 2007
IP Funds Boost For Copyright Wrongs
Australian copyright watchdog, IP Australia, has received a multi-million dollar funding boost to upgrade its protective activities and give Australian trade mark and copyright owners stronger intellectual property rights.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources, Bob Baldwin said Australian Government funding of more than $24.8 million over the next two years would enable the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions to more effectively target trade mark and copyright crime.
“If IP rights become more enforceable, their value increases,” Mr Baldwin said.
“This is good news for Australia as it means innovative and creative Australians can reap the rewards for their clever thinking with access to better enforcement resources.”
He s aid the infringement of IP rights was a serious crime, occurring at a direct cost of millions of dollars to the Australian economy each year and directly impacting on businesses, workers and consumers.
“Anyone who has a new invention, a creative idea or a technological breakthrough is at risk of being an IP crime victim,” he said.
Mr Baldwin said it was a common misconception that IP crime was a victimless crime.
“This is simply not true – trade mark infringement can directly affect the bottom line of a company that has worked hard to establish a quality reputation in the market.
“Anything that tarnishes their reputation will affect the viability of the business and can stagnate business growth.
“Copyright infringement is similar although often it is the creative artist who suffers if there is significant infringement of their material.”
Mr Baldwin said consumers could also become victims of IP theft.
“Often consumers are left defenceless and unaware that they are inadvertently purchasing substandard imitation goods.”
19 June, 2007
Low-Income Homes Are Cashing In
Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics have shown that low-income households in Australia received more cash income from Government payments than did high-income households.
The stats show that during 2003-04, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of Government benefits went to people in the 20 per cent of households in the low-income group. These people received more than a third (36 per cent) of Government benefits in cash, and 22 per cent of benefits in kind through Government services.
They showed that, in comparison, the 20 per cent of households in the highest income group only received 4 per cent of cash benefits and 16 per cent of the benefits in kind.
According to the ABS study, people in the low-income group paid 5 per cent of all personal income taxes, and 17 per cent of taxes on production such as the GST. People in the high-income group paid 54 per cent of personal income taxes and 26 per cent of taxes on production.
The study also found that, on average:
* households comprising couples under 35 without children paid $534 per week in taxes and received $109 per week in benefits.
* households with couples and dependent children paid $519 per week in taxes, and received $501 per week in benefits.
* couples with one person aged 65 or more paid $148 per week in taxes and received $586 per week in benefits.
* households in the Australian Capital Territory received the lowest benefits ($318 per week) and paid the highest taxes ($478).
* households in Tasmania received the highest benefits ($398) and paid the lowest taxes ($278).
19 June, 2007
Guides Point Way To Driving Economy
The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics has published two pocket guides containing facts and data about Australia’s regions and its transport.
The guides, About Australia’s Regions and Australian Transport Statistics, include key facts grouped around the broad themes of population, social pressures, regional economies, transport and communication, education and health, and environmental issues.
Minister for Transport and Regional Services, Mark Vaile said the BTRE provided a better picture of how people and freight moved around the nation.
“Their work is fundamental in identifying challenges and directions ahead for Australian transport and our regions,” Mr Vaile said.
He said the pocket guides contained key statistics and information about Australia’s regions and transport infrastructure and included such information as:
* Australians were becoming more water wise with daily water consumption per person per State dropping in most States and Territories;
* By September 2006, there were more than 6.65 million Internet subscribers in Australia, the vast majority in households;
* Transport accounted for 13.5 per cent of Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions in 2004;
* Perth was the fastest growing Local Government area;
* Transport-specific businesses contributed 4.5 per cent to total GDP and provided more than 460,000 jobs; and
* Australia’s freight task was expected to double by 2020.
“All of these statistics highlight a strong Australian economy and provide a wide range of social, economic, environmental, regional and transport industry information to the Australian public,” Mr Vaile said.
19 June, 2007
Robot On Seabed To Scratch Surface
The Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics have joined forces to explore the ocean floor at Ningaloo in Western Australia, using an underwater robot.
The robot, called Sirius, is an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle equipped with high-resolution cameras and sonar has allowed researchers to gain unparalleled insights into deep water environments.
“This has been a major step forward in understanding the deeper water seabed communities that occur around Ningaloo,” said expedition leader, Max Rees from AIMS.
“In the past, ecologists have relied on trawl gear and tools that are fixed to the support vessel by cables to collect information about the seascape at great depths. The fact that the vehicle does not require a tether gives us a great deal of flexibility in the areas we can work.”
Mr Rees said BHP Billiton was providing AIMS with research funds to enhance marine knowledge of the North West Cape and Ningaloo Reef and it was this corporate support that was largely responsible for bringing the AUV to Ningaloo.
He said Sirius was designed for detailed surveys of underwater environments in depths of up to 700m. It uses an onboard computer system and an array of instruments to navigate just metres above the seabed.
The vehicle scans the seafloor creating bathymetric sonar maps while collecting thousands of high-resolution digital images per hour. It is programmed prior to deployment to follow a survey pattern while its progress is monitored on the surface via an underwater acoustic modem, in this case from the AIMS Research Vessel, Cape Ferguson.
Speaking from the ship in the last days of the expedition Mr Rees said, “An unexpected discovery was the abundance of life clinging to the very tops of the steep deep water canyons, where the continental shelf drops away not far from Ningaloo’s shallow reef.
“Many of the sponges and deepwater corals that were photographed may be new to science.”
He said a series of mound features were also discovered.
“We suspected the mounds were there, although their cause remains a mystery, but have now been able to see them in spectacular detail.”
Mr Rees said half a million images were collected on 20 dives, with the vehicle operating within canyons in depths of up to 250m.
He said the images were captured directly onto onboard computers and would be used to measure minute features of the seabed with unmatched clarity and detail.
The researchers would assemble the images into mosaics that would enable them to observe larger scale patterns in the data.
12 June, 2007
Board Plan Tabled
The Community and Public Sector Union has called for the members of Government advisory, statutory and other boards to be selected by an independent panel.
CPSU National Secretary, Stephen Jones has urged all sides of politics to embrace an arms length approach to the appointment of board members, which would lead to better qualified, more appropriate people being selected for the important positions.
"These institutions shape the policies that shape our community in vital area such as health, the law, the economy, culture, climate, administration, education, the environment, transport, industry, business and civil society,” Mr Jones said..
"Under successive Governments - both Liberal and Labor - board appointments have in many instances tarnished the reputation of the institution concerned because they have been seen to be politically motivated.”
He said the Government’s own documents showed there were currently more than 130 separate boards with more than 1000 appointees.
"To have faith in our public institutions, the community needs to be confident that the people appointed to key positions are there because of their merit and capacity, not their political allegiances,” he said..
"Public sector workers would warmly welcome the establishment of an arm's length panel, but it will have benefits for the whole community too."
Mr Jones welcomed the announcement by the Federal Opposition that appointments to the Australian Broadcasting Commission Board and its industrial relations agency Fair Work Australia would be made by independent panels.
"Applications should be advertised in the mass media with specific selection criteria. They would then go to an independent assessment panel who would draw up a short-list of suitable candidates from which the relevant Minister would make a selection.
"The independence of the panel itself could be assured by requiring it to have the support of two-thirds of Parliament or the acceptance of the Council of Australian Governments,"
Mr Jones said among the key organisations he believed would benefit from a revised appointment process included the ABC, SBS, ANSTO, CSIRO, AEC, ACCC, the Future Fund, ARPANSA, Medibank Private, Health Services Australia, AirServices Australia, the Reserve Bank, the National Library, Tourism Australia, the Board of Taxation, the Productivity Commission, the National Gallery, the Privacy Commission, the Australian Film Commission, the Veteran's Review Board, Australia. The Landcare Council, HREOC, the National Water Commission, Foreign Investment Review Board and the Public Service Commission.
12 June, 2007
PS Chimes In For Honours Gongs
Her Majesty the Queen has once again been pleased to honour outstanding Public Servants with the award of Public Service Medal on the occasion of her annual birthday celebrations.
A summary of those who were rewarded for their public service are listed below.
PS News congratulates each one on the awards:
Jan Elizabeth ADAMS,
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
For outstanding public service in pursuing Australia’s international objectives on trade and the environment, particularly the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
For outstanding public service in the delivery of improved services to clients of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, particularly her role in establishing a consolidated telephone enquiry service in the Victorian office known as the Veterans' Enquiry Service.
Richard Anthony CATON,
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
For outstanding public service as Second Secretary at the Australian Embassy in Dili, particularly during the crisis period in East Timor in 2006.
Helen Elizabeth DANIELS,
For outstanding public service in implementing the Australian Government’s copyright reform agenda.
Gerard Patrick EARLY
Department of the Environment and Water resources
For outstanding public service in the protection and conservation of Australia's natural environment and cultural heritage.
Dr Margaret Hilda FRIEDEL
For outstanding public service in the field of arid zone research.
Peter John HAMBURGER,
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
For outstanding public service in building a strong relationship between the public services of Australia and Indonesia, particularly in the area of cabinet and policy coordination processes.
Ms Yoshiko Kassmena HIRAKAWA,
Torres Strait Regional Authority
For outstanding public service in the development of policy, project management and the coordination of secretariat services in the Torres Strait Regional Authority.
Hank Leonard JONGEN
For outstanding public service as Centrelink’s media spokesperson and in leading innovations in marketing and communications.
Simon Joseph LEWIS,
Department of Finance and Administration
For outstanding public service in the achievement of asset management objectives, particularly the sale of the remaining government shareholding in Telstra (T3).
Dr Judith Maureen PEARCE,
National Library of Australia
For outstanding public service in the development and delivery of online library services.
Garry John WALL,
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
For outstanding public service to Australian industry, particularly his significant contribution to the 2006 Review of Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy.
Mrs Bernadette Tracy WELCH
Department of the Treasury
For outstanding public service in leading the restructure of the HIH Claims Support Scheme and the logistical arrangements for the Meeting of G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors held in Melbourne in November 2006.
Dr Ian Sidney WILLIAMS,
Defence Material Organisation
For outstanding public service in the implementation of the Kinnaird reforms for defence procurement and the establishment of the Defence Materiel Organisation as a prescribed agency.
Mr Paul Stephen WILLIAMS,
Australian Bureau of Statistics
For outstanding public service through leadership of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and to census data collection, nationally and internationally.
12 June, 2007
Declarations Policy Declared Replaced
The policy governing declarations of personal interests by officers of the Australian Public Service has been revised and a new policy issued by the Australian Public Service Commission.
The new policy replaces that set out in the APS Values and Code of Conduct and reflects concerns that the old system was sometimes irrelevant, sometimes limited and sometimes ignored.
The new guidelines have been published by the APSC as PS Circular 2007/1.
According to Georgia Tarjan of the APSC, the requirement that Senior Executive Service staff and equivalents submit an annual written declaration of their financial interests and those of their immediate families, has raised a number of issues that need resolution.
Ms Tarjan said the existing rules required information to be provided in confidence on a range of financial and property dealings including real estate, share holdings, trusts, company directorships, assets, gifts, liabilities and more. It also covers personal relations that could involve a conflict of interest.
She said the shortcomings of the system had been identified and dealt with in consultation with portfolio secretaries.
“Concerns have arisen about how the current system operates,” Ms Tarjan says in PS Circular 2007/1. “Including the collection of broad information on personal assets and other possessions, some of which has little relevance to real or perceived conflict of interest or other probity issues.”
She said there were also fears that the present system encouraged an annual ‘tick and flick’ approach and raised questions of privacy in its inclusion of family members.
She said there was also a need to determine whether, and how, the declarations policy should be extended to staff below the SES and there was a need to clarify the responsibility for identifying and monitoring areas of sensitivity.
The Circular includes a template which can be used by Agencies in preparing declarations and includes a consent form for family members to sign.
The new policy is at www.apsc.gov.au/circulars
12 June, 2007
New Leave Scheme Is Bad Form: Union
The Community and Public Sector Union is concerned at a new “centralised leave reporting” system which has been introduced at Centrelink.
Under the system, staff calling in sick or on personal leave are required to report to a centralised number.
The union says its members are concerned that they are being asked to discuss their illnesses and personal issues with people they do not know. It is of particular concern when it involves personal or carer’s leave.
The Union says the practice could lead to doubling up of calls, create confusion and result in absent staff receiving phone calls while off work.
Among the issues raised by union members are difficulties in getting through to the central number, its apparent inconsistency with the Agency’s aim of “protecting and supporting” staff; the fact that it does little to advance workplace relations; and that it can leave local managers unaware of important staff issues.
The union says new arrangement also raises questions about the Centrelink Certified Agreement.
“Your Certified Collective Agreement says that staff ‘must advise an appropriate person in their workplace as soon as possible of an absence or their intention to be absent’,” the union says. "So, where is your workplace?
“Is your workplace where you reported for duty today or an office up to hundreds of kilometres away, talking to somebody you don't know?”
The CPSU has advised staff reporting to the central number that they don’t have to reveal the nature of their illness, their personal circumstances or intimate details of their lives.
It says the Agency hadn’t consul
12 June, 2007
Recruiters Have Job In Front of Them
Innovation is the key to recruiting new staff in a tight labour market, according to the Minister for Workplace Participation, Dr Sharman Stone.
Dr Stone told the Australian Human Resources Institute in Sydney recently that recruiters needed to change their retention and recruitment approaches if they were to attract workers in a close-to-full employment community which was also ageing.
"By 2010, there’s going to be a shortfall of 200,000 workers in Australia," Dr Stone said.
"Over 80 per cent of labour market growth this decade will come from candidates over the age of 45.”
She said while increasing fertility and migration had the potential to add to the workforce, it was important for recruiting staff to also look to people who were not working, such as some parents, people with disabilities, Indigenous Australians and those of mature age.
"In Australia, around one million people of working age are not working,” she said. “However many of these people want to work, and are willing to work."
Dr Stone pointed to a recent survey that showed only 17 per cent of businesses had strategies in place to recruit mature age workers, which was evidence they needed to change their attitudes.
She said said the Government was doing its part to encourage more people to join the workforce.
12 June, 2007
Defence Airshow To Reach For The Sky
The Australian Defence Force is to stage an Air Show at RAAF base Edinburgh, South Australia, in October.
Air Commodore Des Long announced that the event would be held and would showcase Defence personnel and technology. hE said it was the first show at the base since a successful Open day in 2002.
“The ADF is proud of its professional air crews and support teams,” Air Commodore Long said.
. Defence Force Air Shows offer the public the opportunity to see these skills and meet our people.”
He said the two-day 2007 show would be bigger and better than the 2002 event and predicted more than 50,000 people would attend.
“The show will be structured to appeal to the youth market and promote the skills, technology and adventure that go with working in the Defence Force.
“We want to show that Defence operates at the cutting edge of technology.”
Air Commodore Long said there would be air displays feature F/A-18 Hornets, F-111 and Hawk jets alongside the RAAF’s newest transport aircraft, the giant C-17 Globemaster.
He said there would also be C130 Hercules and Caribou and the locally based AP-3C Orion Surveillance and Response aircraft. Helicopters, including the Army’s Blackhawk and the new Tiger Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter would be a special attraction.
The air show is scheduled for the weekend of 27 and 28 October and would also highlight a full range of ‘Warbirds’ – military aircraft from the past.
Helicopter joy flights will be another feature.
Air Commodore Long said exhibitions of Defence units and trades would also be on display with performances from the Australian Army Band Adelaide and the Band of the Air Force Cadets.
A nominal entry would be charged to offset direct costs.
12 June, 2007
Unfair Story Angers Fair Pay Commission
The Australian Fair Pay Commission has dismissed media reports that it had already decided to reduce minimum wages for Australia’s lowest paid workers.
Commission Chair, Professor Ian Harper described the reports as “mere speculation.”
He said an article in the Financial Review had contained a number of assumptions about the relative weight the Commission placed on evidence presented to it but he had never, at any stage, indicated the Commission was planning to reduce the minimum wage.
“I merely commented that submissions from the Government and the ACTU on the impact of tax cuts would be considered along with all other views expressed in submissions that the Commission has received,” Professor Harper said.
“To draw conclusions that the Commission will give more weight to views expressed in any one submission is incorrect.
“Any speculation about the Commission’s next decision is just that.”
He said the Commission would announce its decision in early July.
Professor Harper said the Commission received about 70 submissions to this year’s review, including submissions from employee and community organizations and would be reviewing each and every one of them and balancing a range of considerations as outlined in its legislation.”
He said the Commission was obliged to have regard to a wide range of criteria when coming to a decision, including:
* the capacity for the unemployed and low paid to obtain and remain in employment;
* employment and competitiveness across the economy; and
* Provision of a safety net for the low paid.
He said the Commission used a combination of commissioned research, meetings with stakeholders, public consultations and written submissions to inform its wage-setting decisions.
12 June, 2007
New Council Formed With Reform Agenda
The Prime Minister has announced that the COAG Reform Council had been established and would soon be advertising for secretariat staff.
Charged with the task of monitoring progress in implementing the Council of Australian Government’s National Reform Agenda, the new Council would be chaired by the head of Medibank Private Paul McClintock and include as member the former Premier of Western Australa, Dr Geoff Gallop (deputy chairman); CEO of the Queensland Investment Corporation, Dr Doug McTaggart; former Public Servant, now CEO of the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, John Langoulant; Commissioner of the National Water Commission, Peter Corish and former DepSec of the Victorian Premier’s Department, Helen Silver.
The Prime Minister said steps would be taken immediately to set up a permanent secretariat for the Council with the search for an experienced senior person to head the secretariat, and for other secretariat positions, to be launched in the near future.
Mr Howard said the NRA encompassed human capital, competition and regulatory reforms that would help increaseg Australia's productivity and workforce participation.
He said COAG had already referred a number of proposals to the CRC, particularly in the transport, energy and regulation reform areas. The Council is to report its findings to COAG annually.
Mr Howard said the Concil would develop a work program in the coming months to guide its performance over the medium to long term.
12 June, 2007
AusAID Picture Show Has No Negatives
A photographic exhibition recording Australia's efforts in assisting people affected by natural disasters and conflict around the world has been unveiled in Sydney.
Relief in Sight: Australia's International Disaster Response is an AusAID initiative that will tour shopping centres, libraries and public places around Australia for the next 12 months, putting a human face on the emergencies that Australia has responded to in recent years.
Launched by Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Greg Hunt, the exhibition contains 68 photographs portraying the roles Australia’s aid personnel play in times of crisis.
“Sixty-eight compelling and confronting photographs capture the impact of natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies and the crucial role of Australian aid workers and volunteers in responding to these crises,” Mr Hunt said.
“Relief in Sight demonstrates Australia's role as a regional leader in providing critical humanitarian and emergency relief.”
He said a typical example of Australia’s aid effort was its response to the Solomon Islands earthquake and tsunami in April this year.
“An estimated 20,000 people were affected, with approximately 5,000 displaced and 52 deaths,” Mr Hunt said.
“Our assistance included sending medical teams, medical supplies and a mobile environmental team to help with disease prevention, including sanitation.”
He said Australia also played an important role providing aid after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
Mr Hunt said the exhibition was a tribute to the people involved in Australia's emergency aid and reconstruction efforts, including AusAID's Allison Sudradjat, DFAT's Liz O'Neill and three other Australians who died in the Garuda plane crash in Indonesia in March.
“I encourage all Australians to visit the exhibition as it tours more than 60 cities and towns, and see first hand the importance of Australia's emergency response for people in our region.”
Information about the exhibition is available at www.reliefinsight.com.au
12 June, 2007
Archives Goes Solar To See Gas Light
The National Archives of Australia has saved more than 25 tonnes of greenhouse gases in the past year after installing 122 solar panels on the roof of its Brisbane repository.
Director of the Archive in Queensland, David Swift said the organisation had to balance the growing need for energy efficiency with the important work of ensuring its collection was not compromised.
‘The National Archives of Australia preserves vital government records for future generations,” Mr Swift said, “and their safekeeping depends upon stable environmental conditions.”
“Because we are in a subtropical area, air conditioning and humidity control are essential 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
He said the Archive had to look at the options for balancing the need to maintain climate controlled storage with its efforts to reduce energy use.
He said the Archive’s Sydney office had already reduced energy use by flattening consumption and minimising spikes in usage.
“This produced savings of over $1 million on gas and electricity costs over a 10-year period and a 46 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr Swift said.
He said the Brisbane office decided to “take things further” by installing solar energy panels which had been trialled on a smaller site in Canberra.
He said the grid-connected solar system in Brisbane had a capacity of 25 kWh.
“Since their installation at a cost of $250,000, the panels have generated 48,000 kWh of electricity, or seven per cent of total energy usage, with associated savings of 25,500 kg of carbon dioxide.
“Most panels were installed in March 2006 and the project completed 12 months later.”
Mr Swift said Archives did not adopt the solar option for financial reasons, although it had reduced energy bills and it does receive renewable energy certificates.
“We wanted to show that we could maintain archival conditions in an environmentally friendly manner,” he said. “And we’re delighted with the results we’ve achieved.”
12 June, 2007
Gate Closes Soon On Farm Awards
The Bureau of Rural Sciences has reminded young people with ideas that could benefit Australia’s rural industries that the 2007 DAFF Science and Innovation Awards close on 15 June
Executive Dirfceor of the Bureau, Dr Colin Grant said the $10,000 annual national awards program was open to young Australians between 18 and 35.
“Over the seven years the Awards have been running, 100 young people have carried out innovative scientific projects that have benefited our rural industries,” Dr Grant said, “including agriculture, fisheries, forestry, natural resource management and food projects.
He said this year there would be 18 awards on offer; 10 sponsored by specific industries and one from each State and Territory.
He said a winners not only receive valuable researah funding, they also receive an incentive to stay working in primary industry and to continue their research.
“Winners receive national recognition and industry and media exposure that can boost their career,” Dr Grant said. This could give them the start they’ve been looking for.
He encouraged all eligible young Australians to apply.
The Awards are coordinated by the Bureau of Rural Sciences on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and is the only awards program specifically targeted at young people in rural industries.
Sponsors include rural Research and Development Corporations such as Australian Pork Ltd, the Cotton RDC, the Fisheries RDC, the Forest and Wood Products RDC, the Grains RDC, the Grape & Wine RDC, Land and Water Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia, the Rural Industries RDC and the Sugar RDC.
Applications can be lodged online at www.daff.gov.au/scienceawards.
12 June, 2007
ACCC Puts Oil Co’s Under the Pump
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has called on petrol retailers to “give motorists a fair go.”
ACCC Chairman, Graeme Samuel made the call as fuel prices spiraled upwards before the long Queens Birthday weekend, despite international price benchmarks going down.
Mr Samuel urged petrol companies to bring their or prices into line with the level set by the lne with the the price for Singapore Mogas 95 unleaded petrol, which was the compnaies’ own proclaimed indicator.
"In January this year I indicated that the ACCC would not generally comment if petrol prices move in line with the international benchmark,” Mr Samuel said.
“But if there is a marked disparity, allowing for the usual time lag of around seven and 10 days between movements in Singapore prices and Australian average retail prices, the ACCC will comment publicly.”
He said the Singapore price had declined significantly since the end of May but high retail petrol prices remained.
“Allowing for the lags involved, Australian retail prices should be declining,” Mr Samuel said.
"I call on the petrol retailers to immediately give Australian motorists a fair go and drop their pump prices in line with recent international price movements."
Prime Minister John Howard, threatened to give the ACCC more powers to protect motorists from unreasonably high prices if the petrol companies failed to heed Mr Samuel’s call.
Mr Samuel said if petrol retailers were genuine about their commitment to keep petrol prices in Australia in line with the international benchmark, they needed to pass on price savings as soon as possible to motorists preparing for a long weekend.
12 June, 2007
Report Draws Bow On Aboriginal Good
A committee set up by the Council of Australian Governments to track the impact Government policies are having on improving the lot of Australia’s Indigenous population, has issued its third report.
The report finds that while there have been some gains, there is still a lot of catching up to do.
Entitled Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators, the project was commissioned by COAG with the aim of closing the outcomes gap between Indigenous people and other Australians over a generation.
Chairman of the Inter-Government Committee oversighting the study, Productivity Commissioner, Gary Banks said the report showed how much progress had been made and how much further there was to go.
“The positive news is that many Indigenous people have shared in Australia's recent economic prosperity, with improved employment outcomes and higher incomes,” Mr banks said. “There have also been welcome improvements in some education and health outcomes for Indigenous children.”
He said however, that even where improvements had occurred, Indigenous people still did worse than other Australians.
“Many indicators show little or no movement,” he said.
“Indeed, in some key areas, outcomes for Indigenous people have been deteriorating.”
He said such results should challenge all Australians to do whatever was necessary to remedy the causes of Indigenous disadvantage
Mr Banks noted particularly that there was an absence of comparative data in some areas.
“We still do not have good comparative data on school attendance or learning outcomes by remoteness area and hospitalisation data in NSW and Victoria are too poor to be published.
He said while some laudable efforts to improve data were underway, more was needed.
Mr Banks congratulated the Gvernments and those who participated for theor cooperation.
“The Report benefited greatly from the feedback of many people within Government and the wider community, and particularly from Indigenous people,” he said
The Steering Committee is made up of senior officers from the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and supported by a secretariat drawn in the Productivity Commission
12 June, 2007
Fugitive Capture is Fair Cop Says AFP
The successful recapture of fugitive Tony Mokbel in Greece and other international achievements were proof of the importance of the Australian Federal Police’s strong, cooperative relationships with overseas policing agencies, according to AFP Commissioner, Mick Keelty.
In Athens to thank the Hellenic authorities for their role in recapturing Mr Mokbel, Mr Keelty said the success of the operation could be directly attributed to the relationship that had developed between the AFP and the Hellenic Police over the past five years.
The recapture came shortly after Australia was elevated within the Association of South-East Asian Nations Chiefs of Police (ASEANAPOL) from observer to “dialogue partner.”
“The invitation to become a dialogue partner is an honour for Australian law enforcement,” Commissioner Keelty said. “And a reflection of a mutual recognition of the importance of further strengthening the cooperation between law enforcement agencies in the region.”
He said the improved status would enable Australia and the other new dialogue partners which included China and Japan, to offer and receive fresh perspectives and experiences on approaches to transnational crime initiatives.
He said the ASEANAPOL promotion followed February’s achievement in which the AFP became the first policing agency in the Asia-Pacific to sign an agreement with Europol.“This agreement allows the AFP unprecedented access to Europol and the opportunity for a permanent AFP liaison officer position to be attached to Europol,” Commissioner Keelty said
12 June, 2007
FFC Turns Up Volume On Film Deaf Aids
The Australian Film Finance Corporation has announcd that it will require all feature films it finances to include captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing.
The requirement, to be introduced in July, has been welcomed by Arts Minister, Senator George Brandis.
Senator Brandis said the new guidelines would ensure the deaf and hard-of-hearing enjoyed access to Australian films and the important and reflective aspect of Australian culture they portrayed.
He said under the guidelines, producers seeking funding from the FFC would be required to caption all feature films for cinema and DVD release with the cost to be met by the FFC. Until now, captioned feature films have only been available in Australia for films produced overseas.
Human Rights Commissioner and Commissioner with responsibility for Disability Discrimination, Graeme Innes, said there were more than three million deaf or hearing-imparied people living in Australia.
12 June, 2007
Pension Pay Out To Pay Off
An overhaul of the pension scheme is likely to see hundreds of thousands of Australian pensioners receiving increases in their payments and many more becoming eligible for pensions for the first time.
Changes to the assets test for the Age Pension, the Disability Pension and the Carer Payment have eased eligibility criteria for the payments and will apply from 20 September
Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Mal Brough and Minister for Human Services, Senator Chris Ellison announced the changes jointly, saying they were part of the Government’s Simplify and Streamline Superannuation Plan.
"From 20 September, pensions will be reduced by $1.50 each fortnight for every $1000 of assets above the allowable asset limit for full pension, instead of the current $3 for the same amount of assets," Mr Brough said.
Senator Ellison said people who would now become eligible for a pension should lodge a claim from 21 June.
"(They) don't have to wait until 20 September to claim,” Senator Ellison said.
He said pensioners already receiving a part pension under the assets test would automatically receive a pension increase from 20 September.
Based on current pension rates, the asset limits to be eligible for a pension from July 1 would be:
* single homeowners: $520,750 (up from $343,750))
* single non-homeowners: $641,750 (up from $464)
* couple homeowners: $825,500 (up from $531,000)
* couple non-homeowners: $946,500 (up from $652,0001).
Senator Ellison said the more generous assets test rules were intended to increase the incentives for people to save for their own retirement.
5 June, 2007
Fallen Staff Live On In Awards
Prestigious awards in honour of the memories of two Public Servants killed in the air crash tragedy in Indonesia in March have been announced by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer.
The awards which will mark the distinguished careers of Allison Sudradjat and Elizabeth O’Neill would also acknowledge the close association Australia has with Indonesia.
“Both Allison and Liz worked tirelessly to ensure that the ties of friendship between Indonesia and Australia were strengthened,” Mr Downer said.
“These awards build on their most recent work in Indonesia, primarily but not only in the fields of development and public affairs, and ensure that their contribution to our important bilateral relationship is not forgotten.”
Ms Sudradjat was the Minister-Counsellor in Indonesia for AusAID and among her many accomplishments was the launch of the Australian Leadership Awards in Indonesia in 2006 which allow Indonesian students to study at Australian universities for a Masters degree or a PhD.
Four post-graduate Australian Leadership Awards would now be awarded in Ms Sudradjat’s name to outstanding scholars and current or emerging leaders in Indonesia. Two scholarships would also be offered to students from Papua New Guinea, where Ms Sudradjat was posted with AusAID in 17-98.
Liz O’Neill was serving as the Public Affairs Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta at the time of her death.
Recognising the influential role of the media in modern society, Mr Downer said Ms O’Neill worked tirelessly with Australian and Indonesian members of the media to foster a better understanding of both countries through accurate and informed media coverage.
He said to continue her work, an award to be known as the “Elizabeth O’Neill Journalism Award” would be conferred annually on two journalists, one Australian and one Indonesian.
The award would be sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australia-Indonesia Institute and would be open to print, radio, television and internet journalists. Award recipients would participate in a program of around three weeks in-country which would enable them to build a stronger understanding and appreciation of the broad range of issues facing contemporary Indonesia and Australia.
5 June, 2007
AG Indigenous Plan On Right Track
The Attorney-General’s Department has followed the lead of the Australian Public Service Commission and published a comprehensive policy on reconciliation between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the Australian non-Indigenous community.
The Department has unveiled its “Reconciliation Action Plan” which identifies the steps it intends taking to achieve improved economic and social outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
In its summary of the Plan, the Department says that more needs to be done to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people enjoy the same advantages and opportunities as all other Australians.
The plan states that reconciliation is a long-term goal that involved recognition of the first Australians and the provision of practical and effective measures to address the economic and social disadvantage experienced by many of them.
The Department’s approach to reconciliation places high importance on its internal processes to employ and retain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff. The Department recognises the importance of cultural activities in communities and all employees were encouraged to participate and achieve a greater understanding of Indigenous cultural diversity.
The Plan also showed that the Department was committed to attaining the following objectives:
* to deliver high quality and culturally inclusive services
* to provide opportunities for employment and foster a culturally inclusive workplace, and
* to promote an understanding of Indigenous culture.
As part of its commitment to reconciliation, the Attorney-General’s Department has established an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reconciliation Committee to promote the Reconciliation Action Plan across the Department. Committee members were representatives from key Departmental areas and were responsible for implementation of the Plan.
The Plan acknowledges that the Department administers a range of programs, initiatives and activities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders including:
* Legal Aid for Indigenous Australians Program
* Prevention, Diversion, Rehabilitation and Restorative Justice Program
* Law and Justice Advocacy Program
* Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program
* Northern Territory Indigenous Interpreter Service
* Indigenous Women’s Outreach Program, and
* Petrol Sniffing Strategy
It also administers mainstream programs that assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders including::
* A Community Legal Services Program
* A National Community Crime Prevention Program
* A Family Relationships Services Program, including Family Relationship Centres and Family Relationship Advice Line
* Emergency Management Australia’s Local Grants Scheme, and
* The National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund.
5 June, 2007
Economy Sick From Working Wounded
A recent report commissioned by Medibank Private has revealed that staff going to work when they are sick could be costing the economy four times as much as if they had taken sick leave.
The finding has prompted the Community and Public Sector Union to survey its members to find out if they have been urged to “soldier on” when they were unwell.
According to CPSU Deputy Secretary, Michael Tull, the survey results show that management practices to reduce absenteeism actually end up costing more.
“CPSU members in many workplaces are increasingly concerned about intrusive and misguided management strategies aimed at reducing absentee rates,” Mr Tull said.
“In some workplaces it’s become common for managers to contact employees on sick leave encouraging them to come in, or request medical documentation for occasional absences - all in the name of boosting productivity.”
He said the union was worried that recent changes to workers compensation rules had the potential to make the problem worse.
“By removing compo coverage for journey claims and rest breaks Public Servants are under more pressure to stockpile personal leave as income protection in case they get hit by the proverbial bus,” he said.
“Opting to save personal leave for an emergency situation that previously would have been covered by workers comp will result in more Public Servants attending the workplace while genuinely ill or working with pain.
Mr Tull said it added up to the APS being an “unhealthier, unhappier workplace - for employee and manager alike.”
Medibank Private estimated the annual cost to the economy of “soldiering on” was almost four times that of absenteeism which was only $7 billion by comparison.
Over a four week period, 77 per cent of employees surveyed claimed they had attended work while suffering from a health condition. Close to 90 per cent of those who turned up to work sick or injured felt they were less productive, on average by almost half their normal output.
5 June, 2007
Petrol Case Loss Fuels Regrets
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has labelled as “disappointing” its loss in a Federal Court case against petrol retailers.
ACCC Chairman, Graham Samuel, said the case relied on the Court’s interpretation of facts and evidence as presented, and highlighted the difficulties for witnesses to recall exactly the events of some years previously.
“The case was unusual in that it covered many allegations over a long time period,” Mr Samuel said.
The ACCC had instituted proceedings against 18 respondents alleging that they fixed the retail price of petrol in Victoria’s Geelong area, in contravention of the Trade Practices Act. A number of respondents made admissions prior to the trial and some did not contest the allegations.
“There was no dispute by many of the respondents in the Geelong proceedings that they communicated about petrol prices,” Mr Samuel said.
“What was disputed in Court was whether those communications amounted to an ‘arrangement or understanding’ being reached between the parties as to how they would price their petrol.”
He said the decision highlighted the difficulty witnesses had recalling exactly the events of some years previously.
“The ACCC recognises the difficulties proving such cases and also the challenges faced when presenting circumstantial evidence based on large data sets.
“This case turned on the Federal Court’s interpretation of facts and evidence as presented.”
Mr Samuel said while the ACCC was disappointed with the outcome, the judgment would not deter it from investigating allegations of price collusion in the petrol and related markets.
“The ACCC must take cases which it believes are in the public interest and which have a reasonable basis for success,” he said.
“The case followed the ACCC’s successful prosecution of similar price fixing allegations in the Ballarat region which resulted in penalties of more than $20 million.
5 June, 2007
Workplaces Working Says Director
The Director of the Office of Workplace Services, Nicholas Wilson has described as “phenomenal” the progress made by his staff in the past year establishing a national network of offices and conducting thousands of investigations across the country.
Reporting to the Senate Standing Committee on Employment, Workplace Relations and Education on the first 12 months of OWS activity, Mr Wilson said his staff were making a positive difference to the workplace lives of thousands of Australians and ought to be congratulated for their professionalism and attention to people’s problems.
“Australian workers are embracing the function to avail themselves of our valuable services,” Mr Wilson said. “Investigations continue to rise steadily.”
He said the OWS was also bringing the full force of its powers against employers who did not, or would not, comply with the law, with a total of $379 480 in penalties for employers breaching workplace laws to date.
Mr Wilson and his executive team outlined major milestones to the Committee including:
* More than 14,000 claims received since establishment, with a steadily increasing workload reflecting the increasing profile of the OWS;
* 16 completed litigations and a further 26 matters currently before the Court, with an additional cases being considered for litigation;
* Opening 26 regional offices nationwide
* A national young worker education and compliance campaign contacting more than 3500 employers and conducting 360 audits nationwide;
* The ACT restaurants compliance campaign including 181 audits and recovery of more than $500,000 for 730 employees; and
* A national restaurants campaign of 156 audits and recovery of $170,000 to date.
Mr Wilson told the Senate Committee that OWS’s targeted audit campaign strategy and individual investigations had recovered more than $11.4 million for more than 7400 employees nationwide since it was established on 27 March 2006.
“These outcomes place the organisation well for the proposed transition to become the new Workplace Ombudsman, subject to passage of the legislation,” Mr Wilson said.
“Over 220 inspectors work hard right around Australia on individual claims from any Australian worker. Our success is built upon their dedication and commitment to provide this valuable public service”.
He said the OWS was committed to ensuring that the rights and obligations of workers and employers under workplace law were protected, understood and enforced fairly.
5 June, 2007
New Stats Show Jobs All Work, No Pay
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that more than a third of Australian workers worked longer than their normal weekly hours and that about half did so for no extra pay.
In its survey Working Time Arrangements, Australia, the ABS found that 37 per cent of Australia’s 8 million workers reported doing overtime or working extra in their main job.
It said that of the 2.9 million employees who worked extra hours or overtime, 43 per cent usually worked paid extra hours only, 48 per cent usually worked unpaid extra hours only and 9 per cent usually worked both paid and unpaid extra hours.
Employment Minister, Joe Hockey, greeted the figures by saying they simply reflected a long-term trend towards a more service-orientated economy.
“It was less than 20 years ago that shops didn’t open on Sundays,” Mr Hockey told the Sydney Morning Herald. “Similarly, many professional industries now compete successfully in a global market and, as such, need to operate across different time zones.”
He said Australians were actually working less on average than they were six years ago.
According to the ABS, there were 1.4 million (17 per cent) employees who usually worked shift work.
Approximately one in five (21%) employees aged 15-19 years reported they usually worked shift work, and 20 per cent of those aged 20-24 years. A slightly higher proportion of men worked shift work (18 per cent) than women (16 per cent).
Other findings from the Working Time Arrangements, Australia survey included:
* 60 per cent of the 8 million employees “did not have any say in their start and finish times”
* 72 per cent could choose when their holidays were taken
* 38 per cent were able to work extra hours in order to take time off
* 23 per cent had earnings which varied from one pay period to the next
* 36 per cent had hours that varied weekly or they were usually required to be on call or standby.
The Working Time Arrangements Survey also collected information on the employment characteristics and working patterns of all 8.6 million employees (including owner managers of incorporated enterprises).
The vast majority (8.1 million) of those employees held only one job, but nearly half a million (493,900) held more than one. One in five multiple jobholders worked seven days a week, compared with 4 per cent of single jobholders.
The majority (56 per cent) of multiple jobholders usually worked some hours between 7pm and 7am compared with 28 per cent of single jobholders.
5 June, 2007
Union Wants Fair Go For Fair Go Staff
The Community and Public Sector Union has called for staff appointed to the new Workplace Ombudsman (formerly the Office of Workplace Services) and the Workplace Authority (formerly the Office of the Employment Advocate) to have the choice of signing Australian Workplace Agreements or working under collective agreements.
National Secretary of the CPSU, Stephen Jones, welcomed the announcement that several hundred new jobs would be created to ensure fairness in the nation’s workplaces but he said they too should have fair conditions to work under.
Mr Jones called on Workplace Relations Minister Joe Hockey to “demonstrate his commitment to a genuine fairness test” by allowing new starters to choose between an AWA and a collective agreement.
“The Government has spent the last 12 months telling the community WorkChoices was fair,” Mr Jones said “But the latest changes demonstrate the Government’s laws are far from fair. Employers still have all the say in a workplace, and that’s not fair or democratic. “
Mr Jones said that to prove these changes were more than just pre-election, window dressing, Mr Hockey needed to give his own employees real options and respect their democratic choices.
Meanwhile a recent CPSU survey of more than 800 AWA employees in the Department of Workplace Relations has revealed staff concerns about the lack of choice. In particular, it found;
* 62 per cent of DEWR staff surveyed were given no choice other than an AWA
* more than half were given no opportunity to “negotiate” changes to their AWA
* 85 per cent wanted to be given a choice between an AWA and a collective agreement.
5 June, 2007
Unemployment Scheme Works Well for DEWR
An Auditor-General’s study into the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations’ Work for the Dole scheme has found the program to be sufficiently well-run that it made no recommendations for improvement.
In his report on Work for the Dole, the Auditor-General, Ian McPhee said the program had been run by the Department for approximately a decade and that appropriate approaches to its ongoing administration had been adopted.
He said the Department’s administration of the program was supported by sound business planning including risk assessment, appropriate contracts with Community Work Coordinators and by desktop monitoring, site visits and quality audits.
“Consequently the ANAO has not made any recommendations in this audit,” Mr the Auditor-General said.
He did suggest some areas of “enhancement” however.
The audit report was welcomed by the Minister for Workforce Participation, Dr Sharman Stone who said it acknowledged DEWR’s the Department’s move to strengthen its contracts with Community Work Coordinators including changes introduced last year which ensured they all had fraud control plans in place.
“Work for the Dole is a highly successful program that helps job seekers get quality work experience that will not only contribute to their local community, but also help them get a job,” Dr Stone said.
“Since its introduction in November 17, over 560,000 people have participated in a Work for the Dole activity.
She said almost 40 per cent of participants were either employed or in education or training within three months of leaving the program.
She said the recent Budget included incentives for Community Work Coordinators to encourage participants to complete approved training courses.
“Work for the Dole is proven to encourage self reliance. It helps to break the cycle of intergenerational welfare which is affecting 600,000 children in Australia,” Dr Stone said.
5 June, 2007
Revised IT Contract Has Bugs Ironed Out
The second version of model contracts and user notes designed to make the procurement of Information Technology by Government Agencies simpler has been released by Special Minister of State, Gary Nairn.
The new SourceIT contracts are revisions of the first version issued for public comment in May last year.
Mr Nairn said the Government had listened to its Public Service Agencies and the IT industry in making the revisions which contain its response to questions of capping supplier liability and more commercially flexible terms relating to intellectual property developed during the Government contract.
“These changes improve the SourceIT model contracts and user notes by aligning them with the Government’s aim of minimising administrative and legal costs associated with IT procurement, while ensuring compliance with relevant legislation and guidelines,” Mr Nairn said.
“These model contracts will help to reduce the complexity and possibly the cost associated with doing business with Government, opening the way for a broader range of companies to bid for Government work.”
He said the revisions were important steps towards revamping Government ICT procurement practices, and addressed some of the issues raised in the recently released NICTIA Strategic Vision of Australia’s Future Prosperity.
Mr Nairn said a change management process would be implemented to ensure that the model contracts and user notes continued to remain usable and reflected user feedback, the Government’s procurement policies and leading practice ICT contracting methodologies.
“It is intended that the SourceIT model contracts and user notes will continue to evolve in response to policy shifts and practical feedback from both Agencies and industry,” he said.
“Accordingly, there will be opportunities for further refinement of the documents over time.”
In announcing version two of the SourceIT Model Contracts and User Notes, Mr Nairn also acknowledged the time and effort contributed by stakeholders across Government and industry.
“Although it was not possible to address every comment identified through consultation due to the diverse and often divergent requirements of agency and industry stakeholders, significant effort has been devoted to ensuring inclusion of feedback without contravening government policy,” he said.
“The collaborative spirit in which these model contracts have been developed indicates the importance, to both industry and Government, of providing for simple ICT procurement.”
The new model contracts and user notes can be accessed via the SourceIT website - www.sourceit.gov.au – along with a range of support and information for agencies and suppliers on the use of the model contracts.
5 June, 2007
Payrates Ranked Up At Defence
The pays and allowances of thousands of Defence Force members are to be overhauled with a new 16-pay group structure being introduced from August.
Defence staff newspapers have reported that the changes would also incorporate the rolling of Qualification and Skill allowances into member’s salaries.
Director of Military Salaries and Allowances Policy, Colonel Terry McCullagh, said the changes were part of phase 4 of Defence’s Remuneration Reform Project.
“The changes are the result of the 2001-02 review of ADF remuneration and a recommendation made from that review was to fold the Q&S elements of allowances into (Other Ranks) salary,” he said.
“ORs who have unique qualifications and skills, which they regularly use, should be recognised by a higher salary and not by a base salary and an allowance.”
Colnel McCullagh said that from 9 August, ORs who now received Q&S allowances as part of flying, submarine, special action forces and special operations allowance, would be placed in a higher pay group that reflected their current salary plus their Q&S allowance.
Members who did not receive Q&S allowances would stay in their existing pay group.
He said the “disability” component of flying, submarine, special operations and special action forces allowances would continue to be paid as they were now.
Colonel McCullagh told the papers that the new pay group structure would offer many benefits to ORs, including greater reward for movement between pay groups.
“Now, when employment categories are placed in higher pay groups by the Defence Force Remuneration Tribunal, ORs receive little reward for pay group movement. RRP phase 4 increases this reward to more than $2000,” he said.
“Also, nobody will go backwards in salary.
“Some pay groups have been rounded up to fit neatly into the new structure (and) as a side-effect of this rounding, members in some pay groups will see their pay go up slightly.”
Colonel McCullagh said the change in pay groups would coincide with a 2.8 per cent pay rise and there would be a $2000 gap between each category from pay group 3 onwards.
He said apart from these changes, another amendment would be made to the ORs pay group structure in the middle of next year.
“The Government, in this year’s Budget, allocated funds for future refinement of the 16-graded pay group structure to fold it into eight pay groups,” he said. “This is due to take place from 1 July next year and there will be about a $4000 difference between pay groups.”
This year a number of other remuneration cases would go before the DFRT, including pay cases for Warrant Officers and Officers.
Details of the phase 4 pay group changes would be provided through Service channels, and on the Defence intranet.
5 June, 2007
Planning Arrested For Police Rebuild
Redevelopment of an Australian Federal Police training institute in New South Wales has been given planning exemptions to ensure it goes ahead smoothly and with minimum delay
NSW Planning Minister, Frank Sartor declared the 1.7ha Australian Institute of Police Management at Sydney’s North Head a State Significant Site, paving the way for trouble-free redevelopment which includes plans for new accommodation blocks, new offices, refurbished teaching areas, improved landscaping and car parking.
Mr Sartor said the Major Projects planning policy had been amended to include the site.
“This is appropriate given the significance of the Australian Institute of Police Management to our State and national security,” Mr Sartor said.
He said the Centre was the only facility of its kind in Australia and New Zealand and had trained more than 6000 officers since opening in 1960.
“It trains police executives and also provides senior management, executive development, education and consultancy services for Australasian and international law enforcement agencies and other public safety agencies.”
The Australian Federal Police wants the Institute to provide new state-of-the art facilities for some of Australia’s most promising police officers.
Aspects of the Institute that require modification, according to the AFP, include teaching, recreation, dining, accommodation and administrative facilities, as well as its layout and increasing costs.
“Declaring the site State Significant will ensure a rigorous and streamlined assessment process, which addresses important environmental issues,” Mr Sartor said.
“Heritage issues will also need to be considered at the project application stage.”
5 June, 2007
Scammers Make Call On Don’t Call List
Fraudsters have been charging as much as $79 to sign people up to the Government’s Do Not Call Register even though it is a free service.
The Minister for Communications, Senator Helen Coonan, labeled the scam as “outrageous” saying that people may be trying to cash-in illegally on the popularity of the Government initiative.
“I urge residents not to hand over money to these scammers but to get as many details as possible from them to help authorities identify the criminals,” Senator Coonan said.
“Everyone needs to be aware that it is free to put your home and mobile number on the Register. The Government has paid for the establishment of the Register, with industry contributing to the running costs.”
More than one million telephone numbers had so far been listed on the Do Not Call Register which came into effect at midnight on 31 May.
It is now illegal for telemarketers to cold-call numbers that are listed on the Do Not Call Register.
While a limited number of calls would still be allowed, including those from charities, market research companies and political parties, Senator Coonan said evidence showed the Register would greatly reduce the number of unsolicited calls.
There are three ways to list numbers on the Do Not Call Register - via the web at www.donotcall.gov.au, by phoning 1300 792 958 or by picking up a form from Australia Post.
She said registrations would remain valid for three years, and people could withdraw their registration at any time.
Consumers who receive telemarketing calls more than a month after registering on the Do Not Call Register can lodge a complaint online at www.donotcall.gov.au or through the Do Not Call complaints line, on 1300 792 958.
5 June, 2007
PM Returns Fire In Amnesty Attack
Criticising Australia’s human rights record in similar terms to those used to describe Zimbabwe’s has dealt a blow to the credibility of Amnesty International according to Prime Minister, John Howard.
He said the organisation’s attack on Australia, in its 2007 Annual Report, amounted to little more than a “shoddy caricature”.
Mr Howard rejected Amnesty’s comments about Australia, saying they contained a string of assertions, unsupported by evidence and devoid of context.
“Nowhere is the report’s political agenda clearer than the paragraph in its foreword which seeks to bracket Australian and US policies with the horrendous human rights situation in Darfur and Robert Mugabe’s disastrous misrule in Zimbabwe,” Mr Howard said.
“I respect Amnesty International’s historical commitment to protecting human rights. Regrettably, however, the organisation’s current leadership seems to have lost sight of the need for any balance or rigour and has succumbed to the easy lure of moral relativism.”
Mr Howard said Australia had a proud record as a tolerant, fair and open society and was second to none in its generosity and its contribution to upholding human rights.
“I believe many Australians will be as offended by this report as I am,” Mr Howard said.
He said Australia had accepted more than 100,000 refugees and humanitarian entrants since 16.
“We have comprehensive policies in place to tackle domestic and family violence. Government spending on indigenous affairs in 2007-08 will be a record $3.5 billion. The Government’s policies are subject to robust public and parliamentary debate and to administrative and judicial review.”
He said the Government made no apology for taking appropriate, balanced steps to protect the Australian public from the very real threat of terrorism and to protect its borders.
5 June, 2007
ACCC Wish List Is Consuming Passion
Higher penalties, more power to authorities and less red tape for consumers seeking compensation are among changes the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission would like to see made to Australia’s consumer protection laws.
The ACCC has included these calls, and others, in its submission to the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Australia’s consumer policy framework.
ACCC Chairman, Graham Samuel said it was important that the current laws were examined to ensure that they still met the needs of consumers.
“The economic landscape has changed considerably since the introduction of the Trade Practices Act”, Mr Samuel said.
“The ACCC believes that the broad scope, flexibility and adaptability of the consumer protection provisions of the Act have served Australia well over the last three decades and it continues to provide an effective foundation for protecting the rights of Australians in many areas.
“There are however a number of possible refinements that could be made to the consumer framework to enhance its operation.”
He said the ACCC’s submission provided an overview of the Act and its role in fair trading and consumer protection law, and made a number of recommendations about how the laws could be improved including:
* the introduction of civil monetary penalties and banning orders for breaches of the consumer protection and fair trading provisions of the Trade Practices Act
* amendments to the Act to reduce administrative burdens associated with obtaining redress for consumers
* enhancing the ACCC’s investigative tools, in particular by enabling it to issue notices to traders requiring them to provide substantiation of advertising claims and allowing it to use its existing investigation and evidence gathering powers in certain circumstances, and
* development of uniform consumer protection and fair trading laws across States, Territories and the Commonwealth.
The ACCC welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the Productivity Commission inquiry and copies of its submission are available on the ACCC website.
5 June, 2007
Spit and Polish For Old Bright Lights
Memorials and gravesites associated with three of Australia’s best known historical figures are to be refurbished under a project announced by the Assistant Minister for the Environment, John Cobb.
Funding of $20,000 has been provided through the Commemoration of Historic Events and Famous Persons program for Australian explorer John McDouall Stuart and his last expedition party, colonial architect Francis Greenway and the Father of Federation, Sir Henry Parkes.
“The significant contributions of these prominent Australians will be recognised with a complete refurbishment of their gravesites and commemorative memorials,” Mr Cobb said.
More than $12,000 would be provided to restore the gravesites of four members of John McDouall Stuart’s last expedition party who undertook the first recorded crossing of Australia in 1862. The gravesites are at the West Terrace Cemetery in Adelaide.
Mr Cobb said that $5000 would support research to locate the final resting place of colonial architect Sir Francis Greenway and construct a commemorative memorial.
“Sir Francis Greenway was one of the most respected and recognised early colonial architects in NSW,” Mr Cobb said. “He managed the construction of several public buildings including the Hyde Park Barracks, St James Church, Macquarie Lighthouse at South Head and St Matthews Church at Windsor.”
More than $2000 in funding would also be provided to upgrade of the gravesite of Sir Henry Parkes, one of Australia’s most renowned political figures.
Mr Cobb said Sir Henry made a significant contribution to the early development of our nation and its Federal constitution.
The Australian Government’s Commemoration of Historic Events and Famous Persons program provides funds to community groups and local Governments to commemorate nationally significant people, places and events.
Mr Cobb said iconic figures who have contributed to Australia’s history and have previously been commemorated through the CHEFP program included Sir Donald Bradman, Matthew Flinders and former Australian Prime Ministers Billy Hughes and John Curtin.